Ecco quei che le carte empion di sogni,
Lancilotto, Tristano e gli altri erranti,
Onde conven che il volgo errante agogni.
Few will now endeavour to trace romantic and marvellous
fiction to any individual source. An extensive survey of the regions of fancy and their productions
will incline us rather to consider the mental powers of man as having an uniform operation under
every sky, and under every form of political existence, and to acknowledge that identity of
invention is not more to be wondered at than identity of action. It is strange how limited the
powers of the imagination are. Without due consideration of the subject, it might be imagined that
her stores of materials and powers of combination are boundless; yet reflection, however slight,
will convince us that here also 'there is nothing new,' and charges of plagiarism will in the
majority of cases be justly suspected to be devoid of foundation. The finest poetical expressions
and similes of occidental literature meet us when we turn our attention to the East, and a
striking analogy pervades the tales and fictions of every region. The reason is, the materials
presented to the inventive faculties are scanty. The power of combination is therefore limited
to a narrow compass, and similar combinations must hence frequently occur.
Yet still there is a high degree of probability in the supposition of the luxuriant
fictions of the East having through Spain and Syria operated on European fancy. The poetry, and
romance of the middle ages are notoriously richer in detail, and more gorgeous in invention,
than the more correct and chaste strains of Greece and Latium; the island of Calypso, for example,
is in beauty and variety left far behind by the retreats of the fairies of romance. Whence arises
this difference? No doubt
When ancient chivalry display'd
The pomp of her heroic games,
And crested knights and tissued dames
Assembled at the clarion's call,
In some proud castle's high-arch'd hall,
that a degree of pomp and splendour met the eye of the minstrel and romancer on which the bards
of the simple republics of ancient times had never gazed, and this might account for the
difference between the poetry, of ancient and of middle-age Europe. Yet, notwithstanding, we
discover such an Orientalism in the latter as would induce us to acquiesce in the hypothesis of
the fictions and the manner of the East having been early transmitted to the West; and it is
highly probable that along with more splendid habits of life entered a more lavish use of the
gorgeous stores laid open to the plastic powers of fiction. The tales of Arabia were
undoubtedly known in Europe from a very early period. The romance of Cleomades and
which was written in the thirteenth century1, not surely resembles, but actually is
the story of the Enchanted Horse in the Thousand and One Nights. Another tale in the same
collection, The two Sisters who envied their younger Sister, may be found in
Straparola, and is
also popular story in Germany; and in the Pentamerone and other collections of tales published
long before the appearance of M. Galland's translation of the Eastern ones, numerous traces of
an oriental origin may be discerned. The principal routes they came by may also be easily shown.
The necessities of commerce and the pilgrimage to Mecca occasioned a constant intercourse between
the Moors of Spain and their fellow-sectaries of the East; and the Venetians, who were the owners
of Candia, carried as an extensive trade with Syria and Egypt. It is worthy of notice, that
the Notti Piacevoli of Straparola were first published in Venice, and that
Basile, the author of
the Pentamerone, spent his youth in Candia, and was afterwards a long time at Venice. Lastly,
pilgrims were notorious narrators of marvels, and each, as he visited the Holy Land, was anxious
to store his memory with those riches, the diffusal of which procured him attention and hospitality
We think, therefore, that European romance may be indebted, though not for the name,
yet for some of the attributes and exploits of its fairies to Asia. This is more especially the
case with the romances composed or turned into prose in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth
centuries; for in the earlier ones the Fairy Mythology is much more sparingly introduced.
But beside the classic and oriental prototypes of its fairies, romance may have
had an additional one in the original mythology of the Celtic tribes, of which a being very
nearly allied to the fay of romance appears to have formed a part. Such were the damoiselles who
bestowed their favours upon Lanval and Graelent. This subject shall, however, be more fully
considered under the head of Brittany.
