Old French Romances
by William Morris
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Transcribed from the 1896 George Allen edition by David Price, email



Many of us have first found our way into the Realm of Romance, properly so called, through the pages of a little crimson clad volume of the Bibliotheque Elzevirienne. {1} Its last pages contain the charming Cante-Fable of Aucassin et Nicolete, which Mr. Walter Pater's praises and Mr. Andrew Lang's brilliant version have made familiar to all lovers of letters. But the same volume contains four other tales, equally charming in their way, which Mr. William Morris has now made part of English literature by writing them out again for us in English, reproducing, as his alone can do of living men's, the tone, the colour, the charm of the Middle Ages. His versions have appeared in three successive issues of the Kelmscott Press, which have been eagerly snapped up by the lovers of good books. It seemed a pity that these cameos of romance should suffer the same fate as Mr. Lang's version of Aucassin et Nicolete, which has been swept off the face of the earth by the Charge of the Six Hundred, who were lucky enough to obtain copies of the only edition of that little masterpiece of translation. Mr. Morris has, therefore, consented to allow his versions of the Romances to be combined into one volume in a form not unworthy of their excellence but more accessible to those lovers of books whose purses have a habit of varying in inverse proportion to the amount of their love. He has honoured me by asking me to introduce them to that wider public to which they now make their appeal.


Almost all literary roads lead back to Greece. Obscure as still remains the origin of that genre of romance to which the tales before us belong, there is little doubt that their models, if not their originals, were once extant at Constantinople. Though in no single instance has the Greek original been discovered of any of these romances, the mere name of their heroes would be in most cases sufficient to prove their Hellenic or Byzantine origin. Heracles, Athis, Porphirias, Parthenopeus, Hippomedon, Protesilaus, Cliges, Cleomades, Clarus, Berinus—names such as these can come but from one quarter of Europe, and it is as easy to guess how and when they came as whence. The first two crusades brought the flower of European chivalry to Constantinople and restored that spiritual union between Eastern and Western Christendom that had been interrupted by the great schism of the Greek and Roman Churches. The crusaders came mostly from the Lands of Romance. Permanent bonds of culture began to be formed between the extreme East and the extreme West of Europe by intermarriage, by commerce, by the admission of the nobles of Byzantium within the orders of chivalry. These ties went on increasing throughout the twelfth century till they culminated at its close with the foundation of the Latin kingdom of Constantinople. In European literature these historic events are represented by the class of romances represented in this volume, which all trace back to versions in verse of the twelfth century, though they were done into prose somewhere in Picardy during the course of the next century. Daphnis and Chloe, one might say, had revived after a sleep of 700 years, and donned the garb and spoke the tongue of Romance.


The very first of our tales illustrates admirably the general course of their history. It is, in effect, a folk etymology of the name of the great capital of the Eastern Empire. Constantinople, so runs the tale, received that name instead of Byzantium, because of the remarkable career of one of its former rulers, Coustans. M. Wesselovsky has published in Romania (vi. 1. seq.) the Dit de l'empereur Constant, the verse original of the story before us, and in this occur the lines -

Pour ce que si nobles estoit Et que nobles oevres faisoit L'appielloient Constant le noble Et pour cou ot Constantinnoble Li cytes de Bissence a non.

From which it would appear that we are mistaken in thinking of the capital of Turkey as the "City of Constantine," whereas it is rather Constant the Noble, and the name Coustant is further explained as "costing" too much. Constantinople, therefore, is the city that costs too much, according to the prophetic etymology of the folk.

The only historic personage with whom this Coustant can be identified is Constantius Chlorus, the father of Constantine the Great and the husband of St. Helena, to whom legend ascribes the discovery of the Holy Rood. But the Coustans of our story never lived or ruled on land or sea, and his predecessor, Muselinus, is altogether unknown to Byzantine annals, while their interlaced history reads more like a page of the Arabian Nights than of Gibbon.

But such a legend could scarcely have arisen elsewhere than at Constantinople. It is one of those fables that the disinherited folk have at all times invented to solace themselves for their disinherison. The sudden and fated rise of one of the folk to the heights of power occurs sufficiently often to afford material for the day dreams of ambitious youth. There is even a popular tendency to attribute a lowly origin to all favourites of fortune, as witness the legends that have grown up about the early careers of Beckett, Whittington, Wolsey, none of whom was as ill-born as popular tradition asserts. Yet such legends invariably grow up in the country of their heroes, which is the only one sufficiently interested in their career, so far as the common people are concerned. Hence the very nature of our story would cause us to locate its origin on the banks of the Bosphorus.

But once originated in this manner, there is no limit to the travels it may take. Curiously enough, the very legend before us in all its details has found a home among the English peasantry. The Rev. S. Baring-Gould collected in Yorkshire a story which he contributed to Henderson's Folklore of the Northern Counties, and entitled The Fish and the Ring. {2} In this legend a girl comes as the unwelcome sixth of the family of a very poor man who lived under the shadow of York Minster. A Knight, riding by on the day of her birth, discovers, by consultation of the Book of Fate, that she was destined to marry his son. He offers to adopt her, and throws her into the River Ouse. A fisherman saves her, and she is again discovered after many years by the Knight, who learns what Fate has still in store for his son. He sends her to his brother at Scarborough with a fatal letter, ordering him to put her to death. But on the way she is seized by a band of robbers, who read the letter and replace it by one ordering the Baron's son to be married to her immediately on her arrival.

When the Baron discovers that he has not been able to evade the decree of fate he still persists in his persecution, and taking a ring from his finger throws it into the sea, saying that the girl shall never live with his son till she can show him that ring. She wanders about and becomes a scullery-maid at a great castle, and one day when the Baron is dining at the castle, while cleaning a great fish she finds his ring, and all ends happily.

Now on the east wall of the chancel of Stepney Church there is a monument erected to Dame Rebecca Berry, wife of Thomas Elton, of Stratford, Bow, and relict of Sir John Berry, 1696. The arms on the monument are thus blazoned by heralds . . . . "Paly of six on a bend three mullets (Elton) impaling a fish, and in the dexter chief point an annulet between two bends wavy." The reference in the impalement of the blazon is obvious. A local tradition confidently identifies Dame Berry as the heroine of the Yorkshire legend, though of course it is ignorant of her connection with the etymology of Constantinople.

Now this tale, or the first half of it, is but a Yorkshire variant of one spread throughout Europe. The opening of the twenty-ninth story of the collection of the Brothers Grimm, and entitled The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs, is exactly the same, and in their Notes they give references to many similar European folk-tales. The story is found in Modern Greece (Von Hahn, No. XX.), and it is, therefore, possible that the story of King Coustans is the adaptation of a Greek folk-tale for the purposes of a Folk Etymology. But the letter, "On delivery, please kill bearer," is scarcely likely to have occurred twice to the popular imagination, and one is almost brought to the conclusion that the romance before us was itself either directly or indirectly the source of all the European Folk-tales in which the letter "To kill bearer" occurs. And as we have before traced the Romance back to Constantinople, one is further tempted to trace back the Letter itself to a reminiscence of Homer's [Greek text which cannot be reproduced].

I have said above that no Greek original of any of these Romances has hitherto been discovered. But in the case of King Coustans we can at any rate get within appreciable distance of it. As recently as 1895 a learned Teuton, Dr. Ernst Kuhn, pointed out, appropriately enough in the Byzantinische Zeitschrift, the existence of an Ethiopic and of an Arabic version of the legend. He found in one of Mr. Quaritch's catalogues a description of an illuminated Ethiopic MS., once belonging to King Theodore of Magdala fame, which from the account given of several of the illustrations he was enabled to identify as the story of "The Man born to be King." His name in the Ethiopic version is Thalassion, or Ethiopic words to that effect, and the Greek provenance of the story is thereby established. Dr. Kuhn was also successful in finding an Arabic version done by a Coptic Christian. In both these versions the story is told as a miracle due to the interference of the Angel Michael; and it is a curious coincidence that in Mr. Morris' poetical version of our story in the "Earthly Paradise" he calls his hero Michael. Unless some steps are taken to prevent the misunderstanding, it is probable that some Teutonic investigator of the next century will, on the strength of this identity of names, bring Mr. Morris in guilty of a knowledge of Ethiopic.

But for the name of the hero one might have suspected these Oriental versions of being derived, not from a Greek, but from an Indian original. Mr. Tawney has described a variant found in the Kathakosa {3} which resembles our tale much more closely than any of the European folk-tales in the interesting point that the predestined bride herself finds the fatal letter and makes the satisfactory substitution. In the Indian tale this is done with considerable ingenuity and vraisemblance. The girl's name is Visha, and the operative clause of the fatal letter is:

"Before this man has washed his feet, do thou with speed Give him poison (visham), and free my heart from care."

