Li Chevaliers as Deus Espees

Author: Ivey, Robert Toombs
Li Chevaliers as deus espees is an old French romance in verse. Its theme is the quest for identity – the quest of a young knight to learn his real name. At King Arthur’s court, the young man, Gauvain’s squire, is known simply as the “Handsome Young Man,” until King Arthur knights him, giving him one sword, and then he unfastens the sword magically attached to The Lady of Cardigan, which none of the other knights were able to achieve. Then Sir Kay names him the “Knight with Two Swords.” After many adventures, the Knight with Two Swords encounters the grievously wounded Gaus de Norval, whom he strikes with a third sword, an enchanted but blood-stained one found at the Fountain of Marvels. The wound heals, the blood stain disappears, and the Knight with Two Swords reads his true name on the sword – Mériadeuc.

This poem is an excellent example of the later period of Arthurian verse romances. As such, there has been a resurgence of interest in it over the past ten years and a need for an updated critical edition to replace the Foerster edition of 1878. This edition contains a complete review of recent critical work, plus a thorough glossary and a discussion of the incorporation of Picard usages. This book will be of special interest to scholars of Old French language and literature and to students of Arthuriana.


Li Chevaliers as deus espees, also sometimes known as Mériadeuc, is one of those wonderfully exuberant Arthurian romances in which the thirteenth-century specialized. It is a dynamic meeting-ground for multitudinous narrative strands: studded with the standard tournaments and duels that test the prowess of its hero, punctuated with the conventional damsels in distress who are the motors of the action, and strongly charged with folklore motifs ... Professor Ivey is making that edition available to a wider readership – an initiative which will be widely welcomed in France as well as in English-speaking scholarly circles. Readers will now be able to appreciate for themselves the ways in which the different threads are made to cross and re-cross, in conformity with what is obviously a prearranged structure of narrative coincidences and interdependencies, to grasp the adroitness with which the poet resolves the almost unbearable complexity of his narrative, and to admire the ways in which his brazen intertextualities must have excited echoes and resonances in the well-informed audiences of thirteenth-century France ...” – (from the Preface) Dr. Jane H.M. Taylor, Durham University

“Up to today, Li Chevaliers as deus espees was read in the time-honored tradition written by the great Wendelin Foerster in 1877, when Romance Philology emerged as a discipline in universities. His edition has rendered an invaluable service to many generations of scholars, but has become difficult to find ... This edition by Dr. Ivey, without a doubt, fills a gap in the field of Arthurian studies by offering today’s public direct access to this too little-known text. This edition provides all the information necessary to appreciate the more than 12,000 lines that came down to us in one single manuscript, fr. 12603 of the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris ... Of particular interest are the literary aspects of the introduction , which brilliantly outline, from the interpretations of the romance by scholars from Gaston Paris and Wendelin Foerster up to today, how our understanding of Li Chevaliers as deus espees has evolved, enabling us to finally recognize the little masterpiece it is.” – Professor Richard Trachsler, Université de Paris IV-Sorbonne

“It is common knowledge that access to outstanding critical editions of primary texts is essential to scholars working on early literatures, but it is nonetheless a rare delight to come across one as carefully prepared as Dr. Robert Ivey’s Li Chevaliers as deus espees. 19th century editors like Foerster’s were largely unconcerned with preserving the integrity of the manuscript they encountered, and such editors preferred to make liberal changes to the text in order to make the edition conform for a more ‘ideal’ text with perfect rhyme, grammar and orthography ... this edition makes few changes to the manuscript as it was written, and in those instances where editorial decisions are required, Dr. Ivey takes a conservative stand and inserts as little of himself as possible into the text, indicating where he has made editorial judgments ...” – Professor Lynn Ramey, Vanderbilt University

Table of Contents

Preface by Jane H.M. Taylor
Li Chevaliers as deus espees
Notes on Poem
Index of Proper Names