Romances of chivalry, it is well known, may be divided into three principal classes;
those of Arthur and his Round Table, of Charlemagne and his Paladins, and those of Amadis and
Palmerin, and their descendants and kindred. In the first, with the exception of Isaie le
which appears to be a work of the fifteenth century, the fairies appear but seldom; the second
exhibits them in all their brilliancy and power; in the third, which all belong to the literature
of Spain, the name at least does not occur, but the enchantress Urganda la Desconecida seems
equal in power to La Dame du Lac, in the romance of Lancelot du Lac.2
Among the incidents of the fine old romance just alluded to3, is narrated
the death of King Ban, occasioned by grief at the sight of his castle taken and in flames through
the treachery of his seneschal. His afflicted queen had left her new-born infant on the margin
of a lake, while she went to soothe the last moments of the expiring monarch. On her return, she
finds her babe in the arms of a beautiful lady. She entreats her pathetically to restore the
orphan babe; but, without heeding her entreaties, or even uttering a single word, she moves to
the edge of the lake, into which she plunges and disappears with the child. The lady was the
celebrated Dame du Lac: the child was Lancelot, afterwards styled Du Lac. The name of the lady
was Vivienne, and she had dwelt "en la marche de la petite Bretaigne." Merlin the demon-born,
the renowned enchanter, became enamoured of her, and taught her a portion of his art; and the
ill-return she made is well known in the annals of female treachery.4 In consequence
of the knowledge thus acquired she became a Wry; for the author informs us that "the damsel who
carried Lancelot to the lake was a fay, and in those times all those women were called fays who
had to do with enchantments and charms - and there were many of them then, principally in Great
Britain - and knew the power and virtues of words, of stones, and of herbs, by which they were
kept in youth and in beauty, and in great riches, as they devised."5
The lake was a feerie, an illusion raised by the art which the devil had taught
Merlin, and Merlin the lady. The romance says: " The lady who reared him conversed only in the
forest, and dwelt on the summit of a hill, which was much lower than that on which King Ban had
died. In this place, where it seemed that the wood was large and deep, the lady had many fair
houses, and very rich; and in the plain beneath there was a gentle little river well-stored with
fish; and this place was so secret and so concealed, that right difficult was it for any one to
find, for the semblance of the said lake covered it so that it could not be perceived."6
When her young protégé had gone through his course of knightly education, she took
him to King Arthur's court, and presented him there; and his subsequent history is well known.
In the romance of Maugis d'Aygremont et de Vivian son Frère, when Tapinel and the
female slave had stolen the two children of Duke Bevis of Aygremont, the former sold to the wife
of Sorgalant the child which he had taken, whose name was Esclarmonde, and who was about fifteen
years of age, and was "plus belle et plus blanche qu'une fée." The slave having laid herself
to rest under a white-thorn (aube-spine), was devoured by a lion and a leopard, who killed
one another in their dispute for the infant. "And the babe lay under the thorn, and cried loudly,
during which it came to pass that Oriande la Fée, who abode at Rosefleur with four other fays,
came straight to this thorn; for every time she passed by there she used to repose under that
white-thorn. She got down, and hearing the child cry, she came that way and looked at him, and
said, 'By the god in whom we believe, this child here is lying badly (mal gist), and this
shall be his name;' and from that time he was always called Maugis."
Oriande la Fée brought the child home with her and her damsels; and having examined
him, and found, by a precious ring that was in his ear, that he was of noble lineage, "she prated
our Lord that he would be pleased of his grace to make known his origin (nation)." When she had
finished her prayer, she sent for her nephew Espiet, "who was a dwarf, and was not more than
three feet high, and had his hair yellow as fine gold, and looked like a child of seven years,
but he was more than a hundred; and he was one of the falsest knaves in the world, and knew every
kind of enchantment." Espiet informed her wore child he was; and Oriande, having prayed to our
Lord to preserve the child, took him with her to her castle of Rosefleur, where she had him
baptised and named Maugis. She and her damsels reared him with great tenderness; and when he was
old enough she put him under the care of her brother Baudris, "who knew all the arts of magic and
necromancy, and was of the age of a hundred years;" and he taught what he knew to
When Maugis was grown a man, the Fay Oriande clad him in arms, and he became her
ami; and she loved him "de si grand amour qu'elle doute fort qu'il ne se departe d'avecques
Maugis shortly afterwards achieved the adventure of gaining the enchanted horse
Bayard, in the isle of Boucaut. Of Bayard it is said, when Maugis spoke to him, "Bayard estoit
feyé, si entendoit aussi bien Maugis comme s'il (Bayard) east parle." On his return from
the island, Maugis conquers and slays the Saracen admiral Anthenor, who had come to win the
lands and castle of Oriande, and gains the sword Flamberge (Floberge), which, together with
Bayard, he afterwards gave to his cousin Renaud.
