Page images
PDF
EPUB

composition of Thomas of Erceldoune, though the author | homage from the hearers; and to their song, celebrating the professes to have drawn from that venerable bard the in- struggles of the Britons against the Saxons, may be referred formation contained in them. Nevertheless, they were not one principal source of the tide of romantic fiction which only received as the genuine productions of the Rhymer, but overflowed Europe during the middle ages; I mean the continued to animate the adherents of the house of Stuart tales, which, in exaggerating, have disguised, and almost down to the last unfortunate attempt, in 1745.

obliterated, the true exploits of King Arthur and his folThere are current among the country people, many lowers. In the ninth century, Geoffrey of Monmouth comrhymes ascribed to Thomas of Erceldoune. The reader piled, partly from British originals, communicated to him will find several of them in the Minstrelsy of the Scottish by the learned Walter, Archdeacon of Oxford, and partly Border.' Thus concludes the history, real and fabulous, from the stores of his own imagination, a splendid bislory of the Rhymer, and bis supposed productions, exclusive of of King Arthur. This enticing tale soon drew into its the romance, now published for the first time.

vortex whatever remained of British history or tradition; II. THE TALE OF TRISTREM was not invented by Thomas and all the beroes, whose memory had been preserved by of Erceldoune. It lays claims to a much higher antiquity; song, were represented as the associates and champions of and, if we may trust the Welsh authorities, is founded upon the renowned Arthur. Among this splendid group we authentic history. The following is the account of Tris- have seen that Sir Tristrem holds a distinguished place. trem, handed down by the bards.

Whether he really was a contemporary of Arthur, or wheTrystan (i. e. the Tumultuous), the son of Tallwz, was a ther that honour was ascribed to him on account of his high celebrated chiestain, who flourished in the sixth century. renown, and interesting adventures, it is now difficult to In the historical Triads, he is ranked with Greidiol and determine. The Welsh authorities affirm the first; but his Gwgon, as the three beralds of Britain, superior in the history, by Thomas of Erceldoune, and the ancient poems knowledge of the laws of war. Trystan, with Gwair and on the subject, in the Romance language, give no counteCai, were called the three diadem'd princes of Britain; nance to this supposition. That Tristrem actually flourishwith Coll and Pryderi, he composed the triad of the three ed during the stormy independence of Cornwall, and exmighty swincherds ; with Gwair and Eiddilig, that of the perienced some of those adventures, which have been so three stubborn chiefs, whom none could turn from their long the subject of the bard and the minstrel, may, I think, purpose; with Caswallon (Cassivellaunus), the son of Bei, be admitted, without incurring the charge of credulity. and Cynon, the son of Clydno, that of the three faithful There occurs here an interesting point of discussion. lovers. The last epithet he acquired from his passion for Thomas of Erceldoune, himself probably of Saxon origin, Essylt, the wise of Mark Meirzion, his uncle. He was con wrote in the Inglis, or English language; yet the subject temporary with Arthur. Upon some disgust, he withdrew he chose to celebrate was the history of a British chiesain. himself from the court of that monarch, and Gwalzmai with This, in a general point of view, is not surprising. The inthe Golden Tongue (the Gawain of romance) was sent to vaders have, in every country, adopted, sooner or later, the request his return. A dialogue passed betwixt them, for a traditions, sometimes even the genealogies, of the original copy of which, as well as for the above notices, I am in- inhabitants; while they have forgotten, after a few generadebled to the learned Mr. Owen, author of a classical Welsh tions, those of the country of their forefathers. One reason Dictionary; it is inserted in the Appendix, No. II.

seems to be, that tradition depends upon locality. The Those who may be inclined to doubt the high antiquity scene of a celebrated batlle, the ruins of an ancient tower, claimed for the Triads, by Welsh antiquaries, must admit, the “historic stone" over the grave of a hero, ibe hill and that, in this instance, probability seems to warrant their the valley inhabited of old by a particular tribe, remind authority. Tristrem is unisormly represented as a native posterity of events which are sometimes recorded in their of Cornwall, in which, and in the countries of Wales, Ire- very names. Even a race of strangers, when the lapse of land, and Brillany, all inhabited by the Celtic race, the years has induced them no longer to account themselves scene of his history is laid. Almost all the names of the such, welcome any fiction by which they can associate their persons in the romance are of genuine British origin; as ancestors with the scenes in which they themselves live, as Morgan, Roland Riss, Urgan (Urien), Brengwain, Gan- transplanted trees push forth every fibre that may connect hardin, Beliagog, Mark, Tristrem, and Isounde, Ysoude, them with the soil to which they are transferred. Thus, or Yssylt. The few names which are of Norman extrac every tradition failed, among the Saxons, which related to tion, belong to persons of inferior importance, whose proper their former habitations on the Elbe ; the Normans forgot, British appellations may have been unknown to Thomas,

