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Notes.] Almeryes in the English, and l’Amere, properly aumeire
* * , in the French, mean, I believe, Presses, Chests, or Archives.
Ambry, in this sense, is not an uncommon old English word. From the second part of the first French quotation which I have distinguished by Italics, it appears, that Walter Mapes", a learned archdeacon in England, under the reign of king Henry the Second, wrote a French SANGREAL, which he translated from Latin, by the command of that monarch. Under the idea, that Walter Mapes was a writer on this subject, and in the fabulous way, some critics may be induced to think, that the WALTER, archdeacon of Oxford, from whom Geoffrey of Monmouth professes to have received the materials of his history, was this Walter Mapes, and not Walter Calenius, who was also an eminent scholar, and an archdeacon of Oxford. [See supr. p. 69.] Geoffrey says in his Dedication to Robert earl of Gloucester, “Finding nothing said in Bede or Gildas of king Arthur and his successours, although their actions highly deserved to be recorded in writing, and are orally celebrated by the British bards, I was much surprised at so strange an omission. At length Walter, archdeacon of Oxford, a man of great eloquence, and learned in foreign histories, offered me an ancient book in the British or Armorican tongue; which, in one unbroken story, and an elegant diction, related the deeds of the British kings from Brutus to Cadwallader. At his request, although unused to rhetorical flourishes, and contented with the simplicity of my own plain language, I undertook the translation of that book into Latin.” B. i. ch. i. See also B. xii. ch. xx. Some writers suppose, that Geoffrey pretended to have received his materials from archdeacon Walter, by way of authenticating his romantic history. These notices seem to disprove that suspicion. In the year 1488, a French romance was published, in two magnificent folio volumes, entitled, HisTonRE de RoY ARTUs et des CHEvALIERs de la TABLE RoNDE. The first volume was printed at Rouen, the second at Paris. It contains in four detached parts, the Birth and Achievements of King Arthur, the Life of Sir Lancelot, the Adventure of the Sangreal, and the Death of Arthur, and his Knights. In the body of the work, this romance more than once is said to be written by Walter Map or Mapes, and by the command of his master king Henry. For instance, tom. ii. at the end of PARTIE DU SAINT GRAAL, Signat. d di. * Cy fine Maistre GUALTIER MAP son traittie du Saint Graal." Again, tom. ii. LA DERNIERE PARTIE, ch. i. Signat. d dii. * Apres ce que Maistre GUALTIER MAP eut tractie des avantures du Saint Graal, assez soufisamment,sicomme illuy sembloit, il fut ad adviz au Roy HENRY soN sEIGNEUR, que ce quil avoit fait ne debuit soufrire sil ne racontoys la fin de ceulx dont il fait mention.—Et commence Maistre Gualtier en telle manier ceste derniere partie." This derniere partie treats of the death of king Arthur and his knights. At the end of the second tome there is this colophon : * Cy fine le dernier volume de La Table Ronde, faisant mencion des fais et proesses de monseigneur Launcelot du Lac et dautres plusieurs nobles et vaillans hommes ses compagnons. Compile et extraict precisement et au juste des vrayes histoires faisantes de ce mencion par tresmotable et tresexpert historien Maistre GUALTIER MAP, et imprime a Paris par Jehan du Pre. Et lan du grace, mil. cccc. iiiixx. et viii. le xvi jour du Septembre." The passage quoted above from the royal manuscript in the British Museum, where king Arthur orders the adventures of the Sangreal to be chronicled, is thus represented in this romance. * Et quant Boort eut compte depuis le commencement jusques a la fin les avantures du Saint Graal telles comme ils les avoit veues, &c. Si fist le roy Artus rediger et mettre par escript aus dictz clers tout ci que Boort avoit compte," &c. Ibid. tom. ii. La Partie du SAINT GRAAL, ch. ult. " At the end of the royal manuscript at Paris, [Cod.
