Bevis of Hampton 8: Origins, Legacy, and Notes

THE ORIGINS OF THE BEVIS LEGEND

The origin of the story would seem to be a combination of the theme of the long-lost wife arriving just in time to prevent her husband’s wedding (as in Lord Bateman, Child 53), with the theme of the long-lost husband arriving just in time to prevent his wife’s wedding (as in Hind Horn, Child 17; the Noble Moringer; Count Dirlos, etc.) While the relationships within families are clear, it is uncertain whether the original form was the more compact Italian, which was expanded and loosened by the French, or whether the original form was the more sprawling French, which was tightened up by the Italians. Daurel et Beton is not a sequel to Bevis; although it does feature a Bevis of Antona, his story has nothing in common with our Bevis’.

From an structural standpoint, the Italian version clearly has the best plot of the three. But if one takes the view that a plot is of no use except to string pretty things on, I do not think it is mere prejudice that makes me plump for the English version, with little Sir Bevis striking down Sir Murdour, his defence of the Faith he barely knows against the mocking Pagans, his fight against the dragons in the dungeon, the comic baptism of Ascopart, the dreadful dragon of Cologne which Spencer thought good enough to copy in his Faerie Queene, the fighting in the streets of London, and the death and burial together of Bevis, Josiane, and Arundel, who was so like a human that the monks prayed for his soul.

LATER TREATMENTS OF THE BEVIS LEGEND

The Romanian version, O mie si una de zile, (A Thousand and One Days) sometimes mentioned, was a translation from the Yiddish made by M. Aziel in 1881, and thus falls outside our time period.

The English version of Bevis’ fight against the dragon was lifted by Spenser for his Fairie Queene, and by Richard Johnson for his Seven Champions of Christendom. Michael Drayton summarized the story as part of his Polyolbion, Song II lines 259-380. Drayton lamented in his notes that the monks had expanded the history of Bevis beyond all probability, so that his true deeds were lost. He also notes that Bevis’ sword [Murgley. Alondite is not mentioned by Drayton] is preserved in Arundel Castle, and that it is shorter than that of Edward III in Westminster.

Sir Bevis appears in Saint George for England, a catalogue of the heroes of chivalry, printed 1612, to be found in Percy’s Reliques, IX, 14.

“Bevis conquered Ascapart, and after slew the boare,
And then he crost beyond the seas to combat with the Moore;”

The reader will recall that Bevis actually conquered Ascopart well after the boar. This is not evidence of a divergent tradition; Saint George is merely a long list of names and half-remembered incidents.

Bevis of Hampton and Guy of Warwick were two of the most popular stories of chivalry in England, probably because the two of them were English. They are frequently mentioned together by poets and sermonizers, as typical romances of chivalry.

Bevis continued to be printed, in rhyme, ever more modernized, up to the 1660’s, and in prose until 1780. There was also an expanded prose version, perhaps by John Shurley, titled The Famous and Renowned History of Sir Bevis of Southampton, printed in 1689. This adds a further adventure of Bevis. Upon returning to Mambrant where the traditional version ends, he is not suffered to live in peace with Josiane, but must repel first Ambrant, the old king’s cousin, then Sultan Saracon of Babylon, whom he pursues to his city. As he besieges it, one of his knights, Sir Miles, slips in, wins the love of the Sultan’s daugher Rosalinda, and through her persuades the Sultan to convert and make peace. After this war, Bevis grows old and dies, and is buried with Josiane.

Shurley’s version was reprinted 1775, under the title of The history of the Famous and Extraordinary Sir Bevis of Southampton. This title is not on the internet, and I cannot say how closely it follows its source.

Nineteenth century retellers all went back to the manuscripts or the earliest printed editions, and so the chapbook tradition died out.

George Ellis included the story of Bevis in his Specimens of Early English Metrical Romances, in which he treated it with his usual snide remarks and insufferable Whiggish sense of superiority to all those who were foolish enough to live before the reign of Queen Anne or outside of London.

William Thoms, under the pen name of Ambrose Merton, retold Bevis and other tales in Gammer Gurton’s Famous Histories. Thoms’ Early Prose Romances, an accurate reprinting of chapbooks for non-scholarly adults, still makes good reading. His children’s retellings of them, however, leave something to be desired.

The version by John Ashton, in his Romances of Chivalry, is simply a summary of the English version, with a  few extracts, much like Ellis, only without the snide comments.

Bevis of Hampton, in Andrew Lang’s The Red Romance Book, was a much better retelling, though, like Thoms he cuts the story short with Bevis’ return to Southampton, and (unlike Thoms) inexplicably omits the famous fight against the dragon in Cologne.

BEVIS AND KING ARTHUR

In the Italian I Reali di Francia, Buovo d’Antona receives, while he is in Armenia, the sword Chiarenza (Clarence), which once belonged to Sir Lancelot of the Lake, but was brought to Armenia by English knights. In the Second Italian Redaction, it was the sword of Galasso [Galahad, Lancelot’s son]. The Version of 1480 calls it Chiarente, but gives no backstory. The English version usually follows the French in calling Bevis’ sword Murgleys, but one manuscript claims (only in his fight against the dragon in Cologne. Elsewhere it’s still Murgleys) that his sword was Alondite, which used to belong to Lancelot of the Lake. This is the only place Alondite is mentioned in any surviving medieval text. Now Malory ends his Le Morte d’Arthur as follows:

“Then Sir Bors de Ganis, Sir Ector de Maris, Sir Gahalantine, Sir Galihud, Sir Galihodin, Sir Blamore, Sir Bleoberis, Sir Villiars le Valiant, Sir Clarrus of Clermont, all these knights drew them to their countries. Howbeit King Constantine would have had them with him, but they would not abide in this realm. And there they all lived in their countries as holy men. And some English books make mention that they went never out of England after the death of Sir Launcelot, but that was but favour of makers. For the French book maketh mention, and is authorised, that Sir Bors, Sir Ector, Sir Blamore, and Sir Bleoberis, went into the Holy Land thereas Jesu Christ was quick and dead, and anon as they had stablished their lands. For the book saith, so Sir Launcelot commanded them for to do, or ever he passed out of this world. And these four knights did many battles upon the miscreants or Turks. And there they died upon a Good Friday for God’s sake.”

This passage corresponds to nothing in the Vulgate Morte le Roi Artu, which was Malory’s main source for this part of the story, or in the Middle English Alliterative Mort Arthur or Stanzaic Morte Arthur, which were his secondary ones. Thus most commentators have assumed Malory invented this passage, but the Reali, written a good century before Malory, would suggest otherwise. Perhaps we have here the only surviving witnesses to an otherwise lost tradition? The only other reference to Arthur in the Reali is a slighting one, blaming him for not converting any countries to Christianity, suggesting that Andrea was not likely to pick a knight of the Round Table to glorify his hero. The name “Clarence” also has an Arthurian connection: it is King Arthur’s battle cry in the Vulgate Cycle. Was there a tradition before Malory that some Knights of the Round Table went to the Holy Land with Lancelot’s sword? Or is this all just a bizarre coincidence? We may never know.

