The Mabinogion, tr. by Lady Charlotte Guest, , at sacred-texts.com
81a PEREDUR.--Page 81.
OF the real history of Peredur, nothing is known. It is probable that he fell in the battle of Cattraeth, in the beginning of the 6th century, as Aneurin mentions a chieftain of this name among the slain.
"Warriors marched forth,--unanimously they bounded forward;--
Short-lived were they,--they had revelled over the flowing mead;
The host of Mynyddawc renowned in battle;
Their life was the price of their banquet.
Caradawc, and Madawc, Pyll, and Yeuan,
Gwgawn, and Gwiawn, Gwynn, and Kynvan,
Peredur of steel arms, Gwawrdur, and Aedan.
A defence in the tumult, a shield in the conflict;
When they were slain they also slaughtered.
None to his home returned."
Peredur is frequently alluded to by the Bards of the Middle Ages, in terms illustrative of the high esteem in which his deeds of prowess then were held. Gruffydd ab Meredydd, who flourished about the end of the 13th century, in his Elegy on Tudur ap Goronwy, one of the ancestors of the House of Tudor, thus mentions him:--
"O Bountiful Creator of the radiant sun and waning moon,
Sad is the fall of the chief of valiant deeds,
Eagle of the battle-charge, equal to Peredur,
Tudor, assaulter of the Angles, he who never shunned the fight."
In the old Romances, as Morte d'Arthur, &c., be is celebrated, under the name of Perceval, as one of those engaged in the quest of the Sangreal, in which character he is also spoken of in the Triads, together with Bort, the son of the King of that name, and Galath, the son of Lancelot du Lac.--Tri. lxi. Myv. Ar. II. 14.
Like Owain, his exploits were sung by Chrestiens de Troyes, and they also form the subject of romantic compositions in German, and in other languages of Northern Europe. Our own Chaucer alludes to him in his Rime of Sire Thopas, Cant. Tales, 1384-5--
Himself drank water of the well,
As did the Knight, Sire Percivell,
So worthy under wede."
81b ATTENDING TOURNAMENTS.--Page 81.
WE find various instances of knights, who made it a practice to resort to Tournaments as a lucrative occupation; for, on those occasions, not only the home and arms of the vanquished frequently became the property of the victor, but the prizes contested for were often of so valuable a nature as greatly to enrich those who were fortunate enough to win them. Sometimes they consisted of diamonds and precious stones, and sometimes even of the revenues of different domains. 1 In the Romance of Ipomydon, "a thousand pound" is the guerdon bestowed on the successful combatant. Our Henry the VII. proposed a ring of gold, set with a ruby, and another set with a diamond, as the reward of the knights who should be victorious at a Tournament at which he was to be present. 2 And there is a characteristic story on record of the Chevalier Bayard, who being the conqueror on one of these occasions, refused to take the prize, which was a ruby worth a hundred ducats attached to a lady's
sleeve, saying that the honour of the victory was entirely due to the sleeve, for which he had contended. The ruby was accordingly presented to the knight who had acquitted himself best after Bayard, and the lady herself resumed possession of the sleeve, declaring that after what Bayard had said, she should keep it all her life for his sake. 1
81c WARS AND COMBATS.--Page 81.
FROM this passage we may probably infer that Evrawc was one of those knights who, during the Middle Ages, ranked themselves under the banners of such princes as were disposed to engage their services. Many of these adventurers were held in high estimation, and Froissart, in speaking of Sir John Hawkwood, who was one of the most distinguished of them, calls him "a right valiant English knight who had performed many most gallant deeds of arms." He gives the following account of Hawkwood's progress, from which an idea may be formed of the emoluments that accrued to those mercenary bands, and of the manner in which they were employed.
