(Vv. 1–174.) Arthur, the good King of Britain, whose prowess teaches us that we, too, should be brave and courteous, held a rich and royal court upon that precious feast-day which is always known by the name of Pentecost. 89 The court was at Carduel in Wales. When the meal was finished, the knights betook themselves whither they were summoned by the ladies, damsels, and maidens. Some told stories; others spoke of love, of the trials and sorrows, as well as of the great blessings, which often fall to the members of its order, which was rich and flourishing in those days of old. But now its followers are few, having deserted it almost to a man, so that love is much abased. For lovers used to deserve to be considered courteous, brave, generous, and honourable. But now love is a laughing-stock, for those who have no intelligence of it assert that they love, and in that they lie. Thus they utter a mockery and lie by boasting where they have no right. 90 But let us leave those who are still alive, to speak of those of former time. For, I take it, a courteous man, though dead, is worth more than a living knave. So it is my pleasure to relate a matter quite worthy of heed concerning the King whose fame was such that men still speak of him far and near; and I agree with the opinion of the Bretons that his name will live on for evermore. And in connection with him we call to mind those goodly chosen knights who spent themselves for honour’s sake. But upon this day of which I speak, great was their astonishment at seeing the King quit their presence; and there were some who felt chagrined, and who did not mince their words, never before having seen the King, on the occasion of such a feast, enter his own chamber either to sleep or to seek repose. But this day it came about that the Queen detained him, and he remained so long at her side that he forgot himself and fell asleep. Outside the chamber door were Dodinel, Sagremor, and Kay, my lord Gawain, my lord Yvain, and with them Calogrenant, a very comely knight, who had begun to tell them a tale, though it was not to his credit, but rather to his shame. The Queen could hear him as he told his tale, and rising from beside the King, she came upon them so stealthily that before any caught sight of her, she had fallen, as it were, right in their midst. Calogrenant alone jumped up quickly when he saw her come. Then Kay, who was very quarrelsome, mean, sarcastic, and abusive, said to him: “By the Lord, Calogrenant, I see you are very bold and forward now, and certainly it pleases me to see you the most courteous of us all. And I know that you are quite persuaded of your own excellence, for that is in keeping with your little sense. And of course it is natural that my lady should suppose that you surpass us all in courtesy and bravery. We failed to rise through sloth, forsooth, or because we did not care! Upon my word, it is not so, my lord; but we did not see my lady until you had risen first.” “Really, Kay,” the Queen then says, “I think you would burst if you could not pour out the poison of which you are so full. You are troublesome and mean thus to annoy your companions.” “Lady,” says Kay, “if we are not better for your company, at least let us not lose by it. I am not aware that I said anything for which I ought to be accused, and so I pray you say no more. It is impolite and foolish to keep up a vain dispute. This argument should go no further, nor should any one try to make more of it. But since there must be no more high words, command him to continue the tale he had begun.” Thereupon Calogrenant prepares to reply in this fashion: “My lord, little do I care about the quarrel, which matters little and affects me not. If you have vented your scorn on me, I shall never be harmed by it. You have often spoken insultingly, my lord Kay, to braver and better men than I, for you are given to this kind of thing. The manure-pile will always stink, 91 and gadflies sting, and bees will hum, and so a bore will torment and make a nuisance of himself. However, with my lady’s leave, I’ll not continue my tale today, and I beg her to say no more about it, and kindly not give me any unwelcome command.” “Lady,” says Kay, “all those who are here will be in your debt, for they are desirous to hear it out. Don’t do it as a favour to me! But by the faith you owe the King, your lord and mine, command him to continue, and you will do well.” “Calogrenant,” the Queen then says, “do not mind the attack of my lord Kay the seneschal. He is so accustomed to evil speech that one cannot punish him for it. I command and request you not to be angered because of him, nor should you fail on his account to say something which it will please us all to hear; if you wish to preserve my good-will, pray begin the tale anew.” “Surely, lady, it is a very unwelcome command you lay upon me. Rather than tell any more of my tale today, I would have one eye plucked out, if I did not fear your displeasure. Yet will I perform your behest, however distasteful it may be. Then since you will have it so, give heed. Let your heart and ears be mine. For words, though heard, are lost unless understood within the heart. Some men there are who give consent to what they hear but do not understand: these men have the hearing alone. For the moment the heart fails to understand, the word falls upon the ears simply as the wind that blows, without stopping to tarry there; rather it quickly passes on if the heart is not so awake as to be ready to receive it. For the heart alone can receive it when it comes along, and shut it up within. The ears are the path and channel by which the voice can reach the heart, while the heart receives within the bosom the voice which enters through the ear. Now, whoever will heed my words, must surrender to me his heart and ears, for I am not going to speak of a dream, an idle tale, or lie, with which many another has regaled you, but rather shall I speak of what I saw.”
(Vv. 175–268.) “It happened seven years ago that, lonely as a countryman, I was making my way in search of adventures, fully armed as a knight should be, when I came upon a road leading off to the right into a thick forest. The road there was very bad, full of briars and thorns. In spite of the trouble and inconvenience, I followed the road and path. Almost the entire day I went thus riding until I emerged from the forest of Broceliande. 92 Out from the forest I passed into the open country where I saw a wooden tower at the distance of half a Welsh league: it may have been so far, but it was not anymore. Proceeding faster than a walk, I drew near and saw the palisade and moat all round it, deep and wide, and standing upon the bridge, with a moulted falcon upon his wrist, I saw the master of the castle. I had no sooner saluted him than he came forward to hold my stirrup and invited me to dismount. I did so, for it was useless to deny that I was in need of a lodging-place. Then he told me more than a hundred times at once that blessed was the road by which I had come thither. Meanwhile, we crossed the bridge, and passing through the gate, found ourselves in the courtyard. In the middle of the courtyard of this vavasor, to whom may God repay such joy and honour as he bestowed upon me that night, there hung a gong not of iron or wood, I trow, but all of copper. Upon this gong the vavasor struck three times with a hammer which hung on a post close by. Those who were upstairs in the house, upon hearing his voice and the sound, came out into the yard below. Some took my horse which the good vavasor was holding; and I saw coming toward me a very fair and gentle maid. On looking at her narrowly I saw she was tall and slim and straight. Skilful she was in disarming me, which she did gently and with address; then, when she had robed me in a short mantle of scarlet stuff spotted with a peacock’s plumes, all the others left us there, so that she and I remained alone. This pleased me well, for I needed naught else to look upon. Then she took me to sit down in the prettiest little field, shut in by a wall all round about. There I found her so elegant, so fair of speech and so well informed, of such pleasing manners and character, that it was a delight to be there, and I could have wished never to be compelled to move. But as ill luck would have it, when night came on, and the time for supper had arrived. The vavasor came to look for me. No more delay was possible, so I complied with his request. Of the supper I will only say that it was all after my heart, seeing that the damsel took her seat at the table just in front of me. After the supper the vavasor admitted to me that, though he had lodged many an errant knight, he knew not how long it had been since he had welcomed one in search of adventure. Then, as a favour, he begged of me to return by way of his residence, if I could make it possible. So I said to him: ‘Right gladly, sire!’ for a refusal would have been impolite, and that was the least I could do for such a host.”
