(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, 46 and about King Mark and the fair Iseut, 47 and about the metamorphosis of the Lapwing, 48 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. 49 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. 50 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 preeminence 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 tomorrow 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. 51 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. 52 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. 53 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. 54 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: 55 “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. 56 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-inwaiting; 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.57 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. 58 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 I 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. 59 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. 60
(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. 61 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. 62 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. 63
(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 world.
(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 64 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. 65 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 entrance-way, 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 wall.
(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. 66 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. 67 “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. 68 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 city.
(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: 69 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. 70 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; 71 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. 72 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, 73 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 rite.
(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 74 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 asleep.
(Vv. 3329–3394.) Now the emperor has been deceived. Many bishops and abbots were present to bless and hallow the marriage-bed. 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 75 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. 76 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 mid-career 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.” 77 “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 of 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 thither.
(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-a-days, 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.78 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. 79 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, 80 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; 81 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 tomorrow 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 be 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. 82 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 of 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. 83
(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 malady.”
(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.) 84 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 today, 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. 85 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 strong.”
(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 concealed.
(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. 86 At the season when people take the sparrow-hawk 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. 87 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. 88
Endnotes supplied by Prof. Foerster are indicated by “(F.)”; all other endnotes are supplied by W.W. Comfort.
46 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.
47 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”.
48 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.”
49 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).
50 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.)
51 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.
52 This criticism of ignoble leisure on the part of a warrior is found also in “Erec et Enide” and “Yvain”.
53 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).
54 As Miss Weston has remarked (“The Three Days’ Tournament”, p. 45), the peculiar georgraphy of this poem “is distinctly Anglo–Norman rather than Arthurian”.
55 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.
56 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. 126–127.
57 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.
58 According to the 12th century troubadours, the shafts of Love entered the victim’s body through the eyes, and thence pierced the heart.
59 For fanciful derivation of proper names, cf. A. Tobler, “Vermischte Beitrage”, ii. 211–266.
60 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).
61 For the ceremonies attendant upon the conferring of knighthood, see Karl Treis, “Die Formalitaten des Ritterschlags in der altfranzosischen Epik” (Berlin, 1887).
62 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).
63 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.
64 Many traitors in old French literature suffered the same punishments as Ganelon, and were drawn asunder by horses (“Roland”, 3960–74).
65 The same rare words “galerne” and “posterne” occur in rhyme in the “Roman de Thebes”, 1471–72.
66 This qualified praise is often used in speaking of traitors and of Saracens.
67 The failure to identify the warriors is due to the fact that the knights are totally encased in armour.
68 A reference to the “Roman de Thebes”, 1160 circ.
69 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.
70 See Endnote #14 above.
71 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.”
72 Ovid (“Metamorphosis”, iii. 339–510) is Chretien’s authority.
73 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.
74 “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.
75 Medea, the wife of Jason, is the great sorceress of classic legend.
76 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!
77 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.
78 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).
79 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, 138.
80 Note that Chretien here deliberately avoids such a list of knights as he introduces in “Erec”. (F.)
81 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.)
82 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.
83 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).
84 “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).
85 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.
86 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”, 9103.
87 For an imitation of the following scene, see Hans Herzog in “Germania”, xxxi. 325.
88 “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”.
89 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).
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