* [From a passage in the French ro- chevalier le roi.” But so much confusion mance of Lancelot du Lac, M. Roque- prevails upon this subject, that it is alfort is of opinion that there were two most impossible to name the author of persons of this name. In that he is any prose romance.—Edit.] styled “messire Gautier Map qui fut
" Just before it is said, * Le roy tures aux chevalliers mettoient en Artus fist venir les cLERcs qui les aven- escript.'' As in MoRT D'ARTHUR, |
6783.] entitled LANcelot du LAc mis en François par Robert de Borron par le commandement de Henri roi d'Angleterre, it is said, that Messire Robert de Borron translated into French, not only Lascelot, but also the story of the SAINT GRAALI tout du Latin du GAUTIER MAPPE. But the French antiquaries in this sort of literature are of opinion, that the word Latin, here signifies Italian; and that by this LATIN of Gualtier Mapes, we are to understand English versions of those romances made from the Italian language. The French History of the SANGREAL, printed at Paris in folio by Gallyot du Pré in 1516, is said, in the title, to be translated from Latin into French rhymes, and from thence into French prose by Robert Borron. This romance was reprinted in 1523. Caxton's Monte ARTHUR, finished in the year 1469, professes to treat of various separate histories. But the matter of the whole is so much of the same sort, and the heroes and adventures of one story are so mutually and perpetually blended with those of another, that no real unity or distinction is preserved. It consists of twenty-one books. The first seven books treat of king Arthur. The eighth, ninth, and tenth, of sir Trystram. The eleventh and twelfth, of sir Lancelot". The thirteenth of the SAINGRAL, which is also called sir Lancelot's Book. The fourteenth of sir Percival. The fifteenth, again, of sir Launcelot. The sixteenth of sir Gawaine. The seventeenth, of sir Galahad. [But all the four last-mentioned books are also called the historye of the holy Sancgreall.] The eighteenth and nineteenth, of miscellaneous adventures. The two last, of king Arthur and all the knights. Lwhyd mentions a Welsh SANGREALL, which, he says, contains various fables of king Arthurr and his knights, &c. ARCHAEoLog. BRIT. Tit. vii. p. 265. col. 2. MoRTE ARTHUR is often literally translated from various and very antient detached histories of the heroes of the round table, which I have examined; and on the
whole, it nearly resembles Walter Map's romance above mentioned, printed at Rouen and Paris, both in matter and disposition. I take this opportunity of observing, that a very valuable vellum fragment of LE BRUT, of which the writing is uncommonly beautiful and of high antiquity, containing part of the story of Merlin and king Vortigern, covers a manuscript of Chaucer's AstroLABE, lately presented, together with several Oriental manuscripts, to the Bodleian library, by Thomas Hedges, esquire, of Alderton in Wiltshire; a gentleman possessed of many curious manuscripts, and Greek and Roman
coins, and most liberal in his communications.
VOL. I. M
WARIOUS matters suggested by the Prologue of Richard cueur DE Lyon, cited in the last section, have betrayed us into a long digression, and interrupted the regularity of our annals. But I could not neglect so fair an opportunity of preparing the reader for those metrical tales, which, having acquired a new cast of fiction from the Crusades and a magnificence of manners from the increase of chivalry, now began to be greatly multiplied, and as it were professedly to form a separate species of poetry. I now therefore resume the series, and proceed to give some specimens of the English metrical romances which appeared before or about the reign of Edward the Second: and although most of these pieces continued to be sung by the minstrels in the halls of our magnificent ancestors for some centuries afterwards, yet as their first appearance may most probably be dated at this period, they properly coincide in this place with the tenour of our history. In the mean time, it is natural to suppose, that by frequent repetition and successive changes of language during many generations, their original simplicity must have been in some degree corrupted. Yet some of the specimens are extracted from manuscripts written in the reign of Edward the Third. Others indeed from printed copies, where the editors took great liberties in accommodating the language to the times. However, in such as may be supposed to have suffered most from depravations of this sort, the substance of the ancient style still remains, and at least the structure of the story. On the whole, we mean to give the reader an idea of those popular heroic tales in verse, professedly written for the harp, which began to be multiplied among us about the beginning of the fourteenth century. We will begin with the romance of Richard cue UR DELYoN, already mentioned.