not merely their ancient dwellings in Scandinavia, but even and on whom, therefore, he bestows names peculiar to the their Neustrian possessions; and both adopted, with greedy Norman-English dialect, in which he composed. Such are ardour, the fabulous history of Arthur and his chivalry, in Gouvernail, Blanchefour, Triamour, and Florentin. The preference to the better authenticated and more splendid little kingdom of Cornwall was one of the last points of re achievements of Hengist, or of Rolf Gangr, the conqueror fuge to the aboriginal Britons, beyond the limits of the mo of Normandy. But this natural disposition of the condern Wales. It yielded to the Saxon invaders betwixt 927 querors lo naturalize themselves, by adopting the traditions and 941, wben the British were driven, by Athelstan, beyond of the natives, led, in the particular situation of the English the Tamar, and a colony established at Excter by the con monarchs after the conquest, to some curious and almost queror. Previous to this event, and probably for a consi- anomalous consequences. derablc time afterwards, the Cornish retained the manners Those who have investigated the history of the French and habits of the indigenous natives of Britain. In these poetry observe, with surprise, that the earliest romances manners, an enthusiastic attachment to poetry and music written in that language refer to the history of King Arthur was a predominating feature. The Bards, the surviving and his Round Table, a theme, one would have thought, branch of the ancient Druids, claimed and received a sacred uncongenial to the feelings of the audience, and unconnect

Jo a preceding part of this Edition.

? [ Warton's Editor of course considers these French names as copied rom a French Tristrem, older than that of the Rhymer. 1

ed with the country of the minstrel. Mons. de Tressan' Tristrem into the chivalry of the Round Table; if so, he first gave a bint of the real cause of this extraordinary pre was not followed, in this respect, by later authors. It is ference, by supposing that the Norman trouveurs, or min- difficult to ascertain whence Chrestien de Troyes procured strels, by whom these lales of King Arthur were composed, bis subjects. The tales may have passed to him from Arwrote for the amusement, not of the French, their country: morica ; but, as the union between Britain and Normandy men, but of the Anglo-Norman monarchs of England. This was, in his days, most intimate, it seems fully as probable dynasty, with their martial nobility, down to the reign of that he himself collected in England, or from English auEdward III., continued to use, almost exclusively, the Ro thority, the ancient British traditions which he framed into mance or ancient French language; while the Saxon, al- | Romances. There is some uncertainty as to bis actually though spoken chiefly by the vulgar, was gradually adopt- / writing the history of Trístrem; but at any rate, in one of ing, Irom the rival tongue, those improvements and changes, his songs, he alludes to the story, as generally known :which fitted it for the use of Chaucer and Gower. But

"Ainques dou buvraige ne bui the veil has been more completely removed by the Abbé de

Dont Tristan fut impoisoner ; la Rue, in his curious essays upon what he aptly terms the

Car plus ma fait aimer qui lui Anglo-Norman poetry, those compositions, namely, which

Mon cuers el bon volupté." 5 were written in French, but for the amusement of the kings

I need not, I, the drink of force, and nobles of England.

Which drugg'd the valiant Tristrem's bowl ;

My passion claims a nobler source, One consequence of the popularity of the British lales

The free-will offering of my soul. among the Anglo-Norman poets, was, that all those parts of modern France, in which the Romance language pre Nor does the celebrity of the tale rest solely upon the evivailed, obtained an early and extensive acquaintance with dence of Chrestien de Troyes. It is twice alluded to by the supposed history of Arthur, and the other heroes of the King of Navarre, who wrote in 1226, or very near that Wales. The southern provinces, in which the dialect of period.

