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more poets remain to be mentioned under the reign of Henry the Sixth, if mere translation merit that appellation. These are Hugh Campeden and Thomas Chester.
The first was a great traveller, and translated into English verse the French romance of SIDRAC8. This translation, a book of uncommon rarity, was printed with the following title, at the expence of Robert Saltwood, a monk of saint Austin's convent at Canterbury, in the year 1510. “The Historie of king Boccus and SYDRACKE how he confoundyd his lerned men, and in the sight of them dronke stronge venyme in the name of the trinite and dyd him no hurt. Also his divynite that he lerned of the boke of Noe. Also his profesyes that he had by revelation of the angel. Also his aunsweris to the questyons of wysdom both morall and naturall with muche wysdom contayned in [the] noumber cccLxv. Translated by Hugo of Caumpeden out of French into Englisshe,” &c. h There is no sort of elegance in the diction, nor harmony in the versification. It is in the minstrel-metre. i
& See supr. vol. i. p. 147.
The kynge Bochus hym be thought * With a wooden cut of Bocchus, and That he would have a citee wrought Sidracke. There is a fine manuscript of The rede Jewes fro hym spere this translation, Bibl. Bodl. MSS. Laud. And for to mayntene his were G. 57. pergam.
A yenst a kyng that was hys foo i MS. Laud. G. 57. Princip. And hath moste of Inde longyng liym too. Men may fynde in olde bookes
His name was Garaab the kyng Who soo yat in them lookes
Bocchus tho proved all this thing
And smartly a towre begenne he
Of Garabys londe the kyng
And all that they wroghten on day
On night was hit done away After the tyme of Noce even
On morn when Bochus hit berde VIIJ' hundied yere fourty and seven Hee was wrcth that hit so ferde
Thomas Chestre appears also to have been a writer for the minstrels. No anecdote of his life is preserved. He has left a poem entitled Sir LAUNFAL, one of Arthur's knights: who is celebrated with other champions in a set of French metrical tales or romances, written by some Armorican bard, under the name of LanvaLk. They are in the British Museum."
And dyd hyt all new begynne
And knyghtes that wer profitable, At even whan they shuld blynne
With Artour of the rounde table,
Never noon better ther was.
Syr Kay, and syr Ewayn,
That well couthe fyghte yn plain,
Bateles for to take.
of ham ther was a greet los,
Whereof a noble tale Afterwards king Tractabare is requested Among us schall a-wake.
With Artour ther was a bacheler to send
And hadde y-be well many a yer, the booke of astronomye LAUNFAL for sohts he hyght, That whilom Noe had in baylye, He gaf gyftys largelyche together with his astronomer Sidracke.
Gold and sylver and clodes ryche,
To squyer and to knyght. At the end.
For hys largesse and hys bountè And that Hugh of Campedene The kynges stuward made was he That this boke hath thorogh soght Ten yer y you plyght, And untoo Englyssh ryme hit brought. Of alle the knyghtes of the table rounde Sidrake, who is a Christian, at length Be dayes ne be nyght
So large ther was noyn y-founde, builds the tower in Nomine S. Trinitatis, and he teaches Bocchus, who is an ido
So hyt befyll yn the tenthe yer later, many articles of true religion. He radde hym for to wende
Marlyn was Artours counsalere, The only manuscript I have seen of this To kyng Ryon of Irlond ryght, translation is among MSS. Laud. G. 57.
And fette him ther a lady bryght fol. ut supr.
Gwennere hys doughtyr hende, &c. * It begins thus.
In the conclusion.
Thomas CHESTRE made thys tale That held Engelond yn good lawes,
Of the noble knyght syr Launfale Ther fell a wondyr cas,
Good of chyvalrye: Of a ley' that was ysette,
Jhesus that ys hevene kyng That hyght LAUNVAL and hatte yette.
Yeve us alle hys blessyng Now herkeneth how hyt was ;
And hys modyr Marye. Dougbty Artour som whyle
ExplicIT LAUNFALL. Sojournede yn Kardevyle”,
Never printed. MSS. Cotton. CALIG. Wyth joye and greet solas,
A. 2. f. 33. I am obliged to doctor
liege, (lay. ]
: or, Kerdevyle. f. Caerlislc.
I think I have seen some evidence to prove, that Chestre was also the author of the metrical romance called the ERLE of THOLOUSEm. This is one of the romances called Lais by the poets of Britany, or Armorica : as appears from these lines,
In romance this gest
A LEYn of Britain callyd I wys, &c. And that it is a translation, appears from the reference to an original, “ The Romans telleth so.” I will however give the outlines of the story, which is not uninteresting, nor inartificially constructed.
