Middle English Breton Lais
The Tale of Emaré
14th century, Middle English: British Library.
again and againHidden origins
Now this lady drifted in the boat for seven nights and more. She lay still in the bottom of the boat and was taken by the tides and the currents to the city of Rome.
The lady and the lytyll chylde fleted forth on the watur wylde, – the lady and her little child were set adrift upon the rough sea and were tossed mercilessly by the waves. Egaré hid here face in the folds of her dress. She was frightened of the sea and lay her head down against the wooden keel with her baby at her breast. The waves kicked at her, slapped and burst noisily around the boat and when the child cried she sang it a song to make it sleep and put it to her breast saying: 'If ever we get to land, I shall curse you, O sea, by the strength and expanse of your cruel water, for I have much cause to denounce the shame you bring upon me.' And she lay grieving and prayed to Jesus and to his mother Mary, in every way she knew.
Now this lady drifted in the boat for seven nights and more. She lay still in the bottom of the boat and was taken by the tides and the currents to the city of Rome, through the grace of God; although she was nearly driven to madness through hunger and thirst.
A merchant lived in that city, a rich man named Jurdan. Every day he would go to the seashore to take the air. On this particular day he was walking along the beach by himself when he found a boat on the sand, with a fair lady in it. Her garment shone so brightly that he was frightened of her at first –
And yn hys herte he thowghth ryght, that she was non erthyly wyght ... – thinking in his heart that she was not of this Earth but must have made a journey from some Otherworld.