Sunday, October 14, 2007


Four Arthurian Romances - I by Chretien DeTroyes

Four Arthurian Romances
("Erec et Enide", "Cliges", "Yvain", and "Lancelot")
by Chretien DeTroyes
Fl. 12th Century A.D.
Originally written in Old French, sometime in the second half of
the 12th Century A.D., by the court poet Chretien DeTroyes.
This electronic edition was edited, proofed, and prepared by
Douglas B. Killings (DeTroyes@EnterAct.COM), November 1996.
Carroll, Carleton W. (Ed.): "Chretien DeTroyes: Erec and Enide"
(Garland Library of Medieval Literature, New York & London,
1987). Edited with a translation (see Penguin Classics edition
Kibler, William W. (Ed.): "Chretien DeTroyes: The Knight with the
Lion, or Yvain (Garland Library of Medieval Literature 48A, New
York & London, 1985). Original text with English translation
(See Penguin Classics edition below).
Kibler, William W. (Ed.): "Chretien DeTroyes: Lancelot, or The
Knight of the Cart (Garland Library of Medieval Literature 1A,
New York & London, 1981). Original text with English translation
(See Penguin Classics edition below).
Micha, Alexandre (Ed.): "Les Romans de Chretien de Troyes, Vol.
II: Cliges" (Champion, Paris, 1957).
Cline, Ruth Harwood (Trans.): "Chretien DeTroyes: Yvain, or the
Knight with the Lion" (University of Georgia Press, Athens GA,
Kibler, William W. & Carleton W. Carroll (Trans.): "Chretien
DeTroyes: Arthurian Romances" (Penguin Classics, London, 1991).
Contains translations of "Erec et Enide" (by Carroll), "Cliges",
"Yvain", "Lancelot", and DeTroyes' incomplete "Perceval" (by
Kibler). Highly recommended.
Owen, D.D.R (Trans.): "Chretien DeTroyes: Arthurian Romances"
(Everyman Library, London, 1987). Contains translations of "Erec
et Enide", "Cliges", "Yvain", "Lancelot", and DeTroyes'
incomplete "Perceval". NOTE: This edition replaced W.W.
Comfort's in the Everyman Library catalogue. Highly recommended.
Anonymous: "Lancelot of the Lake" (Trans: Corin Corely; Oxford
University Press, Oxford, 1989). English translation of one of
the earliest prose romances concerning Lancelot.
Anonymous: "The Mabinogion" (Ed: Jeffrey Gantz; Penguin Classics,
London, 1976). Contains a translation of "Geraint and Enid", an
earlier Welsh version of "Erec et Enide".
Anonymous: "Yvain and Gawain", "Sir Percyvell of Gales", and "The
Anturs of Arther" (Ed: Maldwyn Mills; Everyman, London, 1992).
NOTE: Texts are in Middle-English; "Yvain and Gawain" is a
Middle-English work based almost exclusively on Chretien
DeTroyes' "Yvain".
Malory, Sir Thomas: "Le Morte D'Arthur" (Ed: Janet Cowen; Penguin
Classics, London, 1969).
Chretien De Troyes has had the peculiar fortune of becoming the
best known of the old French poets to students of mediaeval
literature, and of remaining practically unknown to any one else.
The acquaintance of students with the work of Chretien has been
made possible in academic circles by the admirable critical
editions of his romances undertaken and carried to completion
during the past thirty years by Professor Wendelin Foerster of
Bonn. At the same time the want of public familiarity with
Chretien's work is due to the almost complete lack of
translations of his romances into the modern tongues. The man
who, so far as we know, first recounted the romantic adventures
of Arthur's knights, Gawain. Yvain, Erec, Lancelot, and Perceval,
has been forgotten; whereas posterity has been kinder to his
debtors, Wolfram yon Eschenbach, Malory, Lord Tennyson, and
Richard Wagner. The present volume has grown out of the desire
to place these romances of adventure before the reader of English
in a prose version based directly upon the oldest form in which
they exist.
Such extravagant claims for Chretien's art have been made in some
quarters that one feels disinclined to give them even an echo
here. The modem reader may form his own estimate of the poet's
art, and that estimate will probably not be high. Monotony, lack
of proportion, vain repetitions, insufficient motivation,
wearisome subtleties, and threatened, if not actual, indelicacy
are among the most salient defects which will arrest, and mayhap
confound, the reader unfamiliar with mediaeval literary craft.
No greater service can be performed by an editor in such a case
than to prepare the reader to overlook these common faults, and
to set before him the literary significance of this twelfth-century poet.
Chretien de Troyes wrote in Champagne during the third quarter of
the twelfth century. Of his life we know neither the beginning
nor the end, but we know that between 1160 and 1172 he lived,
perhaps as herald-at-arms (according to Gaston Paris, based on
"Lancelot" 5591-94) at Troyes, where was the court of his
patroness, the Countess Marie de Champagne. She was the daughter
of Louis VII, and of that famous Eleanor of Aquitaine, as she is
called in English histories, who, coming from the South of France
in 1137, first to Paris and later to England, may have had some
share in the introduction of those ideals of courtesy and woman
service which were soon to become the cult of European society.
The Countess Marie, possessing her royal mother's tastes and
gifts, made of her court a social experiment station, where these
Provencal ideals of a perfect society were planted afresh in
congenial soil. It appears from contemporary testimony that the
authority of this celebrated feudal dame was weighty, and widely
felt. The old city of Troyes, where she held her court, must be
set down large in any map of literary history. For it was there
that Chretien was led to write four romances which together form
the most complete expression we possess from a single author of
the ideals of French chivalry. These romances, written in
eight-syllable rhyming couplets, treat respectively of Erec and
Enide, Cliges, Yvain, and Lancelot. Another poem, "Perceval le
Gallois", was composed about 1175 for Philip, Count of Flanders,
to whom Chretien was attached during his last years. This last
poem is not included in the present translation because of its
extraordinary length of 32,000 verses, because Chretien wrote
only the first 9000 verses, and because Miss Jessie L. Weston has
given us an English version of Wolfram's wellknown "Parzival",
which tells substantially the same story, though in a different
spirit. To have included this poem, of which he wrote less than
one-third, in the works of Chretien would have been unjust to
him. It is true the romance of "Lancelot" was not completed by
Chretien, we are told, but the poem is his in such large part
that one would be over-scrupulous not to call it his. The other
three poems mentioned are his entire. In addition, there are
quite generally assigned to the poet two insignificant lyrics,
the pious romance of "Guillaume d'Angleterre", and the
elaboration of an episode from Ovid's "Metamorphoses" (vi., 426-
674) called "Philomena" by its recent editor (C. de Boer, Paris,
1909). All these are extant and accessible. But since
"Guillaume d'Angleterre" and "Philomena" are not universally
attributed to Chretien, and since they have nothing to do with
the Arthurian material, it seems reasonable to limit the present
enterprise to "Erec and Enide", "Cliges", "Yvain", and
Professor Foerster, basing his remark upon the best knowledge we
possess of an obscure matter, has called "Erec and Enide" the
oldest Arthurian romance extant. It is not possible to dispute
this significant claim, but let us make it a little more
intelligible. Scholarship has shown that from the early Middle
Ages popular tradition was rife in Britain and Brittany. The
existence of these traditions common to the Brythonic peoples was
called to the attention of the literary world by William of
Malmesbury ("Gesta regum Anglorum") and Geoffrey of Monmouth
("Historia regum Britanniae") in their Latin histories about 1125
and 1137 respectively, and by the Anglo-Norman poet Wace
immediately afterward. Scholars have waged war over the theories
of transmission of the so-called Arthurian material during the
centuries which elapsed between the time of the fabled
chieftain's activity in 500 A.D. and his appearance as a great
literary personage in the twelfth century. Documents are lacking
for the dark ages of popular tradition before the Norman
Conquest, and the theorists may work their will. But Arthur and
his knights, as we see them in the earliest French romances, have
little in common with their Celtic prototypes, as we dimly catch
sight of them in Irish, Welsh, and Breton legend. Chretien
belonged to a generation of French poets who rook over a great
mass of Celtic folk-lore they imperfectly understood, and made of
what, of course, it had never been before: the vehicle to carry a
rich freight of chivalric customs and ideals. As an ideal of
social conduct, the code of chivalry never touched the middle and
lower classes, but it was the religion of the aristocracy and of
the twelfth-century "honnete homme". Never was literature in any
age closer to the ideals of a social class. So true is this that
it is difficult to determine whether social practices called
forth the literature, or whether, as in the case of the
seventeenth-century pastoral romance in France, it is truer to
say that literature suggested to society its ideals. Be that as
it may, it is proper to observe that the French romances of
adventure portray late mediaeval aristocracy as it fain would be.
For the glaring inconsistencies between the reality and the
ideal, one may turn to the chronicles of the period. Yet, even
history tells of many an ugly sin rebuked and of many a gallant
deed performed because of the courteous ideals of chivalry. The
debt of our own social code to this literature of courtesy and
frequent self-sacrifice is perfectly manifest.
What Chretien's immediate and specific source was for his
romances is of deep interest to the student. Unfortunately, he
has left us in doubt. He speaks in the vaguest way of the
materials he used. There is no evidence that he had any Celtic
written source. We are thus thrown back upon Latin or French
literary originals which are lost, or upon current continental
lore going back to a Celtic source. This very difficult problem
is as yet unsolved in the case of Chretien, as it is in the case
of the Anglo-Norman Beroul, who wrote of Tristan about 1150. The
material evidently was at hand and Chretien appropriated it,
without much understanding of its primitive spirit, but
appreciating it as a setting for the ideal society dreamed of but
not realised in his own day. Add to this literary perspicacity,
a good foundation in classic fable, a modicum of ecclesiastical
doctrine, a remarkable facility in phrase, figure, and rhyme and
we have the foundations for Chretien's art as we shall find it
upon closer examination.
A French narrative poet of the twelfth century had three
categories of subject-matter from which to choose: legends
connected with the history of France ("matiere de France"),
legends connected with Arthur and other Celtic heroes ("matiere
de Bretagne"), and stories culled from the history or mythology
of Greece and Rome, current in Latin and French translations
("matiere de Rome la grant"). Chretien tells us in "Cliges" that
his first essays as a poet were the translations into French of
certain parts of Ovid's most popular works: the "Metamorphoses",
the "Ars Amatoria", and perhaps the "Remedia Amoris". But he
appears early to have chosen as his special field the stories of
Celtic origin dealing with Arthur, the Round Table, and other
features of Celtic folk-lore. Not only was he alive to the
literary interest of this material when rationalised to suit the
taste of French readers; his is further the credit of having
given to somewhat crude folk-lore that polish and elegance which
is peculiarly French, and which is inseparably associated with
the Arthurtan legends in all modern literature. Though Beroul,
and perhaps other poets, had previously based romantic poems upon
individual Celtic heroes like Tristan, nevertheless to Chretien,
so far as we can see, is due the considerable honour of having
constituted Arthur's court as a literary centre and rallyingpoint
for an innumerable company of knights and ladies engaged in
a never-ending series of amorous adventures and dangerous quests.
Rather than unqualifiedly attribute to Chretien this important
literary convention, one should bear in mind that all his poems
imply familiarity on the part of his readers with the heroes of
the court of which he speaks. One would suppose that other
stories, told before his versions, were current. Some critics
would go so far as to maintain that Chretien came toward the
close, rather than at the beginning, of a school of French
writers of Arthurian romances. But, if so, we do not possess
these earlier versions, and for lack of rivals Chretien may be
hailed as an innovator in the current schools of poetry.
And now let us consider the faults which a modern reader will not
be slow to detect in Chretien's style. Most of his salient
faults are common to all mediaeval narrative literature. They
may be ascribed to the extraordinary leisure of the class for
whom it was composed--a class which was always ready to read an
old story told again, and which would tolerate any description,
however detailed. The pastimes of this class of readers were
jousting, hunting, and making love. Hence the preponderance of
these matters in the literature of its leisure hours. No detail
of the joust or hunt was unfamiliar or unwelcome to these
readers; no subtle arguments concerning the art of love were too
abstruse to delight a generation steeped in amorous casuistry and
allegories. And if some scenes seem to us indelicate, yet after
comparison with other authors of his times, Chretien must be let
off with a light sentence. It is certain he intended to avoid
what was indecent, as did the writers of narrative poetry in
general. To appreciate fully the chaste treatment of Chretien
one must know some other forms of mediaeval literature, such as
the fabliaux, farces, and morality plays, in which courtesy
imposed no restraint. For our poet's lack of sense of
proportion, and for his carelessness in the proper motivation of
many episodes, no apology can be made. He is not always guilty;
some episodes betoken poetic mastery. But a poet acquainted, as
he was, with some first-class Latin poetry, and who had made a
business of his art, ought to have handled his material more
intelligently, even in the twelfth century. The emphasis is not
always laid with discrimination, nor is his yarn always kept free
of tangles in the spinning.
Reference has been made to Chretien's use of his sources. The
tendency of some critics has been to minimise the French poet's
originality by pointing out striking analogies in classic and
Celtic fable. Attention has been especially directed to the
defence of the fountain and the service of a fairy mistress in
"Yvain", to the captivity of Arthur's subjects in the kingdom of
Gorre, as narrated in "Lancelot", reminding one so insistently of
the treatment of the kingdom of Death from which some god or hero
finally delivers those in durance, and to the reigned death of
Fenice in "Cliges", with its many variants. These episodes are
but examples of parallels which will occur to the observant
reader. The difficult point to determine, in speaking of
conceptions so widespread in classic and mediaeval literature, is
the immediate source whence these conceptions reached Chretien.
The list of works of reference appended to this volume will
enable the student to go deeper into this much debated question,
and will permit us to dispense with an examination of the
arguments in this place. However, such convincing parallels for
many of Chretien's fairy and romantic episodes have been adduced
by students of Irish and Welsh legend that one cannot fail to be
impressed by the fact that Chretien was in touch, either by oral
or literary tradition, with the populations of Britain and of
Brittany, and that we have here his most immediate inspiration.
Professor Foerster, stoutly opposing the so-called Anglo-Norman
theory which supposes the existence of lost Anglo-Norman romances
in French as the sources of Chretien de Troyes, is, nevertheless,
well within the truth when he insists upon what is, so far as we
are concerned, the essential originality of the French poet. The
general reader will to-day care as little as did the reader of
the twelfth century how the poet came upon the motives and
episodes of his stories, whether he borrowed them or invented
them himself. Any poet should be judged not as a "finder" but as
a "user" of the common stock of ideas. The study of sources of
mediaeval poetry, which is being so doggedly carried on by
scholars, may well throw light upon the main currents of literary
tradition, but it casts no reflection, favourable or otherwise,
upon the personal art of the poet in handling his stuff. On that
count he may plead his own cause before the jury.
Chretien's originality, then, consists in his portrayal of the
social ideal of the French aristocracy in the twelfth century.
So far as we know he was the first to create in the vulgar
tongues a vast court, where men and women lived in conformity
with the rules of courtesy, where the truth was told, where
generosity was open-handed, where the weak and the innocent were
protected by men who dedicated themselves to the cult of honour
and to the quest of a spotless reputation. Honour and love
combined to engage the attention of this society; these were its
religion in a far more real sense than was that of the Church.
Perfection was attainable under this code of ethics: Gawain, for
example, was a perfect knight. Though the ideals of this court
and those of Christianity are in accord at many points, vet
courtly love and Christian morality are irreconcilable. This
Arthurian material, as used by Chretien, is fundamentally immoral
as judged by Christian standards. Beyond question, the poets and
the public alike knew this to be the case, and therein lay its
charm for a society in which the actual relations or the sexes
were rigidly prescribed by the Church and by feudal practice,
rather than by the sentiments of the individuals concerned. The
passionate love of Tristan for Iseut, of Lancelot for Guinevere,
of Cliges for Fenice, fascinate the conventional Christian
society of the twelfth century and of the twentieth century
alike, but there-is only one name among men for such relations as
theirs, and neither righteousness nor reason lie that way. Even
Tennyson, in spite of all he has done to spiritualise this
material, was compelled to portray the inevitable dissolution and
ruin of Arthur's court. Chretien well knew the difference
between right and wrong, between reason and passion, as the
reader of "Cliges" may learn for himself. Fenice was not Iseut,
and she would not have her Cliges to be a Tristan. Infidelity,
if you will, but not "menage a trois". Both "Erec" and "Yvain"
present a conventional morality. But "Lancelot" is flagrantly
immoral, and the poet is careful to state that for this
particular romance he is indebted to his patroness Marie de
Champagne. He says it was she who furnished him with both the
"matiere" and the "san", the material of the story and its method
of treatment.
Scholars have sought to fix the chronology of the poet's works,
and have been tempted to speculate upon the evolution of his
literary and moral ideas. Professor Foerster's chronology is
generally accepted, and there is little likelihood of his being
in error when he supposes Chretien's work to have been done as
follows: the lost "Tristan" (the existence of which is denied by
Gaston Paris in "Journal des Savants", 1902, pp. 297 f.), "Erec
and Enide", "Cliges", "Lancelot", "Yvain", "Perceval". The
arguments for this chronology, based upon external as well as
internal criticism, may be found in the Introductions to
Professor Foerster's recent editions. When we speculate upon the
development of Chretien's moral ideas we are not on such sure
ground. As we have seen, his standards vary widely in the
different romances. How much of this variation is due to chance
circumstance imposed by the nature of his subject or by the taste
of his public, and how much to changing conviction it is easy to
see, when we consider some contemporary novelist, how dangerous
it is to judge of moral convictions as reflected in literary
work. "Lancelot" must be the keystone of any theory constructed
concerning the moral evolution of Chretien. The following
supposition is tenable, if the chronology of Foerster is correct.
After the works of his youth, consisting of lyric poems and
translations embodying the ideals of Ovid and of the school of
contemporary troubadour poets, Chretien took up the Arthurinn
material and started upon a new course. "Erec" is the oldest
Arthurinn romance to have survived in any language, but it is
almost certainly not the first to have been written. It is a
perfectly clean story: of love, estrangement, and reconciliation
in the persons of Erec and his charming sweetheart Enide. The
psychological analysis of Erec's motives in the rude testing of
Enide is worthy of attention, and is more subtle than anything
previous in French literature with which we are acquainted. The
poem is an episodical romance in the biography of an Arthurinn
hero, with the usual amount of space given to his adventures.
"Cliges" apparently connects a Byzantine tale of doubtful origin
in an arbitrary fashion with the court of Arthur. It is thought
that the story embodies the same motive as the widespread tale of
the deception practised upon Solomon by his wife, and that
Chretien's source, as he himself claims, was literary (cf. Gaston
Paris in "Journal des Savants", 1902, pp. 641-655). The scene
where Fenice feigns death in order to rejoin her lover is a
parallel of many others in literary history, and will, of course,
suggest the situation in Romeo and Juliet. This romance well
illustrates the drawing power of Arthur's court as a literary
centre, and its use as a rallying-point for courteous knights of
whatever extraction. The poem has been termed an "Anti-Tristan",
because of its disparaging reference to the love of Tristan and
Iseut, which, it is generally supposed, had been narrated by
Chretien in his earlier years. Next may come "Lancelot", with
its significant dedication to the Countess of Champagne. Of all
the poet's work, this tale of the rescue of Guinevere by her
lover seems to express most closely the ideals of Marie's court
ideals in which devotion and courtesy but thinly disguise free
love. "Yvain" is a return to the poet's natural bent, in an
episodical romance, while "Perceval" crowns his production with
its pure and exalted note, though without a touch of that
religious mysticism which later marked Wolfram yon Eschenbach's
"Parzival". "Guillaime d'Angleterre" is a pseudo-historical
romance of adventure in which the worldly distresses and the
final reward of piety are conventionally exposed. It is
uninspired, its place is difficult to determine, and its
authorship is questioned by some. It is aside from the Arthurian
material, and there is no clue to its place in the evolution of
Chretien's art, if indeed it be his work.
A few words must be devoted to Chretien's place in the history of
mediaeval narrative poetry. The heroic epic songs of France,
devoted either to the conflict of Christendom under the
leadership of France against the Saracens, or else to the strife
and rivalry of French vassals among themselves, had been current
for perhaps a century before our poet began to write. These
epic poems, of which some three score have survived, portray a
warlike, virile, unsentimental feudal society, whose chief
occupation was fighting, and whose dominant ideals were faith in
God, loyalty to feudal family ties, and bravery in battle.
Woman's place is comparatively obscure, and of love-making there
is little said. It is a poetry of vigorous manhood, of
uncompromising morality, and of hard knocks given and taken for
God, for Christendom, and the King of France. This poetry is
written in ten- or twelve- sylabble verses grouped, at first in
assonanced, later in rhymed, "tirades" of unequal length. It was
intended for a society which was still homogeneous, and to it at
the outset doubtless all classes of the population listened with
equal interest. As poetry it is monotonous, without sense of
proportion, padded to facilitate memorisation by professional
reciters, and unadorned by figure, fancy, or imagination. Its
pretention to historic accuracy begot prosaicness in its approach
to the style of the chronicles. But its inspiration was noble,
its conception of human duties was lofty. It gives a realistic
portrayal of the age which produced it, the age of the first
crusades, and to this day we would choose as our models of
citizenship Roland and Oliver rather than Tristan and Lancelot.
The epic poems, dealing with the pseudo-historical characters who
had fought in civil and foreign wars under Charlemagne, remained
the favourite literary pabulum of the middle classes until the
close of the thirteenth century. Professor Bedier is at present
engaged in explaining the extraordinary hold which these poems
had upon the public, and in proving that they exercised a
distinct function when exploited by the Church throughout the
period of the crusades to celebrate local shrines and to promote
muscular Christianity. But the refinement which began to
penetrate the ideals of the French aristocracy about the middle
of the twelfth century craved a different expression in narrative
literature. Greek and Roman mythology and history were seized
upon with some effect to satisfy the new demand. The "Roman de
Thebes", the "Roman d'Alexandre", the "Roman de Troie", and its
logical continuation, the "Roman d'Eneas", are all twelfthcentury
attempts to clothe classic legend in the dress of
mediaeval chivalry. But better fitted to satisfy the new demand
was the discovery by the alert Anglo-Normans perhaps in Brittany,
perhaps in the South of England, of a vast body of legendary
material which, so far as we know, had never before this century
received any elaborate literary treatment. The existence of the
literary demand and this discovery of the material for its prompt
satisfaction is one of the most remarkable coincidences in
iiterary history. It would seem that the pride of the Celtic
populations in a Celtic hero, aided and abetted by Geoffrey of
Monmouth, who first showed the romantic possibilities of the
material, made of the obscure British chieftain Arthur a world
conqueror. Arthur thus became already in Geoffrey's "Historia
regum Britaniae" a conscious protagonist of Charlemagne and his
rival in popularity. This grandiose conception of Arthur
persisted in England, but this conception of the British
chieftain did not interest the French. For Chretien Arthur had
no political significance. He is simply the arbiter of his court
in all affairs of justice and courtesy. Charlemagne's very
realistic entourage of virile and busy barons is replaced by a
court of elegant chevaliers and unemployed ladies. Charlemagne's
setting is historical and geographical; Arthur's setting is ideal
and in the air. In the oldest epic poems we find only Godfearing
men and a few self-effacing women; in the Arthurian
romances we meet gentlemen and ladies, more elegant and seductive
than any one in the epic poems, but less fortified by faith and
sense of duty against vice because breathing an enervating
atmosphere of leisure and decadent morally. Though the Church
made the attempt in "Parzival", it could never lay its hands so
effectively upon this Celtic material, because it contained too
many elements which were root and branch inconsistent with the
essential teachings of Christianity. A fleeting comparison of
the noble end of Charlemagne's Peers fighting for their God and
their King at Ronceval with the futile and dilettante careers of
Arthur's knights in joust and hunt, will show better than mere
words where the difference lies.
The student of the history of social and moral ideals will find
much to interest him in Chretien's romances. Mediaeval
references show that he was held by his immediate successors, as
he is held to-day when fairly viewed, to have been a master of
the art of story-telling. More than any other single narrative
poet, he was taken as a model both in France and abroad.
Professor F. M. Warren has set forth in detail the finer points
in the art of poetry as practised by Chretien and his
contemporary craftsmen (see "Some Features of Style in Early
French Narrative Poetry, 1150-1170 in "Modern Philology", iii.,
179-209; iii., 513-539; iv., 655-675). Poets in his own land
refer to him with reverence, and foreign poets complimented him
to a high degree by direct translation and by embroidering upon
the themes which he had made popular. The knights made famous by
Chretien soon crossed the frontiers and obtained rights of
citizenship in counties so diverse as Germany, England,
Scandinavia, Holland, Italy, and to a lesser extent in Spain and
Portugal. The inevitable tendency of the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries to reduce poetry to prose affected the
Arthurian material; vast prose compilations finally embodied in
print the matter formerly expressed in verse, and it was in this
form that the stories were known to later generations until
revived interest in the Middle Ages brought to light the
manuscripts in verse.
Aside from certain episodes of Chretien's romances, the student
will be most interested in the treatment of love as therein
portrayed. On this topic we may hear speaking the man of his
time. "Cliges" contains the body of Chretien's doctrine of love,
while Lancelot is his most perfect lover. His debt to Ovid has
not yet been indicated with sufficient preciseness. An elaborate
code to govern sentiment and its expression was independently
developed by the troubadours of Provence in the early twelfth
century. These Provencal ideals of the courtly life were carried
into Northern France partly as the result of a royal marriage in
1137 and of the crusade of 1147, and there by such poets as
Chretien they were gathered up and fused with the Ovidian
doctrine into a highly complicated but perfectly definite
statement of the ideal relations of the sexes. Nowhere in the
vulgar tongues can a better statement of these relations be found
than in "Cliges."
So we leave Chretien to speak across the ages for himself and his
generation. He is to be read as a story-teller rather than as a
poet, as a casuist rather than as a philosopher. But when all
deductions are made, his significance as a literary artist and as
the founder of a precious literary tradition distinguishes him
from all other poets of the Latin races between the close of the
Empire and the arrival of Dante.
(Vv. 1-26.) The rustic's proverb says that many a thing is
despised that is worth much more than is supposed. Therefore he
does well who makes the most of whatever intelligence he may
possess. For he who neglects this concern may likely omit to say
something which would subsequently give great pleasure. So
Chretien de Troyes maintains that one ought always to study and
strive to speak well and teach the right; and he derives from a
story of adventure a pleasing argument whereby it may be proved
and known that he is not wise who does not make liberal use of
his knowledge so long as God may give him grace. The story is
about Erec the son of Lac--a story which those who earn a
living by telling stories are accustomed to mutilate and spoil in
the presence of kings and counts. And now I shall begin the tale
which will be remembered so long as Christendom endures. This is
Chretien's boast.
(Vv. 27-66.) One Easter Day in the Springtime, King Arthur held
court in his town of Cardigan. Never was there seen so rich a
court; for many a good knight was there, hardy, bold, and brave,
and rich ladies and damsels, gentle and fair daughters of kings.
But before the court was disbanded, the King told his knights
that he wished to hunt the White Stag, (2) in order to observe
worthily the ancient custom. When my lord Gawain heard this, he
was sore displeased. and said: "Sire, you will derive neither
thanks nor goodwill from this hunt. We all know long since what
this custom of the White Stag is: whoever can kill the White Stag
must forsooth kiss the fairest maiden of your court, come what
may. But of this there might come great ill, for there are here
five hundred damsels of high birth, gentle and prudent daughters
of kings, and there is none of them but has a bold and valiant
knight for her lover who would be ready to contend, whether fight
or wrong, that she who is his lady is the fairest and gentlest of
them all." The King replies: "That I know well; yet will I not
desist on that account; for a king's word ought never to be
gainsaid. To-morrow morning we shall all gaily go to hunt the
White Stag in the forest of adventure. And very delightful this
hunt will be."
(Vv. 67-114.) And so the affair is arranged for the next morning
at daybreak. The morrow, as soon as it is day, the King gets up
and dresses, and dons a short jacket for his forest ride. He
commands the knights to be aroused and the horses to be made
ready. Already they are ahorse, and off they go, with bows and
arrows. After them the Queen mounts her horse, taking a damsel
with her. A maid she was, the daughter of a king, and she rode a
white palfrey. After them there swiftly followed a knight, named
Erec, who belonged to the Round Table, and had great fame at the
court. (3) Of all the knights that ever were there, never one
received such praise; and he was so fair that nowhere in the
world need one seek a fairer knight than he. He was very fair,
brave, and courteous, though not yet twenty-five years old.
Never was there a man of his age of greater knighthood. And what
shall I say of his virtues? Mounted on his horse, and clad in an
ermine mantle, he came galloping down the road, wearing a coat of
splendid flowered silk which was made at Constantinople. He had
put on hose of brocade, well made and cut, and when his golden
spurs were well attached, he sat securely in his stirrups. He
carried no arm with him but his sword. As he galloped along, at
the corner of a street he came up with the Queen, and said: "My
lady, if it please you, I should gladly accompany you along this
road, having come for no other purpose than to bear you company."
And the Queen thanks him: "Fair friend, I like your company well,
in truth; for better I could not have."
(Vv. 115-124.) Then they ride along at full speed until they
come into the forest, where the party who had gone before them
had already started the stag. Some wind the horns and others
shout; the hounds plunge ahead after the stag, running,
attacking, and baying; the bowmen shoot amain. And before them
all rode the King on a Spanish hunter.
(Vv. 125-154.) Queen Guinevere was in the wood listening for the
dogs; beside her were Erec and the damsel, who was very courteous
and fair. But those who had pursued the stag were so far from
them that, however intently they might listen to catch the sound
of horn or baying of hound, they no longer could hear either
horse, huntsman, or hound. So all three of them drew rein in a
clearing beside the road. They had been there but a short time
when they saw an armed knight along on his steed, with shield
slung about his neck, and his lance in hand. The Queen espied
him from a distance By his right side rode a damsel of noble
bearing, and before them, on a hack, came a dwarf carrying in his
hand a knotted scourge. When Queen Guinevere saw the comely and
graceful knight, she desired to know who he and his damsel were.
So she bid her damsel go quickly and speak to him,
(Vv. 155-274.) "Damsel," says the Queen, "go and bid yonder
knight come to me and bring his damsel with him." The maiden
goes on amble straight toward the knight. But the spiteful dwarf
sallies forth to meet her with his scourge in hand, crying:
"Halt, maiden, what do you want here? You shall advance no
farther." "Dwarf," says she, "let me pass. I wish to speak with
yonder knight; for the Queen sends me hither." The dwarf, who
was rude and mean, took his stand in the middle of the road. and
said: "You have no business here. Go back. It is not meet that
vou should speak to so excellent a knight." The damsel advanced
and tried to pass him by force, holding the dwarf in slight
esteem when she saw that he was so small. Then the dwarf raised
his whip, when he saw her coming toward him and tried to strike
her in the face. She raised her arm to protect herself, but he
lifted his hand again and struck her all unprotected on her bare
hand: and so hard did he strike her on the back of her hand that
it turned all black and blue. When the maiden could do nothing
else, in spite of herself she must needs return. So weeping she
turned back. The tears came to her eyes and ran down her cheeks.
When the Queen sees her damsel wounded, she is sorely grieved and
angered and knows not what to do. "Ah, Erec, fair friend," she
says, "I am in great sorrow for my damsel whom that dwarf has
wounded. The knight must be discourteous indeed, to allow such a
monster to strike so beautiful a creature. Erec, fair friend, do
you go to the knight and bid him come to me without delay. I
wish to know him and his lady." Erec starts off thither, giving
spurs to his steed, and rides straight toward the knight. The
ignoble dwarf sees him coming and goes to meet him. "Vassal,"
says he, "stand back! For I know not what business you have
here. I advise you to withdraw." "Avaunt," says Erec,
"provoking dwarf! Thou art vile and troublesome. Let me pass."
"You shall not." "That will I." "You shall not." Erec thrusts
the dwarf aside. The dwarf had no equal for villainy: he gave
him a great blow with his lash right on the neck, so that Erec's
neck and face are scarred with the blow of the scourge; from top
to bottom appear the lines which the thongs have raised on him.
He knew well that he could not have the satisfaction of striking
the dwarf; for he saw that the knight was armed, arrogant, and
of evil intent, and he was afraid that he would soon kill him,
should he strike the dwarf in his presence. Rashness is not
bravery. So Erec acted wisely in retreating without more ado.
"My lady," he says, "now matters stand worse; for the rascally
dwarf has so wounded me that he has badly cut my face. I did not
dare to strike or touch him; but none ought to reproach me, for I
was completely unarmed. I mistrusted the armed knight, who,
being an ugly fellow and violent, would take it as no jest, and
would soon kill me in his pride. But this much I will promise
you; that if I can, I shall yet avenge my disgrace, or increase
it. But my arms are too far away to avail me in this time of
need; for at Cardigan did I leave them this morning when I came
away. And if I should go to fetch them there, peradventure I
should never again find the knight who is riding off apace. So I
must follow him at once, far or near, until I find some arms to
hire or borrow. If I find some one who will lend me arms, the
knight will quickly find me ready for battle. And you may be
sure without fail that we two shall fight until he defeat me, or
I him. And if possible, I shall be back by the third day, when
you will see me home again either joyous or sad, I know not
which. Lady, I cannot delay longer, for I must follow after the
knight. I go. To God I commend you." And the Queen in like
manner more than five hundred rimes commends him to God, that he
may defend him from harm.
(Vv. 275-310.) Erec leaves the Queen and ceases not to pursue
the knight. The Queen remains in the wood, where now the King
had come up with the Stag. The King himself outstripped the
others at the death. Thus they killed and took the White Stag,
and all returned, carrying the Stag, till they came again to
Cardigan. After supper, when the knights were all in high
spirits throughout the hall, the King, as the custom was, because
he had taken the Stag, said that he would bestow the kiss and
thus observe the custom of the Stag. Throughout the court a
great murmur is heard: each one vows and swears to his neighbour
that it shall not be done without the protest of sword or ashen
lance. Each one gallantly desires to contend that his lady is
the fairest in the hall. Their conversation bodes no good, and
when my lord Gawain heard it, you must know that it was not to
his liking. Thus he addressed the King: "Sire," he says, "your
knights here are greatly aroused, and all their talk is of this
kiss. They say that it shall never be bestowed without
disturbance and a fight." And the King wisely replied to him:
"Fair nephew Gawain, give me counsel now, sparing my honour and
my dignity, for I have no mind for any disturbance."
(Vv. 311-341.) To the council came a great part of the best
knights of the court. King Yder (4) arrived, who was the first
to be summoned, and after him King Cadoalant, who was very wise
and bold. Kay and Girflet came too, and King Amauguin was there,
and a great number of other knights were there with them. The
discussion was in process when the Queen arrived and told them of
the adventure which she had met in the forest, of the armed
knight whom she saw, and of the malicious little dwarf who had
struck her damsel on the bare hand with his whip, and who struck
Erec, too, in the same way an ugly blow on the face; but that
Erec followed the knight to obtain vengeance, or increase his
shame, and how he said that if possible he would be back by the
third day. "Sire," says the Queen to the King, "listen to me a
moment. If these knights approve what I say, postpone this kiss
until the third day, when Erec will be back." There is none who
does not agree with her, and the King himself approves her words.
(Vv. 342-392.) Erec steadily follows the knight who was armed
and the dwarf who had struck him until they come to a well placed
town, strong and fine (5). They enter straight through the gate.
Within the town there was great joy of knights and ladies, of
whom there were many and fair. Some were feeding in the streets
their sparrow-hawks and moulting falcons; others were giving an
airing to their tercels, (6) their mewed birds, and young yellow
hawks; others play at dice or other game of chance, some at
chess, and some at backgammon. The grooms in front of the
stables are rubbing down and currying the horses. The ladies are
bedecking themselves in their boudoirs. As soon as they see the
knight coming, whom they recognised with his dwarf and damsel,
they go out three by three to meet him. The knight they all
greet and salute, but they give no heed to Erec, for they did not
know him. Erec follows close upon the knight through the town,
until he saw him lodged. Then, very joyful, he passed on a
little farther until he saw reclining upon some steps a vavasor
(7) well on in years. He was a comely man, with white locks,
debonair, pleasing, and frank. There he was seated all alone,
seeming to be engaged in thought. Erec took him for an honest
man who would at once give him lodging. When he turned through
the gate into the yard, the vavasor ran to meet him, and saluted
him before Erec had said a word. "Fair sir," says he, "be
welcome. If you will deign to lodge with me, here is my house
all ready for you." Erec replies: "Thank you! For no other
purpose have I come; I need a lodging place this night."
(Vv. 393-410.) Erec dismounts from his horse, which the host
himself leads away by the bridle, and does great honour to his
guest. The vavasor summons his wife and his beautiful daughter,
who were busy in a work-room--doing I know not what. The lady
came out with her daughter, who was dressed in a soft white
under-robe with wide skirts hanging loose in folds. Over it she
wore a white linen garment, which completed her attire. And this
garment was so old that it was full of holes down the sides.
Poor, indeed, was her garb without, but within her body was fair.
(Vv. 411-458.) The maid was charming, in sooth, for Nature had
used all her skill in forming her. Nature herself had marvelled
more than five hundred times how upon this one occasion she had
succeeded in creating such a perfect thing. Never again could
she so strive successfully to reproduce her pattern. Nature
bears witness concerning her that never was so fair a creature
seen in all the world. In truth I say that never did Iseut the
Fair have such radiant golden tresses that she could be compared
with this maiden. (8) The complexion of her forehead and face
was clearer and more delicate than the lily. But with wondrous
art her face with all its delicate pallor was suffused with a
fresh crimson which Nature had bestowed upon her. Her eyes were
so bright that they seemed like two stars. God never formed
better nose, mouth, and eyes. What shall I say of her beauty?
In sooth, she was made to be looked at; for in her one could have
seen himself as in a mirror. So she came forth from the workroom:
and when she saw the knight whom she had never seen before,
she drew back a little, because she did not know him, and in her
modesty she blushed. Erec, for his part, was amazed when he
beheld such beauty in her, and the vavasor said to her: "Fair
daughter dear, take this horse and lead him to the stable along
with my own horses. See that he lack for nothing: take off his
saddle and bridle, give him oats and hay, look after him and
curry him, that he may be in good condition."
(Vv. 459-546) The maiden takes the horse, unlaces his breaststrap,
and takes off his bridle and saddle. Now the horse is in
good hands, for she takes excellent care of him. She throws a
halter over his head, rubs him down, curries him, and makes him
comfortable. Then she ties him to the manger and puts plenty of
fresh sweet hay and oats before him. Then she went back to her
father, who said to her: "Fair daughter dear, take now this
gentleman by the hand and show him all honour. Take him by the
hand upstairs." The maiden did not delay (for in her there was
no lack of courtesy) and led him by the hand upstairs. The lady
had gone before and prepared the house. She had laid embroidered
cushions and spreads upon the couches, where they all three sat
down Erec with his host beside him, and the maiden opposite.
Before them, the fire burns brightly. The vavasor had only one
man-servant, and no maid for chamber or kitchen work. This one
man was busy in the kitchen preparing meat and birds for supper.
A skilful cook was he, who knew how to prepare meal in boiling
water and birds on the spit. When he had the meal prepared in
accordance with the orders which had been given him, he brought
them water for washing in two basins. The table was soon set,
cloths, bread, and wine set out, and they sat down to supper.
They had their fill of all they needed. When they had finished
and when the table was cleared, Erec thus addressed his host, the
master of the house: "Tell me, fair host." he asked, "why your
daughter, who is so passing fair and clever, is so poorly and
unsuitably attired." "Fair friend," the vavasor replies, "many a
man is harmed by poverty, and even so am I. I grieve to see her
so poorly clad, and yet I cannot help it, for I have been so long
involved in war that I have lost or mortgaged or sold all my
land. (9) And yet she would be well enough dressed if I allowed
her to accept everything that people wish to give her. The lord
of this castle himself would have dressed her in becoming fashion
and would have done her every manner of favour, for she is his
niece and he is a count. And there is no nobleman in this
region, however rich and powerful, who would not willingly have
taken her to wife had I given my consent. But I am waiting yet
for some better occasion, when God shall bestow still greater
honour upon her, when fortune shall bring hither some king or
count who shall lead her away, for there is under Heaven no king
or count who would be ashamed of my daughter, who is so wondrous
fair that her match cannot be found. Fair, indeed, she is; but
yet greater far than her beauty, is her intelligence. God never
created any one so discreet and of such open heart. When I have
my daughter beside me, I don't care a marble about all the rest
of the world. She is my delight and my pastime, she is my joy
and comfort, my wealth and my treasure, and I love nothing so
much as her own precious self."
(Vv. 547-690.) When Erec had listened to all that his host told
him, he asked him to inform him whence came all the chivalry that
was quartered in the town. For there was no street or house so
poor and small but it was full of knights and ladies and squires.
And the vavasor said to him: "Fair friend, these are the nobles
of the country round; all, both young and old, have come to a
fete which is to be held in this town tomorrow; therefore the
houses are so full. When they shall all have gathered, there
will be a great stir to-morrow; for in the presence of all the
people there will be set upon a silver perch a sparrow-hawk of
five or six moultings--the best you can imagine. Whoever
wishes to gain the hawk must have a mistress who is fair,
prudent, and courteous. And if there be a knight so bold as to
wish to defend the worth and the name of the fairest in his eyes,
he will cause his mistress to step forward and lift the hawk from
the perch, if no one dares to interpose. This is the custom they
are observing, and for this each year they gather here."
Thereupon Erec speaks and asks him: "Fair host, may it not
displease you, but tell me, if you know, who is a certain knight
bearing arms of azure and gold, who passed by here not long ago,
having close beside him a courtly damsel, preceded by a humpbacked
dwarf." To him the host then made reply: "That is he who
will win the hawk without any opposition from the other knights.
I don't believe that any one will offer opposition; this time
there will be no blows or wounds. For two years already he has
won it without being challenged; and if he wins it again this
year, he will have gained permanent possession of it. Every
succeeding year he may keep it without contest or challenge."
Quickly Erec makes reply: "I do not like that knight. Upon my
word, had I some arms I should challenge him for the hawk. Fair
host, I beg you as a boon to advise me how I may be equipped with
arms whether old or new, poor or rich, it matters not." And he
replies to him generously: "It were a pity for you to feel
concern on that score! I have good fine arms which I shall be
glad to lend you. In the house I have a triple-woven hauberk,
(10) which was selected from among five hundred. And I have some
fine valuable greaves, polished, handsome, and light in weight.
The helmet is bright and handsome, and the shield fresh and new.
Horse, sword, and lance all I will lend you, of course; so let no
more be said." "Thank you kindly, fair gentle host! But I wish
for no better sword that this one which I have brought with me,
nor for any other horse than my own, for I can get along well
enough with him. If you will lend me the rest, I shall esteem it
a great favour. But there is one more boon I wish to ask of you,
for which I shall make just return if God grant that I come off
from the battle with honour." And frankly he replies to him:
"Ask confidently for what you want, whatever it be, for nothing
of mine shall lack you." Then Erec said that he wished to defend
the hawk on behalf of his daughter; for surely there will be no
damsel who is one hundredth part as beautiful as she. And if he
takes her with him, he will have good and just reason to maintain
and to prove that she is entitled to carry away the hawk. Then
he added: "Sire, you know not what guest you have sheltered here,
nor do you know my estate and kin. I am the son of a rich and
puissant king: my father's name is King Lac, and the Bretons call
me Erec. I belong to King Arthur's court, and have been with him
now three years. I know not if any report of my father or of me
has ever reached this land. But I promise you and vow that if
you will fit me out with arms, and will give me your daughter
to-morrow when I strive for the hawk, I will take her to my
country, if God grant me the victory, and I will give her a crown
to wear, and she shall be queen of three cities." "Ah, fair sir!
Is it true that you are Erec, the son of Lac?" "That is who I
am, indeed" quoth he. Then the host was greatly delighted and
said: "We have indeed heard of you in this country. Now I think
all the more of you, for you are very valiant and brave. Nothing
now shall you be refused by me. At your request I give you my
fair daughter." Then taking her by the hand, he says: "Here, I
give her to you." Erec received her joyfully, and now has all he
desired. Now they are all happy there: the father is greatly
delighted, and the mother weeps for joy. The maiden sat quiet;
but she was very happy and glad that she was betrothed to him,
because he was valiant and courteous: and she knew that he would
some day be king, and she should receive honour and be crowned
rich queen.
(Vv. 691-746.) They had sat up very late that night. But now
the beds were prepared with white sheets and soft pillows, and
when the conversation flagged they all went to bed in happy
frame. Erec slept little that night, and the next morn, at crack
of dawn, he and his host rose early. They both go to pray at
church, and hear a hermit chant the Mass of the Holy Spirit, not
forgetting to make an offering. When they had heard Mass both
kneel before the altar and then return to the house. Erec was
eager for the battle; so he asks for arms, and they are given to
him. The maiden herself puts on his arms (though she casts no
spell or charm), (11) laces on his iron greaves, and makes them
fast with thong of deer-hide. She puts on his hauberk with its
strong meshes, and laces on his ventail. The gleaming helmet she
sets upon his head, and thus arms him well from tip to toe. At
his side she fastens his sword, and then orders his horse to be
brought, which is done. Up he jumped clear of the ground. The
damsel then brings the shield and the strong lance: she hands him
the shield, and he takes it and hangs it about his neck by the
strap. She places the lance in his hand, and when he had grasped
it by the butt-end, he thus addressed the gentle vavasor: "Fair
sire," quoth he, "if you please, make your daughter ready now;
for I wish to escort her to the sparrow-hawk in accordance with
our agreement." The vavasor then without delay had saddled a bay
palfrey. There can nothing be said of the harness because of the
dire poverty with which the vavasor was afflicted. Saddle and
bridle were put on, and up the maiden mounted all free and in
light attire, without waiting to be urged. Erec wished to delay
no longer; so off he starts with the host's daughter by his side,
followed by the gentleman and his lady.
(Vv. 747-862.) Erec rides with lance erect and with the comely
damsel by his side. All the people, great and small, gaze at
them with wondering eyes as they pass through the streets. And
thus they question each other: "Who is yonder knight? He must be
doughty and brave, indeed, to act as escort for this fair maid.
His efforts will be well employed in proving that this damsel is
the fairest of them all." One man to another says: "In very
truth, she ought to have the sparrow-hawk." Some praised the
maid, while many said: "God! who can this knight be, with the
fair damsel by his side?" "I know not." "Nor I." Thus spake
each one. "But his gleaming helmet becomes him well, and the
hauberk, and shield, and his sharp steel sword. He sits well
upon his steed and has the bearing of a valiant vassal, wellshapen
in arm, in limb and foot." While all thus stand and gaze
at them, they for their part made no delay to take their stand by
the sparrow-hawk, where to one side they awaited the knight. And
now behold! they see him come, attended by his dwarf and his
damsel. He had heard the report, that a knight had come who
wished to obtain the sparrow-hawk, but he did not believe there
could be in the world a knight so bold as to dare to fight with
him. He would quickly defeat him and lay him low. All the
people knew him well, and all welcome him and escort him in a
noisy crowd: knights, squires, ladies, and damsels make haste to
run after him. Leading them all the knight rides proudly on,
with his damsel and his dwarf at his side, and he makes his way
quickly to the sparrow-hawk. But all about there was such a
press of the rough and vulgar crowd that it was impossible to
touch the hawk or to come near where it was. Then the Count
arrived on the scene, and threatened the populace with a switch
which he held in his hand. The crowd drew back, and the knight
advanced and said quietly to his lady: "My lady, this bird, which
is so perfectly moulted and so fair, should be yours as your just
portion; for you are wondrous fair and full of charm. Yours it
shall surely be so long as I live. Step forward, my dear, and
lift the hawk from the perch." The damsel was on the point of
stretching forth her hand when Erec hastened to challenge her,
little heeding the other's arrogance. "Damsel," he cries, "stand
back! Go dally with some other bird, for to this one you have no
right. In spite of all, I say this hawk shall never be yours.
For a better one than you claims it--aye, much more fair and
more courteous." The other knight is very wroth; but Erec does
not mind him, and bids his own maiden step forward. "Fair one."
he cries, "come forth. Lift the bird from the perch, for it is
right that you should have it. Damsel, come forth! For I will
make boast to defend it if any one is so bold as to intervene.
For no woman excels you in beauty or worth, in grace or honour
any more than the moon outshines the sun." The other could
suffer it no longer, when he hears him so manfully offer himself
to do battle. "Vassal," he cries, "who art thou who dost thus
dispute with me the hawk?" Erec boldly answers him: "A knight I
am from another land. This hawk I have come to obtain; for it is
right, I say it in spite of all, that this damsel of mine should
have it." "Away!" cries the other, "it shall never be. Madness
has brought thee here. If thou dost wish to have the hawk, thou
shalt pay fight dearly for it." "Pay, vassal; and how?" "Thou
must fight with me, if thou dost not resign it to me." "You talk
madness," cries Erec; "for me these are idle threats; for little
enough do I fear you." "Then I defy thee here and now. The
battle is inevitable." Erec replies: "God help me now; for never
did I wish for aught so much." Now soon you will hear the noise
of battle.
(Vv. 863-1080.) The large place was cleared, with the people
gathered all around. They draw off from each other the space of
an acre, then drive their horses together; they reach for each
other with the tips of their lances, and strike each other so
hard that the shields are pierced and broken; the lances split
and crack; the saddle-bows are knocked to bits behind. They must
needs lose their stirrups, so that they both fall to the ground,
and the horses run off across the field. Though smitten with the
lances, they are quickly on their feet again, and draw their
swords from the scabbards. With great fierceness they attack
each other, and exchange great sword blows, so that the helmets
are crushed and made to ring. Fierce is the clash of the swords,
as they rain great blows upon neck and shoulders. For this is no
mere sport: they break whatever they touch, cutting the shields
and shattering the hauberks. The swords are red with crimson
blood. Long the battle lasts; but they fight so lustily that
they become weary and listless. Both the damsels are in tears,
and each knight sees his lady weep and raise her hands to God and
pray that He may give the honours of the battle to the one who
strives for her. "Ha! vassal," quoth the knight to Erec, "let
us withdraw and rest a little; for too weak are these blows we
deal. We must deal better blows than these; for now it draws
near evening. It is shameful and highly discreditable that this
battle should last so long. See yonder that gentle maid who
weeps for thee and calls on God. Full sweetly she prays for
thee, as does also mine for me. Surely we should do our best
with our blades of steel for the sake of our lady-loves." Erec
replies: "You have spoken well." Then they take a little rest,
Erec looking toward his lady as she softly prays for him. While
he sat and looked on her, great strength was recruited within
him. Her love and beauty inspired him with great boldness. He
remembered the Queen, to whom he pledged his word that he would
avenge the insult done him, or would make it greater yet. "Ah!
wretch," says he, "why do I wait? I have not yet taken vengeance
for the injury which this vassal permitted when his dwarf struck
me in the wood." His anger is revived within him as he summons
the knight: "Vassal," quoth he, "I call you to battle anew. Too
long we have rested; let us now renew our strife." And he
replies: "That is no hardship to me." Whereupon, they again
fall upon each other. They were both expert fencers. At his
first lunge the knight would have wounded Erec had he not
skilfully parried. Even so, he smote him so hard over the shield
beside his temple that he struck a piece from his helmet.
Closely shaving his white coif, the sword descends, cleaving the
shield through to the buckle, and cutting more than a span from
the side of his hauberk. Then he must have been well stunned, as
the cold steel penetrated to the flesh on his thigh. May God
protect him now! If the blow had not glanced off, it would have
cut right through his body. But Erec is in no wise dismayed: he
pays him back what is owing him, and. attacking him boldly,
smites him upon the shoulder so violently a blow that the shield
cannot withstand it, nor is the hauberk of any use to prevent the
sword from penetrating to the bone. He made the crimson blood
flow down to his waist-band. Both of the vassals are hard
fighters: they fight with honours even, for one cannot gain from
the other a single foot of ground. Their hauberks are so torn
and their shields so hacked, that there is actually not enough of
them left to serve as a protection. So they fight all exposed.
Each one loses a deal of blood, and both grow weak. He strikes
Erec and Erec strikes him. Erec deals him such a tremendous blow
upon the helmet that he quite stuns him. Then he lets him have
it again and again, giving him three blows in quick succession,
which entirely split the helmet and cut the coif beneath it. The
sword even reaches the skull and cuts a bone of his head, but
without penetrating the brain. He stumbles and totters, and
while he staggers, Erec pushes him over, so that he falls upon
his right side. Erec grabs him by the helmet and forcibly drags
it from his head, and unlaces the ventail, so that his head and
face are completely exposed. When Erec thinks of the insult done
him by the dwarf in the wood, he would have cut off his head, had
he not cried for mercy. "Ah! vassal," says he, "thou hast
defeated me. Mercy now, and do not kill me, after having
overcome me and taken me prisoner: that would never bring thee
praise or glory. If thou shouldst touch me more, thou wouldst do
great villainy. Take here my sword; I yield it thee." Erec,
however, does not take it, but says in reply: "I am within an ace
of killing thee." "Ah! gentle knight, mercy! For what crime,
indeed, or for what wrong shouldst thou hate me with mortal
hatred? I never saw thee before that I am aware, and never have
I been engaged in doing thee any shame or wrong." Erec replies:
"Indeed you have." "Ah, sire, tell me when! For I never saw
you, that I can remember, and if I have done you any wrong, I
place myself at your mercy." Then Erec said: "Vassal, I am he
who was in the forest yesterday with Queen Guinevere, when thou
didst allow thy ill-bred dwarf to strike my lady's damsel. It is
disgraceful to strike a woman. And afterwards he struck me,
taking me for some common fellow. Thou wast guilty of too great
insolence when thou sawest such an outrage and didst complacently
permit such a monster of a lout to strike the damsel and myself.
For such a crime I may well hate thee; for thou hast committed a
grave offence. Thou shalt now constitute thyself my prisoner,
and without delay go straight to my lady whom thou wilt surely
find at Cardigan, if thither thou takest thy way. Thou wilt
reach there this very night, for it is not seven leagues from
here, I think. Thou shalt hand over to her thyself, thy damsel,
and thy dwarf, to do as she may dictate; and tell her that I send
her word that to-morrow I shall come contented, bringing with me
a damsel so fair and wise and fine that in all the world she has
not her match. So much thou mayst tell her truthfully. And now
I wish to know thy name." Then he must needs say in spite of
himself: "Sire, my name is Yder, son of Nut. This morning I had
not thought that any single man by force of arms could conquer
me. Now I have found by experience a man who is better than I.
You are a very valiant knight, and I pledge you my faith here and
now that I will go without delay and put myself in the Queen's
hands. But tell me without reserve what your name may be. Who
shall I say it is that sends me? For I am ready to start." And
he replies: "My name I will tell thee without disguise: it is
Erec. Go, and tell her that it is I who have sent thee to her."
"Now I'll go, and I promise you that I will put my dwarf, my
damsel, and myself altogether at her disposal (you need have no
fear), and I will give her news of you and of your damsel." Then
Erec received his plighted word, and the Count and all the people
round about the ladies and the gentlemen were present at the
agreement. Some were joyous, and some downcast; some were sorry,
and others glad. The most rejoiced for the sake of the damsel
with the white raiment, the daughter of the poor vavasor she of
the gentle and open heart; but his damsel and those who were
devoted to him were sorry for Yder.
(Vv. 1081-1170.) Yder, compelled to execute his promise, did not
wish to tarry longer, but mounted his steed at once. But why
should I make a long story? Taking his dwarf and his damsel,
they traversed the woods and the plain, going on straight until
they came to Cardigan. In the bower (12) outside the great hall,
Gawain and Kay the seneschal and a great number of other lords
were gathered. The seneschal was the first to espy those
approaching, and said to my lord Gawain: "Sire, my heart divines
that the vassal who yonder comes is he of whom the Queen spoke as
having yesterday done her such an insult. If I am not mistaken,
there are three in the party, for I see the dwarf and the
damsel." "That is so," says my lord Gawain; "it is surely a
damsel and a dwarf who are coming straight toward us with the
knight. The knight himself is fully armed, but his shield is not
whole. If the Queen should see him, she would know him. Hello,
seneschal, go call her now!" So he went straightway and found
her in one of the apartments. "My lady," says he, "do you
remember the dwarf who yesterday angered you by wounding your
damsel?" "Yes, I remember him right well. Seneschal, have you
any news oú him? Why have you mentioned him?" "Lady, because I
have seen a knight-errant armed coming upon a grey horse, and if
my eyes have not deceived me, I saw a damsel with him; and it
seems to me that with him comes the dwarf, who still holds the
scourge from which Erec received his lashing." Then the Queen
rose quickly and said: "Let us go quickly, seneschal, to see if
it is the vassal. If it is he, you may be sure that I shall tell
you so, as soon as I see him." And Kay said: "I will show him to
you. Come up into the bower where your knights are assembled.
It was from there we saw him coming, and my lord Gawain himself
awaits you there. My lady, let us hasten thither, for here we
have too long delayed." Then the Queen bestirred herself, and
coming to the windows she took her stand by my lord Gawain, and
straightway recognised the knight. "Ha! my lords," she cries,
"it is he. He has been through great danger. He has been in a
battle. I do not know whether Erec has avenged his grief, or
whether this knight has defeated Erec. But there is many a dent
upon his shield, and his hauberk is covered with blood, so that
it is rather red than white." "In sooth, my lady," quoth my lord
Gawain, "I am very sure that you are quite right. His hauberk is
covered with blood, and pounded and beaten, showing plainly that
he has been in a fight. We can easily see that the battle has
been hot. Now we shall soon hear from him news that will give us
joy or gloom: whether Erec sends him to you here as a prisoner at
your discretion, or whether he comes in pride of heart to boast
before us arrogantly that he has defeated or killed Erec. No
other news can he bring, I think." The Queen says: "I am of the
same opinion." And all the others say: "It may well be so."
(Vv. 1171-1243.) Meanwhile Yder enters the castle gate, bringing
them news. They all came down from the bower, and went to meet
him. Yder came up to the royal terrace and there dismounted from
his horse. And Gawain took the damsel and helped her down from
her palfrey; the dwarf, for his part, dismounted too. There were
more than one hundred knights standing there, and when the three
newcomers had all dismounted they were led into the King's
presence. As soon as Yder saw the Queen, he bowed low and first
saluted her, then the King and his knights, and said: "Lady, I am
sent here as your prisoner by a gentleman, a valiant and noble
knight, whose face yesterday my dwarf made smart with his knotted
scourge. He has overcome me at arms and defeated me. Lady, the
dwarf I bring you here: he has come to surrender to you at
discretion. I bring you myself, my damsel, and my dwarf to do
with us as you please." The Queen keeps her peace no longer, but
asks him for news of Erec: "Tell me," she says, "if you please,
do you know when Erec will arrive?" "To-morrow, lady, and with
him a damsel he will bring, the fairest of all I ever knew."
When he had delivered his message, the Queen, who was kind and
sensible, said to him courteously: "Friend, since thou hast
thrown thyself upon my mercy, thy confinement shall be less
harsh; for I have no desire to seek thy harm. But tell me now,
so help thee God, what is thy name?" And he replies: "Lady, my
name is Yder, son of Nut." And they knew that he told the truth.
Then the Queen arose, and going before the King, said: "Sire, did
you hear? You have done well to wait for Erec, the valiant
knight. I gave you good advice yesterday, when I counselled you
to await his return. This proves that it is wise to take
advice." The King replies: "That is no lie; rather is it
perfectly true that he who takes advice is no fool. Happily we
followed your advice yesterday. But if you care anything for me,
release this knight from his durance, provided he consent to join
henceforth my household and court; and if he does not consent,
let him suffer the consequence." When the King had thus spoken,
the Queen straightway released the knight; but it was on this
condition, that he should remain in the future at the court. He
did not have to be urged before he gave his consent to stay. Now
he was of the court and household to which he had not before
belonged. Then valets were at hand to run and relieve him of his
(Vv. 1244-1319.) Now we must revert to Erec, whom we left in the
field where the battle had taken place. Even Tristan, when he
slew fierce Morhot on Saint Samson's isle (13), awakened no such
jubilee as they celebrated here over Erec. Great and small, thin
and stout--all make much of him and praise his knighthood.
There is not a knight but cries: "Lord what a vassal! Under
Heaven there is not his like!" They follow him to his lodgings,
praising him and talking much. Even the Count himself embraces
him, who above the rest was glad, and said: "Sire, if you please,
you ought by right to lodge in my house, since you are the son of
King Lac. If you would accept of my hospitality you would do me
a great honour, for I regard you as my liege. Fair sire, may it
please you, I beg you to lodge with me." Erec answers: "May it
not displease you, but I shall not desert my host to-night, who
has done me much honour in giving me his daughter. What say you,
sir? Is it not a fair and precious gift?" "Yes, sire," the
Count replies; "the gift, in truth, is fine and good. The maid
herself is fair and clever, and besides is of very noble birth.
You must know that her mother is my sister. Surely, I am glad at
heart that you should deign to take my niece. Once more I beg
you to lodge with me this night." Erec replies: "Ask me no more.
I will not do it." Then the Count saw that further insistence
was useless, and said: "Sire, as it please you! We may as well
say no more about it; but I and my knights will all be with you
to-night to cheer you and bear you company." When Erec heard
that, he thanked him, and returned to his host's dwelling, with
the Count attending him. Ladies and knights were gathered there,
and the vavasor was glad at heart. As soon as Erec arrived, more
than a score of squires ran quickly to remove his arms. Any one
who was present in that house could have witnessed a happy scene.
Erec went first and took his seat; then all the others in order
sit down upon the couches, the cushions, and benches. At Erec's
side the Count sat down, and the damsel with her radiant face,
who was feeding the much disputed hawk upon her wrist with a
plover's wing. (14) Great honour and joy and prestige had she
gained that day, and she was very glad at heart both for the bird
and for her lord. She could not have been happier, and showed it
plainly, making no secret of her joy. All could see how gay she
was, and throughout the house there was great rejoicing for the
happiness of the maid they loved.
(Vv. 1320-1352.) Erec thus addressed the vavasor: "Fair host,
fair friend, fair sire! You have done me great honour, and
richly shall it be repaid you. To-morrow I shall take away your
daughter with me to the King's court, where I wish to take her as
my wife; and if you will tarry here a little, I shall send
betimes to fetch you. I shall have you escorted into the country
which is my father's now, but which later will be mine. It is
far from here--by no means near. There I shall give you two
towns, very splendid, rich, and fine. You shall be lord of
Roadan, which was built in the time of Adam, and of another town
close by, which is no less valuable. The people call it
Montrevel, and my father owns no better town. (15) And before
the third day has passed, I shall send you plenty of gold and
silver, of dappled and grey furs, and precious silken stuffs
wherewith to adorn yourself and your wife my dear lady.
To-morrow at dawn I wish to take your daughter to court, dressed
and arrayed as she is at present. I wish my lady, the Queen, to
dress her in her best dress of satin and scarlet cloth."
(Vv. 1353-1478.) There was a maiden near at hand, very
honourable, prudent, and virtuous. She was seated on a bench
beside the maid with the white shift, and was her own cousin the
niece of my lord the Count. When she heard how Erec intended to
take her cousin in such very poor array to the Queen's court, she
spoke about it to the Count. "Sire," she says, "it would be a
shame to you more than to any one else if this knight should take
your niece away with him in such sad array." And the Count made
answer: "Gentle niece, do you give her the best of your dresses."
But Erec heard the conversation, and said: "By no means, my lord.
For be assured that nothing in the world would tempt me to let
her have another robe until the Queen shall herself bestow it
upon her." When the damsel heard this, she replied: "Alas! fair
sire, since you insist upon leading off my cousin thus dressed in
a white shift and chemise, and since you are determined that she
shall have none of my dresses, a different gift I wish to make
her. I have three good palfreys, as good as any of king or
count, one sorrel, one dappled, and the other black with white
forefeet. Upon my word, if you had a hundred to pick from, you
would not find a better one than the dappled mount. The birds in
the air do not fly more swiftly than the palfrey; and he is not
too lively, but just suits a lady. A child can ride him, for he
is neither skittish nor balky, nor does he bite nor kick nor
become unmanageable. Any one who is looking for something better
does not know what he wants. And his pace is so easy and gentle
that a body is more comfortable and easy on his back than in a
boat." Then said Erec: "My dear, I have no objection to her
accepting this gift; indeed, I am pleased with the offer, and do
not wish her to refuse it." Then the damsel calls one of her
trusty servants, and says to him: "Go, friend, saddle my dappled
palfrey, and lead him here at once." And he carries out her
command: he puts on saddle and bridle and strives to make him
appear well. Then he jumps on the maned palfrey, which is now
ready for inspection. When Erec saw the animal, he did not spare
his praise, for he could see that he was very fine and gentle.
So he bade a servant lead him back and hitch him in the stable
beside his own horse. Then they all separated, after an evening
agreeably spent. The Count goes off to his own dwelling, and
leaves Erec with the vavasor, saying that he will bear him
company in the morning when he leaves. All that night they slept
well. In the morning, when the dawn was bright, Erec prepares to
start, commanding his horses to be saddled. His fair sweetheart,
too, awakes, dresses, and makes ready. The vavasor and his wife
rise too, and every knight and lady there prepares to escort the
damsel and the knight. Now they are all on horseback, and the
Count as well. Erec rides beside the Count, having beside him
his sweetheart ever mindful of her hawk. Having no other riches,
she plays with her hawk. Very merry were they as they rode
along; but when the time came to part, the Count wished to send
along with Erec a party of his knights to do him honour by
escorting him. But he announced that none should bide with him,
and that he wanted no company but that of the damsel. Then, when
they had accompanied them some distance, he said: "In God's name,
farewell!" Then the Count kisses Erec and his niece, and
commends them both to merciful God. Her father and mother, too,
kiss them again and again, and could not keep back their tears:
at parting, the mother weeps, the father and the daughter too.
For such is love and human nature, and such is affection between
parents and children. They wept from sorrow, tenderness, and
love which they had for their child; yet they knew full well that
their daughter was to fill a place from which great honour would
accrue to them. They shed tears of love and pity when they
separated from their daughter, but they had no other cause to
weep. They knew well enough that eventually they would receive
great honour from her marriage. So at parting many a tear was
shed, as weeping they commend one another to God, and thus
separate without more delay.
(Vv. 1479-1690.) Erec quit his host; for he was very anxious to
reach the royal court. In his adventure he took great
satisfaction; for now he had a lady passing fair, discreet,
courteous, and debonair. He could not look at her enough: for
the more he looks at her, the more she pleases him. He cannot
help giving her a kiss. He is happy to ride by her side, and it
does him good to look at her. Long he gazes at her fair hair,
her laughing eyes, and her radiant forehead, her nose, her face,
and mouth, for all of which gladness fills his heart. He gazes
upon her down to the waist, at her chin and her snowy neck, her
bosom and sides, her arms and hands. But no less the damsel
looks at the vassal with a clear eye and loyal heart, as if they
were in competition. They would not have ceased to survey each
other even for promise of a reward! A perfect match they were in
courtesy, beauty, and gentleness. And they were so alike in
quality, manner, and customs, that no one wishing to tell the
truth could choose the better of them, nor the fairer, nor the
more discreet. Their sentiments, too, were much alike; so that
they were well suited to each other. Thus each steals the
other's heart away. Law or marriage never brought together two
such sweet creatures. And so they rode along until just on the
stroke of noon they approached the castle of Cardigan, where they
were both expected. Some of the first nobles of the court had
gone up to look from the upper windows and see if they could see
them. Queen Guinevere ran up, and even the King came with Kay
and Perceval of Wales, and with them my lord Gawain and Tor, the
son of King Ares; Lucan the cupbearer was there, too, and many
another doughty knight. Finally, they espied Erec coming along
in company with his lady. They all knew him well enough from as
far as they could see him. The Queen is greatly pleased, and
indeed the whole court is glad of his coming, because they all
love him so. As soon as he was come before the entrance hall,
the King and Queen go down to meet him, all greeting him in God's
name. They welcome Erec and his maiden, commending and praising
her great beauty. And the King himself caught her and lifted her
down from her palfrey. The King was decked in fine array and was
then in cheery mood. He did signal honour to the damsel by
taking her hand and leading her up into the great stone hall.
After them Erec and the Queen also went up hand in hand, and he
said to her: "I bring you, lady, my damsel and my sweetheart
dressed in poor garb. As she was given to me, so have I brought
her to you. She is the daughter of a poor vavasor. Through
poverty many an honourable man is brought low: her father, for
instance, is gentle and courteous, but he has little means. And
her mother is a very gentle lady, the sister of a rich Count.
She has no lack of beauty or of lineage, that I should not marry
her. It is poverty that has compelled her to wear this white
linen garment until both sleeves are torn at the side. And yet,
had it been my desire, she might have had dresses rich enough.
For another damsel, a cousin of hers, wished to give her a robe
of ermine and of spotted or grey silk. But I would not have her
dressed in any other robe until you should have seen her. Gentle
lady, consider the matter now and see what need she has of a fine
becoming gown." And the Queen at once replies: "You have done
quite right; it is fitting that she should have one of my gowns,
and I will give her straightway a rich, fair gown, both fresh and
new." The Queen then hastily took her off to her own private
room, and gave orders to bring quickly the fresh tunic and the
greenish-purple mantle, embroidered with little crosses, which
had been made for herself. The one who went at her behest came
bringing to her the mantle and the tunic, which was lined with
white ermine even to the sleeves. At the wrists and on the neckband
there was in truth more than half a mark's weight of beaten
gold, and everywhere set in the gold there were precious stones
of divers colours, indigo and green, blue and dark brown. This
tunic was very rich, but not a writ less precious, I trow, was
the mantle. As yet, there were no ribbons on it; for the mantle
like the tunic was brand new. The mantle was very rich and fine:
laid about the neck were two sable skins, and in the tassels
there was more than an ounce of gold; on one a hyacinth, and on
the other a ruby flashed more bright than burning candle. The
fur lining was of white ermine; never was finer seen or found.
The cloth was skilfully embroidered with little crosses, all
different, indigo, vermilion, dark blue, white, green, blue, and
yellow. The Queen called for some ribbons four ells long, made
of silken thread and gold. The ribbons are given to her,
handsome and well matched. Quickly she had them fastened to the
mantle by some one who knew how to do it, and who was master of
the art. When the mantle needed no more touches, the gay and
gentle lady clasped the maid with the white gown and said to her
cheerily: "Mademoiselle, you must change this frock for this
tunic which is worth more than a hundred marks of silver. So
much I wish to bestow upon you. And put on this mantle, too.
Another time I will give you more." Not able to refuse the gift,
she takes the robe and thanks her for it. Then two maids took
her aside into a room, where she took off her frock as being of
no further value; but she asked and requested that it be given
away (to some poor woman) for the love of God. Then she dons the
tunic, and girds herself, binding on tightly a golden belt, and
afterwards puts on the mantle. Now she looked by no means ill;
for the dress became her so well that it made her look more
beautiful than ever. The two maids wove a gold thread in amongst
her golden hair: but her tresses were more radiant than the
thread of gold, fine though it was. The maids, moreover, wove a
fillet of flowers of many various colours and placed it upon her
head. They strove as best they might to adorn her in such wise
that no fault should be found with her attire. Strung upon a
ribbon around her neck, a damsel hung two brooches of enamelled
gold. Now she looked so charming and fair that I do not believe
that you could find her equal in any land, search as you might,
so skilfully had Nature wrought in her. Then she stepped out of
the dressing-room into the Queen's presence. The Queen made much
of her, because she liked her and was glad that she was beautiful
and had such gentle manners. They took each other by the hand
and passed into the King's presence. And when the King saw them,
he got up to meet them. When they came into the great hall,
there were so many knights there who rose before them that I
cannot call by name the tenth part of them, or the thirteenth, or
the fifteenth. But I can tell you the names of some of the best
of the knights who belonged to the Round Table and who were the
best in the world.
(Vv. 1691-1750.) Before all the excellent knights, Gawain ought
to be named the first, and second Erec the son of Lac, and third
Lancelot of the Lake. (16) Gornemant of Gohort was fourth, and
the fifth was the Handsome Coward. The sixth was the Ugly Brave,
the seventh Meliant of Liz, the eighth Mauduit the Wise, and the
ninth Dodinel the Wild. Let Gandelu be named the tenth, for he
was a goodly man. The others I shall mention without order,
because the numbers bother me. Eslit was there with Briien, and
Yvain the son of Uriien. And Yvain of Loenel was there, as well
as Yvain the Adulterer. Beside Yvain of Cavaliot was Garravain
of Estrangot. After the Knight with the Horn was the Youth with
the Golden Ring. And Tristan who never laughed sat beside
Bliobleheris, and beside Brun of Piciez was his brother Gru the
Sullen. The Armourer sat next, who preferred war to peace. Next
sat Karadues the Shortarmed, a knight of good cheer; and Caveron
of Robendic, and the son of King Quenedic and the Youth of
Quintareus and Yder of the Dolorous Mount. Gaheriet and Kay of
Estraus, Amauguin and Gales the Bald, Grain, Gornevain, and
Carabes, and Tor the son of King Aras, Girflet the son of Do, and
Taulas, who never wearied of arms: and a young man of great
merit, Loholt the son of King Arthur, (17) and Sagremor the
Impetuous, who should not be forgotten, nor Bedoiier the Master
of the Horse, who was skilled at chess and trictrac, nor Bravain,
nor King Lot, nor Galegantin of Wales, nor Gronosis, versed in
evil, who was son of Kay the Seneschal, nor Labigodes the
Courteous, nor Count Cadorcaniois. nor Letron of Prepelesant,
whose manners were so excellent, nor Breon the son of Canodan,
nor the Count of Honolan who had such a head of fine fair hair;
he it was who received the King's horn in an evil day; (18) he
never had any care for truth.
(Vv. 1751-1844.) When the stranger maiden saw all the knights
arrayed looking steadfastly at her, she bowed her head in
embarrassment; nor was it strange that her face blushed all
crimson. But her confusion was so becoming to her that she
looked all the more lovely. When the King saw that she was
embarrassed, he did not wish to leave her side. Taking her
gently by the hand, he made her sit down on his right hand; and
on his left sat the Queen, speaking thus to the King the while.
"Sire, in my opinion he who can win such a fair lady by his arms
in another land ought by right to come to a royal court. It was
well we waited for Erec; for now you can bestow the kiss upon the
fairest of the court. I should think none would find fault with
you! for none can say, unless he lie, that this maiden is not
the most charming of all the damsels here, or indeed in all the
world." The King makes answer: "That is no lie; and upon her, if
there is no remonstrance, I shall bestow the honour of the White
Stag." Then he added to the knights: "My lords, what say you?
What is your opinion? In body, in face, and in whatever a maid
should have, this one is the most charming and beautiful to be
found, as I may say, before you come to where Heaven and earth
meet. I say it is meet that she should receive the honour of the
Stag. And you, my lords, what do you think about it? Can you
make any objection? If any one wishes to protest, let him
straightway speak his mind. I am King, and must keep my word and
must not permit any baseness, falsity, or arrogance. I must
maintain truth and righteousness. It is the business of a loyal
king to support the law, truth, faith, and justice. I would not
in any wise commit a disloyal deed or wrong to either weak or
strong. It is not meet that any one should complain of me; nor
do I wish the custom and the practice to lapse, which my family
has been wont to foster. You, too, would doubtless regret to see
me strive to introduce other customs and other laws than those my
royal sire observed. Regardless of consequences, I am bound to
keep and maintain the institution of my father Pendragon, who was
a just king and emperor. Now tell me fully what you think! Let
none be slow to speak his mind, if this damsel is not the fairest
of my household and ought not by right to receive the kiss of the
White Stag: I wish to know what you truly think." Then they all
cry with one accord: "Sire, by the Lord and his Cross! you may
well kiss her with good reason, for she is the fairest one there
is. In this damsel there is more beauty than there is of
radiance in the sun. You may kiss her freely, for we all agree
in sanctioning it." When the King hears that this is well
pleasing to them all, he will no longer delay in bestowing the
kiss, but turns toward her and embraces her. The maid was
sensible, and perfectly willing that the King should kiss her;
she would have been discourteous, indeed, to resent it. In
courteous fashion and in the presence of all his knights the King
kissed her, and said: "My dear. I give you my love in all
honesty. I will love you with true heart, without malice and
without guile." By this adventure the King carried out the
practice and the usage to which the White Stag was entitled at
his court.
Here ends the first part of my story. (19)
(Vv. 1845-1914.) When the kiss of the Stag was taken according
to the custom of the country, Erec, like a polite and kind man,
was solicitous for his poor host. It was not his intention to
fail to execute what he had promised. Hear how he kept his
covenant: for he sent him now five sumpter mules, strong and
sleek, loaded with dresses and clothes, buckrams and scarlets,
marks of gold and silver plate, furs both vair and grey, skins of
sable, purple stuffs, and silks. When the mules were loaded with
all that a gentleman can need, he sent with them an escort of ten
knights and sergeants chosen from his own men, and straightly
charged them to salute his host and show great honour both to him
and to his lady, as if it were to himself in person; and when
they should have presented to them the sumpters which they
brought them, the gold, the silver, and money, and all the other
furnishings which were in the boxes, they should escort the lady
and the vavasor with great honour into his kingdom of Farther
Wales. (20) Two towns there he had promised them, the most
choice and the best situated that there were in all his land,
with nothing to fear from attack. Montrevel was the name of one,
and the other's name was Roadan. When they should arrive in his
kingdom, they should make over to them these two towns, together
with their rents and their jurisdiction, in accordance with what
he had promised them. All was carried out as Erec had ordered.
The messengers made no delay, and in good time they presented to
his host the gold and the silver and the sumpters and the robes
and the money, of which there was great plenty. They escorted
them into Erec's kingdom, and strove to serve them well. They
came into the country on the third day, and transferred to them
the towers of the towns; for King Lac made no objection. He gave
them a warm welcome and showed them honour, loving them for the
sake of his son Erec. He made over to them the title to the
towns, and established their suzerainty by making knights and
bourgeois swear that they would reverence them as their true
liege lords. When this was done and accomplished, the messengers
returned to their lord Erec, who received them gladly. When he
asked for news of the vavasor and his lady, of his own father and
of his kingdom, the report they gave him was good and fair.
(Vv. 1915-2024.) Not long after this, the time drew near when
Erec was to celebrate his marriage. The delay was irksome to
him, and he resolved no longer to suffer and wait. So he went
and asked of the King that it might please him to allow him to be
married at the court. The King vouchsafed him the boon, and sent
through all his kingdom to search for the kings and counts who
were his liege-men, bidding them that none be so bold as not to
be present at Pentecost. None dares to hold back and not go to
court at the King's summons. Now I will tell you, and listen
well, who were these counts and kings. With a rich escort and
one hundred extra mounts Count Brandes of Gloucester came. After
him came Menagormon, who was Count of Clivelon. And he of the
Haute Montagne came with a very rich following. The Count of
Treverain came, too, with a hundred of his knights, and Count
Godegrain with as many more. Along with those whom I have just
mentioned came Maheloas, a great baron, lord of the Isle of
Voirre. In this island no thunder is heard, no lightning
strikes, nor tempests rage, nor do toads or serpents exist there,
nor is it ever too hot or too cold. (21) Graislemier of Fine
Posterne brought twenty companions, and had with him his brother
Guigomar, lord of the Isle of Avalon. Of the latter we have
heard it said that he was a friend of Morgan the Fay, and such he
was in very truth. Davit of Tintagel came, who never suffered
woe or grief. Guergesin, the Duke of Haut Bois, came with a very
rich equipment. There was no lack of counts and dukes, but of
kings there were still more. Garras of Cork, a doughty king, was
there with five hundred knights clad in mantles, hose, and tunics
of brocade and silk. Upon a Cappadocian steed came Aguisel, the
Scottish king, and brought with him his two sons, Cadret and Coi
-- two much respected knights. Along with those whom I have
named came King Ban of Gomeret, and he had in his company only
young men, beardless as yet on chin and lip. A numerous and gay
band he brought two hundred of them in his suite; and there was
none, whoever he be, but had a falcon or tercel, a merlin or a
sparrow-hawk, or some precious pigeon-hawk, golden or mewed.
Kerrin, the old King of Riel, brought no youth, but rather three
hundred companions of whom the youngest was seven score years
old. Because of their great age, their heads were all as white
as snow, and their beards reached down to their girdles. Arthur
held them in great respect. The lord of the dwarfs came next,
Bilis, the king of Antipodes. This king of whom I speak was a
dwarf himself and own brother of Brien. Bilis, on the one hand,
was the smallest of all the dwarfs, while his brother Brien was a
half-foot or full palm taller than any other knight in the
kingdom. To display his wealth and power, Bilis brought with him
two kings who were also dwarfs and who were vassals of his,
Grigoras and Glecidalan. Every one looked at them as marvels.
When they had arrived at court, they were treated with great
esteem. All three were honoured and served at the court like
kings, for they were very perfect gentlemen. In brief, when King
Arthur saw all his lords assembled, his heart was glad. Then, to
heighten the joy, he ordered a hundred squires to be bathed whom
he wished to dub knights. There was none of them but had a
parti-coloured robe of rich brocade of Alexandria, each one
choosing such as pleased his fancy. All had arms of a uniform
pattern, and horses swift and full of mettle, of which the worst
was worth a hundred livres.
(Vv. 2025-2068.) When Erec received his wife, he must needs call
her by her right name. For a wife is not espoused unless she is
called by her proper name. As yet no one knew her name, but now
for the first time it was made known: Enide was her baptismal
name. (22) The Archbishop of Canterbury, who had come to the
court, blessed them, as is his right. When the court was all
assembled, there was not a minstrel in the countryside who
possessed any pleasing accomplishment that did not come to the
court. In the great hall there was much merry-making, each one
contributing what he could to the entertainment: one jumps,
another tumbles, another does magic; there is story-telling,
singing, whistling, playing from notes; they play on the harp,
the rote, the fiddle, the violin, the flute, and pipe. The
maidens sing and dance, and outdo each other in the merry-making.
At the wedding that day everything was done which can give joy
and incline man's heart to gladness. Drums are beaten, large and
small, and there is playing of pipes, fifes, horns, trumpets, and
bagpipes. What more shall I say? There was not a wicket or a
gate kept closed; but the exits and entrances all stood ajar, so
that no one, poor or rich, was turned away. King Arthur was not
miserly, but gave orders to the bakers, the cooks, and the
butlers that they should serve every one generously with bread,
wine, and venison. No one asked anything whatever to be passed
to him without getting all he desired.
