The Crusader Knight Bevis and Arondel


The Crusader Knight Bevis and Arondel
Performing Art (Song)
An Interpretation of Bevis of Hampton
Real and Imagined Animals in Medieval Literature (YHU2330)



And Beves rod on Arondel
That was a stede gode and lel
He smot hit with spures of golde
Thanne thoughte that hors, that he scholde
Tho laide thai on with eger mod
And slowe Sarsins, as hii wer wod
Beves and is ost withinne a stounde
Sexti thosent thai felde to grounde

Pax in Nomine Domini

And Bevis rode on Arondel
Who was a fine and loyal steed
He struck it with golden spurs
The horse knew what it was meant to do
They attacked with keen vigor
And killed Saracens as though they were berserk
Bevis and his host, within that time
Fell sixty thousand to the ground

Peace in the Name of the Lord


Arondel thar Ivor bestrit
That hors wel sone underyit
That Beves nas nought upon is rigge
The king wel sore scholde hit abegge
And er hii mighte that hors winne
Thai laughte him with queinte ginne
No man dorste come him hende
Thar that hors stod in bende

Ivor mounted on Arondel
That horse very soon knew
That Bevis was not upon its back
The king soon paid for it painfully
And before they could catch that horse
They had to trap it with clever tricks
No man dared come near
Where that horse stood in fetters


Whan that hors herde nevene
His kende lordes stevene
His rakenteis he al terof
And wente in to the kourt wel kof
Arondel ne wawede no fot
Til Beves hadde the stirop
Beves in to the sadel him threw
Tharbi that maide him wel knew

When that horse heard the sound
Of his rightful lord‘s voice
He broke away from his fetters
And galloped quickly into the court
Arondel did not move a foot
Until Bevis had the stirrup on
And threw himself into the saddle
With that the maid knew him well


“Mahoun thee save!” seide Saber
“Fro whanne kometh this fair deistrer?”
Aboute he ternde the deistrer
Up behinde lep Saber
And smot the Sarasin ded adoun
With the pik of his bordoun
To the King Ivor he gan grede
“Lo, Arondel ich a wei lede”

Pax in Nomine Domini

“Mohammed save you!” said Saber
“Where did this fair steed come from?”
The Saracen turned the steed around
Up leapt Saber onto its back
And struck the Saracen down and dead
With the spike of his staff
To King Ivor he did implore
“Behold, I shall lead Arondel away”

Peace in the Name of the Lord


To his stable Beves gan fare
Arondel a fond thar ded
That ever hadde be gode at nede
Tharfore him was swithe wo
In to his chaumber he gan go
And segh Josian drawe to dede
In is armes he gan hire folde
And thar hii deide bothe ifere

Bevis walked to his stable
And found Arondel dead,
Who had always been there in need.
For this he had such great sadness.
He began to go into his chamber
And saw Josian also nearing death.
He embraced her in his arms
And there the both of them died together.


An hous here sone made of riligioun,
For to singe for Sire Bevoun
And ek for Josian the fre
God on here saules have pité
And also for Arondel
Yif men for eni hors bidde schel
Thus endeth Beves of Hamtoun
God yeve us alle Is benesoun!

And their son established a monastic house
To sing prayers for Sir Bevis
And also for Josian the gracious
May God have pity on their souls
And also for Arondel
If men should pray for any horse
Thus the end of Bevis of Hampton
May God give us all His blessing!

Artist’s Remarks

Bevis of Hampton may appear to an unknowing audience as yet another chivalric romance at first glance, but its extensive geographical setting and significant attention to the encounters between medieval Europe and the Middle East set the tale apart. While Bevis’ adventure takes the forefront, the tale never shies away from the violence and religious tensions of its time. It includes Bevis’ slaying of some sixty thousand Muslims, his refusal to convert to Islam in Armenia, and his eventual conversion of the entire Armenia to Christianity. This creative adaptation takes the form of a song and seeks to draw out the underlying context and tone of the Crusades and trace the subjectivity of the horse Arondel in Bevis of Hampton through a musical marriage with the troubadour Marcabru’s similarly themed poem Pax in Nomine Domini. This piece reflects on how chivalric identity can be perceived as a composite figure of man and horse, and explores the intimate connection, perhaps even participation, of the animal in heroic quests and religious violence during the Middle Ages.

