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ranked among the English trouv&res, since his father was one of the followers of duke William to England; and a family of that name possessed the lordship of Walkeringham in Nottinghamshire. The earliest of his two poems is the "Brut d'Angleterre," which, as it was presented to Elinor of Aquitaine in 1155, was probably undertaken at her request, while duchess of Normandy. Although it is mainly a free translation from the "History of the British Kings,'' by Geoffrey of Monmouth, it yet, especially in those parts relating to Arthur and his court, gives so much that may be considered his own, as to render it, in strict phraseology, the first romance of chivalry.

The introduction is singularly prosaic; and as there is no allusion to Elinor and her patronage, it is not improbable that the work originally commenced with a dedication similar to that prefixed to the voyage of St. Brandan, but which subsequent transcribers might not have taken the trouble to copy. "Whoever wishes to hear and know," says he, "aught concerning ancient kings; what they did, from whence they came, and who first of all had rule in England, who was renowned, and who was brave; master Wace has translated this story, and he tells the truth." He then begins with the flight of Eneas from Troy. All the earlier part of his narrative is closely copied in incidents, though by no means in phraseology, from Geoffrey's history ;*

* The reader, desirous of seeing an excellent epitome of this once far famed history, and a vindication of its supposed author, will find them in the late Mr. G. Ellis's specimens of the early "Metrical Romances."

and scarcely before we come to the "faictes e gestes" of king Arthur, do we find a passage worthy of translation. It is in his account of that already far famed monarch, that Wace first appears as occupying a more important station than that of a mere copyist. His description of Arthur, and his character of his round table, his knights, and his numerous victories, take up nearly two thousand lines; nor is any of this portion borrowed from the history from whence his work is professedly translated, except the coronation feast. From this part, therefore, our specimens will be selected, as in them we shall see the first outlines of the pure and lofty creed of chivalry.

The following extract gives a vivid picture of the confusion occasioned in a city, by the arrival of the king's court and his attendant nobles; a scene, doubtless, often witnessed by Maistre Wace; and the reader will smile at the simplicity of ancient manners, which assigned to the officer next in rank to the knight himself, the esquire, the menial task of actually providing fodder, and preparing the litter for his good steed.

"And now
A fair assembly might ye see,
And the whole city in a route,
With vassals going in and out:
Some bouses seizing, hostels taking,
Some curtains hanging, all things making
Yready, and the marshalls there,
Appointing each with heedful care
Their lodgings; and for those who none
Could find, providing them each one,

Soleres* or chambers. Order due,
Still keeping and providing too
Rations for all; and ye might see
Many an esquire full needfully
Steeds or destreres to stables guiding,
Or posts and ropes for each providing
To hold them fast;—litter preparing,
And grass and fodder thither bearing.
Valets and pages too ye'd see,
Throughout the city speedily
Yspreading goodly tapestry;—
Or bringing clokes of gris or vair,
None ever saw so rich or fair."

The genuine chivalric character is well delineated, although more than two centuries earlier than Chaucer's picture of the "veray parfait gentil knight," in the following description of Arthur.

"Of Arthur, chiefest, now I'll tell,
Nor will I lie, so mark me well;
For bravest of all knights was he,
And bore himself right manfully;—
Toward lofty ones he aye was stour,
But meek and piteous to the poor;
Bold, hardy, conquering was he,
Largesse, aye, giving willingly:—f
And ever prompt his friends to aid,
For never to them 'Nay' he said.
Much loved he deeds of chivalry,
And much he hoped his deeds might be
Kept in all honoured memorie.—
And he was served of the best,
For of all kings was he valiantest;—
And thus he lived, and thus he reigned,
And his right royal state maintained,
'Fore all for true nobility,
Largesse, and truth, and courtesie."

* This is the word in the original; it was also used by our forefathers, and means a large room.

t" E centre orguillus fu orguillus,
E centre humble duze pitius,
Pruz, hardi, e conqueranz
Larges doneres e despe^at^.'1

Nor were his knights unworthy companions of such a monarch, since,—

"For valiant men, and rich also,
And noble ones, full many nine,
For courtesy and high honour,
'Bove all did England bear the flower;—
'Bove all the neighbour realms, the glory
Of those brave knights surpassed all story,
And gentler, and more courteous far,
Unto the poorest peasant* are,
That all unrivalled chivalry,
And so was every fair ladye.
And there was never gallant knight
That boasted him for nought in fight;
And all were clad alike, and wore
The self-same armour, and each bore
The self-same arms, and so I ween
Was every lovely lady seen
In the same dress apparelled.
And none of that bright company
Might win the love of fair ladye,
Until that thrice in battle he
Had well approved his valiancy.
And thus each knight was stern and fell,
And bore himself in the melee well;
And worthy these, the ladies all,
For they the fairest were in hall,
That ere were seen, and chastest too."

It was after his splendid coronation at Caerleon, which Master Wace informs us stands on the river Usk, and is a beautiful place, well supplied with "fish and venison," that Arthur constructed his round table:

"Then for his noble barons, who,
The very least, was bold and true,
King Arthur the round table made.
(Full many a fable hath been said

* " Plus erent curteis e vaillant
Enteis li pouvre paisant
Ke chevalers en altre regne."

Of this by Breton bards), and there

Were placed in order regular,

Each vassal seated by his brother,

None first or higher than the other;

For all were equal there, and all

Were served within King Arthur's hall

Alike, that none might vauntingly

Claim o'er the others sovereignty;

For all .was done by courtesy;—

And from all neighbouring ports did come

Unnumbered knights, and made their home

Within his court, his state to see;

For lands king Arthur held in fee

From Mongieu, to the western sea."

The reader, accustomed to the splendid fictions with which the tale of Arthur has been invested by later poets, will be disappointed at the total absence of all these from the narrative of Wace; even his disappearance after his final battle, is related in that matter-of-fact way, which to the Welch and Breton bards must have been absolutely provoking. No hand rises from the lake to snatch Excalibor, when it falls from Arthur's grasp; no Morgain la fay bears him gently on her white arms from the battle field, or sits in the woody isle of Avalon, watching, age after age, his tranced slumbers; but

"Arthur, saith the history, In the heart was striken mortally ;And thence to Avalon was borne, That healed his wounds might be; nor mourn There still he wons; the Bretons wait His coming—for their lays relate He liveth yet, and still they look:— I, Master Wace, who made this book, Will nought affirm, save that I hold That sooth, which prophet Merlin told.*

* " Encore i est, Breton 1'atendent
Si com il dient, e entendent

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