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“Grande fu la bataille dedens le
herbu: Caron de Bosdegas fu de martel confondu Et le vaillant Tristan fu a la mort feru
Lors sescria moult hault, Beaumanoir ou es tu," &c. “Grande fu la bataille en my la prarie
Et le chapple orrible et dure lesturmie
“Grande fu la bataille et longement dura
Tintiniat le bon estoit tout la premier," &c.
“Mighty was the conflict on the grassy plain ; Caro of Botegat was stunned by a mace, and the valiant Tristan smitten to death. Then he cried aloud, • Beaumanoir, where art thou? here, the English have seized upon me, wounded and overthrown; but I never despair of victory on the day I see thee near me;'" &c.
“Mighty was the conflict in the midst of the field, and the carnage horrible, and fierce the tumult. The Bretons are worsted; I relate no falsehood, for two of them are slain, and three are prisoners; and there are but five and twenty engaged in the fight. But Geoffroy de la Roche, an esquire of most high and noble ancestry, demands the order of knighthood, and Beaumanoir confers it on him, in the name of St. Mary, and says unto him, 'Good gentle son, spare not thyself; remind thee of him who, by his order of knighthood, was at Constantinople, in the company of such honourable associates; and I swear that the English shall pay the cost of thy knighting before the hour of vespers. Pembroke heard him, but he considered not his valour, or his noble conduct; and he said to Beaumanoir, with much confidence, 'Surrender thee, Beaumanoir, and I will not injure thee: but I will present thee as a captive to my mistress, for I promised her, and shall not deceive her, that today I would bring thee to her fair abode.' And Beaumanoir answered, 'I have other things in contemplation, and I purpose them much, together with all my companions, that if it please the King of Glory and saint Mary, and the good saint Yves, in whom I strongly trust, when the die is cast, the hazard falls on thee; and thy life will not be long. Alan de Keranrais heard the words, and said to Pembroke, “Unworthy wretch, what meanest thou ? Thinkest thou thus to treat a man of such renown? 'tis 1 myself that defy thee this day on his behalf; and now will I strike thee down with my tranchant sword. Alan de Keranrais, at the same moment, struck him with his sharp-headed lance, in the midst of his visage, so that the iron head entered into his brain,'” &c.
Mighty was the conflict and long its duration, and the carnage horrible on every side. It was on a Saturday before Lætare Jerusalem, and the sun shone bright. The heat was excessive; each coinbatant exerted himself to the utmost, and the earth was reddened with blood. That good Saturday, Beaumanoir had fasted, and he now felt great thirst, and asked for drink. Geoffroy de Boues answered him immediately, ‘Drink thy blood, Beaumanoir, and thy thirst will leave thee;'" &c.
“Fierce was the combat, and the rencontre deadly. Half-way between Josselin and the castle of Ploermel, on an exceeding pleasant plain, at the oak of Mi-voie, by a field of broom that was green and beautiful, there were the English close collected in body," &c.
“Mighty was the conflict, never was known its equal. The English maintaiped their position, closely formed together; none approached them but fell dead or wounded: they are all in one compact body, as if they had been bound together.* But William de Montauban, the preux and valiant,” &c.
In a note upon this passage the French editor pays a high compliment to the coolness and discipline of the English troops (le sang-froid et la discipline des troupes Angloises, which at Cressy and Poictiers, and also at Fontenoy, until attacked by artillery, triumphed over the numbers and valour of the French army, inasmuch as, at the latter place, a column of English infantry sustained the shock of all the French regiments, which came on successively, only to break themselves in pieces against its immoveable mass, (contre sa masse inebranlable.)
The poem here describes the manner in which he broke their column, by dashing, on his charger, into the centre of their square.
Mighty was the conflict, and the mêlée complete. Tinteniat the Good, who was the foremost combatant," &c.
Mighty was the conflict, doubt it not. The English are routed, who wished to exercise over the Bretons mastery and control; but all their pride has ended in great folly,” &c.