In Perceforest, Sebille la Dame du Lac, whose castle was surrounded by a river on
which lay so dense a fog that no one could see across the water, though not called so, was
evidently a fay. The fortnight that Alexander the Great and Floridas abode with her, to be cured
of their wounds, seemed to them but as one night. During that night, "la dame demoura enceinte
du roy dung filz, dont de ce lineage yssit le roi Artus."7
In the same romance8 we are told that "en lysle de Zellande jadis fut
demourante une Jam qui estoit appellee Morgane." This Morgane was very intimate with
esperit (named Zephir) qui repairoit es lieux acquatiques, mais jamais nestoit veu que de
Zephir had been in the habit of repairing to Morgane la Faee from her youth up, "car elle estoit
malicieuse et subtille et tousjours avoit moult desire a aucunement sçavoir des enchantemens et
des conjurations." He had committed to her charge the young Passelyon and his cousin
to be brought up, and Passelyon was detected in an intrigue with the young
Morgane, daughter of
the fay. The various adventures of this amorous youth form one of the most interesting portions
of the romance.
In Tristan de Leonois,9 king Meliadus, the father of
Tristan, is drawn
to a chase par mal engin et negromance of a fairy who was in love with him, and carries
him off, and from whose thraldom he was only released by the power of the great enchanter Merlin.
In Parthenopex of Blois10, the beautiful fairy Melior, whose magic
bark carries the knight to her secret island, is daughter to the emperor of Greece.
In no romance whatever is the fairy machinery more pleasingly displayed than in
Sir Launfal, a metrical romance, composed11 by Thomas Chestre, in the reign of Henry VI.
Before, however, we give the analysis of this poem, which will be followed by that
of another, and by our own imitations of this kind of verse, we will take leave to offer some
observations on a subject that seems to us to be in general but little understood, namely, the
structure of our old English verse, and the proper mode of reading it.
Our forefathers, like their Gotho-German kindred, regulated their verse by the
number of accents, not of syllables. The foot, therefore, as we term it, might consist of one,
two, three, or even four syllables, provided it had only one strongly marked accent. Further,
the accent of a word might be varied, chiefly by throwing it on the last syllable, as natúre
for náture, honoúr for hónour, etc. (the Italians, by the way, throw it back
when two accents come into collision, as, Il Pástor Fido12); they also
sounded what the French call the femmine e of their words, as, In oldè dayès of the
King Artoúr; and so well known seems this practice to have been, that the copyists did not
always write this e, relying on the skill of the reader to supply it.13 There
was one restriction, namely, that it was never to come before a vowel, unless where there was a
pause. In this way the poetry, of the middle ages was just as regular as that of the present day;
and Chaucer, when properly read, is fully, as harmonious as Pope. But the editors of our ancient
poems, with the exception of Tyrwhitt, seem to have been ignorant or regardless of this principle;
and in the Canterbury Tales alone is the verse properly arranged.
We will now proceed to the analysis of the romance of Sir Launfal.
Sir Launfal was one of the knights of Arthur, who loved him well, and made him his
steward. But when Arthur married the beautiful but frail Gwennere, daughter of
Ryon, king of
Ireland, Launfal and other virtuous knights manifested their dissatisfaction when she came to
court. The queen was aware of this, and, at the first entertainment given by the king,
The queen yaf (gave) giftes for the nones,
Gold and silver, precious stones,
Her courtesy to kythe (show)
Everiche knight she yaf broche other (or) ring,
But Sir Launfal she yaf no thing,
That grieved him many a sythe (time).
Launfal, under the feigned pretext of the illness of his father, takes leave of
the king, and retires to Karlyoun, where he lives in great poverty. Having obtained the loan
of a horse, one holyday, he rode into a fair forest, where, overcome by the heat, he lay down
under the shade of a tree, and meditated on his wretched state. In this situation he is
attracted by the approach of two fair damsels splendidly arrayed.
Their faces were white as snow on down,
Their rode14 was red, their eyne were brown;
I saw never none swiche.
That one bare of gold a basin,
That other a towel white and fine,
Of silk that was good and riche;
Their kerchevès were wele skire (clear)
Araid (striped) with richè goldè wire-
Launfal began to siche-
They comè to him over the both (heath),
He was curteis, and against them goeth,
And greet them mildeliche.
They greet him courteously in return, and invite him to visit their mistress, whose pavilion
is at hand. Sir Launfal complies with the invitation, and they proceed to where the
pavilion lies. Nothing could exceed this pavilion in magnificence. It was surmounted by an
erne or eagle, adorned with precious stones so rich, that the poet declares, and we believe,
that neither Alexander nor Arthur possessed "none swiche jewel."
