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Egeking, Erkyin [weap:sword] [English Romance]

The Lady's own son.
= perhaps son of Egramie (as Van Duzee surmises)
[* Or is he King Fundus's "young prince" ??]
The Lady
= daughter of King Fundus, aka "young prince" (accord. to French & Hale, etc.)
[* Or was she wife of King Fundus ??]
King Fundus
/      \
borrowed ↙              ↘ borrowed
= friend of Eger
= beloved of the Lady; uncle of Eger

Egeking*1, *2, *3, *4 ("Eger and Grime," Percy folio version (P)*6, ll 593, 602, 1019),
Erkyin*1, *2, *3, *4 (ib. l.557);
"your emes sword Sir Agam" ("The History of Sire Eger, Sir Grahame, and Sir Gray-Steele," Huntington (H) 801; Laing's reprint (L))*1
[Egeking "king of swords" French & Hale*2, p.689 n (footnote to l.557); edge [Eng./ME] < ecg "sword" [OE] (Rickert*4, endnote).
Accord. to Liebrecht*5, Erkyin < eorcanstân "precious stone" [OE] and the fact the sword was obtained for the price of a "Jewell of high degree" (P, 562) is in reference to it (cited by Rickert)]

A sword that Grime, [Grime, Gryme (P), Grahame (H)] sought to borrow and obtained the loan of, in order to fight Greysteel(e) [Gray-steel, Gray Steele (P), Gray Steel (H)], a lord of forbidden lands, clad totally in red, riding a red horse, who challenged any encroachers to combat.

§ Eger and Grime

This was a popular work in Scotland and known by the title Graysteel, the name of the chief anatagonist. It has been noted by previous commentators that in the Treasurer's Accounts for James IV of Scotland, it is recorded: "twa fithelaris [two fiddlers] sang Gray Steil. ix s [i.e. nine shillings were paid for their service]." There are also references to the melody of Graysteel being used for singing other ballads (satire on the Marquis of Argyle was sung to its tune, Walter Scott, Minstrelsy (1833), p.179 note)

Walter Scott mentions that one Archibald Douglas was once affectionately referred by James V as "his Graysteil" (Tales of a Grandfather "Ch. XXVI: The Douglasses Banished")

§ Grime vows to fight Gray-Steel to avenge his friend Eger
Grime's dearest friend Eger (see *7) already crossed two fords of the river to venture into this Greysteel's territory, provoking a fight, suffering ruinous defeat as a consequence. He swooned for loss of blood, and during his unconsciousness his enemy had chopped off the little finger of his right hand as a trophy, as he later discovered to his chagrin. Fortunately he managed to ride to a castle and his wounds were ministered by a lady named Loosepine (Loosepine, Loospaine P, Lililas H, Lillias L; Van Duzee considers the name derived from l'espine thorn (hawthorn), see commentary on "The Mythic Nature", below). This Loosepine was very skilled in leechcraft (the arts of healing). She fed him a grass green drink (l. 291) that immediately dispelled his bleeding and his sores. But although Eger escaped with his life intact, this defeat disqualified him as prospective husband in the eyes of the lady Winglayne [Winglayne (P) Winliane (H)] [* daughter of Earl Bragas [Earl Diges (HL)] of Beame [Bealm (HL)]], who, as narrated in the beginning of the story, professed to accept in marriage only a man who is never defeated in battle.

To redress this, Grime hatched a plan to go forth disguised as his friend Eger, and defeat Greysteel in his stead, and Eger grudingly agrees to this.

§ Obtaining the sword "Edgeking"
Grime's brother Palyas (Eger's brother in HL) recalls that Eger's dead uncle Egramie [Egramie or Egranye in F (=Furnivall?) 554, Egramye 555, 565, Egrame 569 (P), Agam (HL)] had owned a sword so noble that no man born of woman could withstand the wind of it before his face (P 571-2).