(Vv. 269–580.) “That night, indeed, I was well lodged, and as soon as the morning light appeared, I found my steed ready saddled, as I had requested the night before; thus my request was carried out. My kind host and his dear daughter I commended to the Holy Spirit, and, after taking leave of all, I got away as soon as possible. I had not proceeded far from my stopping-place when I came to a clearing, where there were some wild bulls at large; they were fighting among themselves and making such a dreadful and horrible noise that if the truth be known, I drew back in fear, for there is no beast so fierce and dangerous as a bull. I saw sitting upon a stump, with a great club in his hand, a rustic lout, as black as a mulberry, indescribably big and hideous; indeed, so passing ugly was the creature that no word of mouth could do him justice. On drawing near to this fellow, I saw that his head was bigger than that of a horse or of any other beast; that his hair was in tufts, leaving his forehead bare for a width of more than two spans; that his ears were big and mossy, just like those of an elephant; his eyebrows were heavy and his face was flat; his eyes were those of an owl, and his nose was like a cat’s; his jowls were split like a wolf, and his teeth were sharp and yellow like a wild boar’s; his beard was black and his whiskers twisted; his chin merged into his chest and his backbone was long, but twisted and hunched. 93 There he stood, leaning upon his club and accoutred in a strange garb, consisting not of cotton or wool, but rather of the hides recently flayed from two bulls or two beeves: these he wore hanging from his neck. The fellow leaped up straightway when he saw me drawing near. I do not know whether he was going to strike me or what he intended to do, but I was prepared to stand him off, until I saw him stop and stand stock-still upon a tree trunk, where he stood full seventeen feet in height. Then he gazed at me but spoke not a word, any more than a beast would have done. And I supposed that he had not his senses or was drunk. However, I made bold to say to him: ‘Come, let me know whether thou art a creature of good or not.’ And he replied: ‘I am a man.’ ‘What kind of a man art thou?’ ‘Such as thou seest me to be: I am by no means otherwise.’ ‘What dost thou here?’ ‘I was here, tending these cattle in this wood.’ ‘Wert thou really tending them? By Saint Peter of Rome! They know not the command of any man. I guess one cannot possibly guard wild beasts in a plain or wood or anywhere else unless they are tied or confined inside.’ ‘Well, I tend and have control of these beasts so that they will never leave this neighbourhood.’ ‘How dost thou do that? Come, tell me now!’ ‘There is not one of them that dares to move when they see me coming. For when I can get hold of one I give its two horns such a wrench with my hard, strong hands that the others tremble with fear, and gather at once round about me as if to ask for mercy. No one could venture here but me, for if he should go among them he would be straightway done to death. In this way I am master of my beasts. And now thou must tell me in turn what kind of a man thou art, and what thou seekest here.’ ‘I am, as thou seest, a knight seeking for what I cannot find; long have I sought without success.’ ‘And what is this thou fain wouldst find?’ ‘Some adventure whereby to test my prowess and my bravery. Now I beg and urgently request thee to give me some counsel, if possible, concerning some adventure or marvellous thing.’ Says he: ‘Thou wilt have to do without, for I know nothing of adventure, nor did I ever hear tell of such. But if thou wouldst go to a certain spring here hard by and shouldst comply with the practice there, thou wouldst not easily come back again. Close by here thou canst easily find a path which will lead thee thither. If thou wouldst go aright, follow the straight path, otherwise thou mayst easily go astray among the many other paths. Thou shalt see the spring which boils, though the water is colder than marble. It is shadowed by the fairest tree that ever Nature formed, for its foliage is evergreen, regardless of the winter’s cold, and an iron basin is hanging there by a chain long enough to reach the spring. And beside the spring thou shalt find a massive stone, as thou shalt see, but whose nature I cannot explain, never having seen its like. On the other side a chapel stands, small, but very beautiful. If thou wilt take of the water in the basin and spill it upon the stone, thou shalt see such a storm come up that not a beast will remain within this wood; every doe, star, deer, boar, and bird will issue forth. For thou shalt see such lightning-bolts descend, such blowing of gales and crashing of trees, such torrents fail, such thunder and lightning, that, if thou canst escape from them without trouble and mischance, thou wilt be more fortunate than ever any knight was yet.’ I left the fellow then, after he had pointed our the way. It must have been after nine o’clock and might have been drawing on toward noon, when I espied the tree and the chapel. I can truly say that this tree was the finest pine that ever grew on earth. I do not believe that it ever rained so hard that a drop of water could penetrate it, but would rather drip from the outer branches. From the tree I saw the basin hanging, 94 of the finest gold that was ever for sale in any fair. As for the spring, you may take my word that it was boiling like hot water. The stone was of emerald, with holes in it like a cask, and there were four rubies underneath, more radiant and red than is the morning sun when it rises in the east. Now not one word will I say which is not true. I wished to see the marvellous appearing of the tempest and the storm; but therein I was not wise, for I would gladly have repented, if I could, when I had sprinkled the perforated stone with the water from the basin. But I fear I poured too much, for straightway I saw the heavens so break loose that from more than fourteen directions the lightning blinded my eyes, and all at once the clouds let fall snow and rain and hail. The storm was so fierce and terrible that a hundred times I thought I should be killed by the bolts which fell about me and by the trees which were rent apart. Know that I was in great distress until the uproar was appeased. But God gave me such comfort that the storm did not continue long, and all the winds died down again. The winds dared not blow against God’s will. And when I saw the air clear and serene I was filled with joy again. For I have observed that joy quickly causes trouble to be forgot. As soon as the storm was completely past, I saw so many birds gathered in the pine tree (if any one will believe my words) that not a branch or twig was to be seen which was not entirely covered with birds. 95 The tree was all the more lovely then, for all the birds sang in harmony, yet the note of each was different, so that I never heard one singing another’s note. I, too, rejoiced in their joyousness, and listened to them until they had sung their service through, for I have never heard such happy song, nor do I think any one else will hear it, unless he goes to listen to what filled me with such joy and bliss that I was lost in rapture. I stayed there until I heard some knights coming, as I thought it seemed that there must be ten of them. But all the noise and commotion was made by the approach of a single knight. When I saw him coming on alone I quickly caught my steed and made no delay in mounting him. And the knight, as if with evil intent, came on swifter than an eagle, looking as fierce as a lion. From as far as his voice could reach he began to challenge me, and said: ‘Vassal, without provocation you have caused me shame and harm. If there was any quarrel between us you should first have challenged me, or at least sought justice before attacking me. But, sir vassal, if it be within my power, upon you shall fall the punishment for the damage which is evident. About me here lies the evidence of my woods destroyed. He who has suffered has the right to complain. And I have good reason to complain that you have driven me from my house with lightning-bolt and rain. You have made trouble for me, and cursed be he who thinks it fair. For within my own woods and town you have made such an attack upon me that resources of men of arms and of fortifications would have been of no avail to me; no man could have been secure, even if he had been in a fortress of solid stone and wood. But be assured that from this moment there shall be neither truce nor peace between us.’ At these words we rushed together, each one holding his shield well gripped and covering himself with it. The knight had a good horse and a stout lance, and was doubtless a whole head taller than I. Thus, I was altogether at a disadvantage, being shorter than he, while his horse was stronger than mine. You may be sure that I will tell the facts, in order to cover up my shame. With intent to do my best, I dealt him as hard a blow as I could give, striking the top of his shield, and I put all my strength into it with such effect that my lance flew all to splinters. His lance remained entire, being very heavy and bigger than any knight’s lance I ever saw. And the knight struck me with it so heavily that he knocked me over my horse’s crupper and laid me flat upon the ground, where he left me ashamed and exhausted, without bestowing another glance upon me. He took my horse, but me he left, and started back by the way he came. And I, who knew not what to do, remained there in pain and with troubled thoughts. Seating myself beside the spring I rested there awhile, not daring to follow after the knight for fear of committing some rash act of madness. And, indeed, had I had the courage, I knew not what had become of him. Finally, it occurred to me that I would keep my promise to my host and would return by way of his dwelling. This idea pleased me, and so I did. I laid off all my arms in order to proceed more easily, and thus with shame I retraced my steps. When I reached his home that night, I found my host to be the same good-natured and courteous man as I had before discovered him to be. I could not observe that either his daughter or he himself welcomed me any less gladly, or did me any less honour than they had done the night before. I am indebted to them for the great honour they all did me in that house; and they even said that, so far as they knew or had heard tell, no one had ever escaped, without being killed or kept a prisoner, from the place whence I returned. Thus I went and thus I returned, feeling, as I did so, deeply ashamed. So I have foolishly told you the story which I never wished to tell again.”
(Vv. 581–648.) “By my head,” cries my lord Yvain, “you are my own cousin-german, and we ought to love each other well. But I must consider you as mad to have concealed this from me so long. If I call you mad, I beg you not to be incensed. For if I can, and if I obtain the leave, I shall go to avenge your shame.” “It is evident that we have dined,” says Kay, with his ever-ready speech; “there are more words in a pot full of wine than in a whole barrel of beer. 96 They say that a cat is merry when full. After dinner no one stirs, but each one is ready to slay Noradin, 97 and you will take vengeance on Forre! Are your saddle-cloths ready stuffed, and your iron greaves polished, and your banners unfurled? Come now, in God’s name, my lord Yvain, is it to-night or tomorrow that you start? Tell us, fair sire, when you will start for this rude test, for we would fain convoy you thither. There will be no provost or constable who will not gladly escort you. And however it may be, I beg that you will not go without taking leave of us; and if you have a bad dream to-night, by all means stay at home!” “The devil, Sir Kay,” the Queen replies, “are you beside yourself that your tongue always runs on so? Cursed be your tongue which is so full of bitterness! Surely your tongue must hate you, for it says the worst it knows to every man. Damned be any tongue that never ceases to speak ill! As for your tongue, it babbles so that it makes you hated everywhere. It cannot do you greater treachery. See here: if it were mine, I would accuse it of treason. Any man that cannot be cured by punishment ought to be tied like a madman in front of the chancel in the church.” “Really, madame,” says my lord Yvain, “his impudence matters not to me. In every court my lord Kay has so much ability, knowledge, and worth that he will never be deaf or dumb. He has the wit to reply wisely and courteously to all that is mean, and this he has always done. You well know if I lie in saying so. But I have no desire to dispute or to begin our foolishness again. For he who deals the first blow does not always win the fight, but rather he who gains revenge. He who fights with his companion had better fight against some stranger. I do not wish to be like the hound that stiffens up and growls when another dog yaps at him.”
