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From Early English Romances: Done Into Modern English by Edith Rickert: Romances of Love, Chatto and Windus: London, Duffield & Co.: London, 1908; pp. 80-105, 186-187.



Jesus Christ in Trinity,
Only God and Persons Three,
        Grant us well to speed,
And give us grace so to do,
That we may come Thy bliss unto,
        On Rood as Thou didst bleed!
Lief lords, I shall you tell
Of a tale that sometime fell,
        In a land unknown, indeed;
How a lady had great mischief,
How she recovered from that grief —
        I pray you, give good heed.

THERE was once in Almayne1 an emperor of great might called Sir Dioclysian, 2 a bold man and stout, and feared of 81 all christendom, so strong was he in battle. He had disherited many a man, and wickedly won their possessions by force of arms, till it befell on a day that war awakened between him and a knight called Sir Barnard, Earl of Toulouse. With him the emperor had dealt hardly, and had bereft him of three hundred pounds’ worth of land; thereupon, sore aggrieved, and himself a strong, hardy man, upon seeing how he was wronged and other men also, he prepared for battle, and, passing into the emperor’s lands, began to burn and slay.

Now this emperor had to wife the fairest woman that ever lived save the Blessed Mary herself. And she was also bountiful ever in almsgiving, and as true a lady, it was well known, as she was fair. She said to the emperor: “My dear lord, I prithee, give the earl his right!”

“Dame,” he answered, “let be, for thou shalt never see the day, as long as I can ride, that he shall have his land again! As I am a true knight, I will break his skull! He wars fast in my country, but I shall be ready against him within a fortnight.”

He sent about everywhere that men should arm them to fight the earl; and he let cry on all sides throughout his land, far and near, in field and town, that every man who could bear weapons, sword, arbalest,3 shield, and spear, should be ready boun.4 And the earl, for his part, 82 had forty thousand and more, with spears and brown5 swords.

A day was set for battle, and when they met together in the field many a crown was cracked. The emperor had seven battalions, and to them he spoke sternly, saying: “As I hope to thrive, be ye now ready for to fight. Go and beat them down utterly, and spare none. Look that no man be ransomed for gold or fee, but slay them all with sword and knife!”

For all his boasting, he failed when the earl met him manly in the field with good strokes. They upreared battle on every side, boldly riding together with shield and many a spear. They laid on like madmen, with mighty swords and axes, and made a noise full hideous. Shields and shafts were splintered, and heads were cracked through their helmets, and many a hauberk torn. The earl himself, doughty in battle, drew an axe, and slew an hundred men that day. Many a steed was pierced through, and many a bold baron lay burling6 in his own blood. And so much blood was spilled that the field was swamped as it had been flood-time. Many a wife might, after that, sit and weep that was wont to sleep softly; and many a bold knight, once wild and fierce, lay there dead and now worthless.

The Earl of Toulouse won the field. The emperor saw this, and fled full fast to a castle there beside, fain to 83 hide his head, and with him three earls. No more, forsooth, escaped that day, but all were slain or taken — it might not be otherwise. The earl followed the chase until night; and then thanked God that sits in Trinity for the grace He had shown. On the emperor’s side in that battle were slain sixty thousand men, and three hundred and fifty great lords were taken, with wounds grimly wide; while the earl lost but twenty, so boldly did they fight, and such grace did God grant them that the false quarrel should come to an ill ending, in spite of all that might betide.

Now the emperor was bitterly grieved at the loss of his men and land, and sighed heavily, and swore by Him that died on the Rood, not to touch meat or drink till he should be avenged. But the empress said: “Good my lord, it is better ye should make peace for aught that I can see. By God, methinks it is a great peril to be against the right!”

“Dame,” said the emperor, “I have much dishonour, and my heart is sore! Mine earls are slain and brought to their ending, and I am so full of care that I myself am well nigh dead of grief!”

“Sire,” said Dame Beaulybon,7 “I rede, by St. John, that in this war of yours ye have the wrong, and he has the right; and so ye may see plainly by this and other things.”


Thereupon he was ill-pleased, for what the lady said was true. Sighing heavily, he went away and spoke never a word more, but held him wonder still.

Let us leave now the emperor liking nor game nor glee, so mightily he grieveth, and turn again to the earl, who hath given hearty thanks to God for sending him such grace.