OTHER NOTES ON SWORDS

Alondite, never mentioned outside of one part of one manuscript Bevis of Hampton, nonetheless found its way into standard reference works as the sword of Lancelot, and hence its name is used frequently in fantasy games. Morglay, Bevis’ actual sword, is not quite as popular, though it does appear from time to time. Other swords named Morgleis are wielded by Ganelon in the Song of Roland and in Father Konrad’s Rolandslied, (where it was made by the smith Madelger of Regensburg) by Elias the Swan Knight Le Beatrix, and by King Cornumarant of Jerusalem in La Chanson de Jerusalem, who loses it to Baudouin of Sebourc, who hands it down to the Bastard of Bouillon, in Baudoin de Sebourc and Le Batard de Bouillon. It is not clear whether any of these swords are meant to be identical.

Bevis of Hampton 7: The Third and Fourth Italian Redactions.

For a summary of the Italian version of Bevis of Hampton, see this post.

THE THIRD ITALIAN REDACTION

After Buovo’s banishment due to the horse race, the story follows the Third French redaction for his family’s separation and adventures in the East.

BUOVO RICCARDIANO

Ottava rima. Survives in one fragmentary manuscript in the Riccardian library in Florence, 2820.

Runs from the beginning to Buovo’s capture by Sultan Baldragi. Chiaragia, Buovo’s maid, helps him escape, and is executed for it. Buovo is sent to Baldragi under the pretense that he will be trying to convert him.

BUOVO DI GHERARDO

Ottava rima. Surviving in only one fragmentary manuscript. The poem was in three books. We have Book 2 complete, and no trace of the others, except Buovo Riccardiano. MS: BNCF Magl. VII, 1202.

The story picks up with the recovery of Antona. Terigi is not at the recovery of Antona. Buovo pretends to be Merlino, a herald of Brandoia’s father, to gain admittance to the city. His assistant is instead the brother of Chiaragia, the maid who helped him escape and was executed for it. After the banishment of Buovo for the death of the Prince of England, all follows the Third French redaction, until the MS breaks off, just before the reunion of Buovo and Drusiana in Asinella [Seville].

A very learned version, filled with quotes from the Church Fathers and the classics, and much given to expanding the roles of middle-class characters, particularly merchants and innkeepers. Sometimes, I am told, too prolix, but filled with many excellent scenes.

THE FOURTH ITALIAN REDACTION

BOVO D’ANTONA – the version of 1497

Adds an episode, probably based on Il Morgante Maggiore, in which Pulicane despoils a monastery to find food and clothing for Drusiana’s infants. After strong competition with the version of 1480, this became the standard Italian version in verse.

BOVO-BUCH

Arminio is ruler of Armenia, a city in Flanders[!] Bovo’s sword is Pomele. Pelukan’s robbing of the monastery is included. Bovo, disguised as a doctor, does not bother expelling Dodon, but reveals himself and cuts him to pieces. After Bovo gives Margarete to Teyrets and returns to Antona with Druzeyne, the author announces that he will not tell in full about his many other battles, such as how he saved his father-in-law from the invading Markabrun. Markabrun was killed, and Arminio died soon after. Thus Bovo had three kingdoms, one for him and one for each of his sons.

Elia Levita had many talents, but fiction was not one of them. His version is poorly written, poorly paced, and hopelessly vulgarized [Brandonia’s messenger fouls himself for fear of her anger; Druzhvena strips to try to seduce Bovo, etc.]. Its latest translator frankly admits that the only reason the poem is interesting is because it is in Yiddish. The characters are all made into good Jews. Druzhvena’s first act upon returning to safety is to have her sons circumcised instead of baptized; Bovo locks his mother up until the next Jubilee year, etc. The poem was very popular among the Ashkenazi Jews. Rabbis warned that it was a frivolous pack of lies, and were ignored. “Bovo-Bukh” for several centuries was the Yiddish word for “Ottava Rima”, and any poem so written, even popular explanations of theology, were advertised as being in “Bovo-Bukh style”. Prose versions of Levita’s story continued to be sold as chapbooks up until the 1900’s, though they toned down the anti-Christian passages.

UNKNOWN REDACTION 

CELINOS AND THE ADULTERESS

A Spanish ballad, now found only among the Sephardic Jews.

The Queen combs her hair before a mirror, praises God for making her so beautiful, and curses her parents for making her marry an old man. As she looks out the window, she sees Carleto, her lover. They plan to kill the king. He tells her to pretend to be pregnant and to have a craving for a stag/pig/ram/goat that lives in a certain part of the woods. She does so, and the king orders his men to prepare for the hunt. She tries to convince him to go alone, but he will have none of it. He meets Carleto, and one of them kills the other. In a few versions, the king dies, but usually he wins and sticks Carleto’s head on a lance, which he presents to the queen. She confesses that most of her children are Carleto’s, and/or threatens that his relatives will avenge him. The king cuts her head off, and sticks it beside her lover’s.

The Legend of Bevis of Hampton, 6: The Second Italian Redaction

For a summary of the Italian version of Bevis of Hampton, see this post.

THE SECOND ITALIAN REDACTION

Distinguished by, among other things, omitting the horse race, and passing straight from the recovery of Hampton to the death of Buovo.

THE ITALIAN CHANSON

Survives in two fragments. Both are in rhymed decasyllables.

1: Buovo Udinese: Ms. Archivo Capitolare di Udine.

2: Buovo Laurenziano. Ms. Laurenziano Palatino 93.

