Merlin : or, the early history of King Arthur : a prose romance
Henry B. Wheatley


Now seith the boke whan that kynge Arthur hadde discounfited hys enmyes, and the xj kynges and a Duke, by the counseile of Merlin, that was gon to blase his maister in Northumberlonde. Than he returned gladde and ioyfull of that oure lorde hath yove hym the victorye of his enmyes. Than he com to þe logges wherof the walles layn at the erthe as Merlin hadde beten hem down. Than thei leged and pight teyntes and pavilouns, and hem rested, and lete the hoste be wacched. And leonce and Pharien hadde the gouernaunce of the wacche, and Gifflet and lucas the botiller. Pharien and leonces kepte towarde the wode, and Gifflet and lucas towarde the medowes, and alle the tother Page  167 lay and rested hem till day, and than thei ete and dranke grete plente, for thei hadde I-nough of vitaile. In this manere rested the hoste till in the morowe, till the kynge Arthur made be leide on an hepe all the wynynge and the richesse that ther was geten. And whan thei hadde herde messe thei com a-gein ther as the tresour was leide to-geder. And the thre kynges it departed a-boute to soche as hem semed was for to do, to on lesse and to a-nother more, after that the persones were of astate or degre. And so thei departed to pore knyghtes and squeres that neuer after were pore, in so moche that thei kepte not to hem-self the valew of a peny. And after thei departed stedes and palfreyes and clothes of silke, and yaf all while ther was ought to departe, and sente a-gein alle knyghtes and squyres and sergeauntes and other meyne, saf xl that sholde go with hem in to Carmelide. Thus yede Pharien and grassien and leonces, lorde of Paerne, and ledde with hem her peple for to kepe her londe and her contrey, that the kynge Claudas ne dede hem no stade.

Whan these barouns were come in-to theire contrey thei boughten londes and rentes wher-with thei leved after in grete honour with the auer that was departed that made hem after riche. And the kynge Arthur lefte in his contrey the two kynges with hym, as ye haue herde. So thei soiourned at bredigan that was in the marche of breteyne the grete, and in the marche of Carmelide; and ther thei a-bode Merlin that sholde come to hem thider. And on the morow, whan Arthur sholde departe his peple, and that he hadde made hem grete feste and grete ioye at bredigan, and the kynges hadde dyned, they yed vp in to the loges [folio 57a] that were vpon the ryver for to se the medowes and the gardynes. And as thei be-helden, they saugh come a grete karl thourgh the medowes by the ryver with a bowe in his honde, and his arowes vnder his girdell. And in the brooke were wylde gees, that hem dide bathe as theire kynde is to do. The karll drough his bowe, and with a bolte smote oon in the nekke, that it brake in sondre. Than he shette a-nothir bolte, and slowgh a malarde. Than he toke hem, and henge hem be the nekkes at his girdell, and yede towarde the loges where as the Page  168 thre kynges were lenynge, and hadde well seen the shotte of the karll. And whan he come nygh the loges he shette a-nother bolte, and whowped to the kynge Arthur. And whan the karll com nere, the kynge asked yef he wolde selle the briddes. And the cherll seyde, "Ye, with gode will." Quod the kynge, "How wilt thow yeve hem?" And he ansuerde no worde. And the cherll hadde on grete boysteis shone of netes leder, and was clothed in cote and hoode of rosset, and he was girde with a thonge of blakke shepes skyn; and he was grete and longe, and blakke and rowe rympled. The cherll also semed to be crewell and fell, and seide to the kynge, "I ne knowe nought of the kynge that loueth tresoure, and is regrater and a wyssher, that dar not make a pore man riche that myght hym do gode seruyse." Quod the cherll, "I yeve yow these briddes, and yet haue I no more than ye se; and ye haue not the herte for to yeve the thirde parte of youre gode that in the erthe doth rote er ye haue it vp-taken, and that is nether youre profite ne worship." Whan these kynges herde the wordes of the karll thei be-heelde the oon the tother, and than thei seiden, "What deuell who hath tolde this cherll?" Than the kynge ban cleped the karll, and asked hym what he seide; and the karll ne ansuerde no worde, but bad the kynge Arthur to do take the briddes, and than he wolde gon hys weye. "Now, by thy faith," quod kynge ban, "telle me who hath tolde the that the kynge Arthur hath tresour in the erthe." Quod the cherll, "A wylde man tolde me, that is cleped Merlin, and also he tolde me that he sholde this day come to yow for to speke with yow." In the tyme that thei spake thus to-geder, come Vlfin oute of a chamber, and come thider as the kynge spake to Merlin, "Go forth thy wey," quod the kynge, "how may I the trowe that thow haste spoke with Merlin?" Quod he, "Yef ye will leve me, and yef ye ne will, leve me nought; for I ne leve yow nought, and so be we quyte." And whan the cherll hadde seide thus, and after Vlfin a while hadde listened, and than he be-gan to smyle, and wiste wele it was Merlin. Page  169 And whan Merlin saugh Vlfin, he seide, "Sir stiwarde, take these briddes, and do dight hem for youre kynges soper, that hath not the hardynesse to make a man riche that myght hym well guerdon, and to hym that this day hath spoke with the