This Earl Barnard of Toulouse had many knights of chivalry taken in his prisons and had much good profit — as I hope to thrive, I cannot tell how much! — of their great ransoms. Chief among them all was Sir Tralabas of Turkey, a famous lord of many a town, whom the emperor cherished. It fell out one day that the earl and he went for sport along a river-side, and said the earl to Sir Tralabas:

“Tell me, sir, for God’s sake, of a thing that is spread abroad, how your emperor has a wife who is the fairest woman alive. By book and bell, I swear that if she be as lovely as men say, he may well be proud of her!”

“By the order I bear of knighthood,” answered that other lord, “I shall tell thee truth. If the whole world, more and less, of christendom and heathendom were searched through, there is none other so fair of face. Her skin is as white as snow, and she blushes redder than the rose; and no man ever made by God might find or imagine one more lovely!”

Then said the earl: “By God’s grace these words make me sorrowful! But since thou sayest she is so fair, if thou 85 wilt bring me under safeguard within sight of her, I will forgive thee thy ransom, and will render thee my help and love as long as I live; and thereto I plight my troth. And as I am a true knight I will give thee also an hundred pounds to buy thee horse and armour.

Sir Tralabas answered: “On that covenant, in this place I plight my troth to thee. I shall hold thy foreward good, and bring thee within sight of her; and thereof will I keep my counsel, and never more, without fail, will be against thee. I shall be true, by God’s mercy, even to the losing of my life! Trust to me boldly!”

The earl answered him with all courtesy: “Doubtless I trust to thee as to my friend. Let us busk ourselves anon for our journey to see that woman. I swear, by God and St. Andrew, that if I find thee true, for thee riches shall abound!”

The two knights stayed not for wind or weather, but rode forth on their way, and never stopped or rested till they came to the city wherein was the empress.

The earl, although he was great of kin, for dread that he might be known, clad himself in hermit’s weeds. For three days he dwelled there content, and rested him; then on the fourth day, he was near betrayed by the knight, who went forthwith to the empress’s chamber, and falling on his knee said: “May He that harrowed hell keep you from all danger, if it be His will! Madam, by Jesus, I have here our worst enemy, the Earl of Toulouse.”


“In what manner is he come?” said the lady. “Tell me anon, I prithee.”

“Madam,” he answered, “I was in his prison, but he has forgiven me my ransom, for love of thee, by Almighty God! Madam, he longs sorely to see thee once. And I am to have as a reward an hundred pounds to buy armour and a noble steed, for I plighted my troth that he should gaze on thee his fill; but, lady, as he is our foe, and hath done us much harm, I rede that we slay him!”

“But,” said the lady, “as I live, thy soul is lost if thou do so! Thou must fulfil thy word. Since he forgave thee thy ransom and loosed thee out of prison, put away thy wicked will. To-morrow, when thou hearest the mass-bell ring, bring him to my chapel, with no thought of treachery, and he shall gaze on me as he will, to fulfil thy covenant. Certes, if thou betray him thy soul is in sore peril, since thou has given him thine oath; and certes, it were a great treason and shame to thee to lie in wait for him!”

Then the knight went to the earl, holding himself but ill sped in his evil intent, and he said: “Sir, as I live, to-morrow thou shalt see my lady, and so be not dismayed. When we hear the mass-bell, I shall bring thee to her chapel. Stand thou by the oriel,8 and thou shalt gaze upon her fairness as thou wilt.”

“I hold thee for true,” answered the earl, “and so far 87 forth as I may, thou shalt never repent it.” Glad at heart he cried: “Fill up the wine! This goes to my liking!”

He rested there that night, and on the morrow he clad him in hermit’s array, and when the mass-bell rang they two went to the chapel, and had waited there scarcely so long as half a mile might be run when the lady came. She was clad wonder richly in cloth of gold and fine furs; and when the earl beheld her, he thought her as bright as the blossom on the tree. Of all the sights he had ever seen, none had raised his heart so high. She stood still in that place, and showed him her face openly; and he swore, by God’s mercy, that he had seen none so fair. Her eyes were grey as any glass, her mouth and nose were right shapely, and from forehead to toe no woman might be more graceful. Twice she turned her about between the goodly earls that were with her, that this lord might see her well. And when she spoke most sweetly, she seemed like an angel from heaven. Fair was she, and long and slim and slender of waist, with most lovely arms and shoulders, her hands as white as ivory, with bright fingers and shining nails.

When he had beheld her, she went into the chapel to hear mass, and he followed, unable to take his eyes from her lovely face.

