Bevis of Hampton: A Classic Epic

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Four Romances of England : King Horn, Havelok the Dane, Bevis of Hampton, Athelston by Ronald B Herzman
Four Romances of England : King Horn, Havelok the Dane, Bevis of Hampton, Athelston by Ronald B Herzman

Bevis of Hampton

Once upon a time, in the land of knights and chivalry, there was a legendary English hero by the name of Bevis of Hampton, or Sir Bevois if you prefer. This great man was the subject of a metrical chivalric romance in the Anglo-Norman, Dutch, French, and Venetian languages. As if that wasn’t enough, this tale also exists in the form of medieval prose, with translations to languages as varied as Romanian, Russian, Dutch, Irish, Welsh, Old Norse, and even Yiddish.

Themes and Characters in Sir Bevis of Hampton

Sir Bevis of Hampton is a Middle English romance that follows a young hero’s journey as he matures through epic adventures. The story takes place in various locations, from England to the Near East, with battles against mythical creatures and domestic villains. The protagonist, Bevis, is supported by a resourceful heroine and loyal servants. The plot includes forced marriages, disguises, mistaken identities, imprisonments, escapes, rescues, and urban warfare.

The Legend of Bevis

Bevis, the son of the Count of Hampton, is sold to pirates and ends up at the court of King Hermin in Egypt or Armenia. The legend tells of his defeat of Ascapart, his love for King Hermin’s daughter Josiane, his mission to demand his own death from King Bradmond of Damascus, and his ultimate vengeance on his stepfather. After claiming his inheritance, Bevis is driven into exile, separated from Josiane, and dies a tragic death.

Evaluation of the Poem

Overall, the poem is an enjoyable read that captures the imagination of its readers. However, the complex nature of the story and the diverse range of themes and characters makes it difficult to characterize the poem with certainty. While some may find the story challenging to follow, others will appreciate the poetic style and the emotional impact of the tragic events that befall the characters. The depiction of the death of Bevis’s horse is a notable example of the poem’s emotional impact, as it adds an additional layer of sadness to an already tragic tale. Overall, Sir Bevis of Hampton is a fascinating work of medieval literature that continues to captivate readers to this day.

The History and Legacy of the Boeve de Haumtone Story

Bevis of Hampton fighting a lion, Taymouth Hours

Bevis of Hampton fighting a lion, Taymouth Hours

Oldest Known Version

Boeve de Haumtone The Boeve de Haumtone is the earliest known version of the story, written in Anglo-Norman in the first half of the 13th century. It consists of 3,850 verses written in Alexandrins.

Continental French Chansons de Geste of Beuve d’Hanstone

Three chansons de geste of Beuve d’Hanstone were written in the 13th century, all in decasyllables, with one preserved in BnF Français 25516. They consist of between 10,000 and 20,000 verses. A French prose version was also created before 1469. Bevers saga is an Old Norse translation of a lost version of the Anglo-Norman poem, with the earliest manuscript dating to around 1400.

English Metrical Romance

Sir Beues of Hamtoun The English metrical romance, Sir Beues of Hamtoun, was based on some French origins, varying slightly from those that have been preserved. The oldest manuscript of this version dates back to the beginning of the 14th century, with a translation into Irish surviving in a 15th-century manuscript.

Printed Editions in Italy and Yiddish

The printed editions of the story were most numerous in Italy, where Bovo or Buovo d’Antona was the subject of more than one poem. An anonymous Buovo d’Antona: Cantari in ottava rima was printed in 1480, and a “Tuscan” version in 1497. From Italian, it passed into Yiddish, where the Bovo-Bukh became the first non-religious book to be printed in Yiddish. The Bovo-Bukh remains the most popular and critically honored Yiddish-language chivalry romance.

Russian Folklore

Adaptation In Russia, the Boeve de Haumtone story attained unparalleled popularity and became a part of Russian folklore. The Russian rendition of the romance appeared in mid-16th century, translated from a Polish or Old Belarusian version, which were in turn, translated from a Croatian rendition of the Italian romance, made in Ragusa. The resulting narrative, called Повесть о Бове-королевиче (Povest’ o Bove-koroleviche, lit. The Story of Prince Bova), gradually merged with Russian folktales, and the principal character attained many features of a Russian folk hero (bogatyr). The Povest’ had been widely circulated, particularly among the lower classes, as a lubok from the 18th century until 1918. Famous writers such as Derzhavin and Pushkin praised Bova’s literary value. The latter used some elements of the Povest’ in his fairy tales and attempted to write a fantasy poem based on the romance. Pushkin also praised a version of Bova by Alexander Radishchev, written in 1799.

Featured Image

Bevis of Hampton

Bevis of Hampton

The Taymouth Hours is a remarkable example of a Book of Hours produced in England during the 14th century. The illuminated manuscript is renowned for its intricately detailed illustrations and elegant script. It contains prayers, psalms, and devotional texts intended for private use and would have been a prized possession of the wealthy and aristocratic families of Medieval England.

The book’s artistic qualities are particularly noteworthy. Each page contains beautifully executed bas-de-page illustrations, which often depict scenes from everyday life as well as religious themes. The delicate brushwork and use of gold leaf to highlight certain details give the images a luminous quality that is characteristic of the best illuminated manuscripts. The Taymouth Hours provides a fascinating insight into the devotional practices of the period, as well as into the artistic techniques and materials used by the skilled craftsmen who produced it.

Overall, the Taymouth Hours is an extraordinary example of the artistry and craftsmanship of Medieval England. It is a testament to the enduring appeal of illuminated manuscripts, which continue to captivate scholars and art enthusiasts alike with their intricate beauty and historical significance. The book’s survival over the centuries is a testament to the value placed on religious texts and the importance of preserving cultural heritage for future generations.

Sources

  • Wikipedia Contributors. (2023, April 5). Taymouth Hours. Wikipedia; Wikimedia Foundation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taymouth_Hours

  • Wikipedia Contributors. (2023, March 1). Bevis of Hampton. Wikipedia; Wikimedia Foundation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bevis_of_Hampton

  • Bevis of Hampton | World Epics. (2020). Columbia.edu. https://edblogs.columbia.edu/worldepics/project/bevis-of-hampton/‌

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