(Vv. 649–722.) While they were talking thus, the King came out of his room where he had been all this time asleep. And when the knights saw him they all sprang to their feet before him, but he made them at once sit down again. He took his place beside the Queen, who repeated to him word for word, with her customary skill, the story of Calogrenant. The King listened eagerly to it, and then he swore three mighty oaths by the soul of his father Utherpendragon, and by the soul of his son, and of his mother too, that he would go to see that spring before a fortnight should have passed; and he would see the storm and the marvels there by reaching it on the eve of my lord Saint John the Baptist’s feast; there he would spend the night, and all who wished might accompany him. All the court thought well of this, for the knights and the young bachelors were very eager to make the expedition. But despite the general joy and satisfaction my lord Yvain was much chagrined, for he intended to go there all alone; so he was grieved and much put out because of the King who planned to go. The chief cause of his displeasure was that he knew that my lord Kay, to whom the favour would not be refused if he should solicit it, would secure the battle rather than he himself, or else perchance my lord Gawain would first ask for it. If either one of these two should make request, the favour would never be refused him. But, having no desire for their company, he resolves not to wait for them, but to go off alone, if possible, whether it be to his gain or hurt. And whoever may stay behind, he intends to be on the third day in the forest of Broceliande, and there to seek if possibly he may find the narrow wooded path for which he yearns eagerly, and the plain with the strong castle, and the pleasure and delight of the courteous damsel, who is so charming and fair, and with the damsel her worthy sire, who is so honourable and nobly born that he strives to dispense honour. Then he will see the bulls in the clearing, with the giant boor who watches them. Great is his desire to see this fellow, who is so stout and big and ugly and deformed, and as black as a smith. Then, too, he will see, if possible, the stone and the spring itself, and the basin and the birds in the pine-tree, and he will make it rain and blow. But of all this he will not boast, nor, if he can help it, shall any one know of his purpose until he shall have received from it either great humiliation or great renown: then let the facts be known.
(Vv. 723–746.) My lord Yvain gets away from the court without any one meeting him, and proceeds alone to his lodging place. There he found all his household, and gave orders to have his horse saddled; then, calling one of his squires who was privy to his every thought, he says: “Come now, follow me outside yonder, and bring me my arms. I shall go out at once through yonder gate upon my palfrey. For thy part, do not delay, for I have a long road to travel. Have my steed well shod, and bring him quickly where I am; then shalt thou lead back my palfrey. But take good care, I adjure thee, if any one questions thee about me, to give him no satisfaction. Otherwise, whatever thy confidence in me, thou need never again count on my goodwill.” “Sire,” he says, “all will be well, for no one shall learn anything from me. Proceed, and I shall follow you.”
(Vv. 747–906.) My lord Yvain mounts at once, intending to avenge, if possible, his cousin’s disgrace before he returns. The squire ran for the arms and steed; he mounted at once without delay, since he was already equipped with shoes and nails. Then he followed his master’s track until he saw him standing mounted, waiting to one side of the road in a place apart. He brought him his harness and equipment, and then accoutred him. My lord Yvain made no delay after putting on his arms, but hastily made his way each day over the mountains and through the valleys, through the forests long and wide, through strange and wild country, passing through many gruesome spots, many a danger and many a strait, until he came directly to the path, which was full of brambles and dark enough; then he felt he was safe at last, and could not now lose his way. Whoever may have to pay the cost, he will not stop until he sees the pine which shades the spring and stone, and the tempest of hail and rain and thunder and wind. That night, you may be sure, he had such lodging as he desired, for he found the vavasor to be even more polite and courteous than he had been told, and in the damsel he perceived a hundred times more sense and beauty than Calogrenant had spoken of, for one cannot rehearse the sum of a lady’s or a good man’s qualities. The moment such a man devotes himself to virtue, his story cannot be summed up or told, for no tongue could estimate the honourable deeds of such a gentleman. My lord Yvain was well content with the excellent lodging he had that night, and when he entered the clearing the next day, he met the bulls and the rustic boor who showed him the way to take. But more than a hundred times he crossed himself at sight of the monster before him — how Nature had ever been able to form such a hideous, ugly creature. Then to the spring he made his way, and found there all that he wished to see. Without hesitation and without sitting down he poured the basin full of water upon the stone, when straightway it began to blow and rain, and such a storm was caused as had been foretold. And when God had appeased the storm, the birds came to perch upon the pine, and sang their joyous songs up above the perilous spring. But before their jubilee had ceased there came the knight, more blazing with wrath than a burning log, and making as much noise as if he were chasing a lusty stag. As soon as they espied each other they rushed together and displayed the mortal hate they bore. Each one carried a stiff, stout lance, with which they dealt such mighty blows that they pierced the shields about their necks, and cut the meshes of their hauberks; their lances are splintered and sprung, while the fragments are cast high in air. Then each attacks the other with his sword, and in the strife they cut the straps of the shields away, and cut the shields all to bits from end to end, so that the shreds hang down, no longer serving as covering or defence; for they have so split them up that they bring down the gleaming blades upon their sides, their arms, and hips. Fierce, indeed, is their assault; yet they do not budge from their standing-place any more than would two blocks of stone. Never were there two knights so intent upon each other’s death. They are careful not to waste their blows, but lay them on as best they may; they strike and bend their helmets, and they send the meshes of their hauberks flying so, that they draw not a little blood, for the hauberks are so hot with their body’s heat that they hardly serve as more protection than a coat. As they drive the sword-point at the face, it is marvellous that so fierce and bitter a strife should last so long. But both are possessed of such courage that one would not for aught retreat a foot before his adversary until he had wounded him to death. Yet, in this respect they were very honourable in not trying or deigning to strike or harm their steeds in any way; but they sat astride their steeds without putting foot to earth, which made the fight more elegant. At last my lord Yvain crushed the helmet of the knight, whom the blow stunned and made so faint that he swooned away, never having received such a cruel blow before. Beneath his kerchief his head was split to the very brains, so that the meshes of his bright hauberk were stained with the brains and blood, all of which caused him such intense pain that his heart almost ceased to beat. He had good reason then to flee, for he felt that he had a mortal wound, and that further resistance would not avail. With this thought in mind he quickly made his escape toward his town, where the bridge was lowered and the gate quickly opened for him; meanwhile my lord Yvain at once spurs after him at topmost speed. As a gerfalcon swoops upon a crane when he sees him rising from afar, and then draws so near to him that he is about to seize him, yet misses him, so flees the knight, with Yvain pressing him so close that he can almost throw his arm about him, and yet cannot quite come up with him, though he is so close that he can hear him groan for the pain he feels. While the one exerts himself in flight the other strives in pursuit of him, fearing to have wasted his effort unless he takes him alive or dead; for he still recalls the mocking words which my lord Kay had addressed to him. He had not yet carried out the pledge which he had given to his cousin; nor will they believe his word unless he returns with the evidence. The knight led him a rapid chase to the gate of his town, where they entered in; but finding no man or woman in the streets through which they passed, they both rode swiftly on till they came to the palace-gate.