“Deure dame, s'il vos plaisolt, un soir, Languedoc prevailed,' were the seat of Provençal poetry;

Mauriez plus de Joie donée and it seems probable, that, at an early period, the Trou

Conques Tristanz, qui en fit son pooir," etc. badours were more welcome at the court of France, than the Norman minstrels, who resided on the territories of the

" De mon penser, aim mieux la compaignie,

Qu'oncques Tristan ne att Yseu! s'amie." 6 sovereigns of England, and tuned their harps to the fame of the ancient heroes of Britain. In process of time, when Nor The Ingenious Mons. de la Rue informs us, that the 11th mandy was acquired by the kings of France, the minstrels pru Lay of the celebrated Mademoiselle Marie, called Chevredently changed their theme, from the praises of Arthur and his feuille, is founded on an incident taken from the amours Round Table, to the more acceptable subject of Charlemagne of Tristrem with the wife of King Marc. Marie flourished and his Paladins. This, at least, seems a sair conjecture; since about the middle of the 12th century. Archæologia, vol. the romances of this latter class, founded upon the annals of xiii. p. 43. This lay, of which the reader will find an ab-. the Pseudo-Turpin, are allowed, by the French literati, to stract in the Appendix, No. III., begins thus : be inferior in antiquity to those relating to British story.

" Asez me plest, e bien le voil, Among the tales imported into France from Britain, and

Du lai ke hum nume chevrefoll; wbich oblained an early and extensive popularity, the bis

Q'la verite vous encunt, lory of Tristrem is early distinguished. Chrestien de

Pur quoi il fu fet e dunt:

Plusurs me le unt cunte e dit, Troyes, who wrote many romances, is said to have com

E jeu l'ai trové en escrit, posed one upon this subject, which he inscribed to Philip,

De Tristrem e de la reloe, Count of Flanders, who died in 1191. As this poet also

De lur amur, qui tant su fine, composed the history of Le Chevalier d'Epee (probably the

Dunt ilz eurent meinte dolur,

Puis mururent en un jour." story of The Knight and the Sword, versified in Way's Fabliaux,) Le Chevalier de la Charrette (the history of Sir This celebrated lady avowedly drew her materials from Lancelot,) and Le Chevalier a Lion (Ywain and Gawain.) | Armorica, the scene of several of Tristrem's exploits, and it is perhaps to him that we may ascribe the association of finally of his death.

3 [ Warton's Editor quotes some lines of Rambaud d'Orange, a Troubadoor of Provence, whose death is placed about A. D. 1173, in which that part of the story of Tristrem and Isoll, which is given in the stanza,

" Gretelb well my leved,

That ac trewe bath been;
Smockes had she and y," etc.

Exlraits des Romans, tom. I. p. 1. Tressan is treating of this very romance of Sir Tri trem, but seems to be ignorant of the existence of a metrical copy in the Romance language.

2. From the following introduction to the metrical romance of Arthur and Merlin, wrillen during the minority of Edward 111., it appears that the English language was then gaining ground. The author says, he has even seen many gentlemen who could speak no French, (though generally used by persons of their rank, ) while persons of every quality uuderstood English. He extols the advantages of children who are sent to school :

“ Avaunlages thai haren 1 hore,

Freynsli and Latin ever aye where;
or Freynsb no Latin nil Y tel more,
Ac on Inglisbe dobil therefore ;
Right is tbat Inglishe, Inglisle understond,
That was born in Inglond ;
Freynshe use this gentilman,
Ac iverich Inglisbe can:
Mani noble I bave y-seigbe,
That no Freşnsbe couth seye;
Bigin Ichil for her love,
By Jesus love, ibat silt above,
On Inglisebe tel my tale.

God ous send soule bale !"
Trevisa tells us, that in 138., " in all the grammar scoles of England,
ebildren leveth French, and construeth and Iernetb in English."

is distinctly alluded to.--

* Sobre tolz aurai grand valor,

Saital camis a'm'es data,
Cum Yseus det a l'amador,
Que mais non era portata," etc. p. 194.1

4 La Combe observes, "Le roman de Tristan nis, l'un des plus beaux et des mieux faits qui aient jamais été publiés, parut en 1190. C'est le plus ancien de res romans en prose. L'auteur etoit encore de la cour du Duc de Normandie, Roi d'Angleterre." Preface, p swi In this passage the learned gentleman makes a mistake, io wbich be is followed by Mons. l'Eveque de la Ravilliere. If Chrestien de Troyes actually wrote a bistory of Tristrem, il certainly was in verse, like all his otber compositions; and it is morally impossible to point out a prose romance, upon tbat or any otber subject, previous to 1190.