He foundè in the paviloun
The kingès daughter of Oliroun,
Dame Tryamour that hight;
Her father was king of Faërie,
Of occientè15 fer and nigh,
A man of mickle might.
The beauty of dame Tryamour was beyond conception.
For heat her cloathès down she dede
Almostè to her girdle stede (place),
Than lay she uncover't;
She was as white as lily in May,
Or snow that snoweth in winter's day
He seigh (saga) never none so pert (lively).
The redè rose, when she is new,
Against her rode was naught of hew
I dare well say in cert;
Her hairè shone as goldè wire
May no man redè her attire,
Ne naught well think in hert (heart).
This lovely dame bestows her heart on Sir Launfal; on condition of his fidelity.
As marks of her affection, she gives him a never-failing purse and many other valuable presents,
and dismisses him next morning with the assurance, that whenever he wished to see her, his wish
would be gratified on withdrawing into a private room, where she would instantly be with him.
This information is accompanied with a charge of profound secrecy on the subject of their loves.
The knight returns to court, and astonishes every one by his riches and his
munificence. He continues happy in the love of the fair Tryamour, until an untoward adventure
interrupts his bliss. One day the queen beholds him dancing, with other knights, before her
tower, and, inspired with a sudden affection, makes amorous advances to the knight. These passages
of love are received on his part with an indignant repulse, accompanied by a declaration
more enthusiastic than politic or courteous, that his heart was given to a dame, the foulest of
whose maidens surpassed the queen in beauty. The offence thus given naturally effected an entire
conversion in the queen's sentiments; and, when Arthur returned from hunting, like Potiphar's
wife, she charges Launfal with attempting her honour. The charge is credited, and the unhappy
knight condemned to be burned alive, unless he shall, against a certain day, produce that
peerless beauty. The fatal day arrives; the queen is urgent for the execution of the sentence,
when ten fair damsels, splendidly arrayed, and mounted on white palfreys, are descried advancing
toward the palace. They announce the approach of their mistress, who soon appears, and by her
beauty justifies the assertion of her knight. Sir Launfal is instantly set at liberty, and,
vaulting on the courser his mistress had bestowed on him, and which was held at hand by his
squire, he follows her out of the town.
The lady rode down Cardevile,
Fer into a jolif ile,
Oliroun that hight;16
Every year upon a certain day,
Men may heare Launfales steedè neighe,
And him see with sight.
He that will there axsy (ask) justes
To keep his armès fro the rustes,
In turnement other (or) fight,
Dar (need) he never further gon;
There he may find justès anon,
With Sir Launfal the knight.
Thus Launfal, withouten fable,
That noble knight of the rounde table,
Was taken into the faërie;
Since saw him in this land no man,
Ne no more of him tell I ne can,
For soothe, without lie.17
No romance is of more importance to the present subject than the charming Huon de
Bordeaux18. Generally known, as the story should be, through Wieland's poem and Mr.
Sotheby's translation, we trust that we shall be excused for giving some passages from the
original French romance, as Le petit roy Oberon appears to form a kind of connecting link
between the fairies of romance and the Elves or Dwarfs of the Teutonic nations. When we come to
Germany it will be our endeavour to show how the older part of Huon de Bordeaux has been taken
from the story of Otnit in the Heldenbuch, where the dwarf king Elberich performs nearly the
same services to Otnit that Oberon does to Huon, and that, in fact, the name Oberon is only
Elberich aptly altered.19
Huon, our readers must know, encounters in Syria an old follower of his family
named Gerasmes; and when consulting with him on the way to Babylon he is informed by him that
there are two roads to that city, the one long and safe, the other short and dangerous, leading
through a wood, `which is sixteen leagues long, but is so full of Fairie and strange things that
few people pass there without being lost or stopt, because therewithin dwelleth a king, Oberon
the Fay. He is but three feet in height; he is all humpy; but he hath an angelic face; there is
no mortal man who should see him who would not take pleasure in looking at him, he hath so fair
a face. Now you will hardly have entered the wood, if you are minded to pass that way, when he
will find how to speak to you, but of a surety if you speak to him, you are lost for evermore,
without ever returning; nor will it lie in you, for if you pass through the wood, whether
straightforwards or across it, you will always find him before and it will be impossible for you
to escape at all without speaking to him, for his words are so pleasant to hear, that there is no
living man who can escape him. And if so be that he should see that you are nowise inclined to
speak to him, he will be passing wroth with you. For before you have left the wood he will cause
it so to rain on you, to blow, to hail, and to make such right marvellous storms, thunder and
lightning, that you will think the world is going to end. Then you will think that you see a
great flowing river before you, wondrously black and deep; but know, sire, that right easily will
you be able to go through it without wetting the feet of your horse, for it is nothing but a
phantom and enchantments that the dwarf will make for you, because he wishes to have you with
him, and if it so be that you keep firm to your resolve, not to speak to him, you will be surely
able to escape," etc.20
Huon for some time followed the sage advice of Gerasmes, and avoided Oberon le
The storms of rain and thunder came on as predicted, the magic horn set them all dancing, and at
last the knight determined to await and accost the dwarf.