(Vv. 907–1054.) The gate was very high and wide, yet it had such a narrow entrance-way that two men or two horses could scarcely enter abreast or pass without interference or great difficulty; for it was constructed just like a trap which is set for the rat on mischief bent, and which has a blade above ready to fall and strike and catch, and which is suddenly released whenever anything, however gently, comes in contact with the spring. In like fashion, beneath the gate there were two springs connected with a portcullis up above, edged with iron and very sharp. If anything stepped upon this contrivance the gate descended from above, and whoever below was struck by the gate was caught and mangled. Precisely in the middle the passage lay as narrow as if it were a beaten track. Straight through it exactly the knight rushed on, with my lord Yvain madly following him apace, and so close to him that he held him by the saddle-bow behind. It was well for him that he was stretched forward, for had it not been for this piece of luck he would have been cut quite through; for his horse stepped upon the wooden spring which kept the portcullis in place. Like a hellish devil the gate dropped down, catching the saddle and the horse’s haunches, which it cut off clean. But, thank God, my lord Yvain was only slightly touched when it grazed his back so closely that it cut both his spurs off even with his heels. And while he thus fell in dismay, the other with his mortal wound escaped him, as you now shall see. Farther on there was another gate just like the one they had just passed; through this the knight made his escape, and the gate descended behind him. Thus my lord Yvain was caught, very much concerned and discomfited as he finds himself shut in this hallway, which was all studded with gilded nails, and whose walls were cunningly decorated with precious paints. 98 But about nothing was he so worried as not to know what had become of the knight. While he was in this narrow place, he heard open the door of a little adjoining room, and there came forth alone a fair and charming maiden who closed the door again after her. When she found my lord Yvain, at first she was sore dismayed. 99 “Surely, sir knight,” she says, “I fear you have come in an evil hour. If you are seen here, you will be all cut to pieces. For my lord is mortally wounded, and I know it is you who have been the death of him. My lady is in such a state of grief, and her people about her are crying so that they are ready to die with rage; and, moreover, they know you to be inside. But as yet their grief is such that they are unable to attend to you. The moment they come to attack you, they cannot fail to kill or capture you, as they may choose.” And my lord Yvain replies to her: “If God will they shall never kill me, nor shall I fall into their hands.” “No,” she says, “for I shall do my utmost to assist you. It is not manly to cherish fear. So I hold you to be a man of courage, when you are not dismayed. And rest assured that if I could I would help you and treat you honourably, as you in turn would do for me. Once my lady sent me on an errand to the King’s court, and I suppose I was not so experienced or courteous or so well behaved as a maiden ought to be; at any rate, there was not a knight there who deigned to say a word to me except you alone who stand here now; but you, in your kindness, honoured and aided me. For the honour you did me then I shall now reward you. I know full well what your name is, and I recognised you at once: your name is my lord Yvain. You may be sure and certain that if you take my advice you will never be caught or treated ill. Please take this little ring of mine, which you will return when I shall have delivered you.” 100 Then she handed him the little ring and told him that its effect was like that of the bark which covers the wood so that it cannot be seen; but it must be worn so that the stone is within the palm; then he who wears the ring upon his finger need have no concern for anything; for no one, however sharp his eyes may be, will be able to see him any more than the wood which is covered by the outside bark. All this is pleasing to my lord Yvain. And when she had told him this, she led him to a seat upon a couch covered with a quilt so rich that the Duke of Austria had none such, and she told him that if he cared for something to eat she would fetch it for him; and he replied that he would gladly do so. Running quickly into the chamber, she presently returned, bringing a roasted fowl and a cake, a cloth, a full pot of good grape-wine covered with a white drinking-cup; all this she offered to him to eat. And he, who stood in need of food, very gladly ate and drank.
(Vv. 1055–1172.) By the time he had finished his meal the knights were astir inside looking for him and eager to avenge their lord, who was already stretched upon his bier. Then the damsel said to Yvain: “Friend, do you hear them all seeking you? There is a great noise and uproar brewing. But whoever may come or go, do not stir for any noise of theirs, for they can never discover you if you do not move from this couch. Presently you will see this room all full of ill-disposed and hostile people, who will think to find you here; and I make no doubt that they will bring the body here before interment, and they will begin to search for you under the seats and the beds. It will be amusing for a man who is not afraid when he sees people searching so fruitlessly, for they will all be so blind, so undone, and so misguided that they will be beside themselves with rage. I cannot tell you more just now, for I dare no longer tarry here. But I may thank God for giving me the chance and the opportunity to do some service to please you, as I yearned to do.” Then she turned away, and when she was gone all the crowd with one accord had come from both sides to the gates, armed with clubs and swords. There was a mighty crowd and press of hostile people surging about, when they espied in front of the gate the half of the horse which had been cut down. Then they felt very sure that when the gates were opened they would find inside him whose life they wished to take. Then they caused to be drawn up those gates which had been the death of many men. But since no spring or trap was laid for their passage they all came through abreast. Then they found at the threshold the other half of the horse that had been killed; but none of them had sharp enough eyes to see my lord Yvain, whom they would gladly have killed; and he saw them beside themselves with rage and fury, as they said: “How can this be? For there is no door or window here through which anything could escape, unless it be a bird, a squirrel, or marmot, or some other even smaller animal; for the windows are barred, and the gates were closed as soon as my lord passed through. The body is in here, dead or alive, since there is no sign of it outside there; we can see more than half of the saddle in here, but of him we see nothing, except the spurs which fell down severed from his feet. Now let us cease this idle talk, and search in all these comers, for he is surely in here still, or else we are all enchanted, or the evil spirits have filched him away from us.” Thus they all, aflame with rage, sought him about the room, beating upon the walls, and beds, and seats. But the couch upon which he lay was spared and missed the blows, so that he was not struck or touched. But all about they thrashed enough, and raised an uproar in the room with their clubs, like a blind man who pounds as he goes about his search. While they were poking about under the beds and the stools, there entered one of the most beautiful ladies that any earthly creature ever saw. Word or mention was never made of such a fair Christian dame, and yet she was so crazed with grief that she was on the point of taking her life. All at once she cried out at the top of her voice, and then fell prostrate in a swoon. And when she had been picked up she began to claw herself and tear her hair, like a woman who had lost her mind. She tears her hair and rips her dress, and faints at every step she takes; nor can anything comfort her when she sees her husband borne along lifeless in the bier; for her happiness is at an end, and so she made her loud lament. The holy water and the cross and the tapers were borne in advance by the nuns from a convent; then came missals and censers and the priests, who pronounce the final absolution required for the wretched soul.
(Vv. 1173–1242.) My lord Yvain heard the cries and the grief that can never be described, for no one could describe it, nor was such ever set down in a book. The procession passed, but in the middle of the room a great crowd gathered about the bier, for the fresh warm blood trickled out again from the dead man’s wound, and this betokened certainly that the man was still surely present who had fought the battle and had killed and defeated him. Then they sought and searched everywhere, and turned and stirred up everything, until they were all in a sweat with the trouble and the press which had been caused by the sight of the trickling crimson blood. Then my lord Yvain was well struck and beaten where he lay, but not for that did he stir at all. And the people became more and more distraught because of the wounds which burst open, and they marvelled why they bled, without knowing whose fault it was. 101 And each one to his neighbour said: “The murderer is among us here, and yet we do not see him, which is passing strange and mysterious.” At this the lady showed such grief that she made an attempt upon her life, and cried as if beside herself: “All God, then will the murderer not be found, the traitor who took my good lord’s life? Good? Aye, the best of the good, indeed! True God, Thine will be the fault if Thou dost let him thus escape. No other man than Thou should I blame for it who dost hide him from my sight. Such a wonder was never seen, nor such injustice, as Thou dost to me in not allowing me even to see the man who must be so close to me. When I cannot see him, I may well say that some demon or spirit has interposed himself between us, so that I am under a spell. Or else he is a coward and is afraid of me: he must be a craven to stand in awe of me, and it is an act of cowardice not to show himself before me. Ah, thou spirit, craven thing! Why art thou so in fear of me, when before my lord thou weft so brave? O empty and elusive thing, why cannot I have thee in my power? Why cannot I lay hands upon thee now? But how could it ever come about that thou didst kill my lord, unless it was done by treachery? Surely my lord would never have met defeat at thy hands had he seen thee face to face. For neither God nor man ever knew of his like, nor is there any like him now. Surely, hadst thou been a mortal man, thou wouldst never have dared to withstand my lord, for no one could compare with him.” Thus the lady struggles with herself, and thus she contends and exhausts herself. And her people with her, for their part, show the greatest possible grief as they carry off the body to burial. After their long efforts and search they are completely exhausted by the quest, and give it up from weariness, inasmuch as they can find no one who is in any way guilty. The nuns and priests, having already finished the service, had returned from the church and were gone to the burial. But to all this the damsel in her chamber paid no heed. Her thoughts are with my lord Yvain, and, coming quickly, she said to him: “Fair sir, these people have been seeking you in force. They have raised a great tumult here, and have poked about in all the corners more diligently than a hunting-dog goes ferreting a partridge or a quail. Doubtless you have been afraid.” “Upon my word, you are right,” says he: “I never thought to be so afraid. And yet, if it were possible I should gladly look out through some window or aperture at the procession and the corpse.” Yet he had no interest in either the corpse or the procession, for he would gladly have seen them all burned, even had it cost him a thousand marks. A thousand marks? Three thousand, verily, upon my word. But he said it because of the lady of the town, of whom he wished to catch a glimpse. So the damsel placed him at a little window, and repaid him as well as she could for the honour which he had done her. From this window my lord Yvain espies the fair lady, as she says: “Sire, may God have mercy upon your soul! For never, I verily believe, did any knight ever sit in saddle who was your equal in any respect. No other knight, my fair sweet lord, ever possessed your honour or courtesy. Generosity was your friend and boldness your companion. May your soul rest among the saints, my fair dear lord.” Then she strikes and tears whatever she can lay her hands upon. Whatever the outcome may be, it is hard for my lord Yvain to restrain himself from running forward to seize her hands. But the damsel begs and advises him, and even urgently commands him, though with courtesy and graciousness, not to commit any rash deed, saying: “You are well off here. Do not stir for any cause until this grief shall be assuaged; let these people all depart, as they will do presently. If you act as I advise, in accordance with my views, great advantage may come to you. It will be best for you to remain seated here, and watch the people inside and out as they pass along the way without their seeing you. But take care not to speak violently, for I hold that man to be rather imprudent than brave who goes too far and loses his self-restraint and commits some deed of violence the moment he has the time and chance. So if you cherish some rash thought be careful not to utter it. The wise man conceals his imprudent thought and works out righteousness if he can. So wisely take good care not to risk your head, for which they would accept no ransom. Be considerate of yourself and remember my advice. Rest assured until I return, for I dare not stay longer now. I might stay so long, I fear, that they would suspect me when they did not see me in the crowd, and then I should suffer for it.”