Dioclesian, a powerful emperour in Germany, has a rupture with Barnard earl of Tholouse, concerning boundaries of territory. Contrary to the repeated persuasions of the empress, who is extremely beautiful, and famous for her conjugal fidelity, he meets the earl, with a nuinerous army, in a pitched battle, to decide the quarrel. The earl is victorious, and carries home a great multitude of prisoners, the most respectable of which is sir Tralabas of Turky, whom he treats as his companion. In the midst of their festivities they talk of the beauties of the empress; the earl's curiosity is inflamed to see so matchless à lady, and he promises liberty to sir Tralabas, if he can be conducted unknown to the emperour's court, and obtain a sight of her without discovery. They both set forward, the earl disguised like a hermit. When they arrive at the emperour's court, sir Tralabas proves false: treacherously imparts the secret Percy for this transcript. It was after Lefe frendys I shall you telle wards altered into the romance of sir Of a tale that sometyme befell LAMBWELL. (This Romance forms a part Far in unkouthe lande, of Mr. Ritson's collection, from whose Howe a lady had grete myschefe, &c. transcript the text has been corrected. Under the title of Sir Lambwell it occurs [A copy from the Camb. MS. has in bishop Percy's folio MS.-Edit.]
since been published by Mr. Ritson, I MSS. Harl. 978. 112. fol. i. 154. In orthography it varies considerably
from the Ashmole MS., and is evidently “ En Bretains l'apelent LAUNVAL.”
of an earlier date.-Edit.) See a note at the beginning of Diss. i.
Perhaps ley in the fourth line of sir Never printed. MSS. Ashmol. Launfal may mean Lay in this sense. Oxon. 45. 4to. (6926. ] And MSS. More. See note at the beginning of the First Camb. 27. Princip.
DISSERTATION. (See Note A. at the end Jesu Crist in trinite,
of the Section.] Only god in persons thre, &c.
to the empress that he has brought with him the earl of Tholouse in disguise, who is enamoured of her celebrated beauty; and proposes to take advantage of so fair an opportunity of killing the emperour's great and avowed enemy. She rejects the proposal with indignation, injoyns the knight not to communicate the secret any farther, and desires to see the earl next day in the chapel at mass. The next day the earl in his hermits weeds is conveniently placed at mass. At leaving the chapel, he asks an alms of the empress; and she gives him forty florins and a ring. He receives the present of the ring with the highest satisfaction, and although obliged to return home, in point of prudence, and to avoid detection, comforts himself with this reflection.
Well is me, I have thy grace,
This may be a TOKENYNG. He then returns home. The emperour is called into some distant country; and leaves his consort in the custody of two knights, who attempting to gain her love without success, contrive a stratagem to defame her chastity. She is thrown into prison, and the emperour returns unexpectedly', in consequence of a vision. The tale of the two treacherous knights is believed, and she is sentenced to the flames: yet under the restriction, that if a champion can be found who shall foil the two knights in battle, her honour shall be cleared, and her life saved. A challenge is published in all parts of the world; and the earl of Tholouse, notwithstanding the animosities which still subsist between him and the emperour, privately undertakes her quarrel. He appears at the emperour's court in the habit of
• The emperour's disappointment is How farys that byrd so bryght? thus described.
The traytors answeryd anon, Anon to the chamber went he,
And ye wist how she had done, &c.He longyd sore his wyf to se,
The yonge knyght sir Artour, That was so swete a wyght:
That was her hervour, &c. He cally theym that shulde her kepe,
For bale his armys abrode he sprede, Where is my wif is she on slepe ?
And fell in swoone on his bed.
press, in her
a monk, and obtains permission to act as confessor to the em
critical situation. In the course of the confession, she protests that she was always true to the emperour ; yet owns that once she gave a ring to the earl of Tholouse. The supposed confessor pronounces her innocent of the charge brought against her; on which one of the traiterous knights affirms, that the monk was suborned to publish this confession, and that he deserved to be consumed in the same fire which was prepared for the lady. The monk pretending that the honour of his religion and character was affected by this insinuation, challenges both the knights to combat: they are conquered; and the empress, after this trial, is declared innocent. He then openly discovers himself to be the earl of Tholouse, the emperour's antient enemy. A solemn reconciliation ensues. The earl is appointed seneschal of the emperour's domain. The emperour lives only three years, and the earl is married to the empress.
In the execution of this performance, our author was obliged to be concise, as the poem was intended to be sung to the harp. Yet, when he breaks through this restraint, instead of dwelling on some of the beautiful situations which the story affords, he is diffuse in displaying trivial and unimportant circumstances. These popular poets are never so happy, as when they are describing a battle or a feast.
It will not perhaps be deemed impertinent to observe that about this period the minstrels were often more amply paid than the clergy. In this age, as in more enlightened times, the people loved better to be pleased than instructed. During many of the years of the reign of Henry the Sixth, particularly in the year 1430, at the annual feast of the fraternity of the Holie Crosse at Abingdon, a town in Berkshire, twelve priests each received four pence for singing a dirge: and the same number of minstrels were rewarded each with two shillings and four pence, beside diet and horse-meat. Some of these minstrels came only from Maydenhithe, or Maidenhead, a town at no great distance in the same county. In the year 1441, eight
P Hearne's Lih. Nig. Scacc. Aprend, p. 598.