Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
The Irish Lives of Guy of Warwick and Bevis of Hampton (Author: [unknown])

Life 2

The Irish Life of Bevis of Hampton


{Ir. ed. page 273}There was a very rich and charitable earl in England whose name was Sir Guy of Hampton, and he passed two thirds of his time and of his life in warfare and in constant strife; and he had no wife at that time. And his friends counselled him to take to wife the daughter of the King of Scotland. And it was thus with that maiden: she felt strong, passionate love for the son of the German Emperor, Para by name, and he felt the same toward her. Howbeit, it was the plan of the King of Scotland to give her to the Earl of Hampton for fear of his might and his vengeance, because there was nothing but the stream of Berwick (?)188 between them, and it was possible for the earl of Hampton to help him or harm him. The Earl of Hampton took the daughter of the King of Scotland, and celebrated his wedding then, and carried her with him to his own city. And it was not long before she was with child, and gave birth to a fair, gentle son, and Bevis was given him for a name, and he was committed for his education to Sir Saber, a brave knight who was the earl's own brother.


One day this hard-spirited countess was bathing in her chamber, and she saw her own form, and said: ‘It is a pity’, said she, ‘to have for my husband an old man, scarred and wounded, who has spent the best part of his life and his time, and my beloved companion and first love of all the men in the world, {Ir. ed. page 274} the young German Emperor, to be still without a wife because of his love and longing for me; and if I can’, said she, ‘I will soon grant him his wish and his long desire.’ The princess summoned a squire of her retinue, and took from him an oath to keep her secret,189 and made her confession to him, and promised him every gift if he would go with a message from her to the emperor and tell him to have a thousand chosen knights of his great retinue in the hunting forest of the Earl of Hampton on the second day of summer. As for the squire he proceeded after that to the city of the emperor, and found the


emperor and told him secretly his message and commission. And the emperor was joyful at this news; he promised to do what had been told him, and said that he would make the squire a knight at once. The squire returned to the daughter of the King of Scotland. And her spirits were good at that news, and she continued thus until the beginning of summer; and at that time she pretended that a perilous disease had attacked her, and said that she was in danger of death. The earl asked what had befallen her, or whether there was any help for her. The wicked false malicious woman said: ‘There is help for me, if it pleases thee’, said she; ‘namely, to bring me my fill of the flesh of a young wild boar which thou wouldst kill in the forest by the shore’, said she. ‘Thou shalt have it’ said the earl, ‘for I will go tomorrow with my retinue to capture that boar for thee.’ ‘Take no man with thee’, said she, ‘but thy dog-boy and thy sword-bearer, for thou hast no fear of anything by sea or land, and thy hosts would raise great cries of the chase, and the wild creatures of the forest would break the strong palisades of wood that are around them, and the forest would be left without game.’ As for the Earl of Hampton, the next morning he went into the forest, and a small company along with him, and they let loose the dog and followed after it. And the earl rode forward on the path, and noticed nothing until he saw the emperor approaching, after having first closed around him with a bold, brave, irresistible troop; and they discharged an angry, venomous storm of weapons upon him at once. The earl took a quick, warlike, bold grip upon his sword, and dealt the emperor's troop violent blows, so that a hundred brave knights fell before him in the first onslaught. Thereupon he went where he saw the emperor, and he gave him a bold blow so that he knocked him from the saddle, and then he bent over him {Ir. ed. page 275} to kill him and lacerate him.190 The Germans went between them bravely, and bore the emperor off from that tumult, and put him upon a famous, high-leaping horse. And they closed around the earl and killed his steed; and the earl was on his feet, and brave, fierce and valiant was his fight, and bloody the discomfiture he brought upon the emperor's force. Then the emperor said: ‘Earl of Hampton’, said he, ‘give thyself up now, and thou shalt receive thy life.’ The earl said: ‘If leave were given me to depart, and to take my wife and my son with me, I would yield myself up to thee.’ And the emperor promised him this; and after that he asked the earl for his sword, and the earl gave it to him. And when the sword reached the hand of the wicked, pitiless emperor, he gave the earl a destructive deadly blow so that he parted his head from his body; and he sent a messenger


with the head to the daughter of the king of Scotland as a token of love, and she rejoiced to see her husband's head like that. Bevis of Hampton said, and he at the end of his third year: ‘O wicked, unhappy harlot’, said he, ‘it is a piteous deed thou hast done, to kill the best earl in Christendom and that will turn out ill for thee yet.’ The lady191 was angry and enraged with her son, and she commanded Sir Saber on peril of his life to put Bevis to death. Sir Saber said that he would do it, and he took him quickly away with him, and rubbed him with grease and oil, and put an ugly and unrecognisable semblance upon him. And he put a wretched garment of poor color about him, and set him in the wild glens of the desert to keep swine. Thus was the violent death of the Earl of Hampton.


As for the emperor then, he proceeded to the city with his retinue, and a wedding-feast was prepared for him; and when the feast was ready, a wedding-mass was celebrated for them. And after that they went to enjoy the banquet, and the feast was served among them, and revelry and high spirit rose among the hosts. And Bevis of Hampton was with the swine near the city that day; and one of the sows had a litter of pigs and the swine-herds killed part of the pigs and were eating them by a fire, and Bevis was eating with them, The swine-herds said: ‘Great is thy cowardice,192 Bevis, to be sharing these pigs with us, while {Ir. ed. page 276} thy mother's marriage-feast is being celebrated today in the castle of thy father and thy grandfather.’ Bevis left them at that, and went to the gate of the city; and he heard the revelry and the lively shouts of the young men enjoying the feast. Bevis came to the gate of the city, and asked to have it opened. The gate-keeper asked who was there. Bevis said that he was Sir Saber's swine-herd. The gate-keeper said that he was well deserving of dishonor for asking to enter the city. 193 ‘Wilt thou let me in?’ said Bevis. ‘I will not’, said he ‘and if I were outside, I would make thee repent of coming to ask admittance’, Bevis said: ‘If thou wert out here with me’, said he, ‘I would make thee repent of not letting me in.’ The gate-keeper was angry at this, and came to kill Bevis. Bevis lifted up the crooked hazel staff that he had for driving the swine and struck the gate-keeper a hard blow with it on the back of the neck, and the gate-keeper died from it. Bevis went in among the hosts, and saw the emperor, and said to