The lady thinks (or wishes) that her father is a bad orthographist, and corrects his spelling by omitting the final m, so that the letter reads "Give him Visha," with results more satisfactory to the young lady than to her father. This variant is so very close to our tale, while the letter incident in it is so much more naturally developed than in the romance that one might almost suspect it of having been the original. But we must know more about the Kathakosa and about the communication between Byzantium and India before we can decisively determine which came first.


Amis and Amil were the David and Jonathan, the Orestes and Pylades, of the mediaeval world. Dr. Hofmann, who has edited the earliest French verse account of the Legend, enumerates nearly thirty other versions of it in almost all the tongues of Western and Northern Europe, not to mention various versions which have crept into different collections of the Lives of the Saints. For their peerless friendship raised them to the ranks of the martyrs, at any rate, at Mortara and Novara, where, according to the Legend, they died. The earliest of all these forms is a set of Latin Hexameters by one Radulfus Tortarius, born at Fleury, 1063, lived in Normandy, and died some time after 1122. It was, therefore, possible that the story had come back with the first crusaders, and the Grimms attribute to it a Greek original. But in its earliest as well as in its present form, it is definitely located on Romance soil, while the names of the heroes are clearly Latin (Amicus and AEmilius). It was, however, only at a later stage that the story was affiliated to the Epic Cycle of Charlemagne. On the face of it there is clearly stamped the impress of popular tradition. Heads are not so easily replaced, except by a freak of the Folk imagination. It is probably for this reason that M. Gaston Paris attributes an Oriental origin to the latter part of the tale, and for the same reason the Benedictine Fathers have had serious doubts about admitting it into the Acta Sanctorum. On the other hand, the editors of the French text, the translation of which we have before us, go so far as to conjecture that there is a historic germ for the whole Legend in certain incidents of the War of Charlemagne against Didier. But as the whole connection of the Legend with the Charlemagne Cycle is late, we need not attribute much importance to, indeed, we may at once dismiss their conjecture.

These disputes of the pundits cannot destroy the charm of the Legend. Never, even in antiquity, have the claims of friendship been urged with such a passionate emphasis. The very resemblance of the two heroes is symbolic of their similarity of character; the very name of one of them is Friend pure and simple. The world is well lost for friendship's sake on the one side, on the other nearest and dearest are willingly and literally sacrificed on the altar of friendship. One of the most charming of the Fioretti tells how St. Francis overcame in himself the mediaeval dread at the touch of a leper, and washed and tended one of the poor unfortunates. He was but following the example of Amil, who was not deterred by the dreaded sound of the "tartavelle"—the clapper or rattle which announced the approach of the leper {4}—from tending his friend.

Here again romance has points of contact with the folk tale. The end of the Grimms' tale of Faithful John is clearly the same as that of Amis and Amile. {5} Once more we are led to believe in some dependence of the Folk-Tale on Romance, or, vice versa, since an incident like that of resuscitation by the sacrifice of a child is not likely to occur independently to two different tellers of tales. The tale also contains the curious incident of the unsheathed sword in bed, which, both in romances and folk-tales, is regarded as a complete bar to any divorce court proceedings. It is probable that the sword was considered as a living person, so that the principle publico was applied, and the sword was regarded as a kind of chaperon. {6} It is noteworthy that the incident occurs in Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, which is a late interpolation into the Arabian Nights, and may be due there to European influence. But another incident in the romance suggests that it was derived from a folk-tale rather than the reverse. The two bowls of wood given to the heroes at baptism are clearly a modification of that familiar incident in folk-tales, where one of a pair leaves with the other a "Lifetoken" {7} which will sympathetically indicate his state of health. As this has been considerably attenuated in our romance, we are led to the conclusion that it is itself an adaptation of a folk- tale.


The tale of King Florus—the gem of the book—recalls the early part of Shakespeare's Cymbeline and the bet about a wife's virtue, which forms the subject of many romances, not a few folk-tales, and at least one folk-song. The Romance of the Violet, by Gerbert de Montruil, circa 1225, derives its name from the mother's mark of the heroine, which causes her husband to lose his bet. This was probably the source of Boccaccio's novel (ii. 9), from which Shakespeare's more immediately grew. The Gaelic version of this incident, collected by Campbell (The Chest, No. ii.), is clearly not of folk origin, but derived directly or indirectly from Boccaccio, in whom alone the Chest is found. Yet it is curious that, practically, the same story as the Romance of the Violet is found among folk-songs in modern Greece and in Modern Scotland. In Passow's collection of Romaic Folk Songs there is one entitled Maurianos and the King, which is in substance our story; and it is probably the existence of this folk-song which causes M. Gaston Paris to place our tale among the romances derived from Byzantium. Yet Motherwell in his Minstrelsy has a ballad entitled Reedisdale and Wise William, which has the bet as its motive. Here again, then, we have a connection between our romance and the story-store of European folk, and at the same time some slight link with Byzantium.


The tale of "Oversea" has immediate connection with the Crusades, since its heroine is represented to be no other than the great grandmother of Saladin. But her adventures resemble those of Boccaccio's Princess of Babylon (ii. 7), who was herself taken from one of the Greek romances by Xenophon of Ephesus. Here again, then, we can trace back to Greek influence reaching Western Europe in the twelfth century through the medium of the Crusades. But the tale finds no echo among the folk, so far as I am aware, and is thus purely and simply a romance of adventure.

This, however, is not the only story connected with the Crusades in which the Soudan loves a lady of the Franks. Saladin is credited by the chatty Chronicle of Rheims with having gained the love of Eleanor, wife of Louis VII., when they were in Palestine on the Second Crusade. As Saladin did not ascend the throne till twenty years later, chronology is enabled to clear his memory of this piece of scandal. But its existence chimes in with such relations between Moslem and Christian as is represented in our story, which were clearly not regarded at the time with any particular aversion by the folk; they agree with Cardinal Mazarin on this point.


So much for the origin of our tales. Yet who cares for origins nowadays? We are all democrats now, and a tale, like a man, is welcomed for its merits and not for its pedigree. Yet even democracy must own, that pedigree often leaves its trace in style and manner, and certainly the tales before us owe some of their charm to their lineage. "Out of Byzantium by Old France" is a good strain by which to produce thoroughbred romance.

Certainly we breathe the very air of romance in these stories. There is none of your modern priggish care for the state of your soul. Men take rank according to their might, women are valued for their beauty alone. Adventures are to the adventurous, and the world is full of them. Every place but that in which one is born is equally strange and wondrous. Once beyond the bounds of the city walls and none knows what may happen. We have stepped forth into the Land of Faerie, but at least we are in the open air.

Mr. Pater seems to regard our stories as being a premonition of the freedom and gaiety of the Renaissance rather than as especially characteristic of the times of Romance. All that one need remark upon such misconception is that it only proves that Mr. Pater knew less of Romance Literature than he did of his favourite subject. The freshness, the gaiety, the direct outlook into life are peculiar neither to Romance nor Renaissance; their real source was the esprit Gaulois. But the unquestioning, if somewhat external, piety, the immutability of the caste system, the spirit of adventure, the frankly physical love of woman, the large childlike wonder, these are of the essence of Romance, and they are fully represented in the tales before us. Wonder and reverence, are not these the parents of Romance? Intelligent curiosity and intellectual doubt—those are what the Renaissance brought. Without indulging in invidious comparisons between the relative value of these gifts, I would turn back to our stories with the remark that much of the wonder which they exhibit is due to the vague localisation which runs through them. Rome, Paris, Byzantium, form spots of light on the mediaeval map, but all between is in the dim obscure where anything may occur, and the brave man moves about with his life in his hands.

We thus obtain that absence or localisation which helps to give the characteristic tone to mediaeval romance. Events happen in a sort of sublime No Man's Land. They happen, as it were, at the root of the mountains, on the glittering plain, and in short, we get news from Nowhere. It seems, therefore, peculiarly appropriate that they should be done into English in the same style and by the same hand that has already written the annals of those countries of romance. Writing here, in front of Mr. Morris's versions, I am speaking, as it were, before his face, and must not say all that I should like in praise of the style in which he has clothed them, and of its appropriateness for its present purpose. I should merely like to recall the fact that it was used by him in his versions of the Sagas as long ago as 1869. Since then it has been adopted by all who desire to give an appropriate English dress to their versions of classic or mediaeval masterpieces of a romantic character. We may take it, I think, that this style has established itself as the only one suitable for a romantic version, and who shall use it with ease and grace if not its original inventor?

