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He loked aboute as he were madde ;
What follows is not so well, and therefore I shall extract no more of this poem.-For the above feat the author tells us, the king was deservedly called
Stronge Rycharde Cure de Lyowne. That distich which Shakespeare puts in the mouth of his madman in King LEAR, Act 3, sc. 4.
Mice and Rats and such small deere
Have been Tom's food for seven long yeare, has excited the attention of the critics. Instead of deere, one of them would substitute geer; and another cheer I. But the ancient reading is established by the old Romance of Sir Bevis, which Shakespeare had doubtless often heard sung to the harp. This distich is part of a description there given of the hardships suffered by Bevis, when confined for seven years in a dungeon:
Rattes and myse and such small dere
Sign. F. iii.
* i, e. yawned.
Dr. Warburton.-Dr. Grey.
of i. e. hurt.
III. In different parts of this work, the Reader will find various extracts from these old poetical legends ; to which I refer him for farther examples of their style and metre. To complete this subject, it will be proper at least to give one specimen of their skill in distributing and conducting their fable, by which it will be seen that nature and common sense had supplied to these old simple bards the want of critical art, and taught them some of the most essential rules of Epic Poetry. I shall select the Romance of Livius DisCONIUS*, as being one of those mentioned by Chaucer, and either shorter or more intelligible than the others he has quoted.
If an Epic Poem may be defined “ + A fable related by a poet, to excite admiration, and inspire virtue, by representing the action of some one hero, favoured
by heaven, who executes a great design, in spite of “ all the obstacles that oppose him:" I know not why we should withhold the name of Epic Poem from the piece which I am about to analyse.
My copy is divided into IX Parts or Cantos, the several arguments of which are as follows.
Opens with a short exordium to bespeak attention: the Hero is described ; a natural son of Sir Gawain a celebrated knight of King Arthur's court, who being brought up in a forest by his mother, is kept ignorant of his name and descent. He early exhibits marks of his courage, by killing a knight in single combat, who encountered him as he was hunting. This inspires him with a desire of seeking adventures : therefore cloathing himself in his enemy's armour, he goes to King
* So it is intitled in the Editor's MS. But the true title is Le beaux disconus, or THE FAIR UNKNOWN. See a
Note on the Canterbury Tales, Vol. IV. p. 333.
+ Vid. “ Discours sur la Poesie Epique," prefixed to TELEMAQUE,
Arthur's court, to request the order of knighthood. His request granted, he obtains a promise of having the first adventure assigned him that shall offer. -A damsel named Ellen, attended by a dwarf, comes to implore King Arthur's assistance, to rescue a young princess, “ the Lady of Sinadone” their mistress, who is detained from her rights, and confined in prison. The adventure is claimed' by the young knight Sir Lybius : the king assents; the messengers are dissatisfied, and object to his youth; but are forced to acquiesce. And here the first book closes with a description of the ceremony of equipping him forth.
Sir Lybius sets out on the adventure: he is derided by the dwarf and the damsel on account of his youth: they come to the bridge of Perill, which none can pass without encountering a knight called William de la Braunch. Sir Lybius is challenged: they just with their spears : De la Braunch is dismounted : the battle is renewed on foot : Sir William's sword breaks : he yields. Sir Lybius makes him swear to go and present himself to King Arthur, as the first fruits of his valour. The conquered knight sets out for King Arthur's court : is met by three knights, his kinsmen ; who, informed of his disgrace, vow revenge, and pursue the conqueror. The next day they overtake him: the eldest of the three attacks Sir Lybius ; but is overthrown to the ground. The two other brothers assault him : Sir Lybius is wounded; yet cuts off the second brother's arm : the third yields ; Sir Lybius sends them all to King Arthur. In the third evening he is awaked by the dwarf, who has discovered a fire in the wood.
Sir Lybius arms himself, and leaps on horseback: he finds two Giants roasting a wild boar, who have a fair Lady their captive. Sir Lybius, by favour of the night, runs one of them through with his spear : is assaulted
hy by the other : a fierce battle ensues: he cuts off the giant's arm, and at length his head. The rescued Lady (an Earl's daughter) tells him her story; and leads him to her father's castle ; who entertains him with a great
and presents him at parting with a suit of armour and a steed. He sends the giant's head to King Arthur.
Sir Lybius, maid Ellen, and the dwarf, renew their journey: they see a castle stuck round with human heads; and are informed it belongs to a knight called Sir Gefferon, who, in honour of his lemman or mistress, challenges all comers : he that can produce a fairer lady, is to be rewarded with a milk-white faulcon, but if overcome, to lose his head. Sir Lybius spends the night in the adjoining town : in the morning goes to challenge the faulcon. The knights exchange their gloves : they agree to just in the market place: the lady and maid Ellen are placed aloft in chairs : their dresses: the superior beauty of Sir Gefferon's mistress described: the ceremonies previous to the combat. They engage: the combat described at large : Sir Gefferon is incurably hurt; and carried home on his shiel:. Sir Lybius sends the faulcon to King Arthur; and receives back a large present in florins. He stays 40 days to be cured of his wounds, which he spends in feasting with the neighbouring lords.
Sir Lybius proceeds for Sinadone: in a forest he meets a knight huniing, called Sir Otes de Lisle: maid Ellen charmed with a very beautiful dog, beg's Sir Lybius to bestow him upon her: Sir Otes meets them, and claims his dog : is refusel: being unarmed he rides to his castle, and summons his followers : they go in quest of Sir Lybius : a battle ensues : he is still victorious, and forces Sir Otes to follow the other conquered knights to King Arthur,
Sir Lybius comes to a fair city and castle by a riverside, beset round with pavilions or tents : he is informed, in the castle is a beautiful lady besieged by a giant named Maugys, who keeps the bridge, and will let none pass without doing him homage : this Lybius refuses : a battle ensues : the giant described : the se. veral incidents of the battle ; which lasts a whole summer's day: the giant is wounded; put to flight; slain. The citizens come out in procession to meet their deliverer: the lady invites him into her castle: falls in love with him; and seduces him to her embraces. He forgets the princess of Sinadone, and stays with this bewitching lady a twelvemonth. This fair sorceress, like another Alcina, intoxicates him with all kinds of sensual pleasure ; and detains him from the pursuit of honour.
1 Maid Ellen by chance gets an opportunity of speaking to him; and upbraids him with his vice and folly : he is filled with remorse, and escapes the saine evening. At length he arrives at the city and castle of Sinadone : Is given to understand that he must challenge the constable of the castle to single combat, before he can be received as a guest. They just: the constable is worsted : Sir Lybius is feasted in the castle: he declares his intention of delivering their lady ; and inquires the particulars of her history. “ Two Necromancers have built a fine palace by sorcery, and there keep her inchanted, till she will surrender her duchy to them, and yield to such base conditions as they would impose.”
Early on the morrow Sir Lybius sets out for the inchanted palace. He alights in the court: enters the hall: the wonders of which are described in strong Gothic painting. He sits down at the high table: un a sudden all the lights are quenched: it thunders, and lightens; the palace shakes; the walls fall in pieces