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two-thirds of the whole compilation; Pendragon of Britain, is said in the they supply, in fact, more; unless por- British legend to have deceived Ig. tions of what forms the third volume raine, wife of the king of Cornwall, in the present edition are taken, as by taking (with the help of Merlin) seems most probable, from a separate the form of a cloud-in Welsh, gorlas romance known to have existed, of or gorlasar; in the English romance which Sir Galahad was the hero. before us, he is said to have visited There would appear also, from the her in the likeness of the king her arrangement of the earlier portions husband, whose name is Gorlois. The of the book, to have been a distinct latter is killed in battle, and Uther is romance of Balin le Savage, and an- free to wed the object of his passion. other of Sir Gareth of Orkney, which In due time Arthur is born, and by Mallory has either worked in bodily, Merlin's advice is brought up in secret or upon which he drew largely for at a distance from Uther's court. By materials. The result is a not very the advice of the same cou
ounsellor, harmonious whole, somewhat con- upon Uther's death the Archbishop of fusing to the reader who has no pre- Canterbury holds solemn meeting of vious acquaintance with these heroes “all the lords of the realm and genof chivalry. He will find constant tlemen of armes” in the greatest allusions to circumstances not re- church in London (“whether it were corded in the work itself, and anti- Powlis or not,” says the conscientious cipations of characters and incidents Sir Thomas, “the Frensshe booke which are not introduced until long maketh no mention”), to pray that after. But Sir Thomas, it must be Heaven would “show some miracle remembered, was addressing himself who should be rightwise king of this to those who might fairly be supposed realme.” There appears, after mass, to be already more or less fainiliar agaiust the high altar, “a great stone with the subject which he was repro- four square, like to a marble stone, ducing. To imagine a knight or and in the midest thereof was an angentleman of the days of Edward IV. vile of steele a foote of height, and to be unacquainted with the history therein stooke a fair sword, naked, by (true or fabulous) of Arthur, and Mer- the point, and letters of gold were lin, and Lancelot, would have been written about thesword that said thus as strange as to suppose an educated – Who so pulleth out this sword of Englishman of the present day to this stone and anvile, is rightwise know nothing of Wellington or Na- king borne of England.'” The more poleon. We think, however, that ambitious of the knights and nobles Mr Wright, who edits the present present—"such as would have been volumes, would have consulted the king”-essay the trial. But "none reader's comfort more, and given him mightstir the sword, or moveit;" and a better chance, as Caxton wished, it is committed to the safe guardian"to understande bryefly the con- ship of ten knights till the rightful tente,” if he had preserved the old claimant shall come. At a great joust printer's original division into twenty- held on New Year's-day, the young one books (the headings of which Sir Kay, Arthur's foster-brother, finds supply a very useful clue), instead of himself without a sword; and Arthur, following the edition of 1634 in its unable to obtain one for him elsemore arbitrary arrangement into three where, rides to the churchyard, finds parts. To attempt to give any con- the guardian knights absent at the tinuous outline of what is in fact jousting, and “lightly and fiersly” seven or eight separate stories, would pulls the charmed weapon from the be tedious, if it were not almost im- stone, and brings it to Sir Kay, who possible; but a slight sketch of the recognises it at once, and comes to principal heroes, as they appear here the very hasty and erroneous concluand in the Welsh legends, may not sion that he "must be king of thi be uninteresting. And to begin with land." The true king, however, is of the Hero-King himself.