5 La Ravilliere, Revolulions de la Langue Françoise, .Poesies du Roi de Nararre, tom. I. p. 168. & Rozsies du R'ri de Navarre, pp. 7. 145.

Thus, the story of Ti Istrem appears to have been popular' | been called Scotland, it is reasonable to conclude, that their in France, at least thirty years before the probable date of manners and customs continued, for a long time, to anThomas of Erceldoune's work. A singular subject of en nounce their British descent. In these districts had fouquiry is thus introduced. Did Thomas translate his poem rished some of the most distinguished British bards; and from some of those which were current in the Romance they had witnessed many of the memorable events which language? Or did he refer to the original British authorities, decided the fate of the island. It must be supposed that from which his story had been versified by the French min- | the favourite traditions of Arthur and his knights retained strels? The state of Scotland, at the period when he Nou- their ground for a length of time umong a people tbus de rished, may probably throw some light on this curious point. scended. Accordingly, the scene of many of their exploits

Although the Saxons, immediately on their landing on is laid in this frontier country; Bamborough Castle being the eastern coast of England, obtained settlements, from pointed out as the Castle Orgeillous of Romance, and Berwhich they were never finally dislodged, yet the want of wick as the Joyeuse Garde, the strongbold of the renowned union among the invaders, the comparative smallness of Sir Lancelot. In the days of Froissart, the mountains of their numbers, and a variety of other circumstances, ren Cumberland were still called Wales; and he mentions Cardered the progress of their conquest long and uncertain. lisle (so famous in romantic song) as a “city beloved of For ages after the arrival of Hengist and Horsa, the whole i King Arthur.” Even at tbis day, the Celtic traditions of western coast of Britain was possessed by the aboriginal the Border are not entirely obliterated, 3 and we may thereinhabitants, engaged in constant wars with the Saxons; the fore reasonably conclude, that in the middle of the 13th slow, but still increasing tide of whose victories still pressed century they flourished in full vigour. onward from the east. These western Britons were, un If the reader casts his eye upon the map, he will see that fortunately for themselves, split into innumerable petty Erceldoune is situated on the borders of the ancient British sovereignties; but we can distinguish four grand and ge kingdom of Strathclwyd; and I think we may be autborized neral divisions. 1st, The county of Cornwall, with part of to conclude, that in that country Thomas the Rhymer colDevonshire, retained independence, on the southwest ex lected the materials for his impressive tale of Sir Tristrem. tremity of the island. 2dly, Modern Wales was often | The story, although it had already penetrated into France, united under one king. 3dly, Lancashire and Cumberland must have been preserved in a more pure and authentic formed the kingdom of the Cumraig Britons, which ex state by a people, who perhaps had hardly ceased to speak lended northward to Solway Frith. 4thly, Beyond the the language of the hero. There are some considerations Scottish Border lay the kingdom of Strathclwyd, including, which strongly tend to confirm this supposition. probably, all the western part of Scotland, betwixt the In the first place, we have, by a very fortunate coinciSolway Frith and Frith of Clyde. With the inhabitants of dence, satisfactory proof that the romance of Sir Tristrem, the Highlands, we have, at present, no concern. This as composed by Thomas of Ercildoune, was known upon western division of the island being peopled by tribes of a the continent, and referred to by the French minstrels, as kindred origin and language, it is natural lo conceive, even the most authentic mode of telling the story. This is forwere the fact dubious, that the same traditions and histories tunately established by two Metrical Fragments of a French were current among these tribes. Accordingly the modern romance, preserved in the valuable library of Francis Douce, Welsh are as well versed in the poetry of the Cumraig and Esq. F.A.S., of which the reader will find a copious abthe Strathclwyd Britons, as in that of their native bards ; stract, following the Poem. The story told in those Fragand it is chiefly from them tbat we learn the obscure con ments, will be found to correspond most accurately with tentions which these north-western Britons maintained the tale of Sir Tristrem, as narrated by Thomas of Ercilagainst the Saxon invaders. The disputed frontier, instead doune, while both differ essentially from the French prose of extending across the island, as the more modern division