If their style suits Mr. Morris, there is little doubt that their subject is equally congenial. I cannot claim to be in his confidence on the point, but it is not difficult, I fancy, to guess what has attracted him to them. Nearly all of them, we have seen, are on the borderland between folk-tale and romance. It is tales such as these that Mr. Morris wishes to see told in tapestry on the walls of the Moot-Hall of the Hammersmith of Nowhere. It was by tales such as these that he first won a hearing from all lovers of English literature. The story of Jason is but a Greek setting of a folk-tale known among the Gaels as the Battle of the Birds, and in Norse as the Master Maid. Many of the tales which the travellers told one another in the Earthly Paradise, such as The Man Born to be King (itself derived from the first of our stories), The Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and The Ring given to Venus, are, on the face of them, folk-tales. Need I give any stronger recommendation of this book to English readers than to ask them to regard it as a sort of outhouse to that goodly fabric so appropriately known to us all as The Earthly Paradise?



This tale telleth us that there was erewhile an Emperor of Byzance, which as now is called Constantinople; but anciently it was called Byzance. There was in the said city an Emperor; pagan he was, and was held for wise as of his law. He knew well enough of a science that is called Astronomy, and he knew withal of the course of the stars, and the planets, and the moon: and he saw well in the stars many marvels, and he knew much of other things wherein the paynims much study, and in the lots they trow, and the answers of the Evil One, that is to say, the Enemy. This Emperor had to name Musselin; he knew much of lore and of sorceries, as many a pagan doth even yet.

Now it befell on a time that the Emperor Musselin went his ways a night-tide, he and a knight of his alone together, amidst of the city which is now called Constantinople, and the moon shone full clear.

And so far they went, till they heard a Christian woman who travailed in child-bed in a certain house whereby they went. There was the husband of the said woman aloft in a high solar, and was praying to God one while that she might be delivered, and then again another while that she might not be delivered.

When the Emperor had hearkened this a great while, he said to the knight: "Hast thou heard it of yonder churl how he prayeth that his wife may be delivered of her child, and another while prayeth that she may not be delivered? Certes, he is worser than a thief. For every man ought to have pity of women, more especially of them that be sick of childing. And now, so help me Mahoume and Termagaunt! if I do not hang him, if he betake him not to telling me reason wherefore he doeth it! Come we now unto him."

They went within, and said the Emperor: "Now churl, tell me of a sooth wherefore thou prayedst thy God thus for thy wife, one while that she might be delivered, and another while that she might be delivered not. This have I will to wot."

"Sir," said he, "I will tell thee well. Sooth it is that I be a clerk, and know mickle of a science which men call Astronomy. Withal I wot of the course of the stars and of the planets; therefore saw I well that if my wife were delivered at the point and the hour whereas I prayed God that she might not be delivered, that if she were delivered at that hour, the child would go the way of perdition, and that needs must he be burned, or hanged, or drowned. But whenas I saw that it was good hour and good point, then prayed I to God that she might be delivered. And so sore have I prayed God, that he hath hearkened my prayer of his mercy, and that she is delivered in good point. God be heried and thanked!"

"Well me now," said the Emperor, "in what good point is the child born?"

"Sir," said he, "of a good will; know sir, for sooth, that this child, which here is born, shall have to wife the daughter of the emperor of this city, who was born but scarce eight days ago; and he shall be emperor withal, and lord of this city, and of all the earth." "Churl," said the Emperor, "this which thou sayest can never come to pass." "Sir," said he, "it is all sooth, and thus it behoveth it to be." "Certes," quoth the Emperor, "'tis a mighty matter to trow in."

But the Emperor and the Knight departed thence, and the Emperor bade the Knight go bear off the child in such wise, if he might, that none should see him therein. The Knight went and found there two women, who were all busied in arraying the woman who had been brought to bed. The child was wrapped in linen clothes, and they had laid him on a chair. Thereto came the Knight, and took the child and laid him on a board, and brought him to the Emperor, in such wise that none of the women wotted thereof. The Emperor did do slit the belly of him with a knife from the breast down to the navel, and said withal to the Knight, that never should the son of that churl have to wife his daughter, nor be emperor after him.

Therewithal would the Emperor do the Knight to put forth his hand to the belly, to seek out the heart; but the Knight said to him: "Ah, sir, a-God's mercy, what wouldst thou do? It is nought meet to thee, and if folk were to wot thereof, great reproach wouldst thou get thee. Let him be at this present, for he is more than dead. And if it please thee that that one trouble more about the matter, I will bear him down to the sea to drown him." "Yea," quoth the Emperor, "bear him away thither, for right sore do I hate him."

So the Knight took the child, and wrapped him in a cover-point of silk, and bore him down toward the sea. But therewith had he pity of the child, and said that by him should he never be drowned; so he left him, all wrapped up as he was, on a midden before the gate of a certain abbey of monks, who at that very nick of time were singing their matins.

When the monks had done singing their matins, they heard the child crying, and they bore him before the Lord Abbot. And the Abbot saw that the child was fair, and said that he would do it to be nourished. Therewith he did do unwrap it, and saw that it had the belly cloven from the breast down to the navel.

The Abbot, so soon as it was day, bade come leeches, and asked of them for how much they would heal the child and they craved for the healing of him an hundred of bezants. But he said that it would be more than enough, for overmuch would the child be costing. And so much did the Abbot, that he made market with the surgeons for four- score bezants. And thereafter the Abbot did do baptize the child, and gave him to name Coustans, because him-seemed that he costed exceeding much for the healing of him.

The leeches went so much about with child, that he was made whole and the Abbot sought him a good nurse, and got the child to suckle, and he was healed full soon; whereas the flesh of him was soft and tender, and grew together swiftly one to the other, but ever after showed the mark.

Much speedily waxed the child in great beauty; when he was seven years old the Abbot did him to go to the school, and he learned so well, that he over-passed all his fellows in subtilty and science. When he was of twelve years, he was a child exceeding goodly; so it might nought avail to seek a goodlier. And whenas the Abbot saw him to be a child so goodly and gentle, he did him to ride abroad with him.

Now so it fell out, that the Abbot had to speak with the Emperor of a wrong which his bailiffs had done to the abbey. The Abbot made him a goodly gift, whereas the abbey and convent were subject unto him, for the Emperor was a Saracen. When the Abbot had given him his goodly gift, the Emperor gave him day for the third day thence, whenas he should be at a castle of his, three leagues from the city of Byzance.

The Abbot abode the day: when he saw the time at point to go to the Emperor, he mounted a-horseback, and his chaplain, and esquire, and his folk; and with him was Coustans, who was so well fashioned that all praised his great beauty, and each one said that he seemed well to be come of high kindred, and that he would come to great good.

So when the Abbot was come before the castle whereas the Emperor should be, he came before him and spake to and greeted him: and the Emperor said to him that he should come into the castle, and he would speak with him of his matter: the Abbot made him obeisance, and said to him: "Sir, a-God's name!" Then the Abbot called to him Coustans, who was holding of his hat while he spake unto the Emperor; and the Emperor looked on the lad, and saw him so fair and gentle as never before had he seen the like fair person. So he asked of the Abbot what he was; and the Abbot said him that he wotted not, save that he was of his folk, and that he had bred him up from a little child. "And if I had leisure with thee, I would tell thee thereof fine marvels." "Yea," said the Emperor; "come ye into the castle, and therein shalt thou say me the sooth."

The Emperor came into the castle, and the Abbot was ever beside him, as one who had his business to do; and he did it to the best that he might, as he who was subject unto him. The Emperor forgat in nowise the great beauty of the lad, and said unto the Abbot that he should cause him come before him, and the Abbot sent for the lad, who came straightway.

When the child was before the Emperor, he seemed unto him right fair; and he said unto the Abbot, that great damage it was that so fair a lad was Christian. But the Abbot said that it was great joy thereof, whereas he would render unto God a fair soul. When the Emperor heard that, he fell a-laughing, and said to the Abbot that the Christian law was of no account, and that all they were lost who trowed therein. When the Abbot heard him so say, he was sore grieved; but he durst not make answer as he would, so he said much humbly: "Sir, if God please, who can all things, they are not lost; for God will have mercy of his sinners."

Then the Emperor asked of him whence that fair child was come; and the Abbot said that it was fifteen years gone since he had been found before their gate, on a midden, all of a night-tide. "And our monks heard him a-crying whenas they had but just said matins; and they went to seek the child, and brought him to me; and I looked on the babe, and beheld him much fair, and I said that I would do him to be nourished and baptized. I unwrapped him, for the babe was wrapped up in a cover-point of vermil sendel; and when he was unwrapped, I saw that he had the belly slit from the breast to the navel. Then I sent for leeches and surgeons, and made market with them to heal him for four-score bezants; and thereafter he was baptized, and I gave him to name Coustans, because he costed so much of goods to heal. So was the babe presently made whole: but never sithence might it be that the mark appeared not on his belly."