Blondoia, the old Guidone’s young wife, laments her beauty, and sends her servant Ricciardo to Dodone de Maganza, telling Dodone the whole plot. Guidone is sent out to the hunt, and slain. Bovolin hides in the stables, where his tutor Sinibaldo finds him, and flees with him to San Simone, his castle. Ricciardo sees this, however, and tellls Dodone, who pursues him, and recoves Bovo, though Sinibaldo escapes. Dodone besieges San Simone, and dreams that Bovo will kill him. He sends his brother Albrigo to Blondoia, bidding her kill the boy. She sends him poisoned bread, but the maid warns him and helps him flee. Bovo gets lost trying to find San Simone, winds up on the seashore, and is taken by sailors who selll him to King Arminione of Armenia. For four years he serves there, until the king holds a tournament. King Marcobruno is favored to win, but Buovo “borrows” armor and a lance, overthrows Marcobrun and slips away. Drusiana alone recognizes him and kisses him against his will. But then, the Sultan of Sadonia and his giant son Lucafero arrive to conquere Drusiana. They capture Arminione and Marcabruno, and so Drusiana gives Bovo Chiraenza, the sword of Galassso [Galahad]; the magic horse Rondello; and a parting kiss, which is seen by Arminione’s brother Ugolino. Bovo saves the day, kills Lucafero, drives away the Sultan, and saves the kings. Drusiana wishes to marry him, but Ugolino has his servant impersonate the king (supposedly lying wounded in bed, in th dark) and send Bovo to Lucafero with a “kill-the-bearer” letter. Bovo’s sword is stolen from him on the road by a palmer. He nonetheless comes to Sadonia, is imprisoned, and has the king’s daughter Malgaria fall in love with him. She gives him good food, until a year and three months later when he escapes. Wandering about, he finds the thief, and recovers his sword. To save his life, the thief gives him a magic [?] herb which changes his complexion. In this disguise, he comes to Apolonia, where Drusiana has been wed to Marcabruno. He is recognized first by Rondello, then by Drusiana. The lovers drug Marcabruno and flee. They exchange love’s final gift by a fountain, shortly after which they are found by Pulicane, half-dog and half-man. He and Bovo fight, but are reconciled. The three come to the castle of Duke Orio, rebel to Marcabruno. Orio is taken prisoner, but is granted freedom on condition he betray his guests. They flee, however, thanks to Pulicane. In the woods, Drusiana has two sons, Guidone and Sinibaldo. As Bovo is looking for food, two lions attack his wife and Pulicane. Pulicane and the lions die, and Drusiana flees with the children. She finds a ship which carries her to Armenia. Bovo returns to find Pulicane’s dead body, and assumes Drusiana is dead. Wandering alone, he meets a troop of Sinibaldo’s knights, who are seeking him. He conceals his identity, but travels with them back to England, where the war is still going on. He kills Alberico, and is recognized by Sinibaldo’s wife, due to the mark on his shoulder. Bovo and Terigi, Sinibaldo’s son, disguise themselves as doctors to enter Antona, rally the citizens, and expel Dodone. Brandoia is set to do penance, and Dodone goes to Pepin for help. [Somewhat is lost here]. Bovo kills Dodone, and peace is made.

Bovo soon hears from Malgaria that her father is dead, and that King Passamonte of Hungary is besieging her. Bovo goes to Sadonia, kills Passamonte, wins the war, and marries Malgaria. Drusiana arrives at the wedding as a minstrel, however, with her sons, and reveals herself. Malgaria is wed to Terigi.

 

BOVO IN OCTAVES – The Version printed in 1480

As above, with some changes, mostly to add comedy and drama. Jolly courtiers find the drugged Marcabruno in the morning, expecting to congratulate him on his recent wedding. Rondello takes part in the fight against Pelucane. There is more dialogue throughout. After the wedding of Malgaria and Terigi, Bovo and his family return to Hampton. [There is some suspicion that the original ended here, and that what follows was a later addition]. Bovo’s son Guidone has a son, Bernardo of Grismonte [Aigremont], who has seven sons: Ottone, father of Astolfo; Melone, father of Orlando; Amone, father of Rainaldo, Ricardo, Rizardetto, and Alaro [sic]; Dudone, father of Otone and Berlingeri; Ansuisi, father of Malgarise; Leon, [the one who becomes Pope]; and Girardo. Sinibaldo, Bovo’s other son, begets Guarmon [Garin of Monglan], who has four sons: Mira, father of Milior; Rainaldo, father of Merigo the fay [Aymeri of Narbonne]; Ghirardo; and Rainero, father of Olivero. When Bovo returns to Antona, he sends messengers to Tedrise [Terry] letting him know he made it home safe, and to Erminio, telling him of his daughter’s safety. Erminio dies, leaving Armenia to Guidone. It is in Armenia that Bernardo, here called Bovo, is born. Sinibaldo dies, and four years later Drusiana does, too. Bovo mourns but lives for another fifteen years. Rainaldo of Maganza, ancestor [father?] of Ganelon, however, orders his vassal Gualtier to kill Bovo. Gualtier goes to Maganza, worms his way into Bovo’s favor, and once his trust is thoroughly gained, on a Tuesday in May, stabs Bovo in the back while he’s praying in a church. The citizens seize him and imprison him, and young Sinibaldo, Guidone, and Tedrise besiege and sack Maganza. [Later reprintings give a longer description of the siege, but in a very bombastic style, certainly not by the original author.] The end.

BOVA KAROLEVICH

A full account of the Russian versions would be impossible. The story exists in five major redactions, not counting the chapbooks, besides innumerable folktales and ballads, and has spread in folklore to several of Russia’s neighbors. The general plot is always the same, though, ending with the reunion of Bova and his family, and never including the horse-race or the death of Bova. Bova was so popular that he was often mentioned in the same breath as native Russian heroes like Ilya Muromets (though, as far as I know, there are no stories in which Bova meets the old bogatyrs). The English reader may consult Robert Steele’s Russian Garland for a fairly typical version, which we summarize below.

King Guidon of Anton marries Militrisa [from the Italian meretrice: whore] Kirbitovna, of Dimichtian, daughter of King Kirbit Versoulovich, although she loves Tsar Dadon. The maid Chernavka sets him Prince Bova free, and he pretends to the sailors that he is Anhusei, the son of a washerwoman. They come to Armenia, ruled by King Sensibri Andronovich. The princess Drushnevna drops a fork and makes Bova pick it up, and kisses him under the table, after which Bova sleeps three days. When he wakes up, he goes into the fields and makes a garland. Drushnevna asks him to give it to her, but he refuses and leaves the room, slamming the door so hard that a stone falls and knocks him out. Drushnevna cures him, after which he sleeps five days. While he sleeps, Marcobrun arrives and threatens to make war if he is not given Drushnevna. Sensibri agrees, and the knights hold a tournament. Bova awakens, and wishes to join in, but Drushnevna laughs and says he is too young to be a knight. So Bova goes to watch, riding a broom. When the knights laugh at him, he kills them all with it. Then he sleeps for nine nights. Meanwhile, the giant Tsar Lukoper arrives and demands Drushnevna, threatening war otherwise. In the ensuing war, he captures Sensibri and Marcobrun, and sends them to his father Saltan Saltanovich. Bova awakens, learns what has happened, and reveals his identity to Drushnevna. She gives him a mighty horse who has been locked behind twelve iron gates, and kisses him farewell. Orlop, the royal chamberlain, objects to this, so Bova knocks him down. He then kills Lukoper, scares Saltan away, and rescues the kings.