The sword was currently in the keeping of a certain lady of royal lineage who has had a secret love affair with Egramie. However, the precise pedigrees of the sword's owners, would-be owners, etc., and the kinships between them are "not entirely clear" as Van Duzee*8 has remarked, and it would be here convenient to quote the relevant passage, as she has done, except in somewhat lengthier fashion:

3d parte
They called Pallyas to their councell,
& he assented soone withouten fayle,
for he loued Sir Egar both Euen & morne
as well as he did Gryme his brother borne.
"& iff you will to this battell goe,
yee had neede of good councell betwene vs 2.

Gryme, if thou wilt fight with Sir Gray steele,
thou had neede of weapons that stand wold weele;
for weapons may be both fresh & new, (HL 625)
fikle, false, & full vntrue; (HL 626)
when a wepon faileth when a man hath need,
all the worse then may hee speede;
And all I say by Sir Egar,
where was a better Knightt knowne any where?
when his weapon faild him att most need,
all the worse then did he speed."
Palyas said, "there was sometimes in this countrye,
Egar, your vnckle Sir Egramie,
& when that Egramye was liuand
he had the guiding of a noble brand,
the name of itt was called Erkyin;
well were that man had it in keeping!
first when that sword was rought
to King ffundus it was brought
full far beyond the greekes sea,
for a Iewell of high degree.
when the King departed this world hence,
he left it with the younge prince;
& some sayd that Egramye
shold loue that ladye in priuitye;
he desired the sword in borrowing;
the King deceased at that time;
& when that Egrame was liuande,
he had the guiding of that noble brand;
that man was neuer of a woman borne,
durst abyde the winde his face beforne.
the Ladyes dwelling is heere nye;
shee saith, 'there is noe man that sword shall see

till her owne sonne be att age & land,
& able to welde his fathers brand.' "
Grime sayd, "I will goe thither to morrow at day
to borrow that sword if that I may."
on the morrow when the sun shone bright,
to Egrames Ladie went Grime the Knight;
kindley he halcht that ladye faire;
she saith, "how doth my Cozin Sir Egar?"
"hee will forth , maddam, with all his might
to take a new battell on younder Knight;
he prayeth you to lend him his vnckeles brand,
& there he hath sent you the deeds of his land,

& all mine I will leaue with you in pawne
that your sword shall safelye come againe."
soe he desired that sword soe bright
590     that shee was loth to with say that Knight;
that shee feitched him forth that Noble brand,
& receiued the deeds of bothe their lands;
she said, "there was noe fault with Egeking,
but for want of grace & gouerninge;
for want of grace & good gouerninge
may loose a Kingdome & a King.

for there is neither Lin nor light*
* "Limme & lith is to this day a phrase in Scotld. for the whole body"—Percy.
that Egeking my sword meeteth with,
but gladlye it will through itt gone,
600     that biting sword, vnto the bone;
but I wold not for both your Lands
that Egeking came in a cowards hands."

—Caldwell ed. "Eger and Grime" ("Percy"), pp.228, 230, 232
    To this counsel Palyas agreed, for he loved Sir Eger as well as he did Grime, his own brother.

"And if you will go to the combat and fight with Sir Gray-Steel, you have need of arms that endure, for they may be fresh-new and yet false and fickle. When a weapon fails a man in time of stress, he fares ill, as did Sir Eger.

But now, Eger, your uncle, Sir Egramé,1, while he lived, had the wielding of a noble brand called Edgeking.1 Well for that man who {p.151} hath it in his keeping! It was brought to King Ffundus1 from beyond the Greek Sea, for a treasure of great price; and when the king departed this world, he left it with the young princess. But some say that Egramé loved that lady in secret, and borrowed it when the king died, and that as long as he lived he had the guiding of that noble brand. And while he had it, there was never man of woman born that durst abide even the wind of it before his face! Now Egramé's lady dwells here nigh, but she says that no man shall so much as look upon it, until her own son be of age to wield his father 's weapon."
    Said Grime: "To-morrow at daybreak, I will go thither and borrow that sword if I may."
    Said Grime: "To-morrow at daybreak, I will go thither and borrow that sword if I may."
    On the morow, accordingly, when the sun shone bright, he went to that fair dame; and says she: "How doth my cousin, Sir Eger ?"
    "Madam, he will forth again with all his main to undertake combat anew with yonder knight, and he prays you lend him his uncle's brand. As surety that it shall come safe home again, here are the title-deeds of his estates and of mine."
    She was loth to refuse him, and brought forth that splendid sword, saying that there was no fault in Edgeking itself; but for want of valour and good governance, often hath been lost alike king and kindom. "There is never limb or body that Edgeking meets but that the biting {p.152} ...
— Rickert's free translation *9

