Saint George for England – Additional Verse 2018

Columbus sailed into the West, to conquer lands unknown;
De Soto loved this land so much he never went back home.
Ponce de Leon went looking for the Font of Youth,
Magellan and Cor’nado were both valiant men in truth.
And Cortez and Pizarro they destroyed the heathen idols,
But Saint George, Saint George, he pierced the dragon’s vitals!
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. You can read my verse from St. George’s Day 2017 here.
As for the heroes listed, there is much misinformation spread about them today. A more accurate account of Columbus’ life and motivations can be found here.
Read about De Soto here.
Ponce de Leon may have heard about the Fountain of Youth from Mandeville’s Travels, a book fascinating in its own right, which may be the subject of a future post.
Magellan did not, of course, prove the world was round. The ancient Greeks had already proved as much. Nonetheless, his voyage was of immense importance, and perhaps even more daring than Columbus’.
Coronado was considered a failure in his lifetime, and his contributions to geography and ethnography were only appreciated after his death
Cortez was not only a conqueror of the infidel Aztecs, but also a stalwart soldier against the Mohammedans in North Africa. A good summary of his American adventures can be found in Andrew Lang’s True Story Book.
Pizarro’s story can be found here, and a more complete account in Andrew Lang’s Red True Story Book.
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.

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Notes to the Tenth Canto, Part 2

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto X, Stanzas 21-40 Notes

30. Cousin german. First cousins. I strongly suspect Uldano is Boiardo’s invention, or at most a very minor character in the romances of Ogier.
38. Stained with heresy. The Armenians, the first nation to adopt Christianity (several decades before the Roman Empire), succumbed to the Monophysite heresy in the 500’s. Subsequent attempts at reunion have met with only very limited success.
Emperor of Trebisond. After the fall of Constantinople to the Fourth Crusade in 1204, several rump states arose, all claiming the Imperial legacy. The longest lived of these was Trebisond on the Black Sea, which refused to submit to the Greek Emperors when they reclaimed their city in 1261. Trebisond actually outlasted Constantinople, and did not fall to the Turks until 1461.
39. Roase. Mesopotamia.

Back to Part 2

On to Part 3

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.

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.