The Romance of Bevis of Hampton
12th century Anglo-Norman Boeuve de Haumton | 14th century, Middle English: National Library of Scotland, Cambridge, Manchester, Naples.
Sir Bevis changes clothes with a pilgrim, and assuming this disguise, speaks with his lifelong friend Josian when his turn comes. She does not recognise him at all.
While Sir Bevis has been languishing in prison for seven years, the lady he loves, the fair Josian, has been forced to marry someone else. But she spends her days giving food to poor travellers who congregate outside her gates, questioning them about the whereabouts of a ‘Bevis’ to whom she was once betrothed.
Meanwhile, Sir Bevis has at last managed to escape from his dungeon. Cornered on a seashore by his pursuers, he spurs his horse into the waves and spends the whole day and half of the following night crossing the water on horseback! At last, he arrives at a castle on the other side. Here lives a giant.
With this belligerent giant defeated, Sir Bevis learns that Josian has married. He travels to the city where she lives. Outside the city, he changes clothes with a pilgrim, and assuming this disguise, speaks with Josian when his turn comes. She does not recognise him at all –
and whan the maide segh him thar, of Beves she nas nothing war.
‘Have you heard of a man named Bevis,’ she asks.
‘Yes I have,’ Sir Bevis replies.
and lough [laugh]: 'That knight ich knowe wel inough! Atom,' a seide, 'in is contré
icham an erl and also is he. I know that knight well enough. At home, in his country, I am an earl, and so is he. He has sent me to collect his horse, Arundel, for him.'
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.