(Vv. 2069-2134.) There was great merriment in the palace. But I
will pass over the rest, and you shall hear of the joy and
pleasure in the bridal chamber. Bishops and archbishops were
there on the night when the bride and groom retired. At this
their first meeting, Iseut was not filched away, nor was Brangien
put in her place. (23) The Queen herself took charge of their
preparations for the night; for both of them were dear to her.
The hunted stag which pants for thirst does not so long for the
spring, nor does the hungry sparrow-hawk return so quickly when
he is called, as did these two come to hold each other in close
embrace. That night they had full compensation for their long
delay. After the chamber had been cleared, they allow each sense
to be gratified: the eyes, which are the entrance-way of love,
and which carry messages to the heart, take satisfaction in the
glance, for they rejoice in all they see; after the message of
the eyes comes the far surpassing sweetness of the kisses
inviting love; both of them make trial of this sweetness, and let
their hearts quaff so freely that hardly can they leave off.
Thus, kissing was their first sport. And the love which is
between them emboldened the maid and left her quite without her
fears; regardless of pain, she suffered all. Before she rose,
she no longer bore the name of maid; in the morning she was a
new-made dame. That day the minstrels were in happy mood, for
they were all well paid. They were fully compensated for the
entertainment they had given, and many a handsome gift was
bestowed upon them: robes of grey squirrel skin and ermine, of
rabbit skins and violet stuffs, scarlets and silken stuffs.
Whether it be a horse or money, each one got what he deserved
according to his skill. And thus the wedding festivities and the
court lasted almost a fortnight with great joy and magnificence.
For his own glory and satisfaction, as well as to honour Erec the
more, King Arthur made all the knights remain a full fortnight.
When the third week began, all together by common consent agreed
to hold a tournament. On the one side, my lord Gawain offered
himself as surety that it would take place between Evroic and
Tenebroc: and Meliz and Meliadoc were guarantors on the other
side. Then the court separated.
(Vv. 2135-2292.) A month after Pentecost the tournament
assembled, and the jousting began in the plain below Tenebroc.
Many an ensign of red, blue, and white, many a veil and many a
sleeve were bestowed as tokens of love. Many a lance was carried
there, flying the colours argent and green, or gold and azure
blue. There were many, too, with different devices, some with
stripes and some with dots. That day one saw laced on many a
helmet of gold or steel, some green, some yellow, and others red,
all aglowing in the sun; so many scutcheons and white hauberks;
so many swords girt on the left side; so many good shields, fresh
and new, some resplendent in silver and green, others of azure
with buckles of gold; so many good steeds marked with white, or
sorrel, tawny, white, black, and bay: all gather hastily. And
now the field is quite covered with arms. On either side the
ranks tremble, and a roar rises from the fight. The shock of the
lances is very great. Lances break and shields are riddled, the
hauberks receive bumps and are torn asunder, saddles go empty and
horsemen ramble, while the horses sweat and foam. Swords are
quickly drawn on those who tumble noisily, and some run to
receive the promise of a ransom, others to stave off this
disgrace. Erec rode a white horse, and came forth alone at the
head of the line to joust, if he may find an opponent. From the
opposite side there rides out to meet him Orguelleus de la Lande,
mounted on an Irish steed which bears him along with marvellous
speed. On the shield before his breast Erec strikes him with
such force that he knocks him from his horse: he leaves him prone
and passes on. Then Raindurant opposed him, son of the old dame
of Tergalo, covered with blue cloth of silk; he was a knight of
great prowess. Against one another now they charge and deal
fierce blows on the shields about their neck. Erec from lance's
length lays him over on the hard ground. While riding back he
met the King of the Red City, who was very valiant and bold.
They grasp their reins by the knots and their shields by the
inner straps. They both had fine arms, and strong swift horses,
and good shields, fresh and new. With such fury they strike each
other that both their lances fly in splinters. Never was there
seen such a blow. They rush together with shields, arms, and
horses. But neither girth nor rein nor breast-strap could
prevent the king from coming to earth. So he flew from his
steed, carrying with him saddle and stirrup, and even the reins
of his bridle in his hand. All those who witnessed the jousting
were filled with amazement, and said it cost him dear to joust
with such a goodly knight. Erec did not wish to stop to capture
either horse or rider, but rather to joust and distinguish
himself in order that his prowess might appear. He thrills the
ranks in front of him. Gawain animates those who were on his
side by his prowess, and by winning horses and knights to the
discomfiture of his opponents. I speak of my lord Gawain, who
did right well and valiantly. In the fight he unhorsed Guincel,
and took Gaudin of the Mountain; he captured knights and horses
alike: my lord Gawain did well. Girtlet the son of Do, and
Yvain, and Sagremor the Impetuous, so evilly entreated their
adversaries that they drove them back to the gates, capturing and
unhorsing many of them. In front of the gate of the town the
strife began again between those within and those without. There
Sagremor was thrown down, who was a very gallant knight. He was
on the point of being detained and captured, when Erec spurs to
rescue him, breaking his lance into splinters upon one of the
opponents. So hard he strikes him on the breast that he made him
quit the saddle. Then he made of his sword and advances upon
them, crushing and splitting their helmets. Some flee, and
others make way before him, for even the boldest fears him.
Finally, he distributed so many blows and thrusts that he rescued
Sagremor from them, and drove them all in confusion into the
town. Meanwhile, the vesper hour drew to a close. Erec bore
himself so well that day that he was the best of the combatants.
But on the morrow he did much better yet: for he took so many
knights and left so many saddles empty that none could believe it
except those who had seen it. Every one on both sides said that
with his lance and shield he had won the honours of the
tournament. Now was Erec's renown so high that no one spoke save
of him, nor was any one of such goodly favour. In countenance he
resembled Absalom, in language he seemed a Solomon, in boldness
he equalled Samson, (24) and in generous giving and spending he
was the equal of Alexander. On his return from the tourney Erec
went to speak with the King. He went to ask him for leave to go
and visit his own land; but first he thanked him like a frank,
wise, and courteous man for the honour which he had done him; for
very deep was his gratitude. Then he asked his permission to
leave, for he wished to visit his own country, and he wished to
take his wife with him. This request the King could not deny,
and yet he would have had him stay. He gives him leave and begs
him to return as soon as possible: for in the whole court there
was no better or more gallant knight, save only his dear nephew
Gawain; (25) with him no one could be compared. But next after
him, he prized Erec most, and held him more dear than any other
(Vv. 2293-2764.) Erec wished to delay no longer. As soon as he
had the King's leave, he bid his wife make her preparations, and
he retained as his escort sixty knights of merit with horses and
with dappled and grey furs. As soon as he was ready for his
journey, he tarried little further at court, but took leave of
the Queen and commended the knights to God. The Queen grants him
leave to depart. At the hour of prime he set out from the royal
palace. In the presence of them all he mounted his steed, and
his wife mounted the dappled horse which she had brought from her
own country; then all his escort mounted. Counting knights and
squires, there were full seven score in the train. After four
long days' journey over hills and slopes, through forests,
plains, and streams, they came on the fifth day to Camant, where
King Lac was residing in a very charming town. No one ever saw
one better situated; for the town was provided with forests and
meadow-land, with vineyards and farms, with streams and orchards,
with ladies and knights, and fine, lively youths, and polite,
well-mannered clerks who spent their incomes freely, with fair
and charming maidens, and with prosperous burghers. Before Erec
reached the town, he sent two knights ahead to announce his
arrival to the King. When he heard the news, the King had
clerks, knights, and damsels quickly mount, and ordered the bells
to be rung, and the streets to be hung with tapestries and silken
stuffs, that his son might be received with joy; then he himself
got on his horse. Of clerks there were present fourscore, gentle
and honourable men, clad in grey cloaks bordered with sable. Of
knights there were full five hundred, mounted on bay, sorrel, or
white-spotted steeds. There were so many burghers and dames that
no one could tell the number of them. The King and his son
galloped and rode on till they saw and recognised each other.
They both jump down from their horses and embrace and greet each
other for a long time, without stirring from the place where they
first met. Each party wished the other joy: the King makes much
of Erec, but all at once breaks off to turn to Enide. On all
sides he is in clover: he embraces and kisses them both, and
knows not which of the two pleases him the more. As they gaily
enter the castle, the bells all ring their peals to honour Erec's
arrival. The streets are all strewn with reeds, mint, and iris.
and are hung overhead with curtains and tapestries of fancy silk
and satin stuffs. There was great rejoicing; for all the people
came together to see their new lord, and no one ever saw greater
happiness than was shown alike by young and old. First they came
to the church, where very devoutly they were received in a
procession. Erec kneeled before the altar of the Crucifix, and
two knights led his wife to the image of Our Lady. When she had
finished her prayer, she stepped back a little and crossed
herself with her right hand, as a well-bred dame should do. Then
they came out from the church and entered the royal palace, when
the festivity began. That day Erec received many presents from
the knights and burghers: from one a palfrey of northern stock,
and from another a golden cup. One presents him with a golden
pigeon-hawk, another with a setter-dog, this one a greyhound,
this other a sparrowhawk, and another a swift Arab steed, this
one a shield, this one an ensign, this one a sword, and this a
helmet. Never was a king more gladly seen in his kingdom, nor
received with greater joy, as all strove to serve him well. Yet
greater joy they made of Enide than of him, for the great beauty
which they saw in her, and still more for her open charm. She
was seated in a chamber upon a cushion of brocade which had been
brought from Thessaly. Round about her was many a fair lady; yet
as the lustrous gem outshines the brown flint, and as the rose
excels the poppy, so was Enide fairer than any other lady or
damsel to be found in the world, wherever one might search. She
was so gentle and honourable, of wise speech and affable, of
pleasing character and kindly mien. No one could ever be so
watchful as to detect in her any folly, or sign of evil or
villainy. She had been so schooled in good manners that she had
learned all virtues which any lady can possess, as well as
generosity and knowledge. All loved her for her open heart, and
whoever could do her any service was glad and esteemed himself
the more. No one spoke any ill of her, for no one could do so.
In the realm or empire there was no lady of such good manners.
But Erec loved her with such a tender love that he cared no more
for arms, nor did he go to tournaments, nor have any desire to
joust; but he spent his time in cherishing his wife. He made of
her his mistress and his sweetheart. He devoted all his heart
and mind to fondling and kissing her, and sought no delight in
other pastime. His friends grieved over this, and often
regretted among themselves that he was so deep in love. Often it
was past noon before he left her side; for there he was happy,
say what they might. He rarely left her society, and yet he was
as open-handed as ever to his knights with arms, dress, and
money. There was not a tournament anywhere to which he did not
send them well apparelled and equipped. Whatever the cost might
be, he gave them fresh steeds for the tourney and joust. All the
knights said it was a great pity and misfortune that such a
valiant man as he was wont to be should no longer wish to bear
arms. He was blamed so much on all sides by the knights and
squires that murmurs reached Enide's ears how that her lord had
turned craven about arms and deeds of chivalry, and that his
manner of life was greatly changed. (26) She grieved sorely over
this, but she did not dare to show her grief; for her lord at
once would take affront, if she should speak to him. So the
matter remained a secret, until one morning they lay in bed where
they had had sport together. There they lay in close embrace,
like the true lovers they were. He was asleep, but she was
awake, thinking of what many a man in the country was saying of
her lord. And when she began to think it all over, she could not
keep back the tears. Such was her grief and her chagrin that by
mischance she let fall a word for which she later felt remorse,
though in her heart there was no guile. She began to survey her
lord from head to foot, his well-shaped body and his clear
countenance, until her tears fell fast upon the bosom of her
lord, and she said: "Alas, woe is me that I ever left my country!
What did I come here to seek? The earth ought by right to
swallow me up when the best knight, the most hardy, brave, fair,
and courteous that ever was a count or king, has completely
abjured all his deeds of chivalry because of me. And thus, in
truth, it is I who have brought shame upon his head, though I
would fain not have done so at any price." Then she said to him:
"Unhappy thou!" And then kept silence and spoke no more. Erec
was not sound asleep and, though dozing, heard plainly what she
said. He aroused at her words, and much surprised to see her
weeping, he asked her: "Tell me, my precious beauty, why do you
weep thus? What has caused you woe or sorrow? Surely it is my
wish to know. Tell me now, my gentle sweetheart; and raise care
to keep nothing back, why you said that woe was me? For you said
it of me and of no one else. I heard your words plainly enough."
Then was Enide in a great plight, afraid and dismayed. "Sire,"
says she, "I know nothing of what you say." "Lady, why do you
conceal it? Concealment is of no avail. You hare been crying; I
can see that, and you do not cry for nothing. And in my sleep I
heard what you said." "Ah! fair sire, you never heard it, and I
dare say it was a dream." "Now you are coming to me with lies.
I hear you calmly lying to me. But if you do not tell me the
truth now, you will come to repent of it later." "Sire, since
you torment me thus, I will tell you the whole truth, and keep
nothing back. But I am afraid that you will not like it. In
this land they all say--the dark, the fair, and the ruddy--that
it is a great pity that you should renounce your arms; your
reputation has suffered from it. Every one used to say not long
ago that in all the world there was known no better or more
gallant knight. Now they all go about making game of you--old
and young, little and great--calling you a recreant. Do you
suppose it does not give me pain to hear you thus spoken of with
scorn? It grieves me when I hear it said, and yet it grieves me
more that they put the blame for it on me. Yes, I am blamed for
it, I regret to say, and they all assert it is because I have so
ensnared and caught you that you are losing all your merit, and
do not care for aught but me. You must choose another course, so
that you may silence this reproach and regain your former fame;
for I have heard too much of this reproach, and yet I did not
dare to disclose it to you. Many a time, when I think of it, I
have to weep for very grief. Such chagrin I felt just now that I
could not keep myself from saying that you were ill-starred."
"Lady," said he, "you were in the right, and those who blame me
do so with reason. And now at once prepare yourself to take the
road. Rise up from here, and dress yourself in your richest
robe, and order your saddle to be put on your best palfrey." Now
Enide is in great distress: very sad and pensive, she gets up,
blaming and upbraiding herself for the foolish words she spoke:
she had now made her bed, and must lie in it. "Ah!" said she,
"poor fool! I was too happy, for there lacked me nothing. God!
why was I so forward as to dare to utter such folly? God! did
not my lord love me to excess? In faith, alas, he was too fond
of me. And now I must go away into exile. But I have yet a
greater grief, that I shall no longer see my lord, who loved me
with such tenderness that there was nothing he held so dear. The
best man that was ever born had become so wrapped up in me that
he cared for nothing else. I lacked for nothing then. I was
very happy. But pride it is that stirred me up: because of my
pride, I must suffer woe for telling him such insulting words,
and it is right that I should suffer woe. One does not know what
good fortune is until he has made trial of evil." Thus the lady
bemoaned her fate, while she dressed herself fitly in her richest
robe. Yet nothing gave her any pleasure, but rather cause for
deep chagrin. Then she had a maid call one of her squires, and
bids him saddle her precious palfrey of northern stock, than
which no count or king ever had a better. As soon as she had
given him the command, the fellow asked for no delay, but
straightway went and saddled the dappled palfrey. And Erec
summoned another squire and bade him bring his arms to arm his
body withal. Then he went up into a bower, and had a Limoges rug
laid out before him on the floor. Meanwhile, the squire ran to
fetch the arms and came back and laid them on the rug. Erec took
a seat opposite, on the figure of a leopard which was portrayed
on the rug. He prepares and gets ready to put on his arms:
first, he had laced on a pair of greaves of polished steel; next,
he dons a hauberk, which was so fine that not a mesh could be cut
away from it. This hauberk of his was rich, indeed, for neither
inside nor outside of it was there enough iron to make a needle,
nor could it gather any rust; for it was all made of worked
silver in tiny meshes triple-wove; and it was made with such
skill that I can assure you that no one who had put it on would
have been more uncomfortable or sore because of it, than if he
had put on a silk jacket over his undershirt. The knights and
squires all began to wonder why he was being armed; but no one
dared to ask him why. When they had put on his hauberk, a valet
laces about his head a helmet fluted with a band of gold, shining
brighter than a mirror. Then he takes the sword and girds it on,
and orders them to bring him saddled his bay steed of Gascony.
Then he calls a valet to him, and says: "Valet, go quickly, run
to the chamber beside the tower where my wife is, and tell her
that she is keeping me waiting here too long. She has spent too
much time on her attire. Tell her to come and mount at once, for
I am awaiting her." And the fellow goes and finds her all ready,
weeping and making moan: and he straightway addressed her thus:
"Lady, why do you so delay? My lord is awaiting you outside
yonder, already fully armed. He would have mounted some time
ago, had you been ready." Enide wondered greatly what her lord's
intention was; but she very wisely showed herself with as
cheerful a countenance as possible, when she appeared before him.
In the middle of the courtyard she found him, and King Lac comes
running out. Knights come running, too, striving with each other
to reach there first. There is neither young nor old but goes to
learn and ask if he will take any of them with him. So each
offers and presents himself. But he states definitely and
affirms that he will take no companion except his wife, asserting
that he will go alone. Then the King is in great distress.
"Fair son," says he, "what dost thou intend to do? Thou shouldst
tell me thy business and keep nothing back. Tell me whither thou
will go; for thou art unwilling on any account to be accompanied
by an escort of squires or knights. If thou hast undertaken to
fight some knight in single combat, yet shouldst thou not for
that reason fail to take a part of thy knights with thee to
betoken thy wealth and lordship. A king's son ought not to fare
alone. Fair son, have thy sumpters loaded now, and take thirty
or forty or more of thy knights, and see that silver and gold is
taken, and whatever a gentleman needs." Finally Erec makes reply
and tells him all in detail how he has planned his journey.
"Sire," says he, "it must be so. I shall take no extra horse,
nor have I any use for gold or silver, squire or sergeant; nor do
I ask for any company save that of my wife alone. But I pray
you, whatever may happen, should I die and she come back, to love
her and hold her dear for love of me and for my prayer, and give
her so long as she live, without contention or any strife, the
half of your land to be her own." Upon hearing his son's
request, the King said: "Fair son, I promise it. But I grieve
much to see thee thus go off without escort, and if I had my way,
thou shouldst not thus depart." "Sire, it cannot be otherwise.
I go now, and to God commend you. But keep in mind my
companions, and give them horses and arms and all that knight may
need." The King cannot keep back the tears when he is parted
from his son. The people round about weep too; the ladies and
knights shed tears and make great moan for him. There is not one
who does not mourn, and many a one in the courtyard swoons.
Weeping, they kiss and embrace him, and are almost beside
themselves with grief. I think they would not have been more sad
if they had seen him dead or wounded. Then Erec said to comfort
them: "My lords, why do you weep so sore? I am neither in prison
nor wounded. You gain nothing by this display of grief. If I go
away, I shall come again when it please God and when I can. To
God I commend you one and all; so now let me go; too long you
keep me here. I am sorry and grieved to see you weep." To God
he commends them and they him.
(Vv. 2765-2924.) So they departed, leaving sorrow behind them.
Erec starts, and leads his wife he knows not whither, as chance
dictates. "Ride fast," he says, "and take good care not to be so
rash as to speak to me of anything you may see. Take care never
to speak to me, unless I address you first. Ride on now fast and
with confidence." "Sire," says she, "it shall be done." She
rode ahead and held her peace. Neither one nor the other spoke a
word. But Enide's heart is very sad, and within herself she thus
laments, soft and low that he may not hear: "Alas," she says,
"God had raised and exalted me to such great joy; but now He has
suddenly cast me down. Fortune who had beckoned me has quickly
now withdrawn her hand. I should not mind that so much, alas, if
only I dared to address my lord. But I am mortified and
distressed because my lord has turned against me, I see it
clearly, since he will not speak to me. And I am not so bold as
to dare to look at him." While she thus laments, a knight who
lived by robbery issued forth from the woods. He had two
companions with him, and all three were armed. They covet the
palfrey which Enide rides. "My lords, do you know the news I
bring?" says he to his two companions. "If we do not now make a
haul, we are good-for-nothing cowards and are playing in bad
luck. Here comes a lady wondrous fair, whether married or not I
do not know, but she is very richly dressed. The palfrey and
saddle, with the breast-strap and reins, are worth a thousand
livres of Chartres. I will take the palfrey for mine, and the
rest of the booty you may have. I don't want any more for my
share. The knight shall not lead away the lady, so help me God.
For I intend to give him such a thrust as he will dearly pay. I
it was who saw him first, and so it is my right to go the first
and offer battle." They give him leave and he rides off,
crouching well beneath his shield, while the other two remain
aloof. In those days it was the custom and practice that in an
attack two knights should not join against one; thus if they too
had assailed him, it would seem that they had acted
treacherously. Enide saw the robbers, and was seized with great
fear. "God," says she, "what can I say? Now my lord will be
either killed or made a prisoner; for there are three of them and
he is alone. The contest is not fair between one knight and
three. That fellow will strike him now at a disadvantage; for my
lord is off his guard. God, shall I be then such a craven as not
to dare to raise my voice? Such a coward I will not be: I will
not fail to speak to him." On the spot she turns about and calls
to him: "Fair sire, of what are you thinking? There come riding
after you three knights who press you hard. I greatly fear they
will do you harm." "What?" says Erec, "what's that you say? You
have surely been very bold to disdain my command and prohibition.
This time you shall be pardoned; but if it should happen another
time, you would not be forgiven." Then turning his shield and
lance, he rushes at the knight. The latter sees him coming and
challenges him. When Erec hears him, he defies him. Both give
spur and clash together, holding their lances at full extent.
But he missed Erec, while Erec used him hard; for he knew well
the right attack. He strikes him on the shield so fiercely that
he cracks it from top to bottom. Nor is his hauberk any
protection: Erec pierces and crushes it in the middle of his
breast, and thrusts a foot and a half of his lance into his body.
When he drew back, he pulled out the shaft. And the other fell
to earth. He must needs die, for the blade had drunk of his
life's blood. Then one of the other two rushes forward, leaving
his companion behind, and spurs toward Erec, threatening him.
Erec firmly grasps his shield, and attacks him with a stout
heart. The other holds his shield before his breast. Then they
strike upon the emblazoned shields. The knight's lance flies
into two bits, while Erec drives a quarter of lance's length
through the other's breast. He will give him no more trouble.
Erec unhorses him and leaves him in a faint, while he spurs at an
angle toward the third robber. When the latter saw him coming on
he began to make his escape. He was afraid, and did not dare to
face him; so he hastened to take refuge in the woods. But his
flight is of small avail, for Erec follows him close and cries
aloud: "Vassal, vassal, turn about now, and prepare to defend
yourself, so that I may not slay you in act of flight. It is
useless to try to escape." But the fellow has no desire to turn
about, and continues to flee with might and main. Following and
overtaking him, Erec hits him squarely on his painted shield, and
throws him over on the other side. To these three robbers he
gives no further heed: one he has killed, another wounded, and of
the third he got rid by throwing him to earth from his steed. He
took the horses of all three and tied them together by the
bridles. In colour they were not alike: the first was white as
milk, the second black and not at all bad looking, while the
third was dappled all over. He came back to the road where Enide
was awaiting him. He bade her lead and drive the three horses in
front of her, warning her harshly never again to be so bold as to
speak a single word unless he give her leave. She makes answer:
"I will never do so, fair sire, if it be your will." Then they
ride on, and she holds her peace.
(Vv. 2925-3085.) They had not yet gone a league when before them
in a valley there came five other knights, with lances in rest,
shields held close in to the neck, and their shining helmets
laced up tight; they, too, were on plunder bent. All at once
they saw the lady approach in charge of the three horses, and
Erec who followed after. As soon as they saw them, they divided
their equipment among themselves, just as if they had already
taken possession of it. Covetousness is a bad thing. But it did
not turn out as they expected; for vigorous defence was made.
Much that a fool plans is not executed, and many a man misses
what he thinks to obtain. So it befell them in this attack. One
said that he would take the maid or lose his life in the attempt;
and another said that the dappled steed shall be his, and that he
will be satisfied with that. The third said that he would take
the black horse. "And the white one for me," said the fourth.
The fifth was not at all backward, and vowed that he would have
the horse and arms of the knight himself. He wished to win them
by himself, and would fain attack him first, if they would give
him leave: and they willingly gave consent. Then he leaves them
and rides ahead on a good and nimble steed. Erec saw him, but
made pretence that he did not yet notice him. When Enide saw
them, her heart jumped with fear and great dismay. "Alas!" said
she, "I know not what to say or do; for my lord severely
threatens me, and says that he will punish me, if I speak a word
to him. But if my lord were dead now, there would be no comfort
for me. I should be killed and roughly treated. God! my lord
does not see them! Why, then, do I hesitate, crazed as I am? I
am indeed too chary of my words, when I have not already spoken
to him. I know well enough that those who are coming yonder are
intent upon some wicked deed. And God! how shall I speak to
him? He will kill me. Well, let him kill me! Yet I will not
fail to speak to him." Then she softly calls him: "Sire!"
"What?" says he, "what do you want?" "Your pardon, sire. I want
to tell you that five knights have emerged from yonder thicket,
of whom I am in mortal fear. Having noticed them, I am of the
opinion that they intend to fight with you. Four of them have
stayed behind, and the other comes toward you as fast as his
steed can carry him. I am afraid every moment lest he will
strike you. 'Tis true, the four have stayed behind; but still
they are not far away, and will quickly aid him, if need arise."
Erec replies: "You had an evil thought, when you transgressed my
command--a thing which I had forbidden you. And yet I knew all
the time that you did not hold me in esteem. Your service has
been ill employed; for it has not awakened my gratitude, but
rather kindled the more my ire. I have told you that once, and I
say it again. This once again I will pardon you; but another
time restrain yourself, and do not again turn around to watch me:
for in doing so you would be very foolish. I do not relish your
words." Then he spurs across the field toward his adversary, and
they come together. Each seeks out and assails the other. Erec
strikes him with such force that his shield flies from his neck,
and thus he breaks his collar-bone. His stirrups break, and he
falls without the strength to rise again, for he was badly
bruised and wounded. One of the others then appeared, and they
attack each other fiercely. Without difficulty Erec thrusts the
sharp and well forged steel into his neck beneath the chin,
severing thus the bones and nerves. At the back of his neck the
blade protrudes, and the hot red blood flows down on both sides
from the wound. He yields his spirit, and his heart is still.
The third sallies forth from his hiding-place on the other side
of a ford. Straight through the water, on he comes. Erec spurs
forward and meets him before he came out of the water, striking
him so hard that he beats down flat both rider and horse. The
steed lay upon the body long enough to drown him in the stream,
and then struggled until with difficulty he got upon his feet.
Thus he conquered three of them, when the other two thought it
wise to quit the conflict and not to strive with him. In flight
they follow the stream, and Erec after them in hot pursuit, until
he strikes one upon the spine so hard that he throws him forward
upon the saddle-bow. He put all his strength into the blow, and
breaks his lance upon his body, so that the fellow fell head
foremost. Erec makes him pay dearly for the lance which he has
broken on him, and drew his sword from the scabbard. The fellow
unwisely straightened up; for Erec gave him three such strokes
that he slaked his sword's thirst in his blood. He severs the
shoulder from his body, so that it fell down on the ground.
Then, with sword drawn, he attacked the other, as he sought to
escape without company or escort. When he sees Erec pursuing
him, he is so afraid that he knows not what to do: he does not
dare to face him, and cannot turn aside; he has to leave his
horse, for he has no more trust in him. He throws away his
shield and lance, and slips from his horse to earth. When he saw
him on his feet, Erec no longer cared to pursue him, but he
stooped over for the lance, not wishing to leave that, because of
his own which had been broken. He carries off his lance and goes
away, not leaving the horses behind: he catches all five of them
and leads them off. Enide had hard work to lead them all; for he
hands over all five of them to her with the other three, and
commands her to go along smartly, and to keep from addressing him
in order that no evil or harm may come to her. So not a word
does she reply, but rather keeps silence; and thus they go,
leading with them all the eight horses.
(Vv. 3086-3208.) They rode till nightfall without coming to any
town or shelter. When night came on, they took refuge beneath a
tree in an open field. Erec bids his lady sleep, and he will
watch. She replies that she will not, for it is not right, and
she does not wish to do so. It is for him to sleep who is more
weary. Well pleased at this, Erec accedes. Beneath his head he
placed his shield, and the lady took her cloak, and stretched it
over him from head to foot. Thus, he slept and she kept watch,
never dozing the whole night, but holding tight in her hand by
the bridle the horses until the morning broke; and much she
blamed and reproached herself for the words which she had
uttered, and said that she acted badly, and was not half so illtreated
as she deserved to be. "Alas," said she, "in what an evil
hour have I witnessed my pride and presumption! I might have
known without doubt that there was no knight better than, or so
good as, my lord. I knew it well enough before, but now I know
it better. For I have seen with my own eyes how he has not
quailed before three or even five armed men. A plague for ever
upon my tongue for having uttered such pride and insult as now
compel me to suffer shame!" All night long she thus lamented
until the morning dawned. Erec rises early, and again they take
the road, she in front and he behind. At noon a squire met them
in a little valley, accompanied by two fellows who were carrying
cakes and wine and some rich autumn cheeses to those who were
mowing the hay in the meadows belonging to Count Galoain. The
squire was a clever fellow, and when he saw Erec and Enide, who
were coming from the direction of the woods, he perceived that
they must have spent the night in the forest and had had nothing
to eat or drink; for within a radius of a day's journey there was
no town, city or tower, no strong place or abbey, hospice or
place of refuge. So he formed an honest purpose and turned his
steps toward them, saluting them politely and saving: "Sire, I
presume that you have had a hard experience last night. I am
sure you have had no sleep and have spent the night in these
woods. I offer you some of this white cake, if it please you to
partake of it. I say it not in hope of reward: for I ask and
demand nothing of you. The cakes are made of good wheat; I have
good wine and rich cheeses, too, a white cloth and fine jugs. If
you feel like taking lunch, you need not seek any farther.
Beneath these white beeches, here on the greensward, you might
lay off your arms and rest yourself a while. My advice is that
you dismount." Erec got down from his horse and said: "Fair
gentle friend, I thank you kindly: I will eat something, without
going farther." The young man knew well what to do: he helped
the lady from her horse, and the boys who had come with the
squire held the steeds. Then they go and sit down in the shade.
The squire relieves Erec of his helmet, unlaces the mouth-piece
from before his face; then he spreads out the cloth before them
on the thick tuff. He passes them the cake and wine, and
prepares and cuts a cheese. Hungry as they were, they helped
themselves, and gladly drank of the wine. The squire serves them
and omits no attention. When they had eaten and drunk their
fill, Erec was courteous and generous. "Friend," says he, "as a
reward, I wish to present you with one of my horses. Take the
one you like the best. And I pray it may be no hardship for you
to return to the town and make ready there a goodly lodging."
And he replies that he will gladly do whatever is his will. Then
he goes up to the horses and, untying them, chooses the dapple,
and speaks his thanks; for this one seems to be the best. Up he
springs by the left stirrup, and leaving them both there, he rode
off to the town at top speed, where he engaged suitable quarters.
Now behold! he is back again: "Now mount, sire, quickly," says
he, "for you have a good fine lodging ready." Erec mounted, and
then his lady, and, as the town was hard by, they soon had
reached their lodging-place. There they were received with joy.
The host with kindness welcomed them, and with joy and gladness
made generous provision for their needs.
(Vv. 3209-3458.) When the squire had done for them all the
honour that he could do, he came and mounted his horse again,
leading it off in front of the Count's bower to the stable. The
Count and three of his vassals were leaning out of the bower,
when the Count, seeing his squire mounted on the dappled steed,
asked him whose it was. And he replied that it was his. The
Count, greatly astonished, says: "How is that? Where didst thou
get him?" "A knight whom I esteem highly gave him to me, sire,"
says he. "I have conducted him within this town, and he is lodged
at a burgher's house. He is a very courteous knight and the
handsomest man I ever saw. Even if I had given you my word and
oath, I could not half tell you how handsome he is." The Count
replies: "I suppose and presume that he is not more handsome than
I am." "Upon my word, sire," the sergeant says, "you are very
handsome and a gentleman. There is not a knight in this country,
a native of this land, whom you do not excel in favour. But I
dare maintain concerning this one that he is fairer than you, if
he were not beaten black and blue beneath his hauberk, and
bruised. In the forest he has been fighting single-handed with
eight knights, and leads away their eight horses. And there
comes with him a lady so fair that never lady was half so fair as
she." (28) When the Count hears this news, the desire takes him
to go and see if this is true or false. "I never heard such a
thing," says he; "take me now to his lodging-place, for certainly
I wish to know if thou dost lie or speak the truth." He replies:
"Right gladly, sire. This is the way and the path to follow, for
it is not far from here." "I am anxious to see them," says the
Count. Then he comes down, and the squire gets off his horse,
and makes the Count mount in his place. Then he ran ahead to
tell Erec that the Count was coming to visit him. Erec's lodging
was rich indeed--the kind to which he was accustomed. There
were many tapers and candles lighted all about. The Count came
attended by only three companions. Erec, who was of gracious
manners, rose to meet him, and exclaimed: "Welcome, sire!" And
the Count returned his salutation. They both sat down side by
side upon a soft white couch, where they chat with each other.
The Count makes him an offer and urges him to consent to accept
from him a guarantee for the payment of his expenses in the town.
But Erec does not deign to accept, saying he is well supplied
with money, and has no need to accept aught from him. They speak
long of many things, but the Count constantly glances about in
the other direction, where he caught sight of the lady. Because
of her manifest beauty, he fixed all his thought on her. He
looked at her as much as he could; he coveted her, and she
pleased him so that her beauty filled him with love. Very
craftily he asked Erec for permission to speak with her. "Sire,"
he says "I ask a favour of you, and may it not displease you. As
an act of courtesy and as a pleasure, I would fain sit by yonder
lady's side. With good intent I came to see you both, and you
should see no harm in that. I wish to present to the lady my
service in all respects. Know well that for love of you I would
do whatever may please her." Erec was not in the least jealous
and suspected no evil or treachery. "Sire," says he, "I have no
objection. You may sit down and talk with her. Don't think that
I have any objection. I give you permission willingly." The
lady was seated about two spear-lengths away from him. And the
Count took his seat close beside her on a low stool. Prudent and
courteous, the lady turned toward him. "Alas," quoth he, "how
grieved I am to see you in such humble state! I am sorry and
feel great distress. But if you would believe my word, you could
have honour and great advantage, and much wealth would accrue to
you. Such beauty as yours is entitled to great honour and
distinction. I would make you my mistress, if it should please
you and be your will; you would be my mistress dear and lady over
all my land. When I deign to woo you thus, you ought not to
disdain my suit. I know and perceive that your lord does not
love and esteem you. If you will remain with me, you would be
mated with a worthy lord." "Sire," says Enide, "your proposal is
vain. It cannot be. Ah! better that I were yet unborn, or
burnt upon a fire of thorns and my ashes scattered abroad than
that I should ever in any wise be false to my lord, or conceive
any felony or treachery toward him. You have made a great
mistake in making such a proposal to me. I shall not agree to it
in any wise." The Count's ire began to rise. "You disdain to
love me, lady?" says he; "upon my word, you are too proud.
Neither for flattery nor for prayer you will do my will? It is
surely true that a woman's pride mounts the more one prays and
flatters her; but whoever insults and dishonours her will often
find her more tractable. I give you my word that if you do not
do my will there soon will be some sword-play here. Rightly or
wrongly, I will have your lord slain right here before your
eyes." "Ah, sire," says Enide, "there is a better way than that
you say. You would commit a wicked and treacherous deed if you
killed him thus. Calm yourself again, I pray; for I will do your
pleasure. You may regard me as all your own, for I am yours and
wish to be. I did not speak as I did from pride, but to learn
and prove if I could find in you the true love of a sincere
heart. But I would not at any price have you commit an act of
treason. My lord is not on his guard; and if you should kill him
thus, you would do a very ugly deed, and I should have the blame
for it. Every one in the land would say that it had been done
with my consent. Go and rest until the morrow, when my lord
shall be about to rise. Then you can better do him harm without
blame and without reproach." With her heart's thoughts her words
do not agree. "Sire," says she, "believe me now! Have no
anxiety; but send here to-morrow your knights and squires and
have me carried away by force. My lord will rush to my defence,
for he is proud and bold enough. Either in earnest or in jest,
have him seized and treated ill, or strike his head off, if you
will. I have led this life now long enough; to tell the truth.
I like not the company of this my lord. Rather would I feel your
body lying beside me in a bed. And since we have reached this
point, of my love you may rest assured." The Count replies: "It
is well, my lady! God bless the hour that you were born; in
great estate you shall be held." "Sire," says she, "indeed, I
believe it. And yet I would fain have your word that you will
always hold me dear; I could not believe you otherwise." Glad
and merry, the Count replies: "See here, my faith I will pledge
to you loyally as a Count, Madame, that I shall do all your
behests. Have no further fear of that. All you want you shall
always have." Then she took his plighted word; but little she
valued or cared for it, except therewith to save her lord. Well
she knows how to deceive a fool, when she puts her mind upon it.
Better it were to lie to him than that her lord should be cut
off. The Count now rose from her side, and commends her to God a
hundred times. But of little use to him will be the faith which
she has pledged to him. Erec knew nothing at all of this that
they were plotting to work his death; but God will be able to
lend him aid, and I think He will do so. Now Erec is in great
peril, and does not know that he must be on his guard. The
Count's intentions are very base in planning to steal away his
wife and kill him when he is without defence. In treacherous
guise he takes his leave: "To God I commend you," says he, and
Erec replies: "And so do I you, sire." Thus they separated.
Already a good part of the night was passed. Out of the way, in
one of the rooms, two beds were made upon the floor. In one of
them Erec lays him down, in the other Enide went to rest. Full
of grief and anxiety, she never closed her eyes that night, but
remained on watch for her lord's sake; for from what she had seen
of the Count, she knew him to be full of wickedness. She knows
full well that if he once gets possession of her lord, he will
not fail to do him harm. He may be sure of being killed: so for
his sake she is in distress. All night she must needs keep her
vigil; but before the dawn, if she can bring it about, and if her
lord will take her word, they will be ready to depart.
(Vv. 3459-3662.) Erec slept all night long securely until
daylight. Then Enide realised and suspected that she might
hesitate too long. Her heart was tender toward her lord, like a
good and loyal lady. Her heart was neither deceitful nor false.
So she rises and makes ready, and drew near to her lord to wake
him up. "Ah, sire," says she, "I crave your pardon. Rise
quickly now, for you are betrayed beyond all doubt, though
guiltless and free from any crime. The Count is a proven
traitor, and if he can but catch you here, you will never get
away without his having cut you in pieces. He hates you because
he desires me. But if it please God, who knows all things, you
shall be neither slain nor caught. Last evening he would have
killed you had I not assured him that I would be his mistress and
his wife. You will see him return here soon: he wants to seize
me and keep me here and kill you if he can find you." Now Erec
learns how loyal his wife is to him. "Lady," says he, "have our
horses quickly saddled; then run and call our host, and tell him
quickly to come here. Treason has been long abroad." Now the
horses are saddled, and the lady summoned the host. Erec has
armed and dressed himself, and into his presence came the host.
"Sire," said he, "what haste is this, that you are risen at such
an hour, before the day and the sun appear?" Erec replies that
he has a long road and a full day before him, and therefore he
has made ready to set out, having it much upon his mind; and he
added: "Sire, you have nor yet handed me any statement of my
expenses. You have received me with honour and kindness, and
therein great merit redounds to you. Cancel my indebtedness with
these seven horses that I brought here with me. Do not disdain
them, but keep them for your own. I cannot increase my gift to
you by so much as the value of a halter." The burgher was
delighted with this gift and bowed low, expressing his thanks and
gratitude. Then Erec mounts and takes his leave, and they set
out upon their way. As they ride, he frequently warns Enide that
if she sees anything she should not be so bold as to speak to him
about it. Meanwhile, there entered the house a hundred knights
well armed, and very much dismayed they were to find Erec no
longer there. Then the Count learned that the lady had deceived
him. He discovered the footsteps of the horses, and they all
followed the trail, the Count threatening Erec and vowing that,
if he can come up with him, nothing can keep him from having his
head on the spot. "A curse on him who now hangs back, and does
not spur on fast!" quoth he; "he who presents me with the head of
the knight whom I hate so bitterly, will have served me to my
taste." Then they plunge on at topmost speed, filled with
hostility toward him who had never laid eyes on them and had
never harmed them by deed or word. They ride ahead until they
made him out; at the edge of a forest they catch sight of him
before he was hid by the forest trees. Not one of them halted
then, but all rushed on in rivalry. Enide hears the clang and
noise of their arms and horses, and sees that the valley is full
of them. As soon as she saw them, she could not restrain her
tongue. "Ah, sire," she cries. "alas, how this Count has
attacked you, when he leads against you such a host! Sire, ride
faster now, until we be within this wood. I think we can easily
distance them, for they are still a long way behind. If you go
on at this pace, you can never escape from death, for you are no
match for them." Erec replies: "Little esteem you have for me,
and lightly you hold my words. It seems I cannot correct you by
fair request. But as the Lord have mercy upon me until I escape
from here, I swear that you shall pay dearly for this speech of
yours; that is, unless my mind should change." Then he
straightway turns about, and sees the seneschal drawing near upon
a horse both strong and fleet. Before them all he takes his
stand at the distance of four cross-bow shots. He had not
disposed of his arms, but was thoroughly well equipped. Erec
reckons up his opponents' strength, and sees there are fully a
hundred of them. Then he who thus is pressing him thinks he had
better call a hair. Then they ride to meet each other, and
strike upon each other's shield great blows with their sharp and
trenchant swords. Erec caused his stout steel sword to pierce
his body through and through, so that his shield and hauberk
protected him no more than a shred of dark-blue silk. And next
the Count comes spurring on, who, as the story tells, was a
strong and doughty knight. But the Count in this was ill advised
when he came with only shield and lance. He placed such trust in
his own prowess that he thought that he needed no other arms. He
showed his exceeding boldness by rushing on ahead of all his men
more than the space of nine acres. When Erec saw him stand
alone, he turned toward him; the Count is not afraid of him, and
they come together with clash of arms. First the Count strikes
him with such violence upon the breast that he would have lost
his stirrups if he had not been well set. He makes the wood of
his shield to split so that the iron of his lance protrudes on
the other side. But Erec's hauberk was very solid and protected
him from death without the tear of a single mesh. The Count was
strong and breaks his lance; then Erec strikes him with such
force on his yellow painted shield that he ran more than a yard
of his lance through his abdomen, knocking him senseless from his
steed. Then he turned and rode away without further tarrying on
the spot. Straight into the forest he spurs at full speed. Now
Erec is in the woods, and the others paused a while over those
who lay in the middle of the field. Loudly they swear and vow
that they will rather follow after him for two or three days than
fail to capture and slaughter him. The Count, though grievously
wounded in the abdomen, hears what they say. He draws himself up
a little and opens his eyes a tiny bit. Now he realises what an
evil deed he had begun to execute. He makes the knights step
back, and says: "My lords, I bid you all, both strong and weak,
high and low, that none of you be so bold as to dare to advance a
single step. All of you return now quickly! I have done a
villainous deed, and I repent me of my foul design. The lady who
outwitted me is very honourable, prudent, and courteous. Her
beauty fired me with love for her; because I desired her, I
wished to kill her lord and keep her back with me by force. I
well deserved this woe, and now it has come upon me. How
abominably disloyal and treacherous I was in my madness! Never
was there a better knight born of mother than he. Never shall he
receive harm through me if I can in any way prevent it. I
command you all to retrace your steps." Back they go
disconsolate, carrying the lifeless seneschal on the shield
reversed. The Count, whose wound was not mortal, lived on for
some time after. Thus was Erec delivered.
(Vv. 3663-3930.) Erec goes off at full speed down a road between
two hedgerows--he and his wife with him. Both putting spurs to
their horses, they rode until they came to a meadow which had
been mown. After emerging from the hedged enclosure they came
upon a drawbridge before a high tower, which was all closed about
with a wall and a broad and deep moat. They quickly pass over
the bridge, but had not gone far before the lord of the place
espied them from up in his tower. About this man I can tell you
the truth: that he was very small oú stature, but very courageous
of heart. When he sees Erec cross the bridge, he comes down
quickly from his tower, and on a great sorrel steed of his he
causes a saddle to be placed, which showed portrayed a golden
lion. Then he orders to be brought his shield, his stiff,
straight lance, a sharp polished sword, his bright shining
helmet, his gleaming hauberk, and triple-woven greaves; for he
has seen an armed knight pass before his list against whom he
wishes to strive in arms, or else this stranger will strive
against him until he shall confess defeat. His command was
quickly done: behold the horse now led forth; a squire brought
him around already bridled and with saddle on. Another fellow
brings the arms. The knight passed out through the gate, as
quickly as possible, all alone, without companion. Erec is
riding along a hill-side, when behold the knight comes tearing
down over the top of the hill, mounted upon a powerful steed
which tore along at such a pace that he crushed the stones
beneath his hoofs finer than a millstone grinds the corn; and
bright gleaming sparks flew off in all directions, so that it
seemed as if his four feet were all ablaze with fire. Enide
heard the noise and commotion, and almost fell from her palfrey,
helpless and in a faint. There was no vein in her body in which
the blood did not turn, and her face became all pale and white as
if she were a corpse. Great is her despair and dismay, for she
does not dare to address her lord, who often threatens and chides
at her and charges her to hold her peace. She is distracted
between two courses to pursue, whether to speak or to hold her
peace. She takes counsel with herself, and often she prepares to
speak, so that her tongue already moves, but the voice cannot
issue forth; for her teeth are clenched with fear, and thus shut
up her speech within. Thus she admonishes and reproaches
herself, but she closes her mouth and grits her teeth so that her
speech cannot issue forth. At strife with herself, she said: "I
am sure and certain that I shall incur a grievous loss, if here I
lose my lord. Shall I tell him all, then, openly? Not I. Why
not? I would not dare, for thus I should enrage my lord. And if
my lord's ire is once aroused, he will leave me in this wild
place alone, wretched and forlorn. Then I shall be worse off
than now. Worse off? What care I? May grief and sorrow always
be mine as long as I live, if my lord does not promptly escape
from here without being delivered to a violent death. But if I
do not quickly inform him, this knight who is spurring hither
will have killed him before he is aware; for he seems of very
evil intent. I think I have waited too long from fear of his
vigorous prohibition. But I will no longer hesitate because of
his restraint. I see plainly that my lord is so deep in thought
that he forgets himself; so it is fight that I should address
him." She spoke to him. He threatens her, but has no desire to
do her harm, for he realises and knows full well that she loves
him above all else, and he loves her, too, to the utmost. He
rides toward the knight, who challenges him to battle, and they
meet at the foot of the hill, where they attack and defy each
other. Both smite each other with their iron-tipped lances with
all their strength. The shields that hang about their necks are
not worth two coats of bark: the leather tears, and they split
the wood, and they shatter the meshes of the hauberks. Both are
pierced to the vitals by the lances, and the horses fall to
earth. Now, both the warriors were doughty. Grievously, but not
mortally, wounded, they quickly got upon their feet and grasped
afresh their lances, which were not broken nor the worse for
wear. But they cast them away on the ground, and drawing their
swords from the scabbard, they attack each other with great fury.
Each wounds and injures the other, for there is no mercy on
either side. They deal such blows upon the helmets that gleaming
sparks fly out when their swords recoil. They split and splinter
the shields; they batter and crush the hauberks. In four places
the swords are brought down to the bare flesh, so that they are
greatly weakened and exhausted. And if both their swords had
lasted long without breaking, they would never have retreated,
nor would the battle have come to an end before one of them
perforce had died. Enide, who was watching them, was almost
beside herself with grief. Whoever could have seen her then, as
she showed her great woe by wringing her hands, tearing her hair
and shedding tears, could have seen a loyal lady. And any man
would have been a vulgar wretch who saw and did not pity her.
And the knights still fight, knocking the jewels from the helmets
and dealing at each other fearful blows. From the third to the
ninth hour the battle continued so fierce that no one could in
any wise make out which was to have the better of it. Erec
exerts himself and strives; he brought his sword down upon his
enemy's helmet, cleaving it to the inner lining of mail and
making him stagger; but he stood firmly and did not fall. Then
he attacked Erec in turn, and dealt him such a blow upon the
covering of his shield that his strong and precious sword broke
when he tried to pull it out. When he saw that his sword was
broken, in a spite he threw as far away as he could the part that
remained in his hand. Now he was afraid and must needs draw
back; for any knight that lacks his sword cannot do much
execution in battle or assault. Erec pursues him until he begs
him, for God's sake, not to kill him. "Mercy, noble knight," he
cries, "be not so cruel and harsh toward me. Now that I am left
without my sword, you have the strength and the power to take my
life or make me your prisoner, for I have no means of defence."
Erec replies: "When thou thus dost petition me I fain would hear
thee admit outright whether thou art defeated and overcome. Thou
shalt not again be touched by me if thou dost surrender at my
discretion." The knight was slow to make reply. So, when Erec
saw him hesitate, in order to further dismay him, he again
attacked him, rushing at him with drawn sword; whereupon,
thoroughly terrified, he cried: "Mercy, sire! Regard me as your
captive, since it cannot be otherwise." Erec answers: "More than
that is necessary. You shall not get off so easily as that.
Tell me your station and your name, and I in turn will tell
you mine." "Sire," says he, "you are right. I am king of this
country. My liegemen are Irishmen, and there is none who does
not have to pay me rent. (29) My name is Guivret the Little. I
am very rich and powerful; for there is no landholder whose lands
touch mine in any direction who ever transgresses my command and
who does not do my pleasure. I have no neighbour who does not
fear me, however proud and bold he may be. But I greatly desire
to be your confidant and friend from this time on." Erec
replies: "I, too, can boast that I am a noble man. My name is
Erec, son of King Lac. My father is king of Farther Wales, and
has many a rich city, fine hall, and strong town; no king or
emperor has more than he, save only King Arthur. Him, of course,
I except; for with him none can compare." Guivret is greatly
astonished at this, and says: "Sire, a great marvel is this I
hear. I was never so glad of anything as of your acquaintance.
You may put full trust in me! And should it please you to abide
in my country within my estates, I shall have you treated with
great honour. So long as you care to remain here, you shall be
recognised as my lord. We both have need of a physician, and I
have a castle of mine near here, not eight leagues away, nor even
seven. I wish to take you thither with me, and there we shall
have our wounds tended." Erec replies: "I thank you for what I
have heard you say. However, I will not go, thank you. But only
so much I request of you, that if I should be in need, and you
should hear that I had need of aid, you would not then forget
me." "Sire" says he, "I promise you that never, so long as I am
alive, shall you have need of my help but that I shall go at once
to aid you with all the assistance I can command." "I have
nothing more to ask of you," says Erec; "you have promised me
much. You are now my lord and friend, if your deed is as good as
your word." Then each kisses and embraces the other. Never was
there such an affectionate parting after such a fierce battle;
for from very affection and generosity each one cut off long,
wide strips from the bottom of his shirt and bound up the other's
wounds. When they had thus bandaged each other, they commended
each other to God.
(Vv. 3931-4280.) So thus they parted. Guivret takes his way
back alone, while Erec resumed his road, in dire need of plaster
wherewith to heal his wounds. He did not cease to travel until
he came to a plain beside a lofty forest all full of stags,
hinds, deer, does, and other beasts, and all sorts of game. Now
King Arthur and the Queen and the best of his barons had come
there that very day. The King wished to spend three or four days
in the forest for pleasure and sport, and had commanded tents,
pavilions, and canopies to be brought. My lord Gawain had
stepped into the King's tent, all tired out by a long ride. In
front of the tent a white beech stood, and there he had left a
shield of his, together with his ashen lance. He left his steed,
all saddled and bridled, fastened to a branch by the rein. There
the horse stood until Kay the seneschal came by. (30) He came up
quickly and, as if to beguile the time, took the steed and
mounted, without the interference of any one. He took the lance
and the shield, too, which were close by under the tree.
Galloping along on the steed, Kay rode along a valley until it
came about by chance that Erec met him. Now Erec recognised the
seneschal, and he knew the arms and the horse, but Kay did not
recognise him, for he could not be distinguished by his arms. So
many blows of sword and lance had he received upon his shield
that all the painted design had disappeared from it. And the
lady, who did not wish to be seen or recognised by him, shrewdly
held her veil before her face, as if she were doing it because of
the sun's glare and the dust. Kay approached rapidly and
straightway seized Erec's rein, without so much as saluting him.
Before he let him move, he presumptuously asked him: "Knight,"
says he, "I wish to know who you are and whence you come." "You
must be mad to stop me thus," says Erec; "you shall not know that
just now." And the other replies: "Be not angry; I only ask it
for your good. I can see and make out clearly that you are
wounded and hurt. If you will come along with me you shall have
a good lodging this night; I shall see that you are well cared
for, honoured and made comfortable: for you are in need of rest.
King Arthur and the Queen are close by here in a wood, lodged in
pavilions and tents. In all good faith, I advise you to come
with me to see the Queen and King, who will take much pleasure in
you and will show you great honour." Erec replies: "You say
well; yet will I not go thither for anything. You know not what
my business is: I must yet farther pursue my way. Now let me go;
too long I stay. There is still some daylight left." Kay makes
answer: "You speak madness when you decline to come. I trow you
will repent of it. And however much it may be against your will,
you shall both go, as the priest goes to the council, willynilly.
To-night you will be badly served, if, unmindful of my
advice, you go there as strangers. Come now quickly, for I will
take you." At this word Erec's ire was roused. "Vassal," says
he, "you are mad to drag me thus after you by force. You have
taken me quite off my guard. I tell you you have committed an
offence. For I thought to be quite safe, and was not on my guard
against you." Then he lays his hand upon his sword and cries:
"Hands off my bridle, vassal! Step aside. I consider you proud
and impudent. I shall strike you, be sure of that, if you drag
me longer after you. Leave me alone now." Then he lets him go,
and draws off across the field more than an acre's width; then
turns about and, as a man with evil intent, issues his challenge.
Each rushed at the other. But, because Kay was without armour,
Erec acted courteously and turned the point of his lance about
and presented the butt-end instead. Even so, he gave him such a
blow high up on the broad expanse of his shield that he caused it
to wound him on the temple, pinning his arm to his breast: all
prone he throws him to the earth. Then he went to catch the
horse and hands him over by the bridle to Enide. He was about to
lead it away, when the wounded man with his wonted flattery begs
him to restore it courteously to him. With fair words he
flatters and wheedles him. "Vassal," says he, "so help me God,
that horse is not mine. Rather does it belong to that knight in
whom dwells the greatest prowess in the world, my lord Gawain the
Bold. I tell you so much on his behalf, in order that you may
send it back to him and thus win honour. So shall you be
courteous and wise, and I shall be your messenger." Erec makes
answer: "Take the horse, vassal, and lead it away. Since it
belongs to my lord Gawain it is not meet that I should
appropriate it." Kay takes the horse, remounts, and coming to
the royal tent, tells the King the whole truth, keeping nothing
back. And the King summoned Gawain, saying: "Fair nephew Gawain,
if ever you were true and courteous, go quickly after him and ask
him in winsome wise who he is and what his business. And if you
can influence him and bring him along with you to us, take care
not to fail to do so." Then Gawain mounts his steed, two squires
following after him. They soon made Erec out, but did not
recognise him. Gawain salutes him, and he Gawain: their
greetings were mutual. Then said my lord Gawain with his wonted
openness: "Sire," says he, "King Arthur sends me along this way
to encounter you. The Queen and King send you their greeting,
and beg you urgently to come and spend some time with them (it
may benefit you and cannot harm), as they are close by." Erec
replies: "I am greatly obliged to the King and Queen and to you
who are, it seems, both kind of heart and of gentle mien. I am
not in a vigorous state; rather do I bear wounds within my body:
yet will I not turn aside from my way to seek a lodging-place.
So you need not longer wait: I thank you, but you may be gone.
Now Gawain was a man of sense. He draws back and whispers in the
ear of one of the squires, bidding him go quickly and tell the
King to take measures at once to take down and lower his tents
and come and set them up in the middle of the road three or four
leagues in advance of where they now are. There the King must
lodge to-night, if he wishes to meet and extend hospitality to
the best knight in truth whom he can ever hope to see; but who
will not go out of his way for a lodging at the bidding of any
one. The fellow went and gave his message. The King without
delay causes his tents to be taken down. Now they are lowered,
the sumpters loaded, and off they set. The King mounted Aubagu,
and the Queen afterwards mounted a white Norse palfrey. All this
while, my lord Gawain did not cease to detain Erec, until the
latter said to him: "Yesterday I covered more ground than I shall
do to-day. Sire, you annoy me; let me go. You have already
disturbed a good part of my day." And my lord Gawain answers
him: "I should like to accompany you a little way, if you do not
object; for it is yet a long while until night. They spent so
much time in talking that all the tents were set up before them,
and Erec sees them, and perceives that his lodging is arranged
for him. "Ah! Gawain," he says, "your shrewdness has outwitted
me. By your great cunning you have kept me here. Since it has
turned out thus, I shall tell you my name at once. Further
concealment would be useless. I am Erec, who was formerly your
companion and friend." Gawain hears him and straightway embraces
him. He raised up his helmet and unlaced his mouthpiece.
Joyfully he clasps him in his embrace, while Erec embraces him in
turn. Then Gawain leaves him, saying, "Sire, this news will give
great pleasure to my lord; he and my lady will both be glad, and
I must go before to tell them of it. But first I must embrace
and welcome and speak comfortably to my lady Enide, your wife.
My lady the Queen has a great desire to see her. I heard her
speak of her only yesterday." Then he steps up to Enide and asks
her how she is, if she is well and in good case. She makes
answer courteously: "Sire, I should have no cause for grief, were
I not in great distress for my lord; but as it is, I am in
dismay, for he has hardly a limb without a wound." Gawain
replies: "This grieves me much. It is perfectly evident from his
face, which is all pale and colourless. I could have wept myself
when I saw him so pale and wan, but my joy effaced my grief, for
at sight of him I felt so glad that I forgot all other pain. Now
start and ride along slowly. I shall ride ahead at top-speed to
tell the Queen and the King that you are following after me. I
am sure that they will both be delighted when they hear it."
Then he goes, and comes to the King's tent. "Sire," he cries,
"now you and my lady must be glad, for here come Erec and his
wife." The King leaps to his feet with joy. "Upon my word!" he
says, "right glad I am. I could hear no news which could give me
so much happiness." The Queen and all the rest rejoice, and come
out from the tents as fast as they may. Even the King comes
forth from his pavilion, and they met Erec near at band. When
Erec sees the King coming, he quickly dismounts, and Enide too.
The King embraces and meets them, and the Queen likewise tenderly
kisses and embraces them: there is no one that does not show his
joy. Right there, upon the spot, they took off Erec's armour;
and when they saw his wounds, their joy turned to sadness. The
King draws a deep sigh at the sight of them, and has a plaster
brought which Morgan, his sister, had made. This piaster, which
Morgan had given to Arthur, was of such sovereign virtue that no
wound, whether on nerve or joint, provided it were treated with
the piaster once a day, could fail to be completely cured and
healed within a week. They brought to the King the piaster which
gave Erec great relief. When they had bathed, dried, and bound
up his wounds, the King leads him and Enide into his own royal
tent, saying that he intends, out of love for Erec, to tarry in
the forest a full fortnight, until he be completely restored to
health. For this Erec thanks the King, saying: "Fair sire, my
wounds are not so painful that I should desire to abandon my
journey. No one could detain me; to-morrow, without delay, I
shall wish to get off in the morning, as soon as I see the dawn."
At this the King shook his head and said: "This is a great
mistake for you not to remain with us. I know that you are far
from well. Stay here, and you will do the right thing. It will
be a great pity and cause for grief if you die in this forest.
Fair gentle friend, stay here now until you are quite yourself
again." Erec replies: "Enough of this. I have undertaken this
journey, and shall not tarry in any wise." The King hears that
he would by no means stay for prayer of his; so he says no more
about it, and commands the supper to be prepared at once and the
tables to be spread. The servants go to make their preparations.
It was a Saturday night; so they ate fish and fruit, pike and
perch, salmon and trout, and then pears both raw and cooked. (31)
Soon after supper they ordered the beds to be made ready. The
King, who held Erec dear, had him laid in a bed alone; for he did
not wish that any one should lie with him who might touch his
wounds. That night he was well lodged. In another bed close by
lay Enide with the Queen under a cover of ermine, and they all
slept in great repose until the day broke next morning.
(Vv. 4281-4307.) Next day, as soon as it is dawn. Erec arises,
dresses, commands his horses to be saddled, and orders his arms
to be brought to him. The valets run and bring them to him.
Again the King and all the knights urge him to remain; but
entreaty is of no avail, for he will not stay for anything. Then
you might have seen them all weep and show such grief as if they
already saw him dead. He puts on his arms, and Enide arises.
All the knights are sore distressed, for they think they will
never see them more. They follow them out from the tents, and
send for their own horses, that they may escort and accompany
them. Erec said to them: "Be not angry! but you shall not
accompany me a single step. I'll thank you if you'll stay
behind!" His horse was brought to him, and he mounts without
delay. Taking his shield and lance, he commends them all to God,
and they in turn wish Erec well. Then Enide mounts, and they
ride away.
(Vv. 4308-4380.) Entering a forest, they rode on without halting
till hour of prime. While they thus traversed the wood, they
heard in the distance the cry of a damsel in great distress.
When Erec heard the cry, he felt sure from the sound that it was
the voice of one in trouble and in need of help. Straightway
calling Enide, he says: "Lady, there is some maiden who goes
through the wood calling aloud. I take it that she is in need of
aid and succour. I am going to hasten in that direction and see
what her trouble is. Do you dismount and await me here, while I
go yonder." "Gladly, sire," she says. Leaving her alone, he
makes his way until he found the damsel, who was going through
the wood, lamenting her lover whom two giants had taken and were
leading away with very cruel treatment. The maiden was rending
her garments, and tearing her hair and her tender crimson face.
Erec sees her and, wondering greatly, begs her to tell him why
she cries and weeps so sore. The maiden cries and sighs again,
then sobbing, says: "Fair sire, it is no wonder if I grieve, for
I wish I were dead. I neither love nor prize my life, for my
lover has been led away prisoner by two wicked and cruel giants
who are his mortal enemies. God! what shall I do? Woe is me!
deprived of the best knight alive, the most noble and the most
courteous. And now he is in great peril of death. This very
day, and without cause, they will bring him to some vile death.
Noble knight, for God's sake, I beg you to succour my lover, if
now you can lend him any aid. You will not have to run far, for
they must still be close by." "Damsel," says Erec, "I will
follow them, since you request it, and rest assured that I shall
do all within my power: either I shall be taken prisoner along
with him, or I shall restore him to you safe and sound. If the
giants let him live until I can find him, I intend to measure my
strength with theirs." "Noble knight," the maiden said, "I shall
always be your servant if you restore to me my lover. Now go in
God's name, and make haste, I beseech you." "Which way lies
their path?" "This way, my lord. Here is the path with the
footprints. Then Erec started at a gallop, and told her ro await
him there. The maid commends him to the Lord, and prays God very
fervently that He should give him force by His command to
discomfit those who intend evil toward her lover.
(Vv. 4381-4579.) Erec went off along the trail, spurring his
horse in pursuit of the giants. He followed in pursuit of them
until he caught sight of them before they emerged from the wood;
he saw the knight with bare limbs mounted naked on a nag, his
hands and feet bound as if he were arrested for highway robbery.
The giants had no lances, shields or whetted swords; but they
both had clubs and scourges, with which they were beating him so
cruelly that already they had cut the skin on his back to the
bone. Down his sides and flanks the blood ran, so that the nag
was all covered with blood down to the belly. (32) Erec came
along alone after them. He was very sad and distressed about the
knight whom he saw them treat so spitefully. Between two woods
in an open field he came up with them, and asks: "My lords," says
he, "for what crime do you treat this man so ill and lead him
along like a common thief? You are treating him too cruelly.
You are driving him just as if he had been caught stealing. It
is a monstrous insult to strip a knight naked, and then bind him
and beat him so shamefully. Hand him over to me, I beg of you
with all good-will and courtesy. I have no wish to demand him of
you forcibly." "Vassal," they say, "what business is this of
yours? You must be mad to make any demand of us. If you do not
like it, try and improve matters." Erec replies: "Indeed, I like
it not, and you shall not lead him away so easily. Since you
have left the matter in my hands, I say whoever can get
possession of him let him keep him. Take your positions. I
challenge you. You shall not take him any farther before some
blows have been dealt." "Vassal," they reply, "you are mad,
indeed, to wish to measure your strength with us. If you were
four instead of one, you would have no more strength against us
than one lamb against two wolves." "I do not know how it will
turn out," Erec replies; "if the sky fails and the earth melts,
then many a lark will be caught. Many a man boasts loudly who is
of little worth. On guard now, for I am going to attack you."
The giants were strong and fierce, and held in their clenched
hands their big clubs tipped with iron. Erec went at them lance
in rest. He fears neither of them, in spite of their menace and
their pride, and strikes the foremost of them through the eye so
deep into the brain that the blood and brains spurt out at the
back of his neck; that one lies dead and his heart stops beating.
When the other saw him dead, he had reason to be sorely grieved.
Furious, he went to avenge him: with both hands he raised his
club on high and thought to strike him squarely upon his
unprotected head: but Erec watched the blow, and received it on
his shield. Even so, the giant landed such a blow that it quite
stunned him, and almost made him fall to earth from his steed.
Erec covers himself with his shield and the giant, recovering
himself, thinks to strike again quickly upon his head. But Erec
had drawn his sword, and attacked him with such fierceness that
the giant was severely handled: he strikes him so hard upon the
neck that he splits him down to the saddle-bow. He scatters his
bowels upon the earth, and the body falls full length, split in
two halves. The knight weeps with joy and, worshipping, praises
God who has sent him this aid. Then Erec unbound him, made him
dress and arm himself, and mount one of the horses; the other he
made him lead with his right hand, and asks him who he is. And
he replied: "Noble knight, thou art my liege lord. I wish to
regard thee as my lord, as by right I ought to do, for thou hast
saved my life, which but now would have been cut off from my body
with great torment and cruelty. What chance, fair gentle sire,
in God's name, guided thee hither to me, to free me by thy
courage from the hands of my enemies? Sire, I wish to do thee
homage. Henceforth, I shall always accompany thee and serve thee
as my lord." Erec sees that he is disposed to serve him gladly,
if he may, and says: "Friend, for your service I have no desire;
but you must know that I came hither to succour you at the
instance of your lady, whom I found sorrowing in this wood.
Because of you, she grieves and moans; for full of sorrow is her
heart. I wish to present you to her now. As soon as I have
reunited you with her, I shall continue my way alone; for you
have no call to go with me. I have no need cf your company; but
I fain would know your name." "Sire," says he, "as you wish.
Since you desire to know my name, it must not be kept from you.
My name is Cadoc of Tabriol: know that thus I am called. But
since I must part from you. I should like to know, if it may be,
who you are and of what land, where I may sometime find and
search for you, when I shall go a way from here." Erec replies:
"Friend, that I will never confide to you. Never speak of it
again; but if you wish to find it out and do me honour in any
wise go quickly now without delay to my lord, King Arthur, who
with might and main is hunting the stag in yonder wood, as I take
it, not five short leagues from here. Go thither quickly and
take him word that you are sent to him as a gift by him whom
yesterday within his tent he joyfully received and lodged. And
be careful not to conceal from him from what peril I set free
both your life and body. I am dearly cherished at the court, and
if you present yourself in my name you will do me a service and
honour. There you shall ask who I am; but you cannot know it
otherwise." "Sire," says Cadoc, "I will follow your bidding in
all respects. You need never have any fear that I do not go with
a glad heart. I shall tell the King the full truth regarding the
battle which you have fought on my behalf." Thus speaking, they
continued their way until they came to the maiden where Erec had
left her. The damsel's joy knew no bounds when she saw coming
her lover whom she never thought to see again. Taking him by the
hand, Erec presents him to her with the words: "Grieve no longer,
demoiselle! Behold your lover glad and joyous." And she with
prudence makes reply: "Sire, by right you have won us both.
Yours we should be, to serve and honour. But who could ever
repay half the debt we owe you?" Erec makes answer: "My gentle
lady, no recompense do I ask of you. To God I now commend you
both, for too long, methinks, I have tarried here." Then he
turns his horse about, and rides away as fast as he can. Cadoc
of Tabriol with his damsel rides off in another direction; and
soon he told the news to King Arthur and the Queen.
(Vv. 4580-4778.) Erec continues to ride at great speed to the
place where Enide was awaiting him in great concern, thinking
that surely he had completely deserted her. And he, too, was in
great fear lest some one, finding her alone, might have carried
her off. So he made all haste to return. But the heat of the
day was such, and his arms caused him such distress, that his
wounds broke open and burst the bandages. His wounds never
stopped bleeding before he came directly to the spot where Enide
was waiting for him. She espied him and rejoiced: but she did
not realise or know the pain from which he was suffering; for all
his body was bathed in blood, and his heart hardly had strength
to beat. As he was descending a hill he fell suddenly over upon
his horse's neck. As he tried to straighten up, he lost his
saddle and stirrups, falling, as if lifeless, in a faint. Then
began such heavy grief, when Enide saw him fall to earth. Full
of fear at the sight of him, she runs toward him like one who
makes no concealment of her grief. Aloud she cries, and wrings
her hands: not a shred of her robe remains untorn across her
breast. She begins to tear her hair and lacerate her tender
face. (33) "Ah God!" she cries, "fair gentle Lord, why dost Thou
let me thus live on? Come Death, and kill me hastily!" With
these words she faints upon his body. When she recovered, she
said to herself reproachfully: "Woe is me, wretched Enide; I am
the murderer of my lord, in having killed him by my speech. My
lord would still be now alive, if I in my mad presumption had not
spoken the word which engaged him in this adventure. Silence
never harmed any one, but speech often worketh woe. The truth of
this I have tried and proved in more ways than one." Beside her
lord she took her seat, holding his head upon her lap. Then she
begins her dole anew. "Alas," she says, "my lord, unhappy thou,
thou who never hadst a peer; for in thee was beauty seen and
prowess was made manifest; wisdom had given thee its heart, and
largess set a crown upon thee, without which no one is esteemed.
But what did I say? A grievous mistake I made in uttering the
word which has killed my lord--that fatal poisoned word for
which I must justly be reproached; and I recognise and admit that
no one is guilty but myself; I alone must be blamed for this."
Then fainting she falls upon the ground, and when she later sat
up again, she only moans again the more: "God, what shall I do,
and why live on? Why does Death delay and hesitate to come and
seize me without respite? Truly, Death holds me in great
contempt! Since Death does not deign to take my life, I must
myself perforce achieve the vengeance for my sinful deed. Thus
shall I die in spite of Death, who will not heed my call for aid.
Yet, I cannot die through mere desire, nor would complaining
avail me aught. The sword, which my lord had gilded on, ought by
right to avenge his death. I will not longer consume myself in
distress, in prayer, and vain desire." She draws the sword forth
from its sheath and begins to consider it. God, who is full of
mercy, caused her to delay a little; and while she passes in
review her sorrow and her misfortune, behold there comes riding
apace a Count with numerous suite, who from afar had heard the
lady's loud outcry. God did not wish to desert her; for now she
would have killed herself, had she not been surprised by those
who took away from her the sword and thrust it back into its
sheath. The Count then dismounted from his horse and began to
inquire of her concerning the knight, and whether she was his
wife or his lady-love. "Both one and the other, sire," she says,
"my sorrow is such as I cannot tell. Woe is me that I am not
dead." And the Count begins to comfort her: "Lady," he says, "by
the Lord, I pray you, to take some pity on yourself! It is meet
that you should mourn, but it is no use to be disconsolate; for
you may yet rise to high estate. Do not sink into apathy, but
comfort yourself; that will be wise, and God will give you joy
again. Your wondrous beauty holds good fortune in store for you;
for I will take you as my wife, and make you a countess and dame
of rank: this ought to bring you much consolation. And I shall
have the body removed and laid away with great honour. Leave off
now this grief of yours which in your frenzy you display." And
she replies: "Sire, begone! For God's sake, let me be! You can
accomplish nothing here. Nothing that one could say or do could
ever make me glad again." At this the Count drew back and said:
"Let us make a bier, whereon to carry away this body with the
lady to the town of Limors. There the body shall be interred.
Then will I espouse the lady, whether or not she give consent:
for never did I see any one so fair, nor desire any as I do her.
Happy I am to have met with her. Now make quickly and without
delay a proper bier for this dead knight. Halt not for the
trouble, nor from sloth." Then some of his men draw out their
swords and soon cut two saplings, upon which they laid branches
cross-wise. Upon this litter they laid Erec down; then hitched
two horses to it. Enide rides alongside, not ceasing to make
lament, and often fainting and falling back; but the horsemen
hold her tight, and try to support her with their arms, and raise
her up and comfort her. All the way to Limors they escort the
body, until they come to the palace of the Count. All the people
follow up after them--ladies, knights, and townspeople. In the
middle off the hall upon a dais they stretched the body out full
length, with his lance and shield alongside. The hall is full,
the crowd is dense. Each one is anxious to inquire what is this
trouble, what marvel here. Meanwhile the Count takes counsel
with his barons privily. "My lords," he says, "upon the spot I
wish to espouse this lady here. We can plainly judge by her
beauty and prudent mien that she is of very gentle rank. Her
beauty and noble bearing show that the honour of a kingdom or
empire might well be bestowed upon her. I shall never suffer
disgrace through her; rather I think to win more honour. Have my
chaplain summoned now, and do you go and fetch the lady. The
half of all my land I will give her as her dower if she will
comply with my desire." Then they bade the chaplain come, in
accordance with the Count's command, and the dame they brought
there, too, and made her marry him perforce; for she flatly
refused to give consent. But in spite of all, the Count married
her in accordance with his wish. And when he had married her,
the constable at once had the tables set in the palace, and had
the food prepared; for already it was time for the evening meal.
(Vv. 4779-4852.) After vespers, that day in May, Enide was in
sore distress, nor did her grief cease to trouble her. And the
Count urged her mildly by prayer and threat to make her peace and
be consoled, and he made her sit down upon a chair, though it was
against her will. In spite of her, they made her take a seat and
placed the table in front of her. The Count takes his place on
the other side, almost beside himself with rage to find that he
cannot comfort her. "Lady," he says, "you must now leave off
this grief and banish it. You can have full trust in me, that
honour and riches will be yours. You must surely realise that
mourning will not revive the dead; for no one ever saw such a
thing come about. Remember now, though poor you were, that great
riches are within your reach. Once you were poor; rich now you
will be. Fortune has not been stingy toward you, in bestowing
upon you the honour of being henceforth hailed as Countess. It
is true that your lord is dead. If you grieve and lament because
of this, do you think that I am surprised? Nay. But I am giving
you the best advice I know how to give. In that I have married
you, you ought to be content. Take care you do not anger me!
Eat now, as I bid you do." And she replies: "Not I, my lord. In
faith, as long as I live I will neither eat nor drink unless I
first see my lord eat who is lying on yonder dais" "Lady, that
can never be. People will think that you are mad when you talk
such great nonsense. You will receive a poor reward if you give
occasion to-day for further reproof." To this she vouchsafed no
reply, holding his threats in slight esteem, and the Count
strikes her upon the face. At this she shrieks, and the barons
present blame the Count. "Hold. sire!" they cry to the Count;
"you ought to be ashamed of having struck this lady because she
will not eat. You have done a very ugly deed. If this lady is
distressed because of her lord whom she now sees dead, no one
should say that she is wrong." "Keep silence, all." the Count
replies; "the dame is mine and I am hers, and I will do with her
as I please." At this she could not hold her peace, but swears
she will never be his. And the Count springs up and strikes her
again, and she cries out aloud. "Ha! wretch," she says, "I care
not what thou say to me, or what thou do! I fear not thy blows,
nor yet thy threats. Beat me and strike me, as thou wilt. I
shall never heed thy power so much as to do thy bidding more or
less, even were thou with thy hands fight now to snatch out my
eyes or flay me alive."
(Vv. 4853-4938.) In the midst of these words and disputes Erec
recovered from his swoon, like a man who awakes from sleep. No
wonder that he was amazed at the crowd of people he saw around.
But great was his grief and great his woe when he heard the voice
of his wife. He stepped to the floor from off the dais and
quickly drew his sword. Wrath and the love he bore his wife gave
him courage. He runs thither where he sees her, and strikes the
Count squarely upon the head, so that he beats out his brains
and, knocking in his forehead, leaves him senseless and
speechless; his blood and brains flow out. The knights spring
from the tables, persuaded that it is the devil who had made his
way among them there. Of young or old there none remains, for
all were thrown in great dismay. Each one tries to outrun the
other in beating a hasty retreat. Soon they were all clear of
the palace, and cry aloud, both weak and strong: "Flee, flee,
here comes the corpse!" At the door the press is great: each one
strives to make his escape, and pushes and shoves as best he may.
He who is last in the surging throng would fain get into the
foremost line. Thus they make good their escape in flight, for
one dares not stand upon another's going. Erec ran to seize his
shield, hanging it about his neck by the strap, while Enide lays
hands upon the lance. Then they step out into the courtyard.
There is no one so bold as to offer resistance; for they did not
believe it could be a man who had thus expelled them, but a devil
or some enemy who had entered the dead body. Erec pursues them
as they flee, and finds outside in the castle-yard a stable-boy
in the act of leading his steed to the watering-place, all
equipped with bridle and saddle. This chance encounter pleased
Erec well: as he steps up quickly to the horse, the boy in fear
straightway yields him up. Erec takes his seat between the
saddle-bows, while Enide, seizing the stirrup, springs up on to
the horse's neck, as Erec, who bade her mount, commanded and
instructed her to do. The horse bears them both away; and
finding open the town gate, they make their escape without
detention. In the town there was great anxiety about the Count
who had been killed; but there is no one, however brave, who
follows Erec to take revenge. At his table the Count was slain;
while Erec, who bears his wife away, embraces and kisses and
gives her cheer. In his arms he clasps her against his heart,
and says: "Sweet sister mine, my proof of you has been complete!
Be no more concerned in any wise, for I love you now more than
ever I did before; and I am certain and rest assured that you
love me with a perfect love. From this time on for evermore, I
offer myself to do your will just as I used to do before. And if
you have spoken ill of me, I pardon you and call you quit of both
the offence and the word you spoke." Then he kisses her again
and clasps her tight. Now Enide is not ill at ease when her lord
clasps and kisses her and tells her again that he loves her
still. Rapidly through the night they ride, and they are very
glad that the moon shines bright.
(Vv. 4939-5058.) Meanwhile, the news has travelled fast, and
there is nothing else so quick. The news had reached Guivret the
Little that a knight wounded with arms had been found dead in the
forest, and that with him was a lady making moan, and so wondrous
fair that Iseut would have seemed her waiting-maid. Count
Oringle of Limors had found them both, and had caused the corpse
to be borne away, and wished himself to espouse the lady; but she
refused him. When Guivret heard this news, he was by no means
pleased; for at once the thought of Erec occurred to him. It
came into his heart and mind to go and seek out the lady, and to
have the body honourably interred. if it should turn out to be
he. He assembled a thousand men-at-arms and knights to take the
town. If the Count would not surrender of his own accord the
body and the lady, he would put all to fire and flame. In the
moonlight shining clear he led his men on toward Limors, with
helmets laced, in hauberks clad, and from their necks the shields
were hung. Thus, under arms, they all advanced until nearly
midnight, when Erec espied them. Now he expects to be ensnared
or killed or captured inevitably. He makes Enide dismount beside
a thicket-hedge. No wonder if he is dismayed. "Lady, do you
stay here," he says, "beside this thicket-hedge a while, until
these people shall have passed. I do not wish them to catch
sight of you, for I do not know what manner of people they are,
nor of what they go in search. I trust we may not attract their
attention. But I see nowhere any place where we could take
refuge, should they wish to injure us. I know not if any harm
may come to me, but not from fear shall I fail to sally out
against them. And if any one assails me, I shall not fail to
joust with him. Yet, I am so sore and weary that it is no wonder
if I grieve. Now to meet them I must go, and do you stay quiet
here. Take care that no one see you, until they shall have left
you far behind." Behold now Guivret, with lance outstretched,
who espied him from afar. They did not recognise each other, for
the moon had gone behind the shadow of a dark cloud. Erec was
weak and exhausted, and his antagonist was quite recovered from
his wounds and blows. Now Erec will be far from wise if he does
not promptly make himself known. He steps out from the hedge.
And Guivret spurs toward him without speaking to him at all, nor
does Erec utter a word to him: he thought he could do more than
he could. Whoever tries to run farther than he is able must
perforce give up or take a rest. They clash against each other;
but the fight was unequal, for one was weak and the other strong.
Guivret strikes him with such force that he carries him down to
earth from his horse's back. Enide, who was in hiding, when she
sees her lord on the ground, expects to be killed and badly used.
Springing forth from the hedge, she runs to help her lord. If
she grieved before, now her anguish is greater. Coming up to
Guivret, she seized his horse's rein, and then said: "Cursed be
thou, knight! For thou hast attacked a weak and exhausted man,
who is in pain and mortally wounded, with such injustice that
thou canst not find reason for thy deed. If thou hadst been
alone and helpless, thou wouldst have rued this attack, provided
my lord had been in health. Now be generous and courteous, and
kindly let cease this battle which thou hast begun. For thy
reputation would be no better for having killed or captured a
knight who has not the strength to rise, as thou canst see. For
he has suffered so many blows of arms that he is all covered with
wounds" And he replies: "Fear not, lady! I see that loyally you
love your lord, and I commend you for it. Have no fear
whatsoever of me or of my company. But tell me now without
concealment what is the name of your lord; for only advantage
will you get from telling me. Whoever he be, tell me his name;
then he shall go safe and unmolested. Neither he nor you have
aught to fear, for you are both in safe hands."
(Vv. 5059-5172.) Then Enide learns that she is safe, she answers
him briefly in a word: "His name is Erec; I ought not to lie, for
I see you are honest and of good intent." Guivret, in his
delight, dismounts and goes to fall at Erec's feet, where he was
lying on the ground. "My lord," he says, "I was going to seek
for you, and was on my way to Limors, where I expected to find
you dead. It was told and recounted to me as true that Count
Oringle had carried off to Limors a knight who was mortally
wounded, and that he wickedly intended to marry a lady whom he
had found in his company; but that she would have nothing to do
with him. And I was coming urgently to aid and deliver her. If
he refused to hand over to me both the lady and you without
resistance, I should esteem myself of little worth if I left him
a foot of earth to stand upon. Be sure that had I not loved you
dearly I should never have taken this upon myself. I am Guivret,
your friend; but if I have done you any hurt through my failure
to recognise you, you surely ought to pardon me." At this Erec
sat up, for he could do no more, and said: "Rise up, my friend.
