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3 care; but there may no woman have thy love but Queene Guenever; but sithen I may not rejoyce thee to have thy body alive, I had kept no more joy in this world but to have had thy dead body; and I would have balmed it and served, and so have kept it my life daies, and daily Ishould have clipped thee, and kissed thee in the despite of Queene Guenever,’ ‘Yee say well;' said Sir Launcelot, “Jesus preserve me from your subtill crafts!' And therewith he took his horse and departed from her.”
Note II. A sinful man, and unconfessed, He took the Sangreal's holy quest, And, slumbering, saw the vision high, He might not view with waking eye.-P. 20. One day, when Arthur was holding a high feast with his Knights of the Round Table, the Sangreall, or vessel out of which the last passover was eaten, a precious relic which had long remained concealed from human eyes, because of the sins of the land, suddenly appeared to him and all his chivalry. The consequence of this vision was, that all the knights took on them a solemn vow to seek the Sangreall. But, alas! it could only be revealed to a knight at once accomplished in earthly chivalry, and pure and guiltless of evil conversation. All Sir Launcelot's noble accomplishments were therefore rendered vain by his guilty intrigue with Queen Guenever, or Gamore; and in this holy quest he encountered only such disgraceful disasters as that which follows: “But Sir Launcelot rode overthwart and endlong in a wild forest, and held no path, but as wild adventure led him; and at the last, he came unto a stone crosse, which departed two wayes in wast land, and, by the crosse, was a ston that was of marble; but it was so darke that Sir Launcelot might not well know what it was. Thea Sir Launcelot looked by him, and saw an old chappell, and there he wend to have found people. And so Sir Launcelot tied his horse to a tree, and there hee put off his shield, and hung it upon a tree, and
then hee went unto the chappell doore, and found it wasted and broken. And within he found a faire alter full richly arrayed with cloth of silk, and there stood a faire candelstick, which beare six great candels, and the candlesticke was of silver. And when Sir Launcelot saw this light, hee had a great will for to enter into the chappell, but hee could find no place where hee might enter. Then was he passing heavie and dismaied. Then hee returned, and came again to his horse, and tooke off his saddle and his bridle, and let him pasture, and unlaced his helme, and ungirded his sword, and laide him downe to sleepe upon his shield before the crosse. “And so hee fell on sleepe, and halfe waking and halfe sleeping, hee saw come by him two palfryes, both faire and white, the which beare a litter, therein lying a sicke knight. And when he was nigh the crosse, he there abode still. All this Sir Launcelot saw and beheld, for hee slept not verily, and hee heard him say, “Oh sweete Lord, when shall this sorrow leave me, and when shall the holy vessel come by me, where through I shall be blessed, for I have endured thus long for little trespasse.’ And thus a great while complained the knight, and allwaies Sir Launcelot heard it. With that, Sir Launcelot saw the candlesticke, with the fire tapers come before the crosse; but he could see no body that brought it. Also, there came a table of silver, and the holy vessell of the Samcgreall, the which Sir Launcelot had seene before that time in King Petchour's house. And therewithall the sieke knight set him upright, and held up both his hands, and said, “Faire sweete Lord, which is here within the holy vessell, take heede to mee, that I may bee hole of this great malady.' And herewith upon his hands, and upon his knees, he went so nigh, that he touched the holy vessell, and kissed it: And anon he was hole, and then he said, ‘Lord God, I thank thee, for I am healed of this malady.” Soo when the holy vessell had been there a great while, it went unto the chappell againe, with the candlesticke and the light, so that Sir Launcelot wist not where it became, for he was overtaken with sinne, that hee had no power to arise against the holy vessell, wherefore afterward many men said
