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SIR THOMAS MALORY
(FROM “MORTE D'ARTHUR," WRITTEN ABOUT 1470.)
THERFORE sayd Arthur unto Syr Bedwere, take thou Excalybur? my good swerde and goo with it to yonder water syde, and whan thou comest there, I charge the (thee) throwe my swerde into that water, and come ageyn and telle me what thou there seest. My lord, said Bedwere, your commaundement sbal be doon and lyghtly (easily, quickly) wol I brynge you worde ageyn. So Syr Bedwere departed and by the waye he bebelde that noble swerde that the pomel and the hafte (handle) was al of precyouse stones and thenne he sayd to hym self yf (if) I throwe this ryche swerde in the water, therof shal never come good but harme and losse. And thenne Syr Bedwere hydde Excaly bur under a tree.
And so, as sone as he myght, he came ageyn unto the king and seyd that he had ben (been) at the water and bad throwen the sword in to the water. What sawe thou there, sayd the King ? Syr, he said, I sawe no thynge but wawes (waves) and wyndes. That is untrewly sayd of the, said the kyng. Therfore goo thou lyghtely ageyn and do my commaundemente; as thou art to me leef (loving) and dere spare not, but throwe it in. Than Syr Bedwere retorned ageyn and took the swerde in bys hande and than (then) hym thought (it seemed to him) synne and shame to throwe awaye that nobyl swerde, and so eft (after, ayain) he hydde the swerde and retorned ageyn and tolde to the kyng that he had ben at the water and done his commaundemente. What sawe thou there;—sayd the kyng. Syr, he sayd, I sawe no thynge but the waters wappe (shaking, trembling) and tbe wawes wanne: (ebbing). A traytour untrewe,
(1) Tennyson has re-written, in his own exquisite manner, the above passage, adorning it with such graces as no other living writer can command. See Morte d'Arthur," in his Poems first published in 1842.
(2) Excalybur. This famous sword, wrenched by Arthur out of a wonderful stone in which it was embedded, was, according to the legend, the guarantee of his fortunes. Now that he is dying, he restores it to the powers that gave it. (3) The waters wappe and the wawes wanne. Thus represented by Tennyson
“I heard the ripple washing in the reeds.
sayd King Arthur, now hast thou betrayed me twyse. Who wold have wente (weened, supposed) that thou that hast been to me so leef and dere,—and thou arte named a noble knyghte and wold betraye me for the richesse' of the swerde. But now goo ageyn lyghtly, for thy longe taryinge (tarrying, delay) putteth me in grete jeopardye? (danger) of my lyf. For I have taken colde, and but if (unless) thou do now as I byd the, yf ever I may see the I shal slee the (wyth) myn owne handes, for thou woldest for (for the sake of) my ryche swerde see me dede.
Thenn Syr Bedwere departed and wente to the swerde and lyghtly (easily) took hit up and wente to the water syde and there he bounde the gyrdyl (girdle) about the hyltes, and thenne he threwe the swerde as farre in to the water as he myghte, and there cam an arme and a hande above the water and mette it and caught it and so shoke (shook) it thryse and braundysshed, and than (then) vanysshed awaye the hande wyth the swerde in the water.
So Syr Bedwere came ageyn to the kyng and tolde hym what he sawe. Alas, sayd the kyng, helpe me hens (hence) for I drede me (I am afraid) I have taryed over longe (too long). Than (then) Syr Bedwere toke the kynge upon his backe and so wente wyth hym to the water syde; and whan (when) they were at the water syde, evyn fast by (close by) the banke hoved (floated ) a lytyl barge wyth many fayr ladyes in hit, and ernonget (among) hem al was a quene (queen) and al they (all of them) had blacke hoodes, and al they wepte and shryked (shrieked) whan they saw Kyng Arthur.
Now put me in to the barge, sayd the kyng; and so he dyd softelye. And there receyved hym thre quenes with grete mornyng and soo they sette hem doun (they sat down) and in one of their lappes Kyng Arthur layd hys heed (head) and then that quene seyd, a (ah!), dere broder, why have yo taryed so
(1) Richesse. See note 3, p. 39.