Bova sleeps another nine nights after the rescue, and Sensibri and Marcobrun ride out for a three-day hunting trip. While they are gone, Orlop gathers thirty men to kill Bova, but they are afraid, and one suggests that Orlop lie in bed, pretend to be the king, and send Bova to Saltan Saltanovich with a death-letter. Bova rides for two months, until he meets a pilgrim in the desert. The pilgrim drugs him, and steals his horse and sword. Ten days later, Bova wakes up, and continues his journey. Sensibri, upon reading the letter, has sixty of his knights sieze Bova and hang him. Once they get him out into the field, Bova rouses himself, kills them all, and flees. Tsar Saltan summons a hundred thousand knights, who are able to subdue Bova. As he is about to be hanged, Saltan’s daughter, Miliheria, begs for his life. She will try to convert him, and then they shall be wed. Saltan agrees, and Bova is put in prison with no food for five days. Miliheria comes to see him, but he will not convert, so she tells her father to kill him. The Tsar sends thirty knights to kill Bova, but Miliheria in her anger has heaped so much sand in front of the door that it will be easier to make a hole in the roof. Bova, luckily, finds a sword in prison, and kills them one by one as they enter. He does the same to a second thirty, then flees to the coast. Merchants take him on board, but Saltan arrives and orders them to hand him over. They hesitate, so Bova kills a few of them, and the rest take him away. Three months later, they come to the Sadonic kingdom, where Marcobrun is about to wed Drushnevna. Bova meets the pilgrim who robbed him. The pilgrim returns his goods, and also gives him three magic powders: one to look old, one to look young again, and one to cause sleep for nine days. Bova makes himself look old, and goes to the king’s castle as a beggar. It is illegal to mention Bova’s name in this country, and a cook beats Bova for so doing. Bova kills him, but the seneschal restores peace and sends him to the other beggars. He tells Drushnevna that he was in prison with Bova, who is somewhere near the kingdom. Drushnevna weeps, and tells Marcobrun it is because her father is dying. Meanwhile, Bova goes to the stables, where his steed is fastened with twelve chains. The horse breaks them, and shows affection to Bova. Drushnevna asks how this can be, and Bova reveals his identity. She does not believe him, so he makes himself young again. They drug Marcobrun and flee. After four days, they rest. Bova slays three hundred thousand men whom Marcobrun sent after them, so Marcobrun sends Polkan, who is a centaur who has been imprisoned for years and can leap seven versts (four and a half miles) at once. Bova defeats Polkan, and they swear brotherhood. The threesome come to the city of Kostel, ruled by Tsar Uril, which Marcobrun besieges. Marcobrun captures Uril and his sons, and releases him on condition he betray his guests. Uril’s wife refuses to consent to the treason, so Uril beats her. Polkan is listening, however, and kills him. Polkan and Bova rout the army and free Uril’s children. Marcobrun returns to the Sadonic kingdom, and swears that he, his children, and his grandchildren will never pursue Bova.

Bova, Polkan, and Drushnevna ride towards the city of Sumin, where Simbalda is. On the way, Drushnevna has two sons in a meadow: Litcharda and Simbalda. Sometime later, an army seny by Dadon and heading towards Armenia to slay Bova marches by. Bova leaves Polkan with Drushnevna and the children [they are staying in a tent in the meadow, still], while he slays the army. While he is doing so, Polkan is attacked by two lions, and all three die. Drushnevna looks out of the tent, sees the carnage, and thinks Bova is dead too, so she flees with her sons. They come to Tsar Saltan’s city, where she washes herself with the aging powder. Bova returns, thinks she is dead, and rides to Simin, where Simbalda and his son Tervis raise and army and march against Anton. Dadon has three hundred thousand men, but Bova challenges him to single combat and cleaves his skull. He sends his body to Queen Militrisa, while he weeps over his father’s grave and returns to Sumin. Unfortunately, Dadon is only mostly dead, and Militrisa sends far and wide for a doctor. Bova disguises himself with the aging powder, pretends to be a doctor, and beheads Dadon. He sends his head to Militrisa on a platter, washes himself with the youthful powder, and has Tervis nail her up in a barrel and roll her into the ocean. Bova reclaims his thorne, and sends to Saltan, asking for Miliheria’s hand in marriage. They consent, but Drushnevna hears of it. She has become a washerwoman, but she now walks with her two sons to Anton, arriving the same day. She washes herself with the youthful powder and sends her sons to present themselves before Bova. They tell their story, and there is much rejoicing. Bova has the taxes remitted for two months, and Milheria weds Tervis. Bova also sends Simbalda’s brother Ohen to conquer Armenia from Orlop, [who has apparently usurped it, though this was not mentioned before.] Orlop is slain, and Ohen is made king. Bova rules and reigns in Anton happily ever after.

A Folk-Tale Version Of Prince Bova

Very much shorter. Bova’s mother is a widow. It is her beloved’s idea to poison Bova. Bova’ mother chases him to the shore and the two of them both threaten the sailors [transferred from Saltan’s pursuit in the original]. Bova helps the merchants sell their goods, where he plays the gusli so well that everyone is transfixed. The ruler [unnamed] hires him to be his daughter’s page. They fall in love, he reveals his identity, and they are wed. Then his father-in-law gives him a horse kept behind twelve iron doors with twelve steel chain. Bova sets out on him to seek adventure. The guard at the gate is asleep, however, so Bova strikes him to wake him up. The guard is not happy, and drugs Bova. He then leaves him with a letter to visit such-and-such a Tsar, and a letter to the Tsar saying that Bova killed his son [this was not related earlier]. Bova wakes up, delivers the letter, and is thrown in jail. His daughter tries to convert him to the Latin faith [Roman Catholicism], but he refuses, so they attempt to hang him. He overcomes twelve guards and escapes. He returns to his palace after five long years, where his wife is giving food to beggars. He drinks the aging potion, reveals himself to his wife, and then turns himself young again. They live happily ever after.

St. George for England – Added Verses

Le Sieur de Bayard held a bridge and never once did shirk.
Don John of Austria, he thumped and thrashed the Turk.
St. Michael and St. Catherine appeared to Joan of Arc.
Scanderbeg and Sobieski always hit their mark.
Ferdinand and Isabella took Alhambra Hall,
But Saint George, Saint George, he made the dragon fall!
Saint George he was for England; Saint Denis was for France,
Sing, Honi soit qui mal y pense.

There is a ballad in Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, first printed in 1612, which lists great knights and heroes of old and compares them to Saint George. You can read it here. I wrote this extra verse myself, and am posting it here in honor of Saint George’s Day.
As for the heroes listed, le Sieur de Bayard was a French knight in the 1500’s, who was known as the “Good Knight without Fear and without Reproach”. (He has no connection to Bayard, the steed of Rinaldo). You can read some of his adventures in The Red True Story Book by Andrew Lang. Don Juan of Austria led the Christian fleets against the Turkish fleet at the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1591, which saved Christendom from Islam (temporarily, at least). You can read a magnificent ballad about the fight (better by far than anything I’ll ever write) by G. K. Chesterton, here. Joan of Arc is universally known, but many people have misconceptions about her. A good and accurate summary of her life can be found in Lang’s Red True Story Book. Skanderbeg, born George Castriot, heroically defended Albania and Christendom against the encroaching Turks from 1443 to his death in 1468. Longfellow’s poem Scanderbeg is about that hero’s defection from the Turks (he had been born Christian but raised as a Janissary) to rejoin the true Faith. King John III Sobieski of Poland rescued Vienna from the Turks who were besieging it in 1683, thereby breaking the power of the Ottoman Empire and putting Islam on the defensive for the next three hundred years. He arrived to save the day on September 11th, (probably not a coincidence), and actually raised the siege on the 12th, a feat commemorated in the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary. Ferdinand and Isabella, king and queen of Spain, completed the reconquest of that country from the Moors in 1492, when they conquered Granada from King Boabdil, a feat which gave Spain the unity and security she needed to bring the Catholic Faith to the New World. Lord Byron’s “Ballad on the Siege and Conquest of Alhama” is not about the final loss, but about an earlier one. Some ballads on Boabdil have been Englished, however, by John Lockhart and by James Gibson, and may be found in their Ancient Spanish Ballads, and The Cid Ballads and other Poems, respectively.
As for Saint George himself, he was martyred under Emperor Diocletian in Diospolis, in Palestine [now called Lod in Israel]. The legend of the dragon was not attached to him until the time of the First Crusade, when his popularity in the west exploded – but that is a story for another post. For now, I refer you to the summary in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

