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The Legend of Sir Guy

contains a short summary of the exploits of this famous champion, as recorded in the old story-books, and is commonly entitled, "A pleasant song of the valiant deeds of chivalry atchieved by that noble knight Sir Guy of Warwick, who, for the love of fair Phelis, became a hermit, and died in a cave of craggy rocke, a mile distant from Warwick."

The history of Sir Guy, though now very properly resigned to children, was once admired by all readers of wit and taste: for taste and wit had once their childhood. Although of English growth, it was early a favourite with other nations: appeared in French in 1525, and is alluded to in the old Spanish romance of Tirante el Blanco, which, it is believed, was written not long after the year 1430.-See advertisement to the French translation, 2 vols. 12mo.

The original whence all these stories are extracted, is a very ancient romance in old English verse, which is quoted by Chaucer us a celebrated piece even in his time, (viz.,

"Men speken of romances of price,

Of Horne childe and Ippotis,
Of Bevis, and Sir Guy," &c.

R. of Thop.)

and was usually sung to the harp at Christmas dinners and bridals, as we learn from Puttenham's Art of Poetry, 4to, 1589.

This ancient romance is not wholly lost. An imperfect copy in black-letter, "Imprynted at London-for Wylliam Copland," in 34 sheets, 4to, without date, is still preserved among Mr. Garrick's collection of old plays. As a specimen of the poetry of this antique rhymer, take his description of the dragon mentioned in verse 105 of the following ballad:

"A messenger came to the king.

Syr king, he sayd, lysten me now,
For bad tydinges I bring you.

In Northumberlande there is no man,
But that they be slayne everychone:
For there dare no man route,

By twenty myle rounde aboute,
For doubt of a fowle dragon,
That sleath men and beastes downe.
He is blacke as any cole,

Rugged as a rough fole;

His bodye from the navill upwarde
No man may it pierce it is so harde;
His neck is great as any summere;
He renneth as swift as any distrere;
Pawes he hath as a lyon:

All that he toucheth he sleath dead downe.
Great winges he hath to flight,

That is no man that bare him might.
There may no man fight him agayne,
But that he sleath him certayne:
For a fowler beast then is he,

Ywis of none never heard ye."

Sir William Dugdale is of opinion that the story of Guy is not wholly apocryphal, though he acknowledges the monks have sounded out his praises too hyperbolically. In particular, he gives the duel fought with the Danish Champion as a real historical truth, and fixes the date of it in the year 926, ætat. Guy 67.-See his Warwickshire.

The following is written upon the same plan as ballad v. book vii., but which is the original, and which the copy, cannot be decided. This song is ancient, as may be inferred from the idiom pre erved in the margin, ver. 94, 102: and was once popular, as appars from Fletcher's Knight of the Burning Pestle, act ii., sc. ult.

It is here published from an ancient MS. copy in the Editor's old folio volume collated with two printed ones, one of which is in blackletter in the Pepys Collection.

WAS ever knight for ladyes sake
Soe tost in love, as I, Sir Guy,
For Phelis fayre, that lady bright
As ever man beheld with eye?

She gave me leave myself to try,


The valiant knight with sheeld and speare,

Ere that her love shee wold grant me;

Which made mee venture far and neare.

Then proved I a baron bold,

That in those dayes in England was,
With sword and speare in feild to fight.

Ver. 9, The proud sir Guy, P.C.

In deeds of armes the doughtyest knight


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Where I atchieved for her sake

Right dangerous conquests with my hands. For first I sayled to Normandye,

And there I stoutlye wan in fight


The emperours daughter of Almaine,
From manye a vallyant worthye knight.

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Eskeldered, a famous knight,

To death likewise I did pursue; And Elmayne, King of Tyre, alsoe, Most terrible in fight to viewe.

I went into the souldans hoast,

Being thither on embassage sen.,

And brought his head awaye with mee;
I having slaine him in his tent.

V. 17, Two hundred. MS. and P.C.


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I overcame him in the feild,

And slewe him soone right valliantlye;
Wherebye this land I did redeeme
From Danish tribute utterlye.

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Within the castle there doe lye;

One of his sheeld-bones to this day
Hangs in the citye of Coventrye.
On Dunsmore heath I alsoe slewe

A monstrous wyld and cruell beast,
Calld the Dun-cow of Dunsmore heath;
Which manye people had opprest.



Some of her bones in Warwicke yett
Still for a monument doe lye,

And there exposed to lookers viewe,

As wonderous strange, they may espye.

A dragon in Northumberland


I alsoe did in fight destroye,


Which did bothe man and beast oppresse,

And all the countrye sore annoye.

At length to Warwicke I did come,

Like pilgrim poore, and was not knowne; 110

And there I lived a hermitts life

A mile and more out of the towne.

Where with my hands I hewed a house
Out of a craggy rocke of stone,

And lived like a palmer poore

Within that cave myself alone :

And daylye came to begg my bread
Of Phelis att my castle gate;
Not knowne unto my loved wiffe,
Who dailye mourned for her mate.

V. 94, 192, doth lye. MS.




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