(2) Jeopardye, written jupartie by Chaucer, and yubardy by Sir Thomas More. A word of difficult derivation. Some say fr. j'ai perdu, I have lost; others say from jeu perdu, a lost game, which is more likely than the other-a jeopardy is a great risk or danger.
(3) Caught. Nobody seems to be able to say whence the verb catch came. It is neither A.s. por Romance ; it appears as cacche in Robert of Gloucester, with a p.p. icaht. Milton, Steele, and others introduced catched, which was finally set aside, and the old form restored.
(4) Emonge, fr. A.S. onmange or gemong, evidently connected with mengian, to mix or mingle.
longe from me ? Alas, this wounde on your heed hath caught overmoche (too much) colde. And soo than (then) they rowed from the londe, and Syr Bedwere behelde al tho (those) ladyes goo from hym. Than (then) Syr Bedwere cryed, a (ah!) my lord Arthur, what shal become of me now ye goo from me; and leve me here allone emonge myn enemyes ? Comfort thyself, sayd the kyng, and doo as wel as thou mayst, for in me is no truste to truste in. For I wil (go] in to the vale of Avylon' (Avalon) to hele me of my grevous wounde. And yi thou here (hear) never more of me, praye for my soule.
But ever the quenes and the ladyes wepte and shrycked that it was pyte ( pity) to here. And assone (as soon) as Syr Bedwere had loste the syght of the baarge he wepte and waylled, and so took (rushed into) the foreste, and so he wente al that nyght and in the mornyng he was ware (was aware, saw before him) betwixt two holtes hore (hoary woods), of a chapel and an ermytage.
ISEGRYM4 THE WOLF'S EXPERIMENT IN READING.
(FROM TRANSLATION OF “REYNARD THE Fox,” PUBLISHED IN 1481.)
I (i.e. the fox) have forgoten on (one) thyng, the laste time that I was shriven to you (was shrived, or received absolution from you), which I have syth (since) bethoghte me, and it was of grete deceyte that I dyde whiche I now wyll telle yow.
(1) Avalon, thought to be the same as Glastonbury, “called an isle as being made nearly such by the river's embracement” (Keightley's “Fairy Mythology”).
(2) Wepte, fr. A.S, wepan, pret. weóp. This strong pret, was in use in Sem. Sax., but is here superseded by a weak one, wepte.
(3) Caxton is too often considered as a mere handicraftsman, “ only a printer;" but he was really a noteworthy writer of English, and did much in every way to advance English literature. His style, though rather ambitious occasionally, is very agreeable, and his sense and spirit admirable.
(4) Isegrym, the name given to the wolf in the prose epic of “Reynard the Fox." Some say that Isegrym represented the feudal baron, and Reynard the Church.
(5) Shriven, fr. A.S. scrifan, p.p. gescrifen, Sem. Sax. scriven, to shrive or receive confession; hence Shrove Tuesday, the day specially devoted to this object, as immediately preceding Ash Wednesday; also shrift, the confession itself.
I cam wyth the wulf, walkynge bytwene Hoalthalst and Elverdynage ;-—There sawe we goo a rede (red) mare, and she had a blacke colte or a fool (foal) of iiij monethes olde, which was good and fatte. Isegrym was almost storven (starved, dead) for (with) hunger, and prayd me goo to the mare and wyte (know, ascertain) of her yf she wold selle her fool. I ran faste to the mare, and axed (asked) that of her. She sayd she wold selle it for money. I demanded of her how (for how much) she wold selle it. She sayde, it is wreton (written) in (on) my hyndre foot, yf ye conne (know how to) rede and be a clerke ye may com see and rede it. Tho (then) wyst (knew) I wel where she wold be (what she was thinking to do and I saide, Nay' for sothe (forsooth, indeed) I can not rede and also I désyre not to bye? (buy) your chylde. Isegrym hath sente me hether; and wold fain (would be glad to) knowe the prys (price) therof. The mare saide Late (let) hym come thenne hymself, and I shal late hym have knowleche. I sayde, I shal, and hastily wente to Ysegrym, and said, Eme (uncle), wil ye ete your bely ful of this colte ? So (if SO) goo faste to the mare, for she taryeth after you (is waiting for you). She hath do wryte (she has made write, has had written) the pris of her colte under her fote; she wolde that I shold have redde it; but I can not (know not) one lettre, which me sore repenteth, for I wente never to scole. Eme, wylle ye bye that colte ? Conne ye rede ? So (if so) maye ye bye it.