Be absolved of the harm you have done me, since you did not
recognise me." Guivret gets up, and Erec tells him how he has
killed the Count while he sat at meat, and how he had gained
possession again of his steed in front of the stable, and how the
sergeants and the squires had fled across the yard, crying:
"Flee, flee, the corpse is chasing us;" then, how he came near
being caught, and how he escaped through the town and down the
hill, carrying his wife on his horse's neck: all this adventure
of his he told him. Then Guivret said, "Sire, I have a castle
here close by, which is well placed in a healthful site. For
your comfort and benefit I wish to take you there to-morrow and
have your wounds cared for. I have two charming and sprightly
sisters who are skilful in the care of wounds: they will soon
completely cure you. (34) To-night we shall let our company
lodge here in the fields until morning; for I think a little rest
to-night will do you much good. My advice is that we spend the
night here." Erec replies: "I am in favour of doing so." So
there they stayed and spent the night. They were not reluctant
to prepare a lodging-place, but they found few accommodations,
for the company was quite numerous. They lodge as best they may
among the bushes: Guivret had his tent set up, and ordered tinder
to be kindled, that they might have light and cheer. He has
tapers taken out from the boxes, and they light them within the
tent. Now Enide no longer grieves, for all has turned out well.
She strips her lord of his arms and clothes, and having washed
his wounds, she dried them and bound them up again; for she would
let no one else touch him. Now Erec knows no further reason to
reproach her, for he has tried her well and found that she bears
great love to him. And Guivret, who treats them kindly, had a
high, long bed constructed of quilted coverlids, laid upon grass
and reed, which they found in abundance. There they laid Erec
and covered him up. Then Guivret opened a box and took out two
patties. "Friend," says he, "now try a little of these cold
patties, and drink some wine mixed with water. I have as much as
six barrels of it, but undiluted it is not good for you; for you
are injured and covered with wounds. Fair sweet friend, now try
to eat; for it will do you good. And my lady will eat some too
-- your wife who has been to-day in sore distress on your
account. But you have received full satisfaction for all that,
and have escaped. So eat now, and I will eat too, fair friend."
Then Guivret sat down by Erec's side, and so did Enide who was
much pleased by all that Guivret did. Both of them urge him to
eat, giving him wine mixed with water'; for unmixed it is too
strong and heating. Erec ate as a sick man eats, and drank a
little--all he dared. But he rested comfortably and slept all
night; for on his account no noise or disturbance was made.
(Vv. 5173-5366.) In the early morning they awoke, and prepared
again to mount and ride. Erec was so devoted to his own horse
that he would ride no other. They gave to Enide a mule, for she
had lost her palfrey. But she was not concerned; to judge by her
looks, she gave the matter no thought. She had a good mule with
an easy gait that bore her very comfortably. And it gave her
great satisfaction that Erec was not cast down, but rather
assured them that he would recover completely. Before the third
hour they reached Penevric, a strong castle, well and handsomely
situated. There dwelt the two sisters of Guivret; for the place
was agreeable enough. Guivret escorted Erec to a delightful,
airy room in a remote part of the castle. His sisters, at his
request, exerted themselves to cure Erec; and Erec placed himself
in their hands, for they inspired him with perfect confidence.
First, they removed the dead flesh, then applied plaster and
lint, devoting to his care all their skill, like women who knew
their business well. Again and again they washed his wounds and
applied the plaster. Four times or more each day they made him
eat and drink, allowing him, however, no garlic or pepper. But
whoever might go in or out Enide was always with him, being more
than any one else concerned. Guivret often came in to ask and
inquire if he wanted anything. He was well kept and well served,
and everything that he wished was willingly done. But the
damsels cheerfully and gladly showed such devotion in caring for
him that by the end of a fortnight he felt no hurt or pain.
Then, to bring his colour back, they began to give him baths.
There was no need to instruct the damsels, for they understood
the treatment well. When he was able to walk about. Guivret had
two loose gowns made of two different kinds of silk, one trimmed
with ermine, the other with vair. One was of a dark purple
colour, and the other striped, sent to him as a present by a
cousin of his from Scotland. Enide had the purple gown trimmed
with ermine, which was very precious, while Erec had the striped
stuff with the fur, which was no less valuable. Now Erec was
strong and well, cured and recovered. Now that Enide was very
happy and had everything she desired, her great beauty returned
to her; for her great distress had affected her so much that she
was very pale and wan. Now she was embraced and kissed, now she
was blessed with all good things, now she had her joy and
pleasures; for unadorned they lie in bed and each enfolds and
kisses the other; nothing gives them so much joy. They have had
so much pain and sorrow, he for her, and she for him, that now
they have their satisfaction. Each vies in seeking to please the
other. Of their further sport I must not speak. Now they have
so welded their love and forgotten their grief that they scarcely
remember it any more. But now they must go on their way; so they
asked his leave to depart from Guivret, in whom they had found a
friend indeed; for he had honoured and served them in every way.
When he came to take leave, Erec said: "Sire, I do not wish to
delay longer my departure for my own land. Order everything to
be prepared and collected, in order that I may have all I need.
I shall wish to start to-morrow morning, as soon as it is day. I
have stayed so long with you that I feel strong and vigorous.
God grant, if it please Him, that I may live to meet you again
somewhere, when I may be able in my turn to serve and honour you.
Unless I am captured or detained, I do not expect to tarry
anywhere until I reach the court of King Arthur, whom I hope to
find either at Robais or Carduel." To which Guivret makes prompt
reply, "Sire, you shall not go off alone! For I myself shall go
with you and shall take companions with us, if it be your
pleasure." Erec accedes to this advice, and says that, in
accordance with his plans, he wishes the journey to be begun.
That night they make preparations for their journey, not wishing
to delay there longer. They all make ready and prepare. In the
early morning, when they awake, the saddles are placed upon the
steeds. Before he leaves, Erec goes to bid farewell to the
damsels in their rooms; and Enide (who was glad and full of joy)
thither follows him. When their preparations for departure were
made, they took their leave of the damsels. Erec, who was very
courteous, in taking leave of them, thanks them for his health
and life, and pledges to them his service. Then he took one of
them by the hand she who was the nearer to him and Enide took the
other's hand: hand in hand they came up from the bedroom into the
castle hall. Guivret urges them to mount at once without delay.
Enide thinks the time will never come for them to mount. They
bring around to the block for her a good-tempered palfrey, a soft
stepper, handsome and well shaped. The palfrey was of fine
appearance and a good mount: it was no less valuable than her own
which had stayed behind at Limors. That other one was dappled,
this one was sorrel; but the head was of another colour: it was
marked in such a way that one cheek was all white, while the
other was raven black. Between the two colours there was a line,
greener than a grape-vine leaf, which separated the white from
the black. Of the bridle, breast-strap, and saddle I can surely
say that the workmanship was rich and handsome. All the breaststrap
and bridle was of gold set with emeralds. The saddle was
decorated in another style, covered with a precious purple cloth.
The saddle-bows were of ivory, on which was carved the story of
how Aeneas came from Troy, how at Carthage with great joy Dido
received him to her bed, how Aeneas deceived her, and how for him
she killed herself, how Aeneas conquered Laurentum and all
Lombardy, of which he was king all his life. (35) Cunning was
the workmanship and well carved, all decorated with fine gold. A
skilful craftsman, who made it spent more than seven years in
carving it, without touching any other piece of work. I do not
know whether he sold it; but he ought to have obtained a good
price for it. Now that Enide was presented with this palfrey,
she was well compensated for the loss of her own. The palfrey,
thus richly apparelled, was given to her and she mounted it
gladly; then the gentlemen and squires quickly mounted too. For
their pleasure and sport Guivret caused to be taken with them
rich falcons, both young and moulted, many a tercel and
sparrow-hawk, and many a setter and greyhound.
(Vv. 5367-5446.) (36) They rode straight on from morn till eve
more than thirty Welsh leagues, and then came to the towers of a
stronghold, rich and fair, girt all about with a new wall. And
all around, beneath this wall, ran a very deep stream, roaring
rushing like a storm. Erec stops to look at it, and ask and find
out if any one could truly tell him who was the lord of this
town. "Friend," said he to his kind companion, "could you tell
me the name of this town, and whose it is? Tell me if it belongs
to a count or a king. Since you have brought me here, tell me,
if you know." "Sire," he says, "I know very well, and will tell
you the truth about it. The name of the town is Brandigant, and
it is so strong and fine that it fears neither king nor emperor.
If France, and all of England, and all who live from here to
Liege were ranged about to lay a siege, they would never take it
in their lives; for the isle on which the town stands stretches
away four leagues or more, and within the enclosure grows all
that a rich town needs: fruit and wheat and wine are found; and
of wood and water there is no lack. It fears no assault on any
side, nor could anything reduce it to starvation. King Evrain
had it fortified, and he has possessed it all his days
unmolested, and will possess it all his life. But not because he
feared any one did he thus fortify it; but the town is more
pleasing so. For if it had no wall or tower, but only the stream
that encircles it, it would still be so secure and strong that it
would have no fear of the whole world." "God!" said Erec, "what
great wealth! Let us go and see the fortress, and we shall take
lodging in the town, for I wish to stop here." "Sire," said the
other in great distress, "were it not to disappoint you, we
should not stop here. In the town there is a dangerous passage."
"Dangerous?" says Erec; "do you know about it? Whatever it be,
tell us about it; for very gladly would I know." "Sire," says
he, "I should fear that you might suffer some harm there. I know
there is so much boldness and excellence in your heart that, were
I to tell you what I know of the perilous and hard adventure, you
would wish to enter in. I have often heard the story, and more
than seven years have passed since any one that went in quest of
the adventure has come back from the town; yet, proud, bold
knights have come hither from many a land. Sire, do not treat
this as a jest: for you will never learn the secret from me until
you shall have promised me, by the love you have sworn to me,
that never by you will be undertaken this adventure, from which
no one escapes without receiving shame or death."
(Vv. 5447-5492.) Now Erec hears what pleases him, and begs
Guivret not to be grieved, saying: "Ah, fair sweet friend, permit
that our lodging be made in the town, and do not be disturbed.
It is time to halt for the night, and so I trust that it will not
displease you; for if any honour comes to us here you ought to be
very glad. I appeal to you conceding the adventure that you tell
me just the name of it, and I'll not insist upon the rest."
"Sire." he says, "I cannot be silent and refuse the information
you desire. The name is very fair to say, but the execution is
very hard: for no one can come from it alive. The adventure,
upon my word, is called `the Joy of the Court.'" "God! there
can be nothing but good in joy," says Erec; "I go to seek it.
Don't go now and discourage me about this or anything else, fair
gentle friend; but let us have our lodgings taken, for great good
may come to us of this. Nothing could restrain me from going to
seek the Joy." "Sire," says he, "God grant your prayer, that you
may find joy and return without mishap. I clearly see that we
must go in. Since otherwise it may not be, let us go in. Our
lodging is secured; for no knight of high degree, as I have heard
it said and told, can enter this castle with intent to lodge here
but that King Evrain offers to shelter him. So gentle and
courteous is the King that he has given notice to all his
townsmen, appealing to their love for him, that any gentleman
from afar should not find lodging in their houses, so that he
himself may do honour to all gentlemen who may wish to tarry
(Vv. 5493-5668.) (37) Thus they proceed toward the castle,
passing the list and the drawbridge; and when they passed the
listing-place, the people who were gathered in the streets in
crowds see Erec in all his beauty, and apparently they think and
believe that all the others are in his train. Marvelling much,
they stare at him; the whole town was stirred and moved, as they
take counsel and discuss about him. Even the maidens at their
song leave off their singing and desist, as all together they
look at him; and because of his great beauty they cross
themselves, and marvellously they pity him. One to another
whispers low: "Alas! This knight, who is passing, is on his way
to the `Joy of the Court.' He will be sorry before he returns;
no one ever came from another land to claim the `Joy of the
Court' who did not receive shame and harm, and leave his head
there as a forfeit." Then, that he may hear their words, they
cry-aloud: "God defend thee, knight, from harm; for thou art
wondrously handsome, and thy beauty is greatly to be pitied, for
to-morrow we shall see it quenched. Tomorrow thy death is come;
to-morrow thou shalt surely die if God does not guard and defend
thee." Erec hears and understands that they are speaking of him
through the lower town: more than two thousand pitied him; but
nothing causes him dismay. He passes on without delay, bowing
gaily to men and women alike. And they all salute him too; and
most of them swear with anxiety, fearing more than he does
himself, for his shame and for his hurt. The mere sight of his
countenance, his great beauty and his bearing, has so won to him
the hearts of all, that knights, ladies, and maids alike fear his
harm. King Evrain hears the news that men were arriving at his
court who brought with them a numerous train, and by his harness
it appeared that their leader was a count or king. King Evrain
comes down the street to meet them, and saluting them he cries:
"Welcome to this company, both to the master and all his suite.
Welcome, gentlemen! Dismount." They dismounted, and there were
plenty to receive and take their horses. Nor was King Evrain
backward when he saw Enide coming; but he straightway saluted her
and ran to help her to dismount. Taking her white and tender
hand, he led her up into the palace, as was required by courtesy,
and honoured her in every way he could, for he knew right well
what he ought to do, without nonsense and without malice. He
ordered a chamber to be scented with incense, myrrh, and aloes.
When they entered, they all complimented King Evrain on its fine
appearance. Hand in hand they enter the room, the King escorting
them and taking great pleasure in them. But why should I
describe to you the paintings and the silken draperies with which
the room was decorated? I should only waste time in folly, and I
do not wish to waste it, but rather to hasten on a little; for he
who travels the straight road passes him who turns aside;
therefore I do not wish to tarry. When the time and hour
arrived, the King orders supper to be prepared; but I do not wish
to stop over that if I can find some more direct way. That night
they had in abundance all that heart desires and craves: birds,
venison, and fruit, and wines of different sorts. But better
than all is a happy cheer! For of all dishes the sweetest is a
joyful countenance and a happy face. They were very richly
served until Erec suddenly left off eating and drinking, and
began speaking of what rested most upon his heart: he remembered
`the Joy', and began a conversation about it in which King Evrain
joined. "Sire" says he, "it is time now to tell you what I
intend, and why I have come here. Too long I have refrained from
speech, and now can no longer conceal my object. I ask you for
`the Joy' of the Court, for I covet nothing else so much. Grant
it to me, whatever it be, if you are in control of it." "In
truth, fair friend." the King replies, "I hear you speak great
nonsense. This is a very parlous thing, which has caused sorrow
to many a worthy man; you yourself will eventually be killed and
undone if you will not heed my counsel. But if you were willing
to take my word, I should advise you to desist from soliciting so
grievous a thing in which you would never succeed. Speak of it
no more! Hold your peace! It would be imprudent on your part
not to follow my advice. I am not at all surprised that you
desire honour and fame; but if I should see you harmed or injured
in your body I should be distressed at heart. And know well that
I have seen many a man ruined who solicited this joy. They were
never any the better for it, but rather did they all die and
perish. Before to-morrow's evening come you may expect a like
reward. If you wish to strive for the Joy, you shall do so,
though it grieve me sore. It is something from which you are
free to retreat and draw back if you wish to work your welfare.
Therefore I tell you, for I should commit treachery and do you
wrong were I not to tell you all the truth." Erec hears him and
admits that the King with reason counsels him. But the greater
the wonder and the more perilous the adventure, the more he
covets it and yearns for it, saying: "Sire, I can tell you that I
find you a worthy and a loyal man, and I can put no blame on you.
I wish to undertake {his boon, however it may fall out with me.
The die is cast, for I shall never draw back from anything I have
undertaken without exerting all my strength before I quit the
field." "I know that well," the King replied; "you are acting
against my will. You shall have the Joy which you desire. But I
am in great despair; for I greatly fear you will be undone. But
now be assured that you shall have what you desire. If you come
out of it happily, you will have won such great honour that never
did man win greater; and may God, as I desire, grant you a joyous
(Vv. 5669-5738.) All that night they talked of it, until the
beds were prepared and they went to rest. In the morning, when
it was daylight, Erec, who was on the watch, saw the clear dawn
and the sun, and quickly rising, clothed himself. Enide again is
in distress, very sad and ill at ease; all night she is greatly
disquieted with the solicitude and fear which she felt for her
lord, who is about to expose himself to great peril. But
nevertheless he equips himself, for no one can make him change
his mind. For his equipment the King sent him, when he arose,
arms which he put to good use. Erec did not refuse them, for his
own were worn and impaired and in bad state. He gladly accepted
the arms and had himself equipped with them in the hall. When he
was armed, he descends the steps and finds his horse saddled and
the King who had mounted. Every one in the castle and in the
houses of the town hastened to mount. In all the town there
remained neither man nor woman, erect or deformed, great or
small, weak or strong, who is able to go and does not do so.
When they start, there is a great noise and clamour in all the
streets; for those of high and low degree alike cry out: "Alas,
alas! oh knight, the Joy that thou wishest to win has betrayed
thee, and thou goest to win but grief and death." And there is
not one but says: "God curse this joy! which has been the death
of so many gentlemen. To-day it will wreak the worst woe that it
has ever yet wrought." Erec hears well and notes that up and
down they said of him: "Alas, alas, ill-starred wert thou, fair,
gentle, skilful knight! Surely it would not be just that thy
life should end so soon, or that harm should come to wound and
injure thee." He hears clearly the words and what they said; but
notwithstanding, he passes on without lowering his head, and
without the bearing of a craven. Whoever may speak, he longs to
see and know and understand why they are all in such distress,
anxiety, and woe. The King leads him without the town into a
garden that stood near by; and all the people follow after,
praying that from this trial God may grant him a happy issue.
But it is not meet that I should pass on, from weariness and
exhaustion of tongue, without telling you the whole truth about
the garden, according as the story runs.
(Vv. 5739-5826.) (38) The garden had around it no wall or fence
except of air: yet, by a spell, the garden was on all sides so
shut in by the air that nothing could enter there any more than
if the garden were enclosed in iron, unless it flew in over the
top. And all through the summer and the winter, too, there were
flowers and ripe fruits there; and the fruit was of such a nature
that it could be eaten inside; the danger consisted in carrying
it out; for whoever should wish to carry out a little would never
be able to find the gate, and never could issue from the garden
until he had restored the fruit to its place. And there is no
flying bird under heaven, pleasing to man, but it sings there to
delight and to gladden him, and can be heard there in numbers of
every kind. And the earth, however far it stretch, bears no
spice or root of use in making medicine, but it had been planted
there, and was to be found in abundance. Through a narrow
entrance the people entered--King Evrain and all the rest.
Erec went riding, lance in rest, into the middle of the garden,
greatly delighting in the song of the birds which were singing
there; they put him in mind of his Joy the thing he most was
longing for. But he saw a wondrous thing, which might arouse
fear in the bravest warrior of all whom we know, be it Thiebaut
the Esclavon, (39) or Ospinel, or Fernagu. For before them, on
sharpened stakes, there stood bright and shining helmets, and
each one had beneath the rim a man's head. But at the end there
stood a stake where as yet there was nothing but a horn. (40) He
knows not what this signifies, yet draws not back a step for
that; rather does he ask the King, who was beside him at the
right, what this can be. The King speaks and explains to him:
"Friend," he says, "do you know the meaning of this thing that
you see here? You must be in great terror of it, if you care at
all for your own body; for this single stake which stands apart,
where you see this horn hung up, has been waiting a very long
time, but we know not for whom, whether for you or someone else.
Take care lest thy head be set up there; for such is the purpose
of the stake. I had warned you well of that before you came
here. I do not expect that you will escape hence, but that you
will be killed and rent apart. For this much we know, that the
stake awaits your head. And if it turns out that it be placed
there, as the matter stands agreed, as soon as thy head is fixed
upon it another stake will be set up beside it which will await
the arrival of some one else--I know not when or whom. I will
tell you nothing of the horn; but never has any one been able to
blow it. (41) However, he who shall succeed in blowing it his
fame and honour will grow until it distance all those of his
country, and he shall find such renown that all will come to do
him honour, and will hold him to be the best of them all. Now
there is no more of this matter. Have your men withdraw; for
`the Joy' will soon arrive, and will make you sorry, I suspect."
(Vv. 5827-6410.) Meanwhile King Evrain leaves his side, and Erec
stoops over before Enide, whose heart was in great distress,
although she held her peace; for grief on lips is of no account
unless it also touch the heart. And he who well knew her heart,
said to her: "Fair sister dear, gentle, loyal, and prudent lady,
I am acquainted with your thoughts. You are in fear, I see that
well, and yet you do not know for what; but there is no reason
for your dismay until you shall see that my shield is shattered
and that my body is wounded, and until you see the meshes of my
bright hauberk covered with blood, and my helmet broken and
smashed, and me defeated and weary, so that I can no longer
defend myself, but must beg and sue for mercy against my will;
then you may lament, but now you have begun too soon. Gentle
lady, as yet you know not what this is to be; no more do I. You
are troubled without cause. But know this truly: if there were
in me only so much courage as your love inspires, truly I should
not fear to face any man alive. But I am foolish to vaunt
myself; yet I say it not from any pride, but because I wish to
comfort you. So comfort yourself, and let it be! I cannot
longer tarry here, nor can you go along with me; for, as the King
has ordered, I must not take you beyond this point." Then he
kisses her and commends her to God, and she him. But she is much
chagrined that she cannot follow and escort him, until she may
learn and see what this adventure is to be, and how he will
conduct himself. But since she must stay behind and cannot
follow him, she remains sorrowful and grieving. And he went off
alone down a path, without companion of any sort, until he came
to a silver couch with a cover of gold-embroidered cloth, beneath
the shade of a sycamore; and on the bed a maiden of comely body
and lovely face, completely endowed with all beauty, was seated
all alone. I intended to say no more of her; but whoever could
consider well all her attire and her beauty might well say that
never did Lavinia of Laurentum, who was so fair and comely,
possess the quarter of her beauty. Erec draws near to her,
wishing to see her more closely, and the onlookers go and sit
down under the trees in the orchard. Then behold, there comes a
knight armed with vermilion arms, and he was wondrous tall; and
if he were not so immeasurably tall, under the heavens there
would be none fairer than he; but, as every one averred, he was a
foot taller than any knight he knew. Before Erec caught sight of
him, he cried out: "Vassal, vassal! You are mad, upon my life,
thus to approach my damsel. I should say you are not worthy to
draw near her. You will pay dearly for your presumption, by my
head! Stand back!" And Erec stops and looks at him, and the
other, too, stood still. Neither made advance until Erec had
replied all that he wished to say to him. "Friend," he says,
"one can speak folly as well as good sense. Threaten as much as
you please, and I will keep silence; for in threatening there is
no sense. Do you know why? A man sometimes thinks he has won
the game who afterward loses it. So he is manifestly a fool who
is too presumptuous and who threatens too much. If there are
some who flee there are plenty who chase, but I do not fear you
so much that I am going to run away yet. I am ready to make such
defence, if there is any who wishes to offer me battle, that he
will have to do his uttermost, or otherwise he cannot escape."
"Nay," quoth he, "so help me God! know that you shall have the
battle, for I defy and challenge you." And you may know, upon my
word, that then the reins were not held in. The lances they had
were not light, but were big and square; nor were they planed
smooth, but were rough and strong. Upon the shields with mighty
strength they smote each other with their sharp weapons, so that
a fathom of each lance passes through the gleaming shields. But
neither touches the other's flesh, nor was either lance cracked;
each one, as quickly as he could, draws back his lance, and both
rushing together, return to the fray. One against the other
rides, and so fiercely they smite each other that both lances
break and the horses fall beneath them. But they, being seated
on their steeds, sustain no harm; so they quickly rise, for they
were strong and lithe. They stand on foot in the middle of the
garden, and straightway attack each other with their green swords
of German steel, and deal great wicked blows upon their bright
and gleaming helmets, so that they hew them into bits, and their
eyes shoot out flame. No greater efforts can be made than those
they make in striving and toiling to injure and wound each other.
Both fiercely smite with the gilded pommel and the cutting edge.
Such havoc did they inflict upon each other's teeth, cheeks,
nose, hands, arms, and the rest, upon temples, neck, and throat
that their bones all ache. They are very sore and very tired;
yet they do not desist, but rather only strive the more. Sweat,
and the blood which flows down with it, dim their eves, so that
they can hardly see a thing; and very often they missed their
blows, like men who did not see to wield their swords upon each
other. They can scarcely harm each other now; yet, they do not
desist at all from exercising all their strength. Because their
eyes are so blinded that they completely lose their sight, they
let their shields fall to the ground, and seize each other
angrily. Each pulls and drags the other, so that they fall upon
their knees. Thus, long they fight until the hour of noon is
past, and the big knight is so exhausted that his breath quite
fails him. Erec has him at his mercy, and pulls and drags so
that he breaks all the lacing of his helmet, and forces him over
at his feet. He falls over upon his face against Erec's breast,
and has not strength to rise again. Though it distresses him, he
has to say and own: "I cannot deny it, you have beaten me; but
much it goes against my will. And yet you may be of such degree
and fame that only credit will redound to me; and insistently I
would request, if it may be in any way, that I might know your
name, and he thereby somewhat comforted. If a better man has
defeated me, I shall be glad, I promise you; but if it has so
fallen out that a baser man than I has worsted me, then I must
feel great grief indeed." "Friend, dost thou wish to know my
name?" says Erec; "Well, I shall tell thee ere I leave here; but
it will be upon condition that thou tell me now why thou art in
this garden. Concerning that I will know all what is thy name
and what the Joy; for I am very anxious to hear the truth from
beginning to end of it." "Sire," says he, "fearlessly I will
tell you all you wish to know." Erec no more withholds his name,
but says: "Didst thou ever hear of King Lac and of his son Erec?"
"Yea, sire, I knew him well; for I was at his father's court for
many a day before I was knighted, and, if he had had his will, I
should never have left him for anything." "Then thou oughtest to
know me well, if thou weft ever with me at the court of my
father, the King." "Then, upon my faith, it has turned out well.
Now hear who has detained me so long in this garden. I will tell
the truth in accordance with your injunction, whatever it may
cost me. That damsel who yonder sits, loved me from childhood
and I loved her. It pleased us both, and our love grew and
increased, until she asked a boon of me, but did not tell me what
it was. Who would deny his mistress aught? There is no lover
but would surely do all his sweet-heart's pleasure without
default or guile, whenever he can in any way. I agreed to her
desire; but when I had agreed, she would have it, too, that I
should swear. I would have done more than that for her, but she
took me at my word. I made her a promise, without knowing what.
Time passed until I was made a knight. King Evrain, whose nephew
I am, dubbed me a knight in the presence of many honourable men
in this very garden where we are. My lady, who is sitting there,
at once recalled to me my word, and said that I had promised her
that I would never go forth from here until there should come
some knight who should conquer me by trial of arms. It was right
that I should remain, for rather than break my word, I should
never have pledged it. Since I knew the good there was in her, I
could nor reveal or show to the one whom I hold most dear that in
all this I was displeased; for if she had noticed it, she would
have withdrawn her heart, and I would not have had it so for
anything that might happen. Thus my lady thought to detain me
here for a long stay; she did not think that there would ever
enter this garden any vassal who could conquer me. In this way
she intended to keep me absolutely shut up with her all the days
of my life. And I should have committed an offence if I had had
resort to guile and not defeated all those against whom I could
prevail; such escape would have been a shame. And I dare to
assure you that I have no friend so dear that I would have
feigned at all in fighting with him. Never did I weary of arms,
nor did I ever refuse to fight. You have surely seen the helmets
of those whom I have defeated and put to death; but the guilt of
it is not mine, when one considers it aright. I could not help
myself, unless I were willing to be false and recreant and
disloyal. Now I have told you the truth, and be assured that it
is no small honour which you have gained. You have given great
joy to the court of my uncle and my friends; for now I shall be
released from here; and because all those who are at the court
will have joy of it, therefore those who awaited the joy called
it `Joy of the Court'. They have awaited it so long that now it
will be granted them by you who have won it by your fight. You
have defeated and bewitched my prowess and my chivalry. Now it
is right that I tell you my name, if you would know it. I am
called Mabonagrain; but I am not remembered by that name in any
land where I have been, save only in this region; for never, when
I was a squire, did I tell or make known my name. Sire, you knew
the truth concerning all that you asked me. But I must still
tell you that there is in this garden a horn which I doubt not
you have seen. I cannot issue forth from here until you have
blown the horn; but then you will have released me, and then the
Joy will begin. Whoever shall hear and give it heed no hindrance
will detain him, when he shall hear the sound of the horn, from
coming straight-way to the court. Rise up, sire! Go quickly
now! Go take the horn right joyfully; for you have no further
cause to wait; so do that which you must do." Now Erec rose, and
the other rises with him, and both approach the horn. Erec takes
it and blows it, putting into it all his strength, so that the
sound of it reaches far. Greatly did Enide rejoice when she
heard the note, and Guivret was greatly delighted too. The King
is glad, and so are his people; there is not one who is not well
suited and pleased at this. No one ceases or leaves off from
making merry and from song. Erec could boast that day, for never
was such rejoicing made; it could not be described or related by
mouth of man, but I will tell you the sum of it briefly and with
few words. The news spreads through the country that thus the
affair has turned out. Then there was no holding back from
coming to the court. All the people hasten thither in confusion,
some on foot and some on horse, without waiting for each other.
And those who were in the garden hastened to remove Erec's arms,
and in emulation they all sang a song about the Joy; and the
ladies made up a lay which they called `the Lay of Joy', (42) but
the lay is not well known. Erec was well sated with joy and well
served to his heart's desire; but she who sat on the silver couch
was not a bit pleased. The joy which she saw was not at all to
her taste. But many people have to keep still and look on at
what gives them pain. Enide acted graciously; because she saw
her sitting pensive, alone on the couch, she felt moved to go and
speak with her and tell her about her affairs and about herself,
and to strive, if possible, to make her tell in return about
herself, if it did not cause her too great distress. Enide
thought to go alone, wishing to take no one with her, but some of
the most noble and fairest dames and damsels followed her out of
affection to bear her company, and also to comfort her to whom
the joy brings great chagrin; for she assumed that now her lover
would be no longer with her so much as he had been, inasmuch as
he desired to leave the garden. However disappointing it may be,
no one can prevent his going away, for the hour and the time have
come. Therefore the tears ran down her face from her eyes. Much
more than I can say was she grieving and distressed; nevertheless
she sat up straight. But she does not care so much for any of
those who try to comfort her that she ceases her moan. Enide
salutes her kindly; but for a while the other could not reply a
word, being prevented by the sighs and sobs which torment and
distress her. Some time it was before the damsel returned her
salutation, and when she had looked at her and examined her for a
while, it seemed that she had seen and known her before. But not
being very certain of it, she was not slow to inquire from whence
she was, of what country, and where her lord was born; she
inquires who they both are. Enide replies briefly and tells her
the truth, saying: "I am the niece of the Count who holds sway
over Lalut, the daughter of his own sister; at Lalut I was born
and brought up." The other cannot help smiling, without hearing
more, for she is so delighted that she forgets her sorrow. Her
heart leaps with joy which she cannot conceal. She runs and
embraces Enide, saying: "I am your cousin! This is the very
truth, and you are my father's niece; for he and your father are
brothers. But I suspect that you do not know and have never
heard how I came into this country. The Count, your uncle, was
at war, and to him there came to fight for pay knights of many
lands. Thus, fair cousin, it came about, that with these
hireling knights there came one who was the nephew of the king of
Brandigan. He was with my father almost a year. That was, I
think, twelve years ago, and I was still but a little child. He
was very handsome and attractive. There we had an understanding
between us that pleased us both. I never had any wish but his,
until at last he began to love me and promised and swore to me
that he would always be my lover, and that he would bring me
here; that pleased us both alike. He could not wait, and I was
longing to come hither with him; so we both came away, and no one
knew of it but ourselves. In those days you and I were both
young and little girls. I have told you the truth; so now tell
me in turn, as I have told you, all about your lover, and by what
adventure he won you." "Fair cousin, he married me in such a way
that my father knew all about it, and my mother was greatly
pleased. All our relatives knew it and rejoiced over it, as they
should do. Even the Count was glad. For he is so good a knight
that better cannot be found, and he does not need to prove his
honour and knighthood, and he is of very gentle birth: I do not
think that any can be his equal. He loves me much, and I love
him more, and our love cannot be greater. Never yet could I
withhold my love from him, nor should I do so. For is not my
lord the son of a king? For did he not take me when I was poor
and naked? Through him has such honour come to me that never was
any such vouchsafed to a poor helpless girl. And if it please
you, I will tell you without lying how I came to be thus raised
up; for never will I be slow to tell the story." Then she told
and related to her how Erec came to Lalut; for she had no desire
to conceal it. She told her the adventure word for word, without
omission. But I pass over it now, because he who tells a story
twice makes his tale now tiresome. While they were thus
conversing, one lady slipped away alone, who sent and told it all
to the gentlemen, in order to increase and heighten their
pleasure too. All those who heard it rejoiced at this news. And
when Mabonagrain knew it he was delighted for his sweetheart
because now she was comforted. And she who bore them quickly the
news made them all happy in a short space. Even the King was
glad for it; although he was very happy before, yet now he is
still happier, and shows Erec great honour. Enide leads away her
fair cousin, fairer than Helen, more graceful and charming. Now
Erec and Mabonagrain, Guivret and King Evrain, and all the others
run to meet them and salute them and do them honour, for no one
is grudging or holds back. Mabonagrain makes much of Enide, and
she of him. Erec and Guivret, for their part, rejoice over the
damsel as they all kiss and embrace each other. They propose to
return to the castle, for they have stayed too long in the
garden. They are all prepared to go out; so they sally forth
joyfully, kissing each other on the way. All go out after the
King, but before they reached the castle, the nobles were
assembled from all the country around, and all those who knew of
the Joy, and who could do so, came hither. Great was the
gathering and the press. Every one, high and low, rich and poor,
strives to see Erec. Each thrusts himself before the other, and
they all salute him and bow before him, saying constantly: "May
God save him through whom joy and gladness come to our court!
God save the most blessed man whom God has ever brought into
being!" Thus they bring him to the court, and strive to show
their glee as their hearts dictate. Breton zithers, harps, and
viols sound, fiddles, psalteries, and other stringed instruments,
and all kinds of music that one could name or mention. But I
wish to conclude the matter briefly without too long delay. The
King honours him to the extent of his power, as do all the others
ungrudgingly. There is no one who does not gladly offer to do
his service. Three whole days the Joy lasted, before Erec could
get away. On the fourth he would no longer tarry for any reason
they could urge. There was a great crowd to accompany him and a
very great press when it came to taking leave. If he had wished
to reply to each one, he would not have been able in half a day
to return the salutations individually. The nobles he salutes
and embraces; the others he commends to God in a word, and
salutes them. Enide, for her part, is not silent when she takes
leave of the nobles. She salutes them all by name, and they in
turn do the like. Before she goes, she kisses her cousin very
tenderly and embraces her. Then they go and the Joy is over.
(Vv. 6411-6509.) They go off and the others return. Erec and
Guivret do not tarry, but keep joyfully on their way, until they
came in nine days to Robais, where they were told the King was.
The day before he had been bled privately in his apartments; with
him he had only five hundred nobles of his household. Never
before at any time was the King found so alone, and he was much
distressed that he had no more numerous suite at his court. At
that time a messenger comes running, whom they had sent ahead to
apprise the King of their approach. This man came in before the
assembly, found the King and all his people, and saluting him
correctly, said: "I am a messenger of Erec and of Guivret the
Little." Then he told him how they were coming to see him at his
court. The King replies: "Let them be welcome, as valiant and
gallant gentlemen! Nowhere do I know of any better than they
two. By their presence my court will be much enhanced." Then he
sent for the Queen and told her the news. The others have their
horses saddled to go and meet the gentlemen. In such haste are
they to mount that they did not put on their spurs. I ought to
state briefly that the crowd of common people, including squires,
cooks, and butlers, had already entered the town to prepare for
the lodgings. The main party came after, and had already drawn
so near that they had entered the town. Now the two parties have
met each other, and salute and kiss each other. They come to the
lodgings and make themselves comfortable, removing their hose and
making their toilet by donning their rich robes. When they were
completely decked out, they took their way to the court. They
come to court, where the King sees them, and the Queen, who is
beside herself with impatience to see Erec and Enide. The King
makes them take seats beside him, kisses Erec and Guivret; about
Enide's neck he throws his arms and kisses her repeatedly, in his
great joy. Nor is the Queen slow in embracing Erec and Enide.
One might well rejoice to see her now so full of joy. Every one
enters with spirit into the merry-making. Then the King causes
silence to be made, and appeals to Erec and asks news of his
adventures. When the noise had ceased, Erec began his story,
telling him of his adventures, without forgetting any detail. Do
you think now that I shall tell you what motive he had had in
starting out? Nay, for you know the whole truth about this and
the rest, as I have revealed it to you. To tell the story again
would burden me; for the tale is not short, that any one should
wish to begin it afresh and re-embelish it, as he told and
related it: of the three knights whom he defeated, and then of
the five, and then of the Count who strove to do him harm, and
then of the two giants--all in order, one after the other, he
told him of his adventures up to the point where he met Count
Oringle of Limors. "Many a danger have you gone through, fair
gentle friend," said the King to him; "now tarry in this country
at my court, as you are wont to do." "Sire, since you wish it, I
shall remain very gladly three or four years entire. But ask
Guivret to remain here too a request in which I would fain join."
The King prays him to remain, and he consents to stay. So they
both stay: the King kept them with him, and held them dear and
honoured them.
(Vv. 6510-6712.) Erec stayed at court, together with Guivret and
Enide, until the death of his father, the king, who was an old
man and full of years. The messengers then started out: the
nobles who went to seek him, and who were the greatest men of the
land, sought and searched for him until they found him at
Tintagel three weeks before Christmas; they told him the truth
what had happened to his old, white-haired father, and how he now
was dead and gone. This grieved Erec much more than he showed
before the people. But sorrow is not seemly in a king, nor does
it become a king to mourn. There at Tintagel where he was, he
caused vigils for the dead and Masses to be sung; he promised and
kept his promises, as he had vowed to the religious houses and
churches; he did well all that he ought to do: he chose out more
than one hundred and sixty-nine of the wretched poor, and clothed
them all in new garments. To the poor clerks and priors he gave,
as was right, black copes and warm linings to wear beneath. For
God's sake he did great good to all: to those who were in need he
distributed more than a barrel of small coins. When he had
shared his wealth, he then did a very wise thing in receiving his
land from the King's hand; and then he begged the King to crown
him at his court. The King bade him quickly be prepared; for
they shall both be crowned, he together with his wife, at the
approaching Christmastide; and he added: "You must go hence to
Nantes in Brittany; there you shall carry a royal ensign with
crown on head and sceptre in hand; this gift and privilege I
bestow upon you." Erec thanked the King, and said that that was
a noble gift. At Christmas the King assembles all his nobles,
summoning them individually and commanding them to come to
Nantes. He summoned them all, and none stayed behind. Erec,
too, sent word to many of his followers, and summoned them to
come thither; but more came than he had bidden, to serve him and
do him honour. I cannot tell you or relate who each one was, and
what his name; but whoever came or did not come, the father and
mother of my lady Enide were not forgotten. Her father was sent
for first of all, and he came to court in handsome style, like a
great lord and a chatelain. There was no great crowd of
chaplains or of silly, gaping yokels, but of excellent knights
and of people well equipped. Each day they made a long day's
journey, and rode on each day with great joy and great display,
until on Christmas eve they came to the city of Nantes. They
made no halt until they entered the great hall where the King and
his courtiers were. Erec and Enide see them, and you may know
how glad they were. To meet them they quickly make their way,
and salute and embrace them, speaking to them tenderly and
showing their delight as they should. When they had rejoiced
together, taking each other by the hand, they all four came
before the King, saluting him and likewise the Queen, who was
sitting by his side. Taking his host by the hand, Erec said:
"Sire, behold my good host, my kind friend, who did me such
honour that he made me master in his own house. Before he knew
anything about me, he lodged me well and handsomely. All that he
had he made over to me, and even his daughter he bestowed upon
me, without the advice or counsel of any one." "And this lady
with him," the King inquires, "who is she?" Erec does not
conceal the truth: "Sire," says he, "of this lady I may say that
she is the mother of my wife." "Is she her mother?" "Yes,
truly, sire." "Certainly, I may then well say that fair and
comely should be the flower born of so fair a stem, and better
the fruit one picks; for sweet is the smell of what springs from
good. Fair is Enide and fair she should be in all reason and by
right; for her mother is a very handsome lady, and her father is
a goodly knight. Nor does she in aught belie them; for she
descends and inherits directly from them both in many respects."
Then the King ceases and sits down, bidding them be seated too.
They do not disobey his command, but straightway take seats. Now
is Enide filled with joy when she sees her father and mother, for
a very long time had passed since she had seen them. Her
happiness now is greatly increased, for she was delighted and
happy, and she showed it all she could, but she could not make
such demonstration but that her joy was yet greater. But I wish
to say no more of that, for my heart draws me toward the court
which was now assembled in force. From many a different country
there were counts and dukes and kings, Normans, Bretons. Scotch,
and Irish: from England and Cornwall there was a very rich
gathering of nobles; for from Wales to Anjou, in Maine and in
Poitou, there was no knight of importance, nor lady of quality,
but the best and the most elegant were at the court at Nantes, as
the King had bidden them. Now hear, if you will, the great joy
and grandeur, the display and the wealth, that was exhibited at
the court. Before the hour of nones had sounded, King Arthur
dubbed four hundred knights or more all sons of counts and of
kings. To each one he gave three horses and two pairs of suits,
in order that his court may make a better showing. Puissant and
lavish was the King; for the mantles he bestowed were not of
serge, nor of rabbit-skins, nor of cheap brown fur, but of heavy
silk and ermine, of spotted fur and flowered silks, bordered with
heavy and stiff gold braid. Alexander, who conquered so much
that he subdued the whole world, and who was so lavish and rich,
compared with him was poor and mean. Caesar, the Emperor of
Rome, and all the kings whose names you hear in stories and in
epic songs, did not distribute at any feast so much as Arthur
gave on the day that he crowned Erec; nor would Caesar and
Alexander dare to spend so much as he spent at the court. The
raiment was taken from the chests and spread about freely through
the halls; one could take what he would, without restraint. In
the midst of the court, upon a rug, stood thirty bushels of
bright sterlings; (43) for since the time of Merlin until that
day sterlings had currency throughout Britain. There all helped
themselves, each one carrying away that night all that he wanted
to his lodging-place. At nine o'clock on Christmas day, all came
together again at court. The great joy that is drawing near for
him had completely filched Erec's heart away. The tongue and the
mouth of no man, however skilful, could describe the third, or
the fourth, or the fifth part of the display which marked his
coronation. So it is a mad enterprise I undertake in wishing to
attempt to describe it. But since I must make the effort, come
what may, I shall not fail to relate a part of it, as best I may.
(Vv. 6713-6809.) The King had two thrones of white ivory, well
constructed and new, of one pattern and style. He who made them
beyond a doubt was a very skilled and cunning craftsman. For so
precisely did he make the two alike in height, in breadth, and in
ornamentation, that you could nor look at them from every side to
distinguish one from the other and find in one aught that was not
in the other. There was no part of wood, but all of gold and
fine ivory. Well were they carved with great skill, for the two
corresponding sides of each bore the representation of a leopard,
and the other two a dragon's shape. A knight named Bruiant of
the Isles had made a gift and present of them to King Arthur and
the Queen. King Arthur sat upon the one, and upon the other he
made Erec sit, who was robed in watered silk. As we read in the
story, we find the description of the robe, and in order that no
one may say that I lie, I quote as my authority Macrobius, (44)
who devoted himself to the description of it. Macrobius
instructs me how to describe, according as I have found it in the
book, the workmanship and the figures of the cloth. Four fairies
had made it with great skill and mastery. (45) One represented
there geometry, how it estimates and measures the extent of the
heavens and the earth, so that nothing is lacking there; and then
the depth and the height, and the width, and the length; then it
estimates, besides, how broad and deep the sea is, and thus
measures the whole world. Such was the work of the first fairy.
And the second devoted her effort to the portrayal of arithmetic,
and she strove hard to represent clearly how it wisely enumerates
the days and the hours of time, and the water of the sea drop by
drop, and then all the sand, and the stars one by one, knowing
well how to tell the truth, and how many leaves there are in the
woods: such is the skill of arithmetic that numbers have never
deceived her, nor will she ever be in error when she wishes to
apply her sense to them. The third design was that of music,
with which all merriment finds itself in accord, songs and
harmonies, and sounds of string: of harp, of Breton violin, and
of viol. This piece of work was good and fine; for upon it were
portrayed all the instruments and all the pastimes. The fourth,
who next performed her task, executed a most excellent work; for
the best of the arts she there portrayed. She undertook
astronomy, which accomplishes so many marvels and draws
inspiration from the stars, the moon, and the sun. Nowhere else
does it seek counsel concerning aught which it has to do. They
give it good and sure advice. Concerning whatever inquiry it
make of them, whether in the past or in the future, they give it
information without falsehood and without deception. This work
was portrayed on the stuff of which Erec's robe was made, all
worked and woven with thread of gold. The fur lining that was
sewed within, belonged to some strange beasts whose heads are all
white, and whose necks are as black as mulberries, and which have
red backs and green bellies, and dark blue tail. These beasts
live in India and they are called "barbiolets". They eat nothing
but spices, cinnamon, and fresh cloves. What shall I tell you of
the mantle? It was very rich and fine and handsome; it had four
stones in the tassels--two chrysolites on one side, and two
amethysts on the other, which were mounted in gold.
(Vv. 6810-6946.) As yet Enide had not come to the palace. When
the King sees that she delays, he bids Gawain go quickly to bring
her and the Queen. Gawain hastens and was not slow, and with him
King Cadoalant and the generous King of Galloway. Guivret the
Little accompanies them, followed by Yder the son of Nut. So
many of the other nobles ran thither to escort the two ladies
that they would have sufficed to overcome a host; for there were
more than a thousand of them. The Queen had made her best effort
to adorn Enide. Into the palace they brought her the courteous
Gawain escorting her on one side, and on the other the generous
King of Galloway, who loved her dearly on account of Erec who was
his nephew. When they came to the palace, King Arthur came
quickly toward them, and courteously seated Enide beside Erec;
for he wished to do her great honour. Now he orders to be
brought forth from his treasure two massive crowns of fine gold.
As soon as he had spoken and given the command, without delay the
crowns were brought before him, all sparkling with carbuncles, of
which there were four in each. The light of the moon is nothing
compared with the light which the least of the carbuncles could
shed. Because of the radiance which they shed, all those who
were in the palace were so dazzled that for a moment they could
see nothing; and even the King was amazed, and yet filled with
satisfaction, when he saw them to be so clear and bright. He had
one of them held by two damsels, and the other by two gentlemen.
Then he bade the bishops and priors and the abbots of the Church
step forward and anoint the new King, as the Christian practice
is. Now all the prelates, young and old, came forward; for at
the court there were a great number of bishops and abbots. The
Bishop of Nantes himself, who was a very worthy and saintly man,
anointed the new King in a very holy and becoming manner, and
placed the crown upon his head. King Arthur had a sceptre
brought which was very fine. Listen to the description of the
sceptre, which was clearer than a pane of glass, all of one solid
emerald, fully as large as your fist. I dare to tell you in very
truth that in all the world there is no manner of fish, or of
wild behest, or of man, or of flying bird that was not worked and
chiselled upon it with its proper figure. The sceptre was handed
to the King, who looked at it with amazement; then he put it
without delay into King Erec's right hand; and now he was King as
he ought to be. Then he crowned Enide in turn. Now the bells
ring for Mass, and they go to the main church to hear the Mass
and service; they go to pray at the cathedral. You would have
seen weeping with joy the father of Queen Enide and her mother,
Carsenefide. In truth this was her mother's name, and her
father's name was Liconal. Very happy were they both. When they
came to the cathedral, the procession came out from the church
with relics and treasures to meet them. Crosses and prayerbooks
and censers and reliquaries, with all the holy relics, of which
there were many in the church, were all brought out to meet them;
nor was there any lack of chants made. Never were seen so many
kings, counts, dukes, and nobles together at a Mass, and the
press was so great and thick that the church was completely
filled. No low-born man could enter there, but only ladies and
knights. Outside the door of the church a great number still
remained, so many were there come together who could not get
inside the church. When they had heard all the Mass they
returned to the palace. It was all prepared and decorated:
tables set and cloths spread five hundred tables and more were
there; but I do not wish to make you believe a thing which does
not seem true. It would seem too great a lie were I to say that
five hundred tables were set in rows in one palace, so I will not
say it; rather were there five hails so filled with them that
with great difficulty could one make his way among the tables.
At each table there was in truth a king or a duke or a count; and
full a hundred knights were seated at each table. A thousand
knights served the bread, and a thousand served the wine, and a
thousand the meat--all of them dressed in fresh fur robes of
ermine. All are served with divers dishes. Even if I did not
see them, I might still be able to tell you about them; but I
must attend to something else than to tell you what they had to
eat. They had enough, without wanting more; joyfully and
liberally they were served to their heart's desire.
(Vv. 6947-6958.) When this celebration was concluded, the King
dismissed the assemblage of kings, dukes, and counts, of which
the number was immense, and of the other humble folk who had come
to the festival. He rewarded them liberally with horses, arms
and silver, cloths and brocades of many kinds, because of his
generosity, and because of Erec whom he loved so much. Here the
story ends at last.
NOTE: Endnotes supplied by Prof. Foerster are indicated by
"(F.)"; all other endnotes are supplied by W.W. Comfort.
(1) A Welsh version, "Geraint the Son of Erbin", included in
Lady Charlotte Guest's translation of "The Mabinogion"
(London, 1838-49; a modern edition will be found in Everyman
Library, London, 1906), tells the same story as "Erec et
Enide" with some variations. This Welsh version has also
been translated into modern French by J. Loth ("Les
Mabinogion", Paris, 1889), where it may be consulted with
the greatest confidence. The relation of the Welsh prose to
the French poem is a moot point. Cf. E. Philipot in
"Romania", XXV. 258-294, and earlier, K. Othmer, "Ueber das
Verhaltnis Chrestiens Erec und Enide zu dem Mabinogion des
rothen Buch von Hergest" (Koln, 1889); G. Paris in
"Romania", XIX. 157, and id. XX. 148-166.
(2) We frequently read in the romances of a hunt at Easter (F.).
As here, so in "Fergus" (ed. Martin, Halle, 1872), p. 2 f.,
the knights hunt a white stag, which Perceval finally slays,
but there is no mention of the ceremony of the bestowal of a
(3) Chretien nowhere gives any description of the nature of the
Round Table. With him, it is an institution. Layamon in
"Brut" and Wace in "Le Roman de Brut" are more specific in
their accounts of this remarkable piece of furniture. From
their descriptions, and from other sources in Welsh and
Irish literature, it is reasonable to suppose that the Round
Table had a place in primitive Celtic folk-lore. Cf. L.F.
Mott, "The Round Table" in "Pub. of the Modern Language
Association of America", XX. 231-264; A.C.L. Brown, "The
Round Table before Wace" in "Harvard Studies and Notes in
Philology and Literature", vii. 183-205 (Boston, 1900); Miss
J.L Weston, "A Hitherto Unconsidered Aspect of the Round
Table" in "Melanges de philologie romane offerts a M.
Wilmotte", ii. 883-894, 2 vols. (Paris, 1910).
(4) There exists a romance devoted to Yder, of which G. Paris
printed a resume in "Hist. Litt. de la France", XXX., and
which has been recently edited by Heinrich Gelzer: "Der
altfranzosische Yderroman" (Dresden, 1913). There are
apparently three different knight of this name in the old
French romances (F.).
(5) The word "chastel" (from "castellum") is usually to be
translated as "town" or strong place within fortifications.
Only where it plainly refers to a detached building will the
word "castle" be used.
(6) A "tercel" is a species of falcon, of which the male bird is
one-third smaller than the female.
(7) A "vavasor" (from "vassus vassallorum") was a low order of
vassal, but a freeman. The vavasors are spoken of with
respect in the old French romances, as being of honourable
character, though not of high birth.
(8) The numerous references to the story of King Mark, Tristan,
and Iseut in the extant poems of Chretien support his own
statement, made at the outset of "Cliges", that he himself
composed a poem on the nephew and wife of the King of
Cornwall. We have fragments of poems on Tristan by the
Anglo-Norman poets Beroul and Thomas, who were
contemporaries of Chretien. Foerster's hypothesis that the
lost "Tristan" of Chretien antedated "Erec" is doubtless
correct. That the poet later treated of the love of Cliges
and Fenice as a sort of literary atonement for the
inevitable moral laxity of Tristan and Iseut has been held
by some, and the theory is acceptable in view of the
references to be met later in "Cliges". For the contrary
opinion of Gaston Paris see "Journal des Savants" (1902), p.
297 f.
(9) In the Mabinogi "Geraint the Son of Erbin", the host
explains that he had wrongfully deprived his nephew of his
possessions, and that in revenge the nephew had later taken
all his uncle's property, including an earldom and this
town. See Guest, "The Mabinogion".
(10) The hauberk was a long shirt of mail reaching to the knees,
worn by knights in combat. The helmet, and the "coiffe"
beneath it, protected the head; the "ventail" of linked
meshes was worn across the lower part of the face, and was
attached on each side of the neck to the "coiffe", so that
it protected the throat; the greaves covered the legs. The
body of the knight was thus well protected against blow of
sword or lance. Cf. Vv.711 f.
(11) This passage seems to imply that charms and enchantments
were sometimes used when a knight was armed (F.).
(12) The "loges", so often mentioned in old French romances, were
either window-balconies or architectural points of vantage
commanding some pleasing prospect. The conventional
translation in the old English romances is "bower".
(13) Tristan killed Morholt, the uncle of Iseut, when he came to
claim tribute form King Mark (cf. Bedier, "Le Roman de
Tristan", etc., i. 85 f., 2 vols., Paris, 1902). The combat
took place on an island, unnamed in the original text (id.
i. 84), but later identified with St. Samson's Isle, one of
the Scilly Isles.
(14) The same act of feeding a hunting-bird with a plover's wing
is mentioned in "Le Roman de Thebes", 3857-58 (ed. "Anciens
(15) For such figurative expressions used to complement the
negative, cf. Gustav Dreyling, "Die Ausdruckweise der
ubertriebenen Verkleinerung im altfranzosischen Karlsepos",
in Stengel's "Ausgaben und Abhandlungen", No. 82 (Marsburg,
1888); W.W. Comfort in "Modern Language Notes" (Baltimore,
February 1908).
(16) Chretien in his later romances will avoid compiling such a
prosaic blue-book as is found in this passage, though
similar lists of knights occur in the old English romances
as late as Malory, though of some of them but little is
known. Unfortunately, we have for the old French romances
no such complete work as that furnished for the epic poems
by E. Langois, "Table des noms propres de toute nature
compris dans les chansons de geste" (Paris, 1904).
(17) The only mention by Chretien of this son of Arthur, whose
role is absolutely insignificant in the Arthurian romances.
(18) What was this drinking-cup, and who sent it to Arthur? We
have "Le Lai du cor" (ed. Wulff, Lund, 1888), which tells
how a certain King Mangount of Moraine sent a magic
drinking-cup to Arthur. No one could drink of this cup
without spilling the contents if he were a cuckold.
Drinking from this cup was, then, one of the many current
tests of chastity. Further light may be thrown on the
passage in our text by the English poem "The Cokwold's
Daunce" (in C.H. Hartshorne's "Ancient Metrical Ballads",
London, 1829), where Arthur is described as a cuckold
himself and as having always by him a horn (cup) which he
delights in trying on his knights as a test of their ladies'
chastity. For bibliography see T.P. Cross, "Notes on the
Chastity-Testing Horns and Mantle" in "Modern Philology", x.
(19) A unique instance of such a division of the material in
Chretien's poems (F.).
(20) Outre-Gales=Estre-Gales (v.3883)=Extra-Galliam.
(21) Such fanciful descriptions of men and lands are common in
the French epic poems, where they are usually applied to the
Saracens (F.). Cf. W.w. Comfort, "The Saracens in Christian
Poetry" in "The Dublin Review", July 1911; J. Malsch, "Die
Charakteristik der Volker im altfranzosischen nationalen
Epos" (Heidelberg, 1912).
(22) With what seems to us mistaken taste, Chretien frequently
thus delays mentioning the name of his leading charecters.
The father and mother of Enide remain anonymous until the
end of this poem. The reader will remark other instances of
this peculiarity in "Yvain" and "Lancelot".
(23) The maid Brangien was substituted for Iseut, the bride, upon
the first night after her marriage with Mark. Similar
traditions are associated with the marriage of Arthur and
Guinevere, and of Pepin and Berte aus grans pies, the
parents of Charlemagne. Adenet le Roi toward the end of the
13th century is the author of the most artistic treatments
of Berte's history (ed. A. Scheler, Bruxelles, 1874). Cf.
W.W. Comfort, "Adenet le Roi: The End of a Literary Era" in
"The Quarterly Review", April 1913.
(24) The reading "Sanson" (=Samson) is Foerster's most recent
(1904) suggestion to replace the word "lion" which stands in
all the MSS. Solomon's name has always been syonymous with
wisdom, and Alexander's generosity was proverbial in the
Middle Ages. For Alexander, cf. Paul Meyer, "Alexandre le
Grand dans la litterature francaise du moyen age", 2 vols.
(Paris, 1886), vol ii., pp. 372-376, and Paget Toynbee,
"Dante Studies and Researches" (London, 1902), p. 144.
(25) Of Arthur's several nephews, Gawain is represented by
Chretien as peerless in respect of courage and courtesy. In
the English romances his character steadily deteriorates.
(26) This sentence contains the motive for all the action in the
sequel. The same situation is threatened in "Yvain", but
there Gawain rescues the hero from the lethargy, ignoble in
the eyes of a feudal audience, into which he was falling.
Cf. also "Marques de Rome" ("Lit. Verein in Stuttgart",
Tubingen, 1889), p. 36, where the Empress of Rome thus
incites her husband to the chase: "Toz jors cropez vos a
Postel; vos n'estes point chevalereus, si come vos deussiez
estre, si juenes hom come vos estes"; also J. Gower, "Le
Mirour de l'omme, 22, 813 ff.:
"Rois est des femmes trop decu,
Qant plus les ayme que son dieu,
Dont laist honour pour foldelit:
Cil Rois ne serra pas cremu,
Q'ensi voet laisser sou escu
Et querre le bataille ou lit."
(27) This brusque command, implying so sudden a change in Erec's
attitude toward his wife, initiates a long series of tests
of Enide's devotion, which fill the rest of the romance.
Why did Erec treat his wife with such severity? In the
Mabinogi of "Geraint the Son of Erbin", it is plain that
jealousy was the hero's motive. The reader of "Erec" may
judge whether, as we believe, the hero's sudden resolve is
not rather that of a man piqued at being justly reproved by
his wife for a delinquency he had not himself remarked;
irate at his wife's imputation, and fearful of having
forfeited her respect, he starts out to redeem his
reputation in her eyes, and to maker her retract any
insinuation she had made. Erec is simply angry with
himself, but he expends his wrath upon his defenceless wife
until he is reassured of her love and respect for him.
(28) The situation here is a common one. Parallels will be found
in the "Voyage de Charlemagne", in the first tale of the
"Arabian Nights", in the poem "Biterolf and Dietlieb", and
in the English ballad of "King Arthur and King Cornwall".
Professor Child, in his "English and Scotch Ballads",
indexes the ballads in his collection, which present this
motive, under the following caption: "King who regards
himself as the richest, most magnificent, etc., in the
world, is told that there is one who outstrips him, and
undertakes to see for himself whether this is so,
threatening death to the person who has affirmed his
inferiority in case this is disproved."
(29) The presence of the Irish in this connection is explained by
G. Paris in "Romania", xx. 149.
(30) Kay the Seneschal appears here for the first time in
Chretien's poems with the character which he regularly
ascribes to him. Readers of Arthurian romance are all
familiar with Sir Kay; they will find that in Chretien, the
seneschal, in addition to his undeniable qualities of
bravery and frankness, has less pleasing traits; he is
foolhardy, tactless, mean, and a disparager of others'
merit. He figures prominently in "Yvain" and "Lancelot".
His poetic history has not yet been written. His role in
the German romances has been touched upon by Dr. Friedrich
Sachse, "Ueber den Ritter Kei" (Berlin, 1860).
(31) No meat was eaten because it was the eve of Sunday.
(32) In the French epic poems and romances of adventure alike it
is customary for giants and all manner of rustic boors to
carry clubs, the arms of knighthood being appropriate for
such ignoble creatures. Other instances of this convention
will be remarked in the text.
(33) There follows and excellent example of an old French lament
for the dead. Such a wail was known in old French as a
"regret", a word which has lost its specific meaning in
(34) Many examples will be met of women skilled in the practice
of medicine and surgery. On the subject, cf. A. Hertel,
"Versauberte Oertlichkeiten und Gegenstande in der
altfranzosschen Dichtung" (Hanover, 1908); Georg Manheimer,
"Etwas liber die Aerzte im alten Frankreich" in "Romanische
Forschungen", vi. 581-614.
(35) The reference here and in v.5891 is probably suggested by
the "Roman d'Eneas", which tells the same story as Virgil's
"Aeneid", in old French eight-syllable rhymed couplets, and
which is dated by the most recent scholarship 1160 circ.
Cf. F.M. Warren in "Modern Philology", iii. 179-209; iii.
513-539; iv. 655-675. Also M. Wilmotte, "L'Evolution du
roman francais aux environs de 1150" (Paris, 1903). Scenes
from classical and medieval romance were for a long time
favourite subject of portrayal upon cloths and tapestries,
as well as of illuminations for manuscripts.
(36) Various conjectures have been advanced concerning the
significance of this strange adventure and its mysterious
name "La Joie de la cour". It is a quite extraneous
episode, and Tennyson in his artistic use of our hero and
heroine in the Idyl of "Geraint and Enid" did well to omit
it. Chretien's explanation, a little farther on, of "La
Joie de la cour" is lame and unsatisfactory, as if he
himself did not understand the significance of the matter
upon which he was working. Cf. E. Philipot in "Romania",
xxv. 258-294; K. Othmer, "Ueber das Verhaltnis Chrestiens
Erec und Enide zu dem Mabinogion des rothen Buch von
Hergest" (Bonn, 1889); G. Paris in "Romania", xx. 152 f.
(37) The following description of Erec's reception is repeated
with variations at the time of Yvain's entrance in the
"Chastel de Pesme Avanture" ("Yvain", 5107 f.) (F.).
(38) For such conventional mediaeval descriptions of other-world
castles, palaces, and landscapes, cf. O.M. Johnston in
"Ztsch fur romanische Philologie", xxxii. 705-710.
(39) Tiebaut li Esclavon, frequently mentioned in the epic poems,
was a Saracen king, the first husband of Guibourne, who
later married the Christian hero Guillaume d'Orange. Opinel
was also a Saracen, mentioned in "Gaufrey", p. 132, and the
hero of a lost epic poem (see G. Paris, "Historie poetique
de Charlemagne", p. 127). Fernagu was another Saracen king,
killed in a famous encounter by Roland, "Otinel", p. 9 (F.).
For further references to these characters, see E. Langlois,
"Table des noms propres de toute nature compris dans les
chansons de geste" (Paris, 1904).
(40) There is a similar picket fence topped with helmets in the
"Las de la Mule sanz frain", v. 433 (ed. By R.T. Hill,
Baltimore, 1911).
(41) For such magic horns, cf. A. Hertel, "Verzauberte
Oertlichkeiten", etc. (Hanover, 1908).
(42) In fact, nothing is known of this "lai", if, indeed, it ever
existed. For a recent definition of "lai", se L. Foulet in
"Ztsch. fur romanische Philologie", xxxii. 161 f.
(43) The sterling was the English silver penny, 240 of which
equalled 1 Pound Sterling of silver of 5760 grains 925 fine.
It is early described as "denarius Angliae qui vocatur
sterlingus" ("Ency. Brit").
(44) Macrobus was a Neoplatonic philosopher and Latin grammarian
of the early part of the 5th century A.D. He is best known
as the author of the "Saturnalia" and of a commentary upon
Cicero's "Somnium Scipionis" in that author's "De
republica". It is this latter work that is probably in the
mind of Chretien, as well as of Gower, who refers to him in
his "Mirour l'omme", and of Jean de Meun, the author of the
second part of the "Roman de la Rose".
(45) For fairies and their handiwork in the Middle Ages, cf.
L.F.A. Maury, "Les Fees du moyen age" (Paris, 1843);
Keightley, "Fairy Mythology" (London, 1860); Lucy A. Paton,
"Studies in the Fairy Mythology of Arthurian Romance",
Radcliffe Monograph (Boston, 1903); D.B. Easter, "The Magic
Elements in the romans d'aventure and the romans bretons"
(Baltimore, 1906).
(Vv. 1-44.) He who wrote of Erec and Enide, and translated into
French the commands of Ovid and the Art of Love, and wrote the
Shoulder Bite, (2) and about King Mark and the fair Iseut, (3)
and about the metamorphosis of the Lapwing, (4) the Swallow, and
the Nightingale, will tell another story now about a youth who
lived in Greece and was a member of King Arthur's line. But
before I tell you aught of him, you shall hear of his father's
life, whence he came and of what family. He was so bold and so
ambitious that he left Greece and went to England, which was
called Britain in those days, in order to win fame and renown.
This story, which I intend to relate to you, we find written in
one of the books of the library of my lord Saint Peter at
Beauvais. (5) From there the material was drawn of which
Chretien has made this romance. The book is very old in which
the story is told, and this adds to its authority. (6) From such
books which have been preserved we learn the deeds of men of old
and of the times long since gone by. Our books have informed us
that the pre-eminence in chivalry and learning once belonged to
Greece. Then chivalry passed to Rome, together with that highest
learning which now has come to France. God grant that it may be
cherished here, and that it may be made so welcome here that the
honour which has taken refuge with us may never depart from
France: God had awarded it as another's share, but of Greeks and
Romans no more is heard, their fame is passed, and their glowing
ash is dead.
(Vv. 45-134.) Chretien begins his story as we find it in the
history, which tells of an emperor powerful in wealth and honour
who ruled over Greece and Constantinople. A very noble empress,
too, there was, by whom the emperor had two children. But the
elder son was already so far advanced before the younger one was
born that, if he had wished, he might have become a knight and
held all the empire beneath his sway. The name of the elder was
Alexander, and the other's name was Alis. Alexander, too, was
the father's name, and the mother's name was Tantalis. I shall
now say nothing more of the emperor and of Alis; but I shall
speak of Alexander, who was so bold and proud that he scorned to
become a knight in his own country. He had heard of King Arthur,
who reigned in those days, and of the knights whom he always kept
about him, thus causing his court to be feared and famed
throughout the world. However, the affair may result and
whatever fortune may await him, nothing can restrain Alexander
from his desire to go into Britain, but he must obtain his
father's consent before proceeding to Britain and Cornwall. So
Alexander, fair and brave, goes to speak with the emperor in
order to ask and obtain his leave. Now he will tell him of his
desire and what he wishes to do and undertake. "Fair sire," he
says, "in quest of honour and fame and praise I dare to ask you a
boon, which I desire you to give me now without delay, if you are
willing to grant it to me." The emperor thinks no harm will come
from this request: he ought rather to desire and long for his
son's honour. "Fair son," he says, "I grant you your desire; so
tell me now what you wish me to give you." Now the youth has
accomplished his purpose, and is greatly pleased when the boon is
granted him which he so greatly desired. "Sire," says he, "do
you wish to know what it is that you have promised me? I wish to
have a great plenty of gold and silver, and such companions from
among your men as I will select; for I wish to go forth from your
empire, and to present my service to the king who rules over
Britain, in order that he may make me a knight. I promise you
never in my life to wear armour on my face or helmet upon my head
until King Arthur shall gird on my sword, if he will graciously
do so. For from no other than from him will I accept my arms."
Without hesitation the emperor replies: "Fair son, for God's
sake, speak not so! This country all belongs to you, as well as
rich Constantinople. You ought not to think me mean, when I am
ready to make you such a gift. I shall be ready soon to have you
crowned, and to-morrow you shall be a knight. All Greece will be
in your hands, and you shall receive from your nobles, as is
right, their homage and oaths of allegiance. Whoever refuses
such an offer is not wise."
(Vv. 135-168.) The youth hears the promise how the next morning
after Mass his father is ready to dub him knight; but he says he
will seek his fortune for better or worse in another land. "If
you are willing in this matter to grant the boon I have asked of
you, then give me mottled and grey furs, some good horses and
silken stuffs: for before I become a knight I wish to enrol in
King Arthur's service. Nor have I yet sufficient strength to
bear arms. No one could induce me by prayer or flattery not to
go to the foreign land to see his nobles and that king whose fame
is so great for courtesy and prowess. Many men of high degree
lose through sloth the great renown which they might win, were
they to wander about the world. (7) Repose and glory ill agree,
as it seems to me; for a man of wealth adds nothing to his
reputation if he spends all his days at ease. Prowess is irksome
to the ignoble man, and cowardice is a burden to the man of
spirit; thus the two are contrary and opposite. He is the slave
of his wealth who spends his days in storing and increasing it.
Fair father, so long as I have the chance, and so long as my
rigour lasts, I wish to devote my effort and energy to the
pursuit of fame."
(Vv. 169-234.) Upon hearing this; the emperor doubtless feels
both joy and grief: he is glad that his son's intention is fixed
upon honour, and on the other hand he is sorrowful because his
son is about to be separated from him. Yet, because of the
promise which he made, despite the grief he feels, he must grant
his request; for an emperor must keep his word. "Fair son," he
says, "I must not fail to do your pleasure, when I see you thus
striving for honour. From my treasure you may have two barges
full of gold and silver; but take care to be generous and
courteous and well-behaved." Now the youth is very happy when
his father promises him so much, and places his treasure at his
disposal, and bids him urgently to give and spend generously.
And his father explains his reason for this: "Fair son," he says,
"believe me, that generosity is the dame and queen which sheds
glory upon all the other virtues. And the proof of this is not
far to seek. For where could you find a man, be he never so rich
and powerful, who is not blamed if he is mean? Nor could you
find one, however ungracious he may be, whom generosity will not
bring into fair repute? Thus largess makes the gentleman, which
result can be accomplished neither by high birth, courtesy,
knowledge, gentility, money, strength, chivalry, boldness,
dominion, beauty, or anything else. (8) But just as the rose is
fairer than any other flower when it is fresh and newly blown, so
there, where largess dwells, it takes its place above all
other virtues, and increases five hundred fold the value of other
good traits which it finds in the man who acquits himself well.
So great is the merit of generosity that I could not tell you the
half of it." The young man has now successfully concluded the
negotiations for what he wished; for his father has acceded to
all his desires. But the empress was sorely grieved when she
heard of the journey which her son was about to take. Yet,
whoever may grieve or sorrow, and whoever may attribute his
intention to youthful folly, and ever may blame and seek to
dissuade him, the youth ordered his ships to be made ready as
soon as possible, desiring to tarry no longer in his native land.
At his command the ships were freighted that very night with
wine, meat, and biscuit.
(Vv. 235-338.) The ships were loaded in the port, and the next
morning Alexander came to the strand in high spirits, accompanied
by his companions, who were happy over the prospective voyage.
They were escorted by the emperor and the empress in her grief.
At the port they find the sailors in the ships drawn up beside
the cliff. The sea was calm and smooth, the wind was light, and
the weather clear. When he had taken leave of his father, and
bidden farewell to the empress, whose heart was heavy in her
bosom, Alexander first stepped from the small boat into the skip;
then all his companions hastened by fours, threes, and twos to
embark without delay. Soon the sail was spread and the anchor
raised. Those on shore whose heart is heavy because of the men
whom they watch depart, follow them with their gaze as long as
they can: and in order to watch them longer, they all climb a
high hill behind the beach. From there they sadly gaze, as long
as their eyes can follow them. With sorrow, indeed, they watch
them go, being solicitous for the youths, that God may bring them
to their haven without accident and without peril. All of April
and part of May they spent at sea. Without any great danger or
mishap they came to port at Southampton. (9) One day, between
three o'clock and vespers, they cast anchor and went ashore. The
young men, who had never been accustomed to endure discomfort or
pain, had suffered so long from their life at sea that they had
all lost their colour, and even the strongest and most vigorous
were weak and faint. In spite of that, they rejoice to have
escaped from the sea and to have arrived where they wished to be.
Because of their depleted state, they spend the night at
Southampton in happy frame, and make inquiries whether the King
is in England. They are told that he is at Winchester, and that
they can reach there in a very short time if they will start
early in the morning and keep to the straight road. At this news
they are greatly pleased, and the next morning at daybreak the
youths wake early, and prepare and equip themselves. And when
they were ready, they left Southampton, and kept to the direct
road until they reached Winchester, where the King was. Before
six o'clock in the morning the Greeks had arrived at the court.
The squires with the horses remain below in the yard, while the
youths go up into the presence of the King, who was the best that
ever was or ever will be in the world. And when the King sees
them coming, they please him greatly, and meet with his favour.
But before approaching the King's presence, they remove the
cloaks from about their necks, lest they should be considered
ill-bred. Thus, all unmantled, they came before the King, while
all the nobles present held their peace, greatly pleased at the
sight of these handsome and well-behaved young men. They suppose
that of course they are all sons of counts or kings; and, to be
sure, so they were, and of a very charming age, with graceful and
shapely forms. And the clothes they wore were all of the same
stuff and cut of the same appearance and colour. There were
twelve of them beside their lord, of whom I need tell you no more
than that there was none better than he. With modesty and
orderly mien, he was handsome and shapely as he stood uncovered
before the King. Then he kneeled before him, and all the others,
for honour's sake, did the same beside their lord.
(Vv. 339-384.) Alexander, with his tongue well skilled in
speaking fair and wisely, salutes the King. "King," he says,
"unless the report is false that spreads abroad your fame, since
God created the first man there was never born a God-fearing man
of such puissance as yours. King, your widespread renown has
drawn me to serve and honour you in your court, and if you will
accept my service, I would fain remain here until I be dubbed a
knight by your hand and by no one else. For unless I receive
this honour from your hand, I shall renounce all intention of
being knighted. If you will accept my service until you are
willing to dub me a knight, retain me now, oh gentle King, and my
companions gathered here." To which at once the King replies:
"Friend, I refuse neither you nor your companions. Be welcome
all. For surely you seem, and I doubt it not, to be sons of
high-born men. Whence do you come?" "From Greece." "From
Greece?" "Yes." "Who is thy father?" "Upon my word, sire, the
emperor." "And what is thy name, fair friend?" "Alexander is
the name that was given me when I received the salt and holy oil,
and Christianity and baptism." "Alexander, my dear, fair friend.
I will keep you with me very gladly, with great pleasure and
delight. For you have done me signal honour in thus coming to my
court. I wish you to be honoured here, as free vassals who are
wise and gentle. You have been too long upon your knees; now, at
my command, and henceforth make your home with man and in my
court; it is well that you have come to us."
(Vv. 385-440.) Then the Greeks rise up, joyful that the King has
so kindly invited them to stay. Alexander did well to come; for
he lacks nothing that he desires, and there is no noble at the
court who does not address him kindly and welcome him. He is not
so foolish as to be puffed up, nor does he vaunt himself nor
boast. He makes acquaintance with my lord Gawain and with the
others, one by one. He gains the good graces of them all, but my
lord Gawain grows so fond of him that he chooses him as his
friend and companion. (10) The Greeks took the best lodgings to
be had, with a citizen of the town. Alexander had brought great
possessions with him from Constantinople, intending to give heed
above all to the advice and counsel of the Emperor, that his
heart should be ever ready to give and dispense his riches well.
To this end he devotes his efforts, living well in his lodgings,
and giving and spending liberally, as is fitting in one so rich,
and as his heart dictates. The entire court wonders where he got
all the wealth that he bestows; for on all sides he presents the
valuable horses which he had brought from his own land. So much
did Alexander do, in the performance of his service, that the
King, the Queen, and the nobles bear him great affection. King
Arthur about this time desired to cross over into Brittany. So
he summons all his barons together to take counsel and inquire to
whom he may entrust England to be kept in peace and safety until
his return. By common consent, it seems, the trust was assigned
to Count Angres of Windsor, for it was their judgement that there
was no more trustworthy lord in all the King's realm. When this
man had received the land, King Arthur set out the next day
accompanied by the Queen and her damsels. The Bretons make great
rejoicing upon hearing the news in Brittany that the King and his
barons are on the way.
(Vv. 441-540.) Into the ship in which the King sailed there
entered no youth or maiden save only Alexander and Soredamors,
whom the Queen brought with her. This maiden was scornful of
love, for she had never heard of any man whom she would deign to
love, whatever might be his beauty, prowess, lordship, or birth.
And yet the damsel was so charming and fair that she might fitly
have learned of love, if it had pleased her to lend a willing
ear; but she would never give a thought to love. Now Love will
make her grieve, and will avenge himself for all the pride and
scorn with which she has always treated him. Carefully Love has
aimed his dart with which he pierced her to the heart. Now she
grows pale and trembles, and in spite of herself must succumb to
Love. Only with great difficulty can she restrain herself from
casting a glance toward Alexander; but she must be on her guard
against her brother, my lord Gawain. Dearly she pays and atones
for her great pride and disdain. Love has heated for her a bath
which heats and burns her painfully. At first it is grateful to
her, and then it hurts; one moment she likes it, and the next she
will have none of it. She accuses her eyes of treason, and says:
(11) "My eyes, you have betrayed me now! My heart, usually so
faithful, now bears me ill-will because of you. Now what I see
distresses me. Distresses? Nay, verily, rather do I like it
well. And if I actually see something that distresses me, can I
not control my eyes? My strength must indeed have failed, and
little should I esteem myself, if I cannot control my eyes and
make them turn their glance elsewhere. Thus, I shall be able to
baffle Love in his efforts to get control of me. The heart feels
no pain when the eye does not see; so, if I do not look at him,
no harm will come to me. He addresses me no request or prayer,
as he would do were he in love with me. And since he neither
loves nor esteems me, shall I love him without return? If his
beauty allures my eyes, and my eyes listen to the call, shall I
say that I love him just for that? Nay, for that would be a lie.
Therefore, he has no ground for complaint, nor can I make any
claim against him. One cannot love with the eyes alone. What
crime, then, have my eyes committed, if their glance but follows
my desire? What is their fault and what their sin? Ought I to
blame them, then? Nay, verily. Who, then, should be blamed?
Surely myself, who have them in control. My eye glances at
nothing unless it gives my heart delight. My heart ought not to
have any desire which would give me pain. Yet its desire causes
me pain. Pain? Upon my faith, I must be mad, if to please my
heart I wish for something which troubles me. If I can, I ought
to banish any wish that distresses me. If I can? Mad one, what
have I said? I must, indeed, have little power if I have no
control over myself. Does Love think to set me in the same path
which is wont to lead others astray? Others he may lead astray,
but not me who care not for him. Never shall I be his, nor ever
was, and I shall never seek his friendship." Thus she argues
with herself, one moment loving, and hating the next. She is in
such doubt that she does not know which course she had better
adopt. She thinks to be on the defence against Love, but defence
is not what she wants. God! She does not know that Alexander is
thinking of her too! Love bestows upon them equally such a share
as is their due. He treats them very fairly and justly, for each
one loves and desires the other. And this love would be true and
right if only each one knew what was the other's wish. But he
does not know what her desire is, and she knows not the cause of
his distress.
(Vv. 541-574.) The Queen takes note of them and sees them often
blanch and pale and heave deep sighs and tremble. But she knows
no reason why they should do so, unless it be because of the sea
where they are. I think she would have divined the cause had the
sea not thrown her off her guard, but the sea deceives and tricks
her, so that she does not discover love because of the sea; and
it is from love that comes the bitter pain that distresses them.
(12) But of the three concerned, the Queen puts all the blame
upon the sea; for the other two accuse the third to her, and hold
it alone responsible for their guilt. Some one who is not at
fault is often blamed for another's wrong. Thus, the Queen lays
all the blame and guilt upon the sea, but it is unfair to put the
blame upon the sea, for it is guilty of no misdeed. Soredamors'
deep distress continued until the vessel came to port. As for
the King, it is well known that the Bretons were greatly pleased,
and served him gladly as their liege lord. But of King Arthur I
will not longer speak in this place; rather shall you hear me
tell how Love distresses these two lovers whom he has attacked.
(Vv. 575-872.) Alexander loves and desires her; and she, too,
pines for the love of him, but he knows it not, nor will he know
it until he has suffered many a pain and many a grief. It is for
her sake that he renders to the Queen loving service, as well as
to her maids-in-waiting; but to her on whom his thoughts are
fixed, he dares not speak or address a word. If she but dared to
assert to him the right which she thinks she has, she would
gladly inform him of the truth; but she does not dare, and cannot
do it. They dare neither speak nor act in accordance with what
each sees in the other--which works a great hardship to them
both, and their love but grows and flames the more. However, it
is the custom of all lovers to feast their eyes gladly with
gazing, if they can do no more; and they assume that, because
they find pleasure in that which causes their love to be born and
grow, therefore it must be to their advantage; whereas it only
harms them more, just as he who approaches and draws close beside
the fire burns himself more than he who holds aloof. Their love
waxes and grows anon; but each is abashed before the other, and
so much is hidden and concealed that no flame or smoke arises
from the coals beneath the ashes. The heat is no less on this
account, but rather is better sustained beneath the ashes than
above. Both of them are in great torment; for, in order that
none may perceive their trouble, they are forced to deceive
people by a feigned bearing; but at night comes the bitter moan,
which each one makes within his breast. Of Alexander I will tell
you first how he complains and vents his grief. Love presents
before his mind her for whom he is in such distress; it is she
who has filched his heart away, and grants him no rest upon his
bed, because, forsooth, he delights to recall the beauty and the
grace of her who, he has no hope, will ever bring him any joy.
"I may as well hold myself a madman." he exclaims. "A madman?
