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Medieval Romance

The Romance of Sir Bevis of Hampton

12th century Anglo-Norman Boeuve de Haumton | 14th century, Middle English: National Library of Scotland, Cambridge, Manchester, Naples.

Bevis sails across the sea as a small boy and lands in the Middle East where he begins a new life.

Bevis is the five-year-old son of an elderly nobleman whose young wife has successfully plotted her husband's downfall. Bevis finds himself without a father and with a mother who wants him dead. She gets one of her noblemen to kill Bevis, but instead, he takes him into hiding and disguises him as a shepherd boy. But this life cannot continue indefinitely and Bevis quickly reveals to his mother that he is not dead. She orders knights to take this horrible-reminder-of-his-father down to the seashore and, not to kill him but to put him on a ship bound for distant lands. Forth the knightes gonne te, til that hii come to the se, schipes hii fonde ther stonde.

Bevis sails across the sea and lands in the Middle East where he is soon taken into the king’s court and brought up as a favoured child, playing with the king’s own daughter and seemingly destined to marry her.

He meets one day, many years later, with the son of the nobleman who first rescued him from the clutches of his mother. The young man is roaming the world looking for him and asks if he has heard of anyone named Bevis.

‘I knew him,’ replied Bevis, with a laugh, ‘and it is not long ago that I saw him hanged!’ – 'a knew that child wel inough. Hit is nought,' a seide, 'gon longe, I segh the Sarsins that child anhonge!' He does not reveal his true identity.

Story fragment recounted from: Herzman, Ronald B, Drake, Graham and Salisbury, Eve, 1999. Four Romances of England. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications. The Middle English text of BEVIS OF HAMPTON from National Library of Scotland MS Advocates 19.2.1, the Auchinleck Manuscript.

See for yourself

Bevis of Hampton – TEAMS Middle English text

Medieval Romance – Wikipedia

Bevis of Hampton – Wikipedia

Medieval Institute Publications – Herzman, Ronald B, Drake, Graham and Salisbury, Eve, 1999. Four Romances of England. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications. TEAMS Middle English text series

The Middle English poem Sir Bevis of Hampton edited from Naples, Biblioteca Nazionale, MS XIII.B.29 and Cambridge, University Library, MS Ff.2.38 by Jennifer Fellows, 2017, 2 volumes, available through the Early English Text Society (EETS)

…or direct from Oxford University Press

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