Page images

tan knew him by the sleeve of his surcoat, which was of azure, worked with silver flowers, and then they made great moan over him."

The shape of them, as we have remarked, varied considerably; besides minor alterations they were at one time worn very short, at another so long as to trail on the ground. But this luxurious style was occasionally attended with direful effects. Froissart names a surcoat in which Sir John Chandos was attired, which was embroidered with his arms in white sarsnet, argent a field gules, one on his back and another on his breast. It was a long robe which swept the ground, and this circumstance, most probably, caused the untimely death of one of the most esteemed knights of chivalry.

Sir John Chandos was one of the brightest of that chivalrous circle which sparkled in the reign of Edward the Third. He was gentle as well as valiant; he was in the van with the Black Prince at the battle of Cressy; and at the battle of Poictiers he never left his side. His death was unlooked for and sudden. Some disappointments had depressed his spirits, and his attendants in vain endeavoured to cheer them.

"And so he stode in a kechyn, warmyng him by the fyre, and his servantes jangled with hym, to the tent to bring him out of his melancholy; his servantes had prepared for hym a place to rest hym: than he demanded if it were nere day, and therewt. there cae a man into the house, and came before hym, and sayd,

{ Sir, I have brought you tidynges.'

'What be they, tell me?'

f Sir,, surely the frechmen be rydinge abrode.'

* How knowest thou that?'

f Sir/ sayd he, (I departed fro saynt Saluyn with them V

'What way be they ryden?'

'Sir, I can nat tell you the certentie, but surely they take the highway to Poiters.'

'What Frechmen be they; canst thou tell me?'

'Sir, it is Sir Loys of Saynt Julyan, and Carlovet the Breton.'

'Well, quoth Sir Johan Chandos, I care nat, I have no lyst this night to ryde forthe: they may happe to be encoutred though I be nat ther.'

"And so he taryed there styll a certayne space in a gret study, and at last, when he had well aduysed hymselfe, he sayde, ' Whatsoever I have sayd here before, I trowe it be good that I ryde forthe; I must retourne to Poictiers, and anone it will be


1That is true sir,' quoth the knightes about hym.

* Then/ he sayd, 'make redy, for I wyll ryde forthe.'

"And so they dyd."

The skirmish commenced; there had fallen a great dew in the morning, in consequence of which the ground was very slippery; the knight's foot slipped, and in trying to recover himself, it became entangled in the folds of his magnificent surcoat; thus the fall was rendered irretrievable, and whilst he was down he received his death blow.

The barons and knights were sorely grieved. They "lamentably complayned, and sayd, 'A, Sir Johan Chandos, the floure of all chivalry, vnhappely was that glayue forged that thus hath wouded you, and brought you in parell of dethe:' they wept piteously that were about hym, and he herde and vnderstode them well, but he could speke no worde."—"For his dethe, his frendes, and also some of his enemyes, were right soroufull; the Englysshmen loued hym, bycause all noblenesse was founde in hym; the frenchmen hated him, because they doubted hym; yet I herde his dethe greatly complayned among right noble and valyant knightes of France*."

Across this surcoat was worn the scarf, the indispensable appendage of a knight when fully equipped: it was usually the gift of his "ladyelove," and embroidered by her own fair hand.

And a knight would encounter fifty deaths sooner than part with this cherished emblem. It is recorded of Garcia Perez de Vargas, a noble-minded Spanish knight of the thirteenth century, that he and a companion were once suddenly met by a party of seven Moors. His friend fled: but not so Perez; he at once prepared himself for the combat, and while keeping the Moors at bay, who hardly seemed inclined to fight, he found that his scarf had fallen from his shoulder.

He look'd around, and saw the Scarf, for still the Moors were near,
And they had pick'd it from the sward, and loop'd it on a spear.
'These Moors,' quoth Garci Perez, 'uncourteous Moors they be— my soul, the scarf they stole, yet durst not question me!

. .oissart, by Lord Berners, vol. i. p. 270.

"'Now, reach once more my helmet.' The Esquire said him, nay, 'For a silken string why should you fling, perchance, your life

away?' 'I had it from my lady,' quoth Garci, *long ago, And never Moor that scarf, be sure, in proud Seville shall show.'

** But when the Moslems saw him, they stood in firm array: He rode among their armed throng, he rode right furiously. 'Stand, stand, ye thieves and robbers, lay down my lady's pledge,' He cried, and ever as he cried, they felt his faulchion's edge.

"That day when the lord of Vargas came to the camp alone, The scarf, his lady's largess, around his breast was thrown: Bare was his head, his sword was red, and from his pommel strung Seven turbans green, sore hack'd I ween, before Garci Perez hung."

It casts a redeeming trait on this butchering sort or bravery to find that when the hero returned to the camp he steadily refused to reveal the name of the person who had so cravenly deserted him.

But the favours which ladies presented to a knight were various; consisting of " jewels, ensigns of noblesse, scarfs, hoods, sleeves, mantles, bracelets, knots of ribbon; in a word, some detached part of their dress." These he always placed conspicuously on his person, and defended, as he would have done his life. Sometimes a lock of his fair one's hair inspired the hero:

"Than did he her heere unfolde,

And on his helme it set on hye,
With rede thredes of ryche golde,

Whiche he had of his lady.
Full richely his shelde was wrought,

With asure stones and beten golde,
But on his lady was his thought,

The yelowe heere what he dyd beholde." *

* The Fair Lady of Faguell.

It is recorded in "Perceforest," that at the end of one tournament " the ladies were so stripped of their head attire, that the greatest part of them were quite bareheaded, and appeared with their hair spread over their shoulders yellower than the finest gold; their robes also were without sleeves; for all had been given to adorn the knights; hoods, cloaks, kerchiefs, stomachers, and mantuas. But when they beheld themselves in this woful plight, they were greatly abashed, till, perceiving every one was in the same condition, they joined in laughing at this adventure, and that they should have engaged with such vehemence in stripping themselves of their clothes from off their backs, as never to have perceived the loss of them."

A sleeve (more easily detached than we should fancy those of the present day) was a very usual token.

Elayne, the faire mayden of Astolat gave Syr Launcelot " a reed sleeve of scarlet wel embroudred with grete perlys," which he wore for a token on his helmet; and in real life it is recorded that in a serious, but not desperate battle, at the court of Burgundy, in 1445, one of the knights received from his lady a sleeve of delicate dove colour, elegantly embroidered; and he fastened this favour on his left arm.

Chevalier Bayard being declared victor at the tournament of Carignan, in Piedmont, he refused, from extreme delicacy, to receive the reward assigned him, saying, "The honour he had gained was solely owing to the sleeve, which a lady had given him, adorned with a ruby worth a hundred ducats." The

« PreviousContinue »