him in a high, clear voice: ‘My lord emperor’, said he, ‘treacherous and envious is the deed thou hast done, to kill the noble honored earl without cause for the sake of that slanderous, wicked harlot beside thee.’ And he said, ‘Take thy harlot with thee to thine own land and city, and leave me my heritage and city for I am Bevis, the son of the Earl of Hampton.’ The emperor gave orders to bind and fetter Bevis. When Bevis heard this, he seized his staff bravely and firmly, and smote the emperor three blows with it, so that he broke and shattered the tight-bound crown of talismanic stones that was on the emperor's head and shed his blood copiously, and knocked him down under the table. Then the retinue and heavy troop of the emperor sprang up to attack Bevis. As for Bevis then, he sprang up bravely and swiftly, and killed many of them with his staff, and went out of the city; and Sir Saber came to meet him and said: ‘Bevis’, said he, ‘sad is the deed thou hast done, to enter the clamorous city, for fear of thy recognition there; and they would put194 thee to death, if they knew who thou art. And they would do the same to me if they knew that thou art alive.’ Bevis said: ‘It is a good deed I have done’, said he, ‘for it was fitting for me to avenge my father and to kill the emperor.’ When Sir Saber heard this, he took Bevis {Ir. ed. page 277} with him and concealed him in his own castle. The emperor blamed and reproached the daughter of the King of Scotland, and said that she had promised to put Bevis to death, and that she had been false to her promise. The lady said: ‘I give thee my word’, said she, ‘that I thought he had met his death.’ Then the daughter of the King of Scotland came out and said to Sir Saber: ‘False and traitorous man’, said she, ‘thou saidst thou hadst put Bevis to death; and thou shalt die thyself, with thy wife and thy son, because of the deed Bevis has done.’ And Sir Saber was taken after that, and his wife and Tirri, his son, and they were about to be put to death. When Bevis heard this he came out into the lady's presence, and said: ‘Violent and wicked lady, have Sir Saber with his wife and his son released in their innocence, and do thy will with me for it is I who did the deed.’ Then Bevis was taken, and Sir Saber was released with his wife and his son; and the daughter of the King of Scotland ordered two knights of her retinue to kill him and to bring her proof of his murder. The knights took Bevis with them to be killed; and they took off his clothes, and when they beheld the fair, happy face of the young lad, pity and heavy compassion seized them and the knights said, ‘It is a pity’ said they, ‘for us to have on our souls the death of this innocent lad.’ Sir Saber said: ‘Noble, compassionate knights’, said he,


‘do what is right: the lad shall go aboard a pagan ship that is leaving the harbor, and they will carry him off to the eastern part of the world, and there will never be news of him again.’ And they did so, and the knights brought Bevis's garment to the lady after they had cut it in pieces with their weapons covered with blood. This was the exile of Bevis.


As for the boat in which Bevis was put, it did not stop until they came to the rich, prosperous land of Mirmidonda195 the great in Greece. And a strong, valiant pagan was king over that land, Eirmin by name. And the ship's company gave Bevis to the king, and Ermin asked for an account of him, who he was himself, and what his country was. Bevis said: ‘I am the son of an English earl’, said he, ‘and my father was killed by treachery; and the same would have been done to me, if it could have been accomplished.’ The king said: ‘Believe in my gods’, said he, ‘and I will give thee my daughter to wife, and will make thee heir of my kingdom.’ Bevis said that he would not forsake his own Lord, the Heavenly Father, for the wealth of the whole world. As for {Ir. ed. page 278} Bevis then, he was for seven years horse-boy to the king. One day sixty knights of Ermin's retinue went to perform deeds of horsemanship, and Bevis along with them. And a knight said to him: ‘Bevis’, said he, ‘dost thou know why this day is honored in the land and the fair country in which thou wast born?’ Bevis said: ‘I do not remember why today is honored, for it is seven years since I left the country where I was born, and seven years more of my life I left behind there.’ The knight said: ‘It is not so with me’, said he; ‘I remember why the day is honored among you, for last night it was the anniversary of the night when the Lord was born in whom thou believest. And it was our fathers who crucified him, and Christmas is the name of this day among you in England.’ Bevis said: ‘It is a pity that I am without strength’, said he, ‘to take vengeance on you for confessing that it was your fathers who caused my Lord to suffer.’ The pagan knights said: ‘If thou hadst the strength, thou wouldst do it’, said they; ‘and as it is, we have the strength to do it to thee.’ The sixty knights collected to attack Bevis in one onslaught. When Bevis saw this, he took the sword from the knight that was nearest him, and struck him with it so that he made two pieces of him. And after that he dealt blows among the knights, and he killed them all except three men only who escaped by the speed of their horses to the king to report the deed. Bevis went into his chamber in great anger because he had not got the satisfaction of his desire from the pagans. Those three knights


escaped from Bevis with a report to the king, and told him that Bevis had slain the knights. The king sent messengers to Bevis, and the messengers asked Bevis to come with them to the king. Bevis raised his head from his pillow,196 and his eyes were flaming fiercely in his head with the violence of great wrath. And Bevis said: ‘If it were knights or men of warfare who came with that message, I would not let one of them escape alive; but it is not fitting for me to slay the lowly or to kill a pack of gillies.’ The messengers came to the king and reported that Bevis had refused to come with them. Sisian, the daughter of Ermin, said that she would go to talk with Bevis; and she went, accompanied by a great company of noble ladies, and addressed Bevis in gentle, sweet-voiced words. {Ir. ed. page 279} And that stopped Bevis's wrath, and he came to the king with the princess, and told Ermin the reason why he had slain the knights. The king said: ‘We will forgive thee for killing the knights’, said he, ‘and we will give thee assurance of peace; for we understand now that thou hast love for the King thou hast never seen which is greater than thy love for me, for I am the king thou hast seen.’ Thus was Bevis set free after killing the knights.


