The Amsterdam University Fragment of the Old French Prose 'Merlin.'

Article excerpt

Amsterdam, Universiteitsbibliotheek, MS I A 24q consists of two bifolia from an early fourteenth-century manuscript of the Arthurian Vulgate Cycle. The first bifolium (ff. 1 and 2) is from the Estoire del Saint Graal, the second (ff. 3 and 4) from the Estoire de Merlin. Ff. 3 and 4 have two columns to the page and 43 lines to the column, except for ff. [] and [4.sup.vb], which have 44 lines each. F. 3 gives the end of the Merlin proper and the beginning of the Suite de Merlin: that is, the story of the barons' acceptance of Arthur, his coronation, and the beginning of the rebellion of six other kings against him. F. 4 gives an episode from a little later in the Suite, the mission of Ulfin to Benoic to seek help for Arthur against the six kings, the arrival of Arthur's new allies in England, and the welcome they are given. The text lacking between ff. 2 and 3 is the equivalent of three further bifolia.

In the fullest classification of the manuscripts of the Merlin proper, Alexandre Micha gave the Merlin fragment the siglum [beta.sup.2] He thought it formed a group with his MSS A (Paris, Bibliotheque nationale, MS f. fr. 747) and B (London, British Library, MS Add. 32125),(3) and that the next closest group included his MSS C (Tours, Bibliotheque municipale, MS 951) and D (Cambridge University Library, MS Add. 7071).

If the relationships between manuscripts that Micha deduced for the Merlin proper also hold for the Suite (and we found nothing to suggest they did not), that part of the Amsterdam fragment drawn from the Suite has a special importance. Micha thought A was the best manuscript and based his edition on it: the equivalent of the first part of f. 3 (up to [f. 3.sup.rb], line 35, the end of the Merlin proper), appears in his edition from MS A.(4) It also appears in the edition by Paris and Ulrich,(5) from London, British Library, MS Add. 38117 (the Huth MS), Micha's MS R. The only published version of the remainder of f. 3 or of any part of f. 4 is is in Sommer's edition of the Vulgate Cycle,(6) from London, British Library, MS Add. 10292, Micha's MS [G.sup.1].(7) [G.sup.1 ] is textually remote from A and arguably much inferior to it.

It may, be noticed that against this single complete published version of the French stand three published versions of the Middle English equivalent.(8)

Our transcription follows the original line for line, with abbreviations resolved in italics and modern word-division. Illegible readings inferred from the French texts above are given in square brackets.



A Paris, Bibliotheque nationale, MS f. fr. 747 B London, British Library, MS Add. 32125 C Tours, Bibliotheque municipale, MS 951 D Cambridge University Library, MS Add. 7071 R London, British Library, MS Add. 38117 [G.sup.1] London, British Library, MS Add. 10292 [M.sup.1] Paris, Bibliotheque nationale, MS f. fr. 117

[f. [3.sup.ra]

[tenoit compoi]ngnie & enqueroit lun par lautre qel chose li

[plaisoit mi]ex & il le lor dient . ainsi departi les dons

[que cil li donn]oient qui essaioient de quel manierc il estoit

[Et quant il] le uirent si contenir si ni ot onques celui qui molt 5 [nou pris]ast en son cuer. & disoient par derriercs lui que

molt s[eroi]t de haut afere . quil ne ucoient en lui nule

convoitisc nc nul mal . Car ausi tost comme il

[avoit l]avoir ausi tost lauoit bien anploie . ne il

[ne] u[eo]ient que tuit si don ne fussent estable selonc 10 [ce que c]hascun estoit . ainsi essaierent artus conques nule

[male] teche ni trouuerent & atandirent tant que la pan

[tecoste] uint & lors se rasemblerent tuit li baron

[a logres &] ressaierent a lespee tuit cil qui essaier i

[uoldrentl nonques nan porent point auoir . & li arceuesques 15 [ot appareilli]e la coronne & le sacre & la ueille de la pan

[tecoste] deuant uespres par le commun conseil & par lacort

[dou pl]us des barons fist larceuesques dartus cheualier

& cele nuit ueilla artus a la mestre esglise iusque

au ior . …