The Legend of Bevis of Hampton, 4: Continental French versions 2 and 3

The legend of Bevis of Hampton is extant in three great families of redactions: the Anglo-Norman, the Continental French, and the Italian. The Italian versions are the only ones to link Bevis with the legend of Charlemagne, but this post treats of the Continental French Redaction. It is the least interesting of the three, except for those who wish to puzzle over the great and still unsolved mystery of which version came first.

The Continental French family consists of the following versions.

The First Redaction: Assonanced decasyllables. The only edition is Stimming’s Der festländische Bueve de Hantone, Fassung I, 1911.

The Second Redaction. Assonanced decasyllables. The only edition is Stimming’s Der festländische Bueve de Hantone, Fassung II, 1912. Two volumes, one for the text and one for the notes.

Beufves de Hantonne. The French prose rendering. Based on the Second verse redaction. The only edition, according to Arlima, is Beufves de Hantonne, version en prose, éd. Vérard, présentée et transcrite par Marie-Madeleine Ival, Aix-en-Provence, Publications du Cuerma (Senefiance, 14), 1982, 339 p.

The French chapbooks, descended from the prose redaction.

Beuvijn von Austoen. The Dutch translation. A verse translation survives in fragments. The prose rendering survives entire, and is the ancestor of the Dutch chapbooks. As far as I know there are no modern editions.

The Third Redaction. Assonanced decasyllables. The only edition is Stimming’s Der festländische Bueve de Hantone, Fassung III, 1914. Two volumes, one for the text and one for the notes. The closest version to the Italian

The Second Redaction

Incredibly padded out. Gui marries the daughter of Renier. Her first attempt to kill him is asking the cook to poison him. The cook refuses, and she throws him in the dungeon. The sellers of Bueves are named Fromont and Hate. The false courtiers of Hermin’s are named Gonsselin and Fourré. Josiane uses magic to keep her virginity, much to the annoyance of Yvorin (this is the only version where he is aware of what’s going on). There are ten robbers in the woods. No plot is used to free Josiane, they just flee. On arriving at Hampton, Bueve pretends to be “Girard de Digon”, to Soibaut. Doon de Maience recognizes Bueves, but Renier’s daughter does not (he beats her for daring to contradict him). Luckily, a spy he sends also concludes Girard is not Bueves. Aelis, Soibaut’s wife (not named in I and III) recognizes Bueves, who reveals himself. Soibaut goes with Bueves to pick up Josiane and incidentally foil the scheme of Huidemer, the Archbishop’s nephew. As they return to England, they are blown off course by a storn, and conquer the port city they arrive at (an interpolation found only here). Bueves fights so well when they finally get back to England that Doon flees to London to appeal to the King. Meanwhile, Bueves is taking Hampton and sparing his mother. He arrives in London, and the king is at last persuaded to do the right thing: let them duel. Bueves beheads Doon, and his wedding is celebrated at Hampton.

After seven months, Bueves goes to London, where in another interpolation, he encourages Maxin, a young knight whose circumstances are similar to his own, to regain his inheritance. Maxin is the one who persuades the king to spare Bueves’ life after Arondel kills the prince. Bueves helps Josiane give birth with no fuss. Yvorin kidnaps Josiane and one son, leaving the other. Bueves puts his other son in a boat and sets it on the sea. Yvorin is shipwrecked at St. Gille, whiter Soibaut comes to rescue Josiane, having heard the story. A fisherman, meanwhile, has rescued the other son, Gui. Soibaut falls ill when he returns with Josiane to Hampton. The Queen of Simile is named Vencadousse, and though  Bueve is chaste for a while after their marriage, eventually they they have a son, Li Restorés. Soibaut finally recovers, and he and Josiane go to seek Bueves, with Josiane disguised as a male minstrel. Her identity is discovered, Tierri is wed to Vencadousse, and Josiane and Bueves go to Armenia, where they fight King Yvorin. Yes, they, for Josiane now fights in full armor. After a long, tedious war, Yvorin is converted, Hermin dies and makes Bueves king. Bueves and his son (by Josiane) Beuvonnet succor their new vassal Yvorin.

Meanwhile, Gui has been raised on the coast of France by Gui the fisherman, who apprentices him to a furrier. Young Gui’s noble blood shows, however, when he buys a horse instead of the goods his master told him to. A lord notices his resemblance to Bueves (who is now the heir to the throne of England, the old king being dead) and gives Gui his daugher in marriage. Gui passes through Simile, rescues it from a pagan host, and proceeds with his half-brother to Armenia, where there is much rejoicing. Bueves and Josiane leave Gui in charge of Aubefort and head hom to England, fighting pagans on the way. They hang Rohart, who led the prince astray. Soibaut’s wife is dead. Soibaut receives Hampton, and he dies soon after. After five years, Josiane dies. Bueves leaves the throne to Li Restorés, and retires to a hermitage, where he dies five years later, with his sons around him.

The French Prose Redaction

Moral reflections are added, more detail is given about characters’ psychology, and the general tone is more refined and less violent. Achoppart is again a traitor. He leaves Beufves to tell Ygnorin [Yvorin] what has happened, so that he invades Armenia. The Queen of Cyrelle is named Vaudoce. Josiane’s stint as a warrior is played up.

The Third Redaction

Gui’s wife is still Renier’s daughter. She sees her beauty in a mirror as she decides to kill him. She tries to poison Bueves, but he has been given a pomander by an abbot to protect him. He is suspicious of one of her meals, and feeds it to a dog, which dies instantly. Soibaut is very suspicious of Bueves’ disappearance, but is persuaded that he is with Oudart, the duchess’ brother. The Bellerophon letter is Hermin’s idea. Josiane uses a herb to stay chaste. The lovers send a forged letter to Yvorin from his uncle, and drug Garsiles. The lions eat Bonnefoi. Bueves and Josiane are married in Cologne. Bueves calls himself Miles, and bribes Doon’s minstrel-spy Jolipin to leave him alone. The traitors who sold him are hanged and burned. Açopart is killed in the war, before Doon and Bueves agree to fight a duel before the King Guillaume. Doon loses, confesses, and is hanged. Josiane persuades Bueves not to burn his mother. The prince is named Huon. Bueves blindfolds himself to help Josiane in labor, though as in I, he is very reluctant, and would rather fight against two men at once. They are betrayed by foresters. Bueves cannot overcome Yvorin’s army, and so flees. The Queen of Sivele is never named, but her niece and confidante is named Aiglentine. Bueves is wed, keeps his chastity awhile, but then begets a son, who is never mentioned again.