One day afterwards Ermin was in council in the marketplace of the city, and he saw a knight approaching, with a thin, dirty, tired horse under him, and he leapt to the ground in the king's presence, and greeted him. The king asked news of him, and the knight said: ‘I have great news’, said he, ‘namely, that a fierce, venomous boar has come to thy land and thy fair domain, and that a multitude of men and animals have been killed by it. Courts and castles are being razed violently to the ground, and there is not a man of the heavy-sodded earth able to fight with the hostile, unfriendly beast; and this is my news’, said the knight. The king said that he would give land and domain, and silver and gold and all kinds of possessions to the man who would overcome that horrible, destructive beast; and he found no man to serve him in his retinue or in his heavy army. As for Bevis then, when he was left alone, he took armor and weapons and a horse, and went to hunt for the venomous boar. Sisian was in the top of her sunny chamber at that time, and she saw Bevis going out to fight the virulent beast, and Sisian said: ‘Hard is my share in that’, said she, ‘for thou art the man who is dearest to me of all the men in the world, and it is not fitting for me to tell thee my story because of the vast extent of my heritage and my wealth, and I do not know what thy rank is or thy patrimony. And yet, if


the boar kills thee, Bevis, I will seek death at once because of sorrow for thee’, said she. Then Bevis went to the forest where the boar was said to be, and he blew a strong, brave blast on the end of a horn that he had, and it was not long before he saw coming toward him a greedy, tusked boar, cruel and quarrelsome, with black, deep, dark eyes to be seen in his head; and great, rough brows over his eyes; and a fierce, bright flame issuing strongly and boldly from his nostrils and from his dark-yawning, hideous mouth; and tough, hard clods of dirt thrown straight as a sword from his feet; and strong, great trees, {Ir. ed. page 280} and heavy boulders of rock torn out with great violence, strongly and mightily, as he was swiftly sharpening and polishing his teeth for that battle and conflict; and hillocks of heavy earth and great boulders of rock cast on every side by the ridge of his snout and his nose. Bevis saw the boar coming toward him, and he stuck spurs vigorously into his horse, and went resolutely and eagerly to meet it. And he gave the boar a keen thrust with his spear, and drove it into its throat, and the boar made little, broken, shattered fragments of the shaft of the spear, after chewing it greedily. And Bevis bared his sword resolutely when his spear was broken, and he made an ungentle and unloving fight against the boar, so that it fell dead and lifeless before him at the end of the combat. And after that he struck off its head, and put it on his spear, and mounted his steed, and left his sword on the spot where he had overcome the boar, and proceeded to the city.

And twelve knights of Ermin's retinue were keeping the forest that day; and they saw Bevis leaving the forest, and the boar's head carried off in his possession. The knights said: ‘Do you see the sly, Christian traitor who has slain the virulent boar? And let us put him to death, and take the boar's head with us to the king, and say that is was we who killed it, and we shall get whatever we ask from the king.’ The twelve knights of the forest went to Bevis to attack and slay him, and Bevis had no weapon with which to defend himself except a man's hand-breadth of the hard handle of a javelin, and he killed six of the knights with three blows of that wood. The six others escaped to the king by the speed of their horses and made complaint of this deed. Sisian, Ermin's daughter, was watching the battle while it was fought, and she went to her father and told him how the knights who kept the forest had played Bevis false, and how he had killed six of them with a small piece of a spear-shaft. And that set Bevis free, namely the excuse that Sisian made for him.


Once when Ermin was on the green of his castle he saw a band of knights approaching him with letters under seal; and the letters said that Bramon, the King of Damascus, was coming to get Sisian, Ermin's daughter, by fair means or foul.


Then Ermin asked Sisian whether she would consent {Ir. ed. page 281} to be given to Bramon the King of Damascus; Sisian answered that she would not. ‘What is the reason?’ said the king. ‘This is my reason’, said she; ‘because I am thy heir, and if thou shouldst die, the man who was my husband would be king in this land after thee; and if it should be Bramon who was my husband, he would not remain in this land, but would carry his tribute into his own land, and this land would be put to shame because there would be no king dwelling in it; and that is the reason I will not consent to be given to Bramon.’ The king said: ‘What else is to be done?’ said he. ‘Thou shalt do bravely’197 said she: ‘make a knight of Bevis of Hampton, and his courage would be the greater for it; and give him the leadership of thy army, and send him before thee into the front of battle, and in my opinion he will do a bold deed of bravery, for I saw him kill the virulent boar and the six knights with a hand breadth of a spear-shaft.’

Then Ermin made a knight of Bevis, and Sisian gave him a shield and a sword and a horse, Arundel the name of the horse, and Morglae the name of the sword. Then came the King of Damascus with his great hosts to ravage and lay waste Mermidonia. Ermin brought his army into one body and went against Bramon. And Bevis went man fully and full bravely in the front of the fight, and battalions and hundreds fell quickly before him. And he fought with the King of Damascus after killing the phalanx that was defending him, and he captured the king in the midst of his retinue, and put bonds and fetters upon him, and brought him in the reins of captivity and bondage, and gave him to the king of Mermidonia for safe-keeping. Sir Bevis turned back then to the hosts of Damascus, and began to slaughter them; and he found two of Ermin's retinue whom the hosts of Damascus were beheading, and released them, and the troop who were beheading them fell at his hands. And those two knights followed Sir Bevis after he had helped them. After winning victory and triumph in that battle Bevis returned to the city of Mermidonia wounded, gashed, and battle-scarred. Ermin told Sisian to take Sir Bevis with her to her own chamber to be healed. Thus did Sir Bevis fight that battle against the King of Damascus, et reliqua.


As for the King of Mermidonia then, he took as ransom all the wealth of the King of Damascus, and the promise to pay taxes and tribute all his life and to follow Ermin's counsel in every thing. As for {Ir. ed. page 282} Sisian, Ermin's daughter, she took Bevis with her to be healed, and seated him by the post of her bed, and said to him: ‘Sir Bevis’, said she, ‘I have had until now