When the Emperor heard that, he knew that it was the child whose belly he had slit to draw the heart out of him. So he said to the Abbot that he should give him the lad. And the Abbot said that he would speak thereof to his convent, and that he should have him with their good-will. The Emperor held his peace, and answered never a word. But the Abbot took leave of him, and came to his abbey, and his monks, and told them that the Emperor had craved Coustans of him. "But I answered that I would speak to you if ye will yea-say it. Say, now, what ye would praise of my doing herein."

"What!" said the wisest of the convent; "by our faith, evil hast thou done, whereas thou gavest him not presently, even as he demanded of thee. We counsel thee send him straightway, lest the Emperor be wrath against us, for speedily may we have scathe of him."

Thereto was their counsel fast, that Coustans should be sent to the Emperor. So the Abbot commanded the Prior to lead Coustans thereto; and the Prior said: "A-God's name!"

So he mounted, and led with him Coustans, and came unto the Emperor, and greeted him on behalf of the Abbot and the convent; and then he took Coustans by the hand, and, on the said behalf, gave him to the Emperor, who received him as one who was much wrath that such a runagate and beggar churl should have his daughter to wife. But he thought in his heart that he would play him the turn.

When the Emperor had gotten Coustans, he was in sore imagination how he should be slain in such wise that none might wot word thereof. And it fell out so that the Emperor had matters on hand at the outer marches of his land, much long aloof thence, well a twelve days' journey. So the Emperor betook him to going thither, and had Coustans thither with him, and thought what wise he might to do slay him, till at last he let write a letter to his Burgreve of Byzance.

"I Emperor of Byzance and Lord of Greece, do thee to wit who abidest duly in my place for the warding of my land; and so soon as thou seest this letter thou shalt slay or let slay him who this letter shall bear to thee, so soon as he hast delivered the said letter to thee, without longer tarrying. As thou holdest dear thine own proper body, do straightway my commandment herein."

Even such was the letter which the fair child Coustans bore, and knew not that he bore his own death. The lad took the letter, which was close, and betook him to the road, and did so much by his journeys that he came in less than fifteen days to Byzance, which is nowadays called Constantinople.

When the lad entered into the city, it was the hour of dinner; so, as God would have it, he thought that he would not go his errand at that nick of time, but would tarry till folk had done dinner: and exceeding hot was the weather, as is wont about St. John's-mass. So he entered into the garden all a-horseback. Great and long was the garden; so the lad took the bridle from off his horse and unlaced the saddle-girths, and let him graze; and thereafter he went into the nook of a tree; and full pleasant was the place, so that presently he fell asleep.

Now so it fell out, that when the fair daughter of the Emperor had eaten, she went into the garden with three of her maidens; and they fell to chasing each other about, as whiles is the wont of maidens to play; until at the last the fair Emperor's daughter came under the tree whereas Coustans lay a-sleeping, and he was all vermil as the rose. And when the damsel saw him, she beheld him with a right good will, and she said to herself that never on a day had she seen so fair a fashion of man. Then she called to her that one of her fellows in whom she had the most affiance, and the others she made to go forth from out of the garden.

Then the fair maiden, daughter of the Emperor, took her fellow by the hand, and led her to look on the lovely lad whereas he lay a- sleeping; and she spake thus: "Fair fellow, here is a rich treasure. Lo thou! the most fairest fashion of a man that ever mine eyes have seen on any day of my life. And he beareth a letter, and well I would see what it sayeth."

So the two maidens drew nigh to the lad, and took from him the letter, and the daughter of the Emperor read the same; and when she had read it, she fell a-lamenting full sore, and said to her fellow: "Certes here is a great grief!" "Ha, my Lady!" said the other one, "tell me what it is." "Of a surety," said the Maiden, "might I but trow in thee I would do away that sorrow!" "Ha, Lady," said she, "hardily mayest thou trow in me, whereas for nought would I uncover that thing which thou wouldst have hid."

Then the Maiden, the daughter of the Emperor, took oath of her according to the paynim law; and thereafter she told her what the letter said; and the damsel answered her: "Lady, and what wouldest thou do?" "I will tell thee well," said the daughter of the Emperor; "I will put in his pouch another letter, wherein the Emperor, my father, biddeth his Burgreve to give me to wife to this fair child here, and that he make great feast at the doing of the wedding unto all the folk of this land; whereas he is to wot well that the lad is a high man and a loyal."

When the damsel had heard that, she said that would be good to do. "But, Lady, how wilt thou have the seal of thy father?" "Full well," said the Maiden, "for my father delivered to me four pair of scrolls, sealed of his seal thereon; he hath written nought therein; and I will write all that I will." "Lady," said she, "thou hast said full well; but do it speedily, and haste thee ere he awakeneth." "So will I," said the Maiden.

Then the fair Maiden, the daughter of the Emperor, went to her coffers, and drew thereout one of the said scrolls sealed, which her father had left her, that she might borrow moneys thereby, if so she would. For ever was the Emperor and his folk in war, whereas he had neighbours right felon, and exceeding mighty, whose land marched upon his. So the Maiden wrote the letter in this wise:

"I King Musselin, Emperor of Greece and of Byzance the city, to my Burgreve of Byzance greeting. I command thee that the bearer of this letter ye give to my fair daughter in marriage according to our law; whereas I have heard and wot soothly that he is a high person, and well worthy to have my daughter. And thereto make ye great joy and great feast to all them of my city and of all my land."

In such wise wrote and said the letter of the fair daughter of the Emperor; and when she had written the said letter, she went back to the garden, she and her fellow together, and found that one yet asleep, and they put the letter into his pouch. And then they began to sing and make noise to awaken him. So he awoke anon, and was all astonied at the fair Maiden, the daughter of the Emperor, and the other one her fellow, who came before him; and the fair Maiden, daughter of the Emperor, greeted him; and he greeted her again right debonairly. Then she asked of him what he was, and whither he went; and he said that he bore a letter to the Burgreve, which the Emperor sent by him; and the Maiden said that she would bring him straightway whereas was the Burgreve. Therewith she took him by the hand, and brought him to the palace, where there was much folk, who all rose against the Maiden, as to her who was their Lady.

Now the Maiden demanded the Burgreve, and they told her that he was in a chamber; so thither she led the lad, and the lad delivered the letter, and said that the Emperor greeted him. But the Burgreve made great joy of the lad, and kissed the hand of him. The Maiden opened the pouch, and fell a-kissing the letter and the seal of her father for joy's sake, whereas she had not heard tidings of him a great while.

Thereafter she said to the Burgreve that she would hearken the letter in privy council, even as if she wotted nought thereof; and the Burgreve said that that were good to do. Then went the Burgreve and the Maiden into a chamber, and the Maiden unfolded the letter and read it to the Burgreve, and made semblance of wondering exceedingly; and the Burgreve said to her, "Lady, it behoveth to do the will of my lord thy father, for otherwise we shall be blamed exceedingly." The Maiden answered him: "And how can this be, that I should be wedded without my lord my father? A strange thing it would be, and I will do it in no manner."

"Ha, Lady!" said the Burgreve, "what is that thou sayest? Thy father has bidden thus by his letter, and it behoveth not to gainsay."

"Sir," said the Maiden, (unto whom it was late till the thing were done) "thou shalt speak unto the barons and mighty men of this realm, and take counsel thereof. And if they be of accord thereto, I am she who will not go against it." Then the Burgreve said that she spake well and as one wise.

Then spake the Burgreve to the barons, I and showed them the letter, and they accorded all to that that the matter of the letter must be accomplished, and the will of the Emperor done. Then they wedded the fair youth Coustans, according to the paynim law, unto the fair daughter of the Emperor; and the wedding endured for fifteen days: and such great joy was there at Byzance that it was exceeding, and folk did no work in the city, save eating and drinking and making merry.

Long while abode the Emperor in the land whereas he was: and when he had done his business, he went his ways back towards Byzance; and whenas he was but anigh two journeys thence, came to him a message of the messengers who came from Byzance. The Emperor asked of him what they did in the city; and the varlet said that they were making exceeding good cheer of eating and drinking and taking their ease, and that no work had they done therein these fifteen days.

"And wherefore is that?" said the Emperor. "Wherefore, Sir! Wot ye not well thereof?" "Nay, forsooth," said the Emperor, "but tell me wherefore."