"He had left France at the conclusion of the peace of Bretigny, and was at that time a poor knight, who thought it would not be of any advantage to him to return home; but when he saw, that by the treaties, all men-at-arms would be forced to leave France, he put himself at the head of those free companions called late-comers, and marched into Burgundy. Several such companions, composed of English, Gascons, Bretons, Germans, and of men from every nation, were collected there. Hawkwood was one of the principal leaders, with Bricquet and Carnelle, by whom the battle of Brignais was fought, and who aided Bernard de la Salle to take the Pont du St. Esprit.
"When they had harassed the country for some time, the marquis de Montferrat made a treaty with them to assist him in his war with the lords of Milan. This marquis led them over the Alps, after he had paid them sixty thousand francs, of which Hawkwood received, for himself and his troops, ten thousand. When they had finished the war for the marquis, the greater part of them returned to France; for sir Bertrand du Guesclin, the lords de la Marche, de Beaujeu, and sir Arnold d'Andreghen, marshal of France, wished to lead them into Spain, to don Henry de Trastamare, against don Pedro, king of Spain.
Sir John Hawkwood and his companions remained in Italy, and
were employed by pope Urban as long as he lived, in his wars in the Milanese. Pope Gregory, successor to Urban, engaged him in the same manner. Sir John had also a profitable employment, under the lord de Coucy, against the count de Vertus and his barons; in which, some say, the lord de Coucy would have been slain, if sir John Hawkwood had not come to his assistance with five hundred combatants, which he was solely induced to do because the lord de Coucy had married one of the king of England's daughters. This sir John Hawkwood was a knight much inured to war, which he had long followed, and had gained great renown in Italy from his gallantry.
"The Romans, therefore, and Urban, who called himself pope, resolved, on Clement leaving Italy, to send for Hawkwood, and appoint him commander-in-chief of all their forces: they made him large offers of retaining him and his whole troop at a handsome subsidy, which he accepted, and acquitted himself loyally for it."--Johnes's Froissart, 4to. II. c. 97.
82a THEY ARE ANGELS, MY SON.--Page 82.
INCIDENTS similar to that in the text are of frequent occurrence in the old Romances. St. John of Damascus, a Greek writer of the 8th century, has a story of a youth brought up in utter ignorance of all worldly affairs, in order to evade a prophecy which existed against him. Here, however, the compliment paid by Peredur's mother to the knights, in calling them Angels, is far from being returned to her sex. For, in describing to him all the objects he meets on his first going out, and mixing with the world, the Greek writer makes the young man's father apply an appellation to the ladies, which is the very reverse of angelic.
There is another story to the same effect, in a Latin Collection of Materials for composing Sermons, by John Herolt, sirnamed Discipulus, a Dominican friar of Basil, who flourished about 1450. 1
From these the idea has been adopted and worked up by the Italian novelist.
83a POSSESS THYSELF OF IT, AND GIVE IT TO ANOTHER.--Page 83.
THE ideas of liberality entertained in the days of Chivalry were often widely at variance with every principle of justice. That the advice given to Peredur by his mother was consistent with the
feelings of the day, may be gathered from various passages in the works of contemporary writers. An amusing anecdote, illustrative of this, is thus quoted by Mr. Hallam, from Joinville's celebrated History of St. Louis.
"He is speaking of Henry count of Champagne, who acquired, says he, very deservedly, the sirname of Liberal, and adduces the following proof of it:--
A poor knight implored of him on his knees one day as much money as would serve to marry his two daughters. One Arthault de Nogent, a rich burgess, willing to rid the count, of this importunity, but rather awkward, we must own, in the turn of big argument, said to the petitioner: My lord has already given away so much that he has nothing left. Sir Villain, replied Henry, turning round to him, you do not speak truth, in saying that I have nothing left to give, when I have got yourself. Here, Sir Knight, I give you this man and warrant your possession of him. Then, says Joinville, the poor knight was not at all confounded, but seized hold of the burgess fast by the collar, and told him he should not go till he had ransomed himself. And in the end he was forced to pay a ransom of five hundred pounds. The simple-minded writer who brings this evidence of the count of Champagne's liberality is not at all struck with the facility of a virtue that is exercised at the cost of others." 1
85a THROUGH MAGIC OR CHARMS.--Page 85.