no chance to speak with thee, for thou art my choice of a husband and my first love of the men of the world, and it is thou whom I desire to have with me as my companion.’ Bevis said: ‘It is not fitting for thee to be with me’, said he, ‘for there is not in the entire world a man who would not find his satisfaction of a wife in thee; and lady’, said he, ‘I have no wealth or kingdom’, said he, ‘unless I win it by virtue of my strength; and it is for that reason I am not worthy to be thy husband’, said Bevis. The lady said bitterly and angrily: ‘O low-born hireling, and rough, base slave, and wretched, cowardly, wicked outlaw, the answer thou hast given me is churlish and mean; and do thou leave this city, and go away on a sea-voyage as thou art wont to do, and I promise to put thee to death if thou refuse to go.’198 Bevis said patiently: ‘Lady’, said he, ‘mayst thou have much honor!199 And yet I am not of low rank, for I am the son of a noble earl who was the best in the world in his time, and the daughter of the King of Scotland is my mother. And the place where I received that insult and that reproach without cause, I will leave it instantly; and the steed and the sword which thou gavest me for a reward, thou shalt have them at once.’ Bevis angrily left the tower, and went to the stable of the horses. The lady said, after her strong anger was assuaged: ‘Boniface’, said she, ‘I regret what I said to Bevis; and if he leaves this household, my life will not last long after him; and do thou go and bring him to me, and I will give him his own demand in his dishonor’ (i. e. to atone for it). Boniface went to Bevis, and asked him to go to the lady, and promised him whatever he might demand from her. Bevis refused to go with him. And Bevis had a noble garment of shining, bright-embroidered silk, and many fine bars (?)200 of gold and splendid precious stones attached and fastened to that beautiful garment, and Bevis gave it to Boniface to reward him for his errand. Boniface returned to the lady, and told her that Bevis had refused to come to talk with her; and Boniface said many good things about Bevis, and said that it was no lowly man who had given him that noble garment, and that it was not fitting to insult the man who gave that gift and that reward. The lady arose thereupon, and went to Bevis, and said to him: ‘Bevis’, said she, ‘I am sorry for {Ir. ed. page 283} what I said to thee, and thou shalt have thy own demand to atone for it; and if it were thy desire to marry me, I would be baptized and would believe in the God in whom thou believest.’ Sir Bevis said: ‘I will accept thee on


those terms’, said he. And he took her hand in his, and then they kissed each other; and after that Bevis went into the tower with her, and treatment and relief were given him so that he was well after his sickness. And the two knights whom Bevis saved from death before this in the battle were listening to that betrothal, and they went to the king and told him the news of the betrothal, and told him to put Bevis to death. The king said that he was under great obligation to Bevis, and that he would not put him to death himself; but he said that he would send him where he would meet his death. Then a letter was written for Ermin, and this is what was in it, to put Bevis to death. And the king told Bevis to go with that letter to the King of Damascus. Bevis said: ‘My lord’, said he, ‘I am not a suitable messenger to go with that letter to Bramon, for it is I who killed his retinue, and defeated him in battle, and made him captive himself, and took away all his possessions as ransom, and put him under tribute to thee.’ ‘None the worse for that’, said Ermin, ‘and have no fear of anything there; and thou art the most faithful to me of living men; and take with thee neither thy horse nor thy sword, and do not open the letter until thou reachest Bramon, the King of Damascus; and have under thee a comfortable, easy-riding mule.’ As for Bevis then, he went straight forward on his way, and he was not long travelling over the road when he saw a palmer, manly and strong, on the road before him eating his dinner, — three pigeons201 and a bottle of sweet wine and white bread. Bevis greeted the pilgrim, and the pilgrim answered him likewise, and offered Bevis part of the dinner. Bevis dismounted, and ate his portion of the dinner; and Bevis asked news of the pilgrim, what his country was, and on what journey he was bound. The pilgrim said: ‘I am an English knight’, said he; ‘Sir Tirri is my name, and I am the son of Sir Saber, and I am in search of Bevis of Hampton, for we two are the children of own brothers, Bevis and I. And my father's whole domain has been taken from him except one strong, impregnable tower in which he is himself; and I have come to travel through the world in search of Bevis of Hampton’, said he; ‘and hast thou a word of news about him?’ said he. ‘I have’, said Bevis, ‘for it is not more than two nights since I saw him, and the same size and shape is upon him and me.’ {Ir. ed. page 284} ‘I understand by this that thou art he’, said Tirri. ‘I am’, said Bevis; ‘and go back to thy father, and give him the strength of thy arm, and Bevis will shortly be with you.’ Sir Tirri said: ‘Give me that letter in thy hand to read, for often has a messenger been entrusted with the order for his own destruction.’ Bevis said: ‘It seems likely to me’,


said he, ‘that thou art no better reader of letters than I, and I do not serve a lord whom I would suspect of betraying me (?).’202 Bevis took leave of Tirri, and Tirri went to England. As for Bevis after that, he went on his way, and it was not long before he saw the city of Damascus, and it was thirty miles away at that time. And it is thus that the city was: seven strong, impregnable fortifications around it of hard stone walls, and sixty feet between each two walls, and sixty feet of depth in the deep, dark, impassable ditches; and between the walls there was a swift, tidal stream, and a mad, tempestuous sea coursing around it in those broad, great ditches; and broad-bosomed ships, and boats filled with men, and vessels full vast, sailing before those perilous, rough winds; and a draw-bridge going into that city, and a firm,203 strong pillar of brass supporting it, and ten bells clattering and jingling on that bridge, five bells on each side of it. And if there should tread upon that bridge as much as the weight of the swift, brave birds which is called the wren, those bells would strike noisily and clamorously so that the loud, complaining call of those signal bells would be heard throughout the length of the city. And the valiant youths and battle-hardened warriors of the city would respond bravely and quickly at the bridge to the call of the bells. And there was a splendid, great tower at the end of the bridge nearest to the city, and the figure of a dark, ugly-colored dragon cut on the side of that tower, and he had two great shining stones as eyes; and there was a broad, great door of brass in the entrance of that tower, and it is through that door that entrance was made into the city. And there were many stones of crystal and carbuncle and full splendid precious gems skilfully set in gold of Arabia in the windows and the casements204 of that city. As for Bevis now, he stuck spurs vigorously into the horse, and set it running on the bridge, {Ir. ed. page 285} and the bells sounded loudly and clamorously, and the king with his great retinue hastened to the bridge. And the king said: ‘There is a hostile force coming over the bridge, or some man of ill purpose.’ The king came to the place, and Bevis dismounted on the ground in the king's presence, and made him an obeisance, and gave the letter into his hand; and Bramon read the letter. And he said: ‘I will do everything that this writing says’, said he; ‘for thou art Bevis of Hampton, and it is thou who took me captive, and killed my followers, and got ransom from me, and imposed it upon me to give homage and tribute to a man who was lower than myself.’ And Bramon said: ‘Give Bevis food’, said he, ‘for it is not