Truly, I am beside myself, when I dare not speak what I have in
mind; for it would speedily fare worse with me (if I held my
peace). I have engaged my thoughts in a mad emprise. But is it
not better to keep my thoughts to myself than to be called a
fool? My wish will never then be known. Shall I then conceal
the cause of my distress, and not dare to seek aid and healing
for my wound? He is mad who feels himself afflicted, and seeks
not what will bring him health, if perchance he may find it
anywhere; but many a one seeks his welfare by striving for his
heart's desire, who pursues only that which brings him woe
instead. And why should one ask for advice, who does not expect
to gain his health? He would only exert himself in vain. I feel
my own illness to be so grievous that I shall never be healed by
any medicine or draught, by any herb or root. For some ills
there is no remedy, and mine lies so deep within that it is
beyond the reach of medicine. Is there no help, then? Methinks
I have lied. When first I felt this malady, if I had dared to
make mention of it. I might have spoken with a physician who
could have completely cured me. But I like not to discuss such
matters; I think he would pay me no heed and would not consent to
accept a fee. No wonder, then, if I am terrified; for I am very
ill, yet I do not know what disease this is which has me in its
grip, and I know not whence this pain has come. I do not know?
I know full well that it is Love who does me this injury. How is
that? Can Love do harm? Is he not gentle and well-bred? I used
to think that there was naught but good in Love; but I have found
him full of enmity. He who has not had experience of him does
not know what tricks Love plays. He is a fool who joins his
ranks; for he always seeks to harm his followers. Upon my faith,
his tricks are bad. It is poor sport to play with him, for his
game will only do me harm. What shall I do, then? Shall I
retreat? I think it would be wise to do so, but I know not how
to do it. If Love chastens and threatens me in order to teach
and instruct me, ought I to disdain my teacher? He is a fool who
scorns his master. I ought to keep and cherish the lesson which
Love teaches me, for great good may soon come of it. But I am
frightened because he beats me so. And dost thou complain, when
no sign of blow or wound appears? Art thou not mistaken? Nay,
for he has wounded me so deep that he has shot his dart to my
very heart, and has not yet drawn it out again. (13) How has he
pierced thy body with it, when no wound appears without? Tell me
that, for I wish to know. How did he make it enter in? Through
the eye. Through the eye? But he has not put it out? He did
not harm the eye at all, but all the pain is in the heart. Then
tell me, if the dart passed through the eye, how is it that the
eye itself is not injured or put out. If the dart entered
through the eye, why does the heart in the breast complain, when
the eye, which received the first effect, makes no complaint of
it at all? I can readily account for that: the eye is not
concerned with the understanding, nor has it any part in it; but
it is the mirror of the heart, and through this mirror passes,
without doing harm or injury, the flame which sets the heart on
fire. For is not the heart placed in the breast just like a
lighted candle which is set in a lantern? If you take the candle
away no light will shine from the lantern; but so long as the
candle lasts the lantern is not dark at all, and the flame which
shines within does it no harm or injury. Likewise with a pane of
glass, which might be very strong and solid, and yet a ray of the
sun could pass through it without cracking it at all; yet a piece
of glass will never be so bright as to enable one to see, unless
a stronger light strikes its surface. Know that the same thing
is true of the eyes as of the glass and the lantern; for the
light strikes the eyes in which the heart is accustomed to see
itself reflected, and lo! it sees some light outside, and many
other things, some green, some purple, others red or blue; and
some it dislikes, and some it likes, scorning some and prizing
others. But many an object seems fair to it when it looks at it
in the glass, which will deceive it if it is not on its guard.
My mirror has greatly deceived me; for in it my heart saw a ray
of light with which I am afflicted, and which has penetrated deep
within me, causing me to lose my wits. I am ill-treated by my
friend, who deserts me for my enemy. I may well accuse him of
felony for the wrong he has done to me. I thought I had three
friends, my heart and my two eyes together; but it seems that
they hate me. Where shall I ever find a friend, when these three
are my enemies, belonging to me, yet putting me to death? My
servants mock at my authority, in doing what they please without
consulting my desire. After my experience with these who have
done me wrong, I know full well that a good man's love may be
befouled by wicked servants in his employ. He who is attended by
a wicked servant will surely have cause to rue it, sooner or
later. Now I will tell you how the arrow, which has come into my
keeping and possession, is made and fashioned; but I fear greatly
that I shall fail in the attempt; for the fashion of it is so
fine that it will be no wonder if I fail. Yet I shall devote all
my effort to telling you how it seems to me. The notch and the
feathers are so close together, when carefully examined, that the
line of separation is as fine as a hair's breadth; but the notch
is so smooth and straight that in it surely no improvement could
be made. The feathers are coloured as if they were of gold or
gilt; but gilt is here beside the mark, for I know these feathers
were more brilliant than any gilt. This dart is barbed with the
golden tresses that I saw the other day at sea. That is the dart
which awakes my love. God! What a treasure to possess! Would
he who could gain such a prize crave other riches his whole life
long? For my part I could swear that I should desire nothing
else; I would not give up even the barb and the notch for all the
gold of Antioch. And if I prize so highly these two things, who
could estimate the value of what remains? That is so fair and
full of charm, so dear and precious, that I yearn and long to
gaze again upon her brow, which God's hand has made so clear that
it were vain to compare with it any mirror, emerald, or topaz.
But all this is of little worth to him who sees her flashing
eyes; to all who gaze on them they seem like twin candles
burning. And whose tongue is so expert as to describe the
fashion of her well-shaped nose and radiant face, in which the
rose suffuses the lily so as to efface it somewhat, and thus
enhance the glory of her visage? And who shall speak of her
laughing mouth, which God shaped with such great skill that none
might see it and not suppose that she was laughing? And what
about her teeth? They are so close to one another that it seems
they are all of one solid piece, and in order that the effect
might still be enhanced Nature added her handiwork; for any one,
to see her part her lips, would suppose that the teeth were of
ivory or of silver. There is so much to be said were I to
portray each detailed charm of chin and ears, that it would not
be strange were I to pass over some little thing. Of her throat
I shall only say that crystal beside it looks opaque. And her
neck beneath her hair is four times as white as ivory. Between
the border of her gown and the buckle at the parted throat, I saw
her bosom left exposed and whiter than new-fallen snow. My pain
would be indeed assuaged, if I had seen the dart entire. Gladly
would I tell, if I but knew, what was the nature of the shaft.
But I did nor see it, and it is not my fault if I do not attempt
to describe something I have never seen. At that time Love
showed me only the notch and the barb; for the shaft was hidden
in the quiver, to wit, in the robe and shift in which the damsel
was arrayed. Upon my faith, malady which tortures me is the
arrow--it is the dart at which I am a wretch to be enraged. I
am ungrateful to be incensed. Never shall a straw be broken
because of any distrust or quarrel that may arise between Love
and me. Now let Love do what he will with me as with one who
belongs to him; for I wish it, and so it pleases me. I hope that
this malady may never leave me, but that it may thus always
maintain its hold, and that health may never come to me except
from the source of my illness."
(Vv. 873-1046.) Alexander's complaint is long enough; but that
of the maiden is nothing less. All night she lies in such
distress that she cannot sleep or get repose. Love has confined
within her heart a struggle and conflict which disturbs her
breast, and which causes her such pain and anguish that she weeps
and moans all night, and tosses about with sudden starts, so that
she is almost beside herself. And when she has tossed and sobbed
and groaned and started up and sighed again then she looked
within her heart to see who and what manner of man it was for
whom Love was tormenting her. And when she has refreshed herself
somewhat with thinking to her heart's content, she stretches and
tosses about again, and ridicules all the thoughts she has had.
Then she takes another course, and says: "Silly one, what matters
it to me if this youth is of good birth and wise and courteous
and valorous? All this is simply to his honour and credit. And
as for his beauty, what care I? Let his beauty be gone with him!
But if so, it will be against my will, for it is not my wish to
deprive him of anything. Deprive? No, indeed! That I surely
will not do. If he had the wisdom of Solomon, and if Nature had
bestowed on him all the beauty she can place in human form, and
if God had put in my power to undo it all, yet would I not injure
him; but I would gladly, if I could, make him still more wise and
fair. In faith, then, I do not hate him! And am I for that
reason his friend? Nay, I am not his any more than any other
man's. Then what do I think of him so much, if he pleases me no
more than other men? I do not know; I am all confused; for I
never thought so much about any man in the world, and if I had my
will, I should see him all the time, and never take my eyes from
him. I feel such joy at the sight of him! Is this love? Yes, I
believe it is. I should not appeal to him so often, if I did not
love him above all others. So I love him, then, let it be
agreed. Then shall I not do what I please? Yes, provided he
does not refuse. This intention of mine is wrong; but Love has
so filled my heart that I am mad and beside myself, nor will any
defence avail me now, if I must endure the assault of Love. I
have demeaned myself prudently toward Love so long, and would
never accede to his will; but now I am more than kindly disposed
toward him. And what thanks will he owe to me, if he cannot have
my loving service and good-will? By force he has humbled my
pride, and now I must follow his pleasure. Now I am ready to
love, and I have a master, and Love will teach me--but what?
How I am to serve his will. But of that I am very well informed,
and am so expert in serving him that no one could find fault with
me. I need learn no more of that. Love would have it, and so
would I, that I should be sensible and modest and kind and
approachable to all for the sake of one I love. Shall I love all
men, then, for the sake of one? I should be pleasant to every
one, but Love does not bid me be the true friend of every one.
Love's lessons are only good. It is not without significance
that I am called by the name of Soredamors. (14) I am destined
to love and be loved in turn, and I intend to prove it by my
name, if I can find the explanation there. There is some
significance in the fact that the first part of my name is of
golden colour; for what is golden is the best. For this reason I
highly esteem my name, because it begins with that colour with
which the purest gold harmonises. And the end of the name calls
Love to my mind; for whoever calls me by my right name always
refreshes me with love. And one half gilds the other with a
bright coat of yellow gold; for Soredamors has the meaning of
`one gilded over with Love.' Love has highly honoured me in
gilding me over with himself. A gilding of real gold is not so
fine as that which makes me radiant. And I shall henceforth do
my best to be his gilding, and shall never again complain of it.
Now I love and ever more shall love. Whom? Truly, that is a
fine question! Him whom Love bids me love, for no other shall
ever have my love. What will he care in his ignorance, unless I
tell him of it myself? What shall I do, if l do not make to him
my prayer? Whoever desires anything ought to ask for it and make
request. What? Shall I beseech him, then? Nay. Why? Did ever
such a thing come about that a woman should be so forward as to
make love to any man; unless she were clean beside herself. I
should be mad beyond question if I uttered anything for which I
might be reproached. If he should know the truth through word of
mine I think he would hold me in slight esteem, and would often
reproach me with having solicited his love. May love never be so
base that I should be the first to prefer a request which would
lower me in his eyes! Alas, God! How will he ever know the
truth, since I shall not tell him of it? As yet I have very
little cause to complain. I will wait until his attention is
aroused, if ever it is to be aroused. He will surely guess the
truth, I think, if ever he has had commerce with Love, or has
heard of it by word of mouth. Heard of it? That is a foolish
thing to say. Love is not of such easy access that any one may
claim acquaintance by hear-say only and without personal
experience. I have come to know that well enough myself; for I
could never learn anything of love through flattery and wooing
words, though I have often been in the school of experience, and
have been flattered many a time. But I have always stood aloof,
and now he makes me pay a heavy penalty: now I know more about it
than does the ox of ploughing. But one thing causes me despair:
I fear he has never been in love. And if he is not in love, and
never has been so, then I have sowed in the sea where no seed can
take root. So there is nothing to do but wait and suffer, until
I see whether I can lead him on by hints and covered words. I
shall continue this until he is sure of my love and dares to ask
me for it. So there is nothing more about the matter, but that I
love him and am his. If he loves me not, yet will I love him."
(Vv. 1047-1066.) Thus he and she utter their complaint, unhappy
at night and worse by day, each hiding the truth from the other's
eyes. In such distress they remained a long time in Brittany, I
believe, until the end of the summer came. At the beginning of
October there came messengers by Dover from London and
Canterbury, bearing to the King news which troubled him. The
messengers told him that he might be tarrying too long in
Brittany; for, he to whom he had entrusted the kingdom was
intending to withstand him, and had already summoned a great army
of his vassals and friends, and had established himself in London
for the purpose of defending the city against Arthur when he
should return.
(Vv. 1067-1092.) When the King heard this news, angry and sore
displeased he summons all his knights. In order the better to
spur them on to punish the traitor, he tells them that they are
entirely to blame for his trouble and strife; for on their advice
he entrusted his land to the hands of the traitor, who is worse
than Ganelon. (15) There is not a single one who does not agree
that the King is right, for he had only followed their advice;
but now this man is to be outlawed, and you may be sure that no
town or city will avail to save his body from being dragged out
by force. Thus they all assure the King, giving him their word
upon oath, that they will deliver the traitor to him, or never
again claim their fiefs. And the King proclaims throughout
Brittany that no one who can bear arms shall refuse to follow him
at once.
(Vv. 1093-1146.) All Brittany is now astir. Never was such an
army seen as King Arthur brought together. When the ships came
to set sail, it seemed that the whole world was putting out to
sea; for even the water was hid from view, being covered with the
multitude of ships. It is certainly true that, to judge by the
commotion, all Brittany is under way. Now the ships have crossed
the Channel, and the assembled host is quartered on the shore.
Alexander bethought himself to go and pray the King to make him a
knight, for if ever he should win renown it will be in this war.
Prompted by his desire, he takes his companions with him to
accomplish what he has in mind. On reaching the King's quarters,
they found him seated before his tent. When he saw the Greeks
approaching, he summoned them to him, saying: "Gentlemen, do not
conceal what business has brought you here." Alexander replied
on behalf of all, and told him his desire: "I have come," he
says, "to request of you, as I ought to do of my liege lord, on
behalf of my companions and myself, that you should make us
knights." The King replies: "Very gladly; nor shall there be any
delay about it, since you have preferred your request." Then the
King commands that equipment shall be furnished for twelve
knights. Straightway the King's command is done. As each one
asks for his equipment, it is handed to him-- rich arms and a
good horse: thus each one received his outfit. The arms and
robes and horse were of equal value for each of the twelve; but
the harness for Alexander s body, if it should be valued or sold,
was alone worth as much as that of all the other twelve. At the
water's edge they stripped, and then washed and bathed
themselves. Not wishing that any other bath should be heated for
them, they washed in the sea and used it as their tub. (16)
(Vv. 1147-1196.) All this is known to the Queen, who bears
Alexander no ill will, but rather loves, esteems, and values him.
She wishes to make Alexander a gift, but it is far more precious
than she thinks. She seeks and delves in all her boxes until she
finds a white silk shirt, well made of delicate texture, and very
soft. Every thread in the stitching of it was of gold, or of
silver at least. Soredamors had taken a hand in the stitching of
it here and there, and at intervals, in the sleeves and neck, she
had inserted beside the gold a strand of her own hair, to see if
any man could be found who, by close examination, could detect
the difference. For the hair was quite as bright and golden as
the thread of gold itself. The Queen takes the shirt and
presents it to Alexander. Ah, God! What joy would Alexander
have felt had he known what the Queen was giving him! And how
glad would she, too, have been, who had inserted her own hair, if
she had known that her lover was to own and wear it! She could
then have taken great comfort; for she would not have cared so
much for all the hair she still possessed as for the little that
Alexander had. But, more is the pity, neither of them knew the
truth. The Queen's messenger finds the youths on the shore where
they are bathing, and gives the shirt to Alexander. He is
greatly pleased with it, esteeming the present all the more
because it was given him by the Queen. But if he had known the
rest, he would have valued it still more; in exchange for it he
would not have taken the whole world, but rather would have made
a shrine of it and worshipped it, doubtless, day and night.
(Vv. 1197-1260.) Alexander delays no longer, but dresses himself
at once. When he was dressed and ready, he returned to the
King's tent with all his companions. The Queen, it seems, had
come there, too, wishing to see the new knights present
themselves. They might all be called handsome, but Alexander
with his shapely body was the fairest of them all. Well, now
that they are knights I will say no more of them for the present,
but will tell of the King and of his host which came to London.
Most of the people remained faithful to him, though many allied
themselves with the opposition. Count Angres assembled his
forces, consisting of all those whose influence could be gained
by promises or gifts. When he had gathered all his strength, he
slipped away quietly at night, fearing to be betrayed by the many
who hated him. But before he made off, he sacked London as
completely as possible of provisions, gold and silver, which he
divided among his followers. This news was told to the King, how
the traitor had escaped with all his forces, and that he had
carried off from the city so many supplies that the distressed
citizens were impoverished and destitute. Then the King replied
that he would not take a ransom for the traitor, but rather hang
him, if he could catch him or lay hands on him. Thereupon, all
the army proceeded to Windsor. However it may be now, in those
days the castle was not easy to take when any one chose to defend
it. The traitor made it secure, as soon as he planned his
treacherous deed, with a triple line of walls and moats, and had
so braced the walls inside with sharpened stakes that catapults
could not throw them down. They had taken great pains with the
fortifications, spending all of June, July, and August in
building walls and barricades, making moats and drawbridges,
ditches, obstructions, and barriers, and iron portcullises and a
great square tower of stone. The gate was never closed from fear
or against assault. The castle stood upon a high hill, and
around beneath it flows the Thames. The host encamped on the
river bank, and that day they have time only to pitch camp and
set up the tents.
(Vv. 1261-1348.) The army is in camp beside the Thames, and all
the meadow is filled with green and red tents. The sun, striking
on the colours, causes the river to flash for more than a league
around. Those in the town had come down to disport themselves
upon the river bank with only their lances in their hands and
their shields grasped before their breasts, and carrying no other
arms at all. In coming thus, they showed those without the walls
that they stood in no fear of them. Alexander stood aloof and
watched the knights disporting themselves at feats of arms. He
yearns to attack them, and summons his companions one by one by
name. First Cornix, whom he dearly loved, then the doughty
Licorides, then Nabunal of Mvcene, and Acorionde of Athens, and
Ferolin of Salonica, and Calcedor from Africa, Parmenides and
Francagel, mighty Torin and Pinabel, Nerius and Neriolis. "My
lords," he says, "I feel the call to go with shield and lance to
make the acquaintance of those who disport themselves yonder
before our eyes. I see they scorn us and hold us in slight
esteem, when they come thus without their arms to exercise before
our very eyes. We have just been knighted, and have not yet
given an account of ourselves against any knight or manikin. (17)
We have kept our first lances too long intact. And for what were
our shields intended? As yet, they have not a hole or crack to
show. There is no use in having them except in a combat or a
fight. Let's cross the ford and rush at them!" "We shall not
fail you," all reply; and each one adds: "So help me God, who
fails you now is no friend of yours." Then they fasten on their
swords, tighten their saddles and girths, and mount their steeds
with shields in hand. When they had hung the shields about their
necks, and taken their lances with the gaily coloured ensigns,
they all proceed to the ford at once. Those on the farther side
lower their lances, and quickly ride to strike at them. But they
(on the hither bank) knew how to pay them back, not sparing nor
avoiding them, nor yielding to them a foot of ground. Rather,
each man struck his opponent so fiercely that there is no knight
so brave but is compelled to leave the saddle. They did not
underestimate the experience, skill, and bravery of their
antagonists, but made their first blows count, and unhorsed
thirteen of them. The report spread to the camp of the fight and
of the blows that were being struck. There would soon have been
a merry strife if the others had dared to stand their ground.
All through the camp they run to arms, and raising a shout they
cross the ford. And those on the farther bank take to flight,
seeing no advantage in staying where they are. And the Greeks
pursue them with blows of lance and sword. Though they struck
off many a head they themselves did not receive a wound, and gave
a good account of themselves that day. But Alexander
distinguished himself, who by his own efforts led off four
captive knights in bonds. The sands are strewn with headless
dead, while many others lie wounded and injured.
(Vv. 1349-1418.) Alexander courteously presents the victims of
his first conquest to the Queen, not wishing them to fall into
the hands of the King, who would have had them all hanged. The
Queen, however, had them seized and safely kept under guard, as
being charged with treason. Throughout the camp they talk of the
Greeks, and all maintain that Alexander acted very courteously
and wisely in not surrendering the knights whom he had captured
to the King, who would surely have had them burned or hanged.
But the King is not so well satisfied, and sending promptly to
the Queen he bids her come into his presence and not detain those
who have proved treacherous towards him, for either she must give
them up or offend him by keeping them. While the Queen was in
conference with the King, as was necessary, about the traitors,
the Greeks remained in the Queen's tent with her maids-inwaiting.
While his twelve companions conversed with them,
Alexander uttered not a word. Soredamors took note of this,
seated as she was close by his side. Her head resting upon her
hand, it was plain that she was lost in thought. (18) Thus they
sat a long time, until Soredamors saw on his sleeve and about his
neck the hair which she had stitched into the shirt. Then she
drew a little closer thinking now to find an excuse for speaking
a word to him. She considers how she can address him first, and
what the first word is to be--whether she should address him by
his name; and thus she takes counsel with herself: "What shall I
say first?" she says; "shall I address him by his name, or shall
I call him `friend'? Friend? Not I. How then? Shall I call
him by his name? God! The name of `friend' is fair and sweet to
take upon the lips. If I should dare to call him `friend.!
Should I dare? What forbids me to do so? The fact that that
implies a lie. A lie? I know not what the result will be, but I
shall be sorry if I do not speak the truth. Therefore, it is
best to admit that I should not like to speak a lie. God! yet
he would not speak a lie were he to call me his sweet friend!
And should I lie in thus addressing him? We ought both to tell
the truth. But if I lie the fault is his. But why does his name
seem so hard to me that I should wish to replace it by a surname?
I think it is because it is so long that I should stop in the
middle. But if I simply called him `friend', I could soon utter
so short a name. Fearing lest I should break down in uttering
his proper name, I would fain shed my blood if his name were
simply `my sweet friend.'"
(Vv. 1419-1448.) She turns this thought over in her mind until
the Queen returns from the King who had summoned her. Alexander,
seeing her come, goes to meet her, and inquires what is the
King's command concerning the prisoners, and what is to be their
fate. "Friend," says she, "he requires of me to surrender them
at his discretion, and to let his justice be carried out.
Indeed, he is much incensed that I have not already handed them
over. So I must needs send them to him, since I see no help for
it." Thus they passed that day; and the next day there was a
great assembly of all the good and loyal knights before the royal
tent to sit in judgment and decide by what punishment and torture
the four traitors should die. Some hold that they should be
flayed alive, and others that they should be hanged or burned.
And the King, for his part, maintains that traitors ought to be
torn asunder. Then he commands them to be brought in. When they
are brought, he orders them to be bound, and says that they shall
not be torn asunder until they are taken beneath the town, so
that those within may see the sight. (19)
(Vv. 1449-1472.) When this sentence was pronounced, the King
addresses Alexander, calling him his dear friend. "My friend,"
he says, "yesterday I saw you attack and defend yourself with
great bravery. I wish now to reward your action! I will add to
your company five hundred Welsh knights and one thousand troopers
from that land. In addition to what I have given you, when the
war is over I will crown you king of the best kingdom in Wales.
Towns and castles, cities and halls will I give you until the
time you receive the land which your father holds, and of which
you are to be emperor." Alexander's companions join him in
thanking the King kindly for this boon, and all the nobles of the
court say that the honour which the King has bestowed upon
Alexander is well deserved.
(Vv. 1473-1490.) As soon as Alexander sees his force, consisting
of the companions and the men-at-arms whom it had pleased the
King to give him, straightway they begin to sound the horns and
trumpets throughout the camp. Men of Wales and Britain, of
Scotland and Cornwall, both good and bad without exception--all
take arms, for the forces of the host were recruited from all
quarters. The Thames was low because of the drought resulting
from a summer without rain, so that all the fish were dead, and
the ships were stranded upon the shore, and it was possible to
ford the stream even in the widest part.
(Vv. 1491-1514.) After fording the Thames, the army divided,
some taking possession of the valley, and others occupying the
high ground. Those in the town take notice of them, and when
they see approaching the wonderful array, bent upon reducing and
taking the town, they prepare on their side to defend it. But
before any assault is made, the King has the traitors drawn by
four horses through the valleys and over the hills and unploughed
fields. At this Count Angres is much distressed, when he sees
those whom he held dear dragged around outside the town. And his
people, too, are much dismayed, but in spite of the anxiety which
they feel, they have no mind to yield the place. They must needs
defend themselves, for the King makes it plain to all that he is
angry, and ill-disposed, and they see that if he should lay hands
upon them he would make them die a shameful death.
(Vv.1515-1552.) When the four had been torn asunder and their
limbs lay strewn upon the field, then the assault begins. But
all their labour is in vain, for no matter how much they cast and
shoot, their efforts are of no effect. Yet they strive to do
their utmost, hurling their javelins amain, and shooting darts
and bolts. On all sides is heard the din of cross-bows and
slings as the arrows and the round stones fly thick, like rain
mixed with hail. Thus all day long the struggle of attack and
defence continues, until the night separates them. And the King
causes to be proclaimed what gift he will bestow upon him who
shall effect the surrender of the town: a cup of great price
weighing fifteen marks of gold, the richest in his treasure,
shall be his reward. The cup will be very fine and rich, and, to
tell the truth, the cup is to be esteemed for the workmanship
rather than for the material of which it is made. But good as
the workmanship may be, and fine though the gold, if the truth be
told, the precious stones set in the outside of the cup were of
most value. He through whose efforts the town shall be taken is
to have the cup, if he be only a foot soldier; and if the town is
taken by a knight, with the cup in his possession he shall never
seek his fortune in vain, if there is any to be found in the
(Vv. 1553-1712.) When this news was announced, Alexander had not
forgotten his custom of going to see the Queen each evening.
That night, too, he had gone thither and was seated beside the
Queen. Soredamors was sitting alone close by them, looking at
him with such satisfaction that she would not have exchanged her
lot for Paradise. The Queen took Alexander by the hand, and
examined the golden thread which was showing the effects of wear;
but the strand of hair was becoming more lustrous, while the
golden thread was tarnishing. And she laughed as she happened to
recall that the embroidery was the work of Soredamors. Alexander
noticed this, and begged her to tell him, if suitable, why she
laughed. The Queen was slow to make reply, and looking toward
Soredamors, bade her come to her. Gladly she went and knelt
before her. Alexander was overjoyed when he saw her draw so near
that he could have touched her. But he is not so bold as even to
look at her; but rather does he so lose his senses that he is
well-nigh speechless. And she, for her part, is so overcome that
she has not the use of her eyes; but she casts her glance upon
the ground without fastening it upon anything. The Queen marvels
greatly at seeing her now pale, now crimson, and she notes well
in her heart the bearing and expression of each of them. She
notices and thinks she sees that these changes of colour are the
fruit of love. But not wishing to embarrass them, she pretends
to understand nothing of what she sees. In this she did well,
for she gave no evidence of what was in her mind beyond saying:
"Look here, damsel, and tell us truly where the shirt was sewed
that this knight has on, and if you had any hand in it or worked
anything of yours into it." Though the maiden feels some shame,
yet she tells the story gladly; for she wishes the truth to be
known by him, who, when he hears her tell of how the shirt was
made, can hardly restrain himself for joy from worshipping and
adoring the golden hair. His companions and the Queen, who were
with him, annoy him and embarrass him; for their presence
prevents him from raising the hair to his eyes and mouth, as he
would fain have done, had he not thought that it would be
remarked. He is glad to have so much of his lady, but he does
not hope or expect ever to receive more from her: his very desire
makes him dubious. Yet, when he has left the Queen and is by
himself, he kisses it more than a hundred thousand times, feeling
how fortunate he is. All night long he makes much of it, but is
careful that no one shall see him. As he lies upon his bed, he
finds a vain delight and solace in what can give him no
satisfaction. All night he presses the shirt in his arms, and
when he looks at the golden hair, he feels like the lord of the
whole wide world. Thus Love makes a fool of this sensible man,
who finds his delight in a single hair and is in ecstasy over its
possession. But this charm will come to an end for him before
the sun's bright dawn. For the traitors are met in council to
discuss what they can do; and what their prospects are. To be
sure they will be able to make a long defence of the town if they
determine so to do; but they know the King's purpose to be so
firm that he will not give up his efforts to take the town so
long as he lives, and when that time comes they needs must die.
And if they should surrender the town, they need expect no mercy
for doing so. Thus either outcome looks dark indeed, for they
see no help, but only death in either case. But this decision at
last is reached, that the next morning, before dawn appears, they
shall issue secretly from the town and find the camp disarmed,
and the knights still sleeping in their beds. Before they wake
and get their armour on there will have been such slaughter done
that posterity will always speak of the battle of that night.
Having no further confidence in life, the traitors as a last
resort all subscribe to this design. Despair emboldened them to
fight, whatever the result might be; for they see nothing sure in
store for them save death or imprisonment. Such an outcome is
not attractive; nor do they see any use in flight, for they see
no place where they could find refuge should they betake
themselves to flight, being completely surrounded by the water
and their enemies. So they spend no more time in talk, but arm
and equip themselves and make a sally by an old postern gate (20)
toward the north-west, that being the side where they thought the
camp would least expect attack. In serried ranks they sallied
forth, and divided their force into five companies, each
consisting of two thousand well armed foot, in addition to a
thousand knights. That night neither star nor moon had shed a
ray across the sky. But before they reached the tents, the moon
began to show itself, and I think it was to work them woe that it
rose sooner than was its wont. Thus God, who opposed their
enterprise, illumined the darkness of the night, having no love
for these evil men, but rather hating them for their sin. For
God hates traitors and treachery more than any other sin. So the
moon began to shine in order to hamper their enterprise.
(Vv. 1713-1858.) They are much hampered by the moon, as it
shines upon their shields, and they are handicapped by their
helmets, too, as they glitter in the moonlight. They are
detected by the pickets keeping watch over the host, who now
shout throughout the camp: "Up. knights, up! Rise quickly, take
your arms and arm yourselves! The traitors are upon us."
Through all the camp they run to arms, and hastily strive to
equip themselves in the urgent need; but not a single one of them
left his place until they were all comfortably armed and mounted
upon their steeds. While they are arming themselves, the
attacking forces are eager for battle and press forward, hoping
to catch them off their guard and find them disarmed. They bring
up from different directions the five companies into which they
had divided their troops: some hug the woods, others follow the
river, the third company deploys upon the plain, while the fourth
enters a valley, and the fifth proceeds beside a rocky cliff.
For they planned to fall upon the tents suddenly with great fury.
But they did not find the path clear. For the King's men resist
them, defying them courageously and reproaching them for their
treason. Their iron lance-tips are splintered and shattered as
they meet; they come together with swords drawn, striking each
other and casting each other down upon the face. They rush upon
each other with the fury of lions, which devour whatever they
capture. In this first rush there was heavy slaughter on both
sides. When they can no longer maintain themselves, help comes
to the traitors, who are defending themselves bravely and selling
their lives dearly. They see their troops from four sides arrive
to succour them. And the King's men ride hard with spur to
attack them. They deal such blows upon their shields that,
beside the wounded, they unhorse more than five hundred of them.
Alexander, with his Greeks, has no thought of sparing them,
making every effort to prevail into the thickest of the fight he
goes to strike a knave whose shield and hauberk are of no avail
to keep him from falling to the earth. When he has finished with
him, he offers his service to another freely and without stint,
and serves him, too, so savagely that he drives the soul from his
body quite, and leaves the apartment without a tenant. After
these two, he addresses himself to another, piercing a noble and
courteous knight clean through and through, so that the blood
spurts out on the other side, and his expiring soul takes leave
of the body. Many he killed and many stunned, for like a flying
thunderbolt he blasts all those whom he seeks out. Neither coat
of mail nor shield can protect him whom he strikes with lance or
sword. His companions, too, are generous in the spilling of
blood and brains, for they, too, know well how to deal their
blows. And the royal troops butcher so many of them that they
break them up and scatter them like low-born folk who have lost
their heads. So many dead lay about the fields, and so long did
the battle rage, that long before the day dawned the ranks were
so cut in pieces that the rows of dead stretched for five leagues
along the stream. Count Angres leaves his banner on the field
and steals away, accompanied by only seven of his men. Towards
his town he made his way by a secret path, thinking that no one
could see him. But Alexander notices this, and sees them
escaping from the troops, and he thinks that if he can slip away
without the knowledge of any one, he will go to catch up with
them. But before he got down into the valley, he saw thirty
knights following him down the path, of whom six were Greeks, and
twenty-four were men of Wales. These intended to follow him at a
distance until he should stand in need of them. When Alexander
saw them coming, he stopped to wait for them, without failing to
observe what course was taken by those who were making their way
back to the town. Finally, he saw them enter it. Then he began
to plan a very daring deed and a very marvellous design. And
when he had made up his mind, he turned toward his companions and
thus addressed them: "My lords," says he, "whether it be folly or
wisdom, frankly grant me my desire if you care for my good-will."
And they promised him never to oppose his will in aught. Then he
says: "Let us change our outer gear, by taking the shields and
lances from the traitors whom we have killed. Thus, when we
approach the town, the traitors within will suppose that we are
of their party, and regardless of the fate in store for them,
they will throw open the gates for us. And do you know what
reward we shall offer them? If God so will we shall take them
all dead or alive. Now, if any of you repents of his promise, be
sure that, so long as I live, I shall never hold him dear."
(Vv. 1859-1954.) All the others grant his boon, and, despoiling
the corpses of their shields, they arm themselves with them
instead. The men within the town had mounted to the battlements,
and, recognising the shields, suppose that they belong to their
party, never dreaming of the ruse hidden beneath the shields.
The gatekeeper opens the gate for them and admits them to the
town. He is beguiled and deceived in not addressing them a word;
for no one of them speaks to him, but silently and mute they
pass, making such a show of grief that they trail their lances
after them and support themselves upon their shields. Thus it
seems that they are in great distress, as they pass on at their
own sweet will until they are within the triple walls. Inside
they find a number of men-at-arms and knights with the Count. I
cannot tell you just how many; but they were unarmed, except
eight of them who had just returned from the fight, and even they
were preparing to remove their arms. But their haste was ill
considered; for now the other party make no further pretence, but
without any challenge by way of warning, they brace themselves in
the stirrups, and let their horses charge straight at them,
attacking them with such rigour that they lay low more than
thirty-one of them. The traitors in great dismay shout out: "We
are betrayed, betrayed!" But the assailants take no heed of
this, and let those whom they find unarmed feel the temper of
their swords. Indeed, three of those whom they found still armed
were so roughly handled that but five remained alive. Count
Angres rushed at Calcedor, and in the sight of all struck him
upon his golden shield with such violence that he stretched him
dead upon the ground. Alexander is greatly troubled, and is
almost beside himself with rage when he sees his companion dead;
his blood boils with anger, but his strength and courage are
doubled as he strikes the Count with such fury that he breaks his
lance. If possible, he would avenge his friend. But the Count
was a powerful man and a good and hardy knight, whose match it
would have been hard to find, had he not been a base traitor. He
now returns the blow, making his lance double up so that it
splits and breaks; but the other's shield holds firm, and neither
gives way before the other any more than a rock would do, for
both men were passing strong. But the fact that the Count was in
the wrong disturbs him greatly and troubles him. (21) The anger
of each rises higher as they both draw their swords after their
lances had been broken. No escape would have been possible if
these two swordsmen had persisted in continuing the fight. But
at last one or the other must die. The Count dares not longer
hold his ground, when he sees lying dead about him his men who
had been caught unarmed. Meanwhile the others press them hard,
cutting, slashing, and carving them, spilling their brains, and
reproaching the Count for his treachery. When he hears himself
accused of treason, he flees for safety to his tower, followed by
his men. And their enemies follow after them, fiercely charging
them from the rear, and not letting a single one escape of all
upon whom they lay their hands. They kill and slay so many of
them that I guess not more than seven made good their escape.
(Vv. 1955-2056.) When they had got inside the tower, they made a
stand at the gate; for those who were coming close behind had
followed so closely after them that they too would have pressed
in had the gateway been left exposed. The traitors make a brave
defence, waiting for succour from their friends, who were arming
themselves down in the town. But upon the advice of Nabunal, who
was a Greek of great wisdom, the approach was blocked so that
relief could not arrive in time; for those below had tarried too
long, either from cowardice or sloth. Now there was only one
entrance to the stronghold; so that, if they stop that entranceway,
they need have no fear that any force shall approach to do
them harm. Nabunal bids and exhorts twenty of them to hold the
gate; for soon such a company might arrive with force as would do
them harm by their assault and attack. While these twenty hold
the gate, the remaining ten should attack the tower and prevent
the Count from barricading himself inside. Nabunal's advice is
taken: ten remain to continue the assault at the entrance of the
tower, while twenty go to defend the gate. In doing so, they
delay almost too long; for they see approaching, furious and keen
for the fight, a company containing many cross-bow men and foot
soldiers of different grades who carried arms of divers sorts.
Some carried light missiles, and others Danish axes, lances and
Turkish swords, bolts for cross-bows, arrows and javelins. The
Greeks would have had to pay a heavy score, if this crowd had
actually fallen upon them; but they did not reach the place in
time. Nabunal by his foresight and counsel had blocked their
plans, and they were forced to remain outside. When they see
that they are shut out, they pause in their advance, as it is
evident they can gain nothing by making an assault. Then there
begins such weeping and wailing of women and young children, of
old men and youths, that those in the town could not have heard a
thunder-clap from heaven. At this the Greeks are overjoyed; for
now they know of a certainty that the Count by no good luck can
escape capture. Four of them mount the walls to keep watch lest
those outside by any means or ruse should enter the stronghold
and fall upon them. The remaining sixteen returned to where the
ten were fighting. The day was already breaking, and the ten had
fought so well that they had forced their way within the tower.
The Count took his stand against a post, and, armed with a
battleaxe, defended himself with great bravery. Those whom he
reaches, he splits in half. And his men line up about him, and
are not slow to avenge themselves in this last stand of the day,
Alexander's men have reason to complain, for of the original
sixteen there remain now but thirteen. Alexander is almost
beside himself when he sees the havoc wrought among his dead or
exhausted followers. Yet his thoughts are fixed on vengeance:
finding at hand a long heavy club, he struck one of the rascals
with it so fiercely that neither shield nor hauberk was worth a
button in preventing him from failing to the ground. After
finishing with him, he pursues the Count, and raising his club to
strike him he deals him such a blow with his square club that the
axe falls from his hands; and he was so stunned and bewildered
that he could not have stood up unless he had leaned against the
(Vv. 2057-2146.) After this blow the battle ceases. Alexander
leaps at the Count and holds him so that he cannot move. Of the
others nothing need be said, for they were easily mastered when
they saw the capture of their lord. All are made prisoners with
the Count and led away in disgrace, in accordance with their
deserts. Of all this the men outside knew nothing. But when
morning came they found their companions shields lying among the
slain when the battle was over. Then the Greeks, misled, made a
great lament for their lord. Recognising his shield, all are in
an agony of grief, swooning at sight of his shield and saying
that now they have lived too long. Cornix and Nerius first
swoon, then, recovering their senses, wish they were dead. So do
Torin and Acorionde. The tears run down in floods from their
eyes upon their breasts. Life and joy seem hateful now. And
Parmenides more than the rest tore his hair in dire distress. No
greater grief could be shown than that of these five for their
lord. Yet, their dismay is groundless, for it is another's body
which they bear away when they think to have their lord. Their
distress is further increased by the sight of the other shields,
which cause them to mistake these corpses for their companions.
So over them they lament and swoon. But they are deceived by all
these shields, for of their men only one was killed, whose name
was Neriolis. Him, indeed, they would have borne away had they
known the truth. But they are in as great anxiety for the others
as for him; so they bore them all away. In every case but one
they were misled. But like the man who dreams and takes a
fiction for the truth, so the shields cause them to suppose this
illusion to be a reality. It is the shields, then, that cause
this mistake. (22) Carrying the corpses, they move away and come
to their tents, where there was a sorrowing troop. Upon hearing
the lament raised by the Greeks, soon all the others gathered,
until there was but one great outcry. Now Saredamors thinks of
her wretched estate when she hears the cry and lament over her
lover. Their anguish and distress cause her to lose her senses
and her colour, and her grief and sorrow are increased because
she dares not openly show a trace of her distress. She shut up
her grief within her heart. Had any one looked at her, he could
have seen by the expression of her face what agony she was in;
but every one was so engrossed with his own sorrow that he had no
care for another's grief. Each one lamented his own loss. For
they find the river bank covered with their relatives and
friends, who had been wounded or roughly treated. Each one wept
for his own heavy and bitter loss: here is a son weeping for a
father, there a father for a son; one swoons at the sight of his
cousin, another over his nephew. Thus fathers, brothers, and
relatives bemoan their loss on every side. But above all is
noticeable the sorrow of the Greeks; and yet they might have
anticipated great joy, for the deepest grief of all the camp will
soon be changed into rejoicing.
(Vv. 2147-2200.) The Greeks outside continue their lament, while
those inside strive to let them know the news which will cause
them to rejoice. They disarm and bind their prisoners, who pray
and beg of them to strike off their heads straightway. But the
Greeks are unwilling, and disdain their entreaties, saying that
them will keep then under guard and hand them over to the King,
who will grant them such recompense as shall require their
services. When they had disarmed them all they made them go up
on the wall that they might be seen by the troops below. This
privilege is not to their liking, and when they saw their lord
bound as a prisoner, they were unhappy men. Alexander upon the
walls swears to God and all the saints that he will not let one
of them live, but will kill them all speedily, unless they will
go to surrender to the King before he can seize them. "Go," says
he, "confidently to the King at my command, and cast yourselves
upon his mercy. None of you, except the Count, has deserved to
die. You shall not lose either life or limb if you surrender to
the King. If you do not deliver yourselves from death by crying
for mercy, you need have little hope of saving your lives or
bodies. Go forth disarmed to meet the King, and tell him from me
that Alexander sends you to him. Your action will not be in
vain; for my lord the King is so gentle and courteous that he
will lay aside his wrath and anger. But if you wish to act
otherwise, you must expect to die, for his heart will be closed
to pity." All agree in accepting this advice, and do not
hesitate until they come to the King's tent, where they all fall
at his feet. The story they told was soon known throughout the
camp. The King and all his men mounted and spurred their horses
to the town without delay.
(Vv. 2201-2248.) Alexander goes out from the town to meet the
King, who was greatly pleased, and to surrender to him the Count.
The King did not delay in fitly punishing him. But Alexander is
congratulated and praised by the King and all the others who
esteem him highly. Their joy drives away the grief which they
had felt not long before. But no joy of the others can compare
with the exultation of the Greeks. The King presents him with
the precious cup, weighing fifteen marks, and tells him
confidently that there is nothing in his possession so valuable
that he would not place it in his hands upon request--save only
the crown and the Queen. Alexander dares not mention his heart's
desire, though he knows well that he would not be refused in
asking for his sweetheart's hand. But he fears so much lest he
might displease her, whose heart would have been made glad, that
he prefers to suffer without her rather than to win her against
her will. Therefore, he asks for a little time, not wishing to
prefer his request until he is sure of her pleasure. But he
asked for no respite or delay in accepting the cup of gold. He
takes the cup, and courteously begs my lord Gawain to accept this
cup as a gift from him, which Gawain did most reluctantly. When
Soredamors learned the truth about Alexander she was greatly
pleased and delighted. When she heard that he was alive, she was
so happy that it seemed to her as though she could never be sad
again. But she reflects that he is slower in coming than is his
wont. Yet in good time she will have her wish, for both of them
in rivalry are occupied with one common thought.
(Vv. 2249-2278.) It seemed to Alexander an age before he could
feast his eyes with even one soft glance from her. Long ago he
would fain have gone to the Queen's tent, if he had not been
detained elsewhere. He was much put out by this delay, and as
soon as he could, he betook himself to the Queen in her tent.
The Queen went to greet him, and, without his having confided in
her, she had already read his thoughts, and knew what was passing
in his mind. She greets him at the entrance of the tent, and
strives to make him welcome, well knowing for what purpose he has
come. Desirous of according him a favour, she beckons Soredamors
to join them, and they three engage in conversation at some
distance from the rest. The Queen first speaks, in whose mind
there was no doubt that this couple were in love. Of this fact
she is quite sure, and is persuaded moreover that Soredamors
could not have a better lover. She took her place between the
two and began to say what was appropriate.
(Vv. 2279-2310.) "Alexander," says the Queen, "any love is worse
than hate, when it torments and distresses its devotee. Lovers
know not what they do when they conceal their passion from one
another. Love is a serious business, and whoever does not boldly
lay its foundation firm can hardly succeed in completing the
edifice. They say there is nothing so hard to cross as the
threshold. Now I wish to instruct you in the lore of love; for I
know well that Love is tormenting you. Therefore, I have
undertaken to instruct you; and do you take good care not to keep
anything back from me, for I have plainly seen in the faces of
you both that of two hearts you have made but one. So beware,
and conceal nothing from me! You are acting very foolishly in
not speaking out your mind; for concealment will be the death of
you; thus you will be the murderers of Love. Now I counsel you
to exercise no tyranny, and to seek no passing gratification in
your love; but to be honourably joined together in marriage. So,
I believe, your love shall long endure. I can assure you that,
if you agree to this, I will arrange the marriage."
(Vv. 2311-2360.) When the Queen had spoken her mind, Alexander
thus made reply: "Lady," he says, "I enter no defence against the
charge you make, but rather admit the truth of all you say. I
wish never to be deserted by love, but always to fix my thoughts
on it. I am pleased and delighted by what you have so kindly
said. Since you know what my wishes are, I see no reason why I
should conceal them from you. Long ago, if I had dared I would
have confessed them openly; for the silence has been hard. But
it may well be that for some reason this maiden may not wish that
I be hers and she mine. But even if she grant me no rights over
her, yet will I place myself in her hands." At these words she
trembled, having no desire to refuse the gift. Her heart's
desire betrays itself in her words and her countenance.
Falteringly she gives herself to him, and says that without
exception her will, her heart, and her body all is at the
disposal of the Queen, to do with her as she may please. The
Queen clasps them both in her arms, and presents one to the
other. Then laughingly she adds: "I give over to thee,
Alexander, thy sweetheart's body, and I know that thy heart does
not draw back. Whoever may like it or like it not, I give each
of you to the other. Do thou, Soredamors, take what is thine,
and thou, Alexander, take what is thine!" Now she has her own
entire, and he has his without lack. At Windsor that day, with
the approval and permission of my lord Gawain and the King, the
marriage was celebrated. No one could tell, I am sure, so much
of the magnificence and the food, of the pleasure and
entertainment, at this wedding without falling short of the
truth. Inasmuch as it would be distasteful to some, I do not
care to waste further words upon the matter, but am anxious to
turn to another subject.
(Vv. 2361-2382.) That day at Windsor Alexander had all the
honour and happiness that he could desire. Three different joys
and honours were his: one was the town which he captured; another
was the present of the best kingdom in Wales, which King Arthur
had promised to give him when the war was over; that very day he
made him king in his hall. But the greatest joy of all was the
third--that his sweetheart was queen of the chess-board where
he was king. Before five months had passed, Soredamors found
herself with child, and carried it until the time was fulfilled.
The seed remained in germ until the fruit was fully matured. No
more beautiful child was ever born before or since than he whom
they now called Cliges.
(Vv. 2383-2456.) So Cliges was born, in whose honour this story
has been put in the Romance tongue. You shall hear me tell of
him and of his valorous deeds, when he shall have grown to
manhood and obtained a good report. But meanwhile in Greece it
came about that he who ruled over Constantinople drew near his
end. He died, as indeed he must, not being able to outlive his
time. But before he died he assembled all the nobles of his land
to send and seek for his son Alexander, who was happily detained
in Britain. The messengers start out from Greece, and begin
their voyage over the seas; but a tempest catches them in its
grasp, and damages their ship and company. They were all drowned
at sea, except one unfaithful wretch, who was more devoted to
Alis the younger son than to Alexander the eider. When he
escaped from the sea, he returned to Greece with the story that
they had all been lost at sea as they were conducting their lord
back from Britain, and that he was the only survivor of the
tragedy. They believed this lie of his, and, taking Alis without
objection or dissent, they crowned him emperor of Greece. But it
was not long before Alexander learned that Alis was emperor.
Then he took leave of King Arthur, unwilling to let his brother
usurp his land without protest. The King makes no opposition to
his plan, but bids him take with him so great a company of
Welshmen, Scots, and Cornishmen that his brother will not dare to
withstand him when he sees him come with such a host. Alexander,
had he pleased, might have led a mighty force; but he has no
desire to harm his own people, if his brother will consent to do
his will. He took with him forty knights besides Soredamors and
his son; these two persons, who were so dear to him, he did not
wish to leave behind. Escorted as far as Shoreham by the entire
court, they there embarked, and with fair winds their ship made
way more quickly than a fleeing stag. Within a month, I think,
they arrived in port before Athens, a rich and powerful city.
Indeed, the emperor was residing there, and had convoked, a great
assembly of his noblemen. As soon as they arrived Alexander sent
a privy messenger into the city to learn whether they would
receive him, or whether they would resist his claim to be their
only lawful lord.
(Vv. 2457-2494.) He who was chosen for this mission was a
courteous knight with good judgment, named Acorionde, a rich man
and eloquent; he was a native of the country, too, having been
born in Athens. His ancestors for generations had always
exercised lordship in the city. When he had learned that the
emperor was in the city he went and challenged the crown on
behalf of his brother Alexander, accusing him openly of having
usurped it unlawfully. Arriving at the palace, he finds plenty
of people who welcome him; but he says nothing to any of those
who greet him until he learns what is their attitude and
disposition toward their lawful lord. Coming into the presence
of the emperor he neither greets him nor bows before him nor
calls him emperor. "Alis," he says, "I bring thee tidings of
Alexander, who is out yonder in the harbour. Listen to thy
brother's message: he asks thee for what belongs to him, nor does
he demand what is unjust. Constantinople, which thou dost hold,
should be his and shall be his. It would be neither just nor
right that discord should arise between you two. So give him the
crown without contest, for it is right that thou shouldst
surrender it."
(Vv. 2495-2524.) Alis replies: "Fair gentle friend, thou hast
undertaken a mad enterprise in bearing this message. There is
little comfort in thy speech, for well I know that my brother is
dead. I should rejoice, indeed, to learn that he was still
alive. But I shall not believe the news until I have seen him
with my eyes. He died some time ago, alas! What thou sayest is
not credible. And if he lives, why does he not come? He need
never fear that I will not bestow on him some lands. He is a
fool to hold aloof from me, for in serving me he will find
profit. But no one shall possess the crown and empire beside
me." He liked not the speech of the emperor, and did not fail to
speak his mind in the reply he made. "Alis," he says, "may God
confound me if the matter is thus allowed to stand. I defy thee
in thy brother's name, and dutifully speaking in his name, I
summon all those whom I see here to renounce thee and to join his
cause. It is right that they should side with him and recognise
him as their lord. Let him who is loyal now stand forth."
(Vv. 2525-2554.) Upon saying this he leaves the court, and the
emperor summons those in whom he has most confidence. He
requests their advice concerning this defiance upon his brother's
part, and wishes to learn if he can trust them to lend no support
or help to his brother's claim. Thus he tries to test the
loyalty of each; but he finds not one who sides with him in the
dispute, rather do they all bid him remember the war which
Eteocles undertook against his own brother Polynices, and how
each one died by the other's hand. (23) "So, too, it may happen
to you, if you undertake a war, and all the land will be
distressed." Therefore, they advise that such a peace be sought
as shall be both reasonable and just, and that neither one make
excessive demands. Thus Alis understands that if he does not
make an equitable agreement with his brother all his vassals will
desert him; so he says that he will respect their wishes in
making any suitable contract, provided that however the affair
may rum out the crown shall remain in his possession.
(Vv. 2555-2618.) In order to secure a firm and stable peace Alis
sends one of his officers to Alexander, bidding him come to him
in person and receive the government of the land, but stipulating
that he should leave to him the honour of emperor in name and of
wearing the crown: thus, if Alexander is willing, peace may be
established between them. When this news was brought to
Alexander his men made ready with him and came to Athens, where
they were received with joy. But Alexander is not willing that
his brother should have the sovereignty of the empire and of the
crown unless he will pledge his word never to take a wife, and
that after him Cliges shall be emperor of Constantinople. Upon
this the brothers both agreed. Alexander dictated the terms of
the oath, and his brother agreed and gave his word that he would
never in his life take a wife in marriage. So peace is made, and
they are friends again, to the great satisfaction of the lords.
They hold Alis as their emperor, but all business is referred to
Alexander. What he commands is done, and little is done except
through him. Alis has nothing but the name of emperor; but
Alexander is served and loved; and he who does not serve him for
love must needs do so from fear. Through the effect of one or
the other of these two motives he has all the land within his
power. But he whom they call Death spares neither the strong man
nor the weak, but kills and slays them all. So Alexander had to
die; for a disease caught him in its grip from which he could
obtain no relief. But before he was surprised by death he
summoned his son and said to him: "Fair son Cliges, thou canst
never know that prowess and valour are thine unless thou go first
to make test of them with the Bretons and French at King Arthur's
court. If adventure takes thee thither, so conduct and demean
thyself that thy identity be not known until thou hast tried thy
strength with the most excellent knights of that court. I beg
thee to heed my counsel in this matter, and if the occasion
arises have no fear to measure thy skill with thy uncle, my lord
Gawain. Do not forget this advice, I pray."
(Vv. 2619-2665.) After he had thus exhorted him, he did not live
long. Soredamors' grief was such that she could not survive him,
but died after him of a broken heart. Alis and Cliges both
mourned him becomingly, but finally they ceased their grief, for
sorrow, like everything else, must be outlived. To continue in
sorrow is wrong, for no good can come from it. So the mourning
was ended, and the emperor refrained for a long time from taking
a wife, being careful of his word. But there is no court in all
the world which is free from evil counsel. Great men often go
astray, and do not observe loyalty because of the bad advice they
take. Thus, the emperor hears his men giving him advice and
counselling him to take a wife; and daily they so exhort and urge
him that by their very insistence they persuade him to break his
oath, and to accede to their desire. But he insists that she who
is to be mistress of Constantinople must be gentle, fair, wise,
rich, and noble. Then his counsellors say that they wish to
prepare to go away to the German land, and seek the daughter of
the emperor. She is the choice they propose to him; for the
emperor of Germany is very rich and powerful, and his daughter is
so charming that never was there a maid of her beauty in
Christendom. The emperor grants them full authority, and they
set out upon the journey well provided with all they need. They
proceeded on their way until they found the emperor at
Regensburg, when they asked him to give them his oldest daughter
at the instance of their lord.
(Vv. 2669-2680.) The emperor was pleased with this request, and
gladly gave them his daughter; for in doing so, he does not
debase himself, nor diminish his honour in any way. But he says
that he had promised her to the Duke of Saxony, and that they
would not be able to lead her away unless the emperor should come
with a great army, so that the duke would be unable to do him any
harm or injury while homeward bound.
(Vv. 2681-2706.) When the messengers heard the emperor's reply,
they took leave and departed. They returned to their lord, and
bore him the answer. And the emperor selected a chosen company
of the most experienced knights whom he could find, and took with
him his nephew, in whose interests he had vowed never to marry a
wife, but he will not respect this vow if he can once reach
Cologne. (24) Upon a certain day he leaves Greece and draws near
to Germany, intending to take a wife despite all blame and
reproach; but his honour will be smirched. Upon reaching
Cologne, he found that the emperor had assembled all his court
for a festival. When the company of the Greeks reached Cologne,
there was such a great number of Greeks and Germans that it was
necessary to lodge more than sixty thousand of them outside the
(Vv.2707-2724.) Great was the crowd of people, and great the joy
of the two emperors when they met. When the barons had gathered
in the vast palace, the emperor summoned his charming daughter.
The maiden made no delay in coming straightway into the palace.
She had been made very fair and shapely by the Creator, whose
pleasure it had been to arouse the people's admiration. God, who
had fashioned her, never gave man a word which could adequately
express such beauty as she possessed.
(Vv. 2725-2760.) Fenice was the maiden's name, and for this
there was good reason: (25) for if the Phoenix bird is unique as
the most beautiful of all the birds, so Fenice, it seems to me,
had no equal in beauty. She was such a miracle and marvel that
Nature was never able to make her like again. In order to be
more brief, I will not describe in words her arms, her body, her
head and hands; for if I should live a thousand years, and if my
skill were to double every day, yet should I waste all my time in
trying to tell the truth about her. I know very well, if I
should undertake it, that I would exhaust my brain and waste my
pains: it would be but misspent energy. (26) The damsel hastened
until she came into the palace, with head uncovered and face
unveiled; and the radiance of her beauty lighted the palace more
brightly than four carbuncles would have done. Cliges stood, his
over-cloak removed, in his uncle's presence. The day outside was
somewhat dark, but he and the maiden were both so fair that a ray
shone forth from their beauty which illumined the palace, just as
the morning sun shines clear and red.
(Vv. 2761-2792.) I wish to attempt in a very few words to
describe the beauty of Cliges. He was in his flower, being now
almost fifteen years of age. He was more comely and charming
than Narcissus who saw his reflection in the spring beneath the
elm-tree, and, when he saw it, he loved it so that he died, they
say, because he could not get it. Narcissus was fair, but had
little sense; (27) but as fine gold surpasses copper, so was
Cliges better endowed with wisdom, and even then I have not said
all. His locks seemed made of fine gold, and his face was of a
fresh rosy colour. He had a well-formed nose and shapely mouth,
and in stature he was built upon Nature's best pattern; for in
him she had united gifts which she is wont to scatter wide.
Nature was so lavish with him that she gave him all she could,
and placed all in one receptacle. Such was Cliges, who combined
good sense and beauty, generosity and strength. He possessed the
wood as well as the bark; he knew more of fencing and of the bow
than did Tristan, King Mark's nephew, and more about birds and
hounds than he. (28) In Cliges there lacked no good thing.
(Vv. 2793-2870.) Cliges stood in all his beauty before his
uncle, and those who did not know who he was looked at him with
eager curiosity. And on the other hand, the interest was aroused
of those who did not know the maiden: wonderingly they gaze upon
her. But Cliges, under the sway of love, let his eyes rest on
her covertly, and withdrew them again so discreetly that in their
passage to and fro no one could blame his lack of skill.
Blithely he looks upon the maid, but does not note that she
repays him in kind. Not flattering him, but in sincere love, she
gives him her eyes, and takes back his. This exchange seems good
to her, and would have seemed to her better still had she known
something of who he was. But she knows nothing except that he is
fair, and that, if she is ever to love any one for beauty's sake,
she need not seek elsewhere to bestow her heart. She handed over
to him the possession of her eyes and heart, and he pledged his
in turn to her. Pledged? Rather gave outright. Gave? Nay,
upon my faith, I lie; for no one can give away his heart. I must
express it some other way. I will not say it, as some have done
who make two hearts dwell in one body, for it bears not even the
semblance of truth that there should be in one body two hearts;
and even if they could be so united, it would never seem true.
But if it please you to heed my words, I shall be able explain
how two hearts form but one without coming to be identified.
Only so far are they merged in one as the desire of each passes
from one to the other, thus joining in one common desire; and
because of this harmony of desire, there are some who are wont to
say that each one has both hearts; but one heart cannot be in two
places. Each one always keeps his own heart, though the desire
be shared by both, just as many different men may sing a song or
tune in unison. By this comparison I prove that for one body to
contain two hearts it is not enough to know each other's wish,
nor yet for one to know what the other loves and what he hates;
just as voices which are heard together seem to be merged in one,
and yet do not all come from one mouth, so it is with a body
which can contain but one heart. But there is no need of further
argument, for other matters press upon me. I must speak now of
the damsel and of Cliges, and you shall hear of the Duke of
Saxony, who has sent to Cologne a young nephew of his. This
youth informs the emperor that his uncle, the duke, sends word
that he need expect no peace or trace with him, unless he sends
to him his daughter, and that the one who is intending to carry
her away with him had better not start home, for he will find the
road occupied and well defended unless the maiden be surrendered.
(Vv. 2871-3010.) The youth spoke his message well, without pride
and without insult. But he found neither knight nor emperor who
would answer him. When he saw that they all held their peace and
treated him with scorn, he left the court in defiant mood. But
youth and thirst for daring deeds made Cliges defy him in combat
as he left. For the contest they mount their steeds, three
hundred of them on either side, exactly equal thus in strength.
All the palace is quite emptied of knights and ladies, who mount
to the balconies, battlements, and windows to see and watch those
who were about to fight. Even the maiden, whose will Love had
subdued beneath his sway, sought for a point from which to see.
She took her place at a window, where she sat with great delight,
because from there she could get a view of him whom she holds
secretly in her heart with no desire to remove him thence; for
she will never love any other man. But she does not know his
name, nor who he is, nor of what race; for it is not proper to
ask questions; but she yearns to hear tidings which will bring
joy to her heart. She looks out of the window at the shields
with their gleaming gold, and she gazes at those who wear the
shields about their necks, as they prepare for the trial at arms.
But all her thoughts and glances soon rest upon one object, and
to all others she is indifferent. Whereever Cliges goes, she
seeks to follow him with her eyes. And he in turn does his best
for her, and battles openly, in order that she at least may hear
it said that he is bold and very skilled: thus she will be
compelled to prize him for his prowess. He attacks the duke's
nephew, who was breaking many a lance and sorely discomfiting the
Greeks. But Cliges, who is displeased at this, braces himself
firmly in his stirrups, and goes to strike him so speedily that
in spite of himself he had to vacate the saddle-bows. When he
got up, the uproar was great; for the youth arose and mounted,
thinking to avenge his shame. But many a man only falls into
deeper disgrace who thinks to avenge his shame when he has the
chance. The young man rushes at Cliges, who lowers his lance to
meet him, and thrusts at him with such force that he carries him
to earth again. Now his shame is doubled, and all his followers
are in dismay, seeing that they can never leave the field with
honour; for not one of them is so valiant that he can keep his
seat in the saddle when Cliges thrust reaches him. But those of
Germany and the Greeks are overjoyed when they see their party
drive off the Saxons, who retreat discomfited. With mockery they
pursue them until they come up with them at a stream, into which
they drive them for a plunge. In the deepest part of the ford
Cliges unhorsed the duke's nephew and so many of his men that
they escaped grieving and sad in their shame and confusion. But
Cliges, twice victor, returned in glee, and entered a gate which
was near the apartment where the maiden was; and as he passed
through the gate she exacted as toll a tender glance, which he
paid her as their eyes met. Thus was the maiden subdued by the
man. But there is not a German of the lowland or highland,
possessing the power of speech who does not cry: "God! who is
this in whom such beauty is radiant? God! how has it happened
that so suddenly he has attained such great success?" Thus one
man and another asks: "Who is this youth, who is he, I say?"
Thus, soon throughout the city it is known what his name is, and
who is his father, and what pledge that was which had been made
to him by the emperor. So much was said and noised about that
the news reached the ears of her who in her heart rejoiced
because she could no more say that Love had made sport of her,
nor had she any ground for complaint. For Love has made her give
her heart to the fairest, most courteous, and valiant man that
could anywhere be found. But some force must be employed, if she
would gain possession of him who is not free do her will. This
makes her anxious and distraught. For she has no one with whom
to take counsel concerning him for whom she pines, but must waste
herself in thought and vigils. She becomes so affected by these
cares that she loses her colour and grows wan, and it becomes
plain to all that her loss of colour betokens an unfulfilled
desire. She plays less now than she used to do, and laughs less
and loses her gaiety. But she conceals her trouble and passes it
off, if any one asks what her ailment is. Her old nurse's name
was Thessala, (29) who was skilled in necromancy, having been
born in Thessaly, where devilish charms are taught and wrought;
for the women of that country perform many a charm and mystic
(Vv. 3011-3062.) Thessala saw pale and wan her whom Love holds
in his bonds, and thus she addressed her with advice: "God!" she
said, "are you bewitched, my lady dear, that your face should be
so pale? I wonder what your trouble is. Tell me, if you can,
where this pain attacks you most, for if any one can cure you,
you may safely trust me to give you back your health again. I
can cure the dropsy, gout, quinsy, and asthma; I am so expert in
examining the urine and the pulse that you need consult no other
physician. And I dare say that I know more than ever Medea (30)
knew of enchantments and of charms which tests have proven to be
true. I have never spoken to you of this, though I have cared
for you all your life; and now I should not mention it did I not
plainly see that you are so afflicted as to need my
ministrations. My lady, you will do well to tell me what your
sickness is before its hold becomes more severe. The emperor has
committed you to me in order that I may care for you, and my
devotion has been such that I have kept you safe and sound. Now
all my pains will come to naught if I do not relieve this malady.
Take care not to conceal from me whether this is sickness or
something else." The damsel dares not openly expose her desire
in all its fullness for she is in fear lest she be disapproved
and blamed. And when she hears and understands how Thessala
boasts and highly rates herself as being expert in enchantments,
charms, and potions, she decides to tell her what is the cause of
her pale and colourless face; but first she makes her promise to
keep her secret and never to oppose her will.
(Vv. 3063-3216.) "Nurse," she said, "I truly thought I felt no
pain, but I shall soon feel differently. For as soon as I begin
to think about it, I feel great pain, and am dismayed. But when
one has no experience, how can one tell what is sickness and what
is health? My illness is different from all others; for when I
wish to speak of it, it causes me both joy and pain, so happy I
am in my distress. And if it can be that sickness brings
delight, then my trouble and joy are one, and in my illness
consists my health. So I do not know why I complain, for I know
not whence my trouble comes, unless it is caused by my desire.
Perchance my desire is my disease, but I find so much joy in it
that the suffering it causes me is grateful, and there is so much
contentment in my pain that it is sweet to suffer so. Nurse
Thessala, now tell me true, is not this a deceitful ill, to charm
and torment me both at once? I do not see how I can tell whether
this is a disease or not. Nurse, tell me now its name, nature,
and character. But understand well that I have no desire to be
cured of it, for my distress is very dear to me." Thessala, who
was very wise about love and its symptoms knows full well from
what she hears that it is love which is tormenting her; the
tender, endearing terms she uses are certain proof that she is in
love, for all other woes are hard to bear, except that alone
which comes from love; but love transforms its bitterness into
sweetness and joy, then often transforms them back again. The
nurse, who was expert in this matter, thus replies to her: "Have
no fear, for I will tell you at once the name of your malady.
You told me, I believe, that the pain which you feel seems rather
to be joy and health: now of such a nature is love-sickness, for
in it, too, there is joy and bliss. You are in love, then, as I
can prove to you, for I find no pleasure in any malady save only
in love. All other sickness is always bad and horrible, but love
is sweet and peaceable. You are in love; of that I am sure, nor
do I see any wrong in that. But I shall consider it very wrong,
if through some childish folly you conceal from me your heart."
"Nurse, there is no need of your speaking so. But first I must
be sure and certain that under no circumstances will you speak of
it to any living soul." "My lady, surely the winds will speak of
it before I do without your leave, and I will give you my word so
to favour your desires that you may safely trust in having your
joy fulfilled through my services." "In that case, Nurse, I
shall be cured. But the emperor is giving me in marriage,
wherefore I grieve and am sorrowful; for he who has won my heart
is the nephew of him whom I must take. And though he may find
joy in me, yet is my joy forever lost, and no respite is
possible. I would rather be torn limb from limb than that men
should speak of us as they speak of the loves of Iseut and
Tristan, of so many unseemly stories are told that I should be
ashamed to mention them. I could never bring myself to lead the
life that Iseut led. Such love as hers was far too base; for her
body belonged to two, whereas her heart was possessed by one.
Thus all her life was spent, refusing her favours to neither one.
But mine is fixed on one object, and under no circumstances will
there be any sharing of my body and heart. Never will my body be
portioned out between two shareholders. Who has the heart has
the body, too, and may bid all others stand aside. But I cannot
clearly see how he whom I love can have my body when my father
gives me to another, and his will I do not dare resist. And when
this other is lord of my body, and does something which
displeases me, it is not right for me to summon another to my
aid. Nor can this man marry a wife without breaking his plighted
word; for, unless injustice be done, Cliges is to have the empire
after his uncle's death. But I should be well served by you, if
you were so skilful as to present him, to whom I am pledged and
engaged, from having any claim upon me. O Nurse, exert yourself
to the end that he may not break the pledge which he gave to the
father of Cliges, when he promised him solemnly never to take a
wife in marriage. For now, if he should marry me his promise
would be broken. But Cliges is so dear to me that I would rather
be under ground than that he should ever lose through me a penny
of the fortune which should be his. May never a child be born to
me to cause his disinheritance! Nurse, now do your best, and I
will always be your slave." Then the nurse tells her and assures
her that she will cast so many charms, and prepare so many
potions and enchantments that she need never have any worry or
fear concerning the emperor after he shall have drunk of the
potion which she will give him; even when they shall lie together
and she be at his side, she may be as secure as if there were a
wall between them. "But do not be alarmed, if, in his sleep, he
sports with you, for when he is plunged in sleep he will have his
sport with you, and he will be convinced that he has had you when
wide awake, nor will he think it is all a dream, a fiction, and
illusion. Thus he will have his sport with you when asleep, he
will think he is awake."
(Vv. 3217-3250.) The maiden is highly pleased and delighted by
the nurse's kindness and offer of help. Her nurse inspires good
hope in her by the promise which she makes, and which she binds
herself to keep; with this hope she expects to obtain her desire,
in spite of wearisome delay, for if Cliges' nature is as noble as
she takes it to be he cannot fail to take pity upon her when he
learns that she loves him, and that she has imposed virginity
upon herself in order to insure his inheritance. So the maiden
believes her nurse, and puts full confidence in her. One
promises to the other, and gives her word, that this plot shall
be kept so secret as never to be revealed. At this point their
conversation ceases, and the next morning the emperor summons his
daughter. At his command she goes to him. But why should I
weary you with details? The two emperors have so settled the
matter that the marriage is solemnised, and joy reigns in the
palace. But I do not wish to stop to describe all this in
detail. Rather will I address myself to Thessala, as she
diligently prepares and tempers her potions.
(Vv. 3251-3328.) Thessala steeps her drink, putting in spices in
abundance to sweeten and temper it. After having well beaten and
mixed it, she strains it clear, with no sharp or bitter taste,
for the spices she puts in give it a sweet and pleasant
fragrance. When the potion was prepared, the day had drawn to a
close, the tables were set for supper, and the cloths were
spread. But Thessala delays the supper, because she must
discover by what device and what agent she can have the potion
served. At supper, finally, all were seated, and more than six
dishes had been passed, and Cliges served behind his uncle's
place. Thessala, as she watches him, thinks how ill he serves
his own interests, and how he is assisting in his own
disinheritance, and the thought torments and worries her. Then
in her kindness she conceives the plan of having the potion
served by him to whom it will bring both joy and honour. So
Thessala summoned Cliges; and when he had come to her, he asked
her why she had sent for him. "Friend," said she, "I wish to
present the emperor at this meal with a beverage which he will
esteem highly, and I want him to taste no other to-night, either
at supper or when he goes to bed. I think he cannot fail to
relish it, for he never has tasted a better drink or one that has
cost so much. And I warn you, take good care to let no one else
drink of it, for there is but a little of it. And this, too, I
beg of you, not to let him know whence it came; but tell him it
came about by chance that you found it among the presents, and
tasted it yourself, and detected the aroma of the sweet spices in
the air; then, seeing the wine to be all clear you poured it into
his cup. If by chance he should inquire, you can satisfy him
with this reply. But have no suspicion yourself, after what I
have said, for the drink is pure and healthful, full excellent
spices, and I think it may some day bring you joy." When he
heard that advantage would come to him, he took the potion and
went away, for he did not know there was any harm in it. He set
it in a crystal cup before the emperor, who took it without
question, trusting in his nephew. After taking a long draught of
the beverage, he straightway feels its strength, as it descends
from head to heart, and rises again from heart to head, and
penetrates every part of him without doing the slightest harm.
And by the time they left the tables, the emperor had drunk so
much of the pleasing drink that he can never escape it
influence. Every night he will sleep under its influence, and its
effects will be such that he will think he is awake when sound
(Vv. 3329-3394.) Now the emperor has been deceived. Many
bishops and abbots were present to bless and hallow the marriagebed.
When the time came to retire, the emperor, as was his
right, lay beside his wife that night. "As was his right;" but
the statement is inexact, for he neither kissed nor fondled her,
yet they lay together in one bed. At first the maiden trembled
with fear and anxiety lest the potion should not act. But it has
so mastered him that he will never desire her or any other woman
except in his sleep. But when asleep he will have such sport
with her as one may have in dreams, and he will think the dream
is true. Nevertheless, she is on her guard, and at first, holds
aloof from him, so that he cannot approach her. But now he must
needs fall asleep; then he sleeps and dreams, though, the senses
are awake, and he exerts himself to win the favours of the maid.
while she, realising the danger, defends her virginity. He woos
her and calls her gently his sweetheart, and thinks he possesses
her, but in vain. But he is gratified by this vain semblance,
embracing, kissing, and fondling an empty thing, seeing and
speaking to no purpose, struggling and striving without effect.
Surely the potion was effective in thus possessing and mastering
him. All his pains are of no avail, as he thinks and is
persuaded that the fortress is won. Thus he thinks and is
convinced, when he desists after his vain efforts. But now I may
say once for all that his satisfaction was never more than this.
To such relations with her he will for ever be condemned if
indeed he can lead her to his own land; but before he can get her
to safety, I judge that there is trouble in store for him. For
while he is on his journey home, the duke, to whom his bride had
been betrothed, will appear upon the scene. The duke gathered a
numerous force, and garrisoned the frontiers, while at court he
had his spies to inform him each day of the emperor's doings and
preparations, and how long they are going to stay, and by what
route they intend to return. The emperor did not tarry long
after the marriage, but left Cologne in high spirits. The German
emperor escorted him with a numerous company, fearing and
dreading the force of the Duke of Saxony.
(Vv. 3395-3424.) The two emperors pursued their journey until
they were beyond Regensburg, where one evening they were encamped
in a meadow by the Danube. The Greeks were in their tents in the
fields bordering upon the Black Forest. Opposite to them the
Saxons were lodged, spying upon them. The duke's nephew stood
alone upon a hill, whence he could reconnoitre for a chance to
inflict some loss or harm on the enemy. From that point of
vantage he espied Cliges with three of his young men disporting
themselves with lances and shields, eager for a conflict and
shock of arms. If he could get the chance the duke's nephew
would gladly attack them and do them harm. Starting out with
five companions he concealed them in a valley close by a wood, so
that the Greeks never saw them until they emerged from the
valley; then the duke's nephew made an attack, and striking
Cliges, wounded him slightly in the back. Cliges, bending over,
avoids the lance which passed him, inflicting only a slight hurt.
(Vv. 3425-3570.) When Cliges felt himself wounded, he charged
the youth, and struck him with such force that he drove his lance
quite through his heart, and stretched him dead. Then all the
Saxons in fear of him betook themselves to flight through the
woods. And Cliges, ignorant of the ambuscade, courageously but
imprudently leaving his companions behind, pursues them to the
place where the duke's troops were in force preparing to attack
the Greeks. Alone he goes in hot pursuit after the youths, who,
in despair over their lord whom they had lost, come running to
the duke and tell him weeping of his nephew's death. The duke
saw no joke in this affair; and, swearing by God and all His
saints that he will take no joy or pride in life so long as the
slayer of his nephew remains alive, he adds that whoever will
bring him his head will be his friend and will serve him well.
Then a knight made boast that if he can find the guilty man, he
will present him with Cliges' head. Cliges follows the young men
until he falls among the Saxons, when he is seen by him who had
undertaken to carry off his head, and who starts after him
without delay. But Cliges haste had turned back to escape from
his enemies and came in to where he had left his companions; he
found none there, for they had returned to camp to relate their
adventure. And the emperor ordered to horse the Greeks and
Germans in one band. Soon all through the camp the knights are
arming and mounting. Meanwhile Cliges is hotly pursued by his
enemy, all armed and with helmet closed. Cliges, who never
wished to be numbered among the coward and craven-hearted,
notices that he comes alone. First, the knight challenged him,
calling him "fellow," unable to conceal his rage: "Young fellow,"
he cried, "thou shalt leave me here a pledge for my lord whom
thou hast killed. If I do not carry away thy head with me, I am
not worth a counterfeit besant. I must make of it a present to
the duke, and will accept no other forfeit. In return for his
nephew, I shall make such restitution that he will profit by the
exchange." Cliges hears him reproaching him thus boldly and with
impudence. "Vassal," he says, "be on your guard! For I will
defend my head, and you shall not get it without my leave." Then
the attack begins. The other missed his blow, while Cliges
struck him with such force that horse and rider went down
together in one heap. The horse fell upon him so heavily that he
shattered completely one of his legs. Cliges dismounted on the
greensward and disarmed him. When he had disarmed him, he
appropriated his weapons, and cut off his enemy's head with the
sword which had just now been his. After severing his head he
fixed it firmly on the point of his lance, thinking to offer it
to the duke, to whom his nephew had promised to present his own
if he could meet him in the strife. Cliges had no sooner put on
the dead man's helmet and taken his shield and mounted his steed,
letting his own stray at large to terrify the Greeks, than he saw
advancing with more than a hundred banners flying several full
squadrons of Greeks and Germans. Now the fierce and cruel
struggles will soon begin between the Saxons and the Greeks. As
soon as Cliges sees his men advancing, he betakes himself toward
the Saxons, his own men hotly pursuing him, and not knowing him
in his disguise. It is no wonder that his uncle is in despair
and fear, when he sees the head he is carrying off. So all the
host pursue him fast, while Cliges leads them on to provoke a
fight, until the Saxons see him drawing near. But they, too, are
quite misled by the arms with which he has armed and equipped
himself. He succeeds in deceiving and mocking them; for the duke
and all the rest, when they saw him approaching lance in rest,
cried out: "Here comes our knight! On the point of his lance he
carries Cliges' head, and the Greeks are hotly pursuing him!"
Then, as they give their horses rein, Cliges spurs to meet the
Saxons, crouching low beneath his shield, the lance out straight
with the head affixed. Now, though he was braver than a lion, he
was no stronger than any other man. Both parties think that he
is dead, and while the Saxons rejoice, the Greeks and Germans
grieve. But before long the truth will out. For Cliges no
longer held his peace: but, rushing fiercely at a Saxon, he
struck him with his ashen lance upon the head and in the breast,
so that he made him lose his stirrups, and at the same time he
cried aloud: "Strike gentlemen, for I am Cliges whom you seek.
Come on, my bold and hardy knights! Let none hold back, for the
first joust is already won! He is a coward who does not relish
such a dish."
(Vv. 3571-3620.) The emperor's joy was great when he heard the
voice of his nephew Cliges summoning and exhorting them; he was
greatly pleased and comforted. But the duke is greatly chagrined
now when he sees he is betrayed, unless his force should prove
the stronger. While he draws together his troops in serried
lines, the Greeks do the same, and pressing them close, attack
and rush upon them. On both sides lances are lowered as they
meet for the proper reception of a hostile host. At the first
shock shields are pierced and lances shattered, girths are cut
and stirrups broken, while the horses of those who fall to earth
are left without a rider. But regardless of what any other does,
Cliges and the duke meet in the fray; holding their lances low,
they strike one another upon the shield with such violence that
the strong and well-made lances fly into splinters. Cliges was
skilful on horseback, and sits straight in his saddle without
shaking or losing his balance. But the duke has lost his seat,
and in spite of himself quits the saddle-bows. Cliges struggled
and strove to capture him and carry him away, but his strength
did not suffice, for the Saxons were around about fighting to
rescue him. Nevertheless, Cliges escapes from the conflict
without receiving harm and with a precious prize; for he makes
off with the duke's steed, which was whiter than wool, and was
worth more to a gentleman than the fortune of Octavian (31) at
Rome. The steed was an Arabian. The Greeks and Germans are
overjoyed to see Cliges on such a mount, for they had already
remarked the excellence and beauty of the Arab steed. But they
were not on their guard against an ambuscade; and before they are
aware of it great damage will be done.
(Vv. 3621-3748.) A spy came to the duke, bringing him welcome
news. "Duke," says the spy, "not a man remains in all the
encampment of the Greeks who is able to defend himself. If thou
wilt take my word for it, now is the time to have the emperor's
daughter seized, while the Greeks are seen intent upon the battle
and the strife. Lend me a hundred of thy knights, and I will put
the lady in their hands. By an old and secluded path I will lead
them so carefully that they will not be seen or met by any man of
Germany, until they can seize the damsel in her tent and carry
her off so handily that no resistance will be made." At this the
duke is highly pleased. He sent a hundred and more tried knights
with the spy, who so successfully conducted them that they
carried the maiden away captive without exerting any force; for
they could abduct her easily. After carrying her some distance
from the tents, they send her on under escort of twelve of their
number whom they accompany but a short distance. While the
twelve led the damsel on, the others went to tell the duke how
successful they had been. The duke's desire being now satisfied,
he at once makes a truce with the Greeks until next day. The
truce was sworn by both parties. The duke's men then turned
back, while the Greeks without delay repaired each man to his own
tent. But Cliges stays behind alone, stationed upon a little
hill where no one caught sight of him, until he saw the twelve
pass by with her whom they were carrying off at topmost speed.
Cliges, in his thirst for glory, rides at them without delay; for
he thinks within himself, and his heart tells him, that it is not
for nothing that they flee. So, as soon as he espied them, he
spurred after them; and when they saw him coming on, a foolish
thought occurred to them: "It is the duke," they said, "who
comes. Let us rein in a little; for he has left the troops and
is riding hard after us alone." Every man thinks that so it is.
They all want to turn back to meet him, but each one wishes to go
alone. Meanwhile, Cliges must needs descend a deep valley
between two mountains. He would never have recognised their
blazons, if they had not come to meet him, or if they had not
awaited him. Six of the twelve come to meet him in an encounter
they will soon regret. The other six stay with the damsel,
leading her gently at a walk and easy jog. And the six ride
quickly on, spurring up the valley, until he who had the swiftest
horse reached him first and cried aloud: "Hail, Duke of Saxony!
God bless thee! Duke, we have recovered thy lady. The Greeks
shall not get her now, for she shall be placed in thy hands."
When Cliges heard the words this fellow shouts, his heart is not
gay; rather is it strange that he does not lose his wits. Never
was any wild beast--leopard, tiger, or lion--upon seeing its
young captured, so fierce and furious as Cliges, who sets no
value upon his life if he deserts his sweetheart now. He would
rather die than not win her back. In his trouble he feels great
wrath, which gives him the courage he requires. He urges and
spurs the Arab steed, and rushes to give the Saxon such a blow
upon his painted shield that without exaggeration, he makes his
heart feel the lance. This gives Cliges confidence. He drove
and spurred the Arab charger on for more than the space of an
acre before he came upon the next Saxon, for they came up singly,
each fearless of his predecessor's fare, for Cliges fights them
one by one. As he takes them thus individually, no one receives
another's aid. He makes a rush at the second one, who, like the
first, thought to give him joy by telling him of his own evil
fate. But Cliges has no concern to heed his talk and idle
charter. Thrusting his lance into his body so that the blood
spurts out when it is withdrawn, he deprives him of life and the
gift of speech. After these two he meets the third, who expects
to find him in good humour and to make him rejoice over his own
mischance. Spurring eagerly he came up to him; but before he has
time to say a word, Cliges ran a fathom of his lance through the
middle of his body, leaving him senseless on the ground. To the
fourth he gives such a blow that he leaves him fainting on the
field. After the fourth he goes at the fifth, and after him he
attacks the sixth. None of them could defend himself, but each
was left silent and mute. He stood in less fear of the others
now, and more hardily pressed after them, taking no further
thought of the six dead men.