“Lord God All-powerful,” he thought, “if I were so worthy a knight as to be her lover, and she had no husband, all the gold that every God made would not be so dear to me!”


When the mass was ended, that lovely, gracious lady turned to go back to her chamber.

The earl sighed heavily as she was parting from his sight, and said: “So God save me, I would fain beg alms of her, if it were her will! If I had something of hers to look upon every day, it might lead to my mending!” And so he kneeled down, and prayed to Almighty God that died on the Tree.

Thereupon the empress called a knight, and said: “Bring me anon forty bright florins.” These she gave to the hermit, and slipped a ring from her finger in among the gold.

Thereupon he thanked her many times, and she returned to her chamber where she was liefest to be; and he went home to his inn. When he found the ring, he was full of joy and blithe of heart, and kissed it many times, saying: “My dear darling, this is from thy finger — well for me to have so much grace! If ever I should so come into thy favour that there should be love between us, this shall be our tokening!”

At daybreak he took leave, and went his way homeward to his own country; but first he thanked Sir Tralabas: “Well shalt thou be requited for this deed thou hast done for me!”

They kissed as good friends, and Sir Tralabas — curse him! — went home; but he thought ever to work some treachery if he could, so evil was he of heart. Anon he 89 called two bold knights, his kinsmen both. “Sirs,” he said, “without fail, if ye do after my counsel, ye shall have great renown. Know ye the Earl of Toulouse? He hath wrought us much injury; let us stop his boasting. If ye will do as I rede he shall die this day, as God shall save me from sin!”

Now one of these knights was called Kantres,9 the other Kaym;9 and certes, no falser men might be found than they were. Sir Tralabas made the third — there was no need to bid him follow the earl. They met him at a bridge, and there set upon him with hard strokes as foe-men. But the earl was a mighty man, and he fought furiously against them, and soon had killed two, while the third fled, puffing and panting. But the earl quickly overtook him, and clove his head in three.

Meanwhile the whole country-side had gathered and chased him hotly — an hundred men. The good earl was aghast and fain to flee, and passed from them into a wilderness to rest him a while, being sore wearied. All that night he lay in the wood, having no other lodgment, and when it dawned he rose up and thanked God that sits on His throne, that he had escaped his foes. So he travelled on all that day, many a mile, and often in peril on the road, until he came to his own fair castle, where he loved best to dwell.

His people were glad of his coming, and he bade them: 90 “Be merry, my men, and spare nothing! For,” said he, “I trow the emperor will now let us be in peace, and war on us no more.” And so the earl dwelled at home with mirth and game and laughter, as he loved best. Let us leave him so, and tell how Dame Beaulybon was brought into sorrow.

The emperor loved his wife as well as he did himself, and chose two knights to guard her knight and day, whether he were far or near; and first one, then the other, of these two knights loved her for her fairness and beauty. Neither knew of the other man’s secret, although it so wrought them both that they nearly died.

It befell on a day that one said to the other: “Sir, as I live, methinks thou fadest quite away as one that is dead and buried. Thy face is as pale as wax!”

Then said the other: “I avow, right so thou farest, methinks, whysoever it may be. Tell me the cause thereof, and certes, I will tell thee mine, I plight my troth!”

“I grant thee,” said the other, “without fail. Look it be true counsel.” And thereto he plighted his troth, saying: “I am in great unpeace for love of our lady, the empress! It will drive me to death!”

And the other said: “Verily, beyond a doubt, so fare I for love of that bright dame! And since both our hearts are set on her, how may our trouble best be amended? Canst thou counsel wisely?”

“By St. John,” sware the first, “methinks I know no

A Manuscript image of a dark robed man kneeling with hands held in praying manner to a seated gowned woman, in a courtyard with the arches seen in the background.

“Tell me thy secret ......... why thou mournest still?”


better rede than this, that one of us go secretly to her and entreat her love. I myself will try first, and in case I find favour thou shalt not miss thy share, for thou shalt take us together, and lest thou betray us she will fear and grant thy will.”

Thus they were of one assent; and the false thief went forth to learn the lady’s mind. He found her in her chamber, and set him on his knee to carry out his purpose.

“Stand up, sir knight,” quoth the lady. “Who hath vexed thee at any time? It shall go ill with whomsoever hath wronged thee. Tell my thy secret — why thou mournest so still?”

“Lady,” says he, “by great God invisible, that I durst not for all the gold that ever was wrought! But if ye will swear on the Book not to discover me, then it might be possible.”