course Arthur himself; who, after The birth of Arthur, like that of many delays and difficulties from the more than one favourite of chivalry, natural jealousy of the lords of the is illegitimate. His father Uther, His father Uther, kingdom to "be governed with a boy
of no bloode borne,” repeats the test the body of romances before us. This
" On Inglis is this writingson, born in wedlock.” Even Mer
Kerve steel and yren and al thing." lin's eloquence fails to put the facts of the case in a very favourable light, And Sir Thomas Mallory himself tells and the kings are not satisfied. They us “it is as much to say as cuttebesiege Arthur in his tower, where steele.” In the Brut y Brenhined, it happily he was "well vitaled.” By is paraphrased by Dure Entaille, the help of his magic sword, Excali- and hence, no doubt, Count Roland's bur, he succeeds in defeating them sword, in the romances of Godefroi for a while. “It was so bright in de Bouillon and Huon de Bordeaux, his enemies' sight that it gave light borrows its name of Durendal. like thirty torches ; and therewith Spenser, in his “ Faery Queen,” calls he put them back, and slew much it by the equivalent of Mordure, people.” This sudden introduction According to Lady C. Schreiber and into the story of the enchanted sword M. de la Villemarqué, the original of is one of the many instances in which the name is Welsh; and Calybourne the compiler of the English romance (under which form it appears in has done his work with very little Robert of Gloucester) is only a parregard to the unities; for he repre- donable attempt of Saxon organs to sents Arthur as first obtaining this render such an impossible combinamiraculous weapon at a subsequent tion as Caledvwlch (“hard-notch"), leads him to the banks of a lake, in one of the tales of the Mabinogion, “ which was a faire water and a where it is placed in the list of the broade, and in the middes of the lake king's inestimable treasures in comKing Arthur was ware of an arme pany with his lance Rhongomyant, clothed in white samite, that held a his dagger Carnwenhau, his ship faire sword in the hand." This sword Prydwen, his shield Wynebgwr. the king obtains as a gift from the thucher, his mantle Gwen (or Llen), damosel of the lake, who dwells there and his wife Guenhwyvar-who is on a rock, wherein is “ as faire a place placed last, and was certainly a very as any is on earth, and as richly be- questionable treasure. These named seene,” and whom we afterwards find swords are common in the romances to be apparently the Fairy Nimue, of chivalry, and are usually recorded Nineve, or Viviane-for she is called (as in the case of Sir Gawaine's sword by all these names. She is the Chwb- Galatine t) as having been the work lian or Vivlian of the Welsh bards, of Galant, or Wieland, the smith. and plays no inconsiderable part in From that cunning hand is said to
* It had belonged to his uncle, Charlemagne, and bad been won by him from the Emir Braymont (Braymont l'Admiral).- La Fleur de Battailes. Paris, 1501.
+ Vol. i. p. 180.
have come Charlemagne's sword mances is his half-sister, Morgan la Joyeuse. In the romance of “ Huon Faye, wife to King Urience of Gore,t de Bordeaux” he is said to have who acts the part of the wicked fairy forged but three : Huon's sword throughout, as Nimue or Viviane Durendal, which belonged to Ro- does that of the benevolent one. In land; and Courtain—which, we con- the romance of Merlin we are told clude, may be seen to this day in the that she had been educated in a Tower jewel-room as the Confessor's nunnery, where she had learned (of sword Curtana ; but there is at least all things) magic, which she applies one other mentioned in the same ro- to all kinds of evil purposes. She is mance, whose fame is more histori- a very incarnation of wickedness; cal, if not so romantic, as that of only the prompt interference of her Escalibur itself; it was forged ori- son, Sir Ewaine, prevents her from ginally by one Israhels, and seems stabbing her husband while he is to have been as we should per- asleep; insomuch that Sir Ewaine haps have guessed from the name of is constrained to say of this amiable the manufacturer-of doubtful qua- parent, “Men say that Merlin was lity ; but Galant the smith spent a begotten of a divell, but I may say year in re-tempering it, named it an earthly divell bare me.” From Recuite, and it went in succession pure malice, as it would seem-at through the hands of Alexander the least from no cause here assignedGreat, Ptolemy, Judas Maccabeus, she sets on one Sir Accolon, armed Vespasian, and two less widely- with Excalibur, which by some means known heroes, Comumarans and his she has got into her possession, to son Corbada. The last of this race fight with and slay Arthur, in whose of weapons must have been Ancient hand has been substituted a weapon Pistol's redoubtable Hiren, which "false, counterfeit, and brittle.” Long was a namesake of the sword of the king fights against these terrible Amadis de Gaul; but even this is odds, and is fainting with loss of claimed by a zealous Welsh anti- blood, when the damosel of the lake, quary as of Celtic extraction ; hirian who“ ever did great goodness to in the old British language signify- King Arthur and all his knights, by ing“ a long slashing sword.”* her sorcery and enchantments," ap
Priceless as was the sword Excali- pears at the critical moment, restores bur, the scabbard had qualities of the good sword to the hand of its even more value. "The scabbard is true owner, and enables him to overworth ten of the sword,” said Merlin, come his adversary, who professes “ for while ye have the scabbard upon great remorse when he finds that he you, ye shall leese no blood, be ye has unconsciously gone so near to never so sore wounded ; therefore slay his “soveraigne liege the king." keepe well the scabbard alway with Sir Accolon, in spite of “surgions you.” King Arthur, however, does and leeches,” dies of his wounds, and not take such good care of either King Arthur sends his dead body to sword or scabbard as he should have his false sister “ for a present.” Ever done. His evil genius in these ro- after he adopts, it would seem, the
* JONES's Bardic Museum.