(Vv. 3749-3816.) Feeling no further care for them, he starts to
present a debt of shame and woe to the others who are leading the
maid away. He caught up with them, and made such an onslaught
upon them as a hungry and ravenous wolf makes when leaping upon
its prey. Now he feels his luck has come, when he can display
his chivalry and bravery openly before her who is his very life.
Now may he die, if he does not rescue her! And she, too, is at
death's door from anxiety for his sake, though she does not know
that he is no near. Lance in rest, Cliges made an attack which
pleased him well; for he struck first one Saxon and then another,
so that with a single rush he carried them both to earth, though
it cost him his ashen lance. And they both fall in such
distress, being wounded in the body, that they have no power to
rise again and do him any harm or ill. The other four in bitter
rage join in an attack upon Cliges; but he neither quails nor
trembles, and they are unable to dislodge him from his seat.
Quickly drawing his keen sword from its sheath, in order to
please her who awaits his love, he rode hard at a Saxon and,
striking him with his whetted blade, he severed his head and half
his neck from the body: such was the limit of his pity. Fenice,
who witnesses what transpires, does not know yet that this is
Cliges. She wishes that it were he, indeed, but because of the
present danger she says to herself that she would not have him
there. Thus, doubly she shows the devotion of a sweetheart,
fearing at once his death, and desiring that honour may be his.
And Cliges sword in hand attacks the other three, who face him
bravely and puncture and split his shield. But they are unable
to lay hands upon him, or to pierce the meshes of his hauberk.
And whatever Cliges reaches cannot stand against his blow, but
must needs be split and torn apart; for he turns faster than a
top driven and lashed by the whip. Boldness and love, which
holds him enthralled, make him eager for the fray. He pressed
the Saxons so hard that he left them all dead and defeated, some
only wounded, and others dead--except one whom he let escape,
disdaining to kill him when left alone at his mercy; besides, he
wished him to tell the duke of the loss and injury he had
sustained. But before this fellow left Cliges, he begged him to
tell him his name, which later he repeated to the duke, thus
rousing his bitter ire.
(Vv. 3817-3864.) Now bad luck had fallen to the duke, who was in
great distress and grief. And Cliges takes back Fenice, whose
love torments and troubles him. If he does not confess to her
now, love will long be his enemy, and hers too, if she holds her
peace and speaks not the word which will bring him joy; for now
each can tell the other privily the thoughts that lie within the
heart. But they so fear to be refused that they dare not reveal
their hearts. For his part, he fears lest she will not accept
his love, whereas she, too, would have spoken out had she not
feared to be rejected. In spite of this, the eyes of each reveal
the hidden thought, if only they had heeded this evidence. They
converse by glance of eye, but their tongues are so cowardly that
they dare not speak in any wise of the love which possesses them.
No wonder if she hesitates to begin, for a maid must be a simple
and shrinking thing; but he--why does he wait and hold back who
was so bold for her just now, but now in her presence is
cowardly? God! whence comes this fear, that he should shrink
from a lonely girl, feeble and timid, simple and mild? It is as
if I should see the dog flee before the hare, and the fish chase
the beaver, the lamb the wolf, and the dove the eagle. In the
same fashion the labourer would forsake his pick with which he
strives to earn a livelihood, and the falcon would flee from the
duck, and the gerfalcon from the heron, and the pike from the
minnow, and the stag would chase the lion, and everything would
be reversed. Now I feel within me the desire to give some reason
why it should happen to true lovers that they lose their sense
and boldness to say what they have in mind when they have leisure
and place and time.
(Vv. 3865-3914.) Ye who are interested in the art of Love, who
do faithfully maintain the customs and usage of his court, who
never failed to obey his law, whatever the result might be, tell
me if there is anything that pleases because of love without
causing us to tremble and grow pale. If any one oppose me in
this, I can at once refute his argument; for whoever does not
grow pale and tremble, whoever does not lose his senses and
memory, is trying to filch and get by stealth what does not by
right belong to him. The servant who does not fear his master
ought not to remain in his employ nor do his service. He who
does not esteem his lord does not fear him, and whoever does not
esteem him does not hold him dear, but rather tries to deceive
him and to steal from him what is his. The servant ought to
tremble with fear when his master calls or summons him. And
whoever commits himself to Love owns him as his lord and master,
and is bound to do him reverence and fear him much and honour
him, if he wishes to be numbered in his court. Love without
alarm or fear is like a fire without flame or heat, day without
sun, comb without honey, summer without flowers, winter without
frost, sky without moon, and a book without letters. Such is my
argument in refutation, for where fear is absent love is not to
be mentioned. Whoever would love must needs feel fear, for
otherwise he cannot be in love. But let him fear only her whom
he loves, and for her sake be brave against all others. Then if
he stands in awe of his lady-love Cliges is guilty of nothing
wrong. Even so, he would not have failed to speak straightway
with her of love, whatever the outcome might have been, had it
not been that she was his uncle's wife. This causes the
festering of his wound, and it torments and pains him the more
because he dares not utter what he fain would say.
(Vv. 3915-3962.) Thus they make their way back to their own
people, and if they speak of anything it is nothing of much
concern. Each seated on a white horse, they rode rapidly toward
the camp, which was plunged in great sorrow. The whole army is
beside itself with grief, but they are altogether wrong in
supposing Cliges to be dead: hence their bitter and poignant
grief. And for Fenice, too, they are in dismay, thinking never
to win her back again. Thus, for her and him the whole army is
in great distress. But soon upon their return the whole affair
will change its aspect; for now they have reached the camp again,
and have quickly changed the grief to joy. Joy returns and
sorrow flees. All the troops come together and sally forth to
welcome them. The two emperors, upon hearing the report about
Cliges and the damsel, go to meet them with joyful hearts, and
each can hardly wait to hear how Cliges found and recovered the
empress. Cliges tells them, and, as they listen, they are amazed
and are loud in their praises of his courage and devotion. But,
for his part, the duke is furious, swearing and proclaiming his
determination to fight Cliges, if he dares, in single combat; and
it shall be agreed that if Cliges wins the battle the emperor
shall proceed unchallenged, and freely take the maiden with him,
and if he should kill or defeat Cliges, who had done him such
injury, then let there be no truce or stay to prevent each party
from doing its best. This is what the duke desires, and by an
interpreter of his, who knew both the Greek and the German
tongues, he announces to the two emperors his desire thus to
arrange the battle.
(Vv. 3963-4010.) The messenger delivered his message so well in
both languages that all could understand it. The entire army was
in an uproar, saying that may God forbid that Cliges ever engage
in the battle. Both emperors are in a fright, but Cliges throws
himself at their feet and begs them not to grieve, but if ever he
did them any favour, he prays them to grant him this battle as a
guerdon and reward. And if the right to fight should be denied
him, then he will never again serve for a single day his uncle's
cause and honour. The emperor, who loved his nephew as he
should, raised him by the hand and said: "Fair nephew, I am
deeply grieved to know you are so keen to fight; for after joy,
sorrow is to be expected. (32) You have made me glad, I cannot
deny it; but it is hard for me to yield the point and send you
forth to this battle, when I see you still so young. And yet I
know you to be so confident of yourself that I dare not ever
refuse anything that you choose to ask of me. Be assured that,
merely to gratify you, it should be done; but if my request has
any power, you would never assume this task." "My lord, there is
no need of further speech," said Cliges; "may God damn me, if I
would take the whole world, and miss this battle! I do not know
why I should seek from you any postponement or long delay." The
emperor weeps with pity, while Cliges sheds tears of joy when the
permission to fight is granted him. Many a tear was shed that
day, and no respite or delay was asked. Before the hour of
prime, by the duke's own messenger the challenge to battle was
sent back to him accepted as he had proposed.
(Vv. 4011-4036.) The duke, who thinks and confidently trusts
that Cliges will be unable to stave off death and defeat at his
hands, has himself quickly armed. Cliges, who is anxious for the
fight, feels no concern as to how he shall defend himself. He
asks the emperor for his arms, and desires him to dub him a
knight. So the emperor generously gives him his arms, and he
takes them, his heart being keen for the battle which he
anticipates with joy and eagerness. No time is lost in arming
him. And when he was armed from head to foot, the emperor, all
sorrowing, girds the sword upon his side. Thus Cliges completely
armed mounts his white Arab steed; from his neck he hangs by the
straps an ivory shield, such as will never break or split; and
upon it there was neither colour nor design. All his armour was
white, and the steed, and the harness, too, was all whiter than
any snow.
(Vv. 4037-4094.) Cliges and the duke, now being armed, summon
each other to meet half way, and they stipulate that their men
shall take their stand on either side, but without their swords
and lances, under oath and pledge that not a man will be so rash,
so long as the battle lasts, as to dare to move for any reason,
any more than he would dare to pluck out his own eye. When this
had been agreed upon, they came together, each yearning ardently
for the glory he hopes to win and for the joy of victory. But
before a single blow was dealt, the empress has herself borne
thither, solicitous for Cliges' fate. It seems to her that if he
dies, she, too, must needs do so. No comfort can avail to keep
her from joining him in death, for, without him, life has no joys
for her. When all were gathered on the field--high and low,
young and old--and the guards had taken their place, then both
seized their lances and rushed together so savagely that they
both broke their lances and fell to the ground, unable to keep
their saddles. But not being wounded, they quickly get upon
their feet and attack each other without delay. Upon their
resonant helmets they play such a tune with swords that it seems
to those who are looking on that the helmets are on fire and send
forth sparks. And when the swords rebound in air, gleaming
sparks fly off from them as from a smoking piece of iron which
the smith beats upon his anvil after, drawing it from the forge.
Both of the vassals are generous in dealing blows in great
plenty, and each has the best of intentions to repay quickly what
he borrows; neither one holds back from repaying promptly capital
and interest, without accounting and without measure. But the
duke is much chagrined with anger and discomfiture when he fails
to defeat and slay Cliges in the first assault. Such a
marvellously great and mighty blow he deals him that he falls at
his feet upon his knee.
(Vv. 4095-4138.) When this blow brought Cliges down, the emperor
was struck with fear, and would have been no more dismayed had he
himself been beneath the shield. Nor could Fenice in her fear
longer contain herself, whatever the effect might be, from
crying: "God help him!" as loud as she could. But that was the
only word she uttered, for straightway her voice failed her, and
she fell forward upon her face, which was somewhat wounded by the
fall. Two high nobles raised her up and supported her upon her
feet until she returned to consciousness. But in spite of her
countenance, none who saw her guessed why she had swooned. Not a
man there blamed her, but rather praised her for her act, for
each one supposes that she would have done the same thing for
him, if he had been in Cliges' place, but in all this they are
quite astray. Cliges heard, and well understood, the sound of
Fenice's cry. Her voice restored his strength and courage, as he
leaped up quickly, and came with fury, toward the duke, so
charging and attacking him that the duke in turn was now
dismayed. For now he found him more fierce for the fray,
stronger and more agile and energetic than when at first they
came together. And because he feared his onslaught, he cried:
"Young man, so help me God, I see thou art brave and very bold.
If it were not for my nephew now, whom I shall never more forget,
I would gladly make peace with thee, and leave thy quarrel
without interfering in it more."
(Vv. 4139-4236.) "Duke," says Cliges, "what is your pleasure
now? Must one not surrender his right when he is unable to
recover it? When one of two evils must be faced, one should
choose the lesser one. Your nephew was not wise to become
angrily embroiled with me. You may be sure that I shall treat
you in like fashion, if I get the chance, unless you agree to my
terms of peace." The duke, to whom it seems that Cliges' vigour
is steadily growing, thinks that he had better desist in midcareer
before he is utterly undone. Nevertheless, he does not
openly give in, but says: "Young man, I see thou art skilful and
alert and not lacking in courage. But thou art yet too young;
therefore I feel assured that if I defeat and kill thee I shall
gain no praise or fame, and I should never like to confess in the
hearing of a man of honour that I had fought with thee, for I
should but do thee honour, and myself win shame. But if thou art
aware of honour's worth, it will always be a glorious thing for
thee to have withstood me for two rounds at arms. So now my
heart and feeling bid me let thee have thy way, and no longer
fight with thee." (33) "Duke," says Cliges, "that will not do.
In the hearing of all you must repeat those words, for it shall
never be said and noised abroad that you let me off and had mercy
on me. In the hearing of all those who are gathered here, you
must repeat your words, if you wish to be reconciled with me."
So the duke repeats his words in the hearing of all. Then they
make peace and are reconciled. But however the matter be
regarded Cliges had all the honour and glory of it, and the
Greeks were greatly pleased. For their part, the Saxons could
not laugh, all of them having plainly seen that their lord was
worn out and exhausted just now; but there is no doubt at all
that, if he could have helped himself, this peace would never
have been made, and that Cliges' soul would have been drawn from
his body had it proven possible. The duke goes back to Saxony
sorrowing, downcast, and filled with shame; for of his men there
are not even two who do not regard him as worsted, defeated, and
disgraced. The Saxons with all their shame have now returned to
Saxony, while the Greeks without delay make their way with joy
and gladness toward Constantinople, for Cliges by his prowess has
opened the way for them. The emperor of Germany no longer
follows and convoys them. Taking leave oú the Greek troops and
of his daughter and Cliges, and finally of the emperor, he stayed
behind in Germany. And the emperor of the Greeks goes off
happily and in joyous mood. Cliges, brave and courteous, calls
to mind his sire's command. If his uncle, the emperor, will give
him his permission, he will go and ask him for leave to return to
Britain and there converse with his great-uncle, the King; for he
is desirous of seeing and knowing him. So he presents himself
before the emperor, and requests that he consent to let him go to
Britain to see his uncle and his friends. Gently he proffered
his request. But his uncle refused, when he had listened to the
request he made. "Fair nephew," he said, "it is not my will that
you should wish to leave me. I shall never give you without
regret this permission to go away. For it is my pleasure and
desire that you should be my companion and lord, with me, of all
my empire."
(Vv. 4237-4282.) Now Cliges hears something that does not suit
him when his uncle refuses the prayer and request he made. "Fair
sire," said he, "I am not brave and wise enough, nor would it be
seemly for me to join myself with you or any one else in the duty
of governing this empire; I am too young and inexperienced. They
put gold to the test when they wish to learn if it is fine. And
so it is my wish, in brief, to try to prove myself, wherever I
can find the test. In Britain, if I am brave, I can apply myself
to the whetstone and to the real true test, whereby my prowess
shall be proved. In Britain are the gentlemen whom honour and
prowess distinguish. And he who wishes to win honour should
associate himself with them, for honour is won and gained by him
who associates with gentlemen. And so I ask you for leave to go,
and you may be very sure that if you do not grant me the boon and
send me thither I shall go without your leave." "Fair nephew, I
will give you leave, seeing you are so disposed that I cannot
keep you back either by force or prayer of mine. Now since
prayer, prohibition, and force do not avail, may God give you the
desire and inclination promptly to return. I wish you to take
with you more than a bushel of gold and silver, and I will give
for your pleasure such horses as you may choose." He had no
sooner spoken than Cliges bowed before him. All that the
emperor, mentioned and promised him was straightway brought
(Vv. 4283-4574.) Cliges took all the money and companions that
he wished and needed. For his personal use he took four horses
of different colours: one white, one sorrel, one fallow red, and
one black. But I must have passed over something which it is not
proper to omit. Cliges goes to ask and obtain leave to depart
from his sweetheart Fenice; for he wishes to commend her to God's
safe keeping. Coming before her, he throws himself upon his
knees, weeping so bitterly that the tears moisten his tunic and
ermine, the while keeping his eyes upon the ground; for he dares
not raise his eyes to her, as if he were guilty of some crime and
misdeed toward her, for which he seems overcome with shame. And
Fenice, who timidly and fearfully looks at him, does not know the
occasion of his coming, and speaks to him with difficulty.
"Rise, friend and fair sir! Sit here beside me. and weep no
more, and tell me what your pleasure is." "Lady, what shall I
say, and what leave unsaid? I come to ask your leave." "Leave?
To do what?" "Lady, I must go off to Britain." "Then tell me
what your business is, before I give you leave to go." "Lady, my
father, before he departed this life and died, begged me not to
fail to go to Britain as soon as I should be made a knight. I
should not wish for any reason to disregard his command. I must
not falter until I have accomplished the journey. It is a long
road from here to Greece, and if I should go thither, the journey
would be too long from Constantinople to Britain. But it is
right that I should ask leave from you to whom I altogether
belong." Many a covert sigh and sob marked the separation. But
the eyes of none were keen enough, nor the ears of any sharp
enough, to learn from what he saw and heard that there was any
love between these two. Cliges, in spite of the grief he felt,
took his leave at the first opportunity. He is full of thought
as he goes away, and so are the emperor and many others who stay
behind. But more than all the others, Fenice is pensive: she
finds no bottom or bound to the reflections which occupy her, so
abundantly are her cares multiplied. She was still oppressed
with thought when she arrived in Greece. There she was held in
great honour as mistress and empress; but her heart and mind
belong to Cliges, wherever he goes, and she wishes her heart
never to return to her, unless it is brought back to her by him
who is perishing of the same disease with which he has smitten
her. If he should get well, she would recover too, but he will
never be its victim without her being so as well. Her trouble
appears in her pale and changed colour; for the fresh, clear, and
radiant colour which Nature had given her is now a stranger to
her face. She often weeps and often sighs. Little she cares for
her empire and for the riches that are hers. She always
cherishes in her remembrance the hour when Cliges went away, and
the leave he took of her, how he changed colour and grew pale,
and how tearful his expression was, for he came to weep in her
presence humbly and simply upon his knees, as if constrained to
worship her. All this is sweet and pleasant for her to remember
and think about. And afterward, as a little treat, she takes on
her tongue instead of spice a sweet word which for all Greece she
would not wish him to have used contrary to the sense she had
understood when he first had uttered it; for she lives upon no
other dainty, and there is nothing else that pleases her. This
word alone sustains and nourishes her, and assuages all her pain.
She cares to eat and drink of no other dish or beverage, for when
the two lovers came to part, Cliges had said he was "altogether
hers." This word is so sweet and tastes so good that from the
tongue it stirs her heart, and she takes it into her mouth and
heart to be all the more sure of it. Under any other lock she
would not dare to store this treasure. Nowhere could it be
lodged so well as in her own bosom. She will never leave it
exposed at any price, being in such fear of robbers and thieves.
But there is no ground for her anxiety, and she need have no fear
of the birds of prey, for her treasure is not movable, but is
rather like a house which cannot be destroyed by fire or flood,
but will always stay fixed in a single place. But she feels no
confidence in the matter, so she worries and strives to find and
hold some ground on which to stand, interpreting the situation in
divers ways. She both opposes and defends her position, and
engages in the following argument: "With what intention should
Cliges say `I am altogether yours' unless it was love that
prompted him? What power can I have over him that he should
esteem me so highly as to make me the mistress of his heart? Is
he not more fair than I, and of higher rank than I? I see in it
naught but love, which could vouchsafe me such a boon. I, who
cannot escape its power, will prove by my own case that unless he
loved me he would never say that he was mine; unless love holds
him in its toils, Cliges could never say that he was mine any
more than I could say that I was altogether his unless love had
put me in his hands. For if he loves me not, at least he does
not fear me. I hope that love which gives me to him will in
return give him to me. But now I am sore dismayed because it is
so trite a word, and I may simply be deceived, for many there be
who in flattering terms will say even to a total stranger, `I and
all that I have are yours,' and they are more idle chatterers
than the jays. So I do not know what to think, for it might well
turn out that he said it just to flatter me. Yet I saw his
colour change, and I saw him weeping piteously. In my judgment,
the tears and his face confused and pale were not produced by
treachery, nor were they the fruits of trickery. Those eyes from
which I saw tears roll down were not guilty of falsehood. Signs
enough of love I saw, if I know anything about it. Yes, in an
evil hour I thought of love; woe is me that I ever learned it,
for the experience has been bitter. Has it indeed? Yes, verily.
I am dead when I cannot see him who has stolen my heart away by
his cajoling flattery, because of which my heart leaves its
dwelling, and will not abide with me, hating my home and
establishment. In truth I have been ill treated by him who has
my heart in his keeping. He who robs me and takes what is mine
cannot love me, of that I am sure. But am I sure? Why then did
he weep? Why? It was not in vain, for there was cause enough.
I must not assume that I was the cause of it, for one is always
loath to leave people whom one loves and knows. So it is not
strange if he was sorry and grieved and if he wept when he left
some one whom he knew. But he who gave him this advice to go and
dwell in Britain could not have smitten me more effectively. He
is cut to the quick who loses his heart. He who deserves it,
should be treated ill; but I have never deserved such treatment.
Alas, unhappy one, why has Cliges killed me when I am innocent?
But I am unjust to accuse him thus without cause. Surely Cliges
would never have deserted me if his heart were like mine. I am
sure his heart is not like mine. And if my heart is lodged in
his it will never draw away, and his will never part from mine,
for my heart follows him secretly: they have formed such a goodly
company. But, after all, to tell the truth, they are very
different and contrary. How are they different and contrary?
Why, his is the master and mine the slave; and the slave can have
no will of his own, but only do his master's will and forsake all
other affairs. But what reference has that to me? My heart and
service are no concern to him. This arrangement distresses me,
that one is master of us both. Why is not my heart as
independent as his? Then their power would be equalised. My
heart is now a prisoner, unable to move itself unless his moves
as well. And whether his heart wanders or stays still, mine must
needs prepare to follow him in his train. God! why are our
bodies not so near one another that I could in some way bring
back my heart! Bring back? Foolish one, if I should remove it
from its joy I should be the death of it. Let it stay there! I
have no desire to dislodge it, but rather wish that it tarry with
its lord until he feel some pity for it. For rather over there
than here ought he to have mercy on his servant, because they are
both in a foreign land. If my heart knows well the language of
flattery, as is necessary for the courtier, it will be rich ere
it comes back. Whoever wishes to stand in the good graces of his
lord and sit beside him on his right, to be in the fashion now-adays,
must remove the feather from his head, even when there
is none there. But there is one bad feature of this practice:
while he is smoothing down his master, who is filled with evil
and villainy, he will never be so courteous as to tell him the
truth; rather he makes him think and believe that no one could
compare with him in prowess and in knowledge, and the master
thinks that he is speaking the truth. That man does not know
himself who takes another's word about qualities which he does
not possess. For even if he is a wicked and insolent wretch, and
as cowardly as a hare, mean, crazy, and misshapen, and a villain
both in word and deed--yet some man will praise him to his face
who behind his back will mock at him. But when in his hearing he
speaks of him to some other, he praises him, while his lord
pretends not to hear what they say between themselves; if,
however, he thought that he would not be heard, he would say
something his master would not like. And if his master is
pleased to lie, the servant is all ready with his consent, and
will never be backward in averring that all his master says is
true. He who frequents courts and lords must ever be ready with
a lie. So, too, must my heart do if it would find favour with
its lord. Let it flatter and be obsequious. But Cliges is such
a knight, so fair, so open, and so loyal, that my heart, in
praising him, need never be false or perfidious, for in him there
is nothing to be improved. Therefore I wish my heart to serve
him, for, as the people's proverb runs, `He who serves a noble
man is bad indeed if he does not improve in his company.'"
(Vv. 4575-4628.) Thus love harrows Fenice. But this torment is
her delight, of which she can never grow weary. And Cliges now
has crossed the sea and come to Wallingford. There he took
expensive quarters in great state. But his thoughts are always
of Fenice, not forgetting her for a single hour. While he delays
and tarries there, his men, acting under his instructions, made
diligent inquiries. They were informed that King Arthur's barons
and the King in person had appointed a tourney to be held in the
plain before Oxford, which lies close to Wallingford. (34) There
the struggle was arranged, and it was to last four days. But
Cliges will have abundant time to prepare himself if in the
meantime he needs anything, for more than a fortnight must elapse
before the tournament begins. He orders three of his squires to
go quickly to London and there buy three different sets of arms,
one black, another red, the third green, and that on the way back
each shall be kept covered with new cloth, so that if any one
should meet them on the road he may not know the colour of the
arms they carry. The squires start at once and come to London,
where they find available everything they need. Having finished
this errand, they return at once without losing any time. When
the arms they had brought were shown to Cliges he was well
pleased with them. He ordered them to be set away and concealed,
together with those which the emperor had given him by the
Danube, when he knighted him. I do not choose to tell you now
why he had them stored away; but it will be explained to you when
all the high barons of the land are mounted on their steeds and
assemble in search of fame.
(Vv. 4629-4726.) On the day which had been agreed upon, the
nobles of renown came together. King Arthur, with all his men
whom he had selected from among the best, took up his position at
Oxford, while most of the knights ranged themselves near
Wallingford. Do not expect me to delay the story and tell you
that such and such kings and counts were there, and that this,
that, and the other were of the number. (35) When the time came
for the knights to gather, in accordance with the custom of those
days, there came forth alone between two lines one of King
Arthur's most valiant knights to announce that the tourney should
begin. But in this case no one dares to advance and confront him
for the joust. There is none who does not hold back. And there
are some who ask: "Why do these knights of ours delay, without
stepping forward from the ranks? Some one will surely soon
begin." And the others make reply: "Don't you see, then, what an
adversary yonder party has sent against us? Any one who does not
know should learn that he is a pillar, (36) able to stand beside
the best three in the world." "Who is he, then?" "Why, don't
you see? It is Sagremor the Wild." "Is it he?" "It surely is."
Cliges listens and hears what they say, as he sits on his horse
Morel, clad in armour blacker than a mulberry: for all his armour
was black. As he emerges from the ranks and spurs Morel free of
the crowd, there is not one, upon seeing him, but exclaims to his
neighbour: "That fellow rides well lance in rest; he is a very,
skilful knight and carries his arms right handily; his shield
fits well about his neck. But he must be a fool to undertake of
his own free will to joust with one of the most valiant knights
to be found in all the land. Who can he be? Where was he born?
Who knows him here?" "Not I." "Nor I." "There is not a flake
of snow on him; but all his armour is blacker far than the cloak
of any monk or prior." While thus they talk, the two contestants
give their horses rein without delay, for they are very eager and
keen to come together in the fight. Cliges strikes him so that
he crushes the shield against his arm, and the arm against his
body, whereupon Sagremor falls full length. Cliges goes
unerringly and bids him declare himself his prisoner, which
Sagremor does at once. Now the tourney is fairly begun, and
adversaries meet in rivalry. Cliges rushes about the field,
seeking adversaries with whom to joust, but not a knight presents
himself whom he does not cast down or take prisoner. He excels
in glory, all the knights on either side, for wherever he goes to
battle, there the fight is quickly ended. That man may be
considered brave who holds his ground to joust with him, for it
is more credit to dare face him than it is to defeat another
knight. And if Cliges leads him away prisoner, for this at least
he gains renown that he dared to wait and fight with him. Cliges
wins the fame and glory of all the tournament. When evening
came, he secretly repaired to his lodging-place in order that
none might have any words with him. And lest any one should seek
the house where the black arms are displayed, he puts them away
in a room in order that no one may find them or see them, and he
hangs up his green arms at the street-door, where they will be in
evidence, and where passers-by will see them. And if any one
asks and inquires where his lodging is, he cannot learn when he
sees no sign of the black shield for which he seeks.
(Vv. 4727-4758.) By this ruse Cliges remains hidden in the town.
And those who were his prisoners went from one end of the town to
the other asking for the black knight, but none could give them
any information. Even King Arthur himself has search made up and
down for him; but there is only one answer: "We have not seen him
since we left the lists, and do not know what became of him."
More than twenty young men seek him, whom the King sent out; but
Cliges so successfully concealed himself that they cannot find a
trace of him. King Arthur is filled with astonishment when he is
informed that no one of high or low degree can point out his
lodging-place, any more than if he were in Caesarea, Toledo, or
Crete. "Upon my word," he says, "I know not what they may say,
but to me this seems a marvellous thing. Perchance it was a
phantom that appeared in our midst. Many a knight has been
unhorsed, and noble men have pledged faith to one whose house
they cannot find, or even his country or locality; each of these
men perforce must fail to keep his pledge." Thus the King spoke
his mind, but he might as well have held his peace.
(Vv. 4759-4950.) That evening among all the barons there was
much talk of the black knight, for indeed they spoke of nothing
else. The next day they armed themselves again without summons
and without request. Lancelot of the Lake, in whom there is no
lack of courage, rides forth with lance upright to await a
contestant in the first joust. Here comes Cliges tiding fast,
greener than the grass of the field, and mounted on a fallow red
steed, carrying its mane on the right-hand side. Wherever Cliges
spurs the horse, there is no one, either with hair or without,
who does not look at him amazed and exclaim to his neighbour on
either side: "This knight is in all respects more graceful and
skilful than the one who yesterday wore the black arms, just as a
pine is more beautiful than a white beech, and the laurel than
the elder-bush. As yet we know not who yesterday's victor was;
but we shall know to-night who this man is." Each one makes
reply: "I don't know him, nor did I ever see him, that I am
aware. But he is fairer than he who fought yesterday, and fairer
than Lancelot of the Lake. If this man rode armed in a bag and
Lancelot in silver and gold, this man would still be fairer than
he." Thus they all take Cliges' part. And the two champions
drive their steeds together with all the force of spur. Cliges
gives him such a blow upon the golden shield with the lion
portrayed thereon that he knocks him down from his saddle and
stands over him to receive his surrender. For Lancelot there was
no help; so he admitted himself his prisoner. Then the noise
began afresh with the shock of breaking lances. Those who are on
Cliges' side place all their confidence in him. For of those
whom he challenges and strikes, there is none so strong but must
fall from his horse to earth. That day Cliges did so well, and
unhorsed and took captive so many knights, that he gave double
the satisfaction to his side, and won for himself twice the glory
that he had gained on the preceding day. When evening came, he
betook himself as fast as he could to his lodging-place, and
quickly ordered out the vermilion shield and his other arms,
while he ordered the arms which he had worn that day to be laid
away: the host carefully put them aside. Again that evening the
knights whom he had captured sought for him, but without hearing
any news of him. In their lodging-places, most of those who
speak of him do so with praise and admiration. The next day the
gay and doughty knights return to the contest. From the Oxford
side comes forth a vassal of great renown--his name was
Perceval of Wales. As soon as Cliges saw him start, and learned
certainly who it was, when he had heard the name of Perceval he
was very anxious to contest with him. He issued straightway from
the ranks upon a Spanish sorrel steed, and completely clad in
vermilion armour. Then all gaze at him, wondering more than ever
before, and saying that they had never seen so perfect a knight.
And the contestants without delay spur forward until their mighty
blows land upon their shields. The lances, though they were
short and stout, bend until they look like hoops. In the sight
of all who were looking on, Cliges struck Perceval so hard that
he knocked him from his horse and made him surrender without a
long struggle or much ado. When Perceval had pledged his word
then the joust began again, and the engagement became general.
Every knight whom Cliges meets he forces to earth. He did not
quit the lists that day even for a single hour, while all the
others struck at him as at a tower--individually, of course,
and not in groups of two or three, for such was not the custom
then. Upon his shield, as upon an anvil, the others strike and
pound, splitting and hewing it to bits. But every one who
strikes him there, he pays back by casting him from his stirrups
and saddle; and no one, unless he wished to lie, could fail to
say when the jousting ceased that the knight with the red shield
had won all the glory on that day. And all the best and most
courtly knights would fain have made his acquaintance. But their
desire was not felt before he had departed secretly, seeing the
sun already set; and he had his vermilion shield and all his
other harness removed, and ordered his white arms to be brought
out, in which he had first been dubbed a knight, while the other
arms and the steeds were fastened outside by the door. Those who
notice this realise and exclaim that they have all been defeated
and undone by one single man; for each day he has disguised
himself with a different horse and set of armour, thus seeming to
change his identity; for the first time now they noticed this.
And my lord Gawain proclaimed that he never saw such a champion,
and therefore he wished to make his acquaintance and learn his
name, announcing that on the morrow he himself will be the first
at the rally of the knights. Yet, withal, he makes no boast; on
the other hand, he says that he fully expects the stranger knight
will have all the advantage with the lance; but it may be that
with the sword he will not be his superior (for with the sword
Gawain had no master). Now it is Gawain's desire to measure his
strength on the morrow with this strange knight who changes every
day his arms, as well as his horse and harness. His moultings
will soon be numerous if he continues thus each day, as is his
custom, to discard his old and assume new plumage. Thus, when he
thought of the sword and the lance respectively. Gawain
disparaged and esteemed highly the prowess of his foe. The next
day he sees Cliges come back whiter than the fleur-delis, his
shield grasped tight by the inside straps and seated on his white
Arab steed, as he had planned the night before. Gawain, brave
and illustrious, seeks no repose on the battleground, but spurs
and rides forward, endeavouring as best he may to win honour in
the fray, if he can find an opponent. In a moment they will both
be on the field. For Cliges had no desire to hold back when he
overheard the words of the men who said: "There goes Gawain, who
is no weakling either on foot or ahorse. He is a man whom no one
will attack." When Cliges hears these words, he rushes toward
him in mid-field; they both advance and come together with a
swifter leap than that of the stag who hears the sound of the
dogs as they come baying after him. The lances are thrust at the
shields, and the blows produce such havoc that the lances split,
crack and break clear down to the butt-end, and the saddle-bows
behind give away, and the girths and breast-straps snap. Both
come to earth at once and draw their naked swords, while the
others gather round to watch the battle. Then King Arthur
stepped forward to separate them and establish peace. But before
the truce was sworn, the white hauberks were badly torn and rent
apart, the shields were cracked and hewed to bits, and the
helmets crushed.
(Vv. 4951-5040.) The King viewed them with pleasure for a while,
as did many others who said that they esteemed the white knight's
deeds of arms no less than those of my lord Gawain, and they were
not ready yet to say which was the better and which the worse,
nor which was likely to win, if they had been allowed to fight to
a finish; but it did not please the King to let them do more than
they had done. So he stepped forward to separate them, saying:
"Stop now! Woe if another blow be struck! Make peace now, and
be good friends. Fair nephew Gawain, I make this request of you;
for without resentment and hate it is not becoming for a
gentleman to continue to fight and defy his foe. But if this
knight would consent to come to my court and join our sport it
would not be to his sorrow or hurt. Nephew, make this request of
him." "Gladly, my lord." Cliges has no desire to refuse, and
gladly consents to go when the tourney is concluded. For now he
has more than sufficiently carried out the injunction of his
father. And the King says he has no desire that the tournament
shall last too long, and that they can afford to stop at once.
So the knights drew off, according to the wish and order of the
King. Now that he is to follow in the royal suite, Cliges sends
for all his armour. As soon as he can, he comes to court; but
first, he completely changed his gear, and came dressed in the
style of the French. As soon as he arrived at court, all ran to
meet him without delay, making such joy and festival that never
was there greater seen, and all those call him lord whom he had
captured in the joust; but he would hear none of this, and said
they might all go free, if they were quite sure and satisfied
that it was he who had captured them. And there was not one who
did not cry: "You were the man; we are sure of that! We value
highly your acquaintance, and we ought to love and esteem you and
call you our lord, for none of us can equal you. Just as the sun
outshines the little stars, so that their light cannot be seen in
the sky when the sun's rays appear, so is our prowess
extinguished and abased in the presence of yours, though ours too
was once famous in the world." Cliges knows not what to reply,
for in his opinion they all praise him more than he deserves; it
pleases him, but he feels ashamed, and the blood rises in his
face, revealing to all his modesty. Escorting him into the
middle of the hall, they led him to the King, where all ceased
their words of compliment and praise. The time for the meal had
come, and those whose duty it was hastened to set the tables.
The tables in the hall were quickly spread, then while some took
the towels, and others held the basins, they offered water to all
who came. When all had washed, they took their seats. And the
King, taking Cliges by the hand, made him sit down in front of
him, for he wished to learn this very day, if possible, who he
was. Of the meal I need not further speak, for the courses were
as well supplied as if beef were selling at a penny.
(Vv. 5041-5114.) When all the courses had been served, the King
no longer held his peace. "My friend," he says, "I wish to learn
if it was from pride that you did not deign to come to court as
soon as you arrived in this country, and why you kept aloof from
people, and why you changed your arms; and tell me what your name
is, too, and from what race you spring." Cliges replies: "It
shall not be hid." He told and related to the King everything he
wished to know. And when the King had heard it all, he embraced
him, and made much of him, while all joined in greeting him. And
when my lord Gawain learned the truth, he, more than the others,
cordially welcomed him. Thus, all unite in saluting him, saying
that he is very fair and brave. The King loves and honours him
above all his nephews. Cliges tarries with the King until the
summer comes around, in the meantime visiting all Brittany,
France, and Normandy, where he did so many knightly deeds that he
thoroughly proved his worth. But the love whose wound he bears
gives him no peace or relief. The inclination of his heart keeps
him fixed upon a single thought. To Fenice his thought harks
back, who from afar afflicts his heart. The desire takes him to
go back; for he has been deprived too long of the sight of the
most desired lady who was ever desired by any one. He will not
prolong this privation, but prepares to return to Greece, and
sets out, after taking leave. The King and my lord Gawain were
grieved, I can well believe, when they could no longer detain
him. But he is anxious to return to her whom he loves and so
covets that the way seems long to him as he passes over land and
sea: so ardently he longs for the sight of her who has stolen and
filched Iris heart away. But she makes him recompense in full;
for she pays him, as it were rent, the coin of her own heart,
which is no less dear to her. But he is by no means sure of
that, having no contract or agreement to show; wherefore his
anxiety is great. And she is in just as great distress, harried
and tormented by love, taking no pleasure in aught she sees since
that moment when she saw him last. The fact that she does not
even know whether he be alive or not fills her heart with
anguish. But Cliges draws nearer day by day, being fortunate in
having favourable winds, until he joyfully comes to port before
Constantinople. When the news reached the city, none need ask if
the emperor was glad; but a hundred times greater was the
empress's joy.
(Vv. 5115-5156.) Cliges, with his company, having landed at
Constantinople, has now returned to Greece. The richest and most
noble men all come to meet him at the port. And when the emperor
encounters him, who before all others had gone to meet him with
the empress by his side, he runs to embrace and greet him in the
presence of them all. And when Fenice welcomes him, each changes
colour in the other's presence, and it is indeed a marvel, when
they are so close together, how they keep from embracing each
other and bestowing such kisses as love would have; but that
would have been folly and madness. The people come together from
all sides with the desire to see him, and conduct him through the
city, some on foot and some on horseback, until they bring him to
the imperial palace. No words can ever tell the joy and honour
and courteous service that were there displayed. But each one
strove as best he might to do everything which he thought would
please and gratify Cliges. And his uncle hands over to him all
his possessions, except the crown: he wishes him to gratify his
pleasure fully, and to take all he desires of his wealth, either
in the form of land or treasure. But he has no care for silver
or gold, so long as he dares not reveal his thoughts to her
because of whom he can find no repose; and yet he has plenty of
time and opportunity to speak, if he were not afraid of being
repelled; for now he can see her every day, and sit beside her
"tete-a-tete" without opposition or hindrance, for no one sees
any harm in that.
(Vv. 5157-5280.) Some time after his return, he came alone one
day to the room of her who was not his enemy, and you may be sure
that the door was not barred at his approach. By her side he
took his seat, while the others moved away, so that no one might
be seated near them and hear their words. First, Fenice spoke of
Britain, and asked him about the character and appearance of my
lord Gawain, until her words finally hit upon the subject which
filled her with dread. She asked him if he had given his love to
any dame or damsel in that land. Cliges was not obstinate or
slow to respond to this demand, but he knew at once what reply to
make as soon as she had put the question. "Lady," he says, "I
was in love while there, but not with any one of that land. In
Britain my body was without my heart, as a piece of bark without
the wood. Since leaving Germany I have not known what became of
my heart, except that it came here after you. My heart was here,
and my body was there. I was not really away from Greece; for
hither my heart had come, for which I now have come back again;
yet, it does not return to its lodging-place, nor can I draw it
back to me, nor do I wish to do so, if I could. And you--how
has it fared with you, since you came to this country? What joy
have you had here? Do you like the people, do you like the land?
I ought not to ask you any other question than whether the
country pleases you." "It has not pleased me until now; but at
present I feel a certain joy and satisfaction, which, you may be
sure, I would not lose for Pavia or Piacenza. From this joy I
cannot wrest my heart, nor shall I ever use force in the attempt.
Nothing but the bark is left in me, for I live and exist without
a heart. I have never been in Britain, and yet without me my
heart has been engaged in business there I know not what."
"Lady, when was it that your heart was there? Tell me when it
went thither--the time and season--if it be a thing that you
can fairly tell me or any one else. Was it there while I was
there?" "Yes, but you were not aware of it. It was there as
long as you were, and came away again with you." "God! I never
saw it, nor knew it was there. God! why did I not know it? If
I had been informed of this, surely, my lady, I would have borne
it pleasant company." "You would have repaid me with the
consolation which you really owed to me, for I should have been
very gracious to your heart if it had been pleased to come where
it might have known I was." "Lady, surely it came to you." "To
me? Then it came to no strange place, for mine also went to
you." "Then, lady, according to what you say, our hearts are
here with us now, for my heart is altogether in your hands."
"You in turn have mine, my friend; so we are in perfect accord.
And you may be sure, so help me God, that your uncle has never
shared in me, for it was not my pleasure, and he could not.
Never has he yet known me as Adam knew his wife. In error I am
called a wife; but I am sure that whoever calls me wife does not
know that I am still a maid. Even your uncle is not aware of it,
for, having drunk of the sleeping potion, he thinks he is awake
when he is asleep, and he fancies he has his sport with me while
I lie in his embrace. But his exclusion has been complete. My
heart is yours, and my body too, and from me no one shall ever
learn how to practise villainy. For when my heart went over to
you it presented you with the body too, and it made a pledge that
none other should ever share in it. Love for you has wounded me
so deep that I should never recover from it, any more than the
sea can dry up. If I love you, and you love me, you shall never
be called Tristan, nor I Iseut; (37) for then our love would not
be honourable. But I make you this promise, that you shall never
have other joy of me than that you now have, unless you can
devise some means whereby I can be removed from your uncle and
his society without his finding me again, or being able to blame
either you or me, or having any ground for accusation. And
to-morrow you shall tell me of the best plan you have devised,
and I, too, will think of it. To-morrow, as soon as I arise,
come and speak with me; then each of us will speak his mind, and
we shall proceed to execute whatever seems best.
(Vv. 5281-5400.) As soon as Cliges heard her will he fully
agreed with her, and said that would be the best thing to do. He
leaves her happy, and goes off with a light heart himself. That
night each one lies awake thinking over, with great delight, what
the best plan will be. The next morning, as soon as they had
arisen, they meet again to take counsel privately, as indeed they
must. Cliges speaks first and says what he had thought of in the
night: "My lady," says he, "I think, and am of the opinion, that
we could not do better than go to Britain; I thought I might take
you there; now do not refuse, for never was Helen so joyfully
received at Troy when Paris took her thither but that still
greater joy would be felt over you and me in the land of the
King, my uncle. And if this plan does not meet with your favour,
tell me what you think, for I am ready, whatever may happen, to
abide by your decision." And she replies: "This is my answer: I
will never go off with you thus; for after we had gone away,
every one would speak of us as they do of Iseut the Blond and of
Tristan. And everywhere all men and women would speak evil of
our love. No one would believe, nor is it natural that they
should do so, the truth of the matter. Who would believe that I
have thus, all to no purpose, evaded and escaped from your uncle
still a maid? I should be regarded simply as wanton and
dissolute, and you would be thought mad. It is well to remember
and observe the injunction of St. Paul: if any one is unwilling
to live chaste, St. Paul counsels him to act so that he shall
receive no criticism, or blame, or reproach. (38) It is well to
stop evil mouths, and therefore, if you agree, I have a proposal
to make: it seems best to me to consent to feign that I am dead.
I shall fall sick in a little while. And you in the meantime may
plan some preparations for a place of burial. Put all your wits
to work to the end that a sepulchre and bier be so constructed
that I shall not die in it, or be stifled, and that no one shall
mount guard over it at night when you come to take me out. So
now seek such a retreat for me, where no one may see me excepting
you; and let no one provide for any need of mine except you, to
whom I surrender and give myself. Never, my whole life long, do
I wish to be served by other man than you. My lord and my
servant you shall be; whatever you do shall seem good to me; and
never shall I be mistress of any empire unless you are its
master. Any wretched place, however dark and foul, will seem
brighter to me than all these halls if you are with me. If I
have you where I can see you, I shall be mistress of boundless
treasure, and the world will belong to me. And if the business
is carefully managed, no harm will come of it, and no one will
ever be able to speak ill of it, for it will be believed
throughout the empire that I am mouldering in the ground. My
maid, Thessala, who has been my nurse, and in whom I have great
confidence, will give me faithful aid, for she is very clever,
and I trust her fully." And Cliges, when he heard his
sweetheart, replies: "My lady, if this is feasible, and if you
think your nurse's advice reliable, we have nothing to do but
make our preparations without delay; but if we commit any
imprudence, we are lost without escape. In this city there is an
artisan who cuts and carves wonderful images: there is no land
where he is not known for the figures which he has shapen and
carved and made. John is his name, and he is a serf oú mine. No
one could cope with John's best efforts in any art, however
varied it might be. For, compared with him, they are all
novices, and like a child with nurse. By imitating his handiwork
the artisans of Antioch and Rome have learned all they know how
to do--and besides there is no more loyal man. Now I want to
make a test, and if I can put trust in him I will set him and all
his descendants free; and I shall not fail to tell him of all our
plan if he will swear and give his word to me that he will aid me
loyally, and will never divulge my secret."
(Vv. 5401-5466.) And she replies: "So let it be." With her
permission Cliges left the room and went away. And she sends for
Thessala, her maid, whom she brought with her from her native
land. Thessala came at once without delay, yet not knowing why
she was summoned. When she asked Fenice privately what was her
desire and pleasure, she concealed none of her intentions from
her. "Nurse," she said, "I know full well that anything I tell
you will go no further, for I have tried you thoroughly and have
found you very prudent. I love you for all you have done for me.
In all my troubles I appeal to you without seeking counsel
elsewhere. You know why I lie awake, and what my thoughts and
wishes are. My eyes behold only one object which pleases me, but
I can have no pleasure or joy in it if I do not first buy it with
a heavy price. For I have now found my peer; and if I love him
he loves me in return, and if I grieve he grieves too for my pain
and sorrow. Now I must acquaint you with a plan and project upon
which we two have privately agreed." Then she told and explained
to her how she was willing to feign illness, and would complain
so bitterly that at last she would pretend to be dead, and how
Cliges would steal her away at night, and then they would be
together all their days. She thinks that in no other way she
could longer bear to live. But if she was sure that she would
consent to lend her aid, the matter would be arranged in
accordance with their wishes. "But I am tired of waiting for my
joy and luck." Then her nurse assured her that she would help
her in every way, telling her to have no further fear. She said
that as soon as she set to work she would bring it about that
there would be no man, upon seeing her, who would not certainly
believe that the soul had left the body after she had drunk of a
potion which would leave her cold, colourless, pale, and stiff,
without power of speech and deprived of health; yet she would be
alive and well, and would have no sensations of any kind, and
would be none the worse for a day and a night entire spent in the
sepulchre and bier. (39)
(Vv. 5467-5554.) When Fenice heard these words, she thus spoke
in reply: "Nurse, I commit myself to you, and, with full
confidence in you, will take no steps in my own behalf. I am in
your hands; so think of my interests, and tell all the people who
are here to betake themselves away, for I am ill, and they bother
me." So, like a prudent woman, she said to them: "My lords, my
lady is not well, and desires you all to go away. You are
talking loud and making a noise, and the noise is disagreeable to
her. She can get no rest or repose so long as you are in the
room. I never remember her to have complained of such a sickness
as this so violent and serious does it seem. So go away, and
don't feel hurt." As soon as she had issued this command, they
all quickly go away. And Cliges sent for John to come quickly,
and thus in private spoke to him: "John, dost thou know what I am
about to say? Thou art my slave and I thy master, and I can give
away or sell thy body like a thing which is my own. But if I
could trust thee in an affair I meditate, thou wouldst go for
ever free, as well as the heirs which may be born of thee."
John, in his desire for freedom, replies at once: "My lord, there
is nothing I would not gladly do to see myself, my wife, and
children free. Tell me what your orders are, for nothing can be
so hard as to cause me any work or pain or be hard for me to
execute. For that matter, even were it against my will, I must
needs obey your commands and give up my own affairs." "True,
John; but this is a matter of which I hardly dare to speak,
unless thou wilt assure me upon thy oath thou wilt faithfully
give me aid and never betray me." "Willingly, sire," John makes
reply: "have never a fear on that account! For I will swear and
pledge my word that, so long as I live, I will never say a word
which I think will grieve you or cause you harm." "Ah John, even
were I to die for it, there is no man to whom I would dare
mention the matter in which I desire thy counsel; I would rather
have my eye plucked out; I would rather be put to death by thee
than that thou shouldst speak of it to another man. But I hold
thee to be so loyal and prudent that I will reveal to thee all my
thought. I am sure thou wilt observe my wishes, both by aiding
me and holding thy peace." "Truly, sire so, help me God!" Then
Cliges speaks and explains to him openly the adventurous plan.
And when he had revealed the project--as you have heard me set
it forth--then John said that he would promise to construct the
sepulchre in accordance with his best skill, and said that he
would take him to see a certain house of his which no one yet had
ever seen--not even his wife or any child of his. This house,
which he had built, he would show him, if he cared to go with him
to the place where in absolute privacy he works and paints and
carves. He would show him the finest and prettiest place that he
had ever seen. Cliges replies: "Let us go thither then."
(Vv. 5555-5662.) Below the city, in a remote spot, John had
expended much labour in the construction of a tower. Thither he
conducted Cliges, leading him through the different storeys,
which were decorated with fine painted pictures. He shows him
the rooms and the fire-places, taking him everywhere up and down.
Cliges examines this lonely house where no one lives or has
access. He passes from one room to another, until he thinks he
has seen it all, and he is much pleased with the tower and says
he thinks it is very fine. The lady will be comfortable there as
long as she lives, for no one will know of her dwelling place.
"No sire, you are right; she will never be discovered here. But
do you think you have seen all of my tower and fair retreat?
There still remain rooms so concealed that no man could ever find
them out. And if you choose to test the truth of this by
investigating as thoroughly as you can, you can never be so
shrewd and clever in your search as to find another story here,
unless I show you and point it out. You must know that baths are
not lacking here, nor anything else which a lady needs, and which
I can think of or recall. The lady will be here at her ease.
Below the level of the ground the tower widens out, as you will
see, and you cannot anywhere find any entrance-door. The door is
made of hard stone with such skill and art that you cannot find
the crack." Cliges says: "These are wonderful things I hear.
Lead on and I will follow you, for I am anxious to see all this."
Then John started on, taking Cliges by the hand, until he came to
a smooth and polished door, all coloured and painted over. When
John came to the wall, he stopped, holding Cliges by the right
hand. "Sire," he says, "there is no one who could see a window
or a door in this wall; and do you think that any one could pass
through it without using violence and breaking it down?" And
Cliges replies that he does not think so, and that he will never
think so, unless he sees it first. Then John says that he shall
see it at once, and that he will open a door in the wall for him.
John, who constructed this piece of work, unfastens the door in
the wall and opens it for him, so that he has to use no strength
or violence to force it; then, one stepping before the other,
they descend by a winding-stair to a vaulted apartment where John
used to do his work, when it pleased him to labour at anything.
"Sire," he says, "of all the men God ever made, no one but us two
has ever been where we are now. And you shall see presently how
convenient the place is. My advice is that you choose this as
your retreat, and that your sweetheart be lodged here. These
quarters are good enough for such a guest; for there are
bedrooms, and bathrooms with hot water in the tubs, which comes
through pipes under the ground. Whoever is looking for a
comfortable place in which to establish and conceal his lady,
would have to go a long way before he would find anything so
charming. When you shall have explored it thoroughly you will
find this place very suitable." Then John showed him everything,
fine chambers and painted vaults, pointing out many examples of
his work which pleased Cliges much. When they had examined the
whole tower, Cliges said: "John, my friend, I set you free and
all your descendants, and my life is absolutely in your hands. I
desire that my sweetheart be here all alone, and that no one
shall know of it excepting me and you and her." John makes
answer: "I thank you, sire. Now we have been here long enough,
and as we have nothing more to do, let us return." "That is
right," says Cliges, "let us be gone." Then they go away, and
leave the tower. Upon their return they hear every one in the
city saying to his neighbour: "Don't you know the marvellous news
about my lady, the empress? May the Holy Spirit give her health
-- the gentle and prudent lady; for she lies sick of a grievous
(Vv. 5663-5698.) When Cliges heard this talk he went in haste to
the court. But there was no joy or gladness there: for all the
people were sad and prostrated because of the empress, who is
only feigning to be ill; for the illness of which she complains
causes her no grief or pain. But she has told them all that she
wishes no one to enter her room so long as her sickness maintains
its grip with its accompanying pains in her heart and head. She
makes an exception, however, in favour of the emperor and his
nephew, not wishing to place a ban upon them; but she will not
care if the emperor, her lord, does not come. For Cliges' sake
she is compelled to pass through great pain and peril. It
distresses her that he does not come, for she has no desire to
see any one but him. Cliges, however, will soon be there, to
tell her of what he has seen and found. He came into the room
and spoke to her, but stayed only a moment, for Fenice, in order
that they might think she was annoyed by what pleased her so,
cried out aloud: "Be gone, be gone! You disturb and bother me
too much, for I am so seriously ill that I shall never rise up
again." Cliges, though pleased with this, goes away with a sad
face: you would never see so woeful a countenance. To judge from
his appearance he is very sad; but within his heart is gay in
anticipation of its joy.
(Vv. 5699-5718.) The empress, without being really ill,
complains and pretends that she is sick. And the emperor, who
has faith in her, ceases not to grieve, and summons a physician.
But she will not allow any one to see her or touch her. The
emperor may well feel chagrined when she says that she will never
have but one doctor, who can easily restore her to health
whenever it pleases him to do so. He can cause her to die or to
live, and to him she trusts her health and life. They think that
she refers to God; but her meaning is very different, for she is
thinking of no one but Cliges. He is her god who can bring her
health, or who can cause her death.
(Vv. 5719-5814.) Thus the empress takes care that no physician
shall examine her; and more completely to deceive the emperor she
refuses to eat or drink, until she grows all pale and blue.
Meanwhile her nurse keeps busy about her, and with great
shrewdness sought privily all through the city, without the
knowledge of any one, until she found a woman who was hopelessly
ill with a mortal disease. In order to perfect her ruse she used
to go to see her often and promised to cure her of her illness;
so each day she used to take a urinal in which to examine the
urine, until she saw one day that no medicine could ever be of
any help, and that she would die that very day. This urine
Thessala carried off and kept until the emperor arose, when she
went to him and said: "If now it be your will, my lord, send for
all your physicians; for my mistress has passed some water; she
is very ill with this disease, and she desires the doctors to see
it, but she does not wish them to come where she is." The
doctors came into the hall and found upon examination that the
urine was very bad and colourless, and each one said what he
thought about it. Finally, they all agreed that she would never
recover, and that she would scarcely live till three o'clock,
when, at the latest, God would take her soul to Himself. This
conclusion they reached privately, when the emperor asked and
conjured them to tell him the truth. They reply that they have
no confidence in her recovery, and that she cannot live past
three o'clock but will yield up her soul before that time. When
the emperor heard this, he almost fell unconscious to the floor,
as well as many others who heard the news. Never did any people
make such moan as there was then throughout the palace. However,
I will speak no further of their grief; but you shall hear of
Thessala's activities--how she mixes and brews the potion. She
mixed and stirred it up, for she had provided herself a long time
in advance with everything which she would need for the potion.
A little before three o'clock she gives her the potion to drink.
At once her sight became dimmed, her face grew as pale and white
as if she had lost her blood: she could not have moved a foot or
hand, if they had flayed her alive, and she does not stir or say
a word, although she perceives and hears the emperor's grief and
the cries which fill the hall. The weeping crowds lament through
all the city, saying: "God! what woe and misfortune has been
brought upon us by wicked death! O covetous and voracious death!
Death is worse than a she-wolf which always remains insatiable.
Such a cruel bite thou hast never inflicted upon the world!
Death, what hast thou done? May God confound thee for having put
out the light of perfect beauty! Thou hast done to death the
fairest and most lovely creature, had she but lived, whom God has
ever sought to form. God's patience surely is too great when He
suffers thee to have the power to break in pieces what belongs to
Him. Now God ought to be wroth with thee, and cast thee out of
thy bailiwick; for thy impudence has been too great, as well as
thy pride and disrespect." Thus the people storm about and wring
their arms and beat their hands; while the priests read their
psalms, making prayers for the good lady, that God may have mercy
on her soul.
(Vv. 5815-5904.) (40) In the midst of the tears and cries, as
the story runs, there arrived aged physicians from Salerno, where
they had long sojourned. At the sight of the great mourning they
stopped to ask and inquire the cause of the cries and tears--why
all the people are in such sorrow and distress. And this is
the answer they receive: "God! gentlemen, don't you know? The
whole world would be beside itself as we are, if it but knew of
the great sorrow and grief and woe and loss which has come to us
this day. God! where have you come from, then, that you do not
know what has happened just now in this city? We will tell you
the truth, for we wish you to join with us in the grief we feel.
Do you not know about grim Death, who desires and covets all
things, and everywhere lies in wait for what is best, do you not
know what mad act she has committed to-day, as it is her wont to
do? God has illuminated the world with one great radiance, with
one bright light. But Death cannot restrain herself from acting
as her custom is. Every day, to the extent of her power, she
blots out the best creature she can find. So she wishes to try
her power, and in one body she has carried off more excellence
than she has left behind. She would have done better to take the
whole world, and leave alive and sound this prey which now she
has carried off. Beauty, courtesy, and knowledge, and all that a
lady can possess of goodness has been taken and filched from us
by Death, who has destroyed all goodness in the person of our
lady, the empress. Thus Death has deprived us all of life."
"Ah, God!" the doctors say, "we know that Thou art wroth with
this city because we did not reach here sooner. If we had
arrived here yesterday, Death might have boasted of her strength
if she could wrest her prey from us." "Gentlemen, madame would
not have allowed you at any price to see her or to exercise your
skill. Of good physicians there was no lack, but madame would
not permit any one of them to see her or to investigate her
malady." "No?" "Truly, sirs, that she would not." Then they
recalled the case of Solomon, who was so hated by his wife that
she deceived him by feigning death. (41) They think this woman
has done the same. But if they could in any way bring about her
cure, no one could make them lie or keep them from exposing the
truth, if they discovered any trickery. So to the court they
take their way, where there was such a noise and cry that you
could not have heard God's thunder crash. The chief of these
three doctors, who knew the most, drew near the bier. No one
says to him "Keep hands off," and no one tries to hold him back.
He places his hand on her breast and side, and surely feels that
life is still in the body: he perceives and knows that well
enough. He sees the emperor standing by, mad and tormented by
his grief. Seeing him, he calls aloud: "Emperor, console
thyself! I am sure and plainly see that this lady is not dead.
Leave off thy grief, and be comforted! If I do not restore her
alive to thee, thou mayst kill me or string me up."
(Vv. 5995-5988.) At once throughout the palace the noise is
quieted and hushed. And the emperor bade the doctor tell him
fully his orders and wishes, whatever they might be. If he can
restore life in the empress he will be sire and lord over the
emperor himself; but if he has in any respect lied to him he will
be hanged like a common thief. And the doctor said: "I consent
to that, and may you never have mercy upon me if I do not cause
her to speak to you here! Without tarrying and without delay
have the palace cleared at once, and let not a single soul
remain. I must examine in private the illness which afflicts the
lady. These two doctors, who are my friends, will remain with me
alone in the room, and let every one else go out." This order
would have been opposed by Cliges, John, and Thessala; but all
the others who were there might have turned against them if they
had tried to oppose his order. So they hold their peace and
approve what they hear approved by the others, and leave the
palace. After the three doctors had forcibly tipped apart the
lady's winding-sheer, without using any knife or scissors, they
said to her: "Lady, don't be frightened, have no fear, but speak
to us with confidence! We know well enough that you are
perfectly sound and in good state. Be sensible and obliging now,
and do not despair of anything, for if you have any need of us we
will all three assure you of our aid, whether for good or ill.
We shall be very loyal to you, both in keeping our counsel and in
helping you. Do not keep us talking here! Since we put at your
disposal our skill and service, you should surely not refuse."
Thus they think to hoodwink and deceive her, but they have no
success; for she has no need or care for the service which they
promise her; so they are wasting their time in a vain effort.
When the three physicians see that they will make nothing out of
her either by prayer or flattery, then they take her from her
bier, and begin to beat and belabour her. But their efforts are
foolish, for not a word can they extract from her. Then they
threaten and try to terrify her by saying that if she does not
speak she will soon have reason to repent of her folly, for they
are going to do such a wonderful thing to her that such a thing
was never done to the body of any wretched woman. "We know that
you are alive, and will not deign to speak to us. We know that
you are feigning death, and would thus deceive the emperor. Have
no fear of us! If any of us has angered you, before we do you
further harm, cease your mad behaviour now, for you are acting
wickedly; and we will lend you our aid in any enterprise--wise
or mad." But it cannot be; they have no success. Then they
renew their attack, striking her with thongs upon the back, so
that the welts are plainly seen, and they combine to tear her
tender flesh until they cause the blood to flow.
(Vv. 5989-6050.) When they had beaten her with the thongs until
they had slashed her flesh, and when the blood is dropping down,
as it trickles from among the wounds, even then their efforts are
of no avail to extract from her a sigh or word, nor to make her
stir or move. Then they say that they must procure fire and
lead, which they will melt and lay upon her hands, rather than
fail in their efforts to make her speak. After securing a light
and some lead they kindle a fire and melt the lead. Thus the
miserable villains torment and afflict the lady, by taking the
lead all boiling hot from the fire and pouring it into the palms
of her hands. Not satisfied with pouring the lead clean through
her palms, the cowardly rascals say that, if she does not speak
at once they will straightway stretch her on the grate until she
is completely grilled. Yet, she holds her peace, and does not
refuse to have her body beaten and maltreated by them. Now they
were on the point of placing her upon the fire to be roasted and
grilled when more than a thousand ladies, who were stationed
before the palace, come to the door and through a little crack
catch sight of the torture and anguish which they were inflicting
upon the lady, as with coal and flame they accomplished her
martyrdom. They bring clubs and hammers to smash and break down
the door. Great was the noise and uproar as they battered and
broke in the door. If now they can lay hands on the doctors, the
latter will not have long to wait before they receive their full
deserts. With a single rush the ladies enter the palace, and in
the press is Thessala, who has no other aim than to reach her
mistress. Beside the fire she finds her stripped, severely
wounded and injured. She puts her back in the bier again, and
over her she spreads a cloth, while the ladies go to give their
reward to the three doctors, without wishing to wait for the
emperor or his seneschal. Out of the windows they threw them
down into the court-yard, breaking the necks, ribs, arms, and
legs of all: no better piece of work was ever done by any ladies.
(Vv. 6051-6162.) Now the three doctors have received their
gruesome reward at the hands of the ladies. But Cliges is
terror-stricken and filled with grief upon hearing of the pain
and martyrdom which his sweetheart has endured for him. He is
almost beside himself, fearing greatly, and with good reason,
that she may be dead or badly injured by the torture inflicted
upon her by the three physicians who now are dead. So he is in
despair and despondency when Thessala comes, bringing with her a
very precious ointment with which she has already gently rubbed
the body and wounds of her mistress. When they laid her back in
her bier the ladies wrapped her again in a cloth of Syrian stuff,
leaving her face uncovered. All that night there is no abatement
of the cries they raise unceasingly. Throughout the city. high
and low, poor and rich, are beside themselves with grief, and it
seems as if each one boasts that he will outdo all others in his
woe, and would fain never be comforted. All that night the grief
continues. The next morning John came to the court; and the
emperor sends for him and issues to him this command: "John, if
ever thou wroughtest a fine piece of work, now put forth and show
all thy skill in constructing such a sepulchre as for beauty and
workmanship shall have no match." And John, who had already
performed the task, says that he has already completed one which
is very fine and cleverly wrought; but when he began the work he
had no thought that other than a holy body should be laid in it.
"Now let the empress be laid in it and buried in some sacred
place, for she, I think, is sanctified." "You have spoken well,"
says the emperor; "she shall be buried yonder in my lord Saint
Peter's Church, where bodies are wont to be interred. For before
her death she made this request of me, that I should have her
buried there. Now go about your task, and place your sepulchre
in the best position in the cemetery, where it ought rightfully
to be." John replies: "Very well, my lord." John at once takes
his leave, and prepares the sepulchre with great skill; a
feather-bed he placed inside, because the stone was hard and
cold; and in order that the odour may be sweet, he spreads
flowers and leaves about. Another reason for doing this was that
no one might perceive the mattress he had laid within the grave.
Already Mass had been said for the dead in the churches and
parishes, and the bells were tolling continuously as is proper
for the dead. Orders are given to bring the body to be laid in
the sepulchre, which John with all his skill has constructed so
richly and handsomely. In all Constantinople none remains,
whether small or great, who does not follow the body in tears,
cursing and reproaching Death. Knights and youths alike grow
faint, while the ladies and damsels beat their breasts as they
thus find fault with Death: "O Death," cries each, "why didst
thou not take ransom for my lady? Surely, thy gain was slight
enough, whereas the loss to us is great." And in this grief
Cliges surely bears his part, as he suffers and laments more than
all the others do, and it is strange he does not kill himself.
But still he decides to put this off until the hour and the time
shall come for him to disinter her and get possession of her and
see whether she be alive or not. Over the gave stand the men who
let down the body into its place; but, with John there, they do
not meddle with the adjustment of the sarcophagus, and since they
were so prostrated that they could not see, John had plenty of
time to perform his special task. When the coffin was in its
place, and nothing else was in the grave, he sealed up tightly
all the joints. When this was done, any one would have been
skilful who, except by force or violence, could take away or
loosen anything which John had put inside.
(Vv. 6163-6316.) Fenice lies in the sepulchre until the darkness
of night came on. But thirty knights mount guard over her, and
there are ten tapers burning there, which light up the place all
about. The knights were weary and exhausted by the strain they
had undergone; so they ate and drank that night until they all
fell sound asleep. When night came on, Cliges steals away from
the court and from all his followers, so that there was not a
single knight or servant who knew what had become of him. He did
not stop until he found John, who advises him as best he can. He
furnishes him with arms, but he will never have any need of them.
Once armed, they both spur to the cemetery. The cemetery was
enclosed all about with a high wall, so that the knights, who had
gone asleep after making the gate fast within, could rest assured
that no one would enter there. Cliges does not see how he can
get in, for there is no passing through the gate. And yet,
somehow he must pass through, for love bids him and drives him
on. He tries the wall and climbs up, being strong and agile.
Inside was a garden planted with trees, one of which stood so
near the wall that it touched it. Now Cliges had what he needed,
and after letting himself down by the tree, the first thing he
did was to go to open the gate for John. Seeing the knights
asleep, they extinguished all the lights, so that the place
remained in darkness. And John now uncovers the grave and opens
the coffin, taking care to do it no harm. Cliges steps into the
grave and lifts out his Sweetheart, all weak and prostrate, whom
he fondles, kisses, and embraces. He does not know whether to
rejoice or regret that she does not stir or move. And John, as
quickly as he could, closed up the sepulchre again, so that it
was not apparent that any one had tampered with it. Then they
betook themselves as fast as they could to the tower. When they
had set her in the tower, in the rooms which were beneath the
level of the ground, they took off her grave clothes; and Cliges,
who knew nothing of the potion which she had taken, which made
her dumb and kept her motionless, thinks that she is dead, and is
in despair with anxiety as he heavily sighs and weeps. But soon
the time will come for the potion to lose its force. And Fenice,
who hears his grief, struggles and strives for strength to
comfort him by word or glance. Her heart almost bursts because
of the sorrow which he shows. "Ah Death!" he says, "how mean
thou art, to spare and reprieve all things despicable and vile--to
let them live on and endure. Death! art thou beside thyself
or drunk, who hast killed my lady without me? This is a
marvellous thing I see: my lady is dead, and I still live on!
Ah, precious one, why does your lover live to see you dead? One
now could rightly say that you have died in my service, and that
it is I who have killed and murdered you. Sweetheart, then I am
the death that has smitten you. Is not that wrong? For it is my
own life I have lost in you, and have preserved your life in me.
For did not your health and life belong to me. sweet one? And
did not mine belong to you? For I loved nothing excepting you,
and our double existence was as one. So now I have done what was
right in keeping your soul in my body while mine has escaped from
your body, and one ought to go to seek the company of the other,
wherever it may be, and nothing ought to separate them." At this
she heaves a gentle sigh and whispers faintly: "Lover mine, I am
not altogether dead, but very near it. I value my life but
little now. I thought it a jest and a mere pretence; but now I
am indeed to be pitied, for death has not treated this as a jest.
It will be a marvel if I escape alive. For the doctors have
seriously wounded me, and broken my flesh and disfigured me. And
yet, if it was possible for my nurse to come here, and if efforts
were of any avail, she would restore me to health again." "Do
not worry, dear, about that," says Cliges, "for this very night I
will bring her here." "Dear, let John go for her now." So John
departed and looked for her until he found her, and told her how
he wished her to come along and to let no other cause detain her;
for Fenice and Cliges have sent for her to come to a tower where
they are awaiting her; and that Fenice is in a grievous state, so
that she must come provided with ointments and remedies, and to
bear in mind that she will not live long, if she does not quickly
come to bear her aid. Thessala runs at once and, taking
ointments, plaster, and remedies which she has prepared, she
meets John again. Secretly they go out from the city, until they
come straight to the tower. When Fenice sees her nurse, she
feels already cured, because of the loving faith and trust she
places in her. And Cliges greets her affectionately, and says:
"Welcome, nurse, whom I love and prize. Nurse, for God's sake,
what do you think of this young lady's malady? What is your
opinion? Will she recover?" "Yes, my lord, have no fear but
that I shall restore her completely. A fortnight will not pass
before I make her so well that she was never before so lively and
(Vv. 6317-6346.) While Thessala is busy with her remedies, John
goes to provide the tower with everything that is necessary.
Cliges goes to the tower and comes away bravely and openly, for
he has lodged a moulting falcon there, and he says that he goes
to visit it; thus no one can guess that he goes there for any
other reason than for the falcon. He makes long stays there
night and day. He orders John to guard the tower, so that no one
shall enter against his will. Fenice now has no further cause to
complain, for Thessala has completely cured her. If Cliges were
Duke of Almeria, Morocco, or Tudela, he would not consider it all
worth a holly-berry compared with the joy which he now feels.
Certainly Love did not debase itself when it joined these two,
for it seems to them, when they embrace and kiss each other. that
all the world must be better for their joy and happiness. Now
ask me no more of this, for one can have no wish in which the
other does not acquiesce. Thus they have but one desire, as if
they two themselves were one.
(Vv. 6347-6392.) Fenice was in the tower, I believe, all that
year and full two months of the next, until summer came again.
When the trees bring forth their flowers and leaves, and the
little birds rejoice, singing gaily their litanies, it came about
that Fenice one morning heard the song of the nightingale.
Cliges was holding her tightly clasped with his arms about her
waist and neck, and she held him in a like embrace, as she said:
"Dear fair lover mine. A garden would do me good, in which I
could disport myself. For more than fifteen months I have not
seen the light of moon or sun. If possible, I would fain go out
yonder into the daylight, for here in this tower I am confined.
If there was a garden near, where I could go and amuse myself, it
would often do me good." Then Cliges promises her to consult
with John about it as soon as he can see him. At that very
moment John came in, as he was often wont to do, and Cliges spoke
to him of what Fenice desired. John replies: "All that she asks
for is already provided and supplied. This tower is well
equipped with what she wishes and requires." Then Fenice was
very glad, and asked John to take her there, which he said he
would very gladly do. Then John goes and opens a door,
constructed in a fashion which I cannot properly describe. No
one but John could have made it, and no one could have asserted
that there was any door or window there--so perfectly was it
(Vv. 6393-6424.) When Fenice saw the door open, and the sun come
streaming in, as she had not seen it for many a day, her heart
beat high with joy; she said that now there was nothing lacking,
since she could leave her dungeon-tower, and that she wished for
no other lodging-place. She passed out through the door into the
garden, with its pleasures and delights. In the middle of the
garden stood a grafted tree loaded with blooming flowers and
leaves, and with a wide-spreading top. The branches of it were
so trained that they all hung downwards until they almost touched
the ground; the main trunk, however, from which they sprang, rose
straight into the air. Fenice desires no other place. Beneath
the tree the turf is very pleasant and fine, and at noon, when it
is hot, the sun will never be high enough for its rays to
penetrate there. John had shown his skill in arranging and
training the branches thus. There Fenice goes to enjoy herself,
where they set up a bed for her by day. There they taste of joy
and delight. And the garden is enclosed about with a high wall
connected with the tower, so that nothing can enter there without
first passing through the tower.
(Vv. 6425-6586.) Fenice now is very happy: there is nothing to
cause her displeasure, and nothing is lacking which she desires,
when her lover is at liberty to embrace her beneath the blossoms
and the leaves. (42) At the season when people take the sparrowhawk
and setter and hunt the lark and brown-thrush or stalk the
quail and partridge, it chanced that a knight of Thrace, who was
young and alert and inclined to knightly sport, came one day
close by the tower in his search for game. The hawk of Bertrand
(for~such was his name) having missed a lark, had flown away, and
Bertrand thought how great his loss would be if he should lose
his hunting-bird. When he saw it come down and light in a garden
beneath the tower he was glad, for he thought he could not lose
it now. At once he goes and clambers up the wall until he
succeeds in getting over it, when beneath the tree he sees Fenice
and Cliges lying asleep and naked in close embrace. "God!" said
he, "what has happened to me now? What marvel is this I see? Is
that not Cliges? It surely is. Is not that the empress with him
there? Nay, but it looks like her. Never did one thing so
resemble another. Her nose, her mouth, and brow are like those
of my lady the empress. Never did Nature make two creatures of
such similitude. There is no feature in this woman here which I
have not seen in my lady. If she were alive, I should say that it
was certainly she herself." Just then a pear falls down and
strikes close by Fenice's ear. She jumps and awakes and, seeing
Bertrand, cries out aloud: "My dear, my dear, we are lost.
Yonder is Bertrand. If he escapes you, we are caught in a bad
trap, for he will tell that he has seen us." Then Bertrand
realised that it was the empress beyond any doubt. He sees the
necessity of leaving at once, for Cliges had brought with him his
sword into the garden, and had laid it down beside the bed. He
jumped up now and grasped his sword, while Bertrand hastily took
his leave. As fast as he could he scaled the wall, and was
almost safely over when Cliges coming after him raised his sword
and struck him with such violence that he severed his leg below
the knee, as if it had been a fennel stalk. In spite of this,
Bertrand got away, though badly wounded and maimed. Beside
themselves with grief and wrath at the sight of his sorry state,
his men on the other side picked him up, and insistently inquired
who it was who had used him thus. "Don't speak to me now," he
says, "but help me to mount my horse. No mention shall be made
of this excepting to the emperor. He who thus has treated me
must be, and doubtless is, in great terror; for he is in great
danger of his life." Then they set him upon his palfrey and lead
him through the city, sorely grieved in their fright the while.
After them more than twenty thousand others come, following them
to the court. And all the people run together, each striving to
be there first. Bertrand made his complaint aloud, in the
hearing of all, to the emperor: but they took him for an idle
chatterer when he said that he had seen the empress all exposed.
The city is in a ferment of excitement: some regard the news they
hear as simple nonsense, others advise and urge the emperor to
visit the tower himself. Great is the noise and confusion of the
people who prepare to accompany him. But they find nothing in
the tower, for Fenice and Cliges make their escape, taking with
them Thessala, who comforts them and declares to them that, if
perchance they see people coming after them to arrest them, they
need have no fear; that they would never approach to do them harm
within the range of a strong cross-bow. And the emperor within
the tower has John sought for and brought. He orders him to be
bound and tied saying that he will have him hanged or burnt, and
will have his ashes scattered wide. He shall receive his due
reward for the shame he has caused the emperor; but this reward
will not be agreeable, because John has hidden in the tower his
nephew with his wife. "Upon my word, you tell the truth," says
John; "I will not lie, but will go still further and declare the
truth, and if I have done any wrong it is right that I should be
seized. But I offer this as my excuse: that a servant ought to
refuse nothing when his lawful lord commands. Now, every one
knows forsooth that I am his, and this tower is too." "It is
not, John. Rather is it thine." "Mine, sire? Yes, after him:
but neither do I belong to myself, nor have I anything which is
mine, except what he pleased to bestow on me. And if you should
think to say that my lord is guilty of having done you wrong, I
am ready to take up his defence without any command from him.
But I feel emboldened to proclaim openly what is on my mind, just
as I have thought it out, for I know full well that I must die.
So I will speak regardless of results. For if I die for my
lord's sake, I shall not die an ignoble death, for the facts are
generally known about that oath and pledge which you gave to your
brother, that after you Cliges should be emperor, who now is
banished as a wanderer. But if God will, he shall yet be
emperor! Hence you are open to reproach, for you ought not to
have taken a wife; yet you married her and did Cliges a wrong,
and he has done you no wrong at all. And if I am punished with
death by you, and if I die wrongfully for his sake, and if he is
still alive, he will avenge my death on you. Now go and do the
best you can, for if I die you shall also die."
(Vv. 6587-6630.) The emperor trembles with wrath upon hearing
the mocking words addressed to him by John. "John," he says.
"thou shalt have so much respite, until we find thy lord, who has
done such wrong to me, though I loved him dearly and had no
thought of defrauding him. Meanwhile, thou shalt stay in prison.
If thou knowest what has become of him, tell me at once, I order
thee." "I tell you? How can I commit such treachery? Were the
life to be drawn from my body I would not reveal my lord to you,
even if I knew his whereabouts. As a matter of fact, I do not
know any more than you where they have gone, so help me God! But
there is no need for your jealousy. I do not so much fear your
wrath that I should not say, so that all can hear, how you have
been deceived, even my words are not believed. You were deceived
and tricked by potion you drank on your wedding night. Unless it
happened in dream, when you were asleep, you have never had your
pleasure with her; but the night made you dream, and the dream
gave you as much satisfaction as if it had happened in your
waking hours that she had held you in her arms: that was the sum
of your satisfaction. Her heart was so devoted to Cliges that
she feigned death for his sake; and he had such confidence in me
that he explained it all to me and established her in my house,
which rightfully belongs to him. You ought not to find fault
with me. I ought, indeed, to be burnt or hanged, were I to
betray my lord or refuse to do his will."
(Vv. 6631-6784.) When the emperor's attention is recalled to the
potion which he had been pleased to drink, and with which
Thessala had deceived him, then he realised for the first time
that he had never had pleasure with his wife, unless it had
happened in a dream: thus it was but an illusory joy. And he
says that if he does not take vengeance for the shame and
disgrace inflicted upon him by the traitor who has seduced his
wife, he will never again be happy. "Now quick!" he says, "as
far as Pavia, and from here to Germany, let no castle, town, or
city remain in which search is not made. I will hold that man
above all others dear who will bring to me captive the two of
them. Now up and down, near and far, go diligently and search!"
Then they started out with zeal and spent all that day in the
search. But in the number Cliges had some friends, who, if they
found them, would have led them to some hiding-place rather than
hale them back again. All that fortnight they exhausted
themselves in a fruitless search. For Thessala, who is acting as
their guide, conducts them by her arts and charms in such
security that they feel no dread or fear of all the strength of
the emperor. They seek repose in no town or city; yet they have
all they wish or desire, even more so than is usually the case.
For all they need is procured for them by Thessala, who searches
and scours and purveys for them. Nor is there any who hunts them
now, for all have returned to their homes again. Meanwhile
Cliges is not idle, but starts to find his uncle, King Arthur.
He continued his search until he found him, and to him he made
his claim and protest about his uncle, the emperor, who, in order
to disinherit him, had disloyally taken a wife, which it was not
right for him to do; for he had sworn to his father that he would
never marry in his life. And the King says that with a fleet he
will proceed to Constantinople, and that he will fill a thousand
ships with knights, and three thousand more with men-at-arms,
until no city or burg, town or castle, however strong or however
high, will be able to withstand their assault. Then Cliges did
not forget to thank the King for the aid he offered him. The
King sends out to seek and summon all the high barons of the
land, and causes to be requisitioned and equipped ships, war
vessels, boats, and barks. He has a hundred ships loaded and
filled with shields, lances, bucklers, and armour fit for
knights. The King makes such great preparations for the war that
never did Caesar or Alexander make the like. He orders to
assemble at his summons all England, and all Flanders, Normandy,
France, and Brittany, and all the men as far as the Pyrenees.
(43) Already they were about to set sail, when messengers arrived
from Greece who delayed the embarkation and kept the King and his
people back. Among the messengers who came was John, that trusty
man, for he would never be a witness or messenger of any news
which was not true, and which he did not know for a certainty.
The messengers were high born men of Greece, who came in search
for Cliges. They made inquiry and asked for him, until they
found him at the King's court, when they said to him: "God save
you, sire! Greece is made over to you. and Constantinople is
given to you by all those of your empire, because of the right
you have to them. Your uncle (but you know it not) is dead of
the grief he felt because he could not discover you. His grief
was such that he lost his mind; he would neither drink nor eat,
but died like a man beside himself. Fair sire, now come back
again! For all your lords have sent for you. Greatly they
desire and long for you, wishing to make you their emperor."
Some there were that rejoiced at this; and others there were who
would have gladly seen their guests elsewhere, and the fleet make
sail for Greece. But the expedition is given up, and the King
dismisses his men, and the hosts depart to their homes again.
And Cliges hurriedly makes haste in his desire to return to
Greece. He has no wish to tarry. His preparations made, he took
his leave of the King, and then of all his friends. and taking
Fenice with him, he goes away. They travel until they arrive in
Greece, where they receive him with the jubilation which they
ought to show to their rightful lord, and they give him his
sweetheart to be his wife. Both of them are crowned at once.