fitting to treat the retainer of a noble lord with dishonor.’ Bevis was taken to the king's hall, and food was given him; and they were asking each other what death they should inflict upon him. Some of them said to burn him at once; others said to crucify him with acclaim; others said to drag him after a horse; others to put him in poison for his punishment. Bevis said: ‘That is shameful’, said he, ‘to put to death one who comes205 with a message; and it is this it would be well for you to do, to set me outside the city, and to give me equipment of battle, and all the hosts of the city to be in battle equipment around me, and all of them to be attacking me and smiting me together; and it is less cause of shame to you to kill me like that than to kill me here.’ One of the companies said: ‘At the time when thou haddest us before in the breadth of the land, thou didst slay our army; and thou wouldst do the same now, if thou shouldst get us out in the field.’ Then a group of bold warriors fell on Bevis's back so that swarms of eager bees would not be quicker at the honey-flowers206 than were the bold, proud hosts of Damascus at binding and fettering the brave, firm-stepping warrior. And after that they put Bevis as a fettered captive in a cruel prison for his punishment; and Bevis took a stout staff with him into prison. And there was a flowing, ever crashing sea which came twice in a day and a night into that prison. And when Bevis sat down the sea was up to his chin, and when he stood it was up to his buttocks; and there was a strong girdle of iron, as broad as a warrior's neck, bound about his middle, and a heavy pillar of stone attached to that great fetter behind Bevis's back. And there came dark, devilish dragons, {Ir. ed. page 286} and hostile, venomous snakes, and strong, fierce beasts from the corner and from the sides of the prison, and began to tear and destroy the warrior. Then did Bevis implore the Heavenly Father to save him from that punishment; and he remembered the staff that he had taken with him into the prison, and he made a bitter, reckless fight against the many beasts, until he killed them all with the help of God. And the poisonous serpent tore away the flesh and skin of his left eyebrow with a bite. As for Bevis then, he was seven years stifled in that very strong prison, and this was his living for that time: half a small handfull of paltry 207 barley bread every other day; and this was his drink, the ever-crashing sea, et reliqua.



One day when Bevis was in that prison in bodily suffering from hunger and confinement, he cried out to God at that time, and said: ‘O thou one God Almighty, who didst make heaven and earth without effort, and didst separate day and night from each other, and dost bring full-tide and ebb-tide upon the sea, and didst make all things out of nothing, it is a pity thou dost not grant me instant death out of the pain and suffering of this prison in which I have been for seven years. And thou dost see, O Lord, that I have not yet abandoned thy faith, though I have been fifteen years in the land of the pagans; and O Lord’, said he, ‘thou knowest that I should get wealth and a great kingdom if I would abandon thy faith; and O Heavenly Father’, said he, ‘help me when it is thine own time.’ An angel spoke above his head, and said: ‘Bevis’, said he, ‘have good courage, and a strong heart, for God has listened to thy complaint, and thou shalt soon have help.’ Then there grew a great light in the prison from the ministration of the angel, and sight and perception departed from the dragon, and the dragon was killed by Bevis.

As for the two knights who were keeping the prison, they heard Bevis praying and worshipping the Lord, and one of them said to the other: ‘Dost thou hear the false, hateful traitor worshipping the traitor whom our fathers crucified, and praising him as God? — And I give my word that I will go down there and strike thee a blow with my fist on thy dark-yawning, ugly mouth.’ {Ir. ed. page 287} The knight went fiercely and boldly into the prison, and when he reached Bevis, Bevis struck his sword out of his hand in spite of him, and smote him on the neck with his fist, and he died. The other knight asked: ‘How is it between thee and the Christian?’ said he. Bevis said: ‘He is wounding me badly, for he is stronger than I.’ The second knight entered the prison to help his companion, and Bevis struck him with his sword, and made two pieces of him. Bevis prayed and thanked God for that great miracle, and he moved himself gently in the midst of his prayer, and his fetters fell instantly from him on every side; and he stood up on the floor of the prison, and seized the strong rope and the firm cord of hemp by which the knights had come into the prison, and went up by it to the floor of the hall. And he found the door open and free, and a taper burning on each side of it in the very middle of the night, and the garrison of the castle all asleep. And Bevis went out to the stable of the horses, and with a single blow of a big, broad beam that was at the foot of the bed he killed the sixty lads who were keeping the horses, and he took his pick of the horses. And he put on strong, indestructible armor; and mounted his steed, and went on to the gate of the city, and asked to have it opened before him and said that the Christian had escaped who had been their prisoner for seven years. ‘That is sad’, said the


gate-keeper, ‘and follow him quickly’; and then he let Bevis out, for he thought it likely that all the hosts of the city were behind him; and thus Bevis got out of the city without hindrance. As for the hosts of the city, not much of the night passed before they discovered that Bevis had escaped, and that his keepers had been killed; and they took their horses and pursued him, and overtook him in the morning. A noble knight of the retinue of the King of Damascus was at the head of the host, and a very swift horse under him, and Grainnder was the knight's name; and Grainnder valued that horse at his own weight of gold, and Treinnsiuis was the name of the horse. And he overtook Bevis with the swiftness of his horse, and said that he would put him to death. Bevis turned and fought with him fiercely, angrily, and bitterly, and gave Grainnder a thrust of the spear, and drove it through his body without breaking it, and Grainnder died from it. And thereupon Bevis took his horse, Treinsiuis, and mounted it. And at that time the King of Damascus and his hosts overtook {Ir. ed. page 288} Bevis, and he killed countless numbers and great troops of them. Then the hosts of Damascus surrounded him, and tried to wound him and to kill him. And with the help of God, Bevis jumped his horse over a great cliff of the sea, and there was a swift, tidal stream, and a bay, roaring and stormy, on the other side of the rock, and it was not possible for any creature in the world to swim it. And Bevis's horse quickly sprang into that fierce water208 and swam straight through it like a harbor, and crossed the stream swiftly and bravely. Twenty-four hours was Bevis with his horse crossing that water; and after Bevis had reached land he fell from his horse because of the weakness of his breath209 and the greatness of his hunger. And he implored God earnestly and fervently to save him from that hunger, and he praised the Heavenly Father greatly, and with that there came to him new strength. And he took his horse again, and mounted it, and went straight forward on the way, and saw a city beyond him, and proceeded toward it; and on reaching the gate of the city he saw a lady, gracious and noble, on the top of the tower over the gate of the city; and Bevis greeted her, and asked her for food in honor of the Heavenly Father. The lady said: ‘Come in’, said she, ‘and thou shalt have thy fill of food and drink.’ Then Bevis went in, and dismounted in the royal hall, and sat at table, and food was put in his presence. And it was not long before he saw a bold, horrible giant, and a broad-bellied champion, heavy and strong, approaching him; and the giant looked at Bevis and saw Grainnder's horse. And he said


