Le Morte Darthur

Explicit the Table

Thomas Malory


NOTE A.

See Introduction, page xxxii. note 1.

OH ye mighty and pompous lords, shining in the glory transitory of this unstable life, as in reigning over realms great, and mighty countries, fortified with strong castles and towers, edified with many a rich city. Ye also, ye fierce and mighty chivalers, so valiant in adventurous deeds of arms, behold, behold, see how this mighty conqueror Arthur, whom in his human life all the world doubted—ye also, the noble queen Guenever, that sometime sat in her chair adorned with gold, pearls, and precious stones, now lie full low in obscure foss or pit covered with clods of earth and clay. Behold also this mighty champion Launcelot, peerless of knighthood, see now how he lieth groveling on the cold mould, now being so feeble and faint that sometime was so terrible, how and in what manner ought ye to be so desirous of the mundane honour so dangerous. Therefore me thinketh this present book called La Morte Darthur is right necessary often to be read, for in it shall ye find the gracious, knightly, and virtuous war of most noble knights of the world, whereby they gat praising continual. Also me seemeth by the oft reading thereof ye shall greatly desire to accustom yourself in following of those gracious knightly deeds, that is to say, to dread God, and to love rightwiseness, faithfully and courageously to serve your sovereign prince. And the more that God hath given you the triumphal honour the meeker ye ought to be, ever fearing the unstableness of this deceivable world. And so I pass over, and turn again to my matter.’

NOTE B.

See Introduction, page xxxiv. note 3.

For those who may care to see more of the manner in which the text of the interpolated passages has been formed, I give the following specimens in detail.

The first is from the beginning of the 11th Chapter of Book XXI.

CAXTON.

‘Than syr Launcelot rose vp or day/& tolde the heremyte/It were wel done sayd the heremyte that ye made you redy/& that ye dyshobeye not the auysyon/Than syr Launcelot toke his vii felowes with hym/& on fote they yede from glastynburye to almysburye the whyche is lytel more than xxx myle/& thyder they came within two dayes for they were wayke and feble to goo/& whan syr Launcelot was come to almysburye within the Nunerye quene gweneuer deyed but halfe an oure afore/and the ladyes tolde syr Launcelot that quene Gueneuer tolde hem al or she passyd/that syr Launcelot had been preest nere a twelue monthe/& hyder he cometh as faste as he may to fetch my cors/& besyde my lord kyng Arthur he shal berye me/’

 

WYNKYN DE WORDE, 1498.

‘Thenne syre Launcelot rose vp or day. And tolde the heremyte. It were well doon sayd the heremyte/that ye made ye redy/and that ye dysobeye not the aduysyon. Thenē syr Launcelot toke his .vij. felowes wt hym/& on fote they yede from Glastynbury to Almesbury. the whyche is lytyl more than .xxx. myle. And thyder they came wythin two dayes for they were weyke & feble to go. And whan syr Launcelot was come to Almesbury wythin the Nunnery/quene Gweneuer deyed but halfe an houre afore/And the ladyes tolde syr Launcelot/that quene Gweneuer tolde them all or she passyd/that syr Launcelot had be preest nere a twelue month and hither he cometh as fast as he may/to fetche my corps. And besyde my lorde kyng Arthur/he shal bury me.’

 

UPCOTT.

‘Than syr Launcelot rose vp or it was day, and tolde the heremyte therof. It were well done sayd the heremyte that ye made you redy, and that ye dysobeye not thys aduysyon. Theñe syr Launcelot toke his .vii felawes with hym, & on foote they yede from Glastynbury to Almesbury, the whyche is lytyl more than xxx myle. And thyder they came wythin two dayes for they were weyke and feble to go. And whan syr Launcelot was come to Almesbury wythin the Nonnery, quene Gweneuer deyed but halfe an houre afore. And the ladyes tolde syre Launcelot that quene Gueneuer tolde them all or she passyd, that syr Launcelot had been preest nere a twelue moneth, and hither he cometh as faste as he may for to fetche my corps. And besyde my lorde kynge Arthur he shal burye me.’