The Dwarf Fay came riding through the wood, and was clad in a robe so exceeding fine
and rich, that it would be a marvel to relate it for the great and marvellous riches that were
upon it; for so much was there of precious stones, that the great lustre that they cast was like
unto the sun when he shineth full clear. And therewithal he bare a right fair bow in his fist, so
rich that no one could value it, so fine it was; and the arrow that he bare was of such sort and
manner, that there was no beast in the world that he wished to have, that it did not stop at that
arrow. He had at his neck a rich horn, which was hung by two rich strings of fine gold."
This horn was wrought by four Fairies, who had endowed it with its marvellous
properties. Oberon, on bringing Huon to speech, informed him that he was the son of Julius Caesar,
and the lady of the Hidden Island, afterwards called Cephalonia. This lady's first love had been
Florimont of Albania, a charming young prince, but being obliged to part from him, she married,
and had a son named Neptanebus, afterwards King of Egypt, who begot Alexander the Great, who
afterwards, put him to death. Seven hundred years later, Caesar, on his way to
entertained in Cephalonia by the lady of the isle, and he loved her, for she told him he would
defeat Pompey, and he became the father of Oberon. Many a noble prince and noble fairy were at
the birth, but one Fairy was unhappily not invited, and the gift she gave was that he should not
grow after his third year, but repenting, she gave him to be the most beautiful of nature's works.
Other Fairies gave him the gift of penetrating the thoughts of men, and of transporting himself
and others from place to place by a wish; and the faculty, by like easy means, of raising and
removing castles, palaces, gardens, banquets, and such like. He further informed the knight,
that he was king and lord of Mommur; and that when he should leave this world his seat was
prepared in Paradise - for Oberon, like his prototype Elberich, was a veritable Christian.
When after a variety of adventures Oberon comes to Bordeaux to the aid of
and effects a reconciliation between him and Charlemagne, he tells Huon that the time is at hand
that he should leave this world and take the seat prepared for him in Paradise, "en faerie ne
veux plus demeurer." He directs him to appear before him within four years in his city of
where he will crown him as his successor.
Here the story properly ends, but an addition of considerable magnitude has been
made by a later hand, in which the story is carried on.
Many are the perils which Huon encounters before the period appointed by Oberon
arrives. At length, however, he and the fair Esclairmonde (the Rezia of Wieland) come to
Here, in despite of Arthur (who, with his sister Morgue la faée and a large train, arrives at
court, and sets himself in opposition to the will of the monarch, but is reduced to order by
Oberon's threat of turning him into a Luyton de Mer22), Huon is crowned king
of all Faerie "tant du pais des Luytons comme des autres chosen secretes reservées dire aux
hommes." Arthur gets the kingdom of Bouquant, and that which Sybilla held of Oberon, and all
the Faeries that were in the plains of Tartary. The good king Oberon then gave Huon his last
instructions, recommending his officers and servants to him, and charging him to build an abbey
before the city, in the mead which the dwarf had loved, and there to bury him. Then, falling
asleep in death, a glorious troop of angels, scattering odours as they flew, conveyed his soul
Isaie le Triste is probably one of the latest romances, certainly posterior
to Huon de Bordeaux, for the witty but deformed dwarf Tronc, who is so important a personage
in it, is, we are told, Oberon, whom Destiny compelled to spend a certain period in that form.