romance, afterwards published. There seems room to beof England and Scotland, appears to have run longitudi lieve that these fragments were part of a poem, composed nally, from north to south, in an irregular line, beginning (as is believed) by Raoul de Beauvais, who flourished in 1257, at the mountains of Cumberland, including the high grounds about the same time as Thomas of Ercildoune; and shortly of Liddesdale and Teviotdale, together with Ettrick forest after we suppose the latter to have composed bis grand work. and Tweeddale; thus connecting a long tract of mountainous As many Normans had settled in Scotland about this period, country with the head of Clydesdale, the district which it is probable that Thomas's tale was early translated, or gave name to the pelty kingdom.' In this strong and de rather imitated, in the Romance language. The ground fensible country, the natives were long able to maintain for believing that this task was performed by Raoul de Beautheir ground. About 850, the union of the Scots and Picts vais, is his being the supposed author of a romance on the enabled Kenneth and his successors to attack, and, by de- subject of Sir Perceval, preserved in the library of Fougrees, lotally to subdue, the hitherto independent kingdoms cault. The writer announces himself as the author of seof Strathclwyd and Cumbria. But, although they were veral other poems, particularly upon the subject of King thus made to constitute an integral part of what has since Mark and Uselt la Blonde :

1 The vestiges of a huge ditch may be traced from the junction of the it was afterwards taken by the Scots and Picts, when uvited into one people. Cala and ibe Tweed, and running ibence southwestward through the upper Lothian seems finally to base submitted to them about 970. part of Roxborgbsbire, and into Liddesdale. It is called ibe Cat-Rael, or 3

See Essay prefixed to Poems from Maitland Ms. by Mr. Pinkerton. Cat-rail, and has certainly been a landmark betwixt the Gothic invaders,

p. Ivili.; Complaynt of Scolland, Introduction, p. 196. The editor met with w bo possessed the fower country, and ibe indigenous Cells, who were

a, curious instance of what is slated iu the text. Being told of a tradition driven to the mountains. Trodition says, that it was dug to divide the

of a hunter who raised a mighty boar, and pursued bim, from bis Jair on Peghts and Bretts, i.e. Picts and Britons.

the Tarrow, up to St. Mary's Lake, where he was slain, at a place called , or the fornier was Merdwinn Wyllt, or Merlin the Savage, who inha Muichra, he had the curiosity to exomine the derivation of this last name. bited ibe woods of Tweeddale, and was buried at Drummelziar, ( Tumulus It siguities, in Gaelic, The place of the Boar, and seems to attest the truth of Merlini,) near Peebles; also Anewrin, wbo celebrates the bloody combat the tradition. Indeed, most of the names of places in the south-west of bel wist the north-western Britons, and the Saxons of Deiria. The men of Scotland are of British derivation, and are sometimes found to refer to poEdinburgh, in particular, were all cut off ; and it is more than probable, pular traditions yet current, while the narrators are totally ignorant of the ibat the strong fortresses of ibat city first yielded to the Saxons, from wbom evidence (bus afforded to the trail of tbeir story..

" Cil qui fit d'Enee el d'Enide,

E de la verum esliunge. And far distant from the truth.
Et les commandemens d'Ovide,

E se eo ne volent granter, And if they will not admit this,
Et l'art d'aimer en Roman mist,

Ne voil vers eus estriver. I will not strive with them.
Del Roy Mare, et d'Uselt la Blonde,

Gengent le lur, e jo le men: Let them keep their opinion, and I mine .
Et de la Dupe, et de l'Eronde,

La raison si provera ben. The reason of the thing will prove itself.
Et del Rossignol la muance,
Un autre conte commence

I think that the reader will be disposed to admit the Tho-
D'un vallet qui en Gresse fu

mas, mentioned in this passage, to be our bard of ErcelDel linage le Roy Artu." !

dodne. It is true, that the language of the Fragments The author professes to have found the original of the appears to be very ancient, and might, were other evidence history,

wanting, incline us to refer it rather to the 12th than the * Et un des livres de l'aumaire

13th century. But the French language, as spoken in Mousigner S. Pierre à Biauvais."