Oy (aye) nevew, that can I wel; what sholde me lette* (what should hinder me)? I can (know) wel Frensche, Latyn, Englessh and Duches (German). I have goon to scole at' Oxenford (Oxford). I have also with olde and auncyent doctours ben (been) in the audyence, and herde plees (pleas, causes), and also have gyven sentence. I am lycensyd (licensed in bothe lawes; what maner wrytyng that ony (any) man can devyse, I can rede it perfyghtly as my name. I wyl goo to her, and shal anon (presently, immediately) understonde the prys. And bad
(1) Nay. Nay and yea, in 0.E., differed from no and yes, the former being appropriated to replies to affirmative questions, and the latter to those containing & negative particle. (See Aldis Wright's note, with extract from S support of this view in “The Bible Word-Book,” sub voce Yea.) Thus the question would be, “Can you read?" The answer, “Nay," &c. If it had been, “ Can't you read P” the answer should have been, “ No.”
(2) Bye, fr. A.S. bycgan, pret. bohte, 0.E. bye, pret. bogt. (3) Eme, fr. A.S. eám, an uncle. Cf. Ger. oheim.
(4) Lette, fr. A. S. lettan, to hinder; but late, fr. A.S. lætan, to permit, let be, leave, having pret. lét.
(he bade) me to tarye for hym; and he ranne to the mare and axed (asked) of her, how (whether) she wolde selle her fole, or keep it.
She sayde, the somme of the money standeth wreton (written) after (behind) on my fote. He saide, Late' (let) me rede it. She saide, Doo; and lyfte (lifted) up her foot whiche was newe shood (shod) wyth yron, and vj stronge nayles, and she smote hym wythout myssyng in his heed (head), that he fyl (fell) doun as (as if he had been deed; a man shold wel have ryden (ridden) a myle er (ere, before) he aroos.
The mare trotted away with her colte, and she leet (ieft) Isegrym lying shrewdly? (severely) hurte and wunded. He laye and bledde as an hound. I wente tho (then) to hym, and sayde, Sir Ysegrim, dere eme, how is it now wyth yow? Have ye eten ynowh” (enough) of the colte ? Is your bely ful ? Why gyve ye me no part? I dyde your erande (errand). Have ye slepte (slept off your dyner? I pray you telle me what was wreton under the mares fote. What was it, prose or ryme, metre or verse, I wold fayn know it. I trowe (believe) it was cantum (musical composition) for I herde you synge me thoght fro ferre; for ye were so wyse, that no man coude rede it better than ye.
Alas, Reynart! alas! said the wulf, I pray yow to leve (leave off your mockyng. I am so foule arrayed" (foully soiled with dirt), and sore hurte, that an herte of stone myght have pyté of me. The mare wyth her longe legge had an yron fote. I wende (thought) the nayles thereof had ben lettres, and she hytte me at the fyrst stroke vj grete woundes in my hed, that almost it is cloven. Suche maner lettres shal I never more desire to rede.
Dere eme, is that trouthe that ye telle me? I have hereof grete mervaylle.(marvel, wonder). I heelde you for one of the wysest clerkes that now lyve. Now I here wel, it is treue that I long syth (since) have redde and herde, that the best clerkes
(1) See note 4, p. 50.
(2) Shrewdly. How a shrew meant a troublesome, perverse man or woman, from the earliest times, does not appear. No satisfactory origin of the word has been traced, but shrewed or shrewd, pestered with a shrew, and so made angry, il-tempered, sharp, and severe, was a common word.
(3) Ynowh, fr. Sem. Sax. inoh, wil. fr. A.S. genog, genoh.
(4) Arayed. In Palsgrave's “ Esclaircissement” we find, “ Your goune is foule arrayed.” The word is rare. (5) The best clerkes, &c. Chaucer alludes to this in the “Miller's Tale"
“ The greatest clerkes ben not the wisest men,
As whilom to the wolf this spake the mare.”