fiercely and angrily: ‘That is Treinnsiuis, the horse of Grainnder, my own brother; and thou, traitor’, said he, ‘hast stolen it.’ Bevis said: ‘I did not steal it’, said he, ‘and yet I killed the man who had it, and struck off his head violently.’ When the champion heard that, he aimed a mighty blow at Bevis with a horrible, perilous dagger, and Bevis dropped under the table and let the blow go past. And the giant cut a piece as large as a warrior's hand from the table above Bevis's head. Bevis sprang from the board at that, and ran at the giant, and seized {Ir. ed. page 289} his dagger in spite of him, and smote the champion a blow with it so that he made two pieces of his body. Thereupon a cry was raised in the city, and Bevis mounted his steed; and the hosts of the city overtook him, and he slew multitudes, and got away in spite of them. As for Bevis then, he was making a long journey through the eastern world until he came in India to the patriarch of the stream,210 namely, one of the three211 kings of India, and it is he who is Pope among them. And Bevis remained with him a year as his retainer; and there took place in that year no battle with warrior or soldier, champion or battle-phantom, lion or leopard, dragon or the many venomous beasts besides, that they did not all fall at his hands in the course of that year, and it was an abundance of treasure and spoil that he brought to the patriarch in that time.

Bevis said that he would leave India, and that he would be for another while travelling straight toward the western world. The patriarch said: ‘Do not go’, said he, ‘and I will give thee a kingdom, and thy choice of a wife of this land; and stay with me.’ Bevis made his confession to the Pope of India, and told him that the daughter of the pagan king was his legal wife. The patriarch said that if she was, it would not be right for him to have another woman unless his wife had given herself first to a pagan; and if so, that it would not be right for him to have his wife. As for Bevis then, he took leave of the patriarch, and went straight to the west, and did not stop till he reached Rhodes. And he stayed for another year with the Prior of Rhodes, and great was the number of pagans who fell at his hands in that year, and many Saracens and Jews fell at his hands in that year, and he obtained for the prior in that year an abundance of spoils and treasures. And the prior offered him a great realm, if he would remain with him, and Bevis refused it, and made his confession to the prior and told him that the daughter of the pagan king was his lawful wife; and


the same answer was given him by the prior and the patriarch. And after that Bevis went on his way, and carried off the palm for bravery in every land and every country of the world to which he went in those two years.


As for Sisian, Ermin's daughter, when Bevis was sent with the letters to the King of Damascus, it seemed to her that he was long absent, and she went to her father and asked him where Bevis was. Ermin said: ‘It is sad, lady’, said he, ‘for he sent messengers before him to England, and demanded his domain of the emperor; and the emperor gave Bevis his daughter to wife, and he is now an earl in England. Moreover, {Ir. ed. page 290} men of foreign parts are not to be trusted, for in the end they set out for their own country. And I offered him a great domain if he would remain with me, and he refused me, and went on his way.’ As for Sisian now, she was in lamentation for grief about Bevis; and yet she did not believe her father's statements, for she thought that Bevis would not play her false. And it was not long after that before Ybor,212 the King of Damascus sent messengers to ask for Ermin's daughter in marriage. Ermin went to his daughter, and told her that messengers had come from the King of Damascus to ask her hand. ‘And I will give thee to him’, said he. Sisian said: ‘Father’, said she, ‘I will do thy will.’ Then Ermin told Ybor's messengers to come for the lady at the end of a short period. When Sisian heard this, she made a beautiful girdle of gold thread and of resplendent silk, and wisely and skilfully, by the wisdom of the Greeks, she put into that girdle power to prevent any man in the world from destroying her virginity so long as that girdle should be upon her. And she put it around her inside of her clothing. Then Ybor came with fifteen thousand soldiers to get her, and she was given to him, and their marriage-feast was held, and the horse and sword of Bevis were given him, — Morglae and Airinnel their names. And Ybor hung the sword across him, and mounted the horse; and when Airinnel recognised that it was not Bevis who was on her, she ran roughly and violently, and carried him madly and furiously through deep, black, horrible glens, and over rough, precipitous hills, and high, dangerous cliffs, and it is a pity that she did not kill him. And after that the horse was put in the castle soller, and an iron lattice around her; and no man dared to touch her from that time forth until Bevis returned long afterwards.


As for Bevis of Hampton, after he left Rhodes he did not stop until he reached the bounds of great Mermidonia in the beautiful, blue-watered land of Greece. And some one met


him on the road, and Bevis asked him for news of that land and particularly for news of Sisian. The young man said; ‘There is peace, and quiet, and prosperity in this land’, said he ‘and Sisian has been married for nine years to the king of Memroine.’213 Sadly did Bevis receive that news; {Ir. ed. page 291} and he did not stop after that until he reached the land of Memrointi,214 near the city of Ybor; and a pilgrim met him as he was leaving the city, and he asked news of him. The pilgrim said: ‘In that city yonder is the one woman who is the best in the whole world, Sisian the daughter of the King of Mirmidonia, the wife of Ybor, King of Memroine, for if all the men in the world should go to her at mid-day,215 she would give them food and drink and gold and silver. And this is what she says to them with every alms: ‘Take that in honor of God and for the sake of Bevis of Hampton’; and no man understands that word from her.’ Bevis said: ‘Pilgrim’, said he, ‘give me the loan of thy poor clothes’, said he, ‘and take my knightly garments, until I come back.’ The pilgrim said he would not do it. Bevis said: ‘Give me thy poor clothes’, said he, ‘and I will give thee my knightly garments in return for them.’ They did so. And Bevis put on the pilgrim's clothes, and went on his way to the city, and saw the beautiful lady, and her head out of a tower-window. And this is what she said with a lamenting voice: ‘O Bevis’, said she, ‘it is a pity for me that thou art so far away, and the virtues of my girdle have departed, and it is necessary for me now to do Ybor's will.’ Then Bevis greeted her, and she answered him and asked him who he was. Bevis said: ‘I have been journeying about the world’, said he. The lady asked him if he had seen a word of news about Bevis of Hampton in any place where he had been. Bevis said: ‘I have seen him, and it is only three nights since then.’ And Bevis asked alms of the lady, and Sisian said: ‘Come in’, said she, ‘and thou shalt have alms, and shalt be prior of the beggars in this city today.’ Bevis went in, and Sisian came to meet him, and took him with her into the soller where Airindel was; and when the horse saw him and recognised him, she began to neigh and licked his hand. Bevis opened the lattice, and the horse came out and ran through the city. Sisian said: ‘That is a pity’, said she, ‘for the horse there will never again be caught.’ Bevis called the horse to him, and she came quickly, and was licking him, and he put her in again; and the lady looked at him, and when216 she had raised the hat of leather from his head, she recognised