THE dread of supernatural agency has in all ages exerted a powerful influence over the human mind. Even in the present day, instances are not wanting of men of the most approved natural courage, quailing with fear at the idea of an invisible enemy. It must, therefore, not be surprising, if, in less enlightened times, we find this superstitious feeling interfering still more generally with the common affairs of life. So decidedly was it acknowledged in the Middle Ages, that a solemn oath was required to be taken by every knight previous to his engaging in wager of battle, that he did not bear about him any charm or spell, and that he was not protected by magic or enchantment.
86b THIS IRON COAT.--Page 86.
IN the English version, Perceval, after several vain attempts to
disencumber the dead knight of his armour, betakes himself to rather a curious expedient for effecting his object:--
"He sayd my moder bad me,
When my dart solde broken be,
Owte of ye Iren bren ye tree
Now es me fyre ynede.
Now he getis hȳ flynt,
His fyre Iren he hent,
And yen wt owtten any stynt,
He kyndilt a glede."
86a BETWEEN THE NECK AND THE SHOULDER.--Page 86.
IT should seem that this was a favourite point of attack in the energetic encounters of those days; for in the Morte d'Arthur we meet with a similar expression to the above. It is stated, that when Arthur first assumed the government of Britain, several kings and knights would not acknowledge his authority, and assembled in order to oppose him. Believing their visit to have a friendly object, he sent them many valuable presents, which they refused to accept, rebuking "the messagers shamefully," and sending Arthur "word, they wold none of his yeftes. But that they were come to gyue hym yeftes with hard swerdys betwixt the neck and the sholders."--B. I. c. 8.
89a STAPLE.--Page 89.
THIS was, probably, a staple for fastening horses to, as it is well known that the horses were often brought into the hall among the guests. In the account of the thirteen rarities of the Island of Britain, as enumerated in an unpublished MS. in the possession of Mr. Justice Bosanquet, it is said that one chieftain had the staple for holding his horse at the foot of his bed.
"The halter of Clydno Eiddyn, which was in a staple below the feet of his bed; and whatever horse he wished for in it, he would find there."
90a SPEAR OF MIGHTY SIZE.--Page 90.
IN the French version of this tale, the spear here alluded to is said to have been the Holy Lance, and with it is brought in the celebrated Sangreal. The latter was the great object of research with the Knights of the Round Table, and its recovery was ultimately
achieved by Perceval of Wales, the Peredur ab Evrawc of Welsh Romance.
94a THE THIRD PART.--Page 94.
THIS apportionment is strictly in accordance with ancient Welsh customs; for by the Laws of Howel Dda, it appears the Master of the Royal Household and the Steward (Penteulu and Distein), were each entitled to a third part of certain fines there mentioned; to express which portion the same word (trayan) is used as in the present tale.
98a GWALCHMAI.--Page 98.
GWALCHMAI'S reputation for courtesy and eloquence is here admirably kept up, and we find him fully entitled to the appellation of the Golden Tongued, so poetically bestowed upon him in the Triads. No less faithfully is Kai's character for the very opposite quality of detraction sustained.
100a ANGHARAD LAW EURAWC.--Page 100.
THIS name literally signifies Angharad with the Golden Hand, an epithet which was most probably bestowed on her, to designate her liberality.
100b SPEAK A WORD TO ANY CHRISTIAN AGAIN.--Page 100.
DURING the days of Chivalry, vows for the performance of some singular or romantic feat, of a similar nature with that mentioned in the text, were greatly in vogue. In an ancient French Poem, entitled Le Vu du Héron, printed by Ste. Palaye, an amusing instance of this occurs.