+ This Urience is evidently the same as the Urien Réghed frequently mentioned by Welsh bards (Myvyr. Archæol., i. 53, &c.). M. Villemarqué adopts the opinion that his dominion of Réghed was in the north of England, comprising Cumberland and the neighbouring districts; but more probably it lay in South Wales: Geoffrey of Monmouth makes him king of the Murefenses (Moray) in Scotland. He is unquestionably an historical personage. He was the great patron of the prince and bard Llywarch Hên, who bad been driven from his paternal domivion of Argoed in Cumberland. In the pedigree of the Vale of Towy family (Tylwyth Ystrad Tjuci) he is styled “ Toparch of Scotland, King of Gower (in Glamorgan), Lord of Iscenen, Carn y Wyllion, and Kidwelly” (Carmarthenshire): forming together the district called Réghed. His castles are said to have been at Carreg Cennin, Carmarthen. shire, and at Llychwr, in Gower. Mr Wright strangely places Gower in North Wales.
uncomfortable fashion of sleeping Nimue, or Viviane, the damosel of with “Excalibur in his right hand the lake, with whom the seer, to naked;" in that position, at least, whom the powers of nature are subMorgan la Faye finds him when ject, finds himself “so sore asotted.” she makes her next attempt to rob The symptoms were the usual ones. him of it, and is obliged to content That “old, old story” was old even herself with carrying off the en- in Merlin's day. The early romancer chanted scabbard "under her man- is scarcely so merciful to bim as the tle,” and throwing it into the depths Laureate has been. It was not the of 'a lake. King Arthur never sees lady's fault; he “would let her have it more.
no rest, but always he would be with Arthur's chief counsellor, as we her in every place.' was passhave already seen, is Merlin, who in ing weary of him, but was afraid this compilation of Sir Thomas's is of him,because he was a divell's brought upon the stage without any sonne." To rid herself of so troublekind of introduction, as a personage some a lover, she enticed him at last with whom all the literary world of under a great stone, “which a hunthat day was supposed to be already dred men could not lift," and left well acquainted. We may soon learn him there, for ever, it would appear enough about him, at all events, for he never came out for all the our present purpose. The earliest of craft that he could doe.” Long after, the French metrical legends of which Sir Bagdemagus happening to ride he is the hero forms part of Wace's that way, “heard him make great Brut. Robert de Borron amplified moane, and would have holpen him," it in French prose ; and there is also but Merlin “bade him leave his laan English metrical romance which bour, for all was in vaine, and he bears his name. He is a wondrous might never be holpen but by her child from his infancy-born, as was who put him there." "Which allegory said, from a nun and an evil spirit, scarcely needs an exposition to show in pursuance of a design thus to the hopelessness of all interference counteract the great scheme of hu- by third parties in such desperate man redemption ; but Nennius tells
It is fair to say, however, us that his father was no worse than that there is more than one version a Roman consul. We find him, how- of the story. One romancer says that ever-indeed, we find two of his name the fair one only did it by way of -in the fragments of bardic lays and experiment-to try her power, we in the Triads, at least five centuries may conclude-and was very sorry before the Norman romance was put when she found that she could not together. The chief traditionary fea- get him out again. Another account tures of his character, and his super- is that her object was to keep him natural powers, are found in both. with her always. Evidently, in some He is the mystical philosopher and shape, we have here his story, and magician of his age ; a real personage, her story;" elle et lui”—“lui et elle." we may be almost sure, but with a The original legend, in the fragments history which conceals him in a cloud of it which yet remain to us in of fable. In the compilation before the Welsh Archäology, is certainly us, he presents much the same con- grander. The great magician there tradictory character as modern philo- enters into his floating house of sophers are too apt to do. He can crystal for the love of his lady,” and counsel others better than himself; disappears for ever. By this image, he has learnt every secret but that the expounders of bardic lore tell us, of his own weakness. “He knoweth is signified death : some have held all things," says one of the knights, that the “ floating house” of crystal " by his divell's craft.”. One thing is none other than Ynys-uitrinealone his craft is no match for. Alas! the Isle of Glass; and that Merlin's it has been a weak point with the mysterious disappearance, like Arwisest of men, before and since Mer- thur's, is but another image of the lin's day. Need it be said-even if covering up from the profane eyes of Mr Tennyson had not made it public the invader with his new creed the —that it was a woman? It is this mystic rites of the old Druidical re