him though he had lost his left eye-brow since she had seen him before. The lady said: {Ir. ed. page 292} ‘Thou art Bevis thyself’, said she. ‘I am indeed’, said he; and he told her the truth about everything. And Sisian said: ‘Bevis’, said she, ‘go out of the city, and come at mid-day to the king, and tell him that thou wert in Babylon, and that the whole land has been captured except only the city of Babylon, and that there is a great army around it. And say that the King of Babylon sent thee to Ybor to help him out of this difficulty, for he is Ybor's own brother; and Ybor will go to his aid, and will leave this city unguarded, and thus we shall get an opportunity to escape.’ Then Bevis went out of the city, and came into it at mid-day, and went into the king's presence, and told him how Babylon had been taken, all except the great city only, — ‘and I have come secretly to get thee to help thine own brother.’ The king believed that, and collected his army in one place, and left the guarding of the city in charge of a noble knight of his retinue, and set out with his hosts. Sisian said: ‘Bevis’, said she, ‘we are in trouble now; for the knight who was left in charge of the city has a talismanic stone, and there is nothing done in the city which it does not reveal to him.’ Sisian made a potent drink by Greek wisdom, and sent a messenger to the knight, and he came quickly; and she gave him the sleeping-potion, and he fell asleep thereupon, and it was not possible to wake him for twenty-four hours. Thus did Sisian find an opportunity217 of escape.


As for Bevis then, he put Sisian behind Boniface, her chamberlain from the time she was a child until that hour, and mounted Airinndel himself, and in this way they passed out of the city without being noticed. As for Ybor, the King of Memroine, he was not long travelling the road when a pilgrim met him, and Ybor asked news of him, who he was. The pilgrim said: ‘I have been in Babylon’, said he. ‘Hast thou news of that land?’ said the king. ‘Good news’, said he, ‘for there is peace and quiet and prosperity in that land yonder; and it is strong above every land, and no land is strong above it.’ ‘That is true’, said the king, ‘and it is clear to me that it was Bevis of Hampton who came there in a pilgrim's guise to deceive us; and he has probably taken the queen with him, and we must turn218 back by the same road.’

And {Ir. ed. page 293} they did not find the queen or Boniface in the city. And they followed on their track, and overtook them, and Bevis turned to meet them, and killed great hosts and countless numbers of them; and they came to a deep, dark glen, and one narrow wooded path going


through it. The king turned back at that time with his followers for fear that Bevis would kill his followers in the narrow part of the glen, and Bevis descended to the bottom of the glen. And Sisian said: ‘Bevis’, said she, ‘get us food, for hunger has overcome us.’ Bevis said: ‘O queen’, said he, ‘it is not easy for us219 to get food in this wilderness, for men and cities are far from us.’220 Sisian said: ‘I have heard’, said she, ‘that brave knights would get food in the wildernesses by their skill in handling spears.’ Bevis left Sisian and Boniface there, and went himself to seek adventure with the spear;221 and he came upon a marvellous, wild boar, and he got his choice of a cast at him, and he drove a man's hand-breadth of the spear through its body, and it died, and he brought a quarter of it with him to Sisian. As for the King of Memrointe, he had two sharp-toothed lions that he kept, and the strength of a host or an army did not avail against them; and he set them on Bevis's track, and the lions came to where Sisian was, and Boniface rose and fought with them, and the lions killed him, and devoured both him and his horse. Then Bevis came up, and Sisian cried out to him to flee from the lions since he had the swift horse; and Bevis did not do this, but came to the spot. And the lions were licking the lady's feet; and one of them ran at Bevis, and Sisian held the other lion by the front paw, and it stayed by her without struggling. And Bevis killed the lion that fought with him, and called to Sisian to let the other lion come out against him; and Sisian asked for protection for the lion that was with her, but Bevis threatened her and said she must let it go. And she let the lion go to Bevis, and Bevis killed the second lion, and afterwards dismounted, and made a fire, and boiled the boar's flesh, and gave the lady plenty of food and pure water.

And then he mounted his horse, and left the glen, and there was a ridge of a high, very cold mountain to be crossed by him. And it was not long for him before he saw coming after him a fierce, warlike, horrible giant, and a rough, savage222 champion, with a stout, broad-topped tree on his shoulder; and not swifter was a wild boar on the way {Ir. ed. page 294} than the swift, fierce course that the giant took after Bevis. Sisian looked back, and she saw the champion coming in pursuit. Sisian said: ‘O Bevis’, said she, ‘I see the champion of the king of Mermeointi coming toward thee, and I recognize him, and armies and hosts are not his equal in battle because of the


greatness of his strength and the skill of his hand.’ Bevis said to her: ‘Dismount’; and she did so at once, and Bevis rode his horse against the giant; and the giant aimed at Bevis a rough, powerful blow, and Bevis avoided the blow, and sprang upon the giant under the tree, and put both arms around him, and gave him a hard twist, and threw him. And Bevis bound the giant securely; and when he was about to strike off his head, Sisian asked him to spare the giant's life, and the giant should be223 his retainer from that time forth for the length of his life; and thus Bevis gave him his life. Those three went on their way, and came to the sea, and they had no ship. And they saw ships on the sea, and Esgobard cried out to them, asking for a ship, and they made him no answer. And the giant went boldly out into the sea, and put his two hands under the ship that was nearest to him; and the crew thought that it was into the ship he wished to go, but he did not do that. He turned the ship upside down, and drowned in the middle of the ocean all that were in it, and brought the ship to Bevis. After that they went aboard the ship, and began eagerly to sail the sea, and they came to a sheltered, secure harbor in Coilin224 in England.