"Sir," said the varlet, "thou sentest a youngling, exceeding fair, to thy Burgreve, and badest him by thy letter to wed him to thy daughter the fair, and that he should be emperor after thee, whereas he was a man right high, and well worthy to have her. But thy daughter would not take that before that the Burgreve should have spoken to the barons. And he spake to all them, and showed them thy letter; and they said that it behoved to do thy commandment. And when thy daughter saw that they were all of one accord thereon, she durst not go against them, but yea-said it. Even in such wise hath thy daughter been wedded, and such joy has been in the city as none might wish it better."

The Emperor, when he heard the messenger speak thus, was all astonied, and thought much of this matter; and he asked of the varlet how long it was since the lad had wedded his daughter, and whether or no he had lain by her?

"Sir," said the varlet, "yea; and she may well be big by now; because it is more than three weeks since he hath wedded her." "Forsooth," said the Emperor, "in a good hour be it! for since it is so, it behoveth me to abide it, since no other it may be."

So far rode the Emperor till he came to Byzance, whereas they made him much fair feast; and his fair daughter came to meet him, and her husband Coustans, who was so fair a child that none might better be. The Emperor, who was a wise man, made of them much great joy, and laid his two hands upon their two heads, and held them there a great while; which is the manner of benison amongst the paynims.

That night thought the Emperor much on this marvel, how it could have come about; and so much he pondered it, that he wotted full well that it had been because of his daughter. So he had no will to gain-say her, but he demanded to see the letter which he had sent, and they showed it unto him, and he saw his seal hanging thereto, and saw the letter which was written; and by the manner whereby the thing had been done, he said to himself that he had striven against the things which behoved to be.

Thereafter, the Emperor made Coustans a knight, even his new son who was wedded unto his daughter, and he gave and granted to him all the whole land after his death. And the said Coustans bore him well and wisely, as a good knight, and a valiant and hardy, and defended him full well against his enemies. No long time wore ere his lord the Emperor died, and his service was done much richly, after the paynim law. Then was Coustans emperor, and he loved and honoured much the Abbot who had nourished him, and he made him his very master. And the Emperor Coustans, by the counsel of the Abbot, and the will of God the all mighty, did do christen his wife, and all they of that land were converted to the law of Jesus Christ. And the Emperor Coustans begot on his wife an heir male, who had to name Constantine, who was thereafter a prudhomme much great. And thereafter was the city called Constantinople, because of his father, Coustans, who costed so much, but aforetime was it called Byzance.

Here withal endeth the Story of King Coustans the Emperor.

The said story was done out of the ancient French into English by William Morris.


In the time of Pepin King of France was a child born in the Castle of Bericain of a noble father of Alemaine who was of great holiness.

The father and the mother promised to God, and Saint Peter and Saint Paul, whereas they had none other child, that if God gave it life, they would bear it to Rome to baptism. At the same time came a vision to a Count of Alverne, whose wife was big with child, whereby it seemed that the Apostle of Rome was baptizing many children in his palace and confirming them with chrism.

So when the Count was awaken he sought of many wise folk what might signify that which he had seen in the dream. And when his vision was uncovered, a wise man and ancient bespake him by the counsel of God: "Make great joy, Count, for there shall be born to thee a son full of great prowess and of great holiness; and him thou shalt let bear to Rome and let baptize him by the Apostle."

Thereof great joy made the Count, and he and his folk praised the counsel of the elder.

The child was born and dearly fostered, and when he had two years, and the father after his purpose was bearing him to Rome, he came to the city of Lucca. And therein he found a noble man of Almaine who was wending Romeward and bearing his son to baptism. They greeted one the other, and each asked other who he was and what he sought, and when they found themselves to be of one purpose they joined company in all friendliness and entered Rome together. And the two children fell to loving one another so sorely that one would not eat without the other, they lived of one victual, and lay in one bed.

In this wise the fathers brought them before the Apostle at Rome, and spake to him: "Holy Father, whom we know and believe to be in the place of Saint Peter the Apostle, the Count of Alverne, and a noble knight of Bericain the Castle, beseech your Holiness that ye would deign to baptize their sons which they have brought from far away, and that ye would take their little offering from their hands."

And the Apostle answered them: "I hold your gifts for right acceptable, but they are not to me of much necessity; give them to the poor, who have need thereof. The infants will I baptize with a good will, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost may embrace them in the love of the Holy Trinity."

Forthwith then the Apostle baptized them in the Church of the Holy Saviour, and laid for name on the son of the Count, Amile, and on the son of the Knight, Amis; and many a knight of Rome held them at the font with mickle joy, and raised them aloft even as God would. And the office of Baptism done, the Apostle bade bring two hanaps of tree dight with gold and precious stones, side and wide alike, and of like fashion, and gave them to the bairns and said: "Take these gifts in token that I have baptized you in the Church of the Holy Saviour." Which gifts they took joyfully and thanked him much, and betook them thence home in all joyance.

To the child of Bericain did God give so great wisdom, that one might trow that he were another Solomon; and when he was of the age of thirty years a fever took his father, and he fell to admonishing his son in such like words: "Fair son, well beloved, it behoveth me presently to die, and thou shalt abide and be thine own master. Now firstly, fair son, keep thou the commandments of God; the chivalry of Jesus Christ do thou. Keep thou faith to thy lords, and give aid to thy fellows and friends. Defend the widows and orphans. Uphold the poor and needy: and all days hold thy last day in memory. Forget not the fellowship and friendship of the son of the Count of Alverne, whereas the Apostle of Rome on one day baptized you both, and with one gift honoured you. Ye be alike of beauty, of fashion, and stature, and whoso should see you, would deem you to be brethren."

So having finished these words, and received his Saviour, he departed in our Lord, and his son did do bury him, and did do render him his service, even as one should do for the dead.

After the death of his father evil folk bore envy against him, and did him many a scathe, and grieved him sorely; but he loved them all and suffered whatsoever they did to him. What more may I tell you, save that they cast him and his folk out of the heritage of his fathers, and chased him forth out of his castle. So when he bethought him of the commandment of his father, he said to them who went in his company: "The wicked have wrongfully cast me forth out of mine heritage: yet have I good hope in our Lord that he will help me; go we now to the Court of the Count Amile, who was my friend and my fellow. May-happen he will make us rich with his goods and his havings. But if it be not so, then shall we go to Hildegard the Queen, wife of King Charles of France, who is wont to comfort the disinherited."

And they answered that they were ready to follow him and do his bidding.

Therewith they went their ways to the Court of the Count and found him not there, because he was gone to Bericain to visit Amis his fellow, and comfort him of the death of his father. And when he found him not, he departed sore troubled, and said to himself that he would not betake him to his own land till he had found Amis his fellow; and he sought him in France and in Almaine, where soever he heard tell that his kindred were, and could find no certainty of him.

Therewithal Amis together with his folk, ceased not to seek his fellow Amile, until they came to the house of a noble man where they were guested. Thereat they told by order all their adventure and the noble man said to them: "Abide with me, Sir Knights, and I will give my daughter to your lord, because of the wisdom that I have heard of him, and I will make you all rich of gold and of silver, and of havings."

That word pleased them, and they I held the bridal with mickle joy. But when they had abided there for a year and a half, then said Amis to his ten fellows "We have done amiss in that we have left seeking of Amile." And he left there two of his sergeants and his hanap, and went his ways toward Paris.

Now by this time had Amile been a-seeking for Amis two years past without ceasing. And whenas Amile drew nigh to Paris he found a pilgrim and asked if he had seen Amis whom men had chased out of his land; and that one said nay, he had not. But Amile did off his coat and gave it to the pilgrim and said: "Pray thou to our Lord and his Hallows that they give me to find Amis my fellow."

Then he departed from the pilgrim, and went his ways to Paris, and found no-whither Amis his fellow.

But the pilgrim went his ways forthwith, and about vespers happened on Amis, and they greeted each the other. And Amis said to the pilgrim, had he seen or heard tidings in any land of Amile, son of the Count of Alverne. And the pilgrim answered him all marvelling: "Who art thou, Knight, who thus mockest a pilgrim? Thou seemest to me that Amile who this day asked of me if I had seen Amis his fellow. I wot not for why thou hast changed thy garments, thy folk, thine horses, and thine arms. Thou askest me now what thou didst ask me to-day about tierce; and thou gavest me this coat."

"Trouble not thine heart," said Amis, "I am not he whom thou deemest; but I am Amis who seeketh Amile." And he gave him of his silver, and bade him pray our Lord to give him to find Amile. And the pilgrim said: "Go thy ways forthright to Paris, and I trow that thou shalt find him whom thou seekest so sore longing." And therewith Aims went his ways full eagerly.