The last lines of the same Chapter are as follows:—

CAXTON.

‘For whan I remembre of hir beaulte and of hir noblesse that was bothe with hyr king & with hyr/So whan I sawe his corps and hir corps so lye togyders/truly myn herte wold not serue to susteyne my careful body/Also whan I remēbre me how by my defaut & myn orgule and my pryde/that they were bothe layed ful lowe that were pereles that euer was lyuyng of cristen people, wyt you wel sayd syr Launcelot/this remembred of there kyndnes and myn vnkyndnes sanke so to myn herte that I mi»Ět not susteyne myself so the frensshe book maketh mencyon.’

 

UPCOTT.

(Who follows Wynkyn de Worde exactly, except in the spelling, and in the insertion of ‘me’ after ‘wold not serue.’)

‘For whan I remembre & calle to mynde her beaute, bountee & noblesse, that was as wel wyth her kyng my lord Arthur as wyth her. And also whanne I saw the corses of that noble kinge & noble quene so lye to gyder in that colde graue made of erthe, that somtyme were so hyghly sette in moost honourable places, truly myn herte wolde not serue me to susteyne my wretchyd & carefull body. Also whan I remembre me how by my defawte myn orgulyte and my pride, that they were both layed full lowe whyche were pereles that euer were lyuenge of crysten peple, wyte yow wel sayd syr Launcelot, this remembred, of ther kyndnesse & of myn vnkyndnesse, sanke and enprest soo in to my herte that all my natural strengthe fayled me, so that I myghte not susteyne my selfe. Soo the frensshe boke makyth mencyon.’

The several colophons are as follows:—

CAXTON.

‘Thus endeth thys noble and Ioyous book entytled le morte Darthur/Notwithstondyng it treateth of the byrth/lyf/and actes of the sayd kynge Arthur/of his noble knyghtes of the rounde table/theyr meruayllous enquestes and aduentures/thachyeuyng of the sangreal/& in thende the dolourous deth & departyng out of thys world of them al/Whiche book was reduced in to englysshe by syr Thomas Malory knyght as afore is sayd/and by me deuyded in to xxi bookes chapytred and enprynted/and fynysshed in thabbey westmestre the last day of Iuyl the yere of our lord M/CCCC/lxxx/V/ Caxton me fieri fecit.’/

 

WYNKYN DE WORDE, 1498.

‘Thus endyth this noble and Ioyous boke entytled Le morte dathur. Notwythstondyng it treateth of the byrth lyf & actes of the sayd kynge Arthur of his noble knyghtes of the rounde table. theyr merueyllous enquestes & aduentures. thachyeuynge of the Sancgreall. And in the ende the dolorous deth. & depaytynge out of this worlde of them al. Whyche boke was reduced in to Englysshe by the well dysposyd knyghte afore namyd. And deuyde[d] into .xxi. bokes chapitred. & enprynt[ed] fyrst by Wylliam Caxton/on who[se] soule god haue mercy. And newel[ye] prynted. and chapitres of the sam[e ru-]brisshed at Westmestre, by Wynk[yn de] Worde ye yere of our lord. M.C[CCC].lxxxxviij. and ended the .xxv [daye of] Marche. the same yere.’

 

AMES.

‘Thus endeth this noble and joyous boke, entytled La morte d’Arthur. Notwithstondyng it treateth of the byrth, lyf, and actes of the sayd Kynge Arthur, of his noble knyghts of the rounde table, theyr merueylous enquestes and aduentures, thacheuynge of the Sancgreal and in the ende the dolourous deth and depaytynge out of this worlde of them al; whyche boke was reduced into Englysshe by syr Thomas Malory, Knight, as afore is sayd, and by me devyded into xxi. bookes, chapitred and enprynted, and fynisshed in thabbey, Westmestre, the last day of Juyl, the yere of our Lord MCCCCLXXXV. Caxton me fieri fecit.’