The lady answered: “How is this, that thou darest not trust me? It is horrible! But here I plight thee my troth, and I shall keep it night and day, as true as book or bell!”

“Lady, in you is my trust. I would ye knew what pain I suffer for your sake! I droop and pine, night and day! My wit and my will are all gone except ye believe my words. Many a day have I loved you, but never durst tell you — my grief has been the more! Except ye grant to me your favour, certes, I am but dead, and I set no store by my life!”


Then answered that lovely lady: “Sir, well thou knowest I am a wife, and my lord is the emperor, who chose thee for a true knight to keep me always in thy ward. If I consented to your will I were worthy to be burnt and brought into great dole! By sweet Mary, thou art a traitor, and shouldst be hanged and drawn!”

“Ah, madam,” said the knight, “for love of Almighty God, give no heed to what I have said; ye may trust me still. God save me, I spoke but to frighten you. Remember, madam, your troth is plight to keep my counsel. I cry you mercy, for God’s sake; and if ever I talk more hereof, let me be dragged by a horse!”

“I forgive thee,” answered the lady, “and as long as I live I will keep thy secret; but look thou be henceforth a true man, in every way, to my lord.”

“Yes, lady, else did I ill, for I have served him long time, and well hath he requited me.”

He said no more, but presently returned to his companion, who asked: “Sir, how hast thou sped?”

“Not at all,” he answered. “Dear brother, I have never been so afeared since the day I was born! Certes, it is trouble thrown away to bring her such a tale, at board or in chamber.”

“That,” said the other, “is because of thy thin wit. I wager my head I will win her!”

Thus it passed over until the third day after this, when the second knight bethought him: “Certes, speed as I 93 may, I will try the mind of my sweet lady.” And when he saw her in her best mood, he went to her with bitter sighing, as if he recked naught of life, and said: “Lady, except ye help me with your counsel, I shall be brought to my ending!”

She answered kindly: “My counsel is ready — tell me how it is. If any word of mine can mend the matter, it shall, as I have hope of bliss!”

“Lady,” quoth he, “ye must hold up your hand, faithfully to keep my secret.”

“Yes,” says that noble lady, “thereto I plight my troth, and else I did amiss.”

“Madam,” he answered, “now I can trust you; I know you would never betray me. For you, dear lady am I brought into great sorrow — I swear without oath! Ye can see how pale I am. I am near dying of my hurt. For the sake of God on high that was stung by a spear, grant me thy love!”

“Sir,” she said, “is that thy will? If it were mine, I should be well to blame! What kind of woman holdest thou me to be? What hast thou heard or seen in me sith I have been in thy keeping, that touches on villainy, and makes thee as bold of heart as though I were a light woman or a shrew? Had I not promised to keep counsel, thou shouldst certainly have been hanged on the gallows-tree!”

At this the knight was so adread as never before since 94 he was born on Middle-Earth.10 “Mercy, good madam,” he cried, “well I know I am to blame, and my heart is woe! Lady, let me not be shent!11 I cry you mercy for my guilt — spare my life!”

“I grant thee to keep thy secret,” said the lady, “but do no more so.”

Then the knight went forth, and said: “Fellow, I may not speed. What is thy best counsel? If she tell my lord of this, as I hope for bliss we are but dead! Woman’s tongue is ill to trust! Certes, my friend, an my lord knew of this, our bread were all eaten! But ere she shall bring us to that woe, she shall die herself!”

“How might that be?” asked the other. “I should be well pleased were it done.”

“Yes, sir,” he answered, “have no fear; I shall bring her to it. Ere three days be passed she shall be in sorrow enough, and so will I repay her!” And now are they both of one mind to bring that gentle lady into woe — the devil speed them!

Presently it drew towards night, and the empress and her men went to supper, where these knights made great jokes to amuse the lovely, graceful lady. When supper time was done, they two, in their garments of rich pall, entered the chamber, and danced and revelled as though they had no fear, until it was time for the lady to go to bed — foul befall them!


Now there was a certain young knight, twenty years of age, an earl’s son and carver to the lady, who was a fair child and bold; and to him said that one thief: “Sir, if thou wilt do as we tell thee, we shall arrange a play for my lady, so to make her laugh that even if she were thy foe, she should become thy friend.”

The child answered anon: “By the order I bear of knight, gladly! To please my lady, I would put myself to any misease, even running for her in wind and rain!”

