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Arthur A Short Sketch of His Life and History in English Verse of the First Half of the Fifteenth Century   By: (1825-1910)

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[TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: This text contains the character yogh (ȝ and Ȝ). Users whose computers cannot display this character may use the ascii version of this text instead.]


A Short Sketch of His Life and History in English Verse of the First Half of the Fifteenth Century

Copied and Edited From the Marquis of Bath's MS.


Frederick J. Furnivall, M.A., Camb.

Editor of De Borron's and Lonelich's "History of the Holy Graal," Walter Map's "Queste Del Saint Graal," Etc. Etc.

London: Published for the Early English Text Society, by Trübner & Co., 60, Paternoster Row. MDCCCLXIV


Preface Arthur Words Notes


As one of the chief objects of the Early English Text Society is to print every Early English Text relating to Arthur, the Committee have decided that this short sketch of the British hero's life shall form one of the first issue of the Society's publications. The six hundred and forty two English lines here printed occur in an incomplete Latin Chronicle of the Kings of Britain, bound up with many other valuable pieces in a MS. belonging to the Marquis of Bath. The old chronicler has dealt with Uther Pendragon, and Brounsteele (Excalibur), and is narrating Arthur's deeds, when, as if feeling that Latin prose was no fit vehicle for telling of Arthur, king of men, he breaks out into English verse,

"Herkeneþ, þat loueþ hono ur , Of kyng Arthour & hys labo ur ."

The story he tells is an abstract, with omissions, of the earlier version of Geoffry of Monmouth, before the love of Guinevere for Lancelot was introduced by the French writing English romancers of the Lionheart's time (so far as I know), into the Arthur tales. The fact of Mordred's being Arthur's son, begotten by him on his sister, King Lot's wife, is also omitted; so that the story is just that of a British king founding the Round Table, conquering Scotland, Ireland, Gothland, and divers parts of France, killing a giant from Spain, beating Lucius the Emperor of Rome, and returning home to lose his own life, after the battle in which the traitor whom he had trusted, and who has seized his queen and his land, was slain.

"He that will more look, Read on the French book,"

says our verse writer: and to that the modern reader must still be referred, or to the translations of parts of it, which we hope to print or reprint, and that most pleasantly jumbled abstract of its parts by Sir Thomas Maleor, Knight, which has long been the delight of many a reader, though despised by the stern old Ascham, whose Scholemaster was to turn it out of the land. There the glory of the Holy Grail will be revealed to him; there the Knight of God made known; there the only true lovers in the world will tell their loves and kiss their kisses before him; and the Fates which of old enforced the penalty of sin will show that their arm is not shortened, and that though the brave and guilty king fights well and gathers all the glory of the world around him, yet still the sword is over his head, and, for the evil that he has done, his life and vain imaginings must pass away in dust and confusion.

Of the language of the Poem there is little to say: its dialect is Southern, as shown by the verbal plural th , the vyve for five, zyx for six, ych for I, har (their), ham (them), for her , hem ; hulle , dude , ȝut , for hill, did, yet, the infinitive in y ( rekeny ), etc. Of its poetical merits, every reader will judge for himself; but that it has power in some parts I hope few will deny. Arthur's answer to Lucius, and two lines in the duel with Frollo,

"There was no word y spoke, But eche had other by the throte,"

are to be noted. Parts of the MS. have very much faded since it was written some ten or twenty years before 1450, so that a few of the words are queried in the print. The MS. contains a few metrical points and stops, which I have here printed between parentheses ()... Continue reading book >>

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