Meanwhile, Yvorin has had Hermin through his daugher and grandsons in prison. Soibaut and a relative rescue them uneventfully. The King of England stands godfather to the children. After the recognition in Sivele, Bueves returns to England, where he helps King Guillaume conquere King Brian of Ireland. He lives uneventfully in Hampton for seven years, having another pair of twin boys. He then goes on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, visiting Tierri on the way. He saves Hermin from Yvorin and Açopart (somehow resurrected). As his reward, he asks to duel Gonce and Fourré. He overcomes them, they are stoned, and Yvorin and his people convert. Bueves finally reaches Jerusalem, saves it from the pagans in a long and tedious war, and is crowned King. Since Guillaume and Hermin both wish to make him their heirs, and Cyprus, Rome and Germany have surrendered themselves to him spontaneously, Bueves has enough kingdoms to give to all four of his sons, and some of his vassals to boot. He and Josiane die together.

Shameless Plug: Aucassin and Nicolette

My latest Kelmscott-style reprint from Rossignol Books is now available! Aucassin and Nicolette, as translated by Andrew Lang. Aucassin and Nicolette is from Old French, where it was written sometime in the 1100’s or 1200’s. No one knows who wrote it, or for whom, but it is one of the most, if not the most, beautiful story in all of medieval literature. It was written in alternating prose and poetry, and tells the story of Aucassin, son of Count Garin of Beaucaire, and Nicolette, a slave girl bought from Carthage, whose families try to drive them apart. Mingled with this story are some of the most realistic glimpses of peasant life we have, a trip to the strange land of Torelore, warfare, pirates, and more. Will true love triumph? Will Aucassin stop moping and become a great knight? Will Nicolette ever be reunited with her birth family? Why is the King of Torelore tending his baby while his wife leads his army? Find out the answers to these and more questions, in Aucassin and Nicolette.

The Rossignol Books edition includes the original music for the poetry, and fifteen illustrations from a classic Romantic-era edition. For a mere US$7.50, plus shipping and handling, this beautiful reprint of a beautiful story can be yours!

Rossignol Books

The Romance of Morien

My latest Kelmscott-style reprint from Rossignol Books is now available! The Romance of Morien, as translated by Jessie Weston. Morien is from Middle Dutch, written in verse around the 1200’s, as part of the massive Lancelot Compilation, a sprawling four-volume work which as it stands includes nine complete romances and the end of a tenth, and possibly used to have more in the now-lost first volume. Most of these are translations into Dutch from French, but some of them have no known source, and one of these is Morien. Chronologically, this romance is set between the end of the Prose Lancelot, and the beginning of the Quest for the Holy Grail. No one knows who wrote it, or when, or in what language it was originally. The prologue states that some versions exist in which Percival was Morien’s father, but no such versions survive.

Sir Aglovale, brother of Sir Perceval of Galles, fell in love with a Moorish woman beyond the sea, and left her, promising to return. He never kept his promise, and now his son, Sir Morien, has come to England in search of his father. Can Sir Gawain help the family reunite? Can Sir Lancelot slay a ferocious beast? Will the Saxons overrun the realm of Logris? Is Agloval Morien’s real father, or is it Perceval? Find out the answers to all of these in The Romance of Morien! For the light Morien sheds on the legend of the Holy Grail, and for its merits as a story in its own right, this romance is an excellent addition to the shelf of any lover of chivalry. For a mere US$7.50, plus shipping and handling, this beautiful reprint of a beautiful story can be yours!

Rossignol Books

Not to be Confused With…

NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH

Orlando, or Roland, the hero of our story, has no connection with:

Orlando, Florida, which is named after a pioneer named Orlando. Although California was named after an imaginary kingdom in one of the sequels to Amadis of Gaul, Spanish love of chivalry was not responsible for every place name in the New World.

Orlando in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, which is based on The Tale of Gamelyn¸ a story once wrongly attributed to Geoffrey Chaucer, and found in some of the old manuscripts of the Canterbury Tales.

Childe Roland who to the Dark Tower came, as explained in this post.

The hero of Grimm’s fairy tale, “Sweetheart Roland”.

RINALDO

Rinaldo, or Reynard, has no connection with Reynard the Fox, more information on whom can be found here.

Rinaldo of Montalban, the cousin of Orlando and hero of Torquato Tasso’s poem Rinaldo is NOT the same person as Rinaldo of Este, the hero of Torquato Tasso’s poem Jerusalem Delivered.

BAIARDO

Bayard, the steed of Rinaldo, has no connection to the Chevalier de Bayard, who was the flower of chivalry in the 15th century, held a bridge single-handedly against two hundred Spaniards, and was known as “The Good Knight”, or “The Knight without Fear and without Blame”. Some of his adventures can be found in the Red True Story Book, by Andrew Lang.

TURPIN

Turpin, Archbishop of Rheims and alleged chronicler of the history of the Paladins, is not to be confused with Dick Turpin, the notorious English highwayman.

SACRIPANTE

Sacripant the wizard in The Old Wives’ Tale, by George Peel, has nothing but the name in common with Boiardo’s King Sacripante of Circassia.

The Legend of Bevis of Hampton, 3: The Continental French Redaction

The legend of Bevis of Hampton is extant in three great families of redactions: the Anglo-Norman, the Continental French, and the Italian. The Italian versions are the only ones to link Bevis with the legend of Charlemagne, but this post treats of the Continental French Redaction. It is the least interesting of the three, except for those who wish to puzzle over the great and still unsolved mystery of which version came first.

The Continental French family consists of the following versions.

The First Redaction: Assonanced decasyllables. The only edition is Stimming’s Der festländische Bueve de Hantone, Fassung I, 1911.

The Second Redaction. Assonanced decasyllables. The only edition is Stimming’s Der festländische Bueve de Hantone, Fassung II, 1912. Two volumes, one for the text and one for the notes.

Beufves de Hantonne. The French prose rendering. Based on the Second verse redaction. The only edition, according to Arlima, is Beufves de Hantonne, version en prose, éd. Vérard, présentée et transcrite par Marie-Madeleine Ival, Aix-en-Provence, Publications du Cuerma (Senefiance, 14), 1982, 339 p.

The French chapbooks, descended from the prose redaction.

Beuvijn von Austoen. The Dutch translation. A verse translation survives in fragments. The prose rendering survives entire, and is the ancestor of the Dutch chapbooks. As far as I know there are no modern editions.

The Third Redaction. Assonanced decasyllables. The only edition is Stimming’s Der festländische Bueve de Hantone, Fassung III, 1914. Two volumes, one for the text and one for the notes.

