Daily Archives: November 27, 2014

The Gawain Poet

In my last post I showed how a certain 13th century Anglo-Scottish nobleman called Simon De Quincy was the same personage as the Clerk of Tranent. We also saw how he was responsible for writing the ‘Anteris of Gawane,‘ ie the ‘Adventures of Gawain.’ Some scholars have suggested the ‘Anteris‘ are the same as the very famous medieval poem Gawain & the Green Knight, as recently modernized by the Yorkshire-pudding poet, Simon Armitage.

green-green-knight

Nobody knows who wrote the poem, but it has come to us in the middle-english dialect of the NW Midlands of roundabout the year 1400.  The thing is, just as the contemporary brummie poet Chaucer was transcreating Bocaccio’s Decameron into his own midlands dialect, so the Gawain poet could have been handling older material. Indeed, the poem begins with the sentence, ‘I schal telle hit as-tit, as I in toun herde, with tonge,‘ proving the poem must have been long-established & fully-formed  before it came into thatt unnamed midland ‘toun.

 

The Curia Regis
The Curia Regis

A clue to the identity of the original poet comes with the uncomplete ‘Hugh de…‘ written at the top of the Gawain & the Green Knight manuscript. This is where the fun begins. Returning to the De Quincy’s of Tranent, we discover that Simon De Quincy’s niece, Hawise, was married to a certain Hugh de Vere, the 4th Earl of Oxford. He also held the important rank of Master Chamberlain of England, a pre-parliamentary position which gave him access to the Kings’ Court – the curia regis – during times of national decision-making. The Curia Regis was also known as the Aula Regis, which means we now possess a perfect match for Hugh De Vere & ‘Huchoun (little Hugh) of the Awle Ryale.‘ He appears in the 14th century Chronicle of Andrew of Wyntoun;

 

Hucheon,
þat cunnande was in littratur.
He made a gret Gest of Arthure
And þe Awntyr of Gawane,
Þe Pistil als of Suet Susane.
He was curyousse in his stille,
Fayr of facunde and subtile,
And ay to pleyssance hade delyte,
Mad in metyr meit his dyte
Litil or noucht neuir þe lesse
Wauerande fra þe suythfastnes.

 

To this Huchoun are also attributed the ‘Anteris of Gawane,‘ which really does show that the true origins of ‘Gawain & the Green Knight’ lie in the 13th century poetic scene that surrounded the De quincys of Tranent – the poem’s beheading motif was rampant in those days for a start, such as is found in the Continuations of Chretien’s Perceval. This poem, as well as Perlesvaus, have numerous similarities with Gawain & the Green Knight, suggesting a similar compositive epoch.

So… as ‘Huchoun,’ Hugh De Vere would also have written a, ‘gret Gest of Arthure,’ which could well be the Vulgaate-Cycle as mentioned in the last post…