(Vv. 1339–1506.) Then she goes off, and he remains, not knowing how to comport himself. He is loath to see them bury the corpse without his securing anything to take back as evidence that he has defeated and killed him. If he has no proof or evidence he will be held in contempt, for Kay is so mean and obstinate, so given to mockery, and so annoying, that he could never succeed in convincing him. He would go about for ever insulting him, flinging his mockery and taunts as he did the other day. These taunts are still fresh and rankling in his heart. But with her sugar and honey a new Love now softened him; he had been to hunt upon his lands and had gathered in his prey. His enemy carries off his heart, and he loves the creature who hates him most. The lady, all unaware, has well avenged her lord’s death. She has secured greater revenge than she could ever have done unless she had been aided by Love, who attacks him so gently that he wounds his heart through his eyes. And this wound is more enduring than any inflicted by lance or sword. A sword-blow is cured and healed at once as soon as a doctor attends to it, but the wound of love is worst when it is nearest to its physician. This is the wound of my lord Yvain, from which he will never more recover, for Love has installed himself with him. He deserts and goes away from the places he was wont to frequent. He cares for no lodging or landlord save this one, and he is very wise in leaving a poor lodging-place in order to betake himself to him. In order to devote himself completely to him, he will have no other lodging-place, though often he is wont to seek out lowly hostelries. It is a shame that Love should ever so basely conduct himself as to select the meanest lodging-place quite as readily as the best. But now he has come where he is welcome, and where he will be treated honourably, and where he will do well to stay. This is the way Love ought to act, being such a noble creature that it is marvellous how he dares shamefully to descend to such low estate. He is like him who spreads his balm upon the ashes and dust, who mingles sugar with gall, and suet with honey. However, he did not act so this time, but rather lodged in a noble place, for which no one can reproach him. When the dead man had been buried, all the people dispersed, leaving no clerks or knights or ladies, excepting only her who makes no secret of her grief. She alone remains behind, often clutching at her throat, wringing her hands, and beating her palms, as she reads her psalms in her gilt lettered psalter. All this while my lord Yvain is at the window gazing at her, and the more he looks at her the more he loves her and is enthralled by her. He would have wished that she should cease her weeping and reading, and that she should feel inclined to converse with him. Love, who caught him at the window, filled him with this desire. But he despairs of realising his wish, for he cannot imagine or believe that his desire can be gratified. So he says: “I may consider myself a fool to wish for what I cannot have. Her lord it was whom I wounded mortally, and yet do I think I can be reconciled with her? Upon my word, such thoughts are folly, for at present she has good reason to hate me more bitterly than anything. I am right in saying ‘at present’, for a woman has more than one mind. That mind in which she is just now I trust she will soon change; indeed, she will change it certainly, and I am mad thus to despair. God grant that she change it soon! For I am doomed to be her slave, since such is the will of Love. Whoever does not welcome Love gladly, when he comes to him, commits treason and a felony. I admit (and let whosoever will, heed what I say) that such an one deserves no happiness or joy. But if I lose, it will not be for such a reason; rather will I love my enemy. For I ought not to feel any hate for her unless I wish to betray Love. I must love in accordance with Love’s desire. And ought she to regard me as a friend? Yes, surely, since it is she whom I love. And I call her my enemy, for she hates me, though with good reason, for I killed the object of her love. So, then, am I her enemy? Surely no, but her true friend, for I never so loved any one before. I grieve for her fair tresses, surpassing gold in their radiance; I feel the pangs of anguish and torment when I see her tear and cut them, nor can her tears e’er be dried which I see falling from her eyes; by all these things I am distressed. Although they are full of ceaseless, ever-flowing tears, yet never were there such lovely eves. The sight of her weeping causes me agony, but nothing pains me so much as the sight of her face, which she lacerates without its having merited such treatment. I never saw such a face so perfectly formed, nor so fresh and delicately coloured. And then it has pierced my heart to see her clutch her throat. Surely, it is all too true that she is doing the worst she can. And yet no crystal nor any mirror is so bright and smooth. God! why is she thus possessed, and why does she not spare herself? Why does she wring her lovely hands and beat and tear her breast? Would she not be marvellously fair to look upon when in happy mood, seeing that she is so fair in her displeasure? Surely yes, I can take my oath on that. Never before in a work of beauty was Nature thus able to outdo herself, for I am sure she has gone beyond the limits of any previous attempt. How could it ever have happened then? Whence came beauty so marvellous? God must have made her with His naked hand that Nature might rest from further toil. If she should try to make a replica, she might spend her time in vain without succeeding in her task. Even God Himself, were He to try, could not succeed, I guess, in ever making such another, whatever effort He might put forth.”
(Vv. 1507–1588.) Thus my lord Yvain considers her who is broken with her grief, and I suppose it would never happen again that any man in prison, like my lord Yvain in fear for his life, would ever be so madly in love as to make no request on his own behalf, when perhaps no one else will speak for him. He stayed at the window until he saw the lady go away, and both the portcullises were lowered again. Another might have grieved at this, who would prefer a free escape to tarrying longer where he was. But to him it is quite indifferent whether they be shut or opened. If they were open he surely would not go away, no, even were the lady to give him leave and pardon him freely for the death of her lord. For he is detained by Love and Shame which rise up before him on either hand: he is ashamed to go away, for no one would believe in the success of his exploit; on the other hand, he has such a strong desire to see the lady at least, if he cannot obtain any other favour, that he feels little concern about his imprisonment. He would rather die than go away. And now the damsel returns, wishing to bear him company with her solace and gaiety, and to go and fetch for him whatever he may desire. But she found him pensive and quite worn out with the love which had laid hold of him; whereupon she addressed him thus: “My lord Yvain, what sort of a time have you had today?” “I have been pleasantly occupied,” was his reply. “Pleasantly? In God’s name, is that the truth? What? How can one enjoy himself seeing that he is hunted to death, unless he courts and wishes it?” “Of a truth,” he says, “my gentle friend, I should by no means wish to die; and yet, as God beholds me, I was pleased, am pleased now, and always shall be pleased by what I saw.” “Well, let us say no more of that,” she makes reply, “for I can understand well enough what is the meaning of such words. I am not so foolish or inexperienced that I cannot understand such words as those; but come now after me, for I shall find some speedy means to release you from your confinement. I shall surely set you free to-night or tomorrow, if you please. Come now, I will lead you away.” And he thus makes reply: “You may be sure that I will never escape secretly and like a thief. When the people are all gathered out there in the streets, I can go forth more honourably than if I did so surreptitiously.” Then he followed her into the little room. The damsel, who was kind, secured and bestowed upon him all that he desired. And when the opportunity arose, she remembered what he had said to her how he had been pleased by what he saw when they were seeking him in the room with intent to kill him.