England, seems to have adopted few improvements from

the continent. This seems to be the principal reason for ascribing the ro

In fact, it remained stationary, or was remance of Perceval to Raoul de Beauvais. But it is pro

trograde; for words were adopted from the English, and, bable that the author of that romance, whoever he was,

consequently, even at its latest period, the Anglo-Norman also wrote Mr. Douce's Fragments. After narrating the

had an antiquated and barbarous cast. Thus it has become adventures of Sir Tristrem, down to his second retreat to

difficult for the best judges to point out any very marked Brittany, there occurs the following most curious passage,

difference betwixt the style of Marie and some parts of concerning the different modes of telling the story:

Wace's translation, though a century occurs betwixt the

date of their poems; consequently, the author of our FragSeignurs, cest cunte est mult di- Lordings, this tale is very differently told;

ments may have only written a rude and animproved, invers;

stead of an obsolete dialect. Chaucer seems to allude to E, pur co, sum par mes nerf, And therefore I am*** / unintelligible, ) the difference of the proper French and the Anglo-Norman, E dis en tant cum est mestier, And tell as much as is necessary,

when he tells us of his prioresse (a lady of ranh) -
E le surplus voil relesser. And will leave the reinainder,
Ne voil pas trop emmi dire. I will not say too much about it.
Ici diverse la malyere, 8o diverse is the matter,

“ Aud Frenche she spake full fayre and festily,

Afier the scole of Stratford alle Bow :
Entre ceus qui solent canter, Among those who are in babit of telling
E de le cunte Tristran parler.

For Freuch of l'arisha was to bire unknowe."
And relating the story of Tristran;
Il en content diversement. They tell it very differently;

The reference to style being thus uncertain, the evidence
Oi en ai de plusur gent; I have beard it from many.
Aser sai que chescun en dil, I know well enough how each tells it,

on the other side must be allowed to countervail it. For, Et co qu il unt mis en escrit. And what they have put in writing. that Thomas of Erceldoune wrote the romance of Sir Ble, selon ce que ja i oij. But, according to what I bave heard,

Tristrem, a work of most extended reputation, is ascerNel dient pas sulun Breri, They do not tell it as Breri does, ki solt les gestes et les contes, Who knew the gestes and the tales

tained by Robert de Brunne: That he flourished in the 13th Detus les reis, de tus les cuntes, of all the kings and all the earls,

century, is proved by written evidence: That the tale, as ki orent éste en Bretagne, Who had been in Brittany,

told in the Fragments, corresponds exactly with the edition E sur quelut de cestouraingne. And about the w bole of this story (ouvrage) Plusurs de nos granter ne voleot Many of us (minstrets) will not allow

now published, while they both differ widely from every Ce que del naim dire se solent Wbat others tell of (Tristran the) dwarl, other work upon the same subject, is indisputable. As the hi femme Kaberdin dut aimer. Wbo is said to have been in love wiib the one, therefore, is aflirmed to be the work of Thomas, and the wise of haberdin.

other refers to a Thomas who composed such a work, the Li daim redut Tristran nairer, That dwarf caused Tristran to be wounded E entusebè pas grant engin And poisoned, by great artifice,

connexion betwixt them is completely proved, and the asQuant of afolé Kaherdin. When die had occasioned haberdin to grow certained period of Thomas's existence may be safely held mad.

as a landmark for fixing the date of the fragments, notPur cest plaie, e pur cest mal, On account of this wound and this disease,

withstanding the obsolete language in which they are Enveiad Tristran Guvernal, Trisiran sent Gouvernail En Engleterre pur Isolt. Into England for Isolt.

wrillen. Themas, ico, granter ne volt: Thomas, however, will not admit this: Assuming, therefore, that Thomas of Erceldoune is the El ni volt, par raison, mustier And undertakes to prove, by arguments,

person referred to by the contemporary French author, it Quico de put pas esteer. That this could not be. Cist fust par tut la part concus, Be (Gouvernail) was known all over those will be diflicult to give any other reason for the high auparts,

thority which the minstrel assigns to bim, than bis having E par fut le regne sius, And throughout tbe kingdom,

had immediate access to the Celtic traditions concerning Qui de l'amur ert parjuuers, As being privy to the love of Tristran and