 

HARLEIAN CATALOGUE.

‘The Byrth, Lyf, and Actes of Kyng Arthur; of his noble Knyghtes of the Rounde Table, theyr marvayllous Enquestes and Adventures; the Achyeviyng of the Sang real; and in the end le Morte d’Arthur, with the dolourous Deth and Departyng out of thys world of them Al. Whiche Book was reduced to the Englysshe, by Syr Thomas Malory Knyght, and by me (W. Caxton) devyded into 21 bookes, chaptyred and emprynted, and fynyshed in th’ Abbey Westmestre, the last day of July, the yere of our Lord 1485.’

 

UPCOTT.

‘Thus endeth this noble & joyous booke entytled La Mort dathur. Notwythstanding it treateth of the byrth, lyf & actes of the sayd Kynge Arthur, & of his noble knyghtes of the Rounde Table, theyr marueyllous Enquestes & aduentures, thacheyuyng of the Sang real, and in the ende le Morte darthur with the dolourous deth and departyng out of thys worlde of them al. Whiche booke was reduced in to Englysshe by Syr Thomas Malory knyght as afore is sayd, and by me deuyded in to xxi bookes chaptyred and emprynted and fynysshed in thabbey Westmestre the last day of July the yere of our lord MCCCCLXXXV. Caxton me fieri fecit.

 

On a comparison of these colophons we see that the article La is only in Ames: the spelling of dathur is peculiar to Wynkyn de Worde, who has it also in another passage; the words le Morte darthur with are in the Harleian Catalogue only: as afore is said is in neither of these, but it is in Ames: the peculiar mode of writing Sang real1, and the spelling of chaptyred, emprynted, July, are those of the Harleian Catalogue: the & introduced after Arthur in the second line is only in Upcott. Caxton me fieri fecit is in Ames, but not in the Harleian Catalogue.

When I say in Ames or the Harleian Catalogue only, it will be understood that I include with the colophon of the former its modernised copy in Dibdin; and with that of the latter its copies in Herbert and the Biographia Britannica; the references to all which I have given in the passage of the Introduction to which this is a Note. The first words of the colophon are omitted in the Harleian Catalogue, which gives it as the title of the book, as do the Biographia Britannica and Herbert. The framer of the Catalogue probably quotes directly, though inaccurately, from the Harleian (now the Osterley) Morte Darthur: and Ames must have made his extract independently from the same volume. Dibdin attributes both the Harleian Catalogue and the article in the Biographia Britannica to Oldys.


1.    

The division of the word indicates that the writer adopts the plausible notion that Sangreal means Real (or Royal) Blood; and no doubt in ancient as well as modern times the spelling and sound would suggest this meaning: but Roquefort shows clearly that the other is the proper explanation, both in etymology and (so to speak) historically. And Helinand, a monk of Fromont (A.D. 717), gives the Latin Gradale, which supplies the link between Graal and Crater from which Roquefort derives the former. Helinand’s words are,—‘Hoc tempore, in Britannia, cuidam eremitae monstrata est mirabilis quaedam visio per angelum de sancto Josepho decurione nobili qui corpus Domini deposuit de cruce, et de catino illo vel paropside in quo Dominus coenavit cum discipulis suis; de qua ab eodem eremita descripta est historia quae dicitur de Gradal. Gradalis autem vel Gradale dicitur Gallicè scutella lata et aliquantulum profunda in qua pretiosae dapes, cum suo jure, divitibus solent apponi, et dicitur nomine Graal . . . . Hanc historiam latine scriptam invenire non potui, sed tantum Gallicè scripta habetur a quibusdam proceribus, nec facile ut aiunt tota inveniri potest.’ Helinandi Historia, quoted in L’Essai Historique et Literaire sur l’Abbaye de Fécamp par Leroux de Lincy, Rouen, 1840.

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