(Vv. 1589–1652.) The damsel stood in such favour with her lady that she had no fear of telling her anything, regardless of the consequences, for she was her confidante and companion. Then, why should she be backward in comforting her lady and in giving her advice which should redound to her honour? The first time she said to her privily: “My lady, I greatly marvel to see you act so extravagantly. Do you think you can recover your lord by giving away thus to your grief?” “Nay, rather, if I had my wish,” says she, “I would now be dead of grief.” “And why?” “In order to follow after him.” “After him? God forbid, and give you again as good a lord, as is consistent with His might.” “Thou didst never speak such a lie as that, for He could never give me so good a lord again.” “He will give you a better one, if you will accept him, and I can prove it.” “Begone! Peace! I shall never find such a one.” “Indeed you shall, my lady, if you will consent. Just tell me, if you will, who is going to defend your land when King Arthur comes next week to the margin of the spring? You have already been apprised of this by letters sent you by the Dameisele Sauvage. Alas, what a kind service she did for you! you ought to be considering how you will defend your spring, and yet you cease not to weep! If it please you, my dear lady, you ought not to delay. For surely, all the knights you have are not worth, as you well know, so much as a single chamber-maid. Neither shield nor lance will ever be taken in hand by the best of them. You have plenty of craven servants, but there is not one of them brave enough to dare to mount a steed. And the King is coming with such a host that his victory will be inevitable.” The lady, upon reflection, knows very well that she is giving her sincere advice, but she is unreasonable in one respect, as also are other women who are, almost without exception, guilty of their own folly, and refuse to accept what they really wish. “Begone,” she says; “leave me alone. If I ever hear thee speak of this again it will go hard with thee, unless thou flee. Thou weariest me with thy idle words.” “Very well, my lady,” she says; “that you are a woman is evident, for woman will grow irate when she hears any one give her good advice.”
(Vv. 1653–1726.) Then she went away and left her alone. And the lady reflected that she had been in the wrong. She would have been very glad to know how the damsel could ever prove that it would be possible to find a better knight than her lord had ever been. She would be very glad to hear her speak, but now she has forbidden her. With this desire in mind, she waited until she returned. But the warning was of no avail, for she began to say to her at once: “My lady, is it seemly that you should thus torment yourself with grief? For God’s sake now control yourself, and for shame, at least, cease your lament. It is not fitting that so great a lady should keep up her grief so long. Remember your honourable estate and your very gentle birth! Think you that all virtue ceased with the death of your lord? There are in the world a hundred as good or better men.” “May God confound me, if thou dost not lie! Just name to me a single one who is reputed to be so excellent as my lord was all his life.” “If I did so you would be angry with me, and would fly into a passion and you would esteem me less.” “No, I will not, I assure thee.” “Then may it all be for your future welfare if you would but consent, and may God so incline your will! I see no reason for holding my peace, for no one hears or heeds what we say. Doubtless you will think I am impudent, but I shall freely speak my mind. When two knights have met in an affray of arms and when one has beaten the other, which of the two do you think is the better? For my part I award the prize to the victor. Now what do you think?” “It seems to me you are laying a trap for me and intend to catch me in my words.” “Upon my faith, you may rest assured that I am in the right, and I can irrefutably prove to you that he who defeated your lord is better than he was himself. He beat him and pursued him valiantly until he imprisoned him in his house.” “Now,” she replies, “I hear the greatest nonsense that was ever uttered. Begone, thou spirit charged with evil! Begone, thou foolish and tiresome girl! Never again utter such idle words, and never come again into my presence to speak a word on his behalf!” “Indeed, my lady, I knew full well that I should receive no thanks from you, and I said so before I spoke. But you promised me you would not be displeased, and that you would not be angry with me for it. But you have failed to keep your promise, and now, as it has turned out, you have discharged your wrath on me, and I have lost by not holding my peace.”
(Vv. 1727–1942.) Thereupon she goes back to the room where my lord Yvain is waiting, comfortably guarded by her vigilance. But he is ill at ease when he cannot see the lady, and he pays no attention, and hears no word of the report which the damsel brings to him. The lady, too, is in great perplexity all night, being worried about how she should defend the spring; and she begins to repent of her action to the damsel, whom she had blamed and insulted and treated with contempt. She feels very sure and certain that not for any reward or bribe, nor for any affection which she may bear him, would the maiden ever have mentioned him; and that she must love her more than him, and that she would never give her advice which would bring her shame or embarrassment: the maid is too loyal a friend for that. Thus, lo! the lady is completely changed: she fears now that she to whom she had spoken harshly will never love her again devotedly; and him whom she had repulsed, she now loyally and with good reason pardons, seeing that he had done her no wrong. So she argues as if he were in her presence there, and thus she begins her argument: “Come,” she says, “canst thou deny that my lord was killed by thee?” “That,” says he, “I cannot deny. Indeed, I fully admit it.” “Tell me, then, the reason of thy deed. Didst thou do it to injure me, prompted by hatred or by spite?” “May death not spare me now, if I did it to injure you.” “In that case, thou hast done me no wrong, nor art thou guilty of aught toward him. For he would have killed thee, if he could. So it seems to me that I have decided well and righteously.” Thus, by her own arguments she succeeds in discovering justice, reason, and common sense, how that there is no cause for hating him; thus she frames the matter to conform with her desire, and by her own efforts she kindles her love, as a bush which only smokes with the flame beneath, until some one blows it or stirs it up. If the damsel should come in now, she would win the quarrel for which she had been so reproached, and by which she had been so hurt. And next morning, in fact, she appeared again, taking the subject up where she had let it drop. Meanwhile, the lady bowed her head, knowing she had done wrong in attacking her. But now she is anxious to make amends, and to inquire concerning the name, character, and lineage of the knight: so she wisely humbles herself, and says: “I wish to beg your pardon for the insulting words of pride which in my rage I spoke to you: I will follow your advice. So tell me now, if possible, about the knight of whom you have spoken so much to me: what sort of a man is he, and of what parentage? If he is suited to become my mate, and provided he be so disposed, I promise you to make him my husband and lord of my domain. But he will have to act in such a way that no one can reproach me by saying: ‘This is she who took him who killed her lord.’” “In God’s name, lady, so shall it be. You will have the gentlest, noblest, and fairest lord who ever belonged to Abel’s line.” “What is his name?” “My lord Yvain.” “Upon my word, if he is King Urien’s son he is of no mean birth, but very noble, as I well know.” “Indeed, my lady, you say the truth.” “And when shall we be able to see him?” “In five days’ time.” “That would be too long; for I wish he were already come. Let him come to-night, or tomorrow, at the latest.” “My lady, I think no one could fly so far in one day. But I shall send one of my squires who can run fast, and who will reach King Arthur’s court at least by tomorrow night, I think; that is the place we must seek for him.” “That is a very long time. The days are long. But tell him that tomorrow night he must be back here, and that he must make greater haste than usual. If he will only do his best, he can do two days’ journey in one. Moreover, to-night the moon will shine; so let him turn night into day. And when he returns I will give him whatever he wishes me to give.” “Leave all care of that to me; for you shall have him in your hands the day after tomorrow at the very latest. Meanwhile you shall summon your men and confer with them about the approaching visit of the King. In order to make the customary defence of your spring it behoves you to consult with them. None of them will be so hardy as to dare to boast that he will present himself. In that case you will have a good excuse for saving that it behoves you to marry again. A certain knight, highly qualified, seeks your hand; but you do not presume to accept him without their unanimous consent. And I warrant what the outcome will be: I know them all to be such cowards that in order to put on some one else the burden which would be too heavy for them, they will fall at your feet and speak their gratitude; for thus their responsibility will be at an end. For, whoever is afraid of his own shadow willingly avoids, if possible, any meeting with lance or spear; for such games a coward has no use.” “Upon my word,” the lady replies, “so I would have it, and so I consent, having already conceived the plan which you have expressed; so that is what we shall do. But why do you tarry here? Go, without delay, and take measures to bring him here, while I shall summon my liege-men.” Thus concluded their conference. And the damsel pretends to send to search for my lord Yvain in his country; while every day she has him bathed, and washed, and groomed. And besides this she prepares for him a robe of red scarlet stuff, brand new and lined with spotted fur. There is nothing necessary for his equipment which she does not lend to him: a golden buckle for his neck, ornamented with precious stones which make people look well, a girdle, and a wallet made of rich gold brocade. She fitted him out perfectly, then informed her lady that the messenger had returned, having done his errand well. “How is that?” she says, “is he here? Then let him come at once, secretly and privily, while no one is here with me. See to it that no one else come in, for I should hate to see a fourth person here.” At this the damsel went away, and returned to her guest again. However, her face did not reveal the joy that was in her heart; indeed, she said that her lady knew that she had been sheltering him, and was very much incensed at her. “Further concealment is useless now. The news about you has been so divulged that my lady knows the whole story and is very angry with me, heaping me with blame and reproaches. But she has given me her word that I may take you into her presence without any harm or danger. I take it that you will have no objection to this, except for one condition (for I must not disguise the truth, or I should be unjust to you): she wishes to have you in her control, and she desires such complete possession of your body that even your heart shall not be at large.” “Certainly,” he said, “I readily consent to what will be no hardship to me. I am willing to be her prisoner.” “So shall you be: I swear it by this right hand laid upon you!. Now come and, upon my advice, demean yourself so humbly in her presence that your imprisonment may not be grievous. Otherwise feel no concern. I do not think that your restraint will be irksome.” Then the damsel leads him off, now alarming, now reassuring him, and speaking to him mysteriously about the confinement in which he is to find himself; for every lover is a prisoner. She is right in calling him a prisoner; for surely any one who loves is no longer free.