The First Redaction

Gui of Hantone weds Beatix, daughter of King Edward of Scotland, who loves Doon of Maience. Hantone is not Southampton, but a town on the Maese. Boeve is fifteen when all goes down. He is sold to King Hermin of Armenia, at whose court he slays a man who accused him of being a peasant. Hermin is impressed, and Josiane falls in love, and gives him her horse Arondel. Boeve enters the world of chivalry one May, when Josiane finds him weeping that he is too poor to enter a tourney, and helps him out. After he does very well in the tourney, King Danemons of Persia lays siege to Armenia, for love of Josiane. As Boeve fights the war, he and Josiane fall in love. Two traitors, Foré and Gouse, betray their love to the king, who tries to get Boeve killed in the war, but Boeve wins, taking Brandimond of Damascus prisoner. Hermin spares him, so that he can put into motion his plot to kill Boeve. As Boeve is going to Damascus with his death-note, he kills a boar, then meets a pilgrim, who is not Terri seeking for him, and does not offer to read the letter. [In fact, he is fairly irrelevant]. Boeve does not demolish the idols of Damascus. In the dungeon he kills cockatrices, but no dragons. Meanwhile, Josiane pleads with her father not to wed her to King Yvorin, but to no avail. She enchants Yvorin to keep her maidenhood, making him think he has taken it. Arondel is not imprisoned, but cared for richly by her. Boeve is freed by an angel, kills the guards, and heads to Jerusalem. He does not make a miraculous leap to escape. After the giant’s castle, he kills four robbers who robbed a pilgrim, and then reaches Jerusalem, not speaking with the Patriarch.

Passing Monbranc, he recognizes Josiane and Arondel. They recognize and escape as usual, Boneface is killed by the lions, who drag Josiane to their den, whither Boeve tracks them and kills them, with Arondel’s help. Garsile sends Ascopart, and all goes as the Anglo-Norman, until they reach Cologne, only without the comic baptism scene. Boeve goes to Doon, pretends to be a merchant named Aïmer of Hungary, and then meets Sobaut’s nephew David and joins Sobaut. In the war, he kills Hate and Fromont, the men who sold him to the Saracen slave traders.

Meanwhile, in Cologne, Count Audemar, the Emperor’s nephew, has forged letters telling of Boeve’s death, lured Ascopart into a dungeon, and wed Josiane. Boeve walks in on the wedding, and kills Audemar just as Ascopart arrives, panting. With Ascopart’s help, Boeve defeats Doon, in a very long war. Doon is hanged, Ascopart marries a rich noblewoman and exits the story, and Boeve and Josiane settle in Hampton, which seems to now be Southampton in England again.

After a year, Boeve attends the king’s feast, at which the prince tries to buy Arondel after Boeve wins a race with him. When Boeve won’t sell, the prince, egged on by Doon’s nephew Rohart, tries to steal him. In the ensuing battle, both are killed, along with three stablehands. The King banishes Boeve, who stops by Southampton to pick up Josiane and to have his mother locked in a tower until he comes back. Only her confessor is to be allowed in. Boeve, Josiane, Terri [Sobaut’s son], and Arondel now depart for the Acre, but a storm drives them to Monbranc, in Africa. Here, in the wilderness, Josiane goes into labor. The men blindfold themselves to help her. After the twins are born, Terri goes to town to buy food, but is followed home by foresters, who tell King Yvorin, who kidnaps Josiane and her children. In a subsequent battle, Boeve kills Garsile, but he is hopelessly outnumbered, and flees on Josiane’s orders. He and Terri come to Siviele, where they save the Queen Eglantine from Escorfaut of Majorge [Majorca?], in a very long and very tedious siege. She compels Boeve to marry her, but he places a sword in their bed every night.

Meanwhile, Josiane and the boys are in prison. One Bertram, of Bar-sur-Aube, joins with Sobaut to go look for Boeve. They find Josiane in Monbranc, and rescue her uneventfully, bringing her home to Hampton. They take the children to the king in London, who stands godfather to one of them, naming him after himself, and making him his heir. King Oduars of Scotland names the other one his heir. Sobaut and Josiane, the latter guised as a minstrel, now resume the search for Boeve. They come to Sevilie, where Arondel recognizes her, as she sings a song about Boeve. Her husband recognizes her too, and there is much rejoicing. Terri weds Queen Eglantine, and Boeve and Josiane go home to Hampton, and meet their sons, Boevon and Guion. They live happily, and have a third son, but then word comes that King Hermin is besieged. Boeve rescues him, and kills Braidimons. Guy and Buevon inherit England and Scotland, Sobaut is given Hampton, and Boeve and Josiane move to Armenia, where they live happily until their death, when their son Hermin inherits it.

 

Though there are many minor differences between the three redactions, the most notable difference between the them is that in the Second Redaction, as in all others, Bevis and Josiane have twin sons, Bevis and Guy. In the First and Third Redactions, they have two pairs of twins: firstly Guillaume, who grows up to be King of England, and Hermin. Bueve and Guy are born later.

The Legend of Bevis of Hampton, 2: English, Norse, Welsh, and Irish

The legend of Bevis of Hampton is extant in three great families of redactions: the Anglo-Norman, the Continental French, and the Italian. The Italian versions are the only ones to link Bevis with the legend of Charlemagne, but we will here treat of the Anglo-Norman version first, as it is generally believed to be the earliest, and it is the version best-known to English readers.

The Anglo-Norman family consists of the following versions:

Boeve de Hantone. The Anglo-Norman chanson de geste. Assonanced decasyllables. Sometimes attributed to Bertrand de Bar, though this is no longer a widely-held theory. Translated by Judith Weiss in Boeve De Haumtone and Gui De Warewic, 2008.

Bevers saga. The Norse prose translation of the Anglo-Norman, which exists in two major versions.

Bevusar Taettir. The Faerose ballads based on the Norse saga. See Corpus Carminum Faeroensium, volume 5.

Bown o Hamtwn.  The Welsh prose translation of the Anglo-Norman. Translated by Robert Williams in Selections from the Hengwrt Mss. Preserved in the Peniarth Library.

Sir Beves of Hampton, the English poem, translated from the Anglo-Norman, which adds many incidents and rearranges others. All six MSS are printed in EETS Extra vol 46, 48, 65. An edition for the general reader is available from TEAMS in Four Romances of England.

Bibuis o Hamtuir.  The Irish prose translation of the English, c. 1452-1500. The only manuscript ends in the middle of the episode of Josiane’s “marriage” in Cologne. Copied, or possibly written, by Uilliam Mac an Leagha. Translated by Frederick Norris in The Irish Lives of Guy of Warwick and Bevis of Hampton.

BEVERS SAGA

Bever’s saga exists in two versions. One, the most common, follows the Anglo-Norman closely until the baptism of Escopart, and thereafter begins abridging freely. The second, found only in one manuscript, abridges throughout, and changes the order of many incidents. It is most likely derived from the first Norse version.