ligion in the sacred island of Glaston- which modern grammar is incapable, bury-to burst forth again into day- that for this “most shamefulest' light, if ever the hour should come for message his master should do him the land torid herself of the gods of the homage “ on both his knees,” or that stranger. So certainly, whenever we he, Arthur, will have of 'him not look below the surface of these tales beard only, but the head on which it of romance, we find a region of mytho- grows; a threat which two of his logy opening upon us to which nearly knights, the brothers Balin and every clue is lost; and under the thin Balan, would have accomplished for veil of Christianity which the Anglo- him without fail, but for King RyNorman trouveurs, most of them ance's submission. Lady C. Schreiber probably churchmen, strove to throw is undoubtedly right in her identifiover them, we detect the old pagan cation of this personage with the superstitions,—just as the character Rhitta Gawr (the giant), who appears of sadness, which has been remarked in the Welsh legends with a similar as pervading all Celtic poetry, is ill story attached to him, and who is concealed even by the lighter tone- mentioned in the Triads as one of more refined, but less moral- which the three “regulators” of Britain. they have borrowed from their re- A hill near Towyn in Merionethshire producers in the south.
still bears the name of Rhiw y BarBut we have somewhat anticipated fau—“ Hill of the Beards”—where the course of the main narrative, if the giant is said to have been slain. narrative that can be called which is But Arthur's barons “will let bim at best but a conglomerate of dis- have no rest” until he takes a wife. jointed legends.
In evil hour he sets his affections The confederate kings, who had on Guenever, Gwynhyfar, or Guanbeen discontented at Arthur's acces-humara, as Geoffrey calls her, daughsion to the throne of his reputed ter of King Leodegraunce of Camelfather, rally their forces after their yard. He had very little rest afterfirst defeat, and with larger aids wards. This lady did her best make war upon him afresh. They throughout her wedded life to justify are defeated, however, by the help of the character given her in the old King Ban and King Bors, whom Welsh distich, said to be still curArthur has called in from “over rentsea." His next enemy is King Ryance of North Wales and Ireland, who
"Gwenhyfar merch Gogyrfan gawr, sends him what Arthur fairly calls
Drwg yn fechan, gwaeth yn fawr." + " the most villanous and lewdest Merlin, with a prophetic insight into message that ever man heard sent to the fact that she was not wholea king" He had a taste to “purflo some” for the king to take to wife, his mantle” with kings' beards, of would have had him choose better; which he had already obtained ele- but is fain to let him have his own ven, having overconie their owners way, with the admission that in fair fight, and claimed this as their “whereas a man's heart is set, he homage. One more was wanting to will be loth to return." The sole complete the pattern ; and this, he dowry, besides her fatal beauty, had made up his mind, should be which Guenever brings with her, is Arthur's. In reply to King Ryance's the world-renowned Round Table. messenger, Arthur bid him observe, It had belonged to Uther Pendragon, in the first place, that his beard was and had been given by him to Leode"full young yet for to make a purfell graunce
. Merlin had made it, as we of ;” secondly, with an emphasis of learn from the romance which bears
The story of the mantle of royal beards, whencesoever derived, is common property with the romance-writers. It appears again, in the course of a few pages, in this very collection (vol. i. p. 167), where the fancy is attributed to the giant of St Michael's Mount. Spenser adopts it, Faery Queen, vi. 1, 13. It may be seen in the original Welsh Iolo MSS., p. 193.
+ “Gwenhyfar, daughter of Gogyrfan the tall-wicked when little, worse when big."