(Vv. 1943–2036.) Taking my lord Yvain by the hand, the damsel leads him where he will be dearly loved; but expecting to be ill received, it is not strange if he is afraid. They found the lady seated upon a red cushion. I assure you my lord Yvain was terrified upon entering the room, where he found the lady who spoke not a word to him. At this he was still more afraid, being overcome with fear at the thought that he had been betrayed. He stood there to one side so long that the damsel at last spoke up and said: “Five hundred curses upon the head of him who takes into a fair lady’s chamber a knight who will not draw near, and who has neither tongue nor mouth nor sense to introduce himself.” Thereupon, taking him by the arm, she thrust him forward with the words: “Come, step forward, knight, and have no fear that my lady is going to snap at you; but seek her good-will and give her yours. I will join you in your prayer that she pardon you for the death of her lord, Esclados the Red.” Then my lord Yvain clasped his hands, and failing upon his knees, spoke like a lover with these words: “I will not crave your pardon, lady, but rather thank you for any treatment you may inflict on me, knowing that no act of yours could ever be distasteful to me.” “Is that so, sir? And what if I think to kill you now?” “My lady, if it please you, you will never hear me speak otherwise.” “I never heard of such a thing as this: that you put yourself voluntarily and absolutely within my power, without the coercion of any one.” “My lady, there is no force so strong, in truth, as that which commands me to conform absolutely to your desire. I do not fear to carry out any order you may be pleased to give. And if I could atone for the death, which came through no fault of mine, I would do so cheerfully.” “What?” says she, “come tell me now and be forgiven, if you did no wrong in killing my lord?” “Lady,” he says, “if I may say it, when your lord attacked me, why was I wrong to defend myself? When a man in self-defence kills another who is trying to kill or capture him, tell me if in any way he is to blame.” “No, if one looks at it aright. And I suppose it would have been no use, if I had had you put to death. But I should be glad to learn whence you derive the force that bids you to consent unquestioningly to whatever my will may dictate. I pardon you all your misdeeds and crimes. But be seated, and tell us now what is the cause of your docility?” “My lady,” he says, “the impelling force comes from my heart, which is inclined toward you. My heart has fixed me in this desire.” “And what prompted your heart, my fair sweet friend?” “Lady, my eyes.” “And what the eyes?” “The great beauty that I see in you.” “And where is beauty’s fault in that?” “Lady, in this: that it makes me love.” “Love? And whom?” “You, my lady dear.” “I?” “Yes, truly.” “Really? And how is that?” “To such an extent that my heart will not stir from you, nor is it elsewhere to be found; to such an extent that I cannot think of anything else, and I surrender myself altogether to you, whom I love more than I love myself, and for whom, if you will, I am equally ready to die or live.” “And would you dare to undertake the defence of my spring for love of me?” “Yes, my lady, against the world.” “Then you may know that our peace is made.”
(Vv. 2037–2048.) Thus they are quickly reconciled. And the lady, having previously consulted her lords, says: “We shall proceed from here to the hall where my men are assembled, who, in view of the evident need, have advised and counselled me to take a husband at their request. And I shall do so, in view of the urgent need: here and now I give myself to you; for I should not refuse to accept as lord, such a good knight and a king’s son.”
(Vv. 2049–2328.) Now the damsel has brought about exactly what she had desired. And my lord Yvain’s mastery is more complete than could be told or described; for the lady leads him away to the hall, which was full of her knights and men-at-arms. And my lord Yvain was so handsome that they all marvelled to look at him, and all, rising to their feet, salute and bow to my lord Yvain, guessing well as they did so: “This is he whom my lady will select. Cursed be he who opposes him! For he seems a wonderfully fine man. Surely, the empress of Rome would be well married with such a man. Would now that he had given his word to her, and she to him, with clasped hand, and that the wedding might take place today or tomorrow.” Thus they spoke among themselves. At the end of the hall there was a seat, and there in the sight of all the lady took her place. And my lord Yvain made as if he intended to seat himself at her feet; but she raised him up, and ordered the seneschal to speak aloud, so that his speech might be heard by all. Then the seneschal began, being neither stubborn nor slow of speech: “My lords,” he said, “we are confronted by war. Every day the King is preparing with all the haste he can command to come to ravage our lands. Before a fortnight shall have passed, all will have been laid waste, unless some valiant defender shall appear. When my lady married first, not quite seven years ago, she did it on your advice. Now her husband is dead, and she is grieved. Six feet of earth is all he has, who formerly owned all this land, and who was indeed its ornament. 102 It is a pity he lived so short a while. A woman cannot bear a shield, nor does she know how to fight with lance. It would exalt and dignify her again if she should marry some worthy lord. Never was there greater need than now; do all of you recommend that she take a spouse, before the custom shall lapse which has been observed in this town for more than the past sixty years.” At this, all at once proclaim that it seems to them the right thing to do, and they all throw themselves at her feet. They strengthen her desire by their consent; yet she hesitates to assert her wishes until, as if against her will, she finally speaks to the same intent as she would have done, indeed, if every one had opposed her wish: “My lords, since it is your wish, this knight who is seated beside me has wooed me and ardently sought my hand. He wishes to engage himself in the defence of my rights and in my service, for which I thank him heartily, as you do also. It is true I have never known him in person, but I have often heard his name. Know that he is no less a man than the son of King Urien. Beside his illustrious lineage, he is so brave, courteous, and wise that no one has cause to disparage him. You have all already heard, I suppose, of my lord Yvain, and it is he who seeks my hand. When the marriage is consummated, I shall have a more noble lord than I deserve.” They all say: “If you are prudent, this very day shall not go by without the marriage being solemnised. For it is folly to postpone for a single hour an advantageous act.” They beseech her so insistently that she consents to what she would have done in any case. For Love bids her do that for which she asks counsel and advice; but there is more honour for him in being accepted with the approval of her men. To her their prayers are not unwelcome; rather do they stir and incite her heart to have its way. The horse, already under speed, goes faster yet when it is spurred. In the presence of all her lords, the lady gives herself to my lord Yvain. From the hand of her chaplain he received the lady, Laudine de Landuc, daughter of Duke Laudunet, of whom they sing a lay. That very day without delay he married her, and the wedding was celebrated. There were plenty of mitres and croziers there, for the lady had summoned her bishops and abbots. Great was the joy and rejoicing, there were many people, and much wealth was displayed — more than I could tell you of, were I to devote much thought to it. It is better to keep silent than to be inadequate. So my lord Yvain is master now, and the dead man is quite forgot. He who killed him is now married to his wife, and they enjoy the marriage rights. The people love and esteem their living lord more than they ever did the dead. They served him well at his marriage-feast, until the eve before the day when the King came to visit the marvellous spring and its stone, bringing with him upon this expedition his companions and all those of his household; not one was left behind. And my lord Kay remarked: “Ah, what now has become of Yvain, who after his dinner made the boast that he would avenge his cousin’s shame? Evidently he spoke in his cups. I believe that he has run away. He would not dare to come back for anything. He was very presumptuous to make such a boast. He is a bold man who dares to boast of what no one would praise him for, and who has no proof of his great feats except the words of some false flatterer. There is a great difference between a coward and a hero; for the coward seated beside the fire talks loudly about himself, holding all the rest as fools, and thinking that no one knows his real character. A hero would be distressed at hearing his prowess related by some one else. And yet I maintain that the coward is not wrong to praise and vaunt himself, for he will find no one else to lie for him. If he does not boast of his deeds, who will? All pass over him in silence, even the heralds, who proclaim the brave, but discard the cowards.” When my lord Kay had spoken thus, my lord Gawain made this reply: “My lord Kay, have some mercy now! Since my lord Yvain is not here, you do not know what business occupies him. Indeed, he never so debased himself as to speak any ill of you compared with the gracious things he has said.” “Sire,” says Kay, “I’ll hold my peace. I’ll not say another word today, since I see you are offended by my speech.” Then the King, in order to see the rain, poured a whole basin full of water upon the stone beneath the pine, and at once the rain began to pour. It was not long before my lord Yvain without delay entered the forest fully armed, tiding faster than a gallop on a large, sleek steed, strong, intrepid, and fleet of foot. And it was my lord Kay’s desire to request the first encounter. For, whatever the outcome might be, he always wished to begin the fight and joust the first, or else he would be much incensed. Before all the rest, he requested the King to allow him to do battle first. The King says: “Kay, since it is your wish, and since you are the first to make the request, the favour ought not to be denied.” Kay thanks him first, then mounts his steed. If now my lord Yvain can inflict a mild disgrace upon him, he will be very glad to do so; for he recognises him by his arms. 103 Each grasping his shield by the straps, they rush together. Spurring their steeds, they lower the lances, which they hold tightly gripped. Then they thrust them forward a little, so that they grasped them by the leather-wrapped handles, and so that when they came together they were able to deal such cruel blows that both lances broke in splinters clear to the handle of the shaft. My lord Yvain gave him such a mighty blow that Kay took a summersault from out of his saddle and struck with his helmet on the ground. My lord Yvain has no desire to inflict upon him further harm, but simply dismounts and takes his horse. This pleased them all, and many said: “Ah, ah, see how you prostrate lie, who but now held others up to scorn! And yet it is only right to pardon you this time; for it never happened to you before.” Thereupon my lord Yvain approached the King, leading the horse in his hand by the bridle, and wishing to make it over to him. “Sire,” says he, “now take this steed, for I should do wrong to keep back anything of yours.” “And who are you?” the King replies; “I should never know you, unless I heard your name, or saw you without your arms.” Then my lord told him who he was, and Kay was overcome with shame, mortified, humbled, and discomfited, for having said that he had run away. But the others were greatly pleased, and made much of the honour he had won. Even the King was greatly gratified, and my lord Gawain a hundred times more than any one else. For he loved his company more than that of any other knight he knew. And the King requested him urgently to tell him, if it be his will, how he had fared; for he was very curious to learn all about his adventure; so the King begs him to tell the truth. And he soon told him all about the service and kindness of the damsel, not passing over a single word, not forgetting to mention anything. And after this he invited the King and all his knights to come to lodge with him, saying they would be doing him great honour in accepting his hospitality. And the King said that for an entire week he would gladly do him the honour and pleasure, and would bear him company. And when my lord Yvain had thanked him, they tarry no longer there, but mount and take the most direct road to the town. My lord Yvain sends in advance of the company a squire beating a crane-falcon, in order that they might not take the lady by surprise, and that her people might decorate the streets against the arrival of the King. When the lady heard the news of the King’s visit she was greatly pleased; nor was there any one who, upon hearing the news, was not happy and elated. And the lady summons them all and requests them to go to meet him, to which they make no objection or remonstrance, all being anxious to do her will.