STANDARD VERSION

Bevers is summoned to King Edgar’s court instead of going himself to demand his rights. No wedding ceremony is held between Bevers and Aglantine [the lady of Cevile]. Bevers and Terri are the godparents of each other’s children. Yvori kidnaps not only Arundela, but also his foal. In the duel, Guy and Miles intervene, and Guy kills Yvori, to Bevers’ fury. When the fifteen kings convert and destroy their idols, a talking dog leaps out of one of them [a demon in disguise, most likely].

THE REVISED VERSION

Bevers’ mother is named Oda, her page and confidant Spyrant. Yvori does not attempt to ride Arundel. Terri is Bevis’ son. Escopart, Beves, Josiane, and Terri are all banished from England. Escopart falls asleep while guarding Josiane while the men are out hunting, and at this  very moment, Ivorius’ goon Amonstrei arrives, through his magic knowledge. He kills Escopart, and kidnaps Josiane. Bevers and Terri take the newborn twins to Sinolle [Cevile], where they die. Bevers and Terri save Lady Susanna from the besiegers, but Yvori sends his men to steal Arundela. Sabaoth has a dream telling him to go to Jerusalem to free Josiane from Munkbrand. They meet there and form a plan. Josiane schemes to seduce Amonstrei, who at her instigation, kills his ten sons. As he is undressing in hopes of his reward, Sabaoth leaps out and kills him. They flee with Arundela, and meet Bevers in Sinolle.

King Edgar’s son is named Ranin, his daughter Gyridr. In the duel with Yvori, Bevers kills him fairly.

BEVUSAR TAETTER

The Faeroese ballads based on Beverssaga cover only the beginning of the story, down to Bevers’ arrival at the heathen King’s court. As I can find no more information about them, and I cannot read Faeroese, I am unable to say how closely they follow the Saga.

BOWN O HAMTWN

The Welsh prose translation, from the French. A close translation, with no peculiarities.

 SIR BEVES OF HAMPTON

Bevis is seven years old when his mother and Emperor Devoun of Germany kill his father. He is sold to King Ermonie of Armenia, whose deceased wife was named Morage. His first battle is fought at the age of fifteen, on Christmas Day, when a Saracen taunts him for not knowing what day it is. Bevis answers that, while he doesn’t know as much about his faith as he’d like to, he will defend it against all insults. A fight breaks out, and Bevis kills him and his friends. Josiane persuades the king to spare Bevis’ life, and nurses him back to health. Ermonie’s seneschal, not his foresters, tries to claim credit for killing the boar, and it is from the steward that Bevis wins his sword Morgley. Three years go by between the fight with the boar and the invasion of Bradimond. Boniface is given the role of go-between for Bevis and Josiane. The palmer Bevis meets en route to Damascus is Terri, who has been sent by Saber to search for him. No explanation is given for why Bevis conceals his identity, but we are told how Terri took the news home to Sabot [Saber], who wept. Brandimond clasps Bevis’ hand in “friendship”, but really to overpower and seize him. Josiane has a magic ring, not a girdle. Arondel is imprisoned for seven years. Bevis’ dungeon is filled with flying adders, which he kills with his club, and a dragon, which he kills,, but not without receiving a scar above his right eye that never heals. He can’t escape for seven years. When he finally does escape, he kills some stable boys. Grander is just a king, and his steed is named Trenchefis. Bevis kills Grander, and then rides Trenchefis off a cliff into the sea to escape the rest of Brandimond’s men. On the far shore, he makes the giant’s wife taste all the food she serves him, and the Patriarch of Jerusalem orders him to marry only a virgin. Seeking Josiane, he trades clothes with a palmer, and pretends to Josiane that he met Bevis in Rome and heard him boast of Arondel. Josiane and Boniface take the “palmer” to see the horse, who recognizes him immediately.

As they escape, Amustrai does not appear, and Ascopart is here Garcy’s servant. When they come to Cologne, there is a dragon there. Two kings, of Apulia and Calabria, were at war for twenty-four years, until they were turned into dragons. They fought for thirty-four more years, until a hermit rove them away. One flew to Rome, where he was enchanted by wise clerks to sleep under Saint Peter’s Bridge until Doomsday. But every seven years he turns in his sleep and causes fever [the famous Roman malaria]. The other lives in Cologne, under a cliff, and has eight tusks, each seventeen inches in diameter. He has a beard and a mane, and is twenty-four feet from shoulder to hindquarters. His tail is sixteen feet, and his wings are bright as glass, his scales as hard as brass. According to some manuscripts, Bevis uses the sword Alondite [or Arondite], which was once Sir Lancelot’s, and which some knights of England brought to Armenia, where Bevis got it.

Ascopard is too scared to fight, but Bevis sallies forth, is sorely wounded, but falls into a holy well, which a virgin once bathed in, and which cures him. As he fights again, the dragon spits venom which dissolves his armor, and he is again saved by the well. Bevis at last slays it, thanks to a timely prayer, and takes its tongue as a trophy.

When Ascopart kidnaps Josiane to sell her to Yvori, she asks for leave to go to the woods for privacy, but really she’s gathering herbs to make her look like a leper. Yvori is disgusted at her new appearance, and locks her in a castle with Ascopart as her guard, where she stays for six months. Bevis leaves Guy with a forester, and Miles with a fisher. Then comes the tourney at Aumbeforce [Cevile]. Then Sabot dreams that Bevis is wounded en route to Compostela and Saint Giles. His wife says it means Ascopart is a traitor. Sabot and twelve knights find Josiane, kill Ascopart, and resuce her. The two [the twelve vanish from the story] wander for seven years, till Sabot falls ill in Greece, and Josiane must support them by minstrelsy, for half a year. When he recovers, they go to Aumbeforce, where all are reunited, and Terri weds the Lady. Bevis sends for his children. After the first war of Yvori and Erimone, Armenia [lesser Armenia, in Anatolia] is converted. After the second war, with the single combat, Yvori’s men are slaughtered, not converted. When Bevis returns to England to recover Robart’s lands, King Edgar’s steward gathers his faction and rouses the London mob against Bevis. A very realistic account of medieval urban warfare follows, until Miles and Guy arrive to save the day, Miles on a dromedary, Guy on an Arabian. Josiane and Bevis and Arundel die after twenty years of peaceful reigning, and are buried in the monastery of Saint Lawrence, where the monks pray for their souls, if it be right to pray for the soul of a horse.

STAIR BIBUIS

The Irish prose translation, copied, or possibly written, by Uillam Mac an Leagha. Written between 1452 and 1500. A close translation of the English, but flowery as all get out. Bevis’ mother loves the son of the Emperor. She sees her beauty reflected in her bathwater, convincing her to kill her husband. Bevis decides to avenge his father when his fellow swine-herds (not shepherds) accuse him of cowardice. He flees prison not to Jerusalem but to India, where the Patriarch shrives him. Coming home, he is shriven again at Rhodes. The fragment breaks off as Esgobard is hurrying to Bibius to tell him that Earl Milis is about to marry Sisian [Josian].

Let this much suffice for the Anglo-Norman family, and let us now speak of the Continental French family.

Or rather, let us go back and speak of the original Anglo-Norman poem.