His mistress he has made his wife, but he still calls her his
mistress and sweetheart, and she can complain of no loss of
affection, for he loves her still as his mistress, and she loves
him, too, as a lady ought to love her lover. And each day saw
their love grow stronger: he never doubted her, nor did she blame
him for anything. She was never kept confined, as so many women
have been who have lived since her time. For never since has
there been an emperor who did not stand in fear of his wife, lest
he should be deceived by her, upon his hearing the story of how
Fenice deceived Alis, first with the potion which he drank, and
then later by that other ruse. Therefore, every empress, however
rich and noble she may be, is guarded in Constantinople as in a
prison, for the emperor has no confidence in her when he
remembers the story of Fenice. He keeps her constantly guarded
in her room, nor is there ever allowed any man in her presence,
unless he be a eunuch from his youth; in the case of such there
is no fear or doubt that Love will ensnare them in his bonds.
Here ends the work of Chretien. (44)
NOTE: Endnotes supplied by Prof. Foerster are indicated by
"(F.)"; all other endnotes are supplied by W.W. Comfort.
(1) There is no English version corresponding to the old French
"Cliges". The English metrical romance "Sir Cleges" has
nothing to do with the French romance.
(2) Ovid in "Metamorphosis", vi. 404, relates how Tantalus at a
feast to the gods offered them the shoulder of his own son.
It is not certain, however, that Chretien is referring here
to this slight episode of the "Metamorphosis".
(3) This allusion is generally taken as evidence that the poet
had written previously of the love of Tristan and Iseut.
Gaston Paris, however, in one of his last utterances
("Journal des Savants", 1902, p. 297), says: "Je n'hesite
pas a dire que l'existence d'un poeme sur Tristan par
Chretien de Troies, a laquelle j'ai cru comme presque tout
le monde, me parait aujourd'hui fort peu probable; j'en vais
donner les raisons."
(4) The story of Philomela or Philomena, familiar in Chaucer's
"Legende of Good Women", is told by Ovid in "Metamorphosis",
vi. 426-674. Cretiens li Gois is cited by the author of the
"Ovide moralise" as the author of the episode of Philomena
incorporated in his long didactic poem. This episode has
been ascribed to Chretien de Troyes by many recent critics,
and has been separately edited by C. de Boer, who offers in
his Introduction a lengthy discussion of its authorship.
See C. de Boer, "Philomena, conte raconte d'apres Ovide par
Chretien de Troyes" (Paris, 1909).
(5) The present cathedral of Beauvais is dedicated to St. Peter,
and its construction was begun in 1227. The earlier
structure here referred to, destroyed in 1118, probably was
also dedicated to the same saint. (F.)
(6) The real kernal of the Cliges story, stripped of its lengthy
introduction concerning Alexandre and Soredamors, is told in
a few lines in "Marques de Rome", p. 135 (ed. J. Alton in
"Lit. Verein in Stuttgart", No. 187, Tubingen, 1889), as one
of the tales or "exempla" recounted by the Empress of Rome
to the Emperor and the Seven Sages. No names are given
except that of Cliges himself; the version owes nothing to
Chretien's poem, and seems to rest upon a story which the
author may have heard orally. See Foerster's "Einleitung to
Cliges" (1910), p. 32 f.
(7) This criticism of ignoble leisure on the part of a warrior
is found also in "Erec et Enide" and "Yvain".
(8) This allegorical tribute to "largesse" is quite in the
spirit of the age. When professional poets lived upon the
bounty of their patrons, it is not strange that their poetry
should dwell upon the importance of generosity in their
heroes. For an exhaustive collection of "chastisements" or
"enseignements", such as that here given to Alexandre by his
father, see Eugen Altner, "Ueber die chastiements in den
altfranzosischen chansons de geste" (Leipzig, 1885).
(9) As Miss Weston has remarked ("The Three Days' Tournament",
p. 45), the peculiar georgraphy of this poem "is distinctly
Anglo-Norman rather than Arthurian".
(10) For this intimate relation between heroes, so common in the
old French heroic and romantic poems, see Jacques Flach, "Le
compagnonnage dans les chansons de geste" in "Etudes
romances dediees a Gaston Paris" (Paris, 1891). Reviewed in
"Romania", xxii. 145.
(11) Here begins one of those long dialogues, where one person is
represented as taking both sides of an argument. This
rhetorical device, so wearisome to modern readers, is used
by Chretien preferably when some sentiment or deep emotion
is to be portrayed. Ovid may well have suggested the
device, but Ovid never abuses it as does the more prolix
mediaeval poet. For the part playing by the eyes in
mediaeval love sophistry, see J.F. Hanford, "The Debate of
Heart and Eye" in "Modern Language Notes", xxvi. 161-165;
and H.R. Lang, "The Eyes as Generators of Love." id. xxiii.
(12) For play upon words and for fanciful derivation of proper
names in mediaeval romance literature, see the interesting
article of Adolf Tobler in "Vermischte Beitrage", ii. 211-
266. Gaston Paris ("Journal des Savants", 1902, p. 354)
points out that Thomas used the same scene and the play upon
the same words "mer", "amer", and "amers" in his "Tristan"
and was later imitated by Gottfried von Strassburg.
(13) According to the 12th century troubadours, the shafts of
Love entered the victim's body through the eyes, and thence
pierced the heart.
(14) For fanciful derivation of proper names, cf. A. Tobler,
"Vermischte Beitrage", ii. 211-266.
(15) Ganelon, the traitor in the "Chanson de Roland", to whose
charge is laid the defeat of Charlemagne's rear-guard at
Ronceval, became the arch-traitor of mediaeval literature.
It will be recalled that Dante places him in the lowest pit
of Hell ("Inferno", xxxii. 122). (NOTE: There is a slight
time discrepance here. Roland, Ganelon, and the Battle of
Ronceval were said to have happened in 8th Century A.D.,
fully 300 years after Arthur and the Round Table.--DBK).
(16) For the ceremonies attendant upon the conferring of
knighthood, see Karl Treis, "Die Formalitaten des
Ritterschlags in der altfranzosischen Epik" (Berlin, 1887).
(17) The "quintainne" was "a manikin mounted on a pivot and armed
with a club in such a way that, when a man struck it
unskilfully with his lance, it turned and landed a blow upon
his back" (Larousse).
(18) This conventional attitude of one engaged in thought or a
prey to sadness has been referred to by G.L. Hamilton in
"Ztsch fur romanische Philologie", xxxiv. 571-572.
(19) Many traitors in old French literature suffered the same
punishments as Ganelon, and were drawn asunder by horses
("Roland", 3960-74).
(20) The same rare words "galerne" and "posterne" occur in rhyme
in the "Roman de Thebes", 1471-72.
(21) This qualified praise is often used in speaking of traitors
and of Saracens.
(22) The failure to identify the warriors is due to the fact that
the knights are totally encased in armour.
(23) A reference to the "Roman de Thebes", 1160 circ.
(24) The disregard of Alis for his nephew Cliges is similar to
that of King Mark for Tristan in another legend. In the
latter, however, Tristan joins with the other courtiers in
advising his uncle to marry, though he himself had been
chosen heir to the throne by Mark. cf. J. Bedier, "Le Roman
de Tristan", 2 vols. (Paris, 1902), i. 63 f.
(25) See Endnote #14 above.
(26) Cf. Shakespeare, "Othello", ii. I, where Cassio, speaking of
Othello's marriage with Desdemona, says:
"he hath achieved a maid
That paragons description and wild fame;
One that excels the quirks of blazoning pens,
And in the essential vesture of creation
Does tire the enginer."
(27) Ovid ("Metamorphosis", iii. 339-510) is Chretien's
(28) Cf. L. Sudre, "Les allusions a la legende de Tristan dans la
litterature du moyen age", "Romania", xv. 435 f. Tristan
was famed as a hunter, fencer, wrestler, and harpist.
(29) "The word `Thessala' was a common one in Latin, as meaning
`enchantress', `sorceress', `witch', as Pliny himself tells
us, adding that the art of enchantment was not, however,
indigenous to Thessaly, but came originally from Persia."
("Natural History", xxx. 2).--D.B. Easter, "Magic Elements
in the romans d'aventure and the romans bretons, p. 7.
(Baltimore, 1906). A Jeanroy in "Romania", xxxiii. 420
note, says: "Quant au nom de Thessala, il doit venir de
Lucain, tres lu dans les ecoles au XIIe siecle." See also
G. Paris in "Journal des Savants", 1902, p. 441 note.
Thessala is mentioned in the "Roman de la Violetta", v. 514,
in company with Brangien of the Tristan legend.
(30) Medea, the wife of Jason, is the great sorceress of classic
(31) This personage was regarded in the Middle Ages as an Emperor
of Rome. In the 13th-century poem of "Octavian" (ed.
Vollmuller, Heilbronn, 1883) he is represented as a
contemporary of King Dagobert!
(32) This commonplace remark is quoted as a proverb of the rustic
in "Ipomedon", 1671-72; id., 10, 348-51; "Roman de Mahomet",
1587-88; "Roman de Renart", vi. 85-86; Gower's "Mirour de
l'omme", 28, 599, etc.
(33) It is curious to note that Corneille puts almost identical
words in the mouth of Don Gomes as he addresses the Cid ("Le
Cid", ii. 2).
(34) For this tournament and its parallels in folk-lore, see Miss
J.L. Weston, "The Three Days' Tournament" (London, 1902).
She argues (p. 14 f. and p. 43 f.) against Foerster's
unqualified opinion of the originality of Chretien in his
use of this current description of a tournament, an opinion
set forth in his "Einleitung to Lancelot", pp. 43, 126, 128,
(35) Note that Chretien here deliberately avoids such a list of
knights as he introduces in "Erec". (F.)
(36) It must be admitted that the text, which is offered by all
but one MS., is here unintelligible. The reference, if any
be intended, is not clear. (F.)
(37) Much has been made of this expression as intimating that
Chretien wrote "Cliges" as a sort of disavowal of the
immorality of his lost "Tristan". Cf. Foerster, "Cliges"
(Ed. 1910), p. xxxix f., and Myrrha Borodine, "La femme et
l'amour au XXIe Seicle d'apres les poemes de Chretien de
Troyes" (Paris, 1909). G. Paris has ably defended another
interpretation of the references in "Cliges" to the Tristan
legend in "Journal des Savants", 1902, p. 442 f.
(38) This curious moral teaching appears to be a perversion of
three passages form St. Paul's Epistles: I Cor. vii. 9, I
Cor. x. 32, Eph. v. 15. Cf. H. Emecke, "Chretien von Troyes
als Personlichkeit und als Dichter" (Wurzburg, 1892).
(39) "This feature of a woman who, thanks to some charm,
preserves her virginity with a husband whom she does not
love, is found not only in widespread stories, but in
several French epic poems. In only one, "Les Enfances
Guillaume", does the husband, like Alis, remain ignorant of
the fraud of which he is the victim, and think that he
really possesses the woman.... If Chretien alone gave to the
charm of the form of a potion, it is in imitation of the
love potion in "Tristan". (G. Paris in "Journal des
Savants", 1902, p. 446). For many other references to the
effect of herb potions, cf. A. Hertel, "Verzauberte
Oerlichkeiten und Gegenstande in der altfranzosische
erzahlende Dichtung", p. 41 ff. (Hanover, 1908).
(40) I have pointed out the curious parallel between the
following passage and Dante's "Vita Nova", 41 ("Romantic
Review", ii. 2). There is no certain evidence that Dante
knew Chretien's work (cf. A. Farinelli, "Dante e la
Francia", vol. i., p. 16 note), but it would be strange if
he did not know such a distinguished predecessor.
(41) For the legend of Solomon deceived by his wife, see Foerster
"Cliges" (ed. 1910), p. xxxii. f., and G. Paris in
"Romania", ix. 436-443, and in "Journal des Savants", 1902,
p. 645 f. For an additional reference, add "Ipomedon",
(42) For an imitation of the following scene, see Hans Herzog in
"Germania", xxxi. 325.
(43) "Porz d'Espaingne" refers to the passes in the Pyrenees
which formed the entrance-ways to Spain. Cf. The "Cilician
Gates" in Xenophon's "Anabasis".
(44) Chretien here insists upon his divergence from the famous
dictum attributed to the Countess Marie de Champagne by
Andre le Chapelain: "Praeceptum tradit amoris, quod nulla
etiam coniugata regis poterit amoris praemio coronari, nisi
extra coniugii foedera ipsius amoris militae cernatur
adiuneta". (Andreae Capellini, "De Amore", p. 154; Ed.
Trojel, Havniae, 1892).
or, The Knight with the Lion
(Vv. 1-174.) Arthur, the good King of Britain, whose prowess
teaches us that we, too, should be brave and courteous, held a
rich and royal court upon that precious feast-day which is always
known by the name of Pentecost. (1) The court was at Carduel in
Wales. When the meal was finished, the knights betook themselves
whither they were summoned by the ladies, damsels, and maidens.
Some told stories; others spoke of love, of the trials and
sorrows, as well as of the great blessings, which often fall to
the members of its order, which was rich and flourishing in those
days of old. But now its followers are few, having deserted it
almost to a man, so that love is much abased. For lovers used to
deserve to be considered courteous, brave, generous, and
honourable. But now love is a laughing-stock, for those who have
no intelligence of it assert that they love, and in that they
lie. Thus they utter a mockery and lie by boasting where they
have no right. (2) But let us leave those who are still alive,
to speak of those of former time. For, I take it, a courteous
man, though dead, is worth more than a living knave. So it is my
pleasure to relate a matter quite worthy of heed concerning the
King whose fame was such that men still speak of him far and
near; and I agree with the opinion of the Bretons that his name
will live on for evermore. And in connection with him we call to
mind those goodly chosen knights who spent themselves for
honour's sake. But upon this day of which I speak, great was
their astonishment at seeing the King quit their presence; and
there were some who felt chagrined, and who did not mince their
words, never before having seen the King, on the occasion of such
a feast, enter his own chamber either to sleep or to seek repose.
But this day it came about that the Queen detained him, and he
remained so long at her side that he forgot himself and fell
asleep. Outside the chamber door were Dodinel, Sagremor, and
Kay, my lord Gawain, my lord Yvain, and with them Calogrenant, a
very comely knight, who had begun to tell them a tale, though it
was not to his credit, but rather to his shame. The Queen could
hear him as he told his tale, and rising from beside the King,
she came upon them so stealthily that before any caught sight of
her, she had fallen, as it were, right in their midst. Calogrenant
alone jumped up quickly when he saw her come. Then
Kay, who was very quarrelsome, mean, sarcastic, and abusive, said
to him: "By the Lord, Calogrenant, I see you are very bold and
forward now, and certainly it pleases me to see you the most
courteous of us all. And I know that you are quite persuaded of
your own excellence, for that is in keeping with your little
sense. And of course it is natural that my lady should suppose
that you surpass us all in courtesy and bravery. We failed to
rise through sloth, forsooth, or because we did not care! Upon
my word, it is not so, my lord; but we did not see my lady until
you had risen first." "Really, Kay," the Queen then says, "I
think you would burst if you could not pour out the poison of
which you are so full. You are troublesome and mean thus to
annoy your companions." "Lady," says Kay, "if we are not better
for your company, at least let us not lose by it. I am not aware
that I said anything for which I ought to be accused, and so I
pray you say no more. It is impolite and foolish to keep up a
vain dispute. This argument should go no further, nor should any
one try to make more of it. But since there must be no more high
words, command him to continue the tale he had begun." Thereupon
Calogrenant prepares to reply in this fashion: "My lord, little
do I care about the quarrel, which matters little and affects me
not. If you have vented your scorn on me, I shall never be
harmed by it. You have often spoken insultingly, my lord Kay, to
braver and better men than I, for you are given to this kind of
thing. The manure-pile will always stink, (3) and gadflies
sting, and bees will hum, and so a bore will torment and make a
nuisance of himself. However, with my lady's leave, I'll not
continue my tale to-day, and I beg her to say no more about it,
and kindly not give me any unwelcome command." "Lady," says Kay,
"all those who are here will be in your debt, for they are
desirous to hear it out. Don't do it as a favour to me! But by
the faith you owe the King, your lord and mine, command him to
continue, and you will do well." "Calogrenant," the Queen then
says, "do not mind the attack of my lord Kay the seneschal. He
is so accustomed to evil speech that one cannot punish him for
it. I command and request you not to be angered because of him,
nor should you fail on his account to say something which it will
please us all to hear; if you wish to preserve my good-will, pray
begin the tale anew." "Surely, lady, it is a very unwelcome
command you lay upon me. Rather than tell any more of my tale
to-day, I would have one eye plucked out, if I did not fear your
displeasure. Yet will I perform your behest, however distasteful
it may be. Then since you will have it so, give heed. Let your
heart and ears be mine. For words, though heard, are lost unless
understood within the heart. Some men there are who give consent
to what they hear but do not understand: these men have the
hearing alone. For the moment the heart fails to understand, the
word falls upon the ears simply as the wind that blows, without
stopping to tarry there; rather it quickly passes on if the heart
is not so awake as to be ready to receive it. For the heart
alone can receive it when it comes along, and shut it up within.
The ears are the path and channel by which the voice can reach
the heart, while the heart receives within the bosom the voice
which enters through the ear. Now, whoever will heed my words,
must surrender to me his heart and ears, for I am not going to
speak of a dream, an idle tale, or lie, with which many another
has regaled you, but rather shall I speak of what I saw.
(Vv. 175-268.) "It happened seven years ago that, lonely as a
countryman, I was making my way in search of adventures, fully
armed as a knight should be, when I came upon a road leading off
to the right into a thick forest. The road there was very bad,
full of briars and thorns. In spite of the trouble and
inconvenience, I followed the road and path. Almost the entire
day I went thus riding until I emerged from the forest of
Broceliande. (4) Out from the forest I passed into the open
country where I saw a wooden tower at the distance of half a
Welsh league: it may have been so far, but it was not anymore.
Proceeding faster than a walk, I drew near and saw the palisade
and moat all round it, deep and wide, and standing upon the
bridge, with a moulted falcon upon his wrist, I saw the master of
the castle. I had no sooner saluted him than he came forward to
hold my stirrup and invited me to dismount. I did so, for it was
useless to deny that I was in need of a lodging-place. Then he
told me more than a hundred times at once that blessed was the
road by which I had come thither. Meanwhile, we crossed the
bridge, and passing through the gate, found ourselves in the
courtyard. In the middle of the courtyard of this vavasor, to
whom may God repay such joy and honour as he bestowed upon me
that night, there hung a gong not of iron or wood, I trow, but
all of copper. Upon this gong the vavasor struck three times
with a hammer which hung on a post close by. Those who were
upstairs in the house, upon hearing his voice and the sound, came
out into the yard below. Some took my horse which the good
vavasor was holding; and I saw coming toward me a very fair and
gentle maid. On looking at her narrowly I saw she was tall and
slim and straight. Skilful she was in disarming me, which she
did gently and with address; then, when she had robed me in a
short mantle of scarlet stuff spotted with a peacock's plumes,
all the others left us there, so that she and I remained alone.
This pleased me well, for I needed naught else to look upon.
Then she took me to sit down in the prettiest little field, shut
in by a wall all round about. There I found her so elegant, so
fair of speech and so well informed, of such pleasing manners and
character, that it was a delight to be there, and I could have
wished never to be compelled to move. But as ill luck would have
it, when night came on, and the time for supper had arrived. The
vavasor came to look for me. No more delay was possible, so I
complied with his request. Of the supper I will only say that it
was all after my heart, seeing that the damsel took her seat at
the table just in front of me. After the supper the vavasor
admitted to me that, though he had lodged many an errant knight,
he knew not how long it had been since he had welcomed one in
search of adventure. Then, as a favour, he begged of me to
return by way of his residence, if I could make it possible. So
I said to him: `Right gladly, sire!' for a refusal would have
been impolite, and that was the least I could do for such a host.
(Vv. 269-580.) That night, indeed, I was well lodged, and as
soon as the morning light appeared, I found my steed ready
saddled, as I had requested the night before; thus my request was
carried out. My kind host and his dear daughter I commended to
the Holy Spirit, and, after taking leave of all, I got away as
soon as possible. I had not proceeded far from my stopping-place
when I came to a clearing, where there were some wild bulls at
large; they were fighting among themselves and making such a
dreadful and horrible noise that if the truth be known, I drew
back in fear, for there is no beast so fierce and dangerous as a
bull. I saw sitting upon a stump, with a great club in his hand,
a rustic lout, as black as a mulberry, indescribably big and
hideous; indeed, so passing ugly was the creature that no word of
mouth could do him justice. On drawing near to this fellow, I
saw that his head was bigger than that of a horse or of any other
beast; that his hair was in tufts, leaving his forehead bare for
a width of more than two spans; that his ears were big and mossy,
just like those of an elephant; his eyebrows were heavy and his
face was flat; his eyes were those of an owl, and his nose was
like a cat's; his jowls were split like a wolf, and his teeth
were sharp and yellow like a wild boar's; his beard was black and
his whiskers twisted; his chin merged into his chest and his
backbone was long, but twisted and hunched. (5) There he stood,
leaning upon his club and accoutred in a strange garb, consisting
not of cotton or wool, but rather of the hides recently flayed
from two bulls or two beeves: these he wore hanging from his
neck. The fellow leaped up straightway when he saw me drawing
near. I do not know whether he was going to strike me or what he
intended to do, but I was prepared to stand him off, until I saw
him stop and stand stock-still upon a tree trunk, where he stood
full seventeen feet in height. Then he gazed at me but spoke not
a word, any more than a beast would have done. And I supposed
that he had not his senses or was drunk. However, I made bold to
say to him: `Come, let me know whether thou art a creature of
good or not.' And he replied: `I am a man.' `What kind of a
man art thou?' `Such as thou seest me to be: I am by no means
otherwise.' `What dost thou here?' `I was here, tending these
cattle in this wood.' `Wert thou really tending them? By Saint
Peter of Rome! They know not the command of any man. I guess
one cannot possibly guard wild beasts in a plain or wood or
anywhere else unless they are tied or confined inside.' `Well, I
tend and have control of these beasts so that they will never
leave this neighbourhood.' `How dost thou do that? Come, tell
me now!' `There is not one of them that dares to move when they
see me coming. For when I can get hold of one I give its two
horns such a wrench with my hard, strong hands that the others
tremble with fear, and gather at once round about me as if to ask
for mercy. No one could venture here but me, for if he should go
among them he would be straightway done to death. In this way I
am master of my beasts. And now thou must tell me in turn what
kind of a man thou art, and what thou seekest here.' `I am, as
thou seest, a knight seeking for what I cannot find; long have I
sought without success.' `And what is this thou fain wouldst
find?' `Some adventure whereby to test my prowess and my
bravery. Now I beg and urgently request thee to give me some
counsel, if possible, concerning some adventure or marvellous
thing.' Says he: `Thou wilt have to do without, for I know
nothing of adventure, nor did I ever hear tell of such. But if
thou wouldst go to a certain spring here hard by and shouldst
comply with the practice there, thou wouldst not easily come back
again. Close by here thou canst easily find a path which will
lead thee thither. If thou wouldst go aright, follow the straight
path, otherwise thou mayst easily go astray among the many other
paths. Thou shalt see the spring which boils, though the water
is colder than marble. It is shadowed by the fairest tree that
ever Nature formed, for its foliage is evergreen, regardless of
the winter's cold, and an iron basin is hanging there by a chain
long enough to reach the spring. And beside the spring thou
shalt find a massive stone, as thou shalt see, but whose nature I
cannot explain, never having seen its like. On the other side a
chapel stands, small, but very beautiful. If thou wilt take of
the water in the basin and spill it upon the stone, thou shalt
see such a storm come up that not a beast will remain within this
wood; every doe, star, deer, boar, and bird will issue forth.
For thou shalt see such lightning-bolts descend, such blowing of
gales and crashing of trees, such torrents fail, such thunder and
lightning, that, if thou canst escape from them without trouble
and mischance, thou wilt be more fortunate than ever any knight
was yet.' I left the fellow then, after he had pointed our the
way. It must have been after nine o'clock and might have been
drawing on toward noon, when I espied the tree and the chapel. I
can truly say that this tree was the finest pine that ever grew
on earth. I do not believe that it ever rained so hard that a
drop of water could penetrate it, but would rather drip from the
outer branches. From the tree I saw the basin hanging, (6) of
the finest gold that was ever for sale in any fair. As for the
spring, you may take my word that it was boiling like hot water.
The stone was of emerald, with holes in it like a cask, and there
were four rubies underneath, more radiant and red than is the
morning sun when it rises in the east. Now not one word will I
say which is not true. I wished to see the marvellous appearing
of the tempest and the storm; but therein I was not wise, for I
would gladly have repented, if I could, when I had sprinkled the
perforated stone with the water from the basin. But I fear I
poured too much, for straightway I saw the heavens so break loose
that from more than fourteen directions the lightning blinded my
eyes, and all at once the clouds let fall snow and rain and hail.
The storm was so fierce and terrible that a hundred times I
thought I should be killed by the bolts which fell about me and
by the trees which were rent apart. Know that I was in great
distress until the uproar was appeased. But God gave me such
comfort that the storm did not continue long, and all the winds
died down again. The winds dared not blow against God's will.
And when I saw the air clear and serene I was filled with joy
again. For I have observed that joy quickly causes trouble to be
forgot. As soon as the storm was completely past, I saw so many
birds gathered in the pine tree (if any one will believe my
words) that not a branch or twig was to be seen which was not
entirely covered with birds. (7) The tree was all the more
lovely then, for all the birds sang in harmony, yet the note of
each was different, so that I never heard one singing another's
note. I, too, rejoiced in their joyousness, and listened to them
until they had sung their service through, for I have never heard
such happy song, nor do I think any one else will hear it, unless
he goes to listen to what filled me with such joy and bliss that
I was lost in rapture. I stayed there until I heard some knights
coming, as I thought it seemed that there must be ten of them.
But all the noise and commotion was made by the approach of a
single knight. When I saw him coming on alone I quickly caught
my steed and made no delay in mounting him. And the knight, as
if with evil intent, came on swifter than an eagle, looking as
fierce as a lion. From as far as his voice could reach he began
to challenge me, and said: `Vassal, without provocation you have
caused me shame and harm. If there was any quarrel between us
you should first have challenged me, or at least sought justice
before attacking me. But, sir vassal, if it be within my power,
upon you shall fall the punishment for the damage which is
evident. About me here lies the evidence of my woods destroyed.
He who has suffered has the right to complain. And I have good
reason to complain that you have driven me from my house with
lightning-bolt and rain. You have made trouble for me, and
cursed be he who thinks it fair. For within my own woods and
town you have made such an attack upon me that resources of men
of arms and of fortifications would have been of no avail to me;
no man could have been secure, even if he had been in a fortress
of solid stone and wood. But be assured that from this moment
there shall be neither truce nor peace between us.' At these
words we rushed together, each one holding his shield well
gripped and covering himself with it. The knight had a good
horse and a stout lance, and was doubtless a whole head taller
than I. Thus, I was altogether at a disadvantage, being shorter
than he, while his horse was stronger than mine. You may be sure
that I will tell the facts, in order to cover up my shame. With
intent to do my best, I dealt him as hard a blow as I could give,
striking the top of his shield, and I put all my strength into it
with such effect that my lance flew all to splinters. His lance
remained entire, being very heavy and bigger than any knight's
lance I ever saw. And the knight struck me with it so heavily
that he knocked me over my horse's crupper and laid me flat upon
the ground, where he left me ashamed and exhausted, without
bestowing another glance upon me. He took my horse, but me he
left, and started back by the way he came. And I, who knew not
what to do, remained there in pain and with troubled thoughts.
Seating myself beside the spring I rested there awhile, not
daring to follow after the knight for fear of committing some
rash act of madness. And, indeed, had I had the courage, I knew
not what had become of him. Finally, it occurred to me that I
would keep my promise to my host and would return by way of his
dwelling. This idea pleased me, and so I did. I laid off all my
arms in order to proceed more easily, and thus with shame I
retraced my steps. When I reached his home that night, I found
my host to be the same good-natured and courteous man as I had
before discovered him to be. I could not observe that either his
daughter or he himself welcomed me any less gladly, or did me any
less honour than they had done the night before. I am indebted
to them for the great honour they all did me in that house; and
they even said that, so far as they knew or had heard tell, no
one had ever escaped, without being killed or kept a prisoner,
from the place whence I returned. Thus I went and thus I
returned, feeling, as I did so, deeply ashamed. So I have
foolishly told you the story which I never wished to tell again."
(Vv. 581-648.) "By my head," cries my lord Yvain, "you are my
own cousin-german, and we ought to love each other well. But I
must consider you as mad to have concealed this from me so long.
If I call you mad, I beg you not to be incensed. For if I can,
and if I obtain the leave, I shall go to avenge your shame." "It
is evident that we have dined," says Kay, with his ever-ready
speech; "there are more words in a pot full of wine than in a
whole barrel of beer. (8) They say that a cat is merry when
full. After dinner no one stirs, but each one is ready to slay
Noradin, (9) and you will take vengeance on Forre! Are your
saddle-cloths ready stuffed, and your iron greaves polished, and
your banners unfurled? Come now, in God's name, my lord Yvain,
is it to-night or to-morrow that you start? Tell us, fair sire,
when you will start for this rude test, for we would fain convoy
you thither. There will be no provost or constable who will not
gladly escort you. And however it may be, I beg that you will
not go without taking leave of us; and if you have a bad dream
to-night, by all means stay at home!" "The devil, Sir Kay," the
Queen replies, "are you beside yourself that your tongue always
runs on so? Cursed be your tongue which is so full of
bitterness! Surely your tongue must hate you, for it says the
worst it knows to every man. Damned be any tongue that never
ceases to speak ill! As for your tongue, it babbles so that it
makes you hated everywhere. It cannot do you greater treachery.
See here: if it were mine, I would accuse it of treason. Any man
that cannot be cured by punishment ought to be tied like a madman
in front of the chancel in the church." "Really, madame," says
my lord Yvain, "his impudence matters not to me. In every court
my lord Kay has so much ability, knowledge, and worth that he
will never be deaf or dumb. He has the wit to reply wisely and
courteously to all that is mean, and this he has always done.
You well know if I lie in saying so. But I have no desire to
dispute or to begin our foolishness again. For he who deals the
first blow does not always win the fight, but rather he who gains
revenge. He who fights with his companion had better fight
against some stranger. I do not wish to be like the hound that
stiffens up and growls when another dog yaps at him."
(Vv. 649-722.) While they were talking thus, the King came out
of his room where he had been all this time asleep. And when the
knights saw him they all sprang to their feet before him, but he
made them at once sit down again. He took his place beside the
Queen, who repeated to him word for word, with her customary
skill, the story of Calogrenant. The King listened eagerly to
it, and then he swore three mighty oaths by the soul of his
father Utherpendragon, and by the soul of his son, and of his
mother too, that he would go to see that spring before a
fortnight should have passed; and he would see the storm and the
marvels there by reaching it on the eve of my lord Saint John the
Baptist's feast; there he would spend the night, and all who
wished might accompany him. All the court thought well of this,
for the knights and the young bachelors were very eager to make
the expedition. But despite the general joy and satisfaction my
lord Yvain was much chagrined, for he intended to go there all
alone; so he was grieved and much put out because of the King who
planned to go. The chief cause of his displeasure was that he
knew that my lord Kay, to whom the favour would not be refused if
he should solicit it, would secure the battle rather than he
himself, or else perchance my lord Gawain would first ask for it.
If either one of these two should make request, the favour would
never be refused him. But, having no desire for their company,
he resolves not to wait for them, but to go off alone, if
possible, whether it be to his gain or hurt. And whoever may
stay behind, he intends to be on the third day in the forest of
Broceliande, and there to seek if possibly he may find the narrow
wooded path for which he yearns eagerly, and the plain with the
strong castle, and the pleasure and delight of the courteous
damsel, who is so charming and fair, and with the damsel her
worthy sire, who is so honourable and nobly born that he strives
to dispense honour. Then he will see the bulls in the clearing,
with the giant boor who watches them. Great is his desire to see
this fellow, who is so stout and big and ugly and deformed, and
as black as a smith. Then, too, he will see, if possible, the
stone and the spring itself, and the basin and the birds in the
pine-tree, and he will make it rain and blow. But of all this he
will not boast, nor, if he can help it, shall any one know of his
purpose until he shall have received from it either great
humiliation or great renown: then let the facts be known.
(Vv. 723-746.) My lord Yvain gets away from the court without
any one meeting him, and proceeds alone to his lodging place.
There he found all his household, and gave orders to have his
horse saddled; then, calling one of his squires who was privy to
his every thought, he says: "Come now, follow me outside yonder,
and bring me my arms. I shall go out at once through yonder gate
upon my palfrey. For thy part, do not delay, for I have a long
road to travel. Have my steed well shod, and bring him quickly
where I am; then shalt thou lead back my palfrey. But take good
care, I adjure thee, if any one questions thee about me, to give
him no satisfaction. Otherwise, whatever thy confidence in me,
thou need never again count on my goodwill." "Sire," he says,
"all will be well, for no one shall learn anything from me.
Proceed, and I shall follow you."
(Vv. 747-906.) My lord Yvain mounts at once, intending to
avenge, if possible, his cousin's disgrace before he returns.
The squire ran for the arms and steed; he mounted at once without
delay, since he was already equipped with shoes and nails. Then
he followed his master's track until he saw him standing mounted,
waiting to one side of the road in a place apart. He brought him
his harness and equipment, and then accoutred him. My lord Yvain
made no delay after putting on his arms, but hastily made his way
each day over the mountains and through the valleys, through the
forests long and wide, through strange and wild country, passing
through many gruesome spots, many a danger and many a strait,
until he came directly to the path, which was full of brambles
and dark enough; then he felt he was safe at last, and could not
now lose his way. Whoever may have to pay the cost, he will not
stop until he sees the pine which shades the spring and stone,
and the tempest of hail and rain and thunder and wind. That
night, you may be sure, he had such lodging as he desired, for he
found the vavasor to be even more polite and courteous than he
had been told, and in the damsel he perceived a hundred times
more sense and beauty than Calogrenant had spoken of, for one
cannot rehearse the sum of a lady's or a good man's qualities.
The moment such a man devotes himself to virtue, his story cannot
be summed up or told, for no tongue could estimate the honourable
deeds of such a gentleman. My lord Yvain was well content with
the excellent lodging he had that night, and when he entered the
clearing the next day, he met the bulls and the rustic boor who
showed him the way to take. But more than a hundred times he
crossed himself at sight of the monster before him--how Nature
had ever been able to form such a hideous, ugly creature. Then
to the spring he made his way, and found there all that he wished
to see. Without hesitation and without sitting down he poured
the basin full of water upon the stone, when straightway it began
to blow and rain, and such a storm was caused as had been
foretold. And when God had appeased the storm, the birds came to
perch upon the pine, and sang their joyous songs up above the
perilous spring. But before their jubilee had ceased there came
the knight, more blazing with wrath than a burning log, and
making as much noise as if he were chasing a lusty stag. As soon
as they espied each other they rushed together and displayed the
mortal hate they bore. Each one carried a stiff, stout lance,
with which they dealt such mighty blows that they pierced the
shields about their necks, and cut the meshes of their hauberks;
their lances are splintered and sprung, while the fragments are
cast high in air. Then each attacks the other with his sword,
and in the strife they cut the straps of the shields away, and
cut the shields all to bits from end to end, so that the shreds
hang down, no longer serving as covering or defence; for they
have so split them up that they bring down the gleaming blades
upon their sides, their arms, and hips. Fierce, indeed, is their
assault; yet they do not budge from their standing-place any more
than would two blocks of stone. Never were there two knights so
intent upon each other's death. They are careful not to waste
their blows, but lay them on as best they may; they strike and
bend their helmets, and they send the meshes of their hauberks
flying so, that they draw not a little blood, for the hauberks
are so hot with their body's heat that they hardly serve as more
protection than a coat. As they drive the sword-point at the
face, it is marvellous that so fierce and bitter a strife should
last so long. But both are possessed of such courage that one
would not for aught retreat a foot before his adversary until he
had wounded him to death. Yet, in this respect they were very
honourable in not trying or deigning to strike or harm their
steeds in any way; but they sat astride their steeds without
putting foot to earth, which made the fight more elegant. At
last my lord Yvain crushed the helmet of the knight, whom the
blow stunned and made so faint that he swooned away, never having
received such a cruel blow before. Beneath his kerchief his head
was split to the very brains, so that the meshes of his bright
hauberk were stained with the brains and blood, all of which
caused him such intense pain that his heart almost ceased to
beat. He had good reason then to flee, for he felt that he had a
mortal wound, and that further resistance would not avail. With
this thought in mind he quickly made his escape toward his town,
where the bridge was lowered and the gate quickly opened for him;
meanwhile my lord Yvain at once spurs after him at topmost speed.
As a gerfalcon swoops upon a crane when he sees him rising from
afar, and then draws so near to him that he is about to seize
him, yet misses him, so flees the knight, with Yvain pressing him
so close that he can almost throw his arm about him, and yet
cannot quite come up with him, though he is so close that he can
hear him groan for the pain he feels. While the one exerts
himself in flight the other strives in pursuit of him, fearing to
have wasted his effort unless he takes him alive or dead; for he
still recalls the mocking words which my lord Kay had addressed
to him. He had not yet carried out the pledge which he had given
to his cousin; nor will they believe his word unless he returns
with the evidence. The knight led him a rapid chase to the gate
of his town, where they entered in; but finding no man or woman
in the streets through which they passed, they both rode swiftly
on till they came to the palace-gate.
(Vv. 907-1054.) The gate was very high and wide, yet it had such
a narrow entrance-way that two men or two horses could scarcely
enter abreast or pass without interference or great difficulty;
for it was constructed just like a trap which is set for the rat
on mischief bent, and which has a blade above ready to fall and
strike and catch, and which is suddenly released whenever
anything, however gently, comes in contact with the spring. In
like fashion, beneath the gate there were two springs connected
with a portcullis up above, edged with iron and very sharp. If
anything stepped upon this contrivance the gate descended from
above, and whoever below was struck by the gate was caught and
mangled. Precisely in the middle the passage lay as narrow as if
it were a beaten track. Straight through it exactly the knight
rushed on, with my lord Yvain madly following him apace, and so
close to him that he held him by the saddle-bow behind. It was
well for him that he was stretched forward, for had it not been
for this piece of luck he would have been cut quite through; for
his horse stepped upon the wooden spring which kept the
portcullis in place. Like a hellish devil the gate dropped down,
catching the saddle and the horse's haunches, which it cut off
clean. But, thank God, my lord Yvain was only slightly touched
when it grazed his back so closely that it cut both his spurs off
even with his heels. And while he thus fell in dismay, the other
with his mortal wound escaped him, as you now shall see. Farther
on there was another gate just like the one they had just passed;
through this the knight made his escape, and the gate descended
behind him. Thus my lord Yvain was caught, very much concerned
and discomfited as he finds himself shut in this hallway, which
was all studded with gilded nails, and whose walls were cunningly
decorated with precious paints. (10) But about nothing was he so
worried as not to know what had become of the knight. While he
was in this narrow place, he heard open the door of a little
adjoining room, and there came forth alone a fair and charming
maiden who closed the door again after her. When she found my
lord Yvain, at first she was sore dismayed. (11) "Surely, sir
knight," she says, "I fear you have come in an evil hour. If you
are seen here, you will be all cut to pieces. For my lord is
mortally wounded, and I know it is you who have been the death of
him. My lady is in such a state of grief, and her people about
her are crying so that they are ready to die with rage; and,
moreover, they know you to be inside. But as yet their grief is
such that they are unable to attend to you. The moment they come
to attack you, they cannot fail to kill or capture you, as they
may choose." And my lord Yvain replies to her: "If God will they
shall never kill me, nor shall I fall into their hands." "No,"
she says, "for I shall do my utmost to assist you. It is not
manly to cherish fear. So I hold you to be a man of courage,
when you are not dismayed. And rest assured that if I could I
would help you and treat you honourably, as you in turn would do
for me. Once my lady sent me on an errand to the King's court,
and I suppose I was not so experienced or courteous or so well
behaved as a maiden ought to be; at any rate, there was not a
knight there who deigned to say a word to me except you alone who
stand here now; but you, in your kindness, honoured and aided me.
For the honour you did me then I shall now reward you. I know
full well what your name is, and I recognised you at once: your
name is my lord Yvain. You may be sure and certain that if you
take my advice you will never be caught or treated ill. Please
take this little ring of mine, which you will return when I shall
have delivered you." (12) Then she handed him the little ring
and told him that its effect was like that of the bark which
covers the wood so that it cannot be seen; but it must be worn so
that the stone is within the palm; then he who wears the ring
upon his finger need have no concern for anything; for no one,
however sharp his eyes may be, will be able to see him any more
than the wood which is covered by the outside bark. All this is
pleasing to my lord Yvain. And when she had told him this, she
led him to a seat upon a couch covered with a quilt so rich that
the Duke of Austria had none such, and she told him that if he
cared for something to eat she would fetch it for him; and he
replied that he would gladly do so. Running quickly into the
chamber, she presently returned, bringing a roasted fowl and a
cake, a cloth, a full pot of good grape-wine covered with a white
drinking-cup; all this she offered to him to eat. And he, who
stood in need of food, very gladly ate and drank.
(Vv. 1055-1172.) By the time he had finished his meal the
knights were astir inside looking for him and eager to avenge
their lord, who was already stretched upon his bier. Then the
damsel said to Yvain: "Friend, do you hear them all seeking you?
There is a great noise and uproar brewing. But whoever may come
or go, do not stir for any noise of theirs, for they can never
discover you if you do not move from this couch. Presently you
will see this room all full of ill-disposed and hostile people,
who will think to find you here; and I make no doubt that they
will bring the body here before interment, and they will begin to
search for you under the seats and the beds. It will be amusing
for a man who is not afraid when he sees people searching so
fruitlessly, for they will all be so blind, so undone, and so
misguided that they will be beside themselves with rage. I
cannot tell you more just now, for I dare no longer tarry here.
But I may thank God for giving me the chance and the opportunity
to do some service to please you, as I yearned to do." Then she
turned away, and when she was gone all the crowd with one accord
had come from both sides to the gates, armed with clubs and
swords. There was a mighty crowd and press of hostile people
surging about, when they espied in front of the gate the half of
the horse which had been cut down. Then they felt very sure that
when the gates were opened they would find inside him whose life
they wished to take. Then they caused to be drawn up those gates
which had been the death of many men. But since no spring or
trap was laid for their passage they all came through abreast.
Then they found at the threshold the other half of the horse that
had been killed; but none of them had sharp enough eyes to see my
lord Yvain, whom they would gladly have killed; and he saw them
beside themselves with rage and fury, as they said: "How can this
be? For there is no door or window here through which anything
could escape, unless it be a bird, a squirrel, or marmot, or some
other even smaller animal; for the windows are barred, and the
gates were closed as soon as my lord passed through. The body is
in here, dead or alive, since there is no sign of it outside
there; we can see more than half of the saddle in here, but of
him we see nothing, except the spurs which fell down severed from
his feet. Now let us cease this idle talk, and search in all
these comers, for he is surely in here still, or else we are all
enchanted, or the evil spirits have filched him away from us."
Thus they all, aflame with rage, sought him about the room,
beating upon the walls, and beds, and seats. But the couch upon
which he lay was spared and missed the blows, so that he was not
struck or touched. But all about they thrashed enough, and
raised an uproar in the room with their clubs, like a blind man
who pounds as he goes about his search. While they were poking
about under the beds and the stools, there entered one of the
most beautiful ladies that any earthly creature ever saw. Word
or mention was never made of such a fair Christian dame, and yet
she was so crazed with grief that she was on the point of taking
her life. All at once she cried out at the top of her voice, and
then fell prostrate in a swoon. And when she had been picked up
she began to claw herself and tear her hair, like a woman who had
lost her mind. She tears her hair and rips her dress, and faints
at every step she takes; nor can anything comfort her when she
sees her husband borne along lifeless in the bier; for her
happiness is at an end, and so she made her loud lament. The
holy water and the cross and the tapers were borne in advance by
the nuns from a convent; then came missals and censers and the
priests, who pronounce the final absolution required for the
wretched soul.
(Vv. 1173-1242.) My lord Yvain heard the cries and the grief
that can never be described, for no one could describe it, nor
was such ever set down in a book. The procession passed, but in
the middle of the room a great crowd gathered about the bier, for
the fresh warm blood trickled out again from the dead man's
wound, and this betokened certainly that the man was still surely
present who had fought the battle and had killed and defeated
him. Then they sought and searched everywhere, and turned and
stirred up everything, until they were all in a sweat with the
trouble and the press which had been caused by the sight of the
trickling crimson blood. Then my lord Yvain was well struck and
beaten where he lay, but not for that did he stir at all. And
the people became more and more distraught because of the wounds
which burst open, and they marvelled why they bled, without
knowing whose fault it was. (13) And each one to his neighbour
said: "The murderer is among us here, and yet we do not see him,
which is passing strange and mysterious." At this the lady
showed such grief that she made an attempt upon her life, and
cried as if beside herself: "All God, then will the murderer not
be found, the traitor who took my good lord's life? Good? Aye,
the best of the good, indeed! True God, Thine will be the fault
if Thou dost let him thus escape. No other man than Thou should
I blame for it who dost hide him from my sight. Such a wonder
was never seen, nor such injustice, as Thou dost to me in not
allowing me even to see the man who must be so close to me. When
I cannot see him, I may well say that some demon or spirit has
interposed himself between us, so that I am under a spell. Or
else he is a coward and is afraid of me: he must be a craven to
stand in awe of me, and it is an act of cowardice not to show
himself before me. Ah, thou spirit, craven thing! Why art thou
so in fear of me, when before my lord thou weft so brave? O
empty and elusive thing, why cannot I have thee in my power? Why
cannot I lay hands upon thee now? But how could it ever come
about that thou didst kill my lord, unless it was done by
treachery? Surely my lord would never have met defeat at thy
hands had he seen thee face to face. For neither God nor man
ever knew of his like, nor is there any like him now. Surely,
hadst thou been a mortal man, thou wouldst never have dared to
withstand my lord, for no one could compare with him." Thus the
lady struggles with herself, and thus she contends and exhausts
herself. And her people with her, for their part, show the
greatest possible grief as they carry off the body to burial.
After their long efforts and search they are completely exhausted
by the quest, and give it up from weariness, inasmuch as they can
find no one who is in any way guilty. The nuns and priests,
having already finished the service, had returned from the church
and were gone to the burial. But to all this the damsel in her
chamber paid no heed. Her thoughts are with my lord Yvain, and,
coming quickly, she said to him: "Fair sir, these people have
been seeking you in force. They have raised a great tumult here,
and have poked about in all the corners more diligently than a
hunting-dog goes ferreting a partridge or a quail. Doubtless you
have been afraid." "Upon my word, you are right," says he: "I
never thought to be so afraid. And yet, if it were possible I
should gladly look out through some window or aperture at the
procession and the corpse." Yet he had no interest in either the
corpse or the procession, for he would gladly have seen them all
burned, even had it cost him a thousand marks. A thousand marks?
Three thousand, verily, upon my word. But he said it because of
the lady of the town, of whom he wished to catch a glimpse. So
the damsel placed him at a little window, and repaid him as well
as she could for the honour which he had done her. From this
window my lord Yvain espies the fair lady, as she says: "Sire,
may God have mercy upon your soul! For never, I verily believe,
did any knight ever sit in saddle who was your equal in any
respect. No other knight, my fair sweet lord, ever possessed
your honour or courtesy. Generosity was your friend and boldness
your companion. May your soul rest among the saints, my fair
dear lord." Then she strikes and tears whatever she can lay her
hands upon. Whatever the outcome may be, it is hard for my lord
Yvain to restrain himself from running forward to seize her
hands. But the damsel begs and advises him, and even urgently
commands him, though with courtesy and graciousness, not to
commit any rash deed, saying: "You are well off here. Do not
stir for any cause until this grief shall be assuaged; let these
people all depart, as they will do presently. If you act as I
advise, in accordance with my views, great advantage may come to
you. It will be best for you to remain seated here, and watch
the people inside and out as they pass along the way without
their seeing you. But take care not to speak violently, for I
hold that man to be rather imprudent than brave who goes too far
and loses his self-restraint and commits some deed of violence
the moment he has the time and chance. So if you cherish some
rash thought be careful not to utter it. The wise man conceals
his imprudent thought and works out righteousness if he can. So
wisely take good care not to risk your head, for which they would
accept no ransom. Be considerate of yourself and remember my
advice. Rest assured until I return, for I dare not stay longer
now. I might stay so long, I fear, that they would suspect me
when they did not see me in the crowd, and then I should suffer
for it."
(Vv. 1339-1506.) Then she goes off, and he remains, not knowing
how to comport himself. He is loath to see them bury the corpse
without his securing anything to take back as evidence that he
has defeated and killed him. If he has no proof or evidence he
will be held in contempt, for Kay is so mean and obstinate, so
given to mockery, and so annoying, that he could never succeed in
convincing him. He would go about for ever insulting him,
flinging his mockery and taunts as he did the other day. These
taunts are still fresh and rankling in his heart. But with her
sugar and honey a new Love now softened him; he had been to hunt
upon his lands and had gathered in his prey. His enemy carries
off his heart, and he loves the creature who hates him most. The
lady, all unaware, has well avenged her lord's death. She has
secured greater revenge than she could ever have done unless she
had been aided by Love, who attacks him so gently that he wounds
his heart through his eyes. And this wound is more enduring than
any inflicted by lance or sword. A sword-blow is cured and
healed at once as soon as a doctor attends to it, but the wound
of love is worst when it is nearest to its physician. This is
the wound of my lord Yvain, from which he will never more
recover, for Love has installed himself with him. He deserts and
goes away from the places he was wont to frequent. He cares for
no lodging or landlord save this one, and he is very wise in
leaving a poor lodging-place in order to betake himself to him.
In order to devote himself completely to him, he will have no
other lodging-place, though often he is wont to seek out lowly
hostelries. It is a shame that Love should ever so basely
conduct himself as to select the meanest lodging-place quite as
readily as the best. But now he has come where he is welcome,
and where he will be treated honourably, and where he will do
well to stay. This is the way Love ought to act, being such a
noble creature that it is marvellous how he dares shamefully to
descend to such low estate. He is like him who spreads his balm
upon the ashes and dust, who mingles sugar with gall, and suet
with honey. However, he did not act so this time, but rather
lodged in a noble place, for which no one can reproach him. When
the dead man had been buried, all the people dispersed, leaving
no clerks or knights or ladies, excepting only her who makes no
secret of her grief. She alone remains behind, often clutching
at her throat, wringing her hands, and beating her palms, as she
reads her psalms in her gilt lettered psalter. All this while my
lord Yvain is at the window gazing at her, and the more he looks
at her the more he loves her and is enthralled by her. He would
have wished that she should cease her weeping and reading, and
that she should feel inclined to converse with him. Love, who
caught him at the window, filled him with this desire. But he
despairs of realising his wish, for he cannot imagine or believe
that his desire can be gratified. So he says: "I may consider
myself a fool to wish for what I cannot have. Her lord it was
whom I wounded mortally, and yet do I think I can be reconciled
with her? Upon my word, such thoughts are folly, for at present
she has good reason to hate me more bitterly than anything. I am
right in saying `at present', for a woman has more than one mind.
That mind in which she is just now I trust she will soon change;
indeed, she will change it certainly, and I am mad thus to
despair. God grant that she change it soon! For I am doomed to
be her slave, since such is the will of Love. Whoever does not
welcome Love gladly, when he comes to him, commits treason and a
felony. I admit (and let whosoever will, heed what I say) that
such an one deserves no happiness or joy. But if I lose, it will
not be for such a reason; rather will I love my enemy. For I
ought not to feel any hate for her unless I wish to betray Love.
I must love in accordance with Love's desire. And ought she to
regard me as a friend? Yes, surely, since it is she whom I love.
And I call her my enemy, for she hates me, though with good
reason, for I killed the object of her love. So, then, am I her
enemy? Surely no, but her true friend, for I never so loved any
one before. I grieve for her fair tresses, surpassing gold in
their radiance; I feel the pangs of anguish and torment when I
see her tear and cut them, nor can her tears e'er be dried which
I see falling from her eyes; by all these things I am distressed.
Although they are full of ceaseless, ever-flowing tears, yet
never were there such lovely eves. The sight of her weeping
causes me agony, but nothing pains me so much as the sight of her
face, which she lacerates without its having merited such
treatment. I never saw such a face so perfectly formed, nor so
fresh and delicately coloured. And then it has pierced my heart
to see her clutch her throat. Surely, it is all too true that
she is doing the worst she can. And yet no crystal nor any
mirror is so bright and smooth. God! why is she thus possessed,
and why does she not spare herself? Why does she wring her
lovely hands and beat and tear her breast? Would she not be
marvellously fair to look upon when in happy mood, seeing that
she is so fair in her displeasure? Surely yes, I can take my
oath on that. Never before in a work of beauty was Nature thus
able to outdo herself, for I am sure she has gone beyond the
limits of any previous attempt. How could it ever have happened
then? Whence came beauty so marvellous? God must have made her
with His naked hand that Nature might rest from further toil. If
she should try to make a replica, she might spend her time in
vain without succeeding in her task. Even God Himself, were He
to try, could not succeed, I guess, in ever making such another,
whatever effort He might put forth."
(Vv. 1507-1588.) Thus my lord Yvain considers her who is broken
with her grief, and I suppose it would never happen again that
any man in prison, like my lord Yvain in fear for his life, would
ever be so madly in love as to make no request on his own behalf,
when perhaps no one else will speak for him. He stayed at the
window until he saw the lady go away, and both the portcullises
were lowered again. Another might have grieved at this, who
would prefer a free escape to tarrying longer where he was. But
to him it is quite indifferent whether they be shut or opened.
If they were open he surely would not go away, no, even were the
lady to give him leave and pardon him freely for the death of her
lord. For he is detained by Love and Shame which rise up before
him on either hand: he is ashamed to go away, for no one would
believe in the success of his exploit; on the other hand, he has
such a strong desire to see the lady at least, if he cannot
obtain any other favour, that he feels little concern about his
imprisonment. He would rather die than go away. And now the
damsel returns, wishing to bear him company with her solace and
gaiety, and to go and fetch for him whatever he may desire. But
she found him pensive and quite worn out with the love which had
laid hold of him; whereupon she addressed him thus: "My lord
Yvain, what sort of a time have you had to-day?" "I have been
pleasantly occupied," was his reply. "Pleasantly? In God's name,
is that the truth? What? How can one enjoy himself seeing that
he is hunted to death, unless he courts and wishes it?" "Of a
truth," he says, "my gentle friend, I should by no means wish to
die; and yet, as God beholds me, I was pleased, am pleased now,
and always shall be pleased by what I saw." "Well, let us say no
more of that," she makes reply, "for I can understand well enough
what is the meaning of such words. I am not so foolish or
inexperienced that I cannot understand such words as those; but
come now after me, for I shall find some speedy means to release
you from your confinement. I shall surely set you free to-night
or to-morrow, if you please. Come now, I will lead you away."
And he thus makes reply: "You may be sure that I will never
escape secretly and like a thief. When the people are all
gathered out there in the streets, I can go forth more honourably
than if I did so surreptitiously." Then he followed her into the
little room. The damsel, who was kind, secured and bestowed upon
him all that he desired. And when the opportunity arose, she
remembered what he had said to her how he had been pleased by
what he saw when they were seeking him in the room with intent to
kill him.
(Vv. 1589-1652.) The damsel stood in such favour with her lady
that she had no fear of telling her anything, regardless of the
consequences, for she was her confidante and companion. Then,
why should she be backward in comforting her lady and in giving
her advice which should redound to her honour? The first time
she said to her privily: "My lady, I greatly marvel to see you
act so extravagantly. Do you think you can recover your lord by
giving away thus to your grief?" "Nay, rather, if I had my
wish," says she, "I would now be dead of grief." "And why?" "In
order to follow after him." "After him? God forbid, and give
you again as good a lord, as is consistent with His might."
"Thou didst never speak such a lie as that, for He could never
give me so good a lord again." "He will give you a better one,
if you will accept him, and I can prove it." "Begone! Peace! I
shall never find such a one." "Indeed you shall, my lady, if you
will consent. Just tell me, if you will, who is going to defend
your land when King Arthur comes next week to the margin of the
spring? You have already been apprised of this by letters sent
you by the Dameisele Sauvage. Alas, what a kind service she did
for you! you ought to be considering how you will defend your
spring, and yet you cease not to weep! If it please you, my dear
lady, you ought not to delay. For surely, all the knights you
have are not worth, as you well know, so much as a single
chamber-maid. Neither shield nor lance will ever be taken in
hand by the best of them. You have plenty of craven servants,
but there is not one of them brave enough to dare to mount a
steed. And the King is coming with such a host that his victory
will be inevitable." The lady, upon reflection, knows very well
that she is giving her sincere advice, but she is unreasonable in
one respect, as also are other women who are, almost without
exception, guilty of their own folly, and refuse to accept what
they really wish. "Begone," she says; "leave me alone. If I
ever hear thee speak of this again it will go hard with thee,
unless thou flee. Thou weariest me with thy idle words." "Very
well, my lady," she says; "that you are a woman is evident, for
woman will grow irate when she hears any one give her good
(Vv. 1653-1726.) Then she went away and left her alone. And the
lady reflected that she had been in the wrong. She would have
been very glad to know how the damsel could ever prove that it
would be possible to find a better knight than her lord had ever
been. She would be very glad to hear her speak, but now she has
forbidden her. With this desire in mind, she waited until she
returned. But the warning was of no avail, for she began to say
to her at once: "My lady, is it seemly that you should thus
torment yourself with grief? For God's sake now control
yourself, and for shame, at least, cease your lament. It is not
fitting that so great a lady should keep up her grief so long.
Remember your honourable estate and your very gentle birth!
Think you that all virtue ceased with the death of your lord?
There are in the world a hundred as good or better men." "May
God confound me, if thou dost not lie! Just name to me a single
one who is reputed to be so excellent as my lord was all his
life." "If I did so you would be angry with me, and would fly
into a passion and you would esteem me less." "No, I will not, I
assure thee." "Then may it all be for your future welfare if you
would but consent, and may God so incline your will! I see no
reason for holding my peace, for no one hears or heeds what we
say. Doubtless you will think I am impudent, but I shall freely
speak my mind. When two knights have met in an affray of arms
and when one has beaten the other, which of the two do you think
is the better? For my part I award the prize to the victor. Now
what do you think?" "It seems to me you are laying a trap for me
and intend to catch me in my words." "Upon my faith, you may
rest assured that I am in the right, and I can irrefutably prove
to you that he who defeated your lord is better than he was
himself. He beat him and pursued him valiantly until he
imprisoned him in his house." "Now," she replies, "I hear the
greatest nonsense that was ever uttered. Begone, thou spirit
charged with evil! Begone, thou foolish and tiresome girl!
Never again utter such idle words, and never come again into my
presence to speak a word on his behalf!" "Indeed, my lady, I
knew full well that I should receive no thanks from you, and I
said so before I spoke. But you promised me you would not be
displeased, and that you would not be angry with me for it. But
you have failed to keep your promise, and now, as it has turned
out, you have discharged your wrath on me, and I have lost by not
holding my peace."
(Vv. 1727-1942.) Thereupon she goes back to the room where my
lord Yvain is waiting, comfortably guarded by her vigilance. But
he is ill at ease when he cannot see the lady, and he pays no
attention, and hears no word of the report which the damsel
brings to him. The lady, too, is in great perplexity all night,
being worried about how she should defend the spring; and she
begins to repent of her action to the damsel, whom she had blamed
and insulted and treated with contempt. She feels very sure and
certain that not for any reward or bribe, nor for any affection
which she may bear him, would the maiden ever have mentioned him;
and that she must love her more than him, and that she would
never give her advice which would bring her shame or
embarrassment: the maid is too loyal a friend for that. Thus,
lo! the lady is completely changed: she fears now that she to
whom she had spoken harshly will never love her again devotedly;
and him whom she had repulsed, she now loyally and with good
reason pardons, seeing that he had done her no wrong. So she
argues as if he were in her presence there, and thus she begins
her argument: "Come," she says, "canst thou deny that my lord was
killed by thee?" "That," says he, "I cannot deny. Indeed, I
fully admit it." "Tell me, then, the reason of thy deed. Didst
thou do it to injure me, prompted by hatred or by spite?" "May
death not spare me now, if I did it to injure you." "In that
case, thou hast done me no wrong, nor art thou guilty of aught
toward him. For he would have killed thee, if he could. So it
seems to me that I have decided well and righteously." Thus, by
her own arguments she succeeds in discovering justice, reason,
and common sense, how that there is no cause for hating him; thus
she frames the matter to conform with her desire, and by her own
efforts she kindles her love, as a bush which only smokes with
the flame beneath, until some one blows it or stirs it up. If
the damsel should come in now, she would win the quarrel for
which she had been so reproached, and by which she had been so
hurt. And next morning, in fact, she appeared again, taking the
subject up where she had let it drop. Meanwhile, the lady bowed
her head, knowing she had done wrong in attacking her. But now
she is anxious to make amends, and to inquire concerning the
name, character, and lineage of the knight: so she wisely humbles
herself, and says: "I wish to beg your pardon for the insulting
words of pride which in my rage I spoke to you: I will follow
your advice. So tell me now, if possible, about the knight of
whom you have spoken so much to me: what sort of a man is he, and
of what parentage? If he is suited to become my mate, and
provided he be so disposed, I promise you to make him my husband
and lord of my domain. But he will have to act in such a way
that no one can reproach me by saying: `This is she who took him
who killed her lord.'" "In God's name, lady, so shall it be.
You will have the gentlest, noblest, and fairest lord who ever
belonged to Abel's line." "What is his name?" "My lord Yvain."
"Upon my word, if he is King Urien's son he is of no mean birth,
but very noble, as I well know." "Indeed, my lady, you say the
truth." "And when shall we be able to see him?" "In five days'
time." "That would be too long; for I wish he were already come.
Let him come to-night, or to-morrow, at the latest." "My lady, I
think no one could fly so far in one day. But I shall send one
of my squires who can run fast, and who will reach King Arthur's
court at least by to-morrow night, I think; that is the place we
must seek for him." "That is a very long time. The days are
long. But tell him that to-morrow night he must be back here,
and that he must make greater haste than usual. If he will only
do his best, he can do two days' journey in one. Moreover,
to-night the moon will shine; so let him turn night into day.
And when he returns I will give him whatever he wishes me to
give." "Leave all care of that to me; for you shall have him in
your hands the day after to-morrow at the very latest. Meanwhile
you shall summon your men and confer with them about the
approaching visit of the King. In order to make the customary
defence of your spring it behoves you to consult with them. None
of them will be so hardy as to dare to boast that he will present
himself. In that case you will have a good excuse for saving
that it behoves you to marry again. A certain knight, highly
qualified, seeks your hand; but you do not presume to accept him
without their unanimous consent. And I warrant what the outcome
will be: I know them all to be such cowards that in order to put
on some one else the burden which would be too heavy for them,
they will fall at your feet and speak their gratitude; for thus
their responsibility will be at an end. For, whoever is afraid
of his own shadow willingly avoids, if possible, any meeting with
lance or spear; for such games a coward has no use." "Upon my
word," the lady replies, "so I would have it, and so I consent,
having already conceived the plan which you have expressed; so
that is what we shall do. But why do you tarry here? Go,
without delay, and take measures to bring him here, while I shall
summon my liege-men." Thus concluded their conference. And the
damsel pretends to send to search for my lord Yvain in his
country; while every day she has him bathed, and washed, and
groomed. And besides this she prepares for him a robe of red
scarlet stuff, brand new and lined with spotted fur. There is
nothing necessary for his equipment which she does not lend to
him: a golden buckle for his neck, ornamented with precious
stones which make people look well, a girdle, and a wallet made
of rich gold brocade. She fitted him out perfectly, then
informed her lady that the messenger had returned, having done
his errand well. "How is that?" she says, "is he here? Then let
him come at once, secretly and privily, while no one is here with
me. See to it that no one else come in, for I should hate to see
a fourth person here." At this the damsel went away, and
returned to her guest again. However, her face did not reveal
the joy that was in her heart; indeed, she said that her lady
knew that she had been sheltering him, and was very much incensed
at her. "Further concealment is useless now. The news about you
has been so divulged that my lady knows the whole story and is
very angry with me, heaping me with blame and reproaches. But
she has given me her word that I may take you into her presence
without any harm or danger. I take it that you will have no
objection to this, except for one condition (for I must not
disguise the truth, or I should be unjust to you): she wishes to
have you in her control, and she desires such complete possession
of your body that even your heart shall not be at large."
"Certainly," he said, "I readily consent to what will be no
hardship to me. I am willing to be her prisoner." "So shall you
be: I swear it by this right hand laid upon you!. Now come and,
upon my advice, demean yourself so humbly in her presence that
your imprisonment may not be grievous. Otherwise feel no
concern. I do not think that your restraint will be irksome."
Then the damsel leads him off, now alarming, now reassuring him,
and speaking to him mysteriously about the confinement in which
he is to find himself; for every lover is a prisoner. She is
right in calling him a prisoner; for surely any one who loves is
no longer free.
(Vv. 1943-2036.) Taking my lord Yvain by the hand, the damsel
leads him where he will be dearly loved; but expecting to be ill
received, it is not strange if he is afraid. They found the lady
seated upon a red cushion. I assure you my lord Yvain was
terrified upon entering the room, where he found the lady who
spoke not a word to him. At this he was still more afraid, being
overcome with fear at the thought that he had been betrayed. He
stood there to one side so long that the damsel at last spoke up
and said: "Five hundred curses upon the head of him who takes
into a fair lady's chamber a knight who will not draw near, and
who has neither tongue nor mouth nor sense to introduce himself."
Thereupon, taking him by the arm, she thrust him forward with the
words: "Come, step forward, knight, and have no fear that my lady
is going to snap at you; but seek her good-will and give her
yours. I will join you in your prayer that she pardon you for
the death of her lord, Esclados the Red." Then my lord Yvain
clasped his hands, and failing upon his knees, spoke like a lover
with these words: "I will not crave your pardon, lady, but rather
thank you for any treatment you may inflict on me, knowing that
no act of yours could ever be distasteful to me." "Is that so,
sir? And what if I think to kill you now?" "My lady, if it
please you, you will never hear me speak otherwise." "I never
heard of such a thing as this: that you put yourself voluntarily
and absolutely within my power, without the coercion of any one."
"My lady, there is no force so strong, in truth, as that which
commands me to conform absolutely to your desire. I do not fear
to carry out any order you may be pleased to give. And if I
could atone for the death, which came through no fault of mine, I
would do so cheerfully." "What?" says she, "come tell me now and
be forgiven, if you did no wrong in killing my lord?" "Lady," he
says, "if I may say it, when your lord attacked me, why was I
wrong to defend myself? When a man in self-defence kills another
who is trying to kill or capture him, tell me if in any way he is
to blame." "No, if one looks at it aright. And I suppose it
would have been no use, if I had had you put to death. But I
should be glad to learn whence you derive the force that bids you
to consent unquestioningly to whatever my will may dictate. I
pardon you all your misdeeds and crimes. But be seated, and tell
us now what is the cause of your docility?" "My lady," he says,
"the impelling force comes from my heart, which is inclined
toward you. My heart has fixed me in this desire." "And what
prompted your heart, my fair sweet friend?" "Lady, my eyes."
"And what the eyes?" "The great beauty that I see in you." "And
where is beauty's fault in that?" "Lady, in this: that it makes
me love." "Love? And whom?" "You, my lady dear." "I?" "Yes,
truly." "Really? And how is that?" "To such an extent that my
heart will not stir from you, nor is it elsewhere to be found; to
such an extent that I cannot think of anything else, and I
surrender myself altogether to you, whom I love more than I love
myself, and for whom, if you will, I am equally ready to die or
live." "And would you dare to undertake the defence of my spring
for love of me?" "Yes, my lady, against the world." "Then you
may know that our peace is made."
(Vv. 2037-2048.) Thus they are quickly reconciled. And the
lady, having previously consulted her lords, says: "We shall
proceed from here to the hall where my men are assembled, who, in
view of the evident need, have advised and counselled me to take
a husband at their request. And I shall do so, in view of the
urgent need: here and now I give myself to you; for I should not
refuse to accept as lord, such a good knight and a king's son."
(Vv. 2049-2328.) Now the damsel has brought about exactly what
she had desired. And my lord Yvain's mastery is more complete
than could be told or described; for the lady leads him away to
the hall, which was full of her knights and men-at-arms. And my
lord Yvain was so handsome that they all marvelled to look at
him, and all, rising to their feet, salute and bow to my lord
Yvain, guessing well as they did so: "This is he whom my lady
will select. Cursed be he who opposes him! For he seems a
wonderfully fine man. Surely, the empress of Rome would be well
married with such a man. Would now that he had given his word to
her, and she to him, with clasped hand, and that the wedding
might take place to-day or tomorrow." Thus they spoke among
themselves. At the end of the hall there was a seat, and there
in the sight of all the lady took her place. And my lord Yvain
made as if he intended to seat himself at her feet; but she
raised him up, and ordered the seneschal to speak aloud, so that
his speech might be heard by all. Then the seneschal began,
being neither stubborn nor slow of speech: "My lords," he said,
"we are confronted by war. Every day the King is preparing with
all the haste he can command to come to ravage our lands. Before
a fortnight shall have passed, all will have been laid waste,
unless some valiant defender shall appear. When my lady married
first, not quite seven years ago, she did it on your advice. Now
her husband is dead, and she is grieved. Six feet of earth is
all he has, who formerly owned all this land, and who was indeed
its ornament. (14) It is a pity he lived so short a while. A
woman cannot bear a shield, nor does she know how to fight with
lance. It would exalt and dignify her again if she should marry
some worthy lord. Never was there greater need than now; do all
of you recommend that she take a spouse, before the custom shall
lapse which has been observed in this town for more than the past
sixty years." At this, all at once proclaim that it seems to
them the right thing to do, and they all throw themselves at her
feet. They strengthen her desire by their consent; yet she
hesitates to assert her wishes until, as if against her will, she
finally speaks to the same intent as she would have done, indeed,
if every one had opposed her wish: "My lords, since it is your
wish, this knight who is seated beside me has wooed me and
ardently sought my hand. He wishes to engage himself in the
defence of my rights and in my service, for which I thank him
heartily, as you do also. It is true I have never known him in
person, but I have often heard his name. Know that he is no less
a man than the son of King Urien. Beside his illustrious
lineage, he is so brave, courteous, and wise that no one has
cause to disparage him. You have all already heard, I suppose,
of my lord Yvain, and it is he who seeks my hand. When the
marriage is consummated, I shall have a more noble lord than I
deserve." They all say: "If you are prudent, this very day shall
not go by without the marriage being solemnised. For it is folly
to postpone for a single hour an advantageous act." They beseech
her so insistently that she consents to what she would have done
in any case. For Love bids her do that for which she asks
counsel and advice; but there is more honour for him in being
accepted with the approval of her men. To her their prayers are
not unwelcome; rather do they stir and incite her heart to have
its way. The horse, already under speed, goes faster yet when it
is spurred. In the presence of all her lords, the lady gives
herself to my lord Yvain. From the hand of her chaplain he
received the lady, Laudine de Landuc, daughter of Duke Laudunet,
of whom they sing a lay. That very day without delay he married
her, and the wedding was celebrated. There were plenty of mitres
and croziers there, for the lady had summoned her bishops and
abbots. Great was the joy and rejoicing, there were many people,
and much wealth was displayed--more than I could tell you of,
were I to devote much thought to it. It is better to keep silent
than to be inadequate. So my lord Yvain is master now, and the
dead man is quite forgot. He who killed him is now married to
his wife, and they enjoy the marriage rights. The people love
and esteem their living lord more than they ever did the dead.
They served him well at his marriage-feast, until the eve before
the day when the King came to visit the marvellous spring and its
stone, bringing with him upon this expedition his companions and
all those of his household; not one was left behind. And my lord
Kay remarked: "Ah, what now has become of Yvain, who after his
dinner made the boast that he would avenge his cousin's shame?
Evidently he spoke in his cups. I believe that he has run away.
He would not dare to come back for anything. He was very
presumptuous to make such a boast. He is a bold man who dares to
boast of what no one would praise him for, and who has no proof
of his great feats except the words of some false flatterer.
There is a great difference between a coward and a hero; for the
coward seated beside the fire talks loudly about himself, holding
all the rest as fools, and thinking that no one knows his real
character. A hero would be distressed at hearing his prowess
related by some one else. And yet I maintain that the coward is
not wrong to praise and vaunt himself, for he will find no one
else to lie for him. If he does not boast of his deeds, who
will? All pass over him in silence, even the heralds, who
proclaim the brave, but discard the cowards." When my lord Kay
had spoken thus, my lord Gawain made this reply: "My lord Kay,
have some mercy now! Since my lord Yvain is not here, you do not
know what business occupies him. Indeed. he never so debased
himself as to speak any ill of you compared with the gracious
things he has said." "Sire," says Kay, "I'll hold my peace.
I'll not say another word to-day, since I see you are offended by
my speech." Then the King, in order to see the rain, poured a
whole basin full of water upon the stone beneath the pine, and at
once the rain began to pour. It was not long before my lord Yvain
without delay entered the forest fully armed, tiding faster than
a gallop on a large, sleek steed, strong, intrepid, and fleet of
foot. And it was my lord Kay's desire to request the first
encounter. For, whatever the outcome might be, he always wished
to begin the fight and joust the first, or else he would be much
incensed. Before all the rest, he requested the King to allow
him to do battle first. The King says: "Kay, since it is your
wish, and since you are the first to make the request, the favour
ought not to be denied." Kay thanks him first, then mounts his
steed. If now my lord Yvain can inflict a mild disgrace upon
him, he will be very glad to do so; for he recognises him by his
arms. (15) Each grasping his shield by the straps, they rush
together. Spurring their steeds, they lower the lances, which
they hold tightly gripped. Then they thrust them forward a
little, so that they grasped them by the leather-wrapped handles,
and so that when they came together they were able to deal such
cruel blows that both lances broke in splinters clear to the
handle of the shaft. My lord Yvain gave him such a mighty blow
that Kay took a summersault from out of his saddle and struck
with his helmet on the ground. My lord Yvain has no desire to
inflict upon him further harm, but simply dismounts and takes his
horse. This pleased them all, and many said: "Ah, ah, see how
you prostrate lie, who but now held others up to scorn! And yet
it is only right to pardon you this time; for it never happened
to you before." Thereupon my lord Yvain approached the King,
leading the horse in his hand by the bridle, and wishing to make
it over to him. "Sire," says he, "now take this steed, for I
should do wrong to keep back anything of yours." "And who are
you?" the King replies; "I should never know you, unless I heard
your name, or saw you without your arms." Then my lord told him
who he was, and Kay was overcome with shame, mortified, humbled,
and discomfited, for having said that he had run away. But the
others were greatly pleased, and made much of the honour he had
won. Even the King was greatly gratified, and my lord Gawain a
hundred times more than any one else. For he loved his company
more than that of any other knight he knew. And the King
requested him urgently to tell him, if it be his will, how he had
fared; for he was very curious to learn all about his adventure;
so the King begs him to tell the truth. And he soon told him all
about the service and kindness of the damsel, not passing over a
single word, not forgetting to mention anything. And after this
he invited the King and all his knights to come to lodge with
him, saying they would be doing him great honour in accepting his
hospitality. And the King said that for an entire week he would
gladly do him the honour and pleasure, and would bear him
company. And when my lord Yvain had thanked him, they tarry no
longer there, but mount and take the most direct road to the
town. My lord Yvain sends in advance of the company a squire
beating a crane-falcon, in order that they might not take the
lady by surprise, and that her people might decorate the streets
against the arrival of the King. When the lady heard the news
of the King's visit she was greatly pleased; nor was there any
one who, upon hearing the news, was not happy and elated. And
the lady summons them all and requests them to go to meet him, to
which they make no objection or remonstrance, all being anxious
to do her will.
(Vv. 2329-2414.) (16) Mounted on great Spanish steeds, they all
go to meet the King of Britain, saluting King Arthur first with
great courtesy and then all his company. "Welcome," they say,
"to this company, so full of honourable men! Blessed be he who
brings them hither and presents us with such fair guests!" At
the King's arrival the town resounds with the joyous welcome
which they give. Silken stuffs are taken out and hung aloft as
decorations, and they spread tapestries to walk upon and drape
the streets with them, while they wait for the King's approach.
And they make still another preparation, in covering the streets
with awnings against the hot rays of the sun. Bells, horns, and
trumpets cause the town to ring so that God's thunder could not
have been heard. The maidens dance before him, flutes and pipes
are played, kettle-drums, drums, and cymbals are beaten. On
their part the nimble youths leap, and all strive to show their
delight. With such evidence of their joy, they welcome the King
fittingly. And the Lady came forth, dressed in imperial garb a
robe of fresh ermine--and upon her head she wore a diadem all
ornamented with rubies. No cloud was there upon her face, but it
was so gay and full of joy that she was more beautiful, I think,
than any goddess. Around her the crowd pressed close, as they
cried with one accord: "Welcome to the King of kings and lord of
lords!" The King could not reply to all before he saw the lady
coming toward him to hold his stirrup. However, he would not
wait for this, but hastened to dismount himself as soon as he
caught sight of her. Then she salutes him with these words:
"Welcome a hundred thousand times to the King, my lord, and
blessed be his nephew, my lord Gawain!" The King replies: "I
wish all happiness and good luck to your fair body and your face,
lovely creature!" Then clasping her around the waist, the King
embraced her gaily and heartily as she did him, throwing her arms
about him. I will say no more of how gladly she welcomed them,
but no one ever heard of any people who were so honourably
received and served. I might tell you much of the joy should I
not be wasting words, but I wish to make brief mention of an
acquaintance which was made in private between the moon and the
sun. Do you know of whom I mean to speak? He who was lord of
the knights, and who was renowned above them all, ought surely to
be called the sun. I refer, of course, to my lord Gawain, for
chivalry is enhanced by him just as when the morning sun sheds
its rays abroad and lights all places where it shines. And I
call her the moon, who cannot be otherwise because of her sense
and courtesy. However, I call her so not only because of her
good repute, but because her name is, in fact, Lunete.
(Vv. 2415-2538.) The damsel's name was Lunete, and she was a
charming brunette, prudent, clever, and polite. As her
acquaintance grows with my lord Gawain, he values her highly and
gives her his love as to his sweetheart, because she had saved
from death his companion and friend; he places himself freely at
her service. On her part she describes and relates to him with
what difficulty she persuaded her mistress to take my lord Yvain
as her husband, and how she protected him from the hands of those
who were seeking him; how he was in their midst but they did not
see him. My lord Gawain laughed aloud at this story of hers, and
then he said: "Mademoiselle, when you need me and when you don't,
such as I am, I place myself at your disposal. Never throw me
off for some one else when you think you can improve your lot. I
am yours, and do you be from now on my demoiselle!" "I thank you
kindly, sire," she said. While the acquaintance of these two was
ripening thus, the others, too, were engaged in flirting. For
there were perhaps ninety ladies there, each of whom was fair and
charming, noble and polite, virtuous and prudent, and a lady of
exalted birth, so the men could agreeably employ themselves in
caressing and kissing them, and in talking to them and in gazing
at them while they were seated by their side; that much
satisfaction they had at least. My lord Yvain is in high feather
because the King is lodged with him. And the lady bestows such
attention upon them all, as individuals and collectively, that
some foolish person might suppose that the charming attentions
which she showed them were dictated by love. But such persons
may properly be rated as fools for thinking that a lady is in
love with them just because she is courteous and speaks to some
unfortunate fellow, and makes him happy and caresses him. A fool
is made happy by fair words, and is very easily taken in. That
entire week they spent in gaiety; forest and stream offered
plenty of sport for any one who desired it. And whoever wished
to see the land which had come into the hands of my lord Yvain
with the lady whom he had married, could go to enjoy himself at
one of the castles which stood within a radius of two, three, or
four leagues. When the King had stayed as long as he chose, he
made ready to depart. But during the week they had all begged
urgently, and with all the insistence at their command, that they
might take away my lord Yvain with them. "What? Will you be one
of those." said my lord Gawain to him, "who degenerate after
marriage? (17) Cursed be he by Saint Mary who marries and then
degenerates! Whoever has a fair lady as his mistress or his wife
should be the better for it, and it is not right that her
affection should be bestowed on him after his worth and
reputation are gone. Surely you, too, would have cause to regret
her love if you grew soft, for a woman quickly withdraws her
love, and rightly so, and despises him who degenerates in any way
when he has become lord of the realm. Now ought your fame to be
increased! Slip off the bridle and halter and come to the
tournament with me, that no one may say that you are jealous.
Now you must no longer hesitate to frequent the lists, to share
in the onslaught, and to contend with force, whatever effort it
may cost! Inaction produces indifference. But, really, you must
come, for I shall be in your company. Have a care that our
comradeship shall not fail through any fault of yours, fair
companion; for my part, you may count on me. It is strange how a
man sets store by the life of ease which has no end. Pleasures
grow sweeter through postponement; and a little pleasure, when
delayed, is much sweeter to the taste than great pleasure enjoyed
at once. The sweets of a love which develops late are like a
fire in a green bush; for the longer one delays in lighting it
the greater will be the heat it yields, and the longer will its
force endure. One may easily fall into habits which it is very
difficult to shake off, for when one desires to do so, he finds
he has lost the power. Don't misunderstand my words, my friend:
if I had such a fair mistress as you have, I call God and His
saints to witness, I should leave her most reluctantly; indeed, I
should doubtless be infatuated. But a man may give another
counsel, which he would not take himself, just as the preachers,
who are deceitful rascals, and preach and proclaim the right but
who do not follow it themselves."
(Vv. 2539-2578.) My lord Gawain spoke at such length and so
urgently that he promised him that he would go; but he said that
he must consult his lady and ask for her consent. Whether it be
a foolish or a prudent thing to do, he will not fail to ask her
leave to return to Britain. Then he took counsel with his wife,
who had no inkling of the permission he desired, as he addressed
her with these words: "My beloved lady, my heart and soul, my
treasure, joy, and happiness, grant me now a favour which will
redound to your honour and to mine." The lady at once gives her
consent. not knowing what his desire is, and says: "Fair lord,
you may command me your pleasure, whatever it be." Then my lord
Yvain at once asks her for permission to escort the King and to
attend at tournaments, that no one may reproach his indolence.