pf him shame. But he tooke repentance afterward. Then the sicke knight dressed him upright, and kissed the crosse. Then anon his squire brought him his armes, and asked his lord how he did. “Certainely,” said hee, “I thanke God, right heartily, for through the holy vessell I am healed: But I have right great mervaile of this sleeping knight, which hath had neither grace nor power to awake during the time that this holy vessell hath beene here present.” “I dare it right well say,” said the squire, ‘that this same knight is defouled with some manner of deadly sinne, whereof he was never confessed.” “By my faith,’ said the knight, ‘whatsoever he he, he is unhappie; for, as I deeme hee is of the fellowship of the Round Table, the which is entered into the quest of the Sancgreall.’ “Sir” said the squire, “here I have brought you all your armes, save your helme and your sword, and therefore, by mine assent, now may ye take this knight's helme and his sword,” and so he did. And when he was cleane armed, he tooke Sir Launcelot's horse, for he was better than his owne, and so they departed from the crosse. “Then anon Sir Launcelot awaked, and set himselfe up right, and hee thought him what hee had there seene, and whether it were dreames or not, right so he heard a voice that said, “Sir Launcelot, more hardy them is the stone, and more bitter then is the wood, and more naked and bare them is the liefe of the fig-tree, therefore, go thou from hence, and withdraw thee from this holy place; and when Sir Launcelot heard this, hee was passing heavy, and wit not what to doe. And so he departed sore weeping, and cursed the time that he was borne; for them hee deemed never to have had more worship; for the words went unto his heart; till that he knew wherefore fhat hoe was so called.”
Note III. And Dryden, in immortal strain, . Had raised the Table Round again, But that a ribald king and court Bade him toil on, to make them sport; Demanded for their niggard pay, Fit for their souls, a looser lay, Licentious satire, song, and play.—P. 20. Dryden's melancholy account of his projected Epic Poem, blasted by the selfish and sordid parsimony of his patrons, is contained in an “Essay on Satire,” addressed to the Earl of Dorset, and prefixed to the Translation of Juvenal. After mentioning a plan of supplying machinery from the guardian angels of kingdoms, mentioned in the book of Daniel, he adds: “Thus, my lord, I have, as briefly as I could, given your lordship, and by you the world, a rude draught of what I have been long labouring in my imagination, and what I had intended to have put in practice; (though far unable for the attempt of such a poem;) and to have left the stage, to which my genius never much inclined me, for a work which would have taken up my life in the performance of it. This too I had intended chiefly for the honour of my native country, to which a poet is particularly obliged. Of two subjects, both relating to it, I was doubtful whether I should choose that of King Arthur conquering the Saxons, which, being further distant in time, gives the greater scope to my invention; or that of Edward the Black Prince, in subduing Spain, and restoring it to the lawful prince, though a great tyrant, Dom Pedro the Cruel; which, for the compass of time, including only the expedition of one year, for the greatness of the action, and its answerable event, for the magnanimity of the English hero, opposed to the ingratitude of the person whom he restored, and for the many beautiful episodes which I had interwoven with the principal design, together with the characters of the chiefest English persons, (wherein, after Virgil and Spencer, I would have taken occasion to represent my living friends and patrons
of the noblest families, and also shadowed the events of future ages in the succession of our imperial line,)—with these helps, and those of the machines which I have mentioned, I might perhaps have done as well as some of my predecessors, or at least chalked out a way for others to amend my errors in a like design; but being encouraged only with fair words by King Charles II., my little salary ill paid, and no prospect of a future subsistence, I was them discouraged in the beginning of my attempt; and now age has overtaken me, and want, a more insufferable evil, through the change of the times, has wholly disabled me.”
Note IV. Of Ascapart, and Bevis bold.—P. 22. The “History of Bevis of Hampton” is abridged by my friend, Mr. George Ellis, with that liveliness which extracts amusement even out of the most rude and unpromising of our old tales of chivalry. Ascapart, a most important personage in the romance, is thus described in an extract:
This geaunt was mighty and strong,
- And liker a devil than a man.
Specimens of Metrical Romances. Vol.II, p. 136.
I am happy to say, that the memory of Sir Bevis is still fragrant in his town of Southampton; the gate of which is sentineled by the effigies of that doughty knight-errant, and his gigantic associate.