§ The sword's owners, custodians, and borrowers - conventional theory
Thus the sword had originally belonged to King Fundus [King ffundus (P) ≈ King Forrest (H, 826)] who paid a "jewel of high degree (great worth)" (P 562) to have the sword sent over to him from beyond the Greek sea.

The sword was then bequeathed to the king's "younge prince" (P 564) according to text, but scholars have conventionally interpret this to mean not his male heir, but to the female "Lady" (Ladye P 573, The Lady HL 803) , usually regarded to be Fundus' daughter (rather than widow). On this, French & Hale*10 makes note that a medieval "prince" may refer to either a male or female. The sword will eventually pass down to the Lady's own son — who would be Fundus's grandson in the conventional interpretation.

Now it is stated that Egramie loved the Lady "in private" (P 565), and though the exact nature of their amorous liaison is not clear, it would have to have been intimate enough to warrant the Lady to refer to Eger as "her cousin", that is to say, a kinsman (P 582). Thus one would guess that either Egramie took the Lady to be his wife in marriage or common-law wife, or, as Van Duzee*11 surmises, the boy whom the Lady refers to as her own son was fathered by Egramie.

§ The alternate versions regarding the sword
However, a contrary argument should be made that the "young prince" was in fact King Fundus's son, still in his minority, and "the Lady" was in fact the King's wife. Because those are the circumstances given quite unmistakebly in the alternate versions (It is curious therefore that French & Hale should cite the L text to support their interpretation. See note *10 supra).

The alternate texts (HL) are quite specific in stating that the King (here called King Forrest H 826)*12 entrusted the sword to his queen, so it may be passed down to his son when he comes of age. viz.:
They called to him sir Pallias,
And told him all the very case,
They shew to him both all and some,
They kend full well that he would come:
The man that loves, and als is leel.
Is worthiest to keep counsel.
Then after that upon a day,
Sir Grahame to sir Eger can say
If I should meet with you Gray-steel,
I had need to be holden well:
And your emes sword sir Agam,
These seven winters can it ly,
The Lady locks it in a chist,
She thinks it should not come in thrust,
Nor yet be born into the field,
While that her son be come to eeld:
Had we it now in borrowing,
It might make us some comforting:
We must now have it ere we gang,
With othea weapons good and strang:
Sir Grahame is to the Lady gone,
And said, Sir Eger is at home,
And hath a journey tane on hand,
With a great knight of a strange land,
And his own good sword hath he broken,
And he hath not another gotten:
And prays you for a noble brand,
And take the Charters of his land.
Now trust you well withoutten weer,
Sir Grahame, she said, it is right here,
Though ye be charged, I you assure,
It will not fail, but ay endure,
And shal stand you into good steed,
While that ye have Gray-steels head.
For the first time that it was wrought,
To the king Forrest it was brought,
And seven winters he it bare,
His life-time was but little mare.
Then he betaught it to the Queen,
And to his son for to be given.
And with them dwelled then sir Grahame,
Was right instant at the making,
While he had made that noble brand,
For there may nothing it gainstand.
He may be sure to give a strake,
For it will never bow nor break,
Teugh as the wax when it was wrought,
Hard like the flint, and faileth nought.
It was never won by no strength,
Nor yet put back by its own length:
What flesh it ever hapneth in,
Either in lyre or yet in skin:
Whether that were shank or arm,
It shal him do wonder great harm:
There is no fault in any thing,
But it was in misgoverning:
For a man of evil guiding,
May tine a kinrick and a king:
And I would not for both our Lands,
That it came in other mens hands.
—Caldwell ed.,
"The History of Sire Eger, Sir Grahame, and Sir Gray-Steele,"
("Huntington") p.229, 231, 233.
They summoned Sir Pallias,
And told him about the whole situation,
They showed to him to one and all.
They knew full well that he would come:
The man who loves and is loyal,
Is worthiest to keep in confidence,
Afterwards, one day
Sir Grahame says to Sir Eger,
"If I were to confront you[r] Gray-Steel,
I better be well guarded,
and the sword of your Uncle Agam
has remained for the past seven years
locked inside a chest by the Lady.
She does not think it should be taken out
for stabbing or be carried into the field
until her son comes of age.
If we could borrow it now,
it might give us a measure of comfort.
We better fetch it 'fore we go, alongside
other weapons good and strong."
Sir Grahame went to the Lady and said,
"Sir Eger is at home,
and he had taken on a journey
to a strange land, going up against a mighty knight,
and broke his good sword
and does not have another
and wishes to

