William Morris Archive

"I Who am curious . . . Sir Jaques prayed . . .


B. L. Add. MS 74,255, ff. 1, 2, 11., ink, described by the B. L. as possibly a continuation of the previous poem. Murray groups this with "The Three Wooers" and "Mad as I was I stopped" as part of one poem.

"I who am curious about many things" (f. 2) does seem to precede "Sir Jacques prayed" (f. 10).

[order of fragments uncertain]

[B. L. Add. MS. 74,255, f. 2, fragment, possibly first in sequence]

I who am curious about many things
Considering how that Rumour, though with wings
She flyeth fast, yet halteth in her speech
And wishing well that true record should reach
Those that come after: have with care & pain
And diligent sifting oer & oer again
Written this book wherein is nothing set
I do not hold for pure truth, though I let
Some words stay as I heard them; telling men
Myself who said them how and where & when.
And for that Lords and Knights should have no lack
Of this my book in good fair red & black[.]
Full many clerks have written it & chief
This mighty volume whereof leaf by leaf
I turn just now by Alexandre le blau
Clerk of S. Omers that my lord might know
The wonderful deeds of arms done in these lands
Was well-illuminate for my Lords hands.
I say I turn it over leaf by leaf:
I am grown old, shall die soon little grief
Or fear this gives me, I could die just now
Most peacefully the wrinkles on my brow
Seem all unfolding and all deeds of mine
Both good and bad grow faint to me or shine
As deeds of other men; and this book here
Which line by line was poured into mine ear
And moulded in my brain and heart is grown
Strange stories of an unknown land as shewn
By some old man long dead. ah leaf by leaf
Hold these[;] three crowns upon a scarlet chief* [top third of heraldic crest, court. P. Acker]

[f. 10?, possibly second in sequence]

Sir Jaques prayed, then rose with a pale face,
And we went on quite silent till at last
I said[,] fair knight[,] that cross that we have past
What happed thereby: he said it grieveth me
Each time I tell this tale so piteously
They ended. [H]e stopped there for courtesy's sake[.]
I said no word until he pleased to break
The silence and begin[,[ ah trust me though[,]
But I was eager as we rode on so.
Sir Peter, said he, pray you did you note
Hard by the Cross, that Castle God has smote
With utter ruin[?] [Y]ea[,] I said: well Sir[,]
I who am old now was a squire there
When I was young. Sir Miles du grand Martel
Was Lord of it and me, he held it well
Through many troubles, but a certain Lord
That hight Sir John Bourdville he having scored
High vengeance gainst him took it suddenly.
Bur pray[,] Sir Peter[,] now and answer me[,]
What think you[,] Sir[,] has man or woman yet
Died of pure love, or do all men forget[,]
Live and be happy afterwards: nay nay[,]
Sir Jaques answered[,] I what shall I say
But that I never knew it so perdie[,]
It seemeth not a little thing to die[.]
Look you Sir Knight your sword has gone right through
Full many a man who has died by you
In spite of all the blood, and if the Lord
Has made it hard with a bright heavy sword . . .

[f. 3, fragment, possibly third in sequence]   
She slipped from out the castle and the sight
Of Lord John Bourdville: therefore I praise God
For I went with her, down upon the sod[.]
He bent his old eyes saying this - Miles came
And met her amid the trumpets and the flame[s]
Of the great torches[.] [W]elcome Lady fair
He said[,] and stood bareheaded bowed to her[,]
And would have kissed her cheek but suddenly
Meeting her eyes[,] their lips met[,] yea and she
With a long wild sigh threw her arms a round him
But never moved her lips[.] [A]ll these things swim
Like pictures through my brain I mind too how
He led her off[,] his face flushed to the brow
Red in the torchlight, and he held her arm
Below the shoulder as he feared some harm
Might take her from him; the days went by[,]
I was made Miles['s] Squire, often I
Have seen him wander for mere happiness
Restless and ill at ease, less and less.
He counted Bourdville's threats[,] his jewel fair
Shut so safe up in his strong castle there
Alas[,] though on a day she rode alone
A little way[,] and he not with her gone[,]
A three days journey off perforce, night came . . . .