Robert of Artois presents himself at the Court of Edward the III. and incites that Monarch to the conquest of France. One day he enters the hall in which the King and his courtiers are assembled, accompanied by musicians and two noble damsels, and bearing in great pomp a Heron, which he had killed, and which be ironically offers to Edward, as a compensation for the French crown. Edward, roused by the taunt, immediately swears upon the Heron, that the year shall not elapse without his entering France with fire and sword. His nobles follow his example. Among them is the Earl of Salisbury, who is seated by the daughter of the Earl of Derby, to whom he was
devotedly attached. He asks the lady to lend him one of her fingers and to place it upon his eye.
"Si pri à la pucelle, de ceur devotement,
Qu'elle me preste un doit de sa main seulement,
Et methe sur mon il destre parfaitement."
She is complaisant enough to grant him two fingers, which she puts upon his eye, so as to close it. Whereupon the Earl makes oath never more to open that eye until he shall have done battle against the army of the French King. And this he faithfully performs.
"Les deux dois, sur l'il destre, li mist isnelement, 1
Et si li a clos l'il, et fremé 2 fermement,
Et chix 3 a demandé moult gracieusement:
Bele, est-il bien clos? Oyl certainement.
A dont dist, de la bouche, du ceur le pensement;
Et je veu, et prometh à Dieu omnipotent,
Et a sa douche mere, que de beaute resplent,
Qu'i n'est jamais ouvers, pour ore, 4 ne pour vent,
Pour mal, ne pour martire, ne pour encombrement, 5
Si seray dedans Franche, où il a bonne gent,
Et si aray le fu 6 bouté entièrement,
Et serai combatus a grand efforchement,
Contre les gens Philype, qui taut a hardement;
Je ne sui en bataille prins, par boin ensient, 7
Bien li ederai 8 a acomplir son talent:
Or aviegne qu'aviegne, car il n'est autrement.
Adonc osta son doit la puchelle an cors gent,
Et li iex 9 clos demeure, si ques virent le gent,
Et quand Robert l'entent, moult de joie l'enprent.
Quant li quens Salebrin ot voué son avis, 10
Et demoura l'il clos en la guerre toudis.
Li bers 11 Robers d'Artois ne s'est mie alentis." 12
In the same reign, Froissart mentions a number of young bachelors who appeared with a bandage over one eye, which they had sworn to their ladies not to remove until they had distinguished themselves by come deed of prowess against the French.
105a SITTING ON A BENCH.--Page 105.
BENCHES were formerly much more general than chairs. Wherever the latter are spoken of by our old English writers, it appears to have been as an article of luxury, and even of magnificence; and there is very reason to believe that they were far from being common, even in the houses of the great. No mention whatever is made of chairs in the catalogue of the furniture in the chamber of the Bishop of Winchester, in 1266, where benches, or forms, are, however, particularly enumerated.
"Et de i. mensa cum tressellis in camera dom. episcopi. Et v. formis in eadem camera." 1
This is also the case in the inventory preserved of the goods belonging to Contarini, a rich Venetian trader, at his house in St Botolph's-lane, A.D. 1481, and in that of the furniture of Skipton Castle, the great honour of the Earls of Cumberland, and one of the most splendid mansions of the North, A.D. 1572. 2
And the more general use of benches may be gathered from many passages in the elder poets. In the Geste of King Horne, we find,--
"Horne sett him abenche."
And in Piers Plowman's Crede, the author, describing the luxury of the monks, tells us of
"An halle for an hygh kynge an houshold to holden,
With brode bordes abouten, ybenched wel clene."
Ellis remarks, that "from this usage our Court of King's Bench had its name." 3
107a ADDANC.--Page 107.
IN the Triads mention is made of the Addanc, or Avanc of the Lake, as an aquatic monster which exercised a mysterious influence over some tremendous inundation, there alluded to and generally considered to have been the universal deluge, of which event most primitive nations have preserved a traditional recollection. The drawing of the Avanc from the Lake was an exploit performed by the horned Oxen of Hu Gadarn, or the Mighty, the hero who is
recorded as having first conducted the nation of the Cymry into the Island of Britain.--See Triad 4. Myv. Arch. II. 57.
