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An English Metrical Romance.
NOW FIRST PUBLISHED
UNIQUE MANUSCRIPT OF THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY,
THE CHETHAM LIBRARY AT MANCHESTER.
JAMES ORCHARD HALLIWELL, ESQ.
F.R.S., F.S. A., HON. M.R.I.A., F.R.A.S., ETC.
HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF SCIENCE.
The manuscript, from which the following early English metrical romance is now for the first time printed, is a folio volume on paper of the fifteenth century, formerly in the possession of Dr. Farmer, and now preserved in the Chetham Library at Manchester. An account of the entire contents of this volume is given in a small catalogue of the MSS. in that library recently published ;* and it is not therefore necessary to describe the MS. more minutely in this place, further than to remark that it somewhat resembles in language and other characteristics the MS. in the Public Library at Cambridge, from which Mr. Wright printed the tale of “ Jack and his Step-Mother.” It is very incorrectly written, and the copy of the romance of Torrente of Portugal, which occupies eighty-eight pages of the book, contains so many obvious blunders and omissions, that it may be conjectured
* 12mo. 1842, published by J. R. Smith. I communicated a more particular account of the manuscript under consideration to the Society of Antiquaries, which was read during the last session, (Feb. 17th.)
with great probability to have been written down from oral recitation.
With the exception of a few short fragments of a printed edition in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, which the reader will find in the Appendix to the present work, no other copy of this romance is now known to exist, nor have we any allusions to it, or any data whatever on which to found a conjecture as to the date of its composition. It is probably, like the second copy of the romance of Horn, a modernized version of an older English romance, which was itself translated from the French. I have not been able to discover any traces of the French original; but there are some singular allusions to its origin in the poem itself. I allude to the frequent references to the “ book of Rome,”—
“As the boke of Rome tellus." There can be little doubt that this is a travesty by some rude minstrel, or copyist of the old phrase, “ the Roman,' frequently occurring in middle English poetry.“ Heres now how the Romance sais.” (Laurence Minot, p. 33.)
The term Roman (the origin of our modern word Romance,) was applied to signify the French language, in which most of the old romances were originally written.
The romance of Torrent is not in itself one of the most interesting class, although curious in its details, and valuable to the philologist. It is a rambling poem of adventures, without much plot; and, in fact, belongs to that genus of romances, which Chaucer intended to ridicule in his Rhyme of Sir Thopas. There are, however, in our poem, a few remarkable allusions, particularly that relating to Veland, one of the heroes of the Northern mythology, who is likewise mentioned in the romance of Horn, but in no other known English poem, though we have three allusions to him in Anglo-Saxon, and he is frequently mentioned in the early German and French romances.
The Berkshire local tradition of Wayland Smith, is derived from the Scandinavian legend of Veland, a fact not generally known. Wayland Smith is said to have taken up his abode in the Valley of the White Horse, in the midst of a number of upright, but, rude and misshapen stones. There he is said to shoe all horses brought thither, provided a piece of money be left upon one of the stones. Sir Walter Scott has transferred this legend to the sixteenth century, in his novel of “ Kenilworth,” and this circumstance rendering the subject more generally interesting, I am tempted to give here a