Now on the morrow Amile was already departed from Paris, and was sitting at meat with his knights hard by the water of Seine in a flowery meadow. And when they saw Amis coming with his fellows all armed, they rose up and armed them, and so went forth before them; and Amis said to his fellows: "I see French knights who come against us in arms. Now fight hardily and defend your lives. If we may escape this peril, then shall we go with great joy to Paris, and thereto shall we be received with high favour at the Court of the King."

Then were the reins let loose and the spears shaken aloft, and the swords drawn on either side, in such wise that no semblance was there that any should escape alive. But God the all mighty who seeth all, and who setteth an end to the toil of the righteous, did to hold aback them of one part and of the other when they were now hard on each other, for then said Amis: "Who are ye knights, who have will to slay Amis the exile and his fellows?" At that voice Amile knew Amis his fellow and said: "O thou Amis most well beloved, rest from my travail, I am Amile, son of the Count of Alverne, who have not ceased to seek thee for two whole years."

And therewith they lighted down from their horses, and embraced and kissed each other, and gave thanks to God of that they were found. And they swore fealty and friendship and fellowship perpetual, the one to the other, on the sword of Amile, wherein were relics. Thence went they all together to the Court of Charles, King of France; there might men behold them young, well attempered, wise, fair, and of like fashion and visage, loved of all and honoured. And the King received them much joyously, and made of Amis his treasurer, and of Amile his server.

But when they had abided thus three years, Amis said unto Amile: "Fair sweet fellow, I desire sore to go see my wife whom I have left behind; and I will return the soonest that I may; and do thou abide at the Court. But keep thee well from touching the daughter of the King; and above all things beware of Arderi the felon." Amile answered him: "I will take heed of thy commandment; but betake thee back hither so soon as thou mayest."

Thuswise departed Amis. But Amile cast his eyes upon the King's daughter, and knew her so soon as he might; and right soon forgat he the commandment and the teaching of Amis his fellow. Yet is not this adventure strange, whereas he was no holier than David, nor wiser than Solomon.

Amidst these things Arderi the traitor, who bore him envy, came to him and said: "Thou wottest not, fellow, thou wottest not, how Amis hath robbed the treasure of the King, and therefore is fled away. Wherefore I require of thee thou swear me fealty and friendship and fellowship, and I will swear the same to thee on the holy Gospel." And so when that was done Amile doubted not to lay bare his secret to Arderi.

But whenas Amile was a-giving water to the King to wash his hands withal, the false Arderi said to the King: "Take thou no water from this evil man, sir King: for he is more worthy of death than of life, whereas he hath taken from the Queen's Daughter the flower of her virginity." But when Amile heard this, he fell adown all astonied, and might say never a word; but the benign King lifted him up again, and said to him: "Rise up, Amile, and have no fear, and defend thee of this blame." So he lifted himself up and said: "Have no will to trow, sire, in the lies of Arderi the traitor, for I wot that thou art a rightwise judge, and that thou turnest not from the right way, neither for love nor for hatred. Wherefore I pray thee that thou give me frist of counsel; and that I may purge me of this guilt before thee, and do the battle against Arderi the traitor, and make him convict of his lies before all the Court."

So the King gave to one and the other frist of counsel till after nones, and that then they should come before him for to do their devoir; and they came before the King at the term which he had given them. Arderi brought with him the Count Herbert for his part; but Amile found none who would be for him saving Hildegarde the Queen, who took up the cause for him, and gat frist of counsel for Amile, on such covenant that if Amile came not back by the term established, she should be lacking all days of the bed of the King.

But when Amile went to seek counsel, he happened on Amis, his fellow, who was betaking him to the King's Court; and Amile lighted down from his horse, and cast himself at the feet of his fellow, and said: "O thou, the only hope of my salvation, evilly have I kept thy commandment; for I have run into wyte of the King's Daughter, and I have taken up battle against the false Arderi."

Then said Amis, sighing: "Leave we here our folk, end enter into this wood to lay bare our secret." And Amis fell to blaming Amile, and said: "Change we our garments and our horses, and get thee to my house, and I will do the battle for thee against the traitor." And Amile answered: "How may I go into thine house, who have no knowledge of thy wife and thy folk, and have never seen them face to face?" But Amis said to him: "Go in all safety, and seek wisely to know them: but take good heed that thou touch not my wife."

And thuswise they departed each from his fellow weeping; and Amis went his ways to the Court of the King in the semblance of Amile, and Amile to the house of his fellow in the semblance of Amis. But the wife of Amis, when she saw him betake him thither, ran to embrace him, whom she deemed was her husband, and would have kissed him. But he said: "Flee thou from before me, for I have greater need to lament than to play; whereas, since I departed from thee, I have suffered adversity full sore, and yet have to suffer."

And a night-time whenas they lay in one bed, then Amile laid his sword betwixt the two of them, and said to the woman: "Take heed that thou touch me in no manner wise, else diest thou straightway by this sword." And in likewise did he the other nights, until Amis betook him in disguise to his house to wot if Amile kept faith with him of his wife.

Now was the term of the battle come, and the Queen abode Amile all full of fear, for the traitor Arderi said, all openly, that the Queen should nevermore draw nigh the bed of the King, whereas she had suffered and consented hereto, that Amile should shame her daughter. Amidst these words Amis entered into the Court of the King clad in the raiment of his fellow, Amile, at the hour of midday and said to the King: "Right debonaire and loyal judge, here am I apparelled to do the battle against the false Arderi, in defence of me, the Queen, and her daughter of the wyte which they lay upon us."

And the King answered benignly and said: "Be thou nought troubled, Count, for if thou vanquishest the battle, I will give thee to wife Belisant my daughter."

On the morrow's morn, Arderi and Amis entered armed into the field in the presence of the King and his folk. And the Queen with much company of virgins, and widows and wedded wives, went from church to church making prayers for the Champion of her daughter, and they gave gifts, oblations and candles.

But Amis fell to pondering in his heart, that if he should slay Arderi, he would be guilty of his death before God, and if he were vanquished, it should be for a reproach to him all his days. Wherefore he spake thuswise to Arderi: "O thou, Count, foul rede thou hast, in that thou desirest my death so sorely, and hast foolishly cast thy life into peril of death. If thou wouldest but take back the wyte which thou layest on me, and leave this mortal battle, thou mayest have my friendship and my service."

But Arderi, as one out of his wit, answered him: "I will nought of thy friendship nor thy service; but I shall swear the sooth as it verily is, and I shall smite the head from off thee."

So Arderi swore that he had shamed the King's Daughter, and Amis swore that he lied; and straightway they dealt together in strokes, and fought together from the hour of tierce right on till nones. And Arderi was vanquished, and Amis smote off his head.

The King was troubled that he had Arderi; yet was he joyous that his daughter was purged of her guilt. And he gave to Amis his daughter, and a great sum of gold and silver, and a city hard by the sea wherein to dwell. And Amis received the same with great joy. Then he returned at his speediest to his hostel wherein he had left Amile his fellow; but whenas Amile saw him coming with much company of horse, he deemed that Amis was vanquished, and fell to fleeing: but Amis bade him return in all safety, for that he had vanquished Arderi, and thereby was wedded for him to the King's Daughter. Thence then did Amile betake him, and abode in the aforesaid city with his wife.

But Amis abode with his wife, and he became mesel by the will of our Lord, in such wise that he might not move from his bed; for God chastiseth him that He loveth.

And his wife, who had to name Obias, had him in sore hate, and many a time strove to strangle him; and when Amis found that, he called to him two of his sergeants, Azones and Horatus by name, and said to them: "Take me out of the hands of this evil woman, and take my hanap privily and bear me to the Castle of Bericain."

So when they drew nigh to the castle, folk came to meet them, and asked of them who was the feeble sick man whom they bore; and they said it was Amis, the master of them, who was become mesel, and prayed them that they would do him some mercy. But nevertheless, they beat the sergeants of Amis, and cast him down from the cart whereon they were bearing him, and said: "Flee hence speedily if ye would not lose your lives."

Then Amis fell a-weeping, and said:

"O Thou, God debonaire and full of pity, give me death, or give me aid from mine infirmity!" And therewith he said to his sergeants: "Bring me to the Church of the Father of Rome, whereas God may peradventure of His great mercy purvey for my poverty."

When they came to Rome, Constantin the Apostle, full of pity and of holiness, and many a knight of Rome of them who had held Amis at the font, came to meet him, and gave him sustenance enough for him and his sergeants.

But in the space of three years thereafter was so great famine in the city, that the father had will to thrust the son away from his house. Then spake Azones and Horatus to Amis, and said: "Fair sir, thou wottest how feally we have served thee sithence the death of thy father unto this day, and that we have never trespassed against thy commandment. But now we may no longer abide with thee, whereas we have no will to perish of hunger: wherefore we pray thee give us leave to escape this mortal pestilence."

