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This song is more modern than many of those which follow it, but is placed here for the sake of the subject. It was sung before queen Elizabeth at the grand entertainment at Kenelworth castle in 1575, and was probably composed for that occasion. In a letter describing those festivities it is thus mentioned: “A Min“stral came forth with a sollem song, warranted for
story out of K. Arthur's acts, whereof I gat a copy, " and is this :
“ So it fell out on a Pentecost, &c." After the song the narrative proceeds: “At this the “ Minstrell made a pause and a curtezy for Primus “ Passus. More of the song is thear, but I gatt it not."
The story in Morte Arthur, whence it is taken, runs as follows: “Came a messenger hastely from king “Ryence of North Wales,-saying, that king Ryence « had discomfited and overcomen eleaven kings, and “ everiche of them did him homage, and that was “ this: they gave him their beards cleane flayne off“wherefore the messenger came for king Arthur's “ beard, for king Ryence had purfeled a mantell with
kings beards, and there lacked for one a place of the
mantell, wherefore he sent for his beard, or else he “would enter into his lands, and brenn and slay, and “ never leave till he have thy head and thy beard. Well, “ said king Arthur, thou hast said thy message, which “ is the most villainous and lewdest message that ever
man heard sent to a king. Also thou mayest see my “ beard is full young yet for to make a purfell of, but “ tell thou the king that- :-or it be long he shall do to
me homage on both his knees, or else he shall leese “ his head." [B. I. c. 24. See also the same Romance, B. I. c. 92.]
The thought seems to be originally taken from Jeff. Monmouth's Hist. B. X. c. 3. which is alluded to by Drayton in his Poly-Olb. Song 4. and by Spenser in Faer. Qu. 6. 1. 13. 15. See the Observations on Spenser, vol. II. p. 223.
The following text is composed of the best readings selected from three different copies. The first in Ender-, bie's Cambria Triumphans, p. 197. The second in the Letter' abovementioned. And the third inserted in MS. in a copy of Morte Arthur, 1632, in the Bodl. Library.
Stow tells us, that king Arthur kept his round table at “diverse places, but especially at Carlion, Winches“ ter, and Camalet in Somersetshire.” This CAMALET, " sometimes a famous towne or castle, is situate on a
very high tor or hill, &c.” [See an exact description in Stow's Annals, Ed. 1631, p. 55.] As it fell out on a Pentecost day,
King Arthur at Camelot kept his court royall, With his faire queene dame Guenever the gay;
And many bold barons sitting in hall;
With ladies attired in purple and pall;
A doughty dwarfe to the uppermost deas
Right pertlye gan pricke, kneeling on knee; With steven hulle stoute amids all the preas,
Sayd, Nowe sir king Arthur, God save thee, and see! Sir Ryence of North-gales greeteth well thee,
* Largesse, Largesse. The heralds resounded these words as oft as they received of the bounty of the knights. See “Me“moires de la Chevalerie,” tom. I. p.99.--The expression is still used in the form of installing knights of the garter.
And bids thee thy beard anon to him send,
For his robe of state is a rich scarlet mantle,
With eleven kings beards bordered * about, And there is room lefte yet in a kantle,
For thine to stande, to make the twelfth out:
This must be done, be thou never so stout; This must be done, I tell thee no fable, Maugre the teethe of all thy round table.
When this mortal message from his mouthe past,
Great was the noyse bothe in hall and in bower: The king fum’d; the queene screecht; ladies were ay hast;
Princes puffd; barons blustred; lords began lower; Knights stormed; squires startled, like steeds in a
stower; Pages and yeomen yell’d out in the hall, Then in came sir Kay, the king's' seneschal.
Silence, my soveraignes, quoth this courteous knight,
And in that stound the stowie began still : * Then' the dwarfe's dinner full deerely was dight;
Of wine and wassel he had his wille :
And, when he had eaten and drunken his fill,
* i. e. set round the border, as furs are now round the gowns of Magistrates.
But say to sir Ryence, thou dwarf, quoth the king,
That for his bold message I do him defye; And shortlye with basins and pars will him ring
Out of North-gales; where he and I
With swords, and not razors, quickly shall trye, Whether he, or king Arthur will prove the best barbor; And therewith he shook his good sword Escalàbor.
*** Strada, in his Prolusions, has ridiculed the story of the Giant's Mantle, made of the Beards of Kings.
KING ARTHUR'S DEATH.
The subject of this ballad is evidently taken from the old romance Morte Arthur, but with some variations, especially in the concluding stanzas; in which the author seems rather to follow the traditions of the old Welsh Bards, who “ believed that King Arthur was not
dead, but conveied awaie by the Fairies into some
pleasant place, where he should remaine for a time, "and then returne againe and reign in as great autho“rity as ever.” Holinshed, B. 5. c. 14.; or, as it is expressed in an old Chronicle printed at Antwerp 1493, by Ger. de Leew, “ The Bretons supposen, that he [K. “ Arthur)-shall come yet and conquere all Bretaigne, “ for certes this is the prophicye of Merlyn: He sayd, " that his deth shall be doubteous; and sayd soth, for
men thereof yet have doubte, and shullen for ever
more,—for men wyt not whether that he lyveth or is " dede." See more ancient testimonies in Selden's Notes on Polyolbion, Song 3.
This fragment, being very incorrect and imperfect in the original MS. hath received some conjectural emendations, and even a supplement of 3 or 4 stanzas composed from the romance of MORTE ARTHUR.
x Trinitye Mondaye in the morne,
This sore battayle was doom'd to bee;
Alacke, it was the more pittie.