“Then, sir, strip save thy breeks, and creep behind yonder curtain, and do as I tell thee, and so shalt thou see a pretty play.”

“I grant you,” said the young knight, “by God and St. Germain!”

“Whatso befall,” they said to him, “come not out till we call thee;” and he: “Sirs, I assent.”

When they had revelled for some while, no man knowing of their device save they two, they cleared the chamber, and left the child sitting there alone with the gentle lady, who lay down in her bed to sleep with no thought of treason.

The child wondered greatly why the knights were so long, and had many thoughts: “Lord a’mercy! How is this? I trow, they that brought me hither have forgotten me. If I call them, by Him that created all things, by lady here in her bed will be afeared!” And so he sat as 96 still as any stone, and durst not stir or cry out for fear of affrighting the lady.

These false men — eternal woe be theirs! — went to their chamber, and arming themselves fully, called the lords from their beds, and bade them, great and small: “Hasten ye anon to take a traitor that hath been this whole night with my lady in her bower!”

As soon as the lords were armed, they went with these traitors to the empress’s chamber, with swords and torches burning bright before them. And there behind the curtain they found the young child, whom straightway one false knight thrust through the body with a battle-sword, so that he spoke never word more.

The lady awoke afeared when she saw the great light by her bedside. “Benedicite!” she said, and cried wonder loud: “Sirs, what men are ye?”

And her foes answered at once: “We are here, thou false woman! We have discovered thy deeds! Thou hast deceived our lord, and thy evil fame shall be known far and wide throughout the world!”

“By St. John,” cried the lady, “I was never false, nor ever thought to be!”

“Thou liest,” they said, “and thy good name is lost!” Thereupon they laid the body before her: “Lo, here is thy lover. Thus have we dealt with him for thy sake, and thy falseness shall be well requited; thou shalt not escape us!” With that they bound her wonder fast, and cast her into deep prison, so that it was a piteous sight to 97 behold. There let us leave her, and see how it was with her lord, who was far away.

One night in his sleep, he dreamed that there came two wild bears, which tore his wife in twain; and being a man of sense, he knew from that dream that his lady was in trouble. As soon as the clear day broke, he bade his men busk12 and make them yare.13 First, he sent on pack-horses and chariots laden with goods, a train twelve miles long and more. Although he hoped well that she was not in any danger, yet he was so heavy of heart he stayed not by night or day, until with his earls and barons he was on the homeward road; and then he never rested until he came to the city where she was.

The lords remained outside the town, and many of them wept without ceasing for pity of that lady; they thought that if he but knew she had such a hurt, his joy would be thin enough.

The emperor’s horses were led into their stalls, and he himself was brought with high state into the hall. Anon he went into the chamber to see his fair lady that was so sweet and good, and called out to those that guarded her: “Where is my wife? Is she asleep? How fareth that bright dame?”

Straightway the two traitors answered: “If ye knew what she hath done, she would be put to death!”

“The devil!” he cried. “How so? She worthy of death? Tell me in what way!”


“Sire,” they said, “the young knight, Sir Antore,14 that was her carver, lay with her; but we found them together, and slew him, and put her into prison. And by God that bought us dear, the law saith she should be burned!”

“Alas!” cried the emperor, “hath she done me such dishonour and I loved her so well? I deemed she had not been faithless for all this world’s goods! My joy grows cold!”

He seized a knife with might and main, and would have killed himself had not a knight held him. Out of his wit with grief, he threw up his arms and fell swooning on his bed; and there indeed might men see great dole.

On the morrow, by common accord, they called a parliament on her; but they could find no law whereby she might be saved from death.

Then an old knight spoke out: “I wonder, by God’s might, that Sir Antore was thus set upon in the chamber, defenceless. By my head, they let him give no answer, but slew him forthwith. I dare well say that no other man save those two ever suspected him of villainy. It may be for some grudge. Therefore, for my sake, do as I counsel, I pray you. None can prove her guilt except these knights; and so, although we may not save her altogether from her woe, we may find some good man to fight against the two in her quarrel.”

To that saying all assented, as it seemed both reason and 99 law; and the emperor in his crown, cried: “Fair befall thee for thy counsel!”

Then he called knights of prowess and bade them be boun15 to proclaim through all the land, by sea and by shore, if perchance they might find a man daring enough to undertake the fight for that lady. And he bade them say that if any man should offer himself, he should be well rewarded. So messengers cried throughout the land in many a great city, that if any man durst prove his strength to fight in a true quarrel, he should be advanced in his estate.