And she replies: "I grant you leave until a certain date; but be
sure that my love will change to hate if you stay beyond the term
that I shall fix. Remember that I shall keep my word; if you
break your word I will keep mine. If you wish to possess my
love, and if you have any regard for me, remember to come back
again at the latest a year from the present date a week after St.
John's day; for to-day is the eighth day since that feast. You
will be checkmated of my love if you are not restored to me on
that day."
(Vv. 2579-2635.) My lord Yvain weeps and sighs so bitterly that
he can hardly find words to say: "My lady, this date is indeed a
long way off. If I could be a dove, whenever the fancy came to
me, I should often rejoin you here. And I pray God that in His
pleasure He may not detain me so long away. But sometimes a man
intends speedily to return who knows not what the future has in
store for him. And I know not what will be my fate--perhaps
some urgency of sickness or imprisonment may keep me back: you
are unjust in not making an exception at least of actual
hindrance." "My lord," says she, "I will make that exception.
And yet I dare to promise you that, if God deliver you from
death, no hindrance will stand in your way so long as you
remember me. So put on your finger now this ring of mine, which
I lend to you. And I will tell you all about the stone: no true
and loyal lover can be imprisoned or lose any blood, nor can any
harm befall him, provided he carry it and hold it dear, and keep
his sweetheart in mind. You will become as hard as iron, and it
will serve you as shield and hauberk. I have never before been
willing to lend or entrust it to any knight, but to you I give it
because of my affection for you." Now my lord Yvain is free to
go, but he weeps bitterly on taking leave. The King, however,
would not tarry longer for anything that might be said: rather
was he anxious to have the palfreys brought all equipped and
bridled. They acceded at once to his desire, bringing the
palfreys forth, so that it remained only to mount. I do not know
whether I ought to tell you how my lord Yvain took his leave, and
of the kisses bestowed on him, mingled with tears and steeped in
sweetness. And what shall I tell you about the King how the lady
escorts him, accompanied by her damsels and seneschal? All this
would require too much time. When he sees the lady's tears, the
King implores her to come no farther, but to return to her abode.
He begged her with such urgency that, heavy at heart, she turned
about followed by her company.
(Vv. 2639-2773.) My lord Yvain is so distressed to leave his
lady that his heart remains behind. The King may take his body
off, but he cannot lead his heart away. She who stays behind
clings so tightly to his heart that the King has not the power to
take it away with him. When the body is left without the heart
it cannot possibly live on. For such a marvel was never seen as
the body alive without the heart. Yet this marvel now came
about: for he kept his body without the heart, which was wont to
be enclosed in it, but which would not follow the body now. The
heart has a good abiding-place, while the body, hoping for a safe
return to its heart, in strange fashion takes a new heart of
hope, which is so often deceitful and treacherous. He will never
know in advance, I think, the hour when this hope will play him
false, for if he overstays by single day the term which he has
agreed upon, it will be hard for him to gain again his lady's
pardon and goodwill. Yet I think he will overstay the term, for
my lord Gawain will not allow him to part from him, as together
they go to joust wherever tournaments are held. And as the year
passes by my lord Yvain had such success that my lord Gawain
strove to honour him, and caused him to delay so long that all
the first year slipped by, and it came to the middle of August of
the ensuing year, when the King held court at Chester, whither
they had returned the day before from a tournament where my lord
Yvain had been and where he had won the glory and the story tells
how the two companions were unwilling to lodge in the town, but
had their tents set up outside the city, and held court there.
For they never went to the royal court, but the King came rather
to join in theirs, for they had the best knights, and the
greatest number, in their company. Now King Arthur was seated in
their midst, when Yvain suddenly had a thought which surprised
him more than any that had occurred to him since he had taken
leave of his lady, for he realised that he had broken his word,
and that the limit of his leave was already exceeded. He could
hardly keep back his tears, but he succeeded in doing so from
shame. He was still deep in thought when he saw a damsel
approaching rapidly upon a black palfrey with white forefeet. As
she got down before the tent no one helped her to dismount, and
no one went to take her horse. As soon as she made out the King,
she let her mantle fall, and thus displayed she entered the tent
and came before the King, announcing that her mistress sent
greetings to the King, and to my lord Gawain and all the other
knights, except Yvain, that disloyal traitor, liar, hypocrite,
who had deserted her deceitfully. "She has seen clearly the
treachery of him who pretended he was a faithful lover while he
was a false and treacherous thief. This thief has traduced my
lady, who was all unprepared for any evil, and to whom it never
occurred that he would steal her heart away. Those who love
truly do not steal hearts away; there are, however, some men, by
whom these former are called thieves, who themselves go about
deceitfully making love, but in whom there is no real knowledge
of the matter. The lover takes his lady's heart, of course, but
he does not run away with it; rather does he treasure it against
those thieves who, in the guise of honourable men, would steal it
from him. But those are deceitful and treacherous thieves who
vie with one another in stealing hearts for which they care
nothing. The true lover, wherever he may go, holds the heart
dear and brings it back again. But Yvain has caused my lady's
death, for she supposed that he would guard her heart for her,
and would bring it back again before the year elapsed. Yvain,
thou wast of short memory when thou couldst not remember to
return to thy mistress within a year. She gave thee thy liberty
until St. John's day, and thou settest so little store by her
that never since has a thought of her crossed thy mind. My lady
had marked every day in her chamber, as the seasons passed: for
when one is in love, one is ill at ease and cannot get any
restful sleep, but all night long must needs count and reckon up
the days as they come and go. Dost thou know how lovers spend
their time? They keep count of the time and the season. Her
complaint is not presented prematurely or without cause, and I am
not accusing him in any way, but I simply say that we have been ~
betrayed by him who married my lady. Yvain, my mistress has no
further care for thee, but sends thee word by me never to come
back to her, and no longer to keep her ring. She bids thee send
it back to her by me, whom thou seest present here. Surrender it
now, as thou art bound to do."
(Vv. 2774-3230.) Senseless and deprived of speech, Yvain is
unable to reply. And the damsel steps forth and takes the ring
from his finger, commending to God the King and all the others
except him, whom she leaves in deep distress. And his sorrow
grows on him: he feels oppressed by what he hears, and is
tormented by what he sees. He would rather be banished alone in
some wild land, where no one would know where to seek for him,
and where no man or woman would know of his whereabouts any more
than if he were in some deep abyss. He hates nothing so much as
he hates himself, nor does he know to whom to go for comfort in
the death he has brought upon himself. But he would rather go
insane than not take vengeance upon himself, deprived, as he is,
of joy through his own fault. He rises from his place among the
knights, fearing he will lose his mind if he stays longer in
their midst. On their part, they pay no heed to him, but let him
take his departure alone. They know well enough that he cares
nothing for their talk or their society. And he goes away until
he is far from the tents and pavilions. Then such a storm broke
loose in his brain that he loses his senses; he tears his flesh
and, stripping off his clothes, he flees across the meadows and
fields, leaving his men quite at a loss, and wondering what has
become of him. (18) They go in search of him through all the
country around--in the lodgings of the knights, by the
hedgerows, and in the gardens--but they seek him where he is
not to be found. Still fleeing, he rapidly pursued his way until
he met close by a park a lad who had in his hand a bow and five
barbed arrows, which were very sharp and broad. He had sense
enough to go and take the bow and arrows which he held. However,
he had no recollection of anything that he had done. He lies in
wait for the beasts in the woods, killing them, and then eating
the venison raw. Thus he dwelt in the forest like a madman or a
savage, until he came upon a little, low-lying house belonging to
a hermit, who was at work clearing his ground. When he saw him
coming with nothing on, he could easily perceive that he was not
in his right mind; and such was the case, as the hermit very well
knew. So, in fear, he shut himself up in his little house, and
taking some bread and fresh water, he charitably set it outside
the house on a narrow window-ledge. And thither the other comes,
hungry for the bread which he takes and eats. I do not believe
that he ever before had tasted such hard and bitter bread. The
measure of barley kneaded with the straw, of which the bread,
sourer than yeast, was made, had not cost more than five sous;
and the bread was musty and as dry as bark. But hunger torments
and whets his appetite, so that the bread tasted to him like
sauce. For hunger is itself a well mixed and concocted sauce for
any food. My lord Yvain soon ate the hermit's bread, which
tasted good to him, and drank the cool water from the jar. When
he had eaten, he betook himself again to the woods in search of
stags and does. And when he sees him going away, the good man
beneath his roof prays God to defend him and guard him lest he
ever pass that way again. But there is no creature, with
howsoever little sense, that will not gladly return to a place
where he is kindly treated. So, not a day passed while he was in
this mad fit that he did not bring to his door some wild game.
Such was the life he led; and the good man took it upon himself
to remove the skin and set a good quantity of the venison to
cook; and the bread and the water in the jug was always standing
on the window-ledge for the madman to make a meal. Thus he had
something to eat and drink: venison without salt or pepper, and
good cool water from the spring. And the good man exerted
himself to sell the hide and buy bread made of barley, or oats,
or of some other grain; so, after that, Yvain had a plentiful
supply of bread and venison, which sufficed him for a long time,
until one day he was found asleep in the forest by two damsels
and their mistress, in whose service they were. When they saw
the naked man, one of the three ran and dismounted and examined
him closely, before she saw anything about him which would serve
to identify him. If he had only been richly attired, as he had
been many a time, and if she could have seen him then she would
have known him quickly enough. But she was slow to recognise
him, and continued to look at him until at last she noticed a
scar which he had on his face, and she recollected that my lord
Yvain's face was scarred in this same way; she was sure of it,
for she had often seen it. Because of the scar she saw that it
was he beyond any doubt; but she marvelled greatly how it came
about that she found him thus poor and stripped. Often she
crosses herself in amazement, but she does not touch him or wake
him up; rather does she mount her horse again, and going back to
the others, tells them tearfully of her adventure. I do not know
if I ought to delay to tell you of the grief she showed; but thus
she spoke weeping to her mistress: "My lady, I have found Yvain,
who has proved himself to be the best knight in the world, and
the most virtuous. I cannot imagine what sin has reduced the
gentleman to such a plight. I think he must have had some
misfortune, which causes him thus to demean himself, for one may
lose his wits through grief. And any one can see that he is not
in his right mind, for it would surely never be like him to
conduct himself thus indecently unless he had lost his mind.
Would that God had restored to him the best sense he ever had,
and would that he might then consent to render assistance to your
cause! For Count Alier, who is at war with you, has made upon
you a fierce attack. I should see the strife between you two
quickly settled in your favour if God favoured your fortunes so
that he should return to his senses and undertake to aid you in
this stress." To this the lady made reply: "Take care now! For
surely, if he does not escape, with God's help I think we can
clear his head of all the madness and insanity. But we must be
on our way at once! For I recall a certain ointment with which
Morgan the Wise presented me, saying there was no delirium of the
head which it would not cure." Thereupon, they go off at once
toward the town, which was hard by, for it was not any more than
half a league of the kind they have in that country; and, as
compared with ours, two of their leagues make one and four make
two. And he remains sleeping all alone, while the lady goes to
fetch the ointment. The lady opens a case of hers, and, taking
out a box, gives it to the damsel, and charges her not to be too
prodigal in its use: she should rub only his temples with it, for
there is no use of applying it elsewhere; she should anoint only
his temples with it, and the remainder she should carefully keep,
for there is nothing the matter with him except in his brain.
She sends him also a robe of spotted fur, a coat, and a mantle of
scarlet silk. The damsel takes them, and leads in her right hand
an excellent palfrey. And she added to these, of her own store,
a shirt, some soft hose, and some new drawers of proper cut.
With all these things she quickly set out, and found him still
asleep where she had left him. After putting her horse in an
enclosure where she tied him fast, she came with the clothes and
the ointment to the place where he was asleep. Then she made so
bold as to approach the madman, so that she could touch and
handle him: then taking the ointment she rubbed him with it until
none remained in the box, being so solicitous for his recovery
that she proceeded to anoint him all over with it; and she used
it so freely that she heeded not the warning of her mistress, nor
indeed did she remember it. She put more on than was needed, but
in her opinion it was well employed. She rubbed his temples and
forehead, and his whole body down to the ankles. She rubbed his
temples and his whole body so much there in the hot sunshine that
the madness and the depressing gloom passed completely out of his
brain. But she was foolish to anoint his body, for of that there
was no need. If she had had five measures of it she would
doubtless have done the same thing. She carries off the box, and
takes hidden refuge by her horse. But she leaves the robe
behind, wishing that, if God calls him back to life, he may see
it all laid out, and may take it and put it on. She posts
herself behind an oak tree until he had slept enough, and was
cured and quite restored, having regained his wits and memory.
Then he sees that he is as naked as ivory, and feels much
ashamed; but he would have been yet more ashamed had he known
what had happened. As it is, he knows nothing but that he is
naked. He sees the new robe lying before him, and marvels
greatly how and by what adventure it had come there. But he is
ashamed and concerned, because of his nakedness, and says that he
is dead and utterly undone if any one has come upon him there and
recognised him. Meanwhile, he clothes himself and looks out into
the forest to see if any one was approaching. He tries to stand
up and support himself, but cannot summon the strength to walk
away, for his sickness has so affected him that he can scarcely
stand upon his feet. Thereupon, the damsel resolves to wait no
longer, but, mounting, she passed close by him, as if unaware of
his presence. Quite indifferent as to whence might come the
help, which he needed so much to lead him away to some lodgingplace,
where he might recruit his strength, he calls out to her
with all his might. And the damsel, for her part, looks about
her as if not knowing what the trouble is. Confused, she goes
hither and thither, not wishing to go straight up to him. Then
he begins to call again: "Damsel, come this way, here!" And the
damsel guided toward him her soft-stepping palfrey. By this ruse
she made him think that she knew nothing of him and had never
seen him before; in so doing she was wise and courteous. When
she had come before him, she said: "Sir knight, what do you
desire that you call me so insistently?" "Ah," said he. "prudent
damsel, I have found myself in this wood by some mishap--I know
not what. For God's sake and your belief in Him, I pray you to
lend me, taking my word as pledge, or else to give me outright,
that palfrey you are leading in your hand." "Gladly, sire: but
you must accompany me whither I am going." "Which way?" says he.
"To a town that stands near by, beyond the forest." "Tell me,
damsel, if you stand in need of me." "Yes," she says, "I do; but
I think you are not very well. For the next two weeks at least
you ought to rest. Take this horse, which I hold in my right
hand, and we shall go to our lodging-place." And he, who had no
other desire, takes it and mounts, and they proceed until they
come to a bridge over a swift and turbulent stream. And the
damsel throws into the water the empty box she is carrying,
thinking to excuse herself to her mistress for her ointment by
saying that she was so unlucky as to let the box fall into the
water for, when her palfrey stumbled under her, the box slipped
from her gasp, and she came near falling in too, which would have
been still worse luck. It is her intention to invent this story
when she comes into her mistress' presence. Together they held
their way until they came to the town, where the lady detained my
lord Yvain and asked her damsel in private for her box and
ointment: and the damsel repeated to her the lie as she had
invented it, not daring to tell her the truth. Then the lady was
greatly enraged, and said: "This is certainly a very serious
loss, and I am sure and certain that the box will never be found
again. But since it has happened so, there is nothing more to be
done about it. One often desires a blessing which turns out to
be a curse; thus I, who looked for a blessing and joy from this
knight, have lost the dearest and most precious of my
possessions. However, I beg you to serve him in all respects."
"Ah, lady, how wisely now you speak! For it would be too bad to
convert one misfortune into two."
(Vv. 3131-3254.) Then they say no more about the box, but
minister in every way they can to the comfort of my lord Yvain,
bathing him and washing his hair, having him shaved and clipped,
for one could have taken up a fist full of hair upon his face.
His every want is satisfied: if he asks for arms, they are
furnished him: if he wants a horse, they provide him with one
that is large and handsome, strong and spirited. He stayed there
until, upon a Tuesday, Count Alier came to the town with his men
and knights, who started fires and took plunder. Those in the
town at once rose up and equipped themselves with arms. Some
armed and some unarmed, they issued forth to meet the plunderers,
who did not deign to retreat before them, but awaited them in a
narrow pass. My lord Yvain struck at the crowd; he had had so
long a rest that his strength was quite restored, and he struck a
knight upon his shield with such force that he sent down in a
heap, I think, the knight together with his horse. The knight
never rose again, for his backbone was broken and his heart burst
within his breast. My lord Yvain drew back a little to recover.
Then protecting himself completely with his shield, he spurred
forward to clear the pass. One could not have counted up to four
before one would have seen him cast down speedily four knights.
Whereupon, those who were with him waxed more brave, for many a
man of poor and timid heart, at the sight of some brave man who
attacks a dangerous task before his eves, will be overwhelmed by
confusion and shame, which will drive out the poor heart in his
body and give him another like to a hero's for courage. So these
men grew brave and each stood his ground in the fight and attack.
And the lady was up in the tower, whence she saw the fighting and
the rush to win and gain possession of the pass, and she saw
lying upon the ground many who were wounded and many killed, both
of her own party and of the enemy, but more of the enemy than of
her own. For my courteous, bold, and excellent lord Yvain made
them yield just as a falcon does the teal. And the men and women
who had remained within the town declared as they watched the
strife: "Ah, what a valiant knight! How he makes his enemies
yield, and how fierce is his attack! He was about him as a lion
among the fallow deer, when he is impelled by need and hunger.
Then, too, all our other knights are more brave and daring
because of him, for, were it not for him alone, not a lance would
have been splintered nor a sword drawn to strike. When such an
excellent man is found he ought to be loved and dearly prized.
See now how he proves himself, see how he maintains his place,
see how he stains with blood his lance and bare sword, see how he
presses the enemy and follows them up, how he comes boldly to
attack them, then gives away and turns about; but he spends
little time in giving away, and soon returns to the attack. See
him in the fray again, how lightly he esteems his shield, which
he allows to be cut in pieces mercilessly. Just see how keen he
is to avenge the blows which are dealt at him. For, if some one
should use all the forest of Argone (19) to make lances for him,
I guess he would have none left by night. For he breaks all the
lances that they place in his socket, and calls for more. And
see how he wields the sword when he draws it! Roland never
wrought such havoc with Durendal against the Turks at Ronceval or
in Spain! (20) If he had in his company some good companions
like himself, the traitor, whose attack we are suffering, would
retreat today discomfited, or would stand his ground only to find
defeat." Then they say that the woman would be blessed who
should be loved by one who is so powerful in arms, and who above
all others may be recognised as a taper among candles, as a moon
among the stars, and as the sun above the moon. He so won the
hearts of all that the prowess which they see in him made them
wish that he had taken their lady to wife, and that he were
master of the land.
(Vv. 3255-3340.) Thus men and women alike praised him, and in
doing so they but told the truth. For his attack on his
adversaries was such that they vie with one another in flight.
But he presses hard upon their heels, and all his companions
follow him, for by his side they feel as safe as if they were
enclosed in a high and thick stone wall. The pursuit continues
until those who flee become exhausted, and the pursuers slash at
them and disembowel their steeds. The living roll over upon the
dead as they wound and kill each other. They work dreadful
destruction upon each other; and meanwhile the Count flees with
my lord Yvain after him, until he comes up with him at the foot
of a steep ascent, near the entrance of a strong place which
belonged to the Count. There the Count was stopped, with no one
near to lend him aid; and without any excessive parley my lord
Yvain received his surrender. For as soon as he held him in his
hands, and they were left just man to man, there was no further
possibility of escape, or of yielding, or of self-defence; so the
Count pledged his word to go to surrender to the lady of Noroison
as her prisoner, and to make such peace as she might dictate.
And when he had accepted his word he made him disarm his head and
remove the shield from about his neck, and the Count surrendered
to him his sword. Thus he won the honour of leading off the
Count as his prisoner, and of giving him over to his enemies, who
make no secret of their joy. But the news was carried to the
town before they themselves arrived. While all come forth to
meet them, the lady herself leads the way. My lord Yvain holds
his prisoner by the hand, and presents him to her. The Count
gladly acceded to her wishes and demands, and secured her by his
word, oath, and pledges. Giving her pledges, he swears to her
that he will always live on peaceful terms with her, and will
make good to her all the loss which she can prove, and will build
up again the houses which he had destroyed. When these things
were agreed upon in accordance with the lady's wish, my lord
Yvain asked leave to depart. But she would not have granted him
this permission had he been willing to take her as his mistress.
or to marry her. But he would not allow himself to be followed
or escorted a single step, but rather departed hastily: in this
case entreaty was of no avail. So he started out to retrace his
path, leaving the lady much chagrined, whose joy he had caused a
while before. When he will not tarry longer she is the more
distressed and ill at ease in proportion to the happiness he had
brought to her, for she would have wished to honour him, and
would have made him, with his consent, lord of all her
possessions, or else she would have paid him for his services
whatever sum he might have named. But he would not heed any word
of man or woman. Despite their grief he left the knights and the
lady who vainly tried to detain him longer.
(Vv. 3341-3484.) Pensively my lord Yvain proceeded through a
deep wood, until he heard among the trees a very loud and dismal
cry, and he turned in the direction whence it seemed to come.
And when he had arrived upon the spot he saw in a cleared space a
lion, and a serpent which held him by the tail, burning his hindquarters
with flames of fire. My lord Yvain did not gape at this
strange spectacle, but took counsel with himself as to which of
the two he should aid. Then he says that he will succour the
lion, for a treacherous and venomous creature deserves to be
harmed. Now the serpent is poisonous, and fire bursts forth from
its mouth--so full of wickedness is the creature. So my lord
Yvain decides that he will kill the serpent first. Drawing his
sword he steps forward, holding the shield before his face in
order not to be harmed by the flame emerging from the creature's
throat, which was larger than a pot. If the lion attacks him
next, he too shall have all the fight he wishes; but whatever may
happen afterwards he makes up his mind to help him now. For pity
urges him and makes request that he should bear succour and aid
to the gentle and noble beast. With his sword, which cuts so
clean, he attacks the wicked serpent, first cleaving him through
to the earth and cutting him in two, then continuing his blows
until he reduces him to tiny bits. But he had to cut off a piece
of the lion's tail to get at the serpent's head, which held the
lion by the tail. He cut off only so much as was necessary and
unavoidable. When he had set the lion free, he supposed that he
would have to fight with him, and that the lion would come at
him; but the lion was not minded so. Just hear now what the lion
did! He acted nobly and as one well-bred; for he began to make
it evident that he yielded himself to him, by standing upon his
two hind-feet and bowing his face to the earth, with his fore-feet
joined and stretched out toward him. Then he fell on his
knees again, and all his face was wet with the tears of humility.
My lord Yvain knows for a truth that the lion is thanking him and
doing him homage because of the serpent which he had killed,
thereby delivering him from death. He was greatly pleased by
this episode. He cleaned his sword of the serpent's poison and
filth; then he replaced it in its scabbard, and resumed his way.
And the lion walks close by his side, unwilling henceforth to
part from him: he will always in future accompany him, eager to
serve and protect him. (21) He goes ahead until he scents in the
wind upon his way some wild beasts feeding; then hunger and his
nature prompt him to seek his prey and to secure his sustenance.
It is his nature so to do. He started ahead a little on the
trail, thus showing his master that he had come upon and detected
the odour and scent of some wild game. Then he looks at him and
halts, wishing to serve his every wish, and unwilling to proceed
against his will. Yvain understands by his attitude that he is
showing that he awaits his pleasure. He perceives this and
understands that if he holds back he will hold back too, and that
if he follows him he will seize the game which he has scented.
Then he incites and cries to him, as he would do to hunting-dogs.
At once the lion directed his nose to the scent which he had
detected, and by which he was not deceived, for he had not gone a
bow-shot when he saw in a valley a deer grazing all alone. This
deer he will seize, if he has his way. And so he did, at the
first spring, and then drank its blood still warm. When he had
killed it he laid it upon his back and carried it back to his
master, who thereupon conceived a greater affection for him, and
chose him as a companion for all his life, because of the great
devotion he found in him. It was near nightfall now, and it
seemed good to him to spend the night there, and strip from the
deer as much as he cared to eat. Beginning to carve it he splits
the skin along the rib, and taking a steak from the loin he
strikes from a flint a spark, which he catches in some dry brushwood;
then he quickly puts his steak upon a roasting spit to cook
before the fire, and roasts it until it is quite cooked through.
But there was no pleasure in the meal, for there was no bread, or
wine, or salt, or cloth, or knife, or anything else. While he
was eating, the lion lay at his feet; nor a movement did he make,
but watched him steadily until he had eaten all that he could eat
of the steak. What remained of the deer the lion devoured, even
to the bones. And while all night his master laid his head upon
his shield to gain such rest as that afforded, the lion showed
such intelligence that he kept awake, and was careful to guard
the horse as it fed upon the grass, which yielded some slight
(Vv. 3485-3562.) In the morning they go off together, and the
same sort of existence, it seems, as they had led that night,
they two continued to lead all the ensuing week, until chance
brought them to the spring beneath the pine-tree. There my lord
Yvain almost lost his wits a second time, as he approached the
spring, with its stone and the chapel that stood close by. So
great was his distress that a thousand times he sighed "alas!"
and grieving fell in a swoon; and the point of his sharp sword,
falling from its scabbard, pierced the meshes of his hauberk
right in the neck beside the cheek. There is not a mesh that
does not spread, and the sword cuts the flesh of his neck beneath
the shining mail, so that it causes the blood to start. Then the
lion thinks that he sees his master and companion dead. You
never heard greater grief narrated or told about anything than he
now began to show. He casts himself about, and scratches and
cries, and has the wish to kill himself with the sword with which
he thinks his master has killed himself. Taking the sword from
him with his teeth he lays it on a fallen tree, and steadies it
on a trunk behind, so that it will not slip or give way, when he
hurls his breast against it, His intention was nearly
accomplished when his master recovered from his swoon, and the
lion restrained himself as he was blindly rushing upon death,
like a wild boar heedless of where he wounds himself. Thus my
lord Yvain lies in a swoon beside the stone, but, on recovering,
he violently reproached himself for the year during which he had
overstayed his leave, and for which he had incurred his lady's
hate, and he said: "Why does this wretch not kill himself who has
thus deprived himself of joy? Alas! why do I not take my life?
How can I stay here and look upon what belongs to my lady? Why
does the soul still tarry in my body? What is the soul doing in
so miserable a frame? If it had already escaped away it would
not be in such torment. It is fitting to hate and blame and
despise myself, even as in fact I do. Whoever loses his bliss
and contentment through fault or error of his own ought to hate
himself mortally. He ought to hate and kill himself. And now,
when no one is looking on, why do I thus spare myself? Why do I
not take my life? Have I not seen this lion a prey to such grief
on my behalf that he was on the point just now of thrusting my
sword through his breast? And ought I to fear death who have
changed happiness into grief? Joy is now a stranger to me. Joy?
What joy is that? I shall say no more of that, for no one could
speak of such a thing; and I have asked a foolish question. That
was the greatest joy of all which was assured as my possession,
but it endured for but a little while. Whoever loses such joy
through his own misdeed is undeserving of happiness."
(Vv. 3563-3898.) While he thus bemoaned his fate, a lorn damsel
in sorry plight, who was in the chapel, saw him and heard his
words through a crack in the wall. As soon as he was recovered
from his swoon, she called to him: "God," said she, "who is that
I hear? Who is it that thus complains?" And he replied: "And
who are you?" "I am a wretched one," she said, "the most
miserable thing alive." And he replied: "Be silent, foolish one!
Thy grief is joy and thy sorrow is bliss compared with that in
which I am cast down. In proportion as a man becomes more
accustomed to happiness and joy, so is he more distracted and
stunned than any other man by sorrow when it comes. A man of
little strength can carry, through custom and habit, a weight
which another man of greater strength could not carry for
anything." "Upon my word," she said, "I know the truth of that
remark; but that is no reason to believe that your misfortune is
worse than mine. Indeed, I do not believe it at all, for it
seems to me that you can go anywhere you choose to go, whereas I
am imprisoned here, and such a fate is my portion that to-morrow
I shall be seized and delivered to mortal judgment." "Ah, God!"
said he, "and for what crime?" "Sir knight, may God never have
mercy upon my soul, if I have merited such a fate! Nevertheless,
I shall tell you truly, without deception, why I am here in
prison: I am charged with treason, and I cannot find any one to
defend me from being burned or hanged to-morrow." "In the first
place," he replied, "I may say that my grief and woe are greater
than yours, for you may yet be delivered by some one from the
peril in which you are. Is that not true:" "Yes, but I know not
yet by whom. There are only two men in the world who would dare
on my behalf to face three men in battle." "What? In God's
name, are there three of them?" "Yes, sire, upon my word. There
are three who accuse me of treachery." "And who are they who are
so devoted to you that either one of them would be bold enough to
fight against three in your defence?" "I will answer your
question truthfully: one of them is my lord Gawain, and the other
is my lord Yvain, because of whom I shall to-morrow be handed
over unjustly to the martyrdom of death." "Because of whom?" he
asked, "what did you say?" "Sire, so help me God, because of the
son of King Urien." "Now I understand your words, but you shall
not die, without he dies too. I myself am that Yvain, because of
whom you are in such distress. And you, I take it, are she who
once guarded me safely in the hall, and saved my life and my body
between the two portcullises, when I was troubled and distressed,
and alarmed at being trapped. I should have been killed or
seized, had it not been for your kind aid. Now tell me, my
gentle friend, who are those who now accuse you of treachery, and
have confined you in this lonely place?" "Sire, I shall not
conceal it from you, since you desire me to tell you all. It is
a fact that I was not slow in honestly aiding you. Upon my
advice my lady received you, after heeding my opinion and my
counsel. And by the Holy Paternoster, more for her welfare than
for your own I thought I was doing it, and I think so still. So
much now I confess to you: it was her honour and your desire that
I sought to serve, so help me God! But when it became evident
that you had overstayed the year when you should return to my
mistress, then she became enraged at me, and thought that she had
been deceived by putting trust in my advice. And when this was
discovered by the seneschal--a rascally, underhanded, disloyal
wretch, who was jealous of me because in many matters my lady
trusted me more than she trusted him, he saw that he could now
stir up great enmity between me and her. In full court and in
the presence of all he accused me of having betrayed her in your
favour. And I had no counsel or aid except my own; but I knew
that I had never done or conceived any treacherous act toward my
lady, so I cried out, as one beside herself, and without the
advice of any one, that I would present in my own defence one
knight who should fight against three. The fellow was not
courteous enough to scorn to accept such odds, nor was I at
liberty to retreat or withdraw for anything that might happen.
So he took me at my word, and I was compelled to furnish bail
that I would present within forty days a knight to do battle
against three knights. Since then I have visited many courts; I
was at King Arthur's court, but found no help from any there, nor
did I find any one who could tell me any good news of you, for
they knew nothing of your affairs." "Pray tell me. Where then
was my good and gentle lord Gawain? No damsel in distress ever
needed his aid without its being extended to her." "If I had
found him at court, I could not have asked him for anything which
would have been refused me; but a certain knight has carried off
the Queen, so they told me; surely the King was mad to send her
off in his company. (22) I believe it was Kay who escorted her
to meet the knight who has taken her away; and my lord Gawain in
great distress has gone in search for her. He will never have
any rest until he finds her. Now I have told you the whole truth
of my adventure. To-morrow I shall be put to a shameful death,
and shall be burnt inevitably, a victim of your criminal
neglect." And he replies: "May God forbid that you should be
harmed because of me! So long as I live you shall not die! You
may expect me tomorrow, prepared to the extent of my power to
present my body in your cause, as it is proper that I should do.
But have no concern to tell the people who I am! However the
battle may turn out, take care that I be not recognised!"
"Surely, sire, no pressure could make me reveal your name. I
would sooner suffer death, since you will have it so. Yet, after
all, I beg you not to return for my sake. I would not have you
undertake a battle which will be so desperate. I thank you for
your promised word that you would gladly undertake it, but
consider yourself now released, for it is better that I should
die alone than that I should see them rejoice over your death as
well as mine; they would not spare my life after they had put you
to death. So it is better for you to remain alive than that we
both should meet death." "That is very ungrateful remark, my
dear," says my lord Yvain; "I suppose that either you do not wish
to be delivered from death, or else that you scorn the comfort I
bring you with my aid. I will not discuss the matter more, for
you have surely done so much for me that I cannot fail you in any
need. I know that you are in great distress; but, if it be God's
will, in whom I trust, they shall all three be discomfited. So
no more upon that score: I am going off now to find some shelter
in this wood, for there is no dwelling near at hand." "Sire,"
she says, "may God give you both good shelter and good night, and
protect you as I desire from everything that might do you harm!"
Then my lord Yvain departs, and the lion as usual after him.
They journeyed until they came to a baron's fortified place,
which was completely surrounded by a massive, strong, and high
wall. The castle, being extraordinarily well protected, feared
no assault of catapult or storming-machine; but outside the walls
the ground was so completely cleared that not a single hut or
dwelling remained standing. You will learn the cause of this a
little later, when the time comes. My lord Yvain made his way
directly toward the fortified place, and seven varlets came out
who lowered the bridge and advanced to meet him. But they were
terrified at sight of the lion, which they saw with him, and
asked him kindly to leave the lion at the gate lest he should
wound or kill them. And he replies: "Say no more of that! For I
shall not enter without him. Either we shall both find shelter
here or else I shall stay outside; he is as dear to me as I am
myself. Yet you need have no fear of him! For I shall keep him
so well in hand that you may be quite confident." They made
answer: "Very well!" Then they entered the town, and passed on
until they met knights and ladies and charming damsels coming
down the street, who salute him and wait to remove his armour as
they say: "Welcome to our midst, fair sire! And may God grant
that you tarry here until you may leave with great honour and
satisfaction!" High and low alike extend to him a glad welcome,
and do all they can for him, as they joyfully escort him into the
town. But after they had expressed their gladness they are
overwhelmed by grief, which makes them quickly forget their joy,
as they begin to lament and weep and beat themselves. Thus, for
a long space of time, they cease not to rejoice or make lament:
it is to honour their guest that they rejoice, but their heart is
not in what they do, for they are greatly worried over an event
which they expect to take place on the following day, and they
feel very sure and certain that it will come to pass before
midday. My lord Yvain was so surprised that they so often
changed their mood, and mingled grief with their happiness, that
he addressed the lord of the place on the subject. "For God's
sake," he said, "fair gentle sir, will you kindly inform me why
you have thus honoured me, and shown at once such joy and such
heaviness?" "Yes, if you desire to know, but it would be better
for you to desire ignorance and silence. I will never tell you
willingly anything to cause you grief. Allow us to continue to
lament, and do you pay no attention to what we do!" "It would be
quite impossible for me to see you sad and nor take it upon my
heart, so I desire to know the truth, whatever chagrin may result
to me." "Well, then," he said, "I will tell you all. I have
suffered much from a giant, who has insisted that I should give
him my daughter, who surpasses in beauty all the maidens in the
world. This evil giant, whom may God confound, is named Harpin
of the Mountain. Not a day passes without his taking all of my
possessions upon which he can lay his hands. No one has a better
right than I to complain, and to be sorrowful, and to make
lament. I might well lose my senses from very grief, for I had
six sons who were knights, fairer than any I knew in the world,
and the giant has taken all six of them. Before my eyes he
killed two of them, and to-morrow he will kill the other four,
unless I find some one who will dare to fight him for the
deliverance of my sons, or unless I consent to surrender my
daughter to him; and he says that when he has her in his
possession he will give her over to be the sport of the vilest
and lewdest fellows in his house, for he would scorn to take her
now for himself. That is the disaster which awaits me to-morrow,
unless the Lord God grant me His aid. So it is no wonder, fair
sir, if we are all in tears. But for your sake we strive for the
moment to assume as cheerful a countenance as we can. For he is
a fool who attracts a gentleman to his presence and then does not
honour him; and you seem to be a very perfect gentleman. Now I
have told you the entire story of our great distress. Neither in
town nor in fortress has the giant left us anything, except what
we have here. If you had noticed, you must have seen this
evening that he has not left us so much as an egg, except these
walls which are new; for he has razed the entire town. When he
had plundered all he wished, he set fire to what remained. In
this way he has done me many an evil turn."
(Vv. 3899-3956.) My lord Yvain listened to all that his host
told him, and when he had heard it all he was pleased to answer
him: "Sire, I am sorry and distressed about this trouble of
yours; but I marvel greatly that you have not asked assistance at
good King Arthur's court. There is no man so mighty that he
could not find at his court some who would be glad to try their
strength with his." Then the wealthy man reveals and explains to
him that he would have had efficient help if he had known where
to find my lord Gawain. "He would not have failed me upon this
occasion, for my wife is his own sister; but a knight from a
strange land, who went to court to seek the King's wife, has led
her away. However, he could not have gotten possession of her by
any means of his own invention, had it not been for Kay, who so
befooled the King that he gave the Queen into his charge and
placed her under his protection. He was a fool, and she
imprudent to entrust herself to his escort. And I am the one who
suffers and loses in all this; for it is certain that my
excellent lord Gawain would have made haste to come here, had he
known the facts, for the sake of his nephews and his niece. But
he knows nothing of it, wherefore I am so distressed that my
heart is almost breaking, for he is gone in pursuit of him, to
whom may God bring shame and woe for having led the Queen away."
While listening to this recital my lord Yvain does not cease to
sigh. Inspired by the pity which he feels, he makes this reply:
"Fair gentle sire, I would gladly undertake this perilous
adventure, if the giant and your sons should arrive to-morrow in
time to cause me no delay, for tomorrow at noon I shall be
somewhere else, in accordance with a promise I have made." "Once
for all, fair sire," the good man said, "I thank you a hundred
thousand times for your willingness." And all the people of the
house likewise expressed their gratitude.
(Vv. 3957-4384.) Just then the damsel came out of a room, with
her graceful body and her face so fair and pleasing to look upon.
She was very simple and sad and quiet as she came, for there was
no end to the grief she felt: she walked with her head bowed to
the ground. And her mother, too, came in from an adjoining room,
for the gentleman had sent for them to meet his guest. They
entered with their mantles wrapped about them to conceal their
tears; and he bid them throw back their mantles, and hold up
their heads, saying: "You ought not to hesitate to obey my
behests, for God and good fortune have given us here a very wellborn
gentleman who assures me that he will fight against the
giant. Delay no longer now to throw yourselves at his feet!"
"May God never let me see that!" my lord Yvain hastens to
exclaim; "surely it would not be proper under any circumstances
for the sister and the niece of my lord Gawain to prostrate
themselves at my feet. May God defend me from ever giving place
to such pride as to let them fall at my feet! Indeed, I should
never forget the shame which I should feel; but I should be very
glad if they would take comfort until to-morrow, when they may
see whether God will consent to aid them. I have no other
request to make, except that the giant may come in such good time
that I be not compelled to break my engagement elsewhere; for I
would not fail for anything to be present to-morrow noon at the
greatest business I could ever undertake." Thus he is unwilling
to reassure them completely, for he fears that the giant may not
come early enough to allow him to reach in time the damsel who is
imprisoned in the chapel. Nevertheless, he promises them enough
to arouse good hope in them. They all alike join in thanking
him, for they place great confidence in his prowess, and they
think he must be a very good man, when they see the lion by his
side as confident as a lamb would be. They take comfort and
rejoice because of the hope they stake on him, and they indulge
their grief no more. When the time came they led him off to bed
in a brightly lighted room; both the damsel and her mother
escorted him, for they prized him dearly, and would have done so
a hundred thousand times more had they been informed of his
prowess and courtesy. He and the lion together lay down there
and took their rest. The others dared not sleep in the room; but
they closed the door so tight that they could not come out until
the next day at dawn. When the room was thrown open he got up
and heard Mass, and then, because of the promise he had made, he
waited until the hour of prime. Then in the hearing of all he
summoned the lord of the town and said: "My lord, I have no more
time to wait, but must ask your permission to leave at once; I
cannot tarry longer here. But believe truly that I would gladly
and willingly stay here yet awhile for the sake of the nephews
and the niece of my beloved lord Gawain, if I did not have a
great business on hand, and if it were not so far away." At this
the damsel's blood quivered and boiled with fear, as well as the
lady's and the lord's. They were so afraid he would go away that
they were on the point of humbling themselves and casting
themselves at his feet, when they recalled that he would not
approve or permit their action. Then the lord makes him an offer
of all he will take of his lands or wealth, if only he will wait
a little longer. And he replied: "God forbid that ever I should
take anything of yours!" Then the damsel, who is in dismay,
begins to weep aloud, and beseeches him to stay. Like one
distracted and prey to dread, she begs him by the glorious queen
of heaven and of the angels, and by the Lord, not to go but to
wait a little while; and then, too, for her uncle's sake, whom he
says he knows, and loves, and esteems. Then his heart is touched
with deep pity when he hears her adjuring him in the name of him
whom he loves the most, and by the mistress of heaven, and by the
Lord, who is the very honey and sweet savour of pity. Filled
with anguish he heaved a sigh, for were the kingdom of Tarsus at
stake he would not see her burned to whom he had pledged his aid.
If he could not reach her in time, he would be unable to endure
his life, or would live on without his wits on the other hand,
the kindness of his friend, my lord Gawain, only increased his
distress; his heart almost bursts in half at the thought that he
cannot delay. Nevertheless, he does not stir, but delays and
waits so long that the giant came suddenly, bringing with him the
knights: and hanging from his neck he carried a big square stake
with a pointed end, and with this he frequently spurred them on.
For their part they had no clothing on that was worth a straw,
except some soiled and filthy shirts: and their feet and hands
were bound with cords, as they came riding upon four limping
jades, which were weak, and thin, and miserable. As they came
riding along beside a wood, a dwarf, who was puffed up like a
toad, had tied the horses' tails together, and walked beside
them, beating them remorselessly with a four-knotted scourge
until they bled, thinking thereby to be doing something
wonderful. Thus they were brought along in shame by the giant
and the dwarf. Stopping in the plain in front of the city gate,
the giant shouts out to the noble lord that he will kill his sons
unless he delivers to him his daughter, whom he will surrender to
his vile fellows to become their sport. For he no longer loves
her nor esteems her, that he should deign to abase himself to
her. She shall be constantly beset by a thousand lousy and
ragged knaves, vacant wretches, and scullery boys, who all shall
lay hands on her. The worthy man is well-nigh beside himself
when he hears how his daughter will be made a bawd, or else,
before his very eyes, his four sons will be put to a speedy
death. His agony is like that of one who would rather be dead
than alive. Again and again he bemoans his fate, and weeps aloud
and sighs. Then my frank and gentle lord Yvain thus began to
speak to him: "Sire, very vile and impudent is that giant who
vaunts himself out there. But may God never grant that he should
have your daughter in his power! He despises her and insults her
openly. It would be too great a calamity if so lovely a creature
of such high birth were handed over to become the sport of boys.
Give me now my arms and horse! Have the drawbridge lowered, and
let me pass. One or the other must be cast down, either I or he,
I know not which. If I could only humiliate the cruel wretch who
is thus oppressing you, so that he would release your sons and
should come and make amends for the insulting words he has spoken
to you, then I would commend you to God and go about my
business." Then they go to get his horse, and hand over to him
his arms, striving so expeditiously that they soon have him quite
equipped. They delayed as little as they could in arming him.
When his equipment was complete, there remained nothing but to
lower the bridge and let him go. They lowered it for him, and he
went out. But the lion would by no means stay behind. All those
who were left behind commended the knight to the Saviour, for
they fear exceedingly lest their devilish enemy, who already had
slain so many good men on the same field before their eyes, would
do the same with him. So they pray God to defend him from death,
and return him to them safe and sound, and that He may give him
strength to slay the giant. Each one softly prays to God in
accordance with his wish. And the giant fiercely came at him,
and with threatening words thus spake to him: "By my eyes, the
man who sent thee here surely had no love for thee! No better
way could he have taken to avenge himself on thee. He has chosen
well his vengeance for whatever wrong thou hast done to him."
But the other, fearing naught, replies: "Thou treatest of what
matters not. Now do thy best, and I'll do mine. Idle parley
wearies me." Thereupon my lord Yvain, who was anxious to depart,
rides at him. He goes to strike him on the breast, which was
protected by a bear's skin, and the giant runs at him with his
stake raised in air. My lord Yvain deals him such a blow upon
the chest that he thrusts through the skin and wets the tip of
his lance in his body's blood by way of sauce. And the giant
belabours him with the stake, and makes him bend beneath the
blows. My lord Yvain then draws the sword with which he knew how
to deal fierce blows. He found the giant unprotected, for he
trusted in his strength so much that he disdained to arm himself.
And he who had drawn his blade gave him such a slash with the
cutting edge, and not with the flat side, that he cut from his
cheek a slice fit to roast. Then the other in turn gave him such
a blow with the stake that it made him sing in a heap upon his
horse's neck. Thereupon the lion bristles up, ready to lend his
master aid, and leaps up in his anger and strength, and strikes
and tears like so much bark the heavy bearskin the giant wore,
and he tore away beneath the skin a large piece of his thigh,
together with the nerves and flesh. The giant escaped his
clutches, roaring and bellowing like a bull, for the lion had
badly wounded him. Then raising his stake in both hands, he
thought to strike him, but missed his aim, when the lion leaded
backward so he missed his blow, and fell exhausted beside my lord
Yvain, but without either of them touching the other. Then my
lord Yvain took aim and landed two blows on him. Before he could
recover himself he had severed with the edge of his sword the
giant's shoulder from his body. With the next blow he ran the
whole blade of his sword through his liver beneath his chest; the
giant falls in death's embrace. And if a great oak tree should
fall, I think it would make no greater noise than the giant made
when he tumbled down. All those who were on the wall would fain
have witnessed such a blow. Then it became evident who was the
most fleet of foot, for all ran to see the game, just like hounds
which have followed the beast until they finally come up with
him. So men and women in rivalry ran forward without delay to
where the giant lay face downward. The daughter comes running,
and her mother too. And the four brothers rejoice after the woes
they have endured. As for my lord Yvain they are very sure that
they could not detain him for any reason they might allege, but
they beseech him to return and stay to enjoy himself as soon as
he shall have completed the business which calls him away. And
he replies that he cannot promise them anything, for as yet he
cannot guess whether it will fare well or ill with him. But thus
much did he say to his host: that he wished that his four sons
and his daughter should take the dwarf and go to my lord Gawain
when they hear of his return, and should tell and relate to him
how he has conducted himself. For kind actions are of no use if
you are not willing that they be known. And they reply: "It is
not right that such kindness as this should be kept hid: we shall
do whatever you desire. But tell us what we can say when we come
before him. Whose praises can we speak, when we know not what
your name may be?" And he answers them: "When you come before
him, you may say thus much: that I told you `The Knight with the
Lion' was my name. And at the same time I must beg you to tell
him from me that, if he does not recognise who I am, yet he knows
me well and I know him. Now I must be gone from here, and the
thing which most alarms me is that I may too long have tarried
here, for before the hour of noon be passed I shall have plenty
to do elsewhere, if indeed I can arrive there in time." Then,
without further delay, he starts. But first his host begged him
insistently that he would take with him his four sons: for there
was none of them who would not strive to serve him, if he would
allow it. But it did not please or suit him that any one should
accompany him; so he left the place to them, and went away alone.
And as soon as he starts, riding as fast as his steed can carry
him, he heads toward the chapel. The path was good and straight,
and he knew well how to keep the road. But before he could reach
the chapel, the damsel had been dragged out and the pyre prepared
upon which she was to be placed. Clad only in a shift, she was
held bound before the fire by those who wrongly attributed to her
an intention she had never had. My lord Yvain arrived, and,
seeing her beside the fire into which she was about to be cast,
he was naturally incensed. He would be neither courteous nor
sensible who had any doubt about that fact. So it is true that
he was much incensed; but he cherishes within himself the hope
that God and the Right will be on his side. In such helpers he
confides; nor does he scorn his lion's aid. Rushing quickly
toward the crowd, he shouts: "Let the damsel be, you wicked folk!
Having committed no crime, it is not right that she should be
cast upon a pyre or into a furnace." And they draw off on either
side, leaving a passage-way for him. But he yearns to see with
his own eyes her whom his heart beholds in whatever place she may
be. His eyes seek her until he finds her, while he subdues and
holds in check his heart, just as one holds in check with a
strong curb a horse that pulls. Nevertheless, he gladly gazes at
her, and sighs the while; but he does not sigh so openly that his
action is detected; rather does he stifle his sighs, though with
difficulty. And he is seized with pity at hearing, seeing, and
perceiving the grief of the poor ladies, who cried: "Ah, God, how
hast Thou forgotten us! How desolate we shall now remain when we
lose so kind a friend, who gave us such counsel and such aid, and
interceded for us at court! It was she who prompted madame to
clothe us with her clothes of vair. Henceforth the situation
will change, for there will be no one to speak for us! Cursed be
he who is the cause of our loss! For we shall fare badly in all
this. There will be no one to utter such advice as this: `My
lady, give this vair mantle, this cloak, and this garment to such
and such an honest dame! Truly, such charity will be well
employed, for she is in very dire need of them.' No such words
as these shall be uttered henceforth, for there is no one else
who is frank and courteous; but every one solicits for himself
rather than for some one else, even though he have no need."
(Vv. 4385-4474.) Thus they were bemoaning their fate; and my
lord Yvain who was in their midst, heard their complaints, which
were neither groundless nor assumed. He saw Lunete on her knees
and stripped to her shift, having already made confession, and
besought God's mercy for her sins. Then he who had loved her
deeply once came to her and raised her up, saying: "My damsel,
where are those who blame and accuse you? Upon the spot, unless
they refuse, battle will be offered them." And she, who had
neither seen nor looked at him before, said: "Sire. you come from
God in this time of my great need! The men who falsely accuse me
are all ready before me here; if you had been a little later I
should soon have been reduced to fuel and ashes. You have come
here in my defence, and may God give you the power to accomplish
it in proportion as I am guiltless of the accusation which is
made against me!" The seneschal and his two brothers heard these
words. "Ah!" they exclaim, "woman, chary of uttering truth but
generous with lies! He indeed is mad who for thy words assumes
so great a task. The knight must be simple-minded who has come
here to die for thee, for he is alone and there are three of us.
My advice to him is that he turn back before any harm shall come
to him." Then he replies, as one impatient to begin: "Whoever is
afraid, let him run away! I am not so afraid of your three
shields that I should go off defeated without a blow. I should
be indeed discourteous, if, while yet unscathed and in perfect
case, I should leave the place and field to you. Never, so long
as I am alive and sound, will I run away before such threats.
But I advise thee to set free the damsel whom thou hast unjustly
accused; for she tells me, and I believe her word, and she has
assured me upon the salvation of her soul, that she never
committed, or spoke, or conceived any treason against her
mistress. I believe implicitly what she has told me, and will
defend her as best I can, for I consider the righteousness of her
cause to be in my favour. For, if the truth be known, God always
sides with the righteous cause, for God and the Right are one;
and if they are both upon my side, then I have better company and
better aid than thou." (23) Then the other responds imprudently
that he may make every effort that pleases him and is convenient
to do him injury, provided that his lion shall not do him harm.
And he replies that he never brought the lion to champion his
cause, nor does he wish any but himself to take a hand: but if
the lion attacks him, let him defend himself against him as best
he can, for concerning him he will give no guarantee. Then the
other answers: "Whatever thou mayst say; unless thou now warn thy
lion, and make him stand quietly to one side, there is no use of
thy longer staying here, but begone at once, and so shalt thou be
wise; for throughout this country every one is aware how this
girl betrayed her lady, and it is right that she receive her due
reward in fire and flame." "May the Holy Spirit forbid!" says he
who knows the truth; "may God not let me stir from here until I
have delivered her!" Then he tells the lion to withdraw and to
lie down quietly, and he does so obediently.
(Vv. 4475-4532.) The lion now withdrew, and the parley and
quarrel being ended between them two, they all took their
distance for the charge. The three together spurred toward him,
and he went to meet them at a walk. He did not wish to be
overturned or hurt at this first encounter. So he let them split
their lances, while keeping his entire, making for them a target
of his shield, whereon each one broke his lance. Then he
galloped off until he was separated from them by the space of an
acre; but he soon returned to the business in hand, having no
desire to delay. On his coming up the second time, he reached
the seneschal before his two brothers, and breaking his lance
upon his body, he carried him to earth in spite of himself, and
he gave him such a powerful blow that for a long while he lay
stunned, incapable of doing him any harm. And then the other two
came at him with their swords bared, and both deal him great
blows, but they receive still heavier blows from him. For a
single one of the blows he deals is more than a match for two of
theirs; thus he defends himself so well that they have no
advantage over him, until the seneschal gets up and does his best
to injure him, in which attempt the others join, until they begin
to press him and get the upper hand. Then the lion, who is
looking on, delays no longer to lend him aid; for it seems to him
that he needs it now. And all the ladies, who are devoted to the
damsel, beseech God repeatedly and pray to Him earnestly not to
allow the death or the defeat of him who has entered the fray on
her account. The ladies, having no other weapons, thus assist
him with their prayers. And the lion brings him such effective
aid, that at his first attack, he strikes so fiercely the
seneschal, who was now on his feet, that he makes the meshes fly
from the hauberk like straw, and he drags him down with such
violence that he tears the soft flesh from his shoulder and all
down his side. He strips whatever he touches, so that the
entrails lie exposed. The other two avenge this blow.
(Vv. 4533-4634.) Now they are all even on the field. The
seneschal is marked for death, as he turns and welters in the red
stream of warm blood pouring from his body. The lion attacks the
others; for my lord Yvain is quite unable, though he did his best
by beating or by threatening him, to drive him back; but the lion
doubtless feels confident that his master does not dislike his
aid, but rather loves him the more for it: so he fiercely attacks
them, until they have reason to complain of his blows, and they
wound him in turn and use him badly. When my lord Yvain sees his
lion wounded, his heart is wroth within his breast, and rightly
so; but he makes such efforts to avenge him, and presses them so
hard, that he completely reduces them; they no longer resist him,
but surrender to him at discretion, because of the lion's help,
who is now in great distress; for he was wounded everywhere, and
had good cause to be in pain. For his part, my lord Yvain was by
no means in a healthy state, for his body bore many a wound. But
he is not so anxious about himself as about his lion, which is in
distress. Now he has delivered the damsel exactly in accordance
with his wish, and the lady has very willingly dismissed the
grudge that she bore her. And those men were burned upon the
pyre which had been kindled for the damsel's death; for it is
right and just that he who has misjudged another, should suffer
the same manner of death as that to which he had condemned the
other. Now Lunete is joyous and glad at being reconciled with
her mistress, and together they were more happy than any one ever
was before. Without recognising him, all present offered to him,
who was their lord, their service so long as life should last;
even the lady, who possessed unknowingly his heart, begged him
insistently to tarry there until his lion and he had quite
recovered. And he replied: "Lady, I shall not now tarry here
until my lady removes from me her displeasure and anger: then the
end of all my labours will come." "Indeed," she said, "that
grieves me. I think the lady cannot be very courteous who
cherishes ill-will against you. She ought not to close her door
against so valorous a knight as you, unless he had done her some
great wrong." "Lady,' he replies, "however great the hardship
be, I am pleased by what ever may be her will. But speak to me
no more of that; for I shall say nothing of the cause or crime,
except to those who are informed of it." "Does any one know it,
then, beside you two?" "Yes, truly, lady." "Well, tell us at
least your name, fair sir; then you will be free to go." "Quite
free, my lady? No, I shall not be free. I owe more than I can
pay. Yet, I ought not to conceal from you my name. You will
never hear of `The Knight with the Lion' without hearing of me;
for I wish to be known by that name." "For God's sake, sir, what
does that name mean? For we never saw you before, nor have we
ever heard mentioned this name of yours." "My lady, you may from
that infer that my fame is not widespread." Then the lady says:
"Once more, if it did not oppose your will, I would pray you to
tarry here." "Really, my lady, I should not dare, until I knew
certainly that I had regained my lady's good-will." "Well, then,
go in God's name, fair sir; and, if it be His will, may He
convert your grief and sorrow into joy." "Lady," says he, "may
God hear your prayer." Then he added softly under his breath:
"Lady, it is you who hold the key, and, though you know it not,
you hold the casket in which my happiness is kept under lock."
(Vv. 4635-4674.) Then he goes away in great distress, and there
is no one who recognises him save Lunete, who accompanied him a
long distance. Lunete alone keeps him company, and he begs her
insistently never to reveal the name of her champion. "Sire,"
says she, "I will never do so." Then he further requested her
that she should not forget him, and that she should keep a place
for him in his mistress' heart, whenever the chance arose. She
tells him to be at ease on that score; for she will never be
forgetful, nor unfaithful, nor idle. Then he thanks her a
thousand times, and he departs pensive and oppressed, because of
his lion that he must needs carry, being unable to follow him on
foot. He makes for him a litter of moss and ferns in his shield.
When he has made a bed for him there, he lays him in it as gently
as he can, and carries him thus stretched out full length on the
inner side of his shield. Thus, in his shield he bears him off,
until he arrives before the gate of a mansion, strong and fair.
Finding it closed, he called, and the porter opened it so
promptly that he had no need to call but once. He reaches out to
take his rein, and greets him thus: "Come in, fair sire. I offer
you the dwelling of my lord, if it please you to dismount." "I
accept the offer gladly," he replies, "for I stand in great need
of it, and it is time to find a lodging."
(Vv. 4675-4702.) Thereupon, he passed through the gate, and saw
the retainers in a mass coming to meet him. They greeted him and
helped him from his horse, and laid down upon the pavement his
shield with the lion on it. And some, taking his horse, put it
in a stable: while others very properly relieved him of his arms
and took them. Then the lord of the castle heard the news, and
at once came down into the courtyard, and greeted him. And his
lady came down, too, with all her sons and daughters and a great
crowd of other people, who all rejoiced to offer him a lodging.
They gave him a quiet room, because they deemed that he was sick;
but their good nature was put to a test when they allowed the
lion to go with him. His cure was undertaken by two maidens
skilled in surgery, who were daughters of the lord. I do not
know how many days he stayed there, until he and his lion, being
cured, were compelled to proceed upon their way.
(Vv. 4703-4736.) But within this time it came about that my lord
of Noire Espine had a struggle with Death, and so fierce was
Death's attack that he was forced to die. After his death it
happened that the elder of two daughters whom he had, announced
that she would possess uncontested all the estates for herself
during her entire lifetime, and that she would give no share to
her sister. And the other one said that she would go to King
Arthur's court to seek help for the defence of her claim to the
land. When the former saw that her sister would by no means
concede all the estates to her without contest, she was greatly
concerned, and thought that, if possible, she would get to court
before her. At once she prepared and equipped herself, and
without any tarrying or delay, she proceeded to the court. The
other followed her, and made all the haste she could; but her
journey was all in vain, for her eider sister had already
presented her case to my lord Gawain, and he had promised to
execute her will. But there was an agreement between them that
if any one should learn of the facts from her, he would never
again take arms for her, and to this arrangement she gave
(Vv. 4737-4758.) Just then the other sister arrived at court,
clad in a short mantle of scarlet cloth and fresh ermine. It
happened to be the third day after the Queen had returned from
the captivity in which Maleagant had detained her with all the
other prisoners; but Lancelot had remained behind, treacherously
confined within a tower. And on that very day, when the damsel
came to court, news was received of the cruel and wicked giant
whom the knight with the lion had killed in battle. In his name,
my lord Gawain was greeted by his nephews and niece, who told him
in detail of all the great service and great deeds of prowess he
had done for them for his sake, and how that he was well
acquainted with him, though not aware of his identity.
(Vv. 4759-4820.) All this was heard by her, who was plunged
thereby into great despair and sorrow and dejection; for, since
the best of the knights was absent, she thought she would find no
aid or counsel at the court. She had already made several loving
and insistent appeals to my lord Gawain; but he had said to her:
"My dear, it is useless to appeal to me; I cannot do it; I have
another affair on hand, which I shall in no wise give up." Then
the damsel at once left him, and presented herself before the
King. "O King," said she, "I have come to thee and to thy court
for aid. But I find none, and I am very much mazed that I can
get no counsel here. Yet it would not be right for me to go away
without taking leave. My sister may know, however, that she
might obtain by kindness whatever she desired of my property; but
I will never surrender my heritage to her by force, if I can help
it, and if I can find any aid or counsel." "You have spoken
wisely," said the King; "since she is present here, I advise,
recommend, and urge her to surrender to you what is your right."
Then the other, who was confident of the best knight in the
world, replied: "Sire, may God confound me, if ever I bestow on
her from my estates any castle, town, clearing, forest, land, or
anything else. But if any knight dares to take arms on her
behalf and desires to defend her cause, let him step forth at
once." "Your offer to her is not fair; she needs more time," the
King replied; "if she desires, she may have forty days to secure
a champion, according to the practice of all courts." To which
the elder sister replied: "Fair King, my lord, you may establish
your laws as it pleases you, and as seems good, nor is it my
place to gainsay you, so I must consent to the postponement, if
she desires it." Whereupon, the other says that she does desire
it, and she makes formal request for it. Then she commended the
King to God, and left the court resolving to devote her life to
the search through all the land for the Knight with the Lion, who
devotes himself to succouring women in need of aid.
(Vv. 4821-4928.) Thus she entered upon her quest, and traversed
many a country without hearing any news of him, which caused her
such grief that she fell sick. But it was well for her that it
happened so; for she came to the dwelling of a friend of hers, by
whom she was dearly loved. By this time her face showed clearly
that she was not in good health. They insisted upon detaining
her until she told them of her plight; whereupon, another damsel
took up the quest wherein she had been engaged, and continued the
search on her behalf. So while the one remained in this retreat,
the other rode rapidly all day long, until the darkness of night
came on, and caused her great anxiety. (24) And her trouble was
doubled when the rain came on with terrible violence, as if God
Himself were doing His worst, while she was in the depths of the
forest. The night and the woods cause her great distress, but
she is more tormented by the rain than by either the woods or the
night. And the road was so bad that her horse was often up to
the girth in mud; any damsel might well be terrified to be in the
woods, without escort, in such bad weather and in such darkness
that she could not see the horse she was riding. So she called
on God first, and His mother next, and then on all the saints in
turn, and offered up many a prayer that God would lead her out
from this forest and conduct her to some lodging-place. She
continued in prayer until she heard a horn, at which she greatly
rejoiced; for she thought now she would find shelter, if she
could only reach the place. So she turned in the direction of
the sound, and came upon a paved road which led straight toward
the horn whose sound she heard; for the horn had given three
long, loud blasts. And she made her way straight toward the
sound, until she came to a cross which stood on the right side of
the road, and there she thought that she might find the horn and
the person who had sounded it. So she spurred her horse in that
direction, until she drew near a bridge, and descried the white
walls and the barbican of a circular castle. Thus, by chance she
came upon the castle, setting her course by the sound which had
led her thither. She had been attracted by the sound of the horn
blown by a watchman upon the walls. As soon as the watchman
caught sight of her, he called to her, then came down, and taking
the key of the gate, opened it for her and said: "Welcome,
damsel, whoe'er you be. You shall be well lodged this night."
"I have no other desire than that," the damsel replied, as he let
her in. After the toil and anxiety she had endured that day, she
was fortunate to find such a lodging-place; for she was very
comfortable there. After the meal the host addressed her, and
inquired where she was going and what was her quest. Whereupon,
she thus replied: "I am seeking one whom I never saw, so far as I
am aware, and never knew; but he has a lion with him, and I am
told that, if I find him, I can place great confidence in him."
"I can testify to that," the other said: "for the day before
yesterday God sent him here to me in my dire need. Blessed be
the paths which led him to my dwelling. For he made me glad by
avenging me of a mortal enemy and killing him before my eyes.
Outside yonder gate you may see to-morrow the body of a mighty
giant, whom he slew with such ease that he hardly had to sweat."
"For God's sake, sire," the damsel said, "tell me now the truth,
if you know whither he went, and where he is." "I don't know,"
he said, "as God sees me here; but to-morrow I will start you on
the road by which he went away from here." "And may God," said
she, "lead me where I may hear true news of him. For if I find
him, I shall be very glad."
(Vv. 4929-4964.) Thus they continued in long converse until at
last they went to bed. When the day dawned, the maid arose,
being in great concern to find the object of her quest. And the
master of the house arose with all his companions, and set her
upon the road which led straight to the spring beneath the pine.
And she, hastening on her way toward the town, came and asked the
first men whom she met, if they could tell her where she would
find the lion and the knight who travelled in company. And they
told her that they had seen him defeat three knights in that very
place. Whereupon, she said at once: "For God's sake, since you
have said so much, do not keep back from me anything that you can
add." "No," they replied; "we know nothing more than we have
said, nor do we know what became of him. If she for whose sake
he came here, cannot give you further news, there will be no one
here to enlighten you. You will not have far to go, if you wish
to speak with her; for she has gone to make prayer to God and to
hear Mass in yonder church, and judging by the time she has been
inside, her orisons have been prolonged."
(Vv. 4965-5106.) While they were talking thus, Lunete came out
from the church, and they said: "There she is." Then she went to
meet her, and they greeted each other. She asked Lunete at once
for the information she desired; and Lunete said that she would
have a palfrey saddled; for she wished to accompany her, and
would take her to an enclosure where she had left him. The other
maiden thanked her heartily. Lunete mounts the palfrey which is
brought without delay, and, as they ride, she tells her how she
had been accused and charged with treason, and how the pyre was
already kindled upon which she was to be laid, and how he had
come to help her in just the moment of her need. While speaking
thus, she escorted her to the road which led directly to the spot
where my lord Yvain had parted from her. When she had
accompanied her thus far, she said: "Follow this road until you
come to a place where, if it please God and the Holy Spirit, you
will hear more reliable news of him than I can tell. I very well
remember that I left him either near here, or exactly here, where
we are now; we have not seen each other since then, and I do not
know what he has done. When he left me, he was in sore need of a
plaster for his wounds. So I will send you along after him, and
if it be God's will, may He grant that you find him to-night or
to-morrow in good health. Now go: I commend you to God. I must
not follow you any farther, lest my mistress be displeased with
me." Then Lunete leaves her and turns back; while the other
pushed on until she found a house, where my lord Yvain had
tarried until he was restored to health. She saw people gathered
before the gate, knights, ladies and men-at-arms, and the master
of the house; she saluted them, and asked them to tell her, if
possible, news of a knight for whom she sought. "Who is he?"
they ask. "I have heard it said that he is never without a lion."
"Upon my word, damsel," the master says, "he has just now left
us. You can come up with him to-night, if you are able to keep
his tracks in sight, and are careful not to lose any time."
"Sire," she answers, "God forbid. But tell me now in what
direction I must follow him." And they tell her: "This way,
straight ahead," and they beg her to greet him on their behalf.
But their courtesy was not of much avail; for, without giving any
heed, she galloped off at once. The pace seemed much too slow to
her, though her palfrey made good time. So she galloped through
the mud just the same as where the road was good and smooth,
until she caught sight of him with the lion as his companion.
Then in her gladness she exclaims: "God, help me now. At last I
see him whom I have so long pursued, and whose trace I have long
followed. But if I pursue and nothing gain, what will it profit
me to come up with him? Little or nothing, upon my word. If he
does not join in my enterprise, I have wasted all my pains."
Thus saying, she pressed on so fast that her palfrey was all in a
sweat; but she caught up with him and saluted him. He thus at
once replied to her: "God save you, fair one, and deliver you
from grief and woe." "The same to you, sire, who, I hope, will
soon be able to deliver me." Then she draws nearer to him, and
says: "Sire, I have long searched for you. The great fame of
your merit has made me traverse many a county in my weary search
for you. But I continued my quest so long, thank God, that at
last I have found you here. And if I brought any anxiety with
me, I am no longer concerned about it, nor do I complain or
remember it now. I am entirely relieved; my worry has taken
flight the moment I met with you. Moreover, the affair is none
of mine: I come to you from one that is better than I, a woman
who is more noble and excellent. But if she be disappointed in
her hopes of you, then she has been betrayed by your fair renown,
for she has no expectation of other aid. My damsel, who is
deprived of her inheritance by a sister, expects with your help
to win her suit; she will have none but you defend her cause. No
one can make her believe that any one else could bear her aid.
By securing her share of the heritage, you will have won and
acquired the love of her who is now disinherited, and you will
also increase your own renown. She herself was going in search
for you to secure the boon for which she hoped; no one else would
have taken her place, had she not been detained by an illness
which compels her to keep her bed. Now tell me, please, whether
you will dare to come, or whether you will decline." "No," he
says; "no man can win praise in a life of ease; and I will not
hold back, but will follow you gladly, my sweet friend,
whithersoever it may please you. And if she for whose sake you
have sought me out stands in some great need of me, have no fear
that I shall not do all I can for her. Now may God grant me the
happiness and grace to settle in her favour her rightful claim."
(Vv. 5107-5184.) (25) Thus conversing, they two rode away until
they approached the town of Pesme Avanture. They had no desire
to pass it by, for the day was already drawing to a close. They
came riding to the castle, when all the people, seeing them
approach, called out to the knight: "Ill come, sire, ill come.
This lodging-place was pointed out to you in order that you might
suffer harm and shame. An abbot might take his oath to that."
"Ah," he replied, "foolish and vulgar folk, full of all mischief,
and devoid of honour, why have you thus assailed me?" "Why? you
will find out soon enough, if you will go a little farther. But
you shall learn nothing more until you have ascended to the
fortress." At once my lord Yvain turns toward the tower, and the
crowd cries out, all shouting aloud at him: "Eh, eh, wretch,
whither goest thou? If ever in thy life thou hast encountered
one who worked thee shame and woe, such will be done thee there,
whither thou art going, as will never be told again by thee." My
lord Yvain, who is listening, says: "Base and pitiless people,
miserable and impudent, why do you assail me thus, why do you
attack me so? What do you wish of me, what do you want, that you
growl this way after me?" A lady, who was somewhat advanced in
years, who was courteous and sensible, said: "Thou hast no cause
to be enraged: they mean no harm in what they say; but, if thou
understoodest them aright, they are warning thee not to spend the
night up there; they dare not tell thee the reason for this, but
they are warning and blaming thee because they wish to arouse thy
fears. This they are accustomed to do in the case of all who
come, so that they may not go inside. And the custom is such
that we dare not receive in our own houses, for any reason
whatsoever, any gentleman who comes here from a distance. The
responsibility now is thine alone; no one will stand in thy way.
If thou wishest, thou mayst go up now; but my advice is to turn
back again." "Lady," he says, "doubtless it would be to my
honour and advantage to follow your advice; but I do not know
where I should find a lodging-place to-night." "Upon my word,"
says she, "I'll say no more, for the concern is none of mine. Go
wherever you please. Nevertheless, I should be very glad to see
you return from inside without too great shame; but that could
hardly be." "Lady," he says, "may God reward you for the wish.
However, my wayward heart leads me on inside, and I shall do what
my heart desires." Thereupon, he approaches the gate,
accompanied by his lion and his damsel. Then the porter calls to
him, and says: "Come quickly, come. You are on your way to a
place where you will be securely detained, and may your visit be
(Vv. 5185-5346.) The porter, after addressing him with this very
ungracious welcome, hurried upstairs. But my lord Yvain, without
making reply, passed straight on, and found a new and lofty hall;
in front of it there was a yard enclosed with large, round,
pointed stakes, and seated inside the stakes he saw as many as
three hundred maidens, working at different kinds of embroidery.
Each one was sewing with golden thread and silk, as best she
could. But such was their poverty, that many of them wore no
girdle, and looked slovenly, because so poor; and their garments
were torn about their breasts and at the elbows, and their shifts
were soiled about their necks. Their necks were thin, and their
faces pale with hunger and privation. They see him, as he looks
at them, and they weep, and are unable for some time to do
anything or to raise their eyes from the ground, so bowed down
they are with woe. When he had contemplated them for a while, my
lord Yvain turned about and moved toward the door; but the porter
barred the way, and cried: "It is no use, fair master; you shall
not get out now. You would like to be outside: but, by my head,
it is of no use. Before you escape you will have suffered such
great shame that you could not easily suffer more; so you were
not wise to enter here, for there is no question of escaping
now." "Nor do I wish to do so, fair brother," said he; "but tell
me, by thy father's soul, whence came the damsels whom I saw in
the yard, weaving cloths of silk and gold. I enjoy seeing the
work they do, but I am much distressed to see their bodies so
thin, and their faces so pale and sad. I imagine they would be
fair and charming, if they had what they desire." "I will tell
you nothing," was the reply; "seek some one else to tell you."
"That will I do, since there is no better way." Then he searches
until he finds the entrance of the yard where the damsels were at
work: and coming before them, he greets them all, and sees tears
flowing from their eyes, as they weep. Then he says to them:
"May it please God to remove from your hearts, and turn to joy,
this grief, the cause of which I do not know." One of them
answers: "May you be heard by God, to whom you have addressed
your prayer. It shall not be concealed from you who we are, and
from what land: I suppose that is what you wish to know." "For
no other purpose came I here," says he. (26) "Sire, it happened
a long while ago that the king of the Isle of Damsels went
seeking news through divers courts and countries, and he kept on
his travels like a dunce until he encountered this perilous
place. It was an unlucky hour when he first came here, for we
wretched captives who are here receive all the shame and misery
which we have in no wise deserved. And rest assured that you
yourself may expect great shame, unless a ransom for you be
accepted. But, at any rate, so it came about that my lord came
to this town, where there are two sons of the devil (do not take
it as a jest) who were born of a woman and an imp. These two
were about to fight with the king, whose terror was great, for he
was not yet eighteen years old, and they would have been able to
cleave him through like a tender lamb. So the king, in his
terror, escaped his fate as best he could, by swearing that he
would send hither each year, as required, thirty of his damsels,
and with this rent he freed himself. And when he swore, it was
agreed that this arrangement should remain in force as long as
the two devils lived. But upon the day when they should be
conquered and defeated in battle, he would be relieved from this
tribute, and we should be delivered who are now shamefully given
over to distress and misery. Never again shall we know what
pleasure is. But I spoke folly just now in referring to our
deliverance, for we shall never more leave this place. We shall
spend our days weaving cloths of silk, without ever being better
clad. We shall always be poor and naked, and shall always suffer
from hunger and thirst, for we shall never be able to earn enough
to procure for ourselves any better food. Our bread supply is
very scarce--a little in the morning and less at night, for
none of us can gain by her handiwork more than fourpence a day
for her daily bread. And with this we cannot provide ourselves
with sufficient food and clothes. For though there is not one of
us who does not earn as much as twenty sous (27) a week, yet we
cannot live without hardship. Now you must know that there is
not a single one of us who does not do twenty sous worth of work
or more, and with such a sum even a duke would be considered
rich. So while we are reduced to such poverty, he, for whom we
work, is rich with the product of our toil. We sit up many
nights, as well as every day, to earn the more, for they threaten
to do us injury, when we seek some rest, so we do not dare to
rest ourselves. But why should I tell you more? We are so
shamefully treated and insulted that I cannot tell you the fifth
part of it all. But what makes us almost wild with rage is that
we very often see rich and excellent knights, who fight with the
two devils, lose their lives on our account. They pay dearly for
the lodging they receive, as you will do to-morrow. For, whether
you wish to do so or not, you will have to fight singlehanded and
lose your fair renown with these two devils." "May God, the true
and spiritual, protect me," said my lord Yvain, "and give you
back your honour and happiness, if it be His will. I must go now
and see the people inside there, and find out what sort of
entertainment they will offer me." "Go now, sire, and may He
protect you who gives and distributes all good things."
(Vv. 5347-5456.) Then he went until he came to the hall where he
found no one, good or bad, to address him. Then he and his
companion passed through the house until they came to a garden.
They never spoke of, or mentioned, stabling their horses. But
what matters it? For those who considered them already as their
own had stabled them carefully. I do not know whether their
expectation was wise, for the horses' owners are still perfectly
hale. The horses, however, have oats and hay, and stand in
litter up to their belly. My lord Yvain and his company enter
the garden. There he sees, reclining upon his elbow upon a
silken rug, a gentleman, to whom a maiden was reading from a
romance about I know not whom. There had come to recline there
with them and listen to the romance a lady, who was the mother of
the damsel, as the gentleman was her father; they had good reason
to enjoy seeing and hearing her, for they had no other children.
She was not yet sixteen years old, and was so fair and full of
grace that the god of Love would have devoted himself entirely to
her service, if he had seen her, and would never have made her
fall in love with anybody except himself. For her sake he would
have become a man, and would lay aside his deity, and would smite
his own body with that dart whose wound never heals unless some
base physician attends to it. It is not fitting that any one
should recover until he meets with faithlessness. Any one who is
cured by other means is not honestly in love. I could tell you
so much about this wound, if you were pleased to listen to it,
that I would not get through my tale to-day. But there would be
some one who would promptly say that I was telling you but an
idle tale; for people don't fall in love nowadays, nor do they
love as they used to do, so they do not care to hear of it. (28)
But hear now in what fashion and with what manner of hospitality
my lord Yvain was received. All those who were in the garden
leaped to their feet when they saw him come, and cried out: "This
way, fair sire. May you and all you love be blessed with all
that God can do or say." I know not if they were deceiving him,
but they receive him joyfully and act as if they are pleased that
he should be comfortably lodged. Even the lord's daughter serves
him very honourably, as one should treat a worthy guest. She
relieves him of all his arms, nor was it the least attention she
bestowed on him when she herself washed his neck and face. The
lord wishes that all honour should be shown him, as indeed they
do. She gets out from her wardrobe a folded shirt, white
drawers, needle and thread for his sleeves, which she sews on,
thus clothing him. (29) May God want now that this attention and
service may not prove too costly to him! She gave him a handsome
jacket to put on over his shirt, and about his neck she placed a
brand new spotted mantle of scarlet stuff. She takes such pains
to serve him well that he feels ashamed and embarrassed. But the
damsel is so courteous and open-hearted and polite that she feels
she is doing very little. And she knows well that it is her
mother's will that she shall leave nothing undone for him which
she thinks may win his gratitude. That night at table he was so
well served with so many dishes that there were too many. The
servants who brought in the dishes might well have been wearied
by serving them. That night they did him all manner of honour,
putting him comfortably to bed, and not once going near him again
after he had retired. His lion lay at his feet, as his custom
was. In the morning, when God lighted His great light for the
world, as early as was consistent in one who was always
considerate, my lord Yvain quickly arose, as did his damsel too.
They heard Mass in a chapel, where it was promptly said for them
in honour of the Holy Spirit.
(Vv. 5457-5770.) After the Mass my lord Yvain heard bad news,
when he thought the time had come for him to leave and that
nothing would stand in his way; but it could not be in accordance
with his wish. When he said: "Sire, if it be your will, and with
your permission, I am going now," the master of the house
replied: "Friend, I will not grant you permission yet. There is
a reason why I cannot do so, for there is established in this
castle a very terrible practice which I am bound to observe. I
shall now cause to approach two great, strong fellows of mine,
against whom, whether right or wrong, you must take arms. If you
can defend yourself against them, and conquer and slay them both,
my daughter desires you as her lord, and the suzerainty of this
town and all its dependencies awaits you." "Sire," said he, "for
all this I have no desire. So may God never bestow your daughter
upon me, but may she remain with you; for she is so fair and so
elegant that the Emperor of Germany would be fortunate to win her
as his wife." "No more, fair guest," the lord replied: "there is
no need of my listening to your refusal, for you cannot escape.
He who can defeat the two, who are about to attack you, must by
right receive my castle, and all my land, and my daughter as his
wife. There is no way of avoiding or renouncing the battle. But
I feel sure that your refusal of my daughter is due to cowardice,
for you think that in this manner you can completely avoid the
battle. Know, however, without fail that you must surely fight.
No knight who lodges here can possibly escape. This is a settled
custom and statute, which will endure yet for many a year, for my
daughter will never be married until I see them dead or
defeated." "Then I must fight them in spite of myself. But I
assure you that I should very gladly give it up. In spite of my
reluctance, however, I shall accept the battle, since it is
inevitable." Thereupon, the two hideous, black sons of the devil
come in, both armed with a crooked club of a cornelian cherrytree,
which they had covered with copper and wound with brass.
They were armed from the shoulders to the knees, but their head
and face were bare, as well as their brawny legs. Thus armed,
they advanced, bearing in their hands round shields, stout and
light for fighting. The lion begins to quiver as soon as he sees
them, for he sees the arms they have, and perceives that they
come to fight his master. He is aroused, and bristles up at
once, and, trembling with rage and bold impulse, he thrashes the
earth with his tail, desiring to rescue his master before they
kill him. And when they see him they say: "Vassal, remove the
lion from here that he may not do us harm. Either surrender to
us at once, or else, we adjure you, that lion must be put where
he can take no part in aiding you or in harming us. You must
come alone to enjoy our sport, for the lion would gladly help
you, if he could." My lord Yvain then replies to them: "Take him
away yourselves if you are afraid of him. For I shall be well
pleased and satisfied if he can contrive to injure you, and I
shall be grateful for his aid." They answer: "Upon my word that
will not do; you shall never receive any help from him. Do the
best you can alone, without the help of any one. You must fight
single-handed against us two. If you were not alone, it would be
two against two; so you must follow our orders, and remove your
lion from here at once, however much you may dislike to do so."
"Where do you wish him to be?" he asks, "or where do you wish me
to put him?" Then they show him a small room, and say: "Shut him
up in there." "It shall be done, since it is your will." Then
he takes him and shuts him up. And now they bring him arms for
his body, and lead out his horse, which they give to him, and he
mounts. The two champions, being now assured about the lion,
which is shut up in the room, come at him to injure him and do
him harm. They give him such blows with the maces that his
shield and helmet are of little use, for when they hit him on the
helmet they batter it in and break it; and the shield is broken
and dissolved like ice, for they make such holes in it that one
could thrust his fists through it: their onslaught is truly
terrible. And he--what does he do against these two devils?