And a brother of Bevis's father was bishop in that city. And the bishop came to meet Bevis, and paid him honor and respect. Bevis asked whether there was strife of war or of rebellion in England at that time. The bishop said: ‘There is great danger and peril in this land now’, said he; ‘namely, two haughty dukes who were in Germany, and they were thirty years at war with each other, and their troops and armies were killed on both sides in that time. And they made deep, impassable wildernesses of their lands and all their territories, and neither the emperor nor the pope could make peace between them. And finally they themselves went to battle with each other, and God changed them alike to the form of two black, devilish dragons because of the multitude of their sins, and they went up on high above the clouds. And one of the dragons descended in Rome, and he began {Ir. ed. page 295} to kill the Romans and to lay waste the city. And the pope with his clergy prayed the Heavenly Father to help them out of that peril, and God did that for them: God enfeebled the dragon, and the Romans bound it, and put it in a room of a castle under the bridge of Rome, and it is bound there. And the other dragon descended upon this land, and it is only seven miles from here; and it has laid waste a great part of this realm, and has killed a multitude of men and of cattle, and we are afraid that it will make a wilderness of all England.’ It was not long after


that when Bevis escaped the attention of the bishop, and went out of the city secretly, and the giant along with him; and they went to the forest in which the dragon was, and they heard the terrible cry and the fierce roar of the dragon. And Asgobard said: ‘Not for the wealth of the whole world would I stay to meet that angry, hostile beast’; and the giant fled out of the forest and left Bevis alone.

As for Sir Bevis then, it was not long before he saw the black, misshapen dragon approaching; and Bevis spurred his steed vigorously to meet it, and gave the dragon a keen thrust of the spear and did not wound it. And the dragon spouted a flood of green vomit in Bevis's eyes, and did not leave him the strength of a woman in child-bed. The monster passed by him in that charge, and Bevis sprang into a well that was near, for he chose rather to be drowned than to be swallowed by the dragon; and after he went into the water his strength returned to him mightily and powerfully. And he went again to meet the beast, and gave it a spear-thrust, and did not hurt it. And the dragon spouted a second flood about him, and did not leave Bevis the strength of a babe; and Bevis sprang into the same well again, and was whole and sound on coming out of it. Three times he sprang thus into the well after being struck by the green vomit, and he was whole and sound on coming out. The fourth wave that smote upon him was colorless and white, and none the weaker was Bevis, for the poison of the monster had been exhausted; and Bevis gave the dragon a spear-thrust, and drove the spear through it, and beheaded it afterwards, and took its head away.

As for Asgobard, he proceeded to Coilin, and told the bishop that Sir Bevis had been killed by the dragon. And the bishop went, and the people of the city, in a procession to get Sir Bevis's body; and the bells of the city were all rung in honor of Bevis, and {Ir. ed. page 296} nothing was heard in the city except only the sound of the bells and outcry and lamentation. Then they saw Bevis coming to meet them, with the dragon's head on his spear, and the spear on his shoulder, and he himself in the saddle of his horse. And the people uttered shouts of joy at the sight of Bevis, and greatly praised that deed of bravery; and they went together into the city, and Bevis was held in honor there. Thus far the battle of Bevis against the dragon.


for Bevis then, he went on his way to France, and was there a while, and left Sisian in a strong city, and Asgobard to keep and guard her. And Bevis went to carry help to Sir Bir,225 his foster-father and uncle, in England and it was not long for Sisian after Bevis's departure before a rich, mighty earl, whose name was Earl Milis, came to ask for her 226


in marriage, after having given her his love (?); and he asked her and she refused him. Earl Milis said that she should be his by fair means or foul. Sisian said that she would not be and that she had sufficient protection about her; and the earl asked what protection she had about her. The lady said it was Asgobard. Not long after that the giant met the earl, and the earl brought a letter in his hand, and said Bevis had sent him a message to bring the giant out on an island; and that was three miles from the city out upon the sea. The giant went out to the island, and Earl Milis to escort him;227 and there was a strong castle on the island, and the earl put —[gap: illegible/extent: a line and a half] — back into the same city, and told Sisian that the giant was in his prison of confinement. And the earl said: ‘Sisian’, said he, ‘it is necessary now for thee to do my will.’ Sisian said: ‘Thou art my choice of the men of the world, if I shold get thee as husband; but never shall a man who is not my husband enjoy my favour with my consent.’ The earl said that he would marry her on the morrow. And early in the morning the earl married the lady, and the night after to lie with the lady. The lady said: ‘Earl Milis’, said she, ‘the work which thou desirest to do is unknown to me until this time, and I beg thee to let no man come into the same house with us tonight.’ The earl said {Ir. ed. page 297} that he would not let anyone in, and he sent out those that were within, and shut the door, and was taking off his clothes. Sisian sat upright, and seized a tough, strong cord of hemp, and made a slip-knot upon it and put a tight twist of it under Earl Milis's head; and there was a strong beam running cross-wise above the floor of the chamber, and Sisian put the cord across the beam and drew him up by the neck, and beat the back of his head against the beam strongly and mightily, and strangled him thus. And she let him fall, after his life had left him, and then went to sleep herself.

As for the followers of Earl Milis, the next morning they were joking and making sport about the earl as was customary with a bridal couple. One of them said that it was well pleased the earl was with taming the maiden. 228 And another said that it was fitting for her to have [gap: illegible] and cookery in preparation for the earl, rather than to be asleep at that time after the night's work he had had. The lady said: ‘
’ said she, ‘he does not ask cookery of you, for he is dead in revenge for my insult, and I pledge my word that I chose rather to die than to be the earl's wife.’ His retinue


uttered (?) [...] and cries [...] lamenting their lord, and all the hosts of the city came to the place. And the lady was taken by them, and they left her on the market-place of the city, and made [...] a surging, strong-burning fire for her, to burn her up; and she asked of them as a favor to let her have a priest that she might make her confession [...], and that was granted her. Then it was[...] that the giant, Asgobard, and he [...] in prison, noticed the terrible, blazing fire on the green of the castle, and he thought in his mind that some wrong or injustice was being done the lady. And a fierce, strong fit of rage seized him [...], and he broke the chains and fetters, and the stone ramparts and the partition-walls of the castle, and went out, and set his face towards the rough surging waves, and began to swim strongly and boldly. And he saw a small boat in the middle of the water, and a fisherman in her stern killing a fish; and the giant went into the boat, and the fisherman did not observe anything until he saw the misshapen creature and the rough, ill-boding [...] rising out of the stormy sea, and coming into the {Ir. ed. page 298} boat; and fear [...] seized the fisherman, for he thought that it was [...] of hell. He leaped [...]and was drowned. As for Esgobard then, he began to row the boat with his hands
, and came to harbor, and ran to the city.