Manuscripts and Special Collections

WLC/LM/4, f. 57r: Robert of Gretham, 'Mirur’, lines 1-36 (composed c.1250, Anglo-Norman)


A sa trechere dame aline.
Saluz en lauertu diuine.
Ma dame bien lai oi dire.
Ke mult amez oir e lire.
Chancon de geste e destoire
E mult i metez la memoire.
M ais bien uoil que vus sachez.
Q ue co est plus ke uanitez.
Kar co nest rien fors controuure.
E folie de uaine cure.
S i lom i troue vn bon respit.
T ut li altre ualdra petit.
C o est en uair le tripot.
D e chescun ki mentir uolt.
P ur plus sourement mentir.
A lcune rien dist apleisir.
E dist alcune uerite.
P ur feire oir sa falsete.
E co nest pas chose creiable.
Q ue tut seit uair kest dit en fable.
N un est co uair quant kest escrit.
D estoire ke lem en chancun dist.
Kar cil ki chancuns controuerent.
S ulum lur quiders les furmerent.
E lom dist en respit pur uair.
K e quidance nest pas sauair.
V eez si co pot estre uair.
Q ue vns enfes oust poair.
C um dist la chancun de mainet.
V del orfanin sansunnet.
V de la geste dan tristram.
V del bon messager balam.
V eez les altres ensement
N i ad celui ki trop ni ment.
N e sunt pas forstrait descripture.
M ais chascun fait sa controuure.



To his much beloved Lady Aline, greetings in Divine Grace. My Lady, I have heard it said, is someone who loves to read and listen to epic poems and romances and commits many of them to memory. But I would like to you know that this is no more than empty vanity1, because these tales are nothing more than fiction and the foolishness of wasted occupation. If a man could find in them a good moral story then all others would be of little worth. These are, truthfully, trickery - as each one is a lie. For, by more plainly lying to make these tales more attractive to the listener, anything is said which pleases and says nothing truthful. Indeed, to hear his lies it is not believable that everything said in a fable is true, that all is truth which is in the fables; none is truth when it is written down. Nothing turns out to be true that is written down in the tales of the ballads because they are themselves a mere fabrication, as the writers concoct these tales in accordance with their imaginations. Indeed, as the man said in the moral tale, those who dream things up are not wise. Observe if this can be the truth when you see what some young nobles, still in training to become knights, have been able to do. As in the ballad of Mainet2, or of the orphan Sansunnet, or in the ballad of Tristram3 or of the good messenger of Balam4 and likewise there are others which recount similar tales. Amongst those you will not find any that have been drawn from scripture (the only source of truth), rather each one is produced from his imagination.

1. Could also mean 'foolishness'

2. The Mainet Geste exists only in a late 12th century fragment. The story is based on the youth of Charlemagne (Mainet the diminutive form of Magne). Bertha, daughter of a Hungarian King, wife of Pepin, is the mother of Charlemagne. She is poisoned by a servant whose daughter resembles Bertha so much that she takes the place of her mother in the marital bed. She conceives Hendri and Ronfroi (who later poisons Pepin). Forced to flee, the young Charlemagne changes his name to Mainet and enters the service of the pagan king Galatre of Toledo. After helping him win a decisive battle he obtains the hand of the King's daughter who is baptised and becomes his wife.

3. Of Tristram and Iseult fame. They take a love potion intended for the King of Cornwall, Mark. In one version Tristram dies due to trickery on the part of his wife who confusingly is also called Iseult.

4. This could read also read 'angel' according to the Chanson.

* *