And we shall, as we have promised, prove Oberon to be the handsome dwarf-king
Elberich. In Isaie
the Faery ladies approach to the Fées of Perrault, and Madame D'Aulnoy. Here, as at the birth
of Oberon and of Ogier le Danois, they interest themselves for the new-born child, and bestow
their gifts upon it. The description in this romance of the manner in which the old hermit sees
them occupied about the infant Isaie is very pleasing. It was most probably Fairies of this
kind, and not the diminutive Elves, that Milton had in view when writing these lines:
Good luck betide thee, con, for, at thy birth,
The Faery ladies danced upon the hearth.
Thy drowsy nurse hath sworn she did them spy
Come tripping to the room where thou didst lie,
And, sweetly singing round about thy bed,
Strew all their blessings on thy sleeping head.
The description of the Vergier des Fées in Isaie le Triste, and of the beautiful
valley in which it was situated, may rival in richness and luxuriancy similar descriptions in
Spenser and the Italian poets.23
We have now, we trust, abundantly proved our position of the Fairies of romance
being, at least at the commencement, only 'human mortals,' endowed with superhuman powers,
though we may, perceive that, as the knowledge of Oriental fiction increased, the Fairies began
-more and more to assume the character of a distinct species. Our position will acquire
additional strength when in the course of our inquiry we arrive at France and Italy.
Closely connected with the Fairies is the place of their abode, the region to which
they convey the mortals whom they love, 'the happy lond of Faery.'
1. On the subjects mentioned in this paragraph, see Tales and Popular
Fictions, chap. ii. and iii.
2. In the Amadigi of B. Tasso, she is La Fata Urganda.
3. Lancelot is regarded as probably the earliest prose romance of chivalry. It was first printed
in 1494. The metrical romance called La Charrette, of which Lancelot is the hero, was begun by
Chrestien de Troyes, who died in 1191, and finished by Geoffrey de Ligny. We may here observe
that almost all the French romances of chivalry were written originally in verse in the twelfth
and thirteenth centuries, principally by Chrestien de Troyes and Huon de Villeneuve. The prose
romances in general were made from them in the fifteenth century.
4. For while it was in hand, by loving of an elf,
For all his wondrous skill was cozened of himself:
For walking with his Fay, her to the rock he brought,
In which he of, before his nigromancies wrought.
And going in thereat, his magics to have shown,
She stopt the cavern's mouth with an enchanted atone,
Whose cunning strongly crossed, amazed while he did stand,
She captive him conveyed unto the Fairy-land.
Drayton, Poly-Olb. Song I V.-See above, p. 2.
5. La demoiselle qui Lancelot ports an lac estoit une fée, et en cellui temps estoient appellées
fées toutes celles qui sentremeloient denchantements et de charmes, et moult en estoit pour
lors principallement en la Grand Bretaigne, et savoient la force et la vertu des
parolles, des pierres, et des herbes, parquoi elles estoient en jeunesse, et en
beaulte, et en grandes richesses, comment elles divisoient.
6. La dame qui le nourissoit ne conversoit que en forest et estoit au plain de ung tertre plus
bas assez que celui ou le roy Ban estoit mort: en ce lieu ou il sembloit que le bois fust grant
et parfont (profond) avoit la dame moult de belles maisons et moult riches; et au plain dessoubs
y avoit une gente petite riviere moult plantureuse de poissons; et estoit ce lieu si cele et
secret que bien difficille estoit a homme de le trouver, car la semblance du dit lac le couvroit
si que il ne pouvoit estre apperceu. And farther, La damoiselle uestoit mie
seulle, mais y avoit
grande compaignie de chevaliers et de dames et damoiselles.
7. Vol. i. ch. 42.
8. Vol. iii. ch. 31.
9. Tristan was written in verse by Chrestien de Troyes. The prose romance was first printed in
10. Partheuopex was written in French in the twelfth century, according to Le Grand; in the
thirteenth, according to Roquefort.
11. Composed- for to call it, with Ellis, Ritson, and others, a translation, would be
absurd. How Ellis, who had at least read Le Grand's and Way's Fabliaux, could say of
that he "seems to have given a faithful as well as spirited version of this old Breton story;"
is surprising. It is in fact no translation, but a poem on the adventures of Sir
founded chiefly on the Lais de Lanval and de Graelent, in Marie de France, with considerable
additions of Chestre's own invention, or derived from other sources. These Lais will be considered
12. Thus we ourselves say the Princess Royal, extreme need, etc. This, by the say, is the cause
why the Greeks put a grave and not an acute accent on words accented on the last syllable, to
show that it is easily moveable.