Now the Earl of Toulouse heard tell of the trouble that had befallen this lady, and him thought it sore pity. If he knew that she had right, he was willing to risk his life in battle for her. He mourned for her day and night, and said to himself that he would venture: “If I may learn that she be true, they that accused her shall repent them unless they stint of their strife!” He vowed: “By St. John, I will go into Almayne where my foemen are thick; and I pray to Almighty God that I have a true quarrel to fight in to bring that lady out of her woe!”

One day as he rode a-hunting, he met a merchant by the way, and asked him whence he was come.

“Lord,” he said, “from Almayne.”

Thereupon the earl questioned him of that case: “Wherefore is your empress put to such distress? Tell me, for God’s sake! As thou livest, is she guilty?”


“Nay, by Him that died on the Tree and formed man in His image!”

“Then,” said the earl, “when is the day set that she be burned?”

“Even to-day three weeks,” answered the merchant. “Woe is me!”

“I have some horses to sell,” quoth the earl, “and certes, if I could dispose of them there, I would go with thee to see that sight.”

“It would be to your advantage,” said the merchant courteously, “to go into that land, for there ye may sell them to your liking.”

“Listen to me, sir,” said the earl anon. “Shall we go together this journey? I will give thee a reward of twenty pounds, I vow.”

“By St. John, I grant you!”

Upon this, the earl told him where to wait, and trusted him utterly, and then went home and busked him, so that none of his men knew of it. “Now, sire,” he said, “come with me.”

With them they took seven fine horses, as fair as any that man might see under heaven; and they rode with them together into Almayne, so that the earl seemed to be a horse-dealer of goodly estate.

The merchant was a true guide, and he and the earl rode on until they came within a mile of the castle wherein dwelled the emperor.


There stood a rich abbey where they got leave to sojourn and fatten their horses — a fine excuse! And the abbot himself was the lady’s uncle; wherefore he was in great tribulation and mourned heavily.

It befell on a day that the earl went to church for to hear Mass; and when the abbot remarked how he was a fair man and tall, he said: “Sir, draw nigh, and when Mass is done, I pray you, eat with me at noon, if it be your will.” And to this the earl assented gladly.

So they washed and went to meat; and after dinner they walked together in an orchard, and the abbot said, sighing sorely: “In truth, sir, my heart is deeply troubled for a bright lady, who is wrongfully accused, and shall be burned in a fire, this day seven-night, but she have help!”

“As I hope for heaven, methinks it is great pity of her, if she be true,” answered the earl.

“By St. Paul,” quoth the abbot, “I dare wager my soul she was never guilty, either in thought or in deed. She did never aught, save that once she graciously gave a ring to the Earl of Toulouse; but it was to ease his heart, and not for any sin, as she herself told me in shrift.”

“Since that is true,” says the earl, “may Christ avenge her on her foes! If ye would pledge yourself to keep my counsel, it might be for your good.”

The abbot swore by many books and his profession that he would keep the secret, and else he were mad.

“I am he to whom she gave the ring for a token. 102Conceal it, for the Rood! And I am come, dear sir, to take the battle for her, and to stand by the right; but first I would myself shrive her, and if I find her clean in her life, my heart will be glad! Let me be dressed in a monk’s robe, and taken to the place where they will lead her forth to die; and when I have shriven her, there without fail will I fight battle for her!”

Thereupon was the abbot near mad for joy. He kissed the earl, and they made merry together; and they slew care in mirth that was none so amiss, all the seven-night that the earl dwelled in that place.

On the day that the lady should be burned, the earl, in monk’s robe, went with the abbot, and straightway kneeled to the emperor and begged that he might shrive her, and was granted. But although he examined her utterly, he found her without guilt.

“By him that died on the Tree,” she said, “I have done no sin wherefore I should be put to death! Once only — assoil me if thou wilt — I gave a ring to the Earl of Toulouse. But so my destiny is concluded; I must perish in the fire and do the will of God.”

The earl assoiled her with his hand; and then stood up briskly, and said: “Peace, lords! Ye that have accused this gentle lady deserve to be burned!”

One of the two knights started up: “Thou churlish monk, though thine abbot be of her kind, thou shalt not for all thy cunning, free her from pain! Right so wouldst 103 thou have said, though all thy monastery had lain by her, so false art thou and wicked!”

