Of the Desert, the Impetuous, the Hothead, the Orange, the Rash, the Unruly
Mort Jeuin, Mors Jeuns, Mort Geun
Sacremors, Sagramor, Sagarmour, Sagremoir le Desree, Sagremor, Sagremore, Sagremoret, Saigremor, Saigremors, Saigremort, Segramors, Segremore, Segremores, Seigramore, Seigremor, Sigamor, Sogremor, Sygramors
In the Vulgate Cycle he is born to the daughter of Emperor Hadrian of Constantinople and the King of Vlask and Hungary, he was raised in Byzantium as the heir to the eastern Roman empire. When his father died, his mother re-married the British King Brandegorre of Estrangorre. When Sagremore was fifteen, he heard tales of the noble King Arthur and the wars against the Saxons, and he left Constantinople for Britain to join the king.
Arriving in Dover, he immediately engaged a Saxon army led by King Oriel outside Camelot. Gawain and his brothers joined the battle, and the young heroes were victorious. The youths joined Arthur’s company and Sagremor was knighted by Arthur. He continued his service to Arthur in the wars against the Saxons (in which he slew a daunting number of Saxon kings), King Claudas, Rome, and Galehaut.
Later, he became the champion of Queen Sebille of Sarmenie, defended her lands against Baruc the Black, conviced her to convert to Christianity, and became her lover. (Jehan Froissart says he married her.) He had a number of other unremarkable adventures as a Knight of the Round Table.
Sagremore is an ubiquitous knight who first appears in Chrétien de Troyes’s Erec as a knight who fought alongside Erec at the Tenebroc tournament; he is the first of Arthur’s great champions whom Cligés unhorses in the tournament near Wallingford; he is among the group to hear Calogrenant’s story of the marvelous spring; and he figures in Perceval as the first knight to attempt bringing Percivale out of his rapt contemplation of blood-spotted snow.
According to Wolfram, Sagremor was very skilled and had to be physically restrained to keep him from attacking knights at random. An Italian cantare makes him a close friend of Tristan. Renaut de Bâgé gives him a sister named Clarie, and in Italian romance, he has a brother named Dinas. In the Post-Vulgate Suite du Merlin, he is the son of Nabur the Unruly and is Mordred’s foster-brother. In the Fourth Continuation of Perceval, his brothers are the Bishop of Limor and Bishop of Lumeri. In the Third Continuation of Perceval, he rescues the Castle of Maidens from a besieger named Tallidés of the Marsh.
True, Sagramore does not cut all that impressive a figure in Malory. He and three other knights of Arthur’s court see Lancelot riding in Kay’s armor, sally out against him, and are promptly unhorsed. He goes riding in the West Country with Sir Dodinas (Dodinel); they meet and defeat Sir Andred, but then encounter Tristram. Sagramore scornfully remarks,
[I]t is seldom seen ... that ye Cornish knights be valiant men of arms,
rides against Tristram, and is again unhorsed, as is Dodinas in turn. Learning Tristram’s name, they admiringly ask him to stay in their company and bid him respectful Godspeed when he rides on to rescue Segwarides’ wife from Bleoberis.
Sagramore and Kay chance to meet Tristram before the Castle of Maidens tournament, get into a broil when Tristram, wishing to arrive at the tournament unbruised, tries to refuse a joust, and again Sagramore is unhorsed. Once again adventuring with Dodinas, Sagramore get it yet a third time from Tristram; Sagramore and Dodinas remount and ride after him to demand a chance for revenge, but forbear on learning that he is on his way to fight Palomides at the tomb of Lanceor and Colombe.
When Alice la Beale Pilgrim announces her intention of marrying whomever can defeat Sir Alisander le Orphelin at the ruins of La Beale Regard, Sagramore is apparently the first challenger to present himself and be defeated, whereas Alice decides to love Alisander.
Sagramore is one of twenty-three knights who set out searching for Lancelot when he has gone mad on being discovered by Guenevere with Elaine of Carbonek. Lancelot unhorses Sagramore in the Winchester tournament. Sagramore is among the knights who ride a-Maying with Guenevere and fall into Meliagrant’s ambush. He is one of those who try unsuccessfully to heal Sir Urre of Hungary.
For all this, Sagramore seems to have been a knight of major stature among the Round Table companions, and it is likely that Malory, unaware that his compalition/summarization/retelling would one day be the principal Arthurian sourcebook for the English-speaking world, used Sagramore’s frequent unhorsing to emphasize the prowess of Lancelot, Tristram, and Alisander.
Sagramore “knew no limits” in a fight; however, his blood had to be up if he were to be at his fighting best. When he cooled down, he usually had a headache and a ravenous hunger. He also had an illness (epilepsy?) that manifested itself in sudden attacks, when he might think his end was near. Because of this illness, Kay gave him a second nickname besides “le Desirous”: “le mort jeune” (“the dead youth”).
Sagramore was rash. He was killed at last by Mordred during the last battle.
Li Desreez is the name given to Sagremore, the nephew of the emperor of Constantinople, by the old Queen of Vandeberes.
His nickname “le Desirous” may apply to battlelust or some other trait than bed-lust (of which it would probably have taken a remarkable amount to be considered noteworthy), but Vulgate VII records the name of one of his paramours, a maiden named Dame Senehauz (Senehaut), who he rescued from some abductors, slept with her, and begot a daughter who was raised by Guinevere.
According to Les Merveilles de Rigomer, he raped an Irish princess named Qrainglaie and, twenty years later, was killed by his son begotten on that occasion.
In the idyll Merlin and Vivien, Tennyson applies to Sir Sagramore the story of a man who stumbles in the dark into the wrong bedroom and innocently sleeps the night through besides the woman whose room it really is, each one unaware of the other’s presence until they wake in the morning. Gossip and public opinion then force them to marry, and they are happy. (Tennyson says it is a happy marriage because they are pure; a French author who retells the tale in a much later setting says they are happy because marriage is a lottery at best and they were lucky.) Arthur’s court as Tennyson pictures it may have forced the parties to marry in such a situation, but it is difficult to fit this tale of Sagramore’s marriage to Arthur’s court as depicted in the medieval romances.
Phyllis Ann Karr: “I regret that neither of the translations I consulted supplies the original medieval French of the soubriquet D.D.R. Owen renders as ‘the Impetuous’ and Ruth Cline as ‘the Hothead’; still, I feel reasonably confident in identifying Chrétien’s Sagremor with Sagramore le Desirous.”
Erec | Chrétien de Troyes, late 12th century
Cligés | Chrétien de Troyes, late 12th century
Le Bel Inconnu | Renaut de Bâgé, 1185–1190
Didot-Perceval | c. 1220-1230
Parzival | Wolfram von Eschenbach, 1200–1210
Vulgate Lancelot | 1215-1230
Vulgate Mort Artu | 1215-1230
Vulgate Merlin | 1220-1235
Post-Vulgate Suite du Merlin | 1230-1240
Post-Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal | 1230-1240
Third Continuation of Chrétien’s Perceval | Manessier, c. 1230
Les Merveilles de Rigomer | Jehan, mid to late 13th century
La Vendetta Che fe Messer Lanzelloto de la Morte di Miser Tristano | 14th century
Meliador | Jehan Froissart, 1361-1369
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470