The Tale of Emaré
14th century, Middle English: British Library.
Emaré was washed up on a beach in Wales and found by the king's steward. He asked her her name, but she changed it and said that she was called Egaré.
Dowghtyr, y woll wedde the, thow art so fresh to beholde. – 'Daughter, I shall marry you, you are so beautiful.'
‘No, Sir! May God of heaven forbid it!
The emperor was very angry at this outburst, so angry that he swore that he would kill her – vowed that he would kill his own daughter. He decreed that a richly-fashioned boat should be made and that Emaré should be put into it. She was to be given no money, no food and no water, but simply cast into the sea.
So Emaré was set adrift upon the ocean, without oar and without anchor. A wind came up and blew the ship away from the land until it was out of sight. The boat vanished, and the emperor immediately began to regret what he had done. The lords and noblemen around him ran to his aid and comforted him as best they might. He sobbed:
'Alas! My dear daughter! Why have I done this? Oh why!' and the tears ran down his face. The whole occasion took on the atmosphere of a funeral. Neither old nor young could stop crying for that beautiful maiden. Nobody thought to send a boat out after her. Perhaps they could not. But we must leave the emperor and speak of the damsel on the sea.
She was so dryven fro wawe [wave] to wawe, – she was thrown from wave to wave, the wind and the rain lashed her, storms gathered above the blue water and as I have heard the minstrels sing, she had no idea how far she was from land nor if any land at all lay in the direction she was going. She was very frightened. Emaré hid her head in the boat, afraid even to look at the water.
She was dryven into a lond, – she was washed up on a beach in Wales, and found by the king's steward. He asked her her name,
she chaunged hyt ther anone, and sayde she hette [was called] Egaré. – she changed it and said that her name was Egare.
Story fragment recounted from: Anne Laskaya and Eve Salisbury (Eds), 1995. The Middle English Breton Lays. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Western Michigan University for TEAMS. The Middle English text of EMARÉ from British Library MS Cotton Caligula A.ii.
∩ The Medieval tale of Emaré, translated into Modern English.
∩ Piccadilly Line, Green Park.