The Lady hadn't intended to let any man touch it until her son has grown mature enough to wield his father's sword, but she buckled to Grime's passionate plea and agreed to lend it. Grime had even offered the charters (the deeds) to the both Eger's land and his own, to serve as surety of the sword's return.
§ Grime's departure and Loosepine's instructions
Grime swap armors with Eger (and therfore exchanging their identities) to deceive everyone at court, before setting off to fight Greysteel. Meanwhile, Eger has asked Grime for a favor, to carry gifts of gratitude to the lady Loosepine who nursed him. Loosepine can be distinguished from other ladies by the marks the size ("mountenance") of a pin between her eyes, one red and the other white. When Grime passes through a garden, he chances to recognize Loosepine by these facial marks of hers. Although Grime keeps up the pretense that he is Eger, and manages to trick her for a while, the fact that he is not missing a little finger eventually gives him away. We learn that Loosepine too wishes to exact vengeance upon Graysteel, who has slain her husband Attelston [Alistoun (HL)] on the day she married him, and also her brother who sought to avenge him.

Accordingly, she instructs Grime on how to achieve victory. She imparts upon him the secret that Graysteel's strength waxes by a strength of a man from midnight till noon, and every hour from noon, his strength wanes. Also he must make his first stroke a brave one. (P 888~)
Acting on this intelligence, Grime delivers an "arkward" (backward) stroke (P 1029) *13 on Greysteel, and finally defeats him. As a token to show the lady that, he severs the enemy's hand. When the contents of the glove was examined, it was found that the hand was "red-rowed", and that it had many extra fingers and rings on each of those extra digits. Grime has gained for his Eger the reputation of having vangquished Greysteel, and Winglayne humbly weds Eger. Grime too is joined with Loosepine in matrimony.

---------------- manuscripts ---------------

  • version (P) - The Percy folio is 1474 lines long.
  • version (H) - Unique copy owned by the Huntington Library of the blackletter Eger of 1687.
  • version (L) - David Laing's reprint in 1826 of James Nicol, printer, issued in Aberdeen, book of 1711.
  • Also exists a Brit. Mus. (Brit. Lib.) owned copy of The History of Sir Eger, Sir Grahame, and Sir Graysteele (1669).

    ------- texts in print, lit. crit., etc. --------

    *1 Caldwell, James Ralston, Eger and Grime: A parallel-text edition of the Percy and the Huntington-Laing Versions of the Romance, with and Introductory Study (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press 1933) [Harvard Studies in Comparative Literature Vol. IX]. [Snippet View]

    *2 French & Hale = "Eger and Grime" in French, Walter Hoyt, 1897- and Hale, Charles Brockway, 1898-1944 Middle English Metrical Romances vol. II, 671-717.

    *3 Hales, John W. (John Wesley), 1836-1914. and Furnivall, Frederick James, 1825-1910., ed. Bishop Percy's Folio Manuscript: Ballads and Romances (London: N. Trübner & CO., 1867), in 4 vols.; Vol. II.

    *4 Rickert= "The story of Gray Steel" in Rickert, Edith, 1871-1938, Early English romances in verse: done into modern English by Edith Rickert: romances of friendship. (London, Chatto and Windus; New York, Duffield & Co., 1908.)(repr. 1967 New York, Cooper Square Publishers), pp. 137-

    Note that there are two quite distinct collections by Rickert under deceptively similar titles. As of this writing, books.google only has the other collection Early English Romances in Verse: Romances of Love" even though it is mislabeled.

