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What when gaye ladyes goe with their lordes
To drinke the ale and wine; Alas! then I must hide myself,
I must not goe with mine?
I yield me to thy skille;
Thou shalt have all thy wille.”
And the daye that I thee see;
Soe shall I ever bee.
My father was an aged knighte,
And yet it chanced soe,
Whiche broughte me to this woe.
In the greene forest to dwelle;
Most like a fiend of helle.
Midst mores and mosses; woods, and wilds;
To lead a lonesome life:
Wolde marrye me to his wife:
Such was her devilish skille;
And let mee have all my wille.
And made him stiffe and stronge;
But now the spelle is broken throughe,
And wronge is turnde to righte;
And hee be a gentle knighte.
King Ryence's Challenge. This song is more modern than many of those which follow it, but is placed here for the sake of the subject. It was sung before Queen Elizabeth at the grand entertainment at Kenilworth Castle in 1575, and was probably composed for that occasion. In a letter describing those festivities it is thus mentioned: "A Minstral came forth with a sollem song, warranted for story out of K. Arthur's acts, whereof I gat a copy, and is this:
“So it fell out on a Pentecost,” &c. After the song the narrative proceeds: “At this the Minstrell made a pause and a curtezy for Primus Passus. More of the song is thear, but I gatt it not."
The story in Morte Arthur, whence it is taken, runs as follows: “Came a messenger hastely from king Ryence of North Wales, - saying, that king Ryence had discomfited and overcomen eleaven kings, and everiche of them did him homage, and that was this: they gave him their beards cleane flayne off, — wherefore the messenger came for king Arthur's beard, for king Ryence had purfeled a mantell with kings beards, and there lacked for one a place of the mantell, wherefore he sent for his beard, or else he would enter into his lands, and brenn and slay, and never leave till he have thy head and thy beard. Well, said king Arthur, thou hast said thy message, which is the most villainous and lewdest message that ever man heard sent to a king. Also thou mayest see y beard is full young yet for to make a purfell of, but tell il the king that or it be long he shall do to me homage
on both his knees, or else he shall leese his head." (B.i. c. 24. See also the same Romance, b. i. c. 92.]
The thought seems to be originally taken from Jeff. Monmouth's Hist. b. x. c. 3, which is alluded to by Drayton in his Poly-Olb. Song iv., and by Spenser in Faer. Queen, vi. 1. 13, 15. See Warton's Observations on Spenser, vol.ii. page 223.
The following text is composed of the best readings selected from three different copies. The first in Enderbie's Cambria Triumphans, p. 197. The second in the Letter above mentioned. And the third inserted in MS. in a copy of Morte Arthur, 1632, in the Bodl. library.
Stow tells us, that king Arthur kept his round table at “diverse places, but especially at Carlion, Winchester, and Camalet, in Somersetshire.” This Camalet, "sometimes a famous towne or castle, is situate on a very high tor or hill,” &c. [See an exact description in Stow's Annals, ed. 1631, p.55.]
As it fell out on a Pentecost day,
King Arthur at Camelot kept his court royall, With his faire queene dame Guenever the gay;
And many bold barons sitting in hall;
With ladies attired in purple and pall;
Right pertlye gan pricke, kneeling on knee;
Sayd, Nowe sir king Arthur, God save thee, and see!
Sir Ryence of North-gales greeteth well thee,
1 Largesse, Largesse. The heralds resounded these words as oft as they received the bounty of the knights. See Mémoires de la Chevalerie, tom. i. p. 99. — The expression is still used in the form of installing knights of the garter.
For his robe of state is a rich scarlet mantle,
With eleven kings beards bordered a about, And there is room lefte yet in a kantle,
For thine to stande, to make the twelfth out:
This must be done, be thou never so stout;
Great was the noyse bothe in hall and in bower:
Princés puff'd; barons blustred; lords began lower;
Knights stormed; squires startled, like steeds in a stower: Pages and yeomen yell’d out in the hall, Then in came sir Kay, the ‘king's' seneschal. Silence, my soveraignes, quoth this courteous knight,
And in that stound the stowre began still: "Then' the dwarfe's dinner full deerely was dight;
Of wine and wassel he had his wille:
And, when he had eaten and drunken his fill,
That for his bold message I do him defye;
Out of North-gales; where he and I
With swords, and not razors, quickly shall trye, Whether he, or king Arthur will prove the best barbor; And therewith he shook his good sword Escalàbor.
*** Strada, in his Prolusions, has ridiculed the story of the giant's mantle, made of the beards of kings.
2 1. e. set round the border, as furs are now round the gowns of magis
The subject of this ballad is evidently taken from the old romance Morte Arthur, but with some variations, especially in the concluding stanzas; in which the author seems rather to follow the traditions of the old Welsh bards, who “be
eved that King Arthur was not dead, but conveied awaie by the Fairies into some pleasant place, where he should remaine for a time, and then returne againe and reign in as great authority as ever.”. - Holinshed, b. v. c. 14; or, as it is expressed in an old Chronicle printed at Antwerp 1493, by Ger. de Leew, “The Bretons supposen, that he [K. Arthur]
- shall come yet and conquere all Bretaigne, for certes this is the prophicye of Merlyn: He sayd, that his deth shall be doubteous; and sayd soth, for men thereof yet have doubte, and shullen for ever more,
for men wyt not whether that he lyveth or is dede.” See more ancient testimonies in Selden's Notes on Poly Olbion, Song iii.
This fragment, being very incorrect and imperfect in the original MS., hath received some conjectural emendations, and even a supplement of three or four stanzas composed from the romance of Morte Arthur.
On Trinitye Mondaye in the morne,
This sore battayle was doom'd to bee;
Alacke, it was the more pittie.
And there to him these wordes did saye. 1 Sir Gawaine had been killed at Arthur's landing on his return from abroad. See the next ballad, ver. 73.