Sir Tristrem, with which the Anglo-Norman romancers Ysoll,) Et enrers Ysolt messagers. And often employed on messages to Isolt. were unacquainted. The author of the Fragments quotes Il reis l'eu haiel mult forment; The king hated him for it mortally; the authority of Breri, apparently an Armorican, to whom Guaiter le feseit à sa gent, And caused him to be watched by his peo

were known all the tales of the Kings and Earls of Britple. Ecument put ii dunc venir Now then could be come

tany; and with equal propriety he might refer to Thomas Sun service à la curt offrir, To offer his service to the court,

of Erceldoune, as living in the vicinity of wbat had been a A le rei, al baruns, al jerjaus, To the king, to the barons, and sergeants,

British kingdom, where, perhaps, was still spoken the lanCom fust estrange marchant? As if he had been a stranger merchant? Que home issi conclus That a mau so known there

guage in which the seals of Sir Tristrem were first sung. Ni fud mult lost aperceus, Should not have been immediately per But it is plain, thal, had Thomas translated from the French, ceived,

the Anglo-Norman minstrel would have had no occasion Ne sai coment il se gardast, I do not know how he could have pre

to refer to a translator, when the original was in his own vented, Ne cument Ysolt amenast. Nur bow he could carry over Ysolt.

language, and within his immediate reach. What attached Il sunt del cunte for peise, They are involved in a very foolish tale, authenticity lo Tbomas's work seems, therefore, to have

' Tbe late ingenious Mr. Ritson was led to ascribe the romance above quoted, and, consequently, the poem, Del Roy Marc el d'Yseult la Blonde, to Chrestien de Troyes, who lived long before Thomas of Erceldoune. Ancient Metrical Romances, Introductory Dissertation, p. xlifi. But that industrious antiquary was led into the error, by Chrestien being ibe author of a yet more ancient romance upon the same subject of Perceval, but dif

ferent from that mentioned in the text. This work is mentioned by Fauchet, wbo seems never to have seen it, and is quoted in Gallaod's Essay, as totally distinct from that wbich Is ascribed to liaoul de Beauvais, and considerably more ancient. Mem. de l'Acad. des Inscriptions, tom. ii. ff. 675, 680.

been the purity of his British materials, by which he brought derstand the Latin of the cloister, or the Anglo-Norman of back to its original simplicity, a story, which had been al- the court. Even when the language was gradually potered and perverted into a thousand forms, by the diseurs Jisbed, and became fit for the purposes of the minstrels, the of Normandy.

indolence or taste of that race of poets induced them, and But what may be allowed to put our doubts at rest, is those who wrote for their use, to prefer translating the Anthe evidence of Gotfried von Strasburgh, a German min- glo-Norman and French romances, which bad stood the strel of the 13th century, who compiled a prodigiously long test of years, to the more precarious and laborious task of metrical romance on the subject of Sir Tristrem. This original composition. It is the united opinion of Warton, author, like the French diseur, affirms, that many of his Tyrwhytt, and Ritson, that there exists no English romance, profession told the celebrated tale of Sir Tristrem imper- prior to the days of Chaucer, which is not a translation of fectly and incorrectly; but that he himself derived his au some earlier French one. thority from "Thomas of Britannia, master of the art of While these circumstances operated to retard the imromance, who had read, the bistory in British books, and provement of the English language in England itself, there knew the lives of all the fords of the land, and made them is great reason to believe, that in the Lowlands of Scotland known to us." Gotfried adds, that he sought Thomas's its advances were more rapid. The Saxon kingdom of Bernarrative diligently, both in French and Latin books, and nicia was not limited by the Tweed, but extended, at least at length fortunately discovered it. In another place he occasionally, as far northward as the Frith of Forth. The appeals to the authority of Thomas concerning the domi- fertile plains of Berwickshire, and the Lothians, were inhanions of Raveline, (the Roland of Thomas,) which he says bited by a race of Anglo-Saxons, whose language reconsisted of Parmenic, (Armenie,) and of a separate terri- sembled that of the Belgic tribes whom they had conquered, tory held of Duke Morgan, to whom the Scots were then and this blended speech contained, as it were, the original subject. Heinrich von Vribere, the continuator of Got-materials of the English tongue. Beyond the Friths of fried's narrative, also quotes the authority of Thomas of Forth and of Tay, was the principal seat of the Picts, a Britannia, whose work seems to have been known to him Gothic tribe,« if we can trust the best authorities, who through the medium of a Lombard or Italian translation.' spoke a dialect of the Teutonic, different from the AngloAn account of these German romances, which the Editor Saxon, and apparently more allied to the Belgic. This owes to the friendship of Mr. Henry Weber, is subjoined people falling under the dominion of the Kings of Scots, the to the analysis of the French fragments. The references united forces of those nations weenched from the Sasons, which they contain to the authority of Thomas of Britannia, first, the province of the Lothians; finally, that of Berwickserve to ascertain his original property in the poem of Sir shire, and even part of Northumberland itself. But, as the Tristrem.