"The three great exploits of the Island of Britain: The ship of Nevydd Nav Neivion, which carried in it a male and female of all things living, when the Lake of floods burst forth. And the horned oxen of Hu the Mighty, which drew the Avanc of the Lake to land, so that the Lake burst forth no more. And the stones of Gwyddon Ganhebon, on which were read all the arts and sciences of the world."--T. 97. Myv. Arch. II. 71.
There are many popular traditions connected with this event still existing in different parts of the Principality.
110a ETLYM GLEDDYV COCH.--Page 110.
LITERALLY, Etlym. with the red sword.
114a HOWEL THE SON OF EMYR LLYDAW.--Page 114.
HOWEL, the Prince of Llydaw, or Armorica, distinguished himself greatly in Arthur's wars against the Romans, and was one of the most strenuous in urging his Sovereign to resist their unjust claims. When Arthur was called suddenly home, by the news of Modred's treachery, he left Howel with part of his army in Gaul, to secure his possessions in that country. 1
He was one of the three knights of princely bearing in Arthur's Court, who were so kind and gentle, and so courteous of demeanour, that it was difficult for any one in the world to refuse or deny them anything they asked.--T. 118. Myv. Arch. II. 74.
The Cambrian Biography places Howel's tomb at Llan. Illtyd Vawr, or Lantwit, in Glamorganshire.
Emyr Llydaw, Howel's father, was nephew of the celebrated St. Germanus, or Garmon. A great number of his descendants, headed by Cadvan, emigrated to this country from Armorica, and are ranked among the most eminent of the Welsh Saints. 2
121a CHESSMEN WERE PLAYING.--Page 121.
A CHESSBOARD and men possessed of similar qualities with those in the tale, belonged to Gwenddolen, the celebrated beauty of Arthur's Court, and are thus described:--
"The Chessboard of Gwenddolen; when the men were placed upon it, they would play of themselves. The Chessboard was of gold, and the men of silver."--Bosanquet MS.
Something of the same kind occurs in the Romance of Sir Gaheret. That champion is entertained in the Enchanted Castle of a beautiful Fairy, who engages him in a party at Chess, in a large hall, where flags of black and white marble form the chequer, and the pieces, consisting of massive statues of gold and Silver, move at the touch of the magic rod held by the player.
A similar adventure occurs in the Romance of Lancelot du Lac.--II. P. 101. 1
126:1 Mém. de Chev. I. 322.
126:2 Strutt's Sports and Pastimes, 134.
127:1 Hist. of the Chev. Bayard (Lond. 1825) I. 84.
128:1 Hist. Eng. Poe. I. ccxxiv. cclxv.
129:1 Middle Ages, III. 499, 500.
132:4 Temps, heure.
132:7 A bon escient, savoir ou certitude.
132:8 Edouard aiderai.
132:10 Souhait, dessein.
132:12 Mém Chev. II. 102 103.
133:1 Warton's Hist. Eng. Poe. 1824. I. 43.
133:2 Hallam's Middle Ages. Chap. on the State of Society,. 1834. III. 427 There were, however, a few chairs in Mr. Fermor's house at Easton, according to the inventory printed by Strutt.
133:3 Notes to Way's Fabliaux, I. 222.
134:1 See Gruffydd ab Arthur, Wace's Brut, Rob. of Glou., &c. The tragical story of Howel's niece Helen, the victim of Dinabuc, the Spanish Giant of St. Michael's Mount, forms a long episode in all these accounts of the expedition against Rome. The St. Michael's Mount here alluded to is that in Normandy. Arthur went there with no other escort than his two knights, Kai and Bedwer, and had the satisfaction of overcoming and slaying the Giant, who, from all the descriptions, must have been a most fierce and savage monster.
134:2 See Professor Rees's Essay, p. 213.
135:1 Sir W. Scott's Notes to Sir Tristram (1811), p. 275.