Urged on by shame and fear, he defends himself with all his
strength. He strains every nerve, and exerts himself to deal
heavy, and telling blows; they lost nothing by his gifts, for he
returned their attentions with double measure. In his room, the
lion's heart is heavy and sad, for he remembers the kind deed
done for him by this noble man, who now must stand in great need
of his service and aid. If now he could escape from there, he
would return him the kindness with full measure and full bushel,
without any discount whatsoever. He looks about in all
directions, but sees no way of escape. He hears the blows of the
dangerous and desperate fight, and in his grief he rages and is
beside himself. He investigates, until he comes to the
threshold, which was beginning to grow rotten; and he scratches
at it until he can squeeze himself in as far as his haunches,
when he sticks fast. Meanwhile, my lord Yvain was hard pressed
and sweating freely, for he found that the two fellows were very
strong, fierce, and persistent. He had received many a blow, and
repaid it as best he could, but without doing them any harm, for
they were well skilled in fencing, and their shields were not of
a kind to be hacked by any sword, however sharp and well tempered
it might be. So my lord Yvain had good reason to fear his death,
yet he managed to hold his own until the lion extricated himself
by continued scratching beneath the threshold. If the rascals
are not killed now, surely they will never be. For so long as
the lion knows them to be alive, they can never obtain truce or
peace with him. He seizes one of them, and pulls him down to
earth like a tree-trunk. The wretches are terrified, and there
is not a man present who does not rejoice. For he whom the lion
has dragged down will never be able to rise again, unless the
other succours him. He runs up to bring him aid, and at the same
time to protect himself, lest the lion should attack him as soon
as he had despatched the one whom he had thrown down; he was more
afraid of the lion than of his master. But my lord Yvain will be
foolish now if he allows him longer life, when he sees him turn
his back, and sees his neck bare and exposed; this chance turned
out well for him. When the rascal exposed to him his bare head
and neck, he dealt him such a blow that he smote his head from
his shoulders so quietly that the fellow never knew a word about
it. Then he dismounts, wishing to help and save the other one
from the lion, who holds him fast. But it is of no use, for
already he is in such straits that a physician can never arrive
in time; for the lion, coming at him furiously, so wounded him at
the first attack, that he was in a dreadful state. Nevertheless,
he drags the lion back, and sees that he had torn his shoulder
from its place. He is in no fear of the fellow now, for his club
has fallen from his hand, and he lies like a dead man without
action or movement; still he has enough strength to speak, and he
said as clearly as he could: "Please take your lion away, fair
sire, that he may not do me further harm. Henceforth you may do
with me whatever may be your desire. Whoever begs and prays for
mercy, ought not to have his prayer refused, unless he addresses
a heartless man. I will no longer defend myself, nor will I ever
get up from here with my own strength; so I put myself in your
hands." "Speak out then," he says, "if thou dost admit that thou
art conquered and defeated." "Sire," he says, "it is evident. I
am defeated in spite of myself, and I surrender, I promise you."
"Then thou needest have no further fear of me, and my lion will
leave thee alone." Then he is surrounded by all the crowd, who
arrive on the scene in haste. And both the lord and his lady
rejoice over him, and embrace him, and speak to him of their
daughter, saying: "Now you will be the lord and master of us all,
and our daughter will be your wife, for we bestow her upon you as
your spouse." "And for my part," he says. "I restore her to you.
Let him who has her keep her. I have no concern with her, though
I say it not in disparagement. Take it not amiss if I do not
accept her, for I cannot and must not do so. But deliver to me
now, if you will, the wretched maidens in your possession. The
agreement, as you well know, is that they shall all go free."
"What you say is true," he says: "and I resign and deliver them
freely to you: there will be no dispute on that score. But you
will be wise to take my daughter with all my wealth, for she is
fair, and charming, and sensible. You will never find again such
a rich marriage as this." "Sire," he replies, "you do not know
of my engagements and my affairs, and I do not dare to explain
them to you. But, you may be sure, when I refuse what would
never be refused by any one who was free to devote his heart and
intentions to such a fair and charming girl, that I too would
willingly accept her hand if I could, or if I were free to accept
her or any other maid. But I assure you that I cannot do it: so
let me depart in peace. For the damsel, who escorted me hither,
is awaiting me. She has kept me company, and I would not
willingly desert her whatever the future may have in store."
"You wish to go, fair sire? But how? My gate will never be
opened for you unless my judgment bids me give the command;
rather shall you remain here as my prisoner. You are acting
haughtily and making a mistake when you disdain to take my
daughter at my request." "Disdain, my lord? Upon my soul, I do
not disdain her. Whatever the penalty may be, I cannot marry a
wife or tarry here. I shall follow the damsel who is my guide:
for otherwise it cannot be. But, with your consent, I will
pledge you my right hand, and you may take my word, that, just as
you see me now, I will return if possible, and then will accept
your daughter's hand, whenever it may seem good ro you."
"Confound any one," he says, "who asks you for your word or
promise or pledge. If my daughter pleases you, you will
return quickly enough. You will not return any sooner. I think,
for having given your word or sworn an oath. Begone now. I
release you from all oaths and promises. If you are detained by
rain or wind, or by nothing at all, it is of no consequence to
me. I do not hold my daughter so cheap as to bestow her upon you
forcibly. Now go about your business. For it is quite the same
to me whether you go or whether you stay."
(Vv. 5771-5871.) Thereupon my lord Yvain turns away and delays
no longer in the castle. He escorted the poor and ill-clad
wretches, who were now released from captivity, and whom the lord
committed to his care. These maidens feel that now they are
rich, as they file out in pairs before him from the castle. I do
not believe that they would rejoice so much as they do now were
He who created the whole world to descend to earth from Heaven.
Now all those people who had insulted him in every possible way
come to beseech him for mercy and peace, and escort him on his
way. He replies that he knows nothing of what they mean. "I do
not understand what you mean," he says; "but I have nothing
against you. I do not remember that you ever said anything that
harmed me." They are very glad for what they hear, and loudly
praise his courtesy, and after escorting him a long distance,
they all commend him to God. Then the damsels, after asking his
permission, separated from him. When they left him, they all
bowed to him, and prayed and expressed the wish that God might
grant him joy and health, and the accomplishment of his desire,
wherever in the future he should go. Then he, who is anxious to
be gone, says that he hopes God will save them all. "Go," he
says, "and may God conduct you into your countries safe and
happy." Then they continue their way joyfully; and my lord Yvain
departs in the other direction. All the days of that week he
never ceases to hurry on under the escort of the maid, who was
well acquainted with the road, and with the retired place where
she had left the unhappy and disconsolate damsel who had been
deprived of her inheritance. But when she heard news of the
arrival of the maiden and of the Knight with the Lion. There
never was such joy as she felt within her heart. For now she
thinks that, if she insists, her sister will cede her a part of
her inheritance. The damsel had long lain sick, and had just
recovered from her malady. It had seriously affected her, as was
apparent from her face. Straightway she went forth to meet them,
greeting them and honouring them in every way she could. There
is no need to speak of the happiness that prevailed that night in
the house. No mention will be made of it, for the story would be
too long to tell. I pass over all that, until they mounted next
morning and went away. They rode until they saw the town where
King Arthur had been staying for a fortnight or more. And there,
too, was the damsel who had deprived her sister of her heritage,
for she had kept close to the court, waiting for the arrival of
her sister, who now draws near. But she does not worry much, for
she does not think that her sister can find any knight who can
withstand my lord Gawain's attack, and only one day of the forty
yet remains. If this single day had passed, she would have had
the reasonable and legal right to claim the heritage for herself
alone. But more stands in the way than she thinks or believes.
That night they spent outside the town in a small and humble
house, where, in accordance with their desire, they were not
recognised. At the first sign of dawn the next morning they
necessarily issue forth, but ensconce themselves in hiding until
broad daylight.
(Vv. 5872-5924.) I know not how many days had passed since my
lord Gawain had so completely disappeared that no one at court
knew anything about him, except only the damsel in whose cause he
was to fight. He had concealed himself three or four leagues
from the court, and when he returned he was so equipped that even
those who knew him perfectly could not recognise him by the arms
he bore. The damsel, whose injustice toward her sister was
evident, presented him at court in the sight of all, for she
intended with his help to triumph in the dispute where she had no
rights. So she said to the King: "My lord, time passes. The
noon hour will soon be gone, and this is the last day. As you
see, I am prepared to defend my claim. If my sister were going
to return, there would be nothing to do but await her arrival.
But I may praise God that she is not coming back again. It is
evident that she cannot better her affairs, and that her trouble
has been for naught. For my part, I have been ready all the time
up to this last day, to prove my claim to what is mine. I have
proved my point entirely without a fight, and now I may
rightfully go to accept my heritage in peace; for I shall render
no accounting for it to my sister as long as I live, and she will
lead a wretched and miserable existence." Then the King, who
well knew that the damsel was disloyally unjust toward her
sister, said to her: "My dear, upon my word, in a royal court one
must wait as long as the king's justice sits and deliberates upon
the verdict. It is not yet time to pack up, for it is my belief
that your sister will yet arrive in time." Before the King had
finished, he saw the Knight with the Lion and the damsel with
him. They two were advancing alone, having slipped away from the
lion, who had stayed where they spent the night.
(Vv. 5925-5990.) The King saw the damsel whom he did not fail to
recognise, and he was greatly pleased and delighted to see her,
for he was on her side of the quarrel, because he had regard for
what was right. Joyfully he cried out to her as soon as he
could: "Come forward, fair one: may God save you!" When the
other sister hears these words, she turns trembling, and sees her
with the knight whom she had brought to defend in her claim: then
she turned blacker than the earth. The damsel, after being
kindly welcomed by all, went to where the King was sitting. When
she had come before him, she spoke to him thus: "God save the
King and his household. If my rights in this dispute can be
settled by a champion, then it will be done by this knight who
has followed me hither. This frank and courteous knight had many
other things to do elsewhere; but he felt such pity for me that
he cast aside all his other affairs for the sake of mine. Now,
madame, my very dear sister, whom I love as much as my own heart,
would do the right and courteous thing if she would let me have
so much of what is mine by right that there might be peace
between me and her; for I ask for nothing that is hers." "Nor do
I ask for anything that is thine," the other replied; "for thou
hast nothing, and nothing shalt thou have. Thou canst never talk
so much as to gain anything by thy words. Thou mayest dry up
with grief." Then the other, who was very polite and sensible
and courteous, replied with the words: "Certainly I am sorry that
two such gentlemen as these should fight on our behalf over so
small a disagreement. But I cannot disregard my claim, for I am
in too great need of it. So I should be much obliged to you if
you would give me what is rightly mine." "Surely," the other
said, "any one would be a fool to consider thy demands. May I
burn in evil fire and flame if I give thee anything to ease thy
life! The banks of the Seine will meet, and the hour of prime
will be called noon, before I refuse to carry out the fight."
"May God and the right, which I have in this cause, and in which
I trust and have trusted till the present time, aid him, who in
charity and courtesy has offered himself in my service, though he
knows not who I am, and though we are ignorant of each other's
(Vv. 5991-6148.) So they talked until their conversation ceased,
and then produced the knights in the middle of the court. Then
all the people crowd about, as people are wont to do when they
wish to witness blows in battle or in joust. But those who were
about to fight did not recognise each other, though their
relations were wont to be very affectionate. Then do they not
love each other now? I would answer you both "yes" and "no."
And I shall prove that each answer is correct. In truth, my lord
Gawain loves Yvain and regards him as his companion, and so does
Yvain regard him, wherever he may be. Even here, if he knew who
he was, he would make much of him, and either one of them would
lay down his head for the other before he would allow any harm to
come to him. Is not that a perfect and lofty love? Yes, surely.
But, on the other hand, is not their hate equally manifest? Yes;
for it is a certain thing that doubtless each would be glad to
have broken the other's head, and so to have injured him as to
cause his humiliation. Upon my word, it is a wondrous thing,
that Love and mortal Hate should dwell together. God! How can
two things so opposed find lodging in the same dwelling-place?
It seems to me they cannot live together; for one could not dwell
with the other, without giving rise to noise and contention, as
soon as each knew of the other's presence. But upon the groundfloor
there may be several apartments: for there are halls and
sleeping-rooms. It may be the same in this case: I think Love
had ensconced himself in some hidden room, while Hate had betaken
herself to the balconies looking on the high-road, because she
wishes to be seen. Just now Hate is in the saddle, and spurs and
pricks forward as she can, to get ahead of Love who is indisposed
to move. Ah! Love, what has become of thee? Come out now, and
thou shalt see what a host has been brought up and opposed to
thee by the enemies of thy friends. The enemies are these very
men who love each other with such a holy love for love, which is
neither false nor feigned, is a precious and a holy thing. In
this case Love is completely blind, and Hate, too, is deprived of
sight. For if Love had recognised these two men, he must have
forbidden each to attack the other, or to do any thing to cause
him harm. In this respect, then, Love is blind and discomfited
and beguiled; for, though he sees them, he fails to recognise
those who rightly belong to him. And though Hate is unable to
tell why one of them should hate the other, yet she tries to
engage them wrongfully, so that each hates the other mortally.
You know, of course, that he cannot be said to love a man who
would wish to harm him and see him dead. How then? Does Yvain
wish to kill his friend, my lord Gawain? Yes, and the desire is
mutual. Would, then, my lord Gawain desire to kill Yvain with
his own hands, or do even worse than I have said? Nay, not
really, I swear and protest. One would not wish to injure or
harm the other, in return for all that God has done for man, or
for all the empire of Rome. But this, in turn, is a lie of mine,
for it is plainly to be seen that, with lance raised high in
rest, each is ready to attack the other, and there will be no
restraint of the desire of each to wound the other with intent to
injure him and work him woe. Now tell me! When one will have
defeated the other, of whom can he complain who has the worst of
it? For if they go so far as to come to blows, I am very much
afraid that they will continue the battle and the strife until
victory be definitely decided. If he is defeated, will Yvain be
justified in saying that he has been harmed and wronged by a man
who counts him among his friends, and who has never mentioned him
but by the name of friend or companion? Or, if it comes about
perchance that Yvain should hurt him in turn, or defeat him in
any way, will Gawain have the right to complain? Nay, for he
will not know whose fault it is. In ignorance of each other's
identity, they both drew off and took their distance. At this
first shock, their lances break, though they were stout, and made
of ash. Not a word do they exchange, for if they had stopped to
converse their meeting would have been different. In that case,
no blow would have been dealt with lance or sword; they would
have kissed and embraced each other rather than sought each
other's harm. For now they attack each other with injurious
intent. The condition of the swords is not improved, nor that of
the helmets and shields, which are dented and split; and the
edges of the swords are nicked and dulled. For they strike each
other violently, not with the fiat of the swords, but with the
edge, and they deal such blows with the pommels upon the noseguards
and upon the neck, forehead and cheeks, that they are all
marked black and blue where the blood collects beneath the skin.
And their hauberks are so torn, and their shields so broken in
pieces, that neither one escaped without wounds. Their breath is
almost exhausted with the labour of the strife; they hammer away
at each other so lustily that every hyacinth and emerald set in
their helmets is crushed and smashed. For they give each other
such a battering with their pommels upon the helmets that they
are quite stunned, as they almost beat out each other's brains.
The eyes in their heads gleam like sparks, as, with stout square
fists, and strong nerves, and hard bones, they strike each other
upon the mouth as long as they can grip their swords, which are
of great service to them in dealing their heavy blows.
(Vv. 6149-6228.) When they had for a long time strained
themselves, until the helmets were crushed, and the hauberks'
meshes were torn apart with the hammering of the swords, and the
shields were split and cracked, they drew apart a little to give
their pulse a rest and to catch their breath again. However,
they do not long delay, but run at each other again more fiercely
than before. And all declare that they never saw two more
courageous knights. "This fight between them is no jest, but
they are in grim earnest. They will never be repaid for their
merits and deserts." The two friends, in their bitter struggle,
heard these words, and heard how the people were talking of
reconciling the two sisters; but they had no success in placating
the elder one. And the younger one said she would leave it to
the King, and would not gainsay him in anything. But the elder
one was so obstinate that even the Queen Guinevere and the
knights and the King and the ladies and the townspeople side with
the younger sister, and all join in beseeching the King to give
her a third or a fourth part of the land in spite of the elder
sister, and to separate the two knights who had displayed such
bravery, for it would be too bad if one should injure the other
or deprive him of any honour. And the King replied that he would
take no hand in making peace, for the elder sister is so cruel
that she has no desire for it. All these words were heard by the
two, who were attacking each other so bitterly that all were
astonished thereat; for the battle is waged so evenly that it is
impossible to judge which has the better and which the worse.
Even the two men themselves, who fight, and who are purchasing
honour with agony, are filled with amazement and stand aghast,
for they are so well matched in their attack, that each wonders
who it can be that withstands him with such bravery. They fight
so long that the day draws on to night, while their arms grow
weary and their bodies sore, and the hot, boiling blood flows
from many a spot and trickles down beneath their hauberks: they
are in such distress that it is no wonder if they wish to rest.
Then both withdraw to rest themselves, each thinking within
himself that, however long he has had to wait, he now at last has
met his match. For some time they thus seek repose, without
daring to resume the fight. They feel no further desire to
fight, because of the night which is growing dark, and because of
the respect they feel for each other's might. These two
considerations keep them apart, and urge them to keep the peace.
But before they leave the field they will discover each other's
identity, and joy and mercy will be established between them.
(Vv. 6229-6526.) My brave and courteous lord Yvain was the first
to speak. But his good friend was unable to recognise him by his
utterance; for he was prevented by his low tone and by his voice
which was hoarse, weak, and broken; for his blood was all stirred
up by the blows he had received. "My lord," he says, "the night
comes on! I think no blame or reproach will attach to us if the
night comes between us. But I am willing to admit, for my own
part, that I feel great respect and admiration for you, and never
in my life have I engaged in a battle which has made me smart so
much, nor did I ever expect to see a knight whose acquaintance I
should so yearn to make. You know well how to land your blows
and how to make good use of them: I have never known a knight who
was so skilled in dealing blows. It was against my will that I
received all the blows you have bestowed on me to-day; I am
stunned by the blows you have I struck upon my head." "Upon my
word," my lord Gawain replies, "you are not so stunned and faint
but that I am as much so, or more. And if I should tell you the
simple truth, I think you would not be loath to hear it, for if I
have lent you anything of mine, you have fully paid me back,
principal and interest; for you were more ready to pay back than
I was to accept the payment. But however that may be, since you
wish me to inform you of my name, it shall not be kept from you:
my name is Gawain the son of King Lot." As soon as my lord Yvain
heard that, he was amazed and sorely troubled; angry and griefstricken,
he cast upon the ground his bloody sword and broken
shield, then dismounted from his horse, and cried: "Alas, what
mischance is this! Through what unhappy ignorance in not
recognising each other have we waged this battle! For if I had
known who you were, I should never have fought with you; but,
upon my word, I should have surrendered without a blow." "How is
that?" my lord Gawain inquires, "who are you, then?" "I am
Yvain, who love you more than any man in the whole wide world,
for you have always been fond of me and shown me honour in every
court. But I wish to make you such amends and do you such honour
in this affair that I will confess myself to have been defeated."
"Will you do so much for my sake?" my gentle lord Gawain asks
him; "surely I should be presumptuous to accept any such amends
from you. This honour shall never be claimed as mine, but it
shall be yours, to whom I resign it." "Ah, fair sire, do not
speak so. For that could never be. I am so wounded and
exhausted that I cannot endure more." "Surely, you have no cause
to be concerned." his friend and companion replies; "but for my
part, I am defeated and overcome; I say it not as a compliment;
for there is no stranger in the world, to whom I would not say as
much, rather than receive any more blows." Thus saying, he got
down from his horse, and they threw their arms about each other's
neck, kissing each other, and each continuing to assert that it
is he who has met defeat. The argument is still in progress when
the King and the knights come running up from every side, at the
sight of their reconciliation; and great is their desire to hear
how this can be, and who these men are who manifest such
happiness. The King says: "Gentlemen, tell us now who it is that
has so suddenly brought about this friendship and harmony between
you two, after the hatred and strife there has been this day?"
Then his nephew, my lord Gawain, thus answers him: "My lord, you
shall be informed of the misfortune and mischance which have been
the cause of our strife. Since you have tarried in order to hear
and learn the cause of it, it is right to let you know the truth.
I, Gawain, who am your nephew, did not recognise this companion
of mine, my lord Yvain, until he fortunately, by the will of God,
asked me my name. After each had informed the other of his name,
we recognised each other, but not until we had fought it out.
Our struggle already has been long; and if we had fought yet a
little longer, it would have fared ill with me, for, by my head,
he would have killed me, what with his prowess and the evil cause
of her who chose me as her champion. But I would rather be
defeated than killed by a friend in battle." Then my lord
Yvain's blood was stirred, as he said to him in reply: "Fair dear
sire, so help me God, you have no right to say so much. Let my
lord, The King, well know in this battle I am surely the one who
has been defeated and overcome!" "I am the one" "No, I am."
Thus each cries out, and both are so honest and courteous that
each allows the victory and crown to be the other's prize, while
neither one of them will accept it. Thus each strives to
convince the King and all the people that he has been defeated
and overthrown. But when he had listened to them for a while,
the King terminated the dispute. He was well pleased with what
he heard and with the sight of them in each other's arms, though
they had wounded and injured each other in several places. "My
lords," he says, "there is deep affection between you two. You
give clear evidence of that, when each insists that it is he who
has been defeated. Now leave it all to me! For I think I can
arrange it in such a way that it will redound to your honour, and
every one will give consent." Then they both promised him that
they would do his will in every particular. And the King says
that he will decide the quarrel fairly and faithfully. "Where is
the damsel," he inquires, "who has ejected her sister from her
land, and has forcibly and cruelly disinherited her?" "My lord,"
she answers, "here I am." "Are you there? Then draw near to me!
I saw plainly some time ago that you were disinheriting her. But
her right shall no longer be denied; for you yourself have avowed
the truth to me. You must now resign her share to her." "Sire,"
she says, "if I uttered a foolish and thoughtless word, you ought
not to take me up in it. For God's sake, sire, do not be hard on
me! You are a king, and you ought to guard against wrong and
error." The King replies: "That is precisely why I wish to give
your sister her rights; for I have never defended what is wrong.
And you have surely heard how your knight and hers have left the
matter in my hands. I shall not say what is altogether pleasing
to you; for your injustice is well known. In his desire to
honour the other, each one says that he has been defeated. But
there is no need to delay further: since the matter has been left
to me, either you will do in all respects what I say, without
resistance, or I shall announce that my nephew has been defeated
in the fight. That would be the worst thing that could happen to
your cause, and I shall be sorry to make such a declaration." In
reality, he would not have said it for anything; but he spoke
thus in order to see if he could frighten her into restoring the
heritage to her sister; for he clearly saw that she never would
surrender anything to her for any words of his unless she was
influenced by force or fear. In fear and apprehension, she
replied to him: "Fair lord, I must now respect your desire,
though my heart is very loath to yield. Yet, however hard it may
go with me, I shall do it, and my sister shall have what belongs
to her. I give her your own person as a pledge of her share in
my inheritance, in order that she may be more assured of it."
"Endow her with it, then, at once," the King replies; "let her
receive it from your hands, and let her vow fidelity to you! Do
you love her as your vassal, and let her love you as her
sovereign lady and as her sister." Thus the King conducts the
affair until the damsel takes possession of her land, and offers
her thanks to him for it. Then the King asked the valiant and
brave knight who was his nephew to allow himself to be disarmed;
and he requested my lord Yvain to lay aside his arms also; for
now they may well dispense with them. Then the two vassals lay
aside their arms and separate on equal terms. And while they are
taking off their armour, they see the lion running up in search
of his master. As soon as he catches sight of him, he begins to
show his joy. Then you would have seen people draw aside, and
the boldest among them takes to flight. My lord Yvain cries out:
"Stand still, all! Why do you flee? No one is chasing you.
Have no fear that yonder lion will do you harm. Believe me,
please, when I say that he is mine, and I am his, and we are both
companions." Then it was known of a truth by all those who had
heard tell of the adventures of the lion and of his companion
that this must be the very man who had killed the wicked giant.
And my lord Gawain said to him: "Sir companion, so help me God,
you have overwhelmed me with shame this day. I did not deserve
the service that you did me in killing the giant to save my
nephews and my niece. I have been thinking about you for some
time, and I was troubled because it was said that we were
acquainted as loving friends. I have surely thought much upon
the subject: but I could not hit upon the truth, and had never
heard of any knight that I had known in any land where I had
been, who was called `The Knight with the Lion.'" While they
chatted thus they took their armour off, and the lion came with
no slow step to the place where his master sat, and showed such
joy as a dumb beast could. Then the two knights had to be
removed to a sick-room and infirmary, for they needed a doctor
and piaster to cure their wounds. King Arthur, who loved them
well, had them both brought before him, and summoned a surgeon
whose knowledge of surgery was supreme. He exercised his art in
curing them, until he had healed their wounds as well and as
quickly as possible. When he had cured them both, my lord Yvain.
who had his heart set fast on love, saw clearly that he could not
live, but that he finally would die unless his lady took pity
upon him; for he was dying for love of her; so he thought he
would go away from the court alone, and would go to fight at the
spring that belonged to her, where he would cause such a storm of
wind and rain that she would be compelled perforce to make peace
with him; otherwise, there would be no end to the disturbance of
the spring, and to the rain and wind.
(Vv. 6527-6658.) As soon as my lord Yvain felt that he was cured
and sound again, he departed without the knowledge of any one.
But he had with him his lion, who never in his life wished to
desert him. They travelled until they saw the spring and made
the rain descend. Think not that this is a lie of mine, when I
tell you that the disturbance was so violent that no one could
tell the tenth part of it: for it seemed as if the whole forest
must surely be engulfed. The lady fears for her town, lest it,
too, will crumble away; the walls totter, and the tower rocks so
that it is on the verge of falling down. The bravest Turk would
rather be a captive in Persia than be shut up within those walls.
The people are so stricken with terror that they curse all their
ancestors, saying: "Confounded be the man who first constructed a
house in this neighbourhood, and all those who built this town!
For in the wide world they could not have found so detestable a
spot, for a single man is able here to invade and worry and harry
us." "You must take counsel in this matter, my lady," says
Lunete; "you will find no one who will undertake to aid you in
this time of need unless you seek for him afar. In the future we
shall never be secure in this town, nor dare to pass beyond the
walls and gate. You know full well that, were some one to summon
together all your knights for this cause, the best of them would
not dare to step forward. If it is true that you have no one to
defend your spring, you will appear ridiculous and humiliated.
It will redound greatly to your honour, forsooth, if he who has
attacked you shall retire without a fight! Surely you are in a
bad predicament if you do not devise some other plan to benefit
yourself." The lady replies: "Do thou, who art so wise, tell me
what plan I can devise, and I will follow thy advice." "Indeed,
lady, if I had any plan, I should gladly propose it to you. But
you have great need of a wiser counsellor. So I shall certainly
not dare to intrude, and in common with the others I shall endure
the rain and wind until, if it please God, I shall see some
worthy man appear here in your court who will assume the
responsibility and burden of the battle; but I do not believe
that that will happen to-day, and we have not yet seen the worst
of your urgent need." Then the lady replies at once: "Damsel,
speak now of something else! Say no more of the people of my
household; for I cherish no further expectation that the spring
and its marble brim will ever be defended by any of them. But,
if it please God, let us hear now what is your opinion and plan;
for people always say that in time of need one can test his
friend." (30) "My lady, if there is any one who thinks he could
find him who slew the giant and defeated the three knights, he
would do well to go to search for him. But so long as he shall
incur the enmity, wrath, and displeasure of his lady, I fancy
there is not under heaven any man or woman whom he would follow,
until he had been assured upon oath that everything possible
would be done to appease the hostility which his lady feels for
him, and which is so bitter that he is dying of the grief and
anxiety it causes him." And the lady said: "Before you enter
upon the quest, I am prepared to promise you upon my word and to
swear that, if he will return to me, I will openly and frankly do
all I can to bring about his peace of mind." Then Lunete replies
to her: "Lady, have no fear that you cannot easily effect his
reconciliation, when once it is your desire to do so; but, if you
do not object, I will take your oath before I start." "I have no
objection," the lady says. With delicate courtesy, Lunete
procured at once for her a very precious relic, and the lady fell
upon her knees. Thus Lunete very courteously accepted her upon
her oath. In administering the oath, she forgot nothing which it
might be an advantage to insert. "Lady," she says, "now raise
your hand! I do not wish that the day after to-morrow you should
lay any charge upon me; for you are not doing anything for me,
but you are acting for your own good. If you please now, you
shall swear that you will exert yourself in the interests of the
Knight with the Lion until he recover his lady's love as
completely as he ever possessed it." The lady then raised her
right hand and said: "I swear to all that thou hast said, so help
me God and His holy saint, that my heart may never fail to do all
within my power. If I have the strength and ability, I will
restore to him the love and favour which with his lady he once
(Vv. 6659-6716.) Lunete has now done well her work; there was
nothing which she had desired so much as the object which she had
now attained. They had already got out for her a palfrey with an
easy pace. Gladly and in a happy frame of mind Lunete mounts and
rides away, until she finds beneath the pine-tree him whom she
did not expect to find so near at hand. Indeed, she had thought
that she would have to seek afar before discovering him. As soon
as she saw him, she recognised him by the lion, and coming toward
him rapidly, she dismounted upon the solid earth. And my lord
Yvain recognised her as soon as he saw her, and greeted her, as
she saluted him with the words: "Sire, I am very happy to have
found you so near at hand." And my lord Yvain said in reply:
"How is that? Were you looking for me, then?" "Yes, sire, and
in all my life I have never felt so glad, for I have made my
mistress promise, if she does not go back upon her word, that she
will be again your lady as was once the case, and that you shall
be her lord; this truth I make bold to tell." My lord Yvain was
greatly elated at the news he hears, and which he had never
expected to hear again. He could not sufficiently show his
gratitude to her who had accomplished this for him. He kisses
her eyes, and then her face, saying: "Surely, my sweet friend, I
can never repay you for this service. I fear that ability and
time will fail me to do you the honour and service which is your
due." "Sire, she replies, "have no concern, and let not that
thought worry you! For you will have an abundance of strength
and time to show me and others your good will. If I have paid
this debt I owed, I am entitled to only so much gratitude as the
man who borrows another's goods and then discharges the
obligation. Even now I do not consider that I have paid you the
debt I owed." "Indeed you have, as God sees me, more than five
hundred thousand times. Now, when you are ready, let us go. But
have you told her who I am?" "No, I have not, upon my word. She
knows you only by the name of `The Knight with the Lion.'"
(Vv. 6717-6758.) Thus conversing they went along, with the lion
following after them, until they all three came to the town.
They said not a word to any man or woman there, until they
arrived where the lady was. And the lady was greatly pleased as
soon as she heard that the damsel was approaching, and that she
was bringing with her the lion and the knight, whom she was very
anxious to meet and know and see. All clad in his arms, my lord
Yvain fell at her feet upon his knees, while Lunete, who was
standing by, said to her: "Raise him up, lady, and apply all your
efforts and strength and skill in procuring that peace and pardon
which no one in the world, except you, can secure for him." Then
the lady bade him rise, and said: "He may dispose of all my
power! I shall be very happy, if possible, to accomplish his
wish and his desire." "Surely, my lady," Lunete replied, "I
would not say it if it were not true. But all this is even more
possible for you than I have said: but now I will tell you the
whole truth, and you shall see: you never had and you never will
have such a good friend as this gentleman. God, whose will it is
that there should be unending peace and love between you and him,
has caused me to find him this day so near at hand. In order to
test the truth of this, I have only one thing to say: lady,
dismiss the grudge you bear him! For he has no other mistress
than you. This is your husband, my lord Yvain."
(Vv. 6759-6776.) The lady, trembling at these words, replied:
"God save me! You have caught me neatly in a trap! You will
make me love, in spite of myself, a man who neither loves nor
esteems me. This is a fine piece of work, and a charming way of
serving me! I would rather endure the winds and the tempests all
my life: And if it were not a mean and ugly thing to break one's
word, he would never make his peace or be reconciled with me.
This purpose would have always lurked within me, as a fire
smoulders in the ashes; but I do not wish to renew it now, nor do
I care to refer to it, since I must be reconciled with him."
(Vv. 6777-6798.) My lord Yvain hears and understands that his
cause is going well, and that he will be peacefully reconciled
with her. So he says: "Lady, one ought to have mercy on a
sinner. I have had to pay, and dearly to pay, for my mad act.
It was madness that made me stay away, and I now admit my guilt
and sin. I have been bold, indeed, in daring to present myself
to you; but if you will deign to keep me now, I never again shall
do you any wrong." She replied: "I will surely consent to that;
for if I did not do all I could to establish peace between you
and me, I should be guilty of perjury. So, if you please, I
grant your request." "Lady," says he, "so truly as God in this
mortal life could not otherwise restore me to happiness, so may
the Holy Spirit bless me five hundred times!"
(Vv. 6799-6813.) Now my lord Yvain is reconciled, and you may
believe that, in spite of the trouble he has endured, he was
never so happy for anything. All has turned out well at last;
for he is beloved and treasured by his lady, and she by him. His
troubles no longer are in his mind; for he forgets them all in
the joy he feels with his precious wife. And Lunete, for her
part, is happy too: all her desires are satisfied when once she
had made an enduring peace between my polite lord Yvain and his
sweetheart so dear and so elegant.
(Vv. 6814-6818.) Thus Chretien concludes his romance of the
Knight with the Lion; for I never heard any more told of it, nor
will you ever hear any further particulars, unless some one
wishes to add some lies.
NOTE: Endnotes supplied by Prof. Foerster are indicated by
"(F.)"; all other endnotes are supplied by W.W. Comfort.
(1) "cele feste, qui tant coste,
Qu'an doit clamer la pantecoste."
This rhyme is frequently met in mediaeval narrative poems.
(2) The contemporary degeneracy of lovers and of the art of love
is a favourite theme of mediaeval poets.
(3) Cf. "Roman de la Rose", 9661, for the stinking manure pit.
(4) The forest of Broceliande is in Brittany, and in it Chretien
places the marvellous spring of Barenton, of which we read
in the sequel. In his version the poet forgets that the sea
separates the court at Carduel from the forest of
Broceliande. His readers, however, probably passed over
this "lapsus". The most famous passage relating to this
forest and its spring is found in Wace, "Le Roman de Rou et
des dues de Normandie", vv. 6395-6420, 2 vols. (Heilbronn,
1877-79). Cf. further the informing note by W.L. Holland,
"Chretien von Troies", p. 152 f. (Tubingen, 1854).
(5) This grotesque portrait of the "vilain" is perfectly
conventional in aristocratic poetry, and is also applied to
some Saracens in the epic poems. Cf. W.W. Comfort in "Pub.
of the Modern Language Association of America", xxi. 494 f.,
and in "The Dublin Review", July 1911.
(6) For the description of the magic fountain, cf. W.A. Nitze,
"The Fountain Defended" in "Modern Philology", vii. 145-164;
G.L. Hamilton, "Storm-making Springs", etc., in "Romantic
Review", ii. 355-375; A.F. Grimme in "Germania", xxxiii. 38;
O.M. Johnston in "Transactions and Proceedings of the
American Philological Association", xxxiii., p. lxxxiii. f.
(7) Eugen Kolbing, "Christian von Troyes Yvain und die
Brandanuslegende" in "Ztsch. fur vergleichende
Literaturgeschichte" (Neue Folge, xi. Brand, 1897), pp. 442-
448, has pointed out other striking allusions in the Latin
"Navigatio S. Brandans" (ed. Wahlund, Upsala, 1900) and
elsewhere in Celtic legend to trees teeming with singing
birds, in which the souls of the blessed are incorporated.
A more general reference to trees, animated by the souls of
the dead, is found in J.G. Frazer, "The Golden Bough" (2nd
ed. 1900), vol. I., p. 178 f.
(8) Cf. A. Tobler in "Ztsch. fur romanische Philologie", iv. 80-
85, who gives many other instances of boasting after meals.
See next note.
(9) Noradin is the Sultan Nureddin Mahmud (reigned 1146-1173), a
contemporary of the poet; Forre is a legendary Saracen king
of Naples, mentioned in the epic poems (cf. E. Langlois,
"Table des noms propres de toute nature compris dans les
chansons de geste", Paris, 1904; Albert Counson, "Noms
epiques entres dans le vocabulaire commun" in "Romanische
Forschungen", xxiii. 401-413). These names are mentioned
here in connection with the brave exploits which Christian
knights, while in their cups, may boast that they will
accomplish (F.). This practice of boasting was called
indulging in "gabs" (=Eng. "gab"), a good instance of which
will be found in "Le Voyage de Charlemagne a Jeruslaem" (ed.
Koschwitz), v. 447 ff.
(10) It is evident in this passage that Chretien's version is not
clear; the reader cannot be sure in what sort of an
apartment Yvain is secreted. The passage is perfectly
clear, however, in the Welsh "Owein", as shown by A.C.L.
Brown in "Romanic Review", iii. 143-172, "On the Independent
Character of the Welsh `Owain'", where he argues
convincingly for an original older than either the extant
French of Welsh versions.
(11) The damsel's surprise and fright at the sight of Yvain,
which puzzled Professor Foerster, is satisfactorily
explained by J. Acher in "Ztsch. fur franzosische Sprache
und Literatur", xxxv. 150.
(12) For magic rings, cf. A. Hertel, "Verzauberte
Oertlichkeiten", etc. (Hanover, 1908); D.B. Easter, "The
Magic Elements in the romans d'aventure and the romans
bretons" (Baltimore, 1906).
(13) Much has been written on the widespread belief that a dead
person's wounds would bleed afresh in the presence of his
murderer. The passage in our text is interesting as being
the earliest literary reference to the belief. Other
instances will be found in Shakespear ("King Richard III.,
Act. I., Sc. 2), Cervantes ("Don Quixote"), Scott
("Ballads"), and Schiller ("Braut von Messina"). In the
15th and 16th centuries especially, the bleeding of the dead
became in Italy, Germany, France, and Spain an absolute or
contributory proof of guilt in the eyes of the law. The
suspected culprit might be subjected to this ordeal as part
of the inquisitional method to determine guilt. For
theories of the origin of this belief and of its use in
legal trials, as well as for more extended bibliography, cf.
Karl Lehmann in "Germanistische Abhandlungen fur Konrad von
Maurer" (Gottingen, 1893), pp. 21-45; C.V. Christensen,
"Baareproven" (Copenhagen, 1900).
(14) W.L. Holland in his note for this passage recalls Schiller's
"Jungfrau von Orleans", Act III. Sc. 7, and Shakespeare,
first part of "King Henry IV.", Act V. Sc. 4:
"When that this body did contain a spirit,
A kingdom for it was too small a bound;
But now two paces of the vilest earth
Is room enough."
(15) Foerster regards this excuse for Kay's defeat as ironical.
(16) It is hoped that the following passage may have retained in
the translation some of the gay animation which clothes this
description of a royal entry into a mediaeval town.
(17) This idea forms the dominating motive, it will be recalled,
in "Erec et Enide" (cf. note to "Erec", v. 2576).
(18) The parallel between Yvain's and Roland's madness will occur
to readers of Ariosto's "Orlando Furioso", though in the
former case Yvain's madness seems to be rather a retribution
for his failure to keep his promise, while Roland's madness
arises from excess of love.
(19) Argonne is the name of a hilly and well-wooded district in
the north-east of France, lying between the Meuse and the
(20) An allusion to the well-known epic tradition embodied in the
"Chanson de Roland". It was common for mediaeval poets to
give names to both the horses and the swords of their
(21) For the faithful lion in the Latin bestiaries and mediaeval
romances, see the long note of W.L. Holland, "Chretien von
Troies" (Tubingen, 1854), p. 161 f., and G. Baist in
Zeitschrift fur romanische Philologie, xxi. 402-405. To the
examples there cited may be added the episodes in "Octavian"
(15th century), published in the "Romanische Bibliothek"
(Heilbronn, 1883).
(22) This is the first of three references in this poem to the
abduction of Guinevere as fully narrated in the poem of
"Lancelot". The other references are in v. 3918 and v.4740
(23) Yvain here states the theory of the judicial trial by
combat. For another instance see "Lancelot", v. 4963 f.
Cf. M. Pfeffer in "Ztsch. fur romanische Philogie", ix. 1-
74, and L. Jordan, id. Xxix. 385-401.
(24) A similar description of a distressed damsel wandering at
night in a forest is found in "Berte aus grans pies", by
Adenet le Roi (13th century).
(25) The lion is forgotten for the moment, but will appear again
v. 5446. (F.)
(26) This entire passage belongs in the catagory of widespread
myths which tell of a tribute of youths or maidens paid to
some cruel monster, from which some hero finally obtains
deliverance. Instances are presented in the adventures of
Theseus and Tristan.
(27) The old French monetary table was as follows:
10 as = 1 denier; 12 deniers = 1 sol; 20 sous = 1 livre
(28) It appears to be the poet's prerogative in all epochs of
social history to bemoan the degeneracy of true love in his
own generation.
(29) The sleeves of shirts were detachable, and were sewed on
afresh when a clean garment was put on. (F.)
(30) This was an axiom of feudal society, and occurs more
frequently in feudal literature than any other statement of
mediaeval social relations.
or, The Knight of the Cart
(Vv. 1-30.) Since my lady of Champagne wishes me to undertake to
write a romance, (1) I shall very gladly do so, being so devoted
to her service as to do anything in the world for her, without
any intention of flattery. But if one were to introduce any
flattery upon such an occasion, he might say, and I would
subscribe to it, that this lady surpasses all others who are
alive, just as the south wind which blows in May or April is more
lovely than any other wind. But upon my word, I am not one to
wish to flatter my lady. I will simply say: "The Countess is
worth as many queens as a gem is worth of pearls and sards." Nay
I shall make no comparison, and yet it is true in spite of me; I
will say, however, that her command has more to do with this work
than any thought or pains that I may expend upon it. Here
Chretien begins his book about the Knight of the Cart. The
material and the treatment of it are given and furnished to him
by the Countess, and he is simply trying to carry out her concern
and intention. Here he begins the story.
(Vv. 31-172.) Upon a certain Ascension Day King Arthur had come
from Caerleon, and had held a very magnificent court at Camelot
as was fitting on such a day. (2) After the feast the King did
not quit his noble companions, of whom there were many in the
hall. The Queen was present, too, and with her many a courteous
lady able to converse in French. And Kay, who had furnished the
meal, was eating with the others who had served the food. While
Kay was sitting there at meat, behold there came to court a
knight, well equipped and fully armed, and thus the knight
appeared before the King as he sat among his lords. He gave him
no greeting, but spoke out thus: "King Arthur, I hold in
captivity knights, ladies, and damsels who belong to thy dominion
and household; but it is not because of any intention to restore
them to thee that I make reference to them here; rather do I wish
to proclaim and serve thee notice that thou hast not the strength
or the resources to enable thee to secure them again. And be
assured that thou shalt die before thou canst ever succour them."
The King replies that he must needs endure what he has not the
power to change; nevertheless, he is filled with grief. Then the
knight makes as if to go away, and turns about, without tarrying
longer before the King; but after reaching the door of the hall,
he does not go down the stairs, but stops and speaks from there
these words: "King, if in thy court there is a single knight in
whom thou hast such confidence that thou wouldst dare to entrust
to him the Queen that he might escort her after me out into the
woods whither I am going, I will promise to await him there, and
will surrender to thee all the prisoners whom I hold in exile in
my country if he is able to defend the Queen and if he succeeds
in bringing her back again." Many who were in the palace heard
this challenge, and the whole court was in an uproar. Kay, too,
heard the news as he sat at meat with those who served. Leaving
the table, he came straight to the King, and as if greatly
enraged, he began to say: "O King, I have served thee long,
faithfully, and loyally; now I take my leave, and shall go away,
having no desire to serve thee more." The King was grieved at
what he heard, and as soon as he could, he thus replied to him:
"Is this serious, or a joke?" And Kay replied: "O King, fair
sire, I have no desire to jest, and I take my leave quite
seriously. No other reward or wages do I wish in return for the
service I have given you. My mind is quite made up to go away
immediately." "Is it in anger or in spite that you wish to go?"
the King inquired; "seneschal, remain at court, as you have done
hitherto, and be assured that I have nothing in the world which I
would not give you at once in return for your consent to stay."
"Sire," says Kay, "no need of that. I would not accept for each
day's pay a measure of fine pure gold." Thereupon, the King in
great dismay went off to seek the Queen. "My lady," he says,
"you do not know the demand that the seneschal makes of me. He
asks me for leave to go away, and says he will no longer stay at
court; the reason of this I do not know. But he will do at your
request what he will not do for me. Go to him now, my lady dear.
Since he will not consent to stay for my sake, pray him to remain
on your account, and if need be, fall at his feet, for I should
never again be happy if I should lose his company." (3) The King
sends the Queen to the seneschal, and she goes to him. Finding
him with the rest, she went up to him, and said: "Kay, you may be
very sure that I am greatly troubled by the news I have heard of
you. I am grieved to say that I have been told it is your
intention to leave the King. How does this come about? What
motive have you in your mind? I cannot think that you are so
sensible or courteous as usual. I want to ask you to remain:
stay with us here, and grant my prayer." "Lady," he says, "I
give you thanks; nevertheless, I shall not remain." The Queen
again makes her request, and is joined by all the other knights.
And Kay informs her that he is growing tired of a service which
is unprofitable. Then the Queen prostrates herself at full
length before his feet. Kay beseeches her to rise, but she says
that she will never do so until he grants her request. Then Kay
promises her to remain, provided the King and she will grant in
advance a favour he is about to ask. "Kay," she says, "he will
grant it, whatever it may be. Come now, and we shall tell him
that upon this condition you will remain." So Kay goes away with
the Queen to the King's presence. The Queen says: "I have had
hard work to detain Kay; but I have brought him here to you with
the understanding that you will do what he is going to ask." The
King sighed with satisfaction, and said that he would perform
whatever request he might make.
(Vv. 173-246.) "Sire," says Kay, "hear now what I desire, and
what is the gift you have promised me. I esteem myself very
fortunate to gain such a boon with your consent. Sire, you have
pledged your word that you would entrust to me my lady here, and
that we should go after the knight who awaits us in the forest."
Though the King is grieved, he trusts him with the charge, for he
never went back upon his word. But it made him so ill-humoured
and displeased that it plainly showed in his countenance. The
Queen, for her part, was sorry too, and all those of the
household say that Kay had made a proud, outrageous, and mad
request. Then the King took the Queen by the hand, and said: "My
lady, you must accompany Kay without making objection." And Kay
said: "Hand her over to me now, and have no fear, for I shall
bring her back perfectly happy and safe." The King gives her
into his charge, and he takes her off. After them all the rest
go out, and there is not one who is not sad. You must know that
the seneschal was fully armed, and his horse was led into the
middle of the courtyard, together with a palfrey, as is fitting,
for the Queen. The Queen walked up to the palfrey, which was
neither restive nor hard-mouthed. Grieving and sad, with a sigh
the Queen mounts, saying to herself in a low voice, so that no
one could hear: "Alas, alas, if you only knew it, I am sure you
would never allow me without interference to be led away a step."
(4) She thought she had spoken in a very low tone; but Count
Guinable heard her, who was standing by when she mounted. When
they started away, as great a lament was made by all the men and
women present as if she already lay dead upon a bier. They do
not believe that she will ever in her life come back. The
seneschal in his impudence takes her where that other knight is
awaiting her. But no one was so much concerned as to undertake
to follow him; until at last my lord Gawain thus addressed the
King his uncle: "Sire," he says, "you have done a very foolish
thing, which causes me great surprise; but if you will take my
advice, while they are still near by, I and you will ride after
them, and all those who wish to accompany us. For my part, I
cannot restrain myself from going in pursuit of them at once. It
would not be proper for us not to go after them, at least far
enough to learn what is to become of the Queen, and how Kay is
going to comport himself." "Ah, fair nephew," the King replied,
"you have spoken courteously. And since you have undertaken the
affair, order our horses to be led out bridled and saddled that
there may be no delay in setting out."
(Vv. 247-398.) The horses are at once brought out, all ready and
with the saddles on. First the King mounts, then my lord Gawain,
and all the others rapidly. Each one, wishing to be of the
party, follows his own will and starts away. Some were armed,
but there were not a few without their arms. My lord Gawain was
armed, and he bade two squires lead by the bridle two extra
steeds. And as they thus approached the forest, they saw Kay's
horse running out; and they recognised him, and saw that both
reins of the bridle were broken. The horse was running wild, the
stirrup-straps all stained with blood, and the saddle-bow was
broken and damaged. Every one was chagrined at this, and they
nudged each other and shook their heads. My lord Gawain was
riding far in advance of the rest of the party, and it was not
long before he saw coming slowly a knight on a horse that was
sore, painfully tired, and covered with sweat. The knight first
saluted my lord Gawain, and his greeting my lord Gawain returned.
Then the knight, recognising my lord Gawain, stopped and thus
spoke to him: "You see, sir, my horse is in a sweat and in such
case as to be no longer serviceable. I suppose that those two
horses belong to you now, with the understanding that I shall
return the service and the favour, I beg you to let me have one
or the other of them, either as a loan or outright as a gift."
And he answers him: "Choose whichever you prefer." Then he who
was in dire distress did not try to select the better or the
fairer or the larger of the horses, but leaped quickly upon the
one which was nearer to him, and rode him off. Then the one he
had just left fell dead, for he had ridden him hard that day, so
that he was used up and overworked. The knight without delay
goes pricking through the forest, and my lord Gawain follows in
pursuit of him with all speed, until he reaches the bottom of a
hill. And when he had gone some distance, he found the horse
dead which he had given to the knight, and noticed that the
ground had been trampled by horses, and that broken shields and
lances lay strewn about, so that it seemed that there had been a
great combat between several knights, and he was very sorry and
grieved not to have been there. However, he did not stay there
long, but rapidly passed on until he saw again by chance the
knight all alone on foot, completely armed, with helmet laced,
shield hanging from his neck, and with his sword girt on. He had
overtaken a cart. In those days such a cart served the same
purpose as does a pillory now; and in each good town where there
are more than three thousand such carts nowadays, in those times
there was only one, and this, like our pillories, had to do
service for all those who commit murder or treason, and those who
are guilty of any delinquency, and for thieves who have stolen
others' property or have forcibly seized it on the roads.
Whoever was convicted of any crime was placed upon a cart and
dragged through all the streets, and he lost henceforth all his
legal rights, and was never afterward heard, honoured, or
welcomed in any court. The carts were so dreadful in those days
that the saying was then first used: "When thou dost see and meet
a cart, cross thyself and call upon God, that no evil may befall
thee." The knight on foot, and without a lance, walked behind
the cart, and saw a dwarf sitting on the shafts, who held, as a
driver does, a long goad in his hand. Then he cries out: "Dwarf,
for God's sake, tell me now if thou hast seen my lady, the Queen,
pass by here." The miserable, low-born dwarf would not give him
any news of her, but replied: "If thou wilt get up into the cart
I am driving thou shalt hear to-morrow what has happened to the
Queen." Then he kept on his way without giving further heed.
The knight hesitated only for a couple of steps before getting
in. Yet, it was unlucky for him that he shrank from the
disgrace, and did not jump in at once; for he will later rue his
delay. But common sense, which is inconsistent with love's
dictates, bids him refrain from getting in, warning him and
counselling him to do and undertake nothing for which he may reap
shame and disgrace. Reason, which dares thus speak to him,
reaches only his lips, but not his heart; but love is enclosed
within his heart, bidding him and urging him to mount at once
upon the cart. So he jumps in, since love will have it so,
feeling no concern about the shame, since he is prompted by
love's commands. And my lord Gawain presses on in haste after
the cart, and when he finds the knight sitting in it, his
surprise is great. "Tell me," he shouted to the dwarf, "if thou
knowest anything of the Queen." And he replied: "If thou art so
much thy own enemy as is this knight who is sitting here, get in
with him, if it be thy pleasure, and I will drive thee along with
him." When my lord Gawain heard that, he considered it great
foolishness, and said that he would not get in, for it would be
dishonourable to exchange a horse for a cart: "Go on, and
wherever thy journey lies, I will follow after thee."
(Vv. 399-462.) Thereupon they start ahead, one mounted on his
horse, the other two riding in the cart, and thus they proceed in
company. Late in the afternoon they arrive at a town, which, you
must know, was very rich and beautiful. All three entered
through the gate; the people are greatly amazed to see the knight
borne upon the cart, and they take no pains to conceal their
feelings, but small and great and old and young shout taunts at
him in the streets, so that the knight hears many vile and
scornful words at his expense. (5) They all inquire: "To what
punishment is this knight to be consigned? Is he to be rayed, or
hanged, or drowned, or burned upon a fire of thorns? Tell us,
thou dwarf, who art driving him, in what crime was he caught? Is
he convicted of robbery? Is he a murderer, or a criminal?" And
to all this the dwarf made no response, vouchsafing to them no
reply. He conducts the knight to a lodging-place; and Gawain
follows the dwarf closely to a tower, which stood on the same
level over against the town. Beyond there stretched a meadow,
and the tower was built close by, up on a lofty eminence of rock,
whose face formed a sharp precipice. Following the horse and
cart, Gawain entered the tower. In the hall they met a damsel
elegantly attired, than whom there was none fairer in the land,
and with her they saw coming two fair and charming maidens. As
soon as they saw my lord Gawain, they received him joyously and
saluted him, and then asked news about the other knight: "Dwarf,
of what crime is this knight guilty, whom thou dost drive like a
lame man?" He would not answer her question, but he made the
knight get out of the cart, and then he withdrew, without their
knowing whither he went. Then my lord Gawain dismounts, and
valets come forward to relieve the two knights of their armour.
The damsel ordered two green mantles to be brought, which they
put on. When the hour for supper came, a sumptuous repast was
set. The damsel sat at table beside my lord Gawain. They would
not have changed their lodging-place to seek any other, for all
that evening the damsel showed them gear honour, and provided
them with fair and pleasant company.
(Vv. 463-538.) When they had sat up long enough, two long, high
beds were prepared in the middle of the hall; and there was
another bed alongside, fairer and more splendid than the rest;
for, as the story testifies, it possessed all the excellence that
one could think of in a bed. When the time came to retire, the
damsel took both the guests to whom she had offered her
hospitality; she shows them the two fine, long, wide beds, and
says: "These two beds are set up here for the accommodation of
your bodies; but in that one yonder no one ever lay who did not
merit it: it was not set up to be used by you." The knight who
came riding on the cart replies at once: "Tell me, he says, "for
what cause this bed is inaccessible." Being thoroughly informed
of this, she answers unhesitatingly: "It is not your place to ask
or make such an inquiry. Any knight is disgraced in the land
after being in a cart, and it is not fitting that he should
concern himself with the matter upon which you have questioned
me; and most of all it is not right that he should lie upon the
bed, for he would soon pay dearly for his act. So rich a couch
has not been prepared for you, and you would pay dearly for ever
harbouring such a thought." He replies: "You will see about that
presently." .... "Am I to see it?" .... "Yes." .... "It will soon
appear." .... "By my head," the knight replies, "I know not who
is to pay the penalty. But whoever may object or disapprove, I
intend to lie upon this bed and repose there at my ease." Then
he at once disrobed in the bed, which was long and raised half an
ell above the other two, and was covered with a yellow cloth of
silk and a coverlet with gilded stars. The furs were not of
skinned vair but of sable; the covering he had on him would have
been fitting for a king. The mattress was not made of straw or
rushes or of old mats. At midnight there descended from the
rafters suddenly a lance, as with the intention of pinning the
knight through the flanks to the coverlet and the white sheets
where he lay. (6) To the lance there was attached a pennon all
ablaze. The coverlet, the bedclothes, and the bed itself all
caught fire at once. And the tip of the lance passed so close to
the knight's side that it cut the skin a little, without
seriously wounding him. Then the knight got up, put out the fire
and, taking the lance, swung it in the middle of the hall, all
this without leaving his bed; rather did he lie down again and
slept as securely as at first.
(Vv. 539-982.) In the morning, at daybreak, the damsel of the
tower had Mass celebrated on their account, and had them rise
and dress. When Mass had been celebrated for them, the knight
who had ridden in the cart sat down pensively at a window, which
looked out upon the meadow, and he gazed upon the fields below.
The damsel came to another window close by, and there my lord
Gawain conversed with her privately for a while about something,
I know not what. I do not know what words were uttered, but
while they were leaning on the window-sill they saw carried along
the river through the fields a bier, upon which there lay a
knight, (7) and alongside three damsels walked, mourning
bitterly. Behind the bier they saw a crowd approaching, with a
tall knight in front, leading a fair lady by the horse's rein.
The knight at the window knew that it was the Queen. He
continued to gaze at her attentively and with delight as long as
she was visible. And when he could no longer see her, he was
minded to throw himself out and break his body down below. And
he would have let himself fall out had not my lord Gawain seen
him, and drawn him back, saying: "I beg you, sire, be quiet now.
For God's sake, never think again of committing such a mad deed.
It is wrong for you to despise your life." "He is perfectly
right," the damsel says; "for will not the news of his disgrace
be known everywhere? Since he has been upon the cart, he has
good reason to wish to die, for he would be better dead than
alive. His life henceforth is sure to be one of shame, vexation,
and unhappiness." Then the knights asked for their armour, and
armed themselves, the damsel treating them courteously, with
distinction and generosity; for when she had joked with the
knight and ridiculed him enough, she presented him with a horse
and lance as a token of her goodwill. The knights then
courteously and politely took leave of the damsel, first saluting
her, and then going off in the direction taken by the crowd they
had seen. Thus they rode out from the town without addressing
them. They proceeded quickly in the direction they had seen
taken by the Queen, but they did not overtake the procession,
which had advanced rapidly. After leaving the fields, the
knights enter an enclosed place, and find a beaten road. They
advanced through the woods until it might be six o'clock, (8) and
then at a crossroads they met a damsel, whom they both saluted,
each asking and requesting her to tell them, if she knows,
whither the Queen has been taken. Replying intelligently, she
said to them: "If you would pledge me your word, I could set you
on the right road and path, and I would tell you the name of the
country and of the knight who is conducting her; but whoever
would essay to enter that country must endure sore trials, for
before he could reach there he must suffer much." Then my lord
Gawain replies: "Damsel, so help me God, I promise to place all
my strength at your disposal and service, whenever you please, if
you will tell me now the truth." And he who had been on the cart
did not say that he would pledge her all his strength; but he
proclaims, like one whom love makes rich, powerful and bold for
any enterprise, that at once and without hesitation he will
promise her anything she desires, and he puts himself altogether
at her disposal. "Then I will tell you the truth," says she.
Then the damsel relates to them the following story: "In truth,
my lords, Meleagant, a tall and powerful knight, son of the King
of Gorre, has taken her off into the kingdom whence no foreigner
returns, but where he must perforce remain in servitude and
banishment." Then they ask her: "Damsel, where is this country?
Where can we find the way thither?" She replies: "That you shall
quickly learn; but you may be sure that you will meet with many
obstacles and difficult passages, for it is not easy to enter
there except with the permission of the king, whose name is
Bademagu; however, it is possible to enter by two very perilous
paths and by two very difficult passage-ways. One is called the
water-bridge, because the bridge is under water, and there is the
same amount of water beneath it as above it, so that the bridge
is exactly in the middle; and it is only a foot and a half in
width and in thickness. This choice is certainly to be avoided.
and yet it is the less dangerous of the two. In addition there
are a number of other obstacles of which I will say nothing. The
other bridge is still more impracticable and much more perilous,
never having been crossed by man. It is just like a sharp sword,
and therefore all the people call it `the sword-bridge'. Now I
have told you all the truth I know." But they ask of her once
again: "Damsel, deign to show us these two passages." To which
the damsel makes reply: "This road here is the most direct to the
water-bridge, and that one yonder leads straight to the swordbridge."
Then the knight, who had been on the cart, says: "Sire,
I am ready to share with you without prejudice: take one of these
two routes, and leave the other one to me; take whichever you
prefer." "In truth," my lord Gawain replies, "both of them are
hard and dangerous: I am not skilled in making such a choice, and
hardly know which of them to take; but it is not right for me to
hesitate when you have left the choice to me: I will choose the
water-bridge." The other answers: "Then I must go
uncomplainingly to the sword-bridge, which I agree to do."
Thereupon, they all three part, each one commending the others
very courteously to God. And when she sees them departing, she
says: "Each one of you owes me a favour of my choosing, whenever
I may choose to ask it. Take care not to forget that." "We
shall surely not forget it, sweet friend," both the knights call
out. Then each one goes his own way, and he of the cart is
occupied with deep reflections, like one who has no strength or
defence against love which holds him in its sway. His thoughts
are such that he totally forgets himself, and he knows not
whether he is alive or dead, forgetting even his own name, not
knowing whether he is armed or not, or whither he is going or
whence he came. Only one creature he has in mind, and for her
his thought is so occupied that he neither sees nor hears aught
else. (9) And his horse bears him along rapidly, following no
crooked road, but the best and the most direct; and thus
proceeding unguided, he brings him into an open plain. In this
plain there was a ford, on the other side of which a knight stood
armed, who guarded it, and in his company there was a damsel who
had come on a palfrey. By this time the afternoon was well
advanced, and yet the knight, unchanged and unwearied, pursued
his thoughts. The horse, being very thirsty, sees clearly the
ford, and as soon as he sees it, hastens toward it. Then he on
the other side cries out: "Knight, I am guarding the ford, and
forbid you to cross." He neither gives him heed, nor hears his
words, being still deep in thought. In the meantime, his horse
advanced rapidly toward the water. The knight calls out to him
that he will do wisely to keep at a distance from the ford, for
there is no passage that way; and he swears by the heart within
his breast that he will smite him if he enters the water. But
his threats are not heard, and he calls out to him a third time:
"Knight, do not enter the ford against my will and prohibition;
for, by my head, I shall strike you as soon as I see you in the
ford." But he is so deep in thought that he does not hear him.
And the horse, quickly leaving the bank, leaps into the ford and
greedily begins to drink. And the knight says he shall pay for
this, that his shield and the hauberk he wears upon his back
shall afford him no protection. First, he puts his horse at a
gallop, and from a gallop he urges him to a run, and he strikes
the knight so hard that he knocks him down flat in the ford which
he had forbidden him to cross. His lance flew from his hand and
the shield from his neck. When he feels the water, he shivers,
and though stunned, he jumps to his feet, like one aroused from
sleep, listening and looking about him with astonishment, to see
who it can be who has struck him. Then face to face with the
other knight, he said: "Vassal, tell me why you have struck me,
when I was not aware of your presence, and when I had done you no
harm." "Upon my word, you had wronged me," the other says: "did
you not treat me disdainfully when I forbade you three times to
cross the ford, shouting at you as loudly as I could? You surely
heard me challenge you at least two or three times, and you
entered in spite of me, though I told you I should strike you as
soon as I saw you in the ford." Then the knight replies to him:
"Whoever heard you or saw you, let him be damned, so far as I am
concerned. I was probably deep in thought when you forbade me to
cross the ford. But be assured that I would make you reset it,
if I could just lay one of my hands on your bridle." And the
other replies: "Why, what of that? If you dare, you may seize my
bridle here and now. I do not esteem your proud threats so much
as a handful of ashes." And he replies: "That suits me
perfectly. However the affair may turn out, I should like to lay
my hands on you." Then the other knight advances to the middle
of the ford, where the other lays his left hand upon his bridle,
and his right hand upon his leg, pulling, dragging, and pressing
him so roughly that he remonstrates, thinking that he would pull
his leg out of his body. Then he begs him to let go, saying:
"Knight, if it please thee to fight me on even terms, take thy
shield and horse and lance, and joust with me." He answers:
"That will I not do, upon my word; for I suppose thou wouldst run
away as soon as thou hadst escaped my grip." Hearing this, he
was much ashamed, and said: "Knight, mount thy horse, in
confidence for I will pledge thee loyally my word that I shall
not flinch or run away." Then once again he answers him: "First,
thou wilt have to swear to that, and I insist upon receiving thy
oath that thou wilt neither run away nor flinch, nor touch me,
nor come near me until thou shalt see me on my horse; I shall be
treating thee very generously, if, when thou art in my hands, I
let thee go." He can do nothing but give his oath; and when the
other hears him swear, he gathers up his shield and lance which
were floating in the ford and by this time had drifted well
down-stream; then he returns and takes his horse. After catching
and mounting him, he seizes the shield by the shoulder-straps and
lays his lance in rest. Then each spurs toward the other as fast
as their horses can carry them. And he who had to defend the
ford first attacks the other, striking him so hard that his lance
is completely splintered. The other strikes him in return so
that he throws him prostrate into the ford, and the water closes
over him. Having accomplished that, he draws back and dismounts,
thinking he could drive and chase away a hundred such. While he
draws from the scabbard his sword of steel, the other jumps up
and draws his excellent flashing blade. Then they clash again,
advancing and covering themselves with the shields which gleam
with gold. Ceaselessly and without repose they wield their
swords; they have the courage to deal so many blows that the
battle finally is so protracted that the Knight of the Cart is
greatly ashamed in his heart, thinking that he is making a sorry
start in the way he has undertaken, when he has spent so much
time in defeating a single knight. If he had met yesterday a
hundred such, he does not think or believe that they could have
withstood him; so now he is much grieved and wroth to be in such
an exhausted state that he is missing his strokes and losing
time. Then he runs at him and presses him so hard that the other
knight gives way and flees. However reluctant he may be, he
leaves the ford and crossing free. But the other follows him in
pursuit until he falls forward upon his hands; then he of the
cart runs up to him, swearing by all he sees that he shall rue
the day when he upset him in the ford and disturbed his revery.
The damsel, whom the knight had with him, upon hearing the
threats, is in great fear, and begs him for her sake to forbear
from killing him; but he tells her that he must do so, and can
show him no mercy for her sake, in view of the shameful wrong
that he has done him. Then, with sword drawn, he approaches the
knight who cries in sore dismay: "For God's sake and for my own,
show me the mercy I ask of you." And he replies: "As God may
save me, no one ever sinned so against me that I would not show
him mercy once, for God's sake as is right, if he asked it of me
in God's name. And so on thee I will have mercy; for I ought not
to refuse thee when thou hast besought me. But first, thou shalt
give me thy word to constitute thyself my prisoner whenever I may
wish to summon thee." Though it was hard to do so, he promised
him. At once the damsel said: "O knight, since thou hast granted
the mercy he asked of thee, if ever thou hast broken any bonds,
for my sake now be merciful and release this prisoner from his
parole. Set him free at my request, upon condition that when the
time comes, I shall do my utmost to repay thee in any way that
thou shalt choose." Then he declares himself satisfied with the
promise she has made, and sets the knight at liberty. Then she
is ashamed and anxious, thinking that he will recognise her,
which she did not wish. But he goes away at once, the knight and
the damsel commending him to God, and taking leave of him. He
grants them leave to go, while he himself pursues his way, until
late in the afternoon he met a damsel coming, who was very fair
and charming, well attired and richly dressed. The damsel greets
him prudently and courteously, and he replies: "Damsel, God grant
you health and happiness." Then the damsel said to him: "Sire,
my house is prepared for you, if you will accept my hospitality,
but you shall find shelter there only on condition that you will
lie with me; upon these terms I propose and make the offer." Not
a few there are who would have thanked her five hundred times for
such a gift; but he is much displeased, and made a very different
answer: "Damsel, I thank you for the offer of your house, and
esteem it highly, but, if you please, I should be very sorry to
lie with you." "By my eyes," the damsel says, "then I retract my
offer." And he, since it is unavoidable, lets her have her way,
though his heart grieves to give consent. He feels only
reluctance now; but greater distress will be his when it is time
to go to bed. The damsel, too, who leads him away, will pass
through sorrow and heaviness. For it is possible that she will
love him so that she will not wish to part with him. As soon as
he had granted her wish and desire, she escorts him to a
fortified place, than which there was none fairer in Thessaly;
for it was entirely enclosed by a high wall and a deep moat, and
there was no man within except him whom she brought with her.
(Vv. 983-1042.) Here she had constructed for her residence a
quantity of handsome rooms, and a large and roomy hall. Riding
along a river bank, they approached their lodging-place, and a
drawbridge was lowered to allow them to pass. Crossing the
bridge, they entered in, and found the hall open with its roof of
tiles. Through the open door they pass, and see a table laid
with a broad white cloth, upon which the dishes were set, and the
candles burning in their stands, and the gilded silver drinkingcups,
and two pots of wine, one red and one white. Standing
beside the table, at the end of a bench, they found two basins of
warm water in which to wash their hands, with a richly
embroidered towel, all white and clean, with which to dry their
hands. No valets, servants, or squires were to be found or seen.
The knight, removing his shield from about his neck, hangs it
upon a hook, and, taking his lance, lays it above upon a rack.
Then he dismounts from his horse, as does the damsel from hers.
The knight, for his part, was pleased that she did not care to
wait for him to help her to dismount. Having dismounted, she
runs directly to a room and brings him a short mantle of scarlet
cloth which she puts on him. The hall was by no means dark; for
beside the light from the stars, there were many large twisted
candles lighted there, so that the illumination was very bright.
When she had thrown the mantle about his shoulders, she said to
him: "Friend, here is the water and the towel; there is no one to
present or offer it to you except me whom you see. Wash your
hands, and then sit down, when you feel like doing so. The hour
and the meal, as you can see, demand that you should do so." He
washes, and then gladly and readily takes his seat, and she sits
down beside him, and they eat and drink together, until the time
comes to leave the table.
(Vv. 1043-1206.) When they had risen from the table, the damsel
said to the knight: "Sire, if you do not object, go outside and
amuse yourself; but, if you please, do not stay after you think I
must be in bed. Feel no concern or embarrassment; for then you
may come to me at once, if you will keep the promise you have
made." And he replies: "I will keep my word, and will return
when I think the time has come." Then he went out, and stayed in
the courtyard until he thought it was time to return and keep the
promise he had made. Going back into the hall, he sees nothing
of her who would be his mistress; for she was not there. Not
finding or seeing her, he said: "Wherever she may be, I shall
look for her until I find her." He makes no delay in his search,
being bound by the promise he had made her. Entering one of the
rooms, he hears a damsel cry aloud, and it was the very one with
whom he was about to lie. At the same time, he sees the door of
another room standing open, and stepping toward it, he sees right
before his eyes a knight who had thrown her down, and was holding
her naked and prostrate upon the bed. She, thinking that he had
come of course to help her, cried aloud: "Help, help, thou
knight, who art my guest. If thou dost not take this man away
from me, I shall find no one to do so; if thou dost not succour
me speedily, he will wrong me before thy eyes. Thou art the one
to lie with me, in accordance with thy promise; and shall this
man by force accomplish his wish before thy eyes? Gentle knight,
exert thyself, and make haste to bear me aid." He sees that the
other man held the damsel brutally uncovered to the waist, and he
is ashamed and angered to see him assault her so; yet it is not
jealousy he feels, nor will he be made a cuckold by him. At the
door there stood as guards two knights completely armed and with
swords drawn. Behind them there stood four men-at-arms, each
armed with an axe the sort with which you could split a cow down
the back as easily as a root of juniper or broom. The knight
hesitated at the door, and thought: "God, what can I do? I am
engaged in no less an affair than the quest of Queen Guinevere.
I ought not to have the heart of a hare, when for her sake I have
engaged in such a quest. If cowardice puts its heart in me, and
if I follow its dictates, I shall never attain what I seek. I am
disgraced, if I stand here; indeed, I am ashamed even to have
thought of holding back. My heart is very sad and oppressed: now
I am so ashamed and distressed that I would gladly die for having
hesitated here so long. I say it not in pride: but may God have
mercy on me if I do not prefer to die honourably rather than live
a life of shame! If my path were unobstructed, and if these men
gave me leave to pass through without restraint, what honour
would I gain? Truly, in that case the greatest coward alive
would pass through; and all the while I hear this poor creature
calling for help constantly, and reminding me of my promise, and
reproaching me with bitter taunts." Then he steps to the door,
thrusting in his head and shoulders; glancing up, he sees two
swords descending. He draws back, and the knights could not
check their strokes: they had wielded them with such force that
the swords struck the floor, and both were broken in pieces.
When he sees that the swords are broken, he pays less attention
to the axes, fearing and dreading them much less. Rushing in
among them, he strikes first one guard in the side and then
another. The two who are nearest him he jostles and thrusts
aside, throwing them both down flat; the third missed his stroke
at him, but the fourth, who attacked him, strikes him so that he
cuts his mantle and shirt, and slices the white flesh on his
shoulder so that the blood trickles down from the wound. But he,
without delay, and without complaining of his wound, presses on
more rapidly, until he strikes between the temples him who was
assaulting his hostess. Before he departs, he will try to keep
his pledge to her. He makes him stand up reluctantly.
Meanwhile, he who had missed striking him comes at him as fast as
he can and, raising his arm again, expects to split his head to
the teeth with the axe. But the other, alert to defend himself,
thrusts the knight toward him in such a way that he receives the
axe just where the shoulder joins the neck, so that they are
cleaved apart. Then the knight seizes the axe, wresting it
quickly from him who holds it; then he lets go the knight whom he
still held, and looks to his own defence; for the knights from
the door, and the three men with axes are all attacking him
fiercely. So he leaped quickly between the bed and the wall, and
called to them: "Come on now, all of you. If there were thirtyseven
of you, you would have all the fight you wish, with me so
favourably placed; I shall never be overcome by you." And the
damsel watching him, exclaimed: "By my eyes, you need have no
thought of that henceforth where I am." Then at once she
dismisses the knights and the men-at-arms, who retire from there
at once, without delay or objection. And the damsel continues:
"Sire you have well defended me against the men of my household.
Come now, and I'll lead you on." Hand in hand they enter the
hall, but he was not at all pleased, and would have willingly
dispensed with her.
(Vv. 1207-1292.) In the midst of the hall a bed had been set up,
the sheets of which were by no means soiled, but were white and
wide and well spread out. The bed was not of shredded straw or
of coarse spreads. But a covering of two silk cloths had been
laid upon the couch. The damsel lay down first, but without
removing her chemise. He had great trouble in removing his hose
and in untying the knots. He sweated with the trouble of it all;
yet, in the midst of all the trouble, his promise impels and
drives him on. Is this then an actual force? Yes, virtually so;
for he feels that he is in duty bound to take his place by the
damsel's side. It is his promise that urges him and dictates his
act. So he lies down at once, but like her, he does not remove
his shirt. He takes good care not to touch her; and when he is
in bed, he turns away from her as far as possible, and speaks not
a word to her, like a monk to whom speech is forbidden. Not once
does he look at her, nor show her any courtesy. Why not?
Because his heart does not go out to her. She was certainly very
fair and winsome, but not every one is pleased and touched by
what is fair and winsome. The knight has only one heart, and
this one is really no longer his, but has been entrusted to some
one else, so that he cannot bestow it elsewhere. Love, which
holds all hearts beneath its sway, requires it to be lodged in a
single place. All hearts? No, only those which it esteems. And
he whom love deigns to control ought to prize himself the more.
Love prized his heart so highly that it constrained it in a
special manner, and made him so proud of this distinction that I
am not inclined to find fault with him, if he lets alone what
love forbids, and remains fixed where it desires. The maiden
clearly sees and knows that he dislikes her company and would
gladly dispense with it, and that, having no desire to win her
love, he would not attempt to woo her. So she said: "My lord, if
you will not feel hurt, I will leave and return to bed in my own
room, and you will be more comfortable. I do not believe that
you are pleased with my company and society. Do not esteem me
less if I tell you what I think. Now take your rest all night,
for you have so well kept your promise that I have no right to
make further request of you. So I commend you to God; and shall
go away." Thereupon she arises: the knight does not object, but
rather gladly lets her go, like one who is the devoted lover of
some one else; the damsel clearly perceived this, and went to her
room, where she undressed completely and retired, saying to
herself: "Of all the knights I have ever known, I never knew a
single knight whom I would value the third part of an angevin in
comparison with this one. As I understand the case, he has on
hand a more perilous and grave affair than any ever undertaken by
a knight; and may God grant that he succeed in it." Then she
fell asleep, and remained in bed until the next day's dawn
(Vv. 1293-1368.) At daybreak she awakes and gets up. The knight
awakes too, dressing, and putting on his arms, without waiting
for any help. Then the damsel comes and sees that he is already
dressed. Upon seeing him, she says: "May this day be a happy one
for you." "And may it be the same to you, damsel," the knight
replies, adding that he is waiting anxiously for some one to
bring out his horse. The maiden has some one fetch the horse,
and says: "Sire, I should like to accompany you for some distance
along the road, if you would agree to escort and conduct me
according to the customs and practices which were observed before
we were made captive in the kingdom of Logres." In those days
the customs and privileges were such that, if a knight found a
damsel or lorn maid alone, and if he cared for his fair name, he
would no more treat her with dishonour than he would cut his own
throat. And if he assaulted her, he would be disgraced for ever
in every court. But if, while she was under his escort, she
should be won at arms by another who engaged him in battle, then
this other knight might do with her what he pleased without
receiving shame or blame. This is why the damsel said she would
go with him, if he had the courage and willingness to safe guard
her in his company, so that no one should do her any harm. And
he says to her: "No one shall harm you, I promise you, unless he
harm me first." "Then," she says, "I will go with you." She
orders her palfrey to be saddled, and her command is obeyed at
once. Her palfrey was brought together with the knight's horse.
Without the aid of any squire, they both mount, and rapidly ride
away. She talks to him, but not caring for her words, he pays no
attention to what she says. He likes to think, but dislikes to
talk. Love very often inflicts afresh the wound it has given
him. Yet, he applied no poultice to the wound to cure it and
make it comfortable, having no intention or desire to secure a
poultice or to seek a physician, unless the wound becomes more
painful. Yet, there is one whose remedy he would gladly seek
.... (10) They follow the roads and paths in the right direction
until they come to a spring, situated in the middle of a field,
and bordered by a stone basin. Some one had forgotten upon the
stone a comb of gilded ivory. Never since ancient times has wise
man or fool seen such a comb. In its teeth there was almost a
handful of hair belonging to her who had used the comb.
(Vv. 1369-1552.) When the damsel notices the spring, and sees
the stone, she does not wish her companion to see it; so she
turns off in another direction. And he, agreeably occupied with
his own thoughts, does not at once remark that she is leading him
aside; but when at last he notices it, he is afraid of being
beguiled, thinking that she is yielding and is going out of the
way in order to avoid some danger. "See here, damsel," he cries,
"you are not going right; come this way! No one, I think, ever
went straight who left this road." "Sire, this is a better way
for us," the damsel says, "I am sure of it." Then he replies to
her: "I don't know, damsel, what you think; but you can plainly
see that the beaten path lies this way; and since I have started
to follow it, I shall not turn aside. So come now, if you will,
for I shall continue along this way." Then they go forward until
they come near the stone basin and see the comb. The knight
says: "I surely never remember to have seen so beautiful a comb
as this." "Let me have it," the damsel says. "Willingly,
damsel," he replies. Then he stoops over and picks it up. While
holding it, he looks at it steadfastly, gazing at the hair until
the damsel begins to laugh. When he sees her doing so, he begs
her to tell him why she laughs. And she says: "Never mind, for I
will never tell you." "Why not?" he asks. "Because I don't wish
to do so." And when he hears that, he implores her like one who
holds that lovers ought to keep faith mutually: "Damsel, if you
love anything passionately, by that I implore and conjure and beg
you not to conceal from me the reason why you laugh." "Your
appeal is so strong," she says, "that I will tell you and keep
nothing back. I am sure, as I am of anything, that this comb
belonged to the Queen. And you may take my word that those are
strands of the Queen's hair which you see to be so fair and light
and radiant, and which are clinging in the teeth of the comb;
they surely never grew anywhere else." Then the knight replied:
"Upon my word, there are plenty of queens and kings; what queen
do you mean?" And she answered: "In truth, fair sire, it is of
King Arthur's wife I speak." When he hears that, he has not
strength to keep from bowing his head over his saddle-bow. And
when the damsel sees him thus, she is amazed and terrified,
thinking he is about to fall. Do not blame her for her fear, for
she thought him in a faint. He might as well have swooned, so
near was he to doing so; for in his heart he felt such grief that
for a long time he lost his colour and power of speech. And the
damsel dismounts, and runs as quickly as possible to support and
succour him; for she would not have wished for anything to see
him fall. When he saw her, he felt ashamed, and said: "Why do
you need to bear me aid?" You must not suppose that the damsel
told him why; for he would have been ashamed and distressed, and
it would have annoyed and troubled him, if she had confessed to
him the truth. So she took good care not to tell the truth, but
tactfully answered him: "Sire, I dismounted to get the comb; for
I was so anxious to hold it in my hand that I could not longer
wait." Willing that she should have the comb, he gives it to
her, first pulling out the hair so carefully that he tears none
of it. Never will the eye of man see anything receive such
honour as when he begins to adore these tresses. A hundred
thousand times he raises them to his eyes and mouth, to his
forehead and face: he manifests his joy in every way, considering
himself rich and happy now. He lays them in his bosom near his
heart, between the shirt and the flesh. He would not exchange
them for a cartload of emeralds and carbuncles, nor does he think
that any sore or illness can afflict him now; he holds in
contempt essence of pearl, treacle, and the cure for pleurisy;
(11) even for St. Martin and St. James he has no need; for he has
such confidence in this hair that he requires no other aid. But
what was this hair like? If I tell the truth about it, you will
think I am a mad teller of lies. When the mart is full at the
yearly fair of St. Denis, (12) and when the goods are most
abundantly displayed, even then the knight would not take all
this wealth, unless he had found these tresses too. And if you
wish to know the truth, gold a hundred thousand times refined,
and melted down as many times, would be darker than is night
compared with the brightest summer day we have had this year, if
one were to see the gold and set it beside this hair. But why
should I make a long story of it? The damsel mounts again with
the comb in her possession; while he revels and delights in the
tresses in his bosom. Leaving the plain, they come to a forest
and take a short cut through it until they come to a narrow
place, where they have to go in single file; for it would have
been impossible to ride two horses abreast. Just where the way
was narrowest, they see a knight approach. As soon as she saw
him, the damsel recognised him, and said: "Sir knight, do you see
him who yonder comes against us all armed and ready for a battle?
I know what his intention is: he thinks now that he cannot fail
to take me off defenceless with him. He loves me, but he is very
foolish to do so. In person, and by messenger, he has been long
wooing me. But my love is not within his reach, for I would not
love him under any consideration, so help me God! I would kill
myself rather than bestow my love on him. I do not doubt that he
is delighted now, and is as satisfied as if he had me already in
his power. But now I shall see what you can do, and I shall see
how brave you are, and it will become apparent whether your
escort can protect me. If you can protect me now, I shall not
fail to proclaim that you are brave and very worthy." And he
answered her: "Go on, go on!" which was as much as to say: "I am
not concerned; there is no need of your being worried about what
you have said."
(Vv. 1553-1660.) While they were proceeding, talking thus, the
knight, who was alone, rode rapidly toward them on the run. He
was the more eager to make haste, because he felt more sure of
success; he felt that he was lucky now to see her whom he most
dearly loves. As soon as he approaches her, he greets her with
words that come from his heart: "Welcome to her, whence-soever
she comes, whom I most desire, but who has hitherto caused me
least joy and most distress!" It is not fitting that she should
be so stingy of her speech as not to return his greeting, at
least by word of mouth. The knight is greatly elated when the
damsel greets him; though she does not take the words seriously,
and the effort costs her nothing. Yet, if he had at this moment
been victor in a tournament, he would not have so highly esteemed

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