Boldly the earl answered: “Sir, I trow ye be that one who hath accused this lady. Though we be men of religion, ye shall do us but right for all the fare ye make. I will prove that ye speak falsely of her — lo, here is my glove! I undertake this battle, and I shall make you known for false men, and ye shall burn in this fire, as may God lend me grace!”

And all that were present thanked God of His mercy.

The two knights were full of rage, and swore great oaths that he should die; but they might not avail, for he went aside and armed himself proudly to attack them. Full manly they met together, and smote through helmet and head-piece, and marred much under mail. And as they rode, one broke his spear against the earl, and the other missed him. One the earl smote through the body and bore him to the ground. The other beheld and fled; but the earl overtook him by a tree, and wrought him much hurt; whereupon the traitor unable to escape, yielded him up as a miscreant in the field. He was brought before the emperor, and there made to confess. He said: “We devised to slay that noble dame because she would not do our will.”

The earl answered him: “Therefore, traitors, ye shall burn both at once in this fire!” And anon they were so destroyed, skin, flesh, and bones.


As soon as this was done, the earl stole away to the abbey, while with glee and mirth they fetched the lady in procession back into the town.

The emperor said in his joy, “Bring me that monk. Why went he so away? I will give him a bishopric, and my help and love as long as I live, by God that owns this day!”

The abbot kneeled on his knee, excusing him: “Lord, he is gone away to his own land. He dwells with the Pope of Rome, who will be glad of his return, I assure you.”

“Sir abbot,” said the emperor, “it dishonours me to hear such words! Send after him in all haste, else shall ye never more have goods of mine. Thereto my hand!”

“Lord,” said the abbot, “since it be so, I will go after him myself. But ye must pledge me that if hath been your foe, ye will do him no harm. As I hope to thrive, I will fetch him, so please you, if you promise to be his friend.”

“Yes,” says the emperor, full fain, “though he had slain all my kindred, he is welcome to me!”

Then spake the abbot boldly: “Lord, now I trust in you, that ye will do as ye say. It is Sir Barnard of Toulouse, that noble and chivalrous knight, who hath done this day’s work.”

“Certes,” said the emperor, “the more dishonour to me! Anon, sir, I pray you, follow after him; and we shall kiss and be friends for God’s sake that owns this day!”


The abbot answered, “I grant it!” Then he went to the earl, saying: “Sir, come with me. By St. John, my lord and yourself shall be made of accord to be good friends.” And of that the earl was full fain.

“My noble friend,” said the emperor, coming to meet him, “my anger against thee is gone; and while I live I will cherish thee, by Him that died on the Tree!”

They kissed together lovingly, as the romance tells us, and all men rejoiced. The emperor made the earl his steward, and seized again in his hand the possessions whereof he had bereft him.

After this the emperor lived but three years longer; and the earl by election of the nobles was made emperor in his stead, being a man stiff in battle against his foes.

He wedded the lady, and they led their life together in joy and mirth for three-and-twenty years; and they had fifteen children, seemly to look at, who became doughty knights all.

In Rome this  geste chronicled is,
A lay of Britain called it is,
            And ever more shall be.
Jesus Christ to heaven us bring,
There to have our dwelling,
            Amen, amen for charity!


1  Germany.

2  Diocletian.

3   Strong-bow.

4  Northern for ready.

5  An O. E. epithet for swords.

6  Bubbling.

7  Beau-li-bon, i.e., beautiful and good, without regard to gender.

8  Not window, but porch or gallery.

9  See note.

10  See note on Floris and Blancheflour, p. 180.

11  Undone.

12  Prepare.

13  Ready.

14  See note.

15  Ready.




This romance (1128 lines) exists in four MSS., two of the fifteenth and two of the early sixteenth century. It was included by Ritson in his collection, and edited separately, with a detailed study of its sources, by Lüdtke, Berlin, 1881. Cf. Child’s Ballads (1886), ii., 33 ff., for parallels. It is supposed to be a translation of a lost lai.

p. 89.   Kantres and Kaym, The character given to the knights suggests that Kaym is used, as elsewhere sometimes, for Cain. But the whole phrase may be a corruption. Cf. Kay of Kaynes (vol. ii., p. 184); Kantres I have not identified.

p. 98.   Sir Antore. Probably derived from the word aunter = adventure (cf. the assumed name Anterous in Sir Degrevant). A Sir Antore occurs in Lybeaus Disconus.


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