    *5 Liebrecht, Felix, 1812-1890. Zur Volkskunde: Alte und neue Aufsátze (Heilbronn : Henninger, 1879.) [books.google], p. 500. ""

    *6 A resumé of manuscripts and summary of the story is given in Loomis, Laura Alandis Hibbard, [1883-1960. = Hibbard, Laura A. (later Mrs. Roger Sherman Loomis)], Medieval Romance in England: A Study of the Sources and Analogues of the Non-Cyclic Metrical Romnces (New York, B. Franklin, 1960.) [limited preview]

    *7 The name is given as "Sir Edgar" in the retold version "The Forbidden Island" in: Moncrieff, A. R. Hope (Ascott Robert Hope), 1846-1927, Romance & legend of Chivalry: with illustrations in colour & monochrome from drawings and famous paintings (New York, W.H. Wise & Company, 1934) [Series: Myths and legends of mankind; reprint] pp.335-

    *8 Van Duzee, Mabel, A medieval romance of friendship: Eger and Grime, Pref. by Roger Sherman Loomis. (New York, B. Franklin [1963]) [Selected papers in literature and criticism No. 2] [limited preview]

    *9 Rickert, Endnotes (p.183):
      p. 150. Egramé. Malory has the names Egglame, Eglamour, and Segramour. The last two are common, but the first is rare, and may represent the same original name as the Egramé in the text.
      p. 150. Edgeking. In Old English, the word edge (ecg) meant sword, hence Edgeking would be King of swords. In this text, the name first given to it is Erkyin which Liebrecht takes to be from O.E. eorcnan, precious stone. While it is true that the sword is immediately after called a "treasure of great price," this derivation of the name seems to me more questionable than the other.
      p. 151. King Ffundus. Perhaps King Ponthus, famous through the romance of Pontus and Sidoine ? It might have been derived from a form spelled Phonthus or Phontus.

    *10 French & Hale, p.690. where the text ".. younge prince32" is glossed undeneath as 32 "princess", and there is an additional remark for this line (l. 564) as follows: "564. Prince frequently feminine throughout the the Middle English period. Laing:Then he betauht it to the queen." )

        The situation, then, is apparently that King Fundus, the original owner of the sword, left it at his death to the young princess. Egramie loved this lady secretly, and because of this love he had possession of Egeking. After Egramye's death the lady was keeping the sword until her own son by Egramie should be able to wield it. When Grime asked her for it, however, for Eger's use in the impending battle with Gray­steel, "shee was loth to with say [*gainsay, deny] that Knight" (P vs. 590), and lent him the sword.
    — Van Duzee, p. 116

    *12 According to Caldwell's parallel edition, p. 233n, the Laing text here reads "king's forrest" but French & Hale, p.689n says that "Forre [was] the name in Laing", and goes on to add that Forre occurs as the name of several Saracens in chansons de gestes according to Langlois's Table des noms. See for instance ⇒«Ful, the red horse of»

    *13 The romance of Eger and Grime has noted parallels in the ballad of Sir Cawline, and there the hero also employs an "aukeward stroke" to defeat the oponent and win the Eldrige sword.
    Also Walter Scott in "Græme and Bewick" (Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border) records an instance of the "ackward stroke" being used by the son of Lord Graeme to tragically kill his friend, the son of Sir Bewick. Though the circumstances differ greatly, the name resemblance to Grime suggests a possible connection. Bewick sounds like Benwick, the domain of Ban, who was owner of the sword Corseuse meaning "Fury/Wrathful" (especially as the son's duel is caused by the parent's quarrel which takes place in Carlisle, a famously Arthurian locale.) The name of Ban's Sword is synonymous with gram "wrath" (or egramed "angered"). And in the Icelandic saga of the Völsungs, Sigurð's sword Gramr means "wrath".