victors spoke a language similar to that of the vanquished, In the second place, if Thomas of Erceldoune did not it is probable that no great alteration took place in that translate from the French, but composed an original poem, particular, the natives of the south-eastern border contifounded upon Celtic tradition, it will follow, that the first nuing to use the Anglo-Saxon, qualified by the Pictish diaclassical English romance was written in part of what is lect, and to bear the name of Angles. Hence, many of our now called Scotland; and the altentive reader will find Scottish monarchs' charters are addressed Fidelibus suis some reason to believe that our language received the first Scottis et Anglis, the latter being the inhabitants of Lorudiments of improvement in the very corner where it now thian and the Merse. See Macpherson's excellent Notes on exists in its most debased state.:

Wintoun, vol. ii, p. 476, Diplomata, pp. 6, 8, IndepenIn England, it is now generally admitted, that, after the dence, Appendix 2d. The Scots, properly and restrictively, Norman conquest, while the Saxon language was aban meant the Northern Caledonians, who spoke Gaelic; but doned to the lowest of the people, and while the conque- generally used, as in these charters, that name includes the rors only deigned to employ their native French, the mixed Picts, with whom they were now united, and all inbabitants language, now called English, only existed as a kind of of Scotland north of the Friths of Clyde and Forth. In lingua franca, to conduct the necessary intercourse be- | Strath Clwyd, and in the ancient Reged, the Britons were tween the victors and the vanquished. It was not till the gradually blended with the Scoto-Angles of Lothian and reign of Henry III. that this dialect had assumed a shape Berwickshire, and adopted their language. Here, therefit for the purposes of the poct; 3 and even then, it is most sore, was a tract of country including all the south of Scolprobable that English poetry, if any such existed, was aban land, into which the French or Romance language was boned to the peasants and menials, wbile all, who aspired never so forcibly introduced. The oppression of the Norabove the vulgar, listened to the lais of Marie, the ro man monarchs, and the frequency of civil wars, drove, it mances of Chrestien de Troyes, or the interesting fabliaux is true, many of their nobility into exile in Scotland; and, of the Anglo-Norman trouveurs. The only persons who upon other occasions, the auxiliary valour of these warlike ventured to use the native language of the country in lite- strangers was invoked by our Scottish kings, to aid their rary compositions, were certain monkish annalists, who restoration, or secure their precarious dominions. Twice usually think it necessary to inform us, that they conde within three years, namely, in 1094 and 1097, the forces scended to so degrading a task out of pure charity, lowliness of the Anglo-Normans aided Duncan and Edgar, the sons of spirit, and love to the "lewd men” who could not un of Malcolm, lo expel from the Scottish throne the usurper

3

'[The words are,

"! Begonde ich sere suchen

Jn beider hande buchen

Welschin und Latineu." etc. And Worton's Editor renders Welschin by foreign--books in any verpacular tougue pot German, p. 192. In the modern usage of Germany, Walsh means Italian, i.e. the language of Cisalpine Gaul, wherever it does not mean the Cellic of our Wales. ]

2 ( The curious o'd English Romance of llav lok the Dane bas been re

cently recovered, and its learned editor, Mr. Madden, appears to have prored it to be as old as the reign of Edward I., and written by a mouk of Lincoln. 1833 - Ep.)

See Ellis's Specimens, vol. I, chap. Jil. 4 since the first publication of this romance, the Gothic descent of the Pictish nation has been very ably combated in the Caledonia of Mr. Chalmers. So little of the Edilor's argument rests upon this point, that he is fortunately not called upon to discuss a question of such obscurily against so able av opponent.

« PreviousContinue »