Then Amis answered them weeping: "O ye fair sons, and not sergeants, my only comfort, I pray you for God's sake that ye leave me not here, but bear me to the city of the Count Amile my fellow."

And they who would well obey his commandments, bore him thither whereas was Amile; and there they fell to sounding on their tartavelles before the Court of Amile, even as mesel folk be wont to do. And when Amile heard the sound thereof he bade a sergeant of his to bear to the sick man of bread and of flesh, and therewithal his hanap, which was given to him at Rome, full of good wine: and when the sergeant had done his commandment he said to him when he came again: "By the faith which I owe thee, sir, if I held not thine hanap in my hand, I had deemed that it was even that which the sick man had; for one and the same be they of greatness and of fashion." Then said Amile: "Go speedily and lead him hither to me."

But when he was before his fellow he asked of him who he was, and how he had gotten that hanap. Said he: "I am of Bericain the Castle, and the hanap was given me by the Apostle of Rome, when he baptized me."

And when Amile heard that, he knew that it was Amis his fellow who had delivered him from death, and given him to wife the King's Daughter of France; straightway he cast himself upon him and fell to crying out strongly, and to weeping and lamenting, and to kissing and embracing him. And when his wife heard the same, she ran thereto all dishevelled, and making great dole, whereas she had in memory of how he had slain Arderi. And straightway they laid him in a very fair bed, and said to him: "Abide with us, fair sir, until that God shall do his will of thee, for whatsoever we have is for thee to deal with." And he abode with them, and his sergeants with him.

Now it befel on a night whenas Amis and Amile lay in one chamber without other company, that God sent to Amis Raphael his angel, who said to him: "Sleepest thou, Amis?" And he, who deemed that Amile had called to him, answered: "I sleep not, fair sweet fellow." Then the angel said to him: "Thou hast answered well, whereas thou art the fellow of the citizens of Heaven, and thou hast followed after Job, and Thoby in patience. Now I am Raphael, an angel of our Lord, and am come to tell thee of a medicine for thine healing, whereas He hath heard thy prayers. Thou shalt tell to Amile thy fellow, that he slay his two children and wash thee in their blood, and thence thou shalt get thee the healing of thy body."

Then said Amis: "Never shall it be that my fellow be a manslayer for the healing of me." But the Angel said: "Yet even so it behoveth to do."

And when he had so said, the Angel departed; and therewith Amile, as if a-sleeping, heard those words, and awoke, and said: "What is it, fellow? who hath spoken unto thee?" And Amis answered that none had spoken: "But I have prayed to our Lord according to my wont." Then Amile said: "Nay, it is not so; some one hath spoken to thee." Therewith he arose and went to the door of the chamber, and found it shut, and said: "Tell me, fair brother, who hath spoken to thee these words of the night?"

Then Amis fell a-weeping sorely, and said to him that it was Raphael the Angel of our Lord who had said to him: "Amis, our Lord biddeth that thou tell Amile that he slay his two children, and wash thee with the blood of them, and that then thou wilt be whole of thy meselry."

But Amile was sore moved with these words, and said to him: "Amis, I have given over to thee man-servant and maid-servant and all my goods, and now thou feignest in fraud that the Angel hath spoken to thee that I slay my two children!" But forthwith Amis fell a- weeping, and said: "I wot that I have spoken to thee things grievous, as one constrained, and now I pray thee that thou cast me not out of thine house." And Amile said that he had promised that he would hold him till the hour of his death: "But I conjure thee by the faith which is betwixt thee and me, and by our fellowship, and by the baptism which we took between me and thee at Rome, that thou tell me if it be man or Angel who hath said this to thee."

Then Amis answered: "As true as it was an Angel who spake to me this night, so may God deliver me from mine infirmity."

Then Amile fell to weeping privily, and thinking in his heart: "This man forsooth was apparelled before the King to die for me, and why should I not slay my children for him; if he hath kept faith with me to the death, why keep I not faith? Abraham was saved by faith, and by faith have the hallows vanquished kingdoms; and God saith in the Gospel: 'That which ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them.'"

And Amile without more tarrying, went to the chamber of his wife, and bade her go hear the service of our Lord; and the Countess gat her to the church even as she was wont.

Then the Count took his sword, and went to the bed where lay his children, and found them sleeping, and he threw himself upon them, and fell to weeping bitterly and said: "Who hath heard ever of a father who of his own will hath slain his child? Ah, alas my children! I shall be no more your father, but your cruel murderer! And therewith the children awoke because of the tears which fell on them from their father; and the children, who looked on the face of their father, fell a-laughing. And whereas they were of the age of three years or thereabout, their father said to them: "Your laughter shall be turned into weeping, for now shall your innocent blood be shed."

When he had so said he cut off their heads and then laid them out behind the bed, and laid the heads to the bodies, and covered them over even as they slept. And with their blood which he received, he washed his fellow, and said: "Sire God, Jesus Christ, who commandest men to keep faith upon the earth, and who cleansest the mesel by thy word, deign thou to cleanse my fellow, for the love of whom I have shed the blood of my children."

Then was Amis cleansed of his meselry, and they gave thanks to our Lord with great joy and said: "Blessed be God, the father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who healeth them that have hope in him."

And Amile clad his fellow in his own right goodly raiment; and therewith they went to the church to give thanks there, and the bells by the grace of God rang of themselves. And when the people of the city heard that, they ran all together toward that marvel.

Now the wife of the Count when she saw them both going together, fell to asking which of the two was her husband and said: "I know well the raiment of these twain, but I wot not which is Amile."

And the Count said: "I am Amile, and this my fellow is Amis, who is whole." Then the Countess wondered, and said: "I see him all whole; but much I desire to know whereby he is healed." "Render we thanks to our Lord," said the Count, "nor disquiet us as to how it may be."

Now was come the hour of tierce, and neither the father nor the mother was yet entered in to their children; but the father sighed grievously for the death of his babes. Then the Countess asked for her children to make her joy, and the Count said: "Dame let be, let the children sleep!"

Therewith he entered all alone to the children to weep over them, and he found them playing in the bed; but the scars of their wounds showed about the necks of each of them even as a red fillet.

Then he took them in his arms, and bore them to their mother, and said "Make great joy, dame, whereas thy sons whom I had slain by the commandment of the Angel are alive again, and by their blood is Amis cured and healed."

And when the Countess heard it she said: "O thou, Count, why didst thou not lead me with thee to receive the blood of my children, and I would have washed therewith Amis thy fellow and my Lord?"

Then said the Count: "Dame, let be these words; and let us be at the service of our Lord, who hath done such great wonders in our house."

Which thing they did even unto their death and held chastity.

And they made great joy through that same city for ten days.

But on the selfsame day that Amis was made whole, the devils bore off his wife; they brake the neck of her, and bore away her soul.

After these things Amis betook him to the Castle of Bericain and laid siege before it; and abode there before so long, that they of the castle rendered themselves to him. He received them benignly, and pardoned them their evil will; and from thenceforth he dwelt with them peaceably and he held with him the elder son of Amile, and served our Lord with all his heart.

Thereafter Adrian, Apostle of Rome, sent word to Charles, King of France, that he come help him against Desir, the King of the Lombards, who much tormented the Church; and Charles was as then in the town of Theodocion. Thither came Peter, messenger of the Apostle, who said to him that the Apostle prayed him to come defend Holy Church. Thereupon King Charles sent to the said Desir messengers to pray him that he give back to the Holy Father the cities and other things which he had taken from him, and that he would give him thereto the sum of forty thousand sols of gold in gold and in silver. But he would give way neither for prayers nor gifts. Thereon the good King bade come to him all manner folk, Bishops, Abbots, Dukes, Princes, Marquises and other strong knights. And he sent to Cluses certain of these for to guard the passage of the ways. Amongst the which was Albins, Bishop of Angier, a man full of great holiness.

Then the King Charles together with many warriors, drew nigh to Cluses by the Mount of Sinense, and sent Bernhart his uncle, and a many with him, by the Mount of Jove. And the vanward said that Desir, together with all his force, was already at Cluses, the which he had do dight with bulwarks of iron and stone.

But whenas Charles drew nigh to Cluses, he sent his messengers to Desir, praying him to give back to the Holy Father the cities which he had taken; but he would nought for the prayer. Again Charles bade him that he send three of the children of the judges of Lombardy in hostage, until such time as he had given back the cities of the Church, and that he would betake him to France with all his host, without battle and without doing any scathe. But he neither for that, nor for aught else would blench one whit.