  • § The Mythic nature of the characters

    The red and white marks on Loosepine's feature is an indication of her fairy nature in the original (Celtic) tradition which was the source of the poem/ballad. Hibbard*1 considered the red-white spots to be identifiable with the "love-spot" of Diarmart ua Duibne.
    The adversary, Gray-steele is also of fairy nature, being clad entirely in red, and a more indicting proof of it comes later on when his hand is discovered to be not only "red-rowed" but to have multiple digits.

    Although the Middle-English bard considered the name "Loosepine" or "Loospaine" had something to do with her ability ot assuage pain, as apparent in the lines, "Why was shee called Loosepaine?/A better Leeche was none certaine" (P, vv. 11407-08); Van Duzee suggests that the name Loosepine derives from la dame de l'espine or the "lady of the thorn (hawthorn, blackthorn)"; and she cites numerous examples from medieval romance and poetry which the English bard could have tapped as source, where the thorn tree (or the lady of the thorn) is associated "with magic, with wells, streams, or fords, and even with the traditional ford combat." (p.55)*2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Her book devotes a chapter on the topic of this character and parallels with Morgan the fay are drawn as well.

    Van Duzee sees the possibility that the friendship of Sir Gawaine and Sir Yder, through phonetic changes, had been transposed to the friendship of Grime and Eger. Another corroborative piece of evidence is that Yder's love interest is Queen Guenloie*7, a name quite similar to the princess Winglayne of the English metrical romance.

    While although the underlying mythological precursors may be Celtic, it is fair to say that the names that are ultimately used are distinctly Germanic sounding. French & Hale in their foreword to the poem says "In Teutonic legend, Grime seems to have been a giant-god who threw up immense dykes; as many as fifteen are ascribed to him in Great Britain. He may possibly be the same person as the Grim in 'Havelok'."
    They also posit the notion that "Possibly Eger is the Ægir; of Teutonic mythology" (the Norse sea god). However, a more compelling candidate is the giant Etgeir or Ætgeirr [ON] who appears in the Thiddrekssaga (Vilkinasaga). In German hero-epic, he appears as the giant Ecke, owner of the sword →Eckesachs. The word Ecke in German means "corner or edge" and is the same etymology as the Anglo-Saxon ecg "edge" suggested by some for the sword "Egeking". Thus if there is a parallel, the name of Sir Eger may also relate to "edge".
    *1 Hibbard, Laura A., Medieval Romance in England, p. 316.

    *2 In "Lai de l'espine", a Breton lay of Marie de France, occurs le gué de l'espine "the Ford of the Thorn" (l. 188, 229, 288,..). Also called gué aventuros "Ford Adventurous" (l. 223).
    R. Zenker ed., "Der Lai de l'Épine" in Zeitschrift für romanische Philologie 17 (1893) 233-55 [full view].
    Eugene Mason tr., "The Lay of the Thorn" in French Medieval Romances: from the lays of Marie d France (1911).

    *3 Middle English ballad "Sir Cawline". The battle scene is the Eldrige Hill where the thorn tree stands. See ⇒Eldrige sword

    *4 French chanson de geste, Maugis d'Aigremont. The fée Oriande discovers the foundling Maugis by the fairy thorn soz l'espine a la fee l.396. The grown-up Maugis is initiated in warfare against the Saracen army led by Antenor (Anthenor), and he fights Saracen by the thorn (l'espine) hurling his body dead beneath a whitethorn (aubeespin). Maugis eventually kills Anthenor and conquers the sword ⇒Froberge.

    *5 Van Duzee, p.60, where she cites more:
    .The "gué . . . les une espine" in Fergus, the "Aube espine" by the "Gué Aventuros" in Béroul's Tristran, the "Gués de Blancë Espine" in Rigomer, the "vurt vür Noireespine" in Diu Crône (the Middle High German romance keeps the French form), the "gué de l'espine" in the lai of the thorn..

    *6 Black, Nancy B. ed. tr., The perilous cemetery (L'atre périlleux) (New York : Garland Pub., 1994.) [Garland library of medieval literature ; v. 104.] ISBN:0815318979

    *7 Ydderroman lvi, ed. H. Gelzer. See Roger Sherman Loomis, Celtic Myth and Arthurian Romance, p.8.



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