Such is the general character of the combat des Trente; whereof, to those interested in Breton antiquities, the foregoing specimens may not be unacceptable; and should any of our Cambrian countrymen take the trouble of comparing it with the compositions of our early bards, they will find, in many particulars, a very striking resemblance, especially in the ancient British poem of the Gododin. Like that, the Breton poem is divided into detached portions or stanzas of irregular lengths, from four lines to forty and upwards. In the same manner, one particular sentence is repeated at the beginning of the several successive stanzas, as a sort of groundwork to build upon, and the same rhyme is continued for a considerable number of lines without any change. For example, of the commencing stanzas of the Gododin, one contains nine lines all ending with the letters ei, as
“Caeawc Cynhaiawc men y dehei,” &c. The next contains the same number of lines ending in wyt,
“ Caeawc Cymniviat Cyvlat erwyt,” &c. Another contains seven lines ending in an; and the following has eleven lines ending in awr. In like manner, the combat des Trente commences with a stanza consisting of twelve lines, ending in the syllable ons, and, in some instances, the same rhyme is followed for near thirty lines.
In the Breton poem it has been shewn, in the foregoing extracts, that several successive stanzas commence with the words Grande fu la bataille. The same order is followed in the Gododin; for instance:
“Gwyr a aeth Gattraeth oedd ffraeth eu llu
Glasved eu hancwyn a gwenwyn fu
A gwedy elwch tawelwch fu,” &c. «Warriors went to Cattraeth, and loquacious was the host; for the bright and intoxicating mead had been in their banquet,” &c.
“Gwyr a aeth gattraeth gan wawr,” &c. “ The warriors went to Cattraeth with the dawn,” &c.
"Gwyr a aeth Gattraeth gan dyd,” &c. “ Warriors went to Cattraeth with the day,” &c.
“Gwyr a aeth Gattraeth buant enwawc
Gwin a med o eur vu eu gwirawt,” &c. «Warriors went to Cattraeth, heroes of renown; wine and mead, out of golden goblets, had been their beverage,” &c.*
The French poem, it must be owned, has nothing of the wild irregularity of the Gododin, neither does it display the genius and energy of diction which characterize that extraordinary production; but there is, nevertheless, in many respects, a very striking resemblance between them. I will acknowledge that the characteristics which I have been noticing are not peculiar to these two compositions, but may be found in the ancient poetry of some other countries; but when I recollect the intimate connexion which subsisted between Wales and Brittany in the early ages, and how the Bretons transported the compositions of our Welsh bards into their own country, I am inclined to hazard a conjecture that the similarity of style observable between the combat des Trente, which is evidently the production of a Breton, and the ancient British poems, must be accounted for, by the fact of the Breton minstrels having continued among them the style of the bardic school, as they did its traditions, and handed it down even to the later Trouveurs, who composed their poems in the French language. If this conjecture be correct, it will serve to establish another of those facts which appear so difficult to account for, which is, that whilst the Principality of Wales and the Cymraeg districts furnished the nations of Europe with the materials of romantic fiction, and thus gave a new impulse to their literature, so they also supplied the very style and model of poetic composition, and laid the foundation upon which subsequent schools erected their various systems.
This is the stanza which Gray translated in his specimens of ancient British poetry, commencing
“To Cattraeth’s vale in glittering row.”
(To be continued.)
TO SHELTON OAK.
Seven hundred years, with each vicissitude
Of sunshine, gloom, rain, hail, frost, breeze, and blast,
Hoar Patriarch of the forest! now have past
Thine infant stem, and first begin to cast
Unworthy of the clod that bears thy root;
Most sacred, for to him thou art not mute
Thou sing'st, old tree, to bard of days long flown;
Of many a truant schoolboy's jubilee;
Of the swart gipsy's moonlight pranks and glee;
Hath sheltered from the blast's keen enmity,
And, keener still, the scorn of friends that fee
Which shook yon plain that courts Sabrina's wave;
And saw and cursed the bloody rout that gave
What time spring's balmy breath has prankedt the glade,
When lonely owlet hymns the silent moon,
Or dewy morn begems the thorn's festoon ;
When churlish winter pipes on harsh bassoon;
In each, loved tree, by thee a varied boon,
The bard shall wreathe around with heavenly skill;
From loutish ignorance, and guard thee till
John WEBSTER, M.D. Shrewsbury; 1831. Tradition says that Owain, arriving too late to assist the rebel army at the battle of Shrewsbury, ascended the old oak at Shelton, and viewed from it the defeat of Hotspur.
† Prank, to decorate. - Spencer; Milton.