Now when God the almighty had seen the hard heart and malice of this man; and that the French were sore desirous to get them aback home, he set so great fear and so great trembling in the hearts of the Lombards, that they turned to flight all of them, although none chased them, and left there behind them their tents and all their gear. When that saw Charles and his host, they followed them and thrust forth into Lombardy French, Almaines, English and all other manner of folk.

Of that host were Amis and Amile, who were the first in the court of the King, and every way they heeded the works of our Lord, in fasting, in praying, in alms-doing, in giving aid to widows and orphans, in often times appeasing the wrath of the King, in suffering the evil, and consoling the realm of the Romans.

Now whenas Charles had much folk in Lombardy, King Desir came to meet him with his little host; for whereas Desir had a priest, Charles had a bishop; whereas that one had a monk, the other had an abbot; where Desir had a knight Charles had a prince; the one had a man afoot, the other a duke or a count. What should I say, where that King had one knight, Charles had thirty. So the two hosts fell to blows together with great cries and banners displayed; stones and darts flying here and there, and knights falling on every part.

And the Lombards fought so mightily for three days, that they slew of King Charles a very great infinity. And after the third day's wearing Charles called to him the most mighty and the strongest of his host, and said to them: "Either die ye in battle, or gain ye the victory."

So the King Desir and the whole host of the Lombards together fled away to the place hight Mortara, which in those days was called Fair- wood, whereas thereabout was the land delectable: there they refreshed them and took heed to their horses.

On the morrow morn King Charles and his host came thither, and found the Lombards all armed, and there they joined battle, and a great multitude of dead there was on one side and the other, and because of this slaughter had the place to name Mortara.

Moreover, there died Amis and Amile, for even as God had joined them together by good accord in their life-days, so in their death they were not sundered. Withal many another doughty baron was slain with them. But Desir, together with his judges, and a great multitude of the Lombards, fled away and entered into Pavia; and King Charles followed after them, and besieged the city on all sides. Withal he sent into France for his wife and his children. But the holy Albins, bishop of Angier, and many other bishops and abbots gave counsel to the King and the Queen, that they should bury the dead and make there a church: and the said counsel pleased much the King, and there were made two churches, one by the commandment of Charles in honour of St. Eusebius of Verceil, and the other by the commandment of the Queen in honour of St. Peter.

And the King did do bear thither two arks of stone, wherein were buried Amis and Amile; and Amile was borne into the Church of St. Peter, and Amis into the Church of St. Eusebius; and the other corpses were buried here and there. But on the morrow's morn the body of Amile, and his coffin therewith, was found in the Church of St. Eusebius hard by the coffin of Amis his fellow.

Now hear ye of this marvellous fellowship which might not be sundered by death. This wonder wrought for them God, who had given such might to His disciples that they had power to move mountains and shift them. But because of this miracle the King and the Queen abode there thirty days, and did do the service of them that were slain, and worshipped the said churches with great gifts.

Meanwhile the host of Charles wrought for the taking of the city which they had besieged; and our Lord tormented them that were within in such wise that they were brought to nought by great feebleness and by mortalities. And after ten months from the time when the city was besieged, Charles took Desir, and all them who were with him, and laid the city and all the realm under his subjection. And King Desir and his wife they led into France.

But Saint Albins, who by that time had raised the dead to life, and given light to many blind folk, ordained clerks, priests, and deacons in the aforesaid Church of St. Eusebius, and commanded them that they should without ceasing guard and keep the bodies of those two fellows, AMIS and AMILE, who suffered death at the hands of Desir, King of Lombardy, on the fourth of the ides of October.

Reigning our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth without end with the Father and the Holy Ghost. AMEN.


Here telleth the tale of a king who had to name King Florus of Ausay. A full good knight was he and a gentleman of high lineage. The said King Florus of Ausay took to wife the daughter of the Prince of Brabant, who was a woman very gentle, and of great line: and a right fair maid was she when he wedded her and dainty of body and fashion; and saith the tale that she was but of fifteen years when the King Florus took her, and he but of seventeen. A full good life they lived, as for young folk who loved together dearly: but King Florus might have no child of her, whereof he was sore grieving, and she also was exceeding heavy-hearted thereat. Much fair was this lady, and much she loved God and Holy Church, and therewith was so good almsgiver and so charitable that she fed and clad poor people and kissed their feet. And to mesel folk both carles and queans was she so kind and careful, that the Ho]y Ghost dwelt in her. Her Lord King Florus went often to tournays in Alemain and France, and in many other lands whereas he wotted of them, when he was without war: much good he expended thereon and much honour he gained thereby.

But now leaveth the tale to tell of him and taketh up the word of a knight who dwelt in the marches of Flanders and Hainault. This said knight was full valiant and hardy, and right trusty, and had to wife a full fair dame of whom he had a much fair daughter, who had to name Jehane and was then of the age of twelve years. Much word there was of this fair maiden; for in all the land was none so fair. Her mother spake often to her lord that he should give her in marriage; but he was so given up to the following of tournays, that he was nowise hot on the wedding of his daughter, and his wife ever admonished him thereof when he came home from his tournays.

Now this knight had a squire who had to name Robin, and was the valiantest squire to be found in any land, and by his prowess and his good fame oft he bore away the prize for his lord from the tournay whereas he wended. Whereon it befel that his lady thus bespake him: "Robin, my lord is so given up to these tournays that I know not how to speak with him, whereof I am sore at heart, for I would well that he should lay pain and care to the wedding of my daughter; wherefore I pray thee, for the love of me, that whenas thou seest the point thou say to him that he doth very ill and is sore blamed that he weddeth not his fair daughter, for there is no knight in the land how rich soever he be who would not take her with a good will." "Lady," said Robin, "ye have said well; I will say it right well; since forsooth he troweth me of many things, and so will he hereof meseemeth." "Robin," said the lady, "I pray thee of this business for all guerdon." "Dame," said Robin, "I am well prayed hereof; and wot ye that I will do to my power herein." "It is enough," said the lady.

No long while after the knight betook him to wending to a tournay afar from his land, and when he came there he was retained straightway of the fellowship, he and the knight of whose mesney he was, and his banner was borne into the hostel of his lord. The tournay began, and the knight did so well by means of the good deeds of Robin, his squire, that he bore off the praise and prize of the tournay from one party and the other. On the second day the knight betook him to wending to his own land, and Robin put him to reason many times and blamed him much in that he gave not his fair daughter in marriage, and many times he said it to him, till at the last his lord said to him: "Robin, thou and thy lady give me no peace about the marrying of my daughter; but as yet I know and see no man in my land unto whom I would give her." "Ah, sir," said Robin, "there is not a knight in thy land who would not take her with a good will." "Fair friend Robin, they are of no avail, all of them; and to none of them shall I give her; and forsooth to no one would I give her as now, save to one man only, and he forsooth is no knight." "Sir, tell me of him," said Robin, "and I shall speak or let speak to him so subtilly that the marriage shall be made." "Certes, Robin," said the knight, "from the semblance that I see of thee thou willest well that my daughter should be wedded." "Sir," said Robin, "thou sayest sooth, for it is well time." "Robin," said the knight, "whereas thou art so eager that my daughter should be wedded, she shall be wedded right soon if thou accord to the said wedding." "Certes, sir," said Robin, "of a good will shall I accord thereto." "Wilt thou give me thy word herein?" "Yea, sir," said Robin. "Robin, thou hast served me exceeding well, and I have found thee a valiant man, and a loyal, and such as I be thou hast made me, and great gain have I gotten by thee, to wit, five hundred pounds of land; for it was but a little while that I had but five hundred, and now have I a thousand, and I tell thee that I owe much to thee: wherefore will I give my fair daughter unto thee, if thou wilt take her." "Ha, sir," said Robin, "God's mercy, what is this thou sayest? I am too poor a person to have so high a maiden, nor one so fair and so rich as my damsel is; I am not meet thereto. For there is no knight in this land, be he never so gentle a man, but would take her with a good will." "Robin, know that no knight of this land shall have her, but I shall give her to thee, if thou will it; and thereto will I give thee four hundred pounds of my land." "Ha, sir," said Robin, "I deem that thou mockest me." "Robin," said the knight, "wot thou surely that I mock thee not." "Ha, sir, neither my lady nor her great lineage will accord hereto." "Robin," said the knight, "nought shall be done herein at the will of any of them. Hold! here is my glove, I invest thee with four hundred pounds of my land, and I will be thy warrant for all." "Sir," said Robin "I will nought naysay it; fair is the gift since I know that is soothfast." "Robin," said the knight, "now hast thou the rights thereof."

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