The Tale of Emaré
14th century, Middle English: British Library.
Speaking of the emperor's daughter Emaré, the king's steward Sir Cadore informs his king: 'Egaré is the daughter of an earl in a far land. I sent for her to teach my children courtesy and to be their governess.'
There was once an Emperor who owned many a castle and many a forest and woodland full of wild flowers. There was no finer lord to be found anywhere; his name was Sir Artius. Sir Artius had only one child, a very pretty young daughter whom they named Emaré. But his wife died and when Emaré, by now a beautiful young woman, refused to marry her own father he flew into a rage and ordered her to be killed. She was to be set adrift in a boat without food or water.
Days passed and Emaré at last found herself drifting towards a coastline; it was a land called Wales, as I understand, a fair country. The king’s steward Sir Cadore trotted his horse across the sand to the boat and saw a lady inside. She had been so long without food that Sir Cadore and those with him thought she was near to death.
They askede her what was her name; she chaunged hyt ther anone and seyde she hette Egaré – They asked her her name, but she changed it and said that her name was Egaré.
Later, when this emperor's daughter has been living in Sir Cadore’s household for some time and the king is visiting:
Syr, whenns ys that lovely may [maiden] that yn the halle served thys day? Tell my [me] yyf [if] hyt [it] be thy wyll. – 'Who is that lovely maiden who served me in your hall?' the king asks. 'Tell me, my friend!'
Hyt ys an erles [earl's] thowghtur [daughter] of ferre londe, – 'Egaré is the daughter of an earl in a far land,' replies Sir Cadore. 'I sent for her to teach my children courtesy and to be their governess.'
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.