13. As this seems to be one of the lost arts, we will here and elsewhere mark the feminine
e and the change of accent.
14. Rode - complexion; from red.
15. Occient - occident or océan? The Gascon peasantry call the Bay of Biscay La Mer
d'Occient. The Spaniards say Mar Oceano.
16. It is strange to find the English poet changing the Avalon of the Lai de Lanval into the
well-known island of Oleron. It is rather strange too, that Mr. Ritson, who has a note on
"Oliroun," did not notice this.
17. The Lai ends thus
Od (avec) li sen vait en Avalun,
Ceo nus recuntent le Bretun;
En une isle que mut est beaus,
La fut ravi li dameiseaus,
Nul humme nen ot plus parler,
Ne jeo nen sai avant cunter.
In Graelent it is said that the horse of the knight used to return annually to the river where
he lost his master. The rest is Thomas Chestre's own, taken probably from the well-known story
in Gervase of Tilbury.
18. Huon, Hue, or Hullin (for he is called by these three names in the poetic romance) is,
there can be little doubt, the same person with Yon king of Bordeaux in the Quatre Filz
another composition of Huon de Villeneuve, and with Lo Re Ivone, prince or duke of Guienne in
Bojardo and Ariosto. See the Orl. Inn. 1. i. c. iv. st. 46. 1 Cinque Canti, c. v. at. 42
19. Otnit was supposed to have been written by Wolfram von Eschembach, in the early part of
the thirteenth century. It is possibly much older. Huon de Bordeaux was, it is said, written
in French verse by Huon de Villeneuve, some time in the same century. It does not appear in the
list of Huon de Villeneuve's works given by Mons. de Roquefort. At the end of the prose
romance we are told that it was written at the desire of Charles seigneur de
completed on the 29th of January, 1454.
20. Qui a de long seizes lieues, mais tant eat plain de faerie et chose estrange que pen de gens
y passent qui n'y soient perdus ou arrestez, pour ce que la dedans demeure un
roi, Oberon le fayé.
Il n'a que trois pieds de hauteur; il est tout bossu; mais il a un visage
angelique; il n'est
homme mortel que le voye que plaisir ne prengne a le regarder tant a beau visage. Ja si tost
ne serez entrez au bois se par la voulez passer qu' il ne troube maniere de parler a
ainsi que a luy parliez perdu estus a tousjours sans jamais plus revenir; ne il ne sera en
car se par le bois passez, soit de long ou de travers, vous le trouverez tousjours au devant de
vous, et vous sera impossible que eschappiez nullement que ne parliez a luy, car sea parolles
sent tant plaisantes a ouyr qu'il nest homme mortel qui de luy se puisse
eschapper. Et se chose
est qu'il voye que nullement ne vueillez parler a luy, il sera moult troublé envers
avant que du bois soyez parti vous fera pleuvoir, ventrer, gresiller, et faire si tres-mervueilleux
orages, tonnerres, et esclairs, que advis vous sera que le monde doive finir. Puis vous sera
advis que par devant vous verrez une grande riviere courante, noire et parfonde a grand
merveilles; mais sachez, sire, que bien y pourrez aller sans mouiller les pieds de vostre cheval,
car ce n'est que fantosme et enchantemens que le nain vows fera pour vous cuider avoir avec
et se chose est que bien tenez propos en vous de non parler a luy, bien pourrez
21. Le Nain Fee s'en vint chevauchant par le bois, et estoit vestu d'une robbe si tres-belle et
riche, que merveilles sera ce racompter pour la grand et mer veilleuse richesse que dessus
estoit, car tant y avoit de pierres precieuses, que la grand clarté qu'elles jettoient estoit
pareille au soleil quant il luit bien clair. Et avec ce portoit un moult bel are en son poing,
tant riche que on ne le sauroit estimer tant estoit beau. Et la fleche qu'il portoit estoit de
telle sorte et maniere, qu'il n'estoit beste au monde qu'il vousist souhaiter qu'a icelle fleche
elle ne s'arrestast. Il avoit a son cou un riche cor, lequel estoit pendu a deux riches attaches
de fin or.
22. This sort of transformation appears to have been a usual mode of punishing in a Fairy land.
It may have come from Circe, but the Thousand and One Nights is full of such transformations.
For luyton or lutin, see below, France.
23. We are only acquainted with this romance through Mr. Dunlop's analysis.