man that hath hym tolde of the grete richesse vnther þe erthe." [folio 57b] Than be-gan Vlfin to lawgh right harde, and seide, "Sir, yef it plese yow come with me here a-bove, for I wolde speke with yow of many thynges." And he seide he wolde go with gode will. And the kynge be-heilde Vlfin, and saugh hym laugh hertely, and than he required hym to telle why he dide laugh so sore. And he seide that he sholde wyte a-nother tyme. Than yede the cherll so araide as he was, and mette with kay the stiward, and seide, "Holde here, sir seneschall, now may ye plume, and as gladly mote the kynge hem ete as I it hym yeve." "Sir," quod Vlfin, "and this is not the firste tyme." With that com bretell, and hadde wele herde that Merlin hadde seide, and also that Vlfin hadde seyde to hym, that better semed a cherll than eny that was in the worlde. And whan he hadde herde hem a-while speke, he perceyved that it was Merlin, and be-gan to lawgh vndir his mantell right harde. And the kynge herde hym, and badde hym telle the cause why that he lowgh. And he tolde he wolde telle hym yef the carll wolde assente. And the cherll than be-gan to laugh lowde, and seide to Vlfyn, "Tell on, for I will that thow do so." Than seide Vlfin to the kynge, "Sir, ne knowe ye not youre frende Merlin, and ne sholde not he come to speke with yow to day." And the kynge seide, "Yesse; wherefore say ye?" "Sir," quod Vlfin, "I sey for that ye knowe hym not so wele as I wolde that ye dide; ffor ye se somme two tymes or thre, and yet ye ne knowe hem not, and ther-of I merveyle." Whan the kynge vndirstode Vlfyn he was gretly dismayed, that he wiste not what for to ansuere. "Certes," quod Vlfin, "ye haue seyn hym many tymes, and that I knowe well." Than seide the kynge, "Telle me what is this cherll." "Sir," quod Vlfin, "sholde ye ought knowe Merlin yef ye myght hym se?" "Yee, trewly," seide the kynge, "right wele." "Thanne be-holde this worthi man, and loke yef ye haue euer Page  170 hym seyn." And the kynge hym be-helde, and seide that he hadde hym neuer seyn be-forn. "Trewly," quod Vlfin, "he may sey that euell hath he be-sette his servise on yow: for it is Merlin, that so moche hath don for yow, and loved so moche and holpen of all that he myght do or sey agein alle tho that vpon yow do werre." And whan the kynge Arthur vndirstode this he blissed hym for merveile. And also the two kynges were sore a-merveiled, and seide, "How may this be, merlin; is it thus? neuer dide we se yow in soche habite." And he seide that myght well be so. "Sirs," seide Vlfin, "dismaye yow not, for he shall shewe yow the same semblaunce that ye saugh hym in firste." And thei seide that thei wolde that fayn se. "Now," quod Vlfin, com with me in to this chamber, for I wolde speke with yow." And thei com in. And than seide Vlfin, "Sirs, ne merveile nought of Merlins dedes, for he shall shewe yow semblaunces I-nowe; and at alle tymes whan he will he chaungeth hym by forse of his art, where-of he is full. [folio 58a] And Gynebans, the clerk, it witnesseth wele; and wyte ye well that ye shall hym se yet many tymes, that ye shull not knowe that it is he; and for that he chaungeth hym so ofte he is dowted of many a man, for ther is many oon in this londe that full gladly wolde se hym deed. Now lete vs go in this chamber, and ye shull se hym in the same semblance that ye saugh hym firste, whan he a-queynted hym with yow." And whan thei come a-gein they fonde Merlin in the halle in the same semblaunce that thei hadde seyn hym in firste. Than thei ronne to hym, and enbraced hym, and made hym grete ioye as thei that hym loved with gode herte. Than thei satte and Iaped, and pleyde with hym alle to-geder; and of the shetynge that thei hadde seyn, and of the wordes that he hadde seide to the kynge. And than seide Arthur, "Merlin, now I knowe that ye love me, whan with so gode chere that ye have yove me these fowles, and that I sholde ete hem for youre love." And Merlin be-gan to laugh. Thus thei a-bode in ioye and solace till the lenton. And so it fill Page  171 thay by the love of Merlin Arthur a-queynted hym with a mayden, the feyrest that myght be founden. This mayden was cleped Lysanor, and was doughter to the Eirll Sevain that was deed, and was heyr of the castell of Campercorentyn. This maide was come to do homage to the kynge Arthur, and with here other barouns that dide homage as soone as he hadde conquerid these xj kynges, ffor thei douted that he sholde be-reve hem of her londes, and also thei thought that thei myght no better lorde haue than hym; and some ther were that come with gode will, and some for drede of more losse. And this mayden that was feire com to Bredigan, where-as the kynge soiourned, and was at hoste with a riche burgeys. And so be the helpe of Merlin he spake with her previly, and lay with her a nyght, and that nyght upon her was be-geten hoot, that after was a full noble knyght, and was also a felowe of the rounde table. This hoot was of right high prowesse, as ye shull heren hereafter. And at mydlenten the kynge toke leve of the damsell, and he and the other two kynges toke their wey in to Tamelide, hym-self the fowrtithe. But of hem now ne speketh not the tale no more now at this tyme, but returneth to speke of the xj kynges that were disconfited, and telleth wher thei be com and whider thei yeden.