The song’s lyrics tell an abridged version of Arondel’s involvement in Bevis’ adventures throughout the tale that fleshes out the deep sense of loyalty and intimate coordination of the human (Bevis’) and animal bodies in their actions, as well as the extent of violence inflicted by this composite Crusader knight of Bevis and Arondel (and their companions) on others, notably the “Sarasins” (a medieval term used to refer to those who practised Islam, especially the Arabs and Turks). Split into six verses, the song begins with an introduction to Arondel and a key moment in the earlier part of the tale where together, Bevis and Arondel slayed a total of “[s]exti thosent” Saracens. This is possible due to an almost telepathic connection between the two; the line “Thanne thoughte that hors, that he scholde” shows how Arondel is able to perceive his master’s intention and thereafter move in synchronisation with it. The second, third, and fourth verses each highlight an instance where Arondel demonstrates his loyalty to Bevis and perhaps even plays a crucial role in moving the narrative forward. The third verse in particular shows Arondel becoming a trope common in medieval romances—a sign for separated lovers to recognise each other. However, the tale employs this trope in an unusual manner, where Arondel is both the sign and an additional, non-lover entity who undergoes the process of recognition to reunite with Bevis. It is only upon their recognition that the lady Josian herself recognises and reunites with Bevis (“Tharbi that maide him wel knew”). The final two verses then shift to examine the impact of Arondel’s death upon the story. Interestingly, Arondel’s death seems to herald both Bevis and his lover’s deaths, as well as the conclusion of the tale. Even more curious is how the tale consecrates not just the knightly hero and his lover at the end, but Arondel as well. A most intriguing line—“Yif men for eni hors bidde schel”—follows, hinting at the narrative’s self-awareness of how absurd it may appear for a horse to be dedicated such religious importance and further gesturing towards the importance of the horse in construing the knight as a composite of man and animal.

In compiling the different episodes involving Arondel, some were inevitably left out to ensure that the song is able to function as a standalone narrative and as one that retains the original tale’s structure—we are introduced to the central figure, taken along on various quests and battles, made to witness their death, and compelled into a meditative mood with the closing religious tone. Minor edits were made to the Middle English lines, often for clarifying or reducing redundancy in pronouns and references to characters. These lines were also mostly incorporated with their original pairings in the tale so as to keep them as rhyming couplets, for their sonic symmetry renders them more song-like and thus easier to transpose into music. A notable exception occurs in the fifth verse, where the rhyming couplet pattern is intentionally broken by the line mentioning Arondel’s death to depict its rupture of Bevis’ knightly identity (“To his stable Beves gan fare / Arondel a fond thar ded”). Two lines of “Pax in Nomine Domini” (literally “Peace in the name of the Lord”) are retained from Marcabru’s original work to serve as brief interludes dividing the song into a structure of “introduction / episodes of Bevis and Arondel’s bond and violence / Arondel’s death and aftermath”. Furthermore, this Latin phrase also maintains the solemn tone of the song and accentuates the tale’s context of the Crusades. Further inspiration is drawn from the often flexible order of verses in troubadour poetry that Marcabru is known for to guide the act of gathering and shuffling lines from the original Bevis of Hampton tale in writing this song.

The song borrows the melody of Marcabru’s “Pax in Nomine Domini” poem, with minor alterations to better accommodate the Middle English words, for a perfect fit is difficult given linguistic differences from Old Occitan. Performance of the song’s vocals is largely monophonic and accompanied by harp chords and tambourine jingles using GarageBand. Both instruments are natural picks given their popularity in both Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages. In the context of this performance, these instruments are also utilised for their evocation of seemingly dualistic qualities. The harp adds a tender tone to bring out the close bond of affection between Bevis and Arondel, while arousing a melancholic mood over the deaths and bloodshed mentioned throughout the lyrics. The tambourine evokes a sense of folk music that calls to mind the tale’s linguistic style, which can resemble oral storytelling due to its repetition and fairly narrow vocabulary, yet simultaneously suggests a sense of ritual and praise that is consistent with the tale’s heavy biblical overtones in its celebration and consecration of Bevis’ deeds.

The first verse begins with sparse instrumentation so that attention is drawn to the declarative introduction of Bevis and Arondel’s story and relationship. Following the interlude of “Pax in Nomine Domini” sung a capella, the next three verses are sung in a more dance-like rhythm, accompanied by regular harp chords and then tambourine jingles. The harp accompaniment evolves into strumming after the third verse, which speaks of Arondel’s liberation from the fetters imposed upon him by King Ivor. The fifth verse slows the song’s tempo dramatically to give pause to Arondel, Bevis, and Josian’s deaths. Here, the harp instrumentation is stripped bare: the harp chords begin with three notes, reduced to two upon mention of Arondel’s death, and cease being chords altogether upon mention of Josian’s death. A barely audible low “A” note is held for most of the verse to add a foreboding mood. The final verse picks up the tempo slightly and is accompanied by only the tambourine to accentuate the silence after the end of the main characters’ deaths, and simultaneously to mark their consecration and reflect on the tale’s ritualistic performance of knightly identity through its repetitions and episodic narrative. Overall, the song pays tribute to many musical and poetic forms as discussed above, but with no strict adherence to a specific tempo even within each verse. Performed in freestyle, the song draws out the more chaotic, “animalistic” side of the medieval knight figure in a tale full of heroic deeds and chivalric violence alike.



Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Saracen”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 1 Feb. 2022, Accessed 29 April 2023.

Eckert, Ken. “Bevis of Hampton”. Chaucer’s Reading List: Sir Thopas, Auchinleck, and Middle English Romances in Translation. 2011. University of Nevada Las Vegas. PhD dissertation.

Savall, Jordi. “Marcabru (1100-1150): Pax in Nomine Domini”. YouTube, uploaded by Eric Boulanger, 9 May 2012,


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