(Vv. 2329–2414.) 104 Mounted on great Spanish steeds, they all go to meet the King of Britain, saluting King Arthur first with great courtesy and then all his company. “Welcome,” they say, “to this company, so full of honourable men! Blessed be he who brings them hither and presents us with such fair guests!” At the King’s arrival the town resounds with the joyous welcome which they give. Silken stuffs are taken out and hung aloft as decorations, and they spread tapestries to walk upon and drape the streets with them, while they wait for the King’s approach. And they make still another preparation, in covering the streets with awnings against the hot rays of the sun. Bells, horns, and trumpets cause the town to ring so that God’s thunder could not have been heard. The maidens dance before him, flutes and pipes are played, kettle-drums, drums, and cymbals are beaten. On their part the nimble youths leap, and all strive to show their delight. With such evidence of their joy, they welcome the King fittingly. And the Lady came forth, dressed in imperial garb a robe of fresh ermine — and upon her head she wore a diadem all ornamented with rubies. No cloud was there upon her face, but it was so gay and full of joy that she was more beautiful, I think, than any goddess. Around her the crowd pressed close, as they cried with one accord: “Welcome to the King of kings and lord of lords!” The King could not reply to all before he saw the lady coming toward him to hold his stirrup. However, he would not wait for this, but hastened to dismount himself as soon as he caught sight of her. Then she salutes him with these words: “Welcome a hundred thousand times to the King, my lord, and blessed be his nephew, my lord Gawain!” The King replies: “I wish all happiness and good luck to your fair body and your face, lovely creature!” Then clasping her around the waist, the King embraced her gaily and heartily as she did him, throwing her arms about him. I will say no more of how gladly she welcomed them, but no one ever heard of any people who were so honourably received and served. I might tell you much of the joy should I not be wasting words, but I wish to make brief mention of an acquaintance which was made in private between the moon and the sun. Do you know of whom I mean to speak? He who was lord of the knights, and who was renowned above them all, ought surely to be called the sun. I refer, of course, to my lord Gawain, for chivalry is enhanced by him just as when the morning sun sheds its rays abroad and lights all places where it shines. And I call her the moon, who cannot be otherwise because of her sense and courtesy. However, I call her so not only because of her good repute, but because her name is, in fact, Lunete.
(Vv. 2415–2538.) The damsel’s name was Lunete, and she was a charming brunette, prudent, clever, and polite. As her acquaintance grows with my lord Gawain, he values her highly and gives her his love as to his sweetheart, because she had saved from death his companion and friend; he places himself freely at her service. On her part she describes and relates to him with what difficulty she persuaded her mistress to take my lord Yvain as her husband, and how she protected him from the hands of those who were seeking him; how he was in their midst but they did not see him. My lord Gawain laughed aloud at this story of hers, and then he said: “Mademoiselle, when you need me and when you don’t, such as I am, I place myself at your disposal. Never throw me off for some one else when you think you can improve your lot. I am yours, and do you be from now on my demoiselle!” “I thank you kindly, sire,” she said. While the acquaintance of these two was ripening thus, the others, too, were engaged in flirting. For there were perhaps ninety ladies there, each of whom was fair and charming, noble and polite, virtuous and prudent, and a lady of exalted birth, so the men could agreeably employ themselves in caressing and kissing them, and in talking to them and in gazing at them while they were seated by their side; that much satisfaction they had at least. My lord Yvain is in high feather because the King is lodged with him. And the lady bestows such attention upon them all, as individuals and collectively, that some foolish person might suppose that the charming attentions which she showed them were dictated by love. But such persons may properly be rated as fools for thinking that a lady is in love with them just because she is courteous and speaks to some unfortunate fellow, and makes him happy and caresses him. A fool is made happy by fair words, and is very easily taken in. That entire week they spent in gaiety; forest and stream offered plenty of sport for any one who desired it. And whoever wished to see the land which had come into the hands of my lord Yvain with the lady whom he had married, could go to enjoy himself at one of the castles which stood within a radius of two, three, or four leagues. When the King had stayed as long as he chose, he made ready to depart. But during the week they had all begged urgently, and with all the insistence at their command, that they might take away my lord Yvain with them. “What? Will you be one of those.” said my lord Gawain to him, “who degenerate after marriage? 105 Cursed be he by Saint Mary who marries and then degenerates! Whoever has a fair lady as his mistress or his wife should be the better for it, and it is not right that her affection should be bestowed on him after his worth and reputation are gone. Surely you, too, would have cause to regret her love if you grew soft, for a woman quickly withdraws her love, and rightly so, and despises him who degenerates in any way when he has become lord of the realm. Now ought your fame to be increased! Slip off the bridle and halter and come to the tournament with me, that no one may say that you are jealous. Now you must no longer hesitate to frequent the lists, to share in the onslaught, and to contend with force, whatever effort it may cost! Inaction produces indifference. But, really, you must come, for I shall be in your company. Have a care that our comradeship shall not fail through any fault of yours, fair companion; for my part, you may count on me. It is strange how a man sets store by the life of ease which has no end. Pleasures grow sweeter through postponement; and a little pleasure, when delayed, is much sweeter to the taste than great pleasure enjoyed at once. The sweets of a love which develops late are like a fire in a green bush; for the longer one delays in lighting it the greater will be the heat it yields, and the longer will its force endure. One may easily fall into habits which it is very difficult to shake off, for when one desires to do so, he finds he has lost the power. Don’t misunderstand my words, my friend: if I had such a fair mistress as you have, I call God and His saints to witness, I should leave her most reluctantly; indeed, I should doubtless be infatuated. But a man may give another counsel, which he would not take himself, just as the preachers, who are deceitful rascals, and preach and proclaim the right but who do not follow it themselves.”
(Vv. 2539–2578.) My lord Gawain spoke at such length and so urgently that he promised him that he would go; but he said that he must consult his lady and ask for her consent. Whether it be a foolish or a prudent thing to do, he will not fail to ask her leave to return to Britain. Then he took counsel with his wife, who had no inkling of the permission he desired, as he addressed her with these words: “My beloved lady, my heart and soul, my treasure, joy, and happiness, grant me now a favour which will redound to your honour and to mine.” The lady at once gives her consent, not knowing what his desire is, and says: “Fair lord, you may command me your pleasure, whatever it be.” Then my lord Yvain at once asks her for permission to escort the King and to attend at tournaments, that no one may reproach his indolence. And she replies: “I grant you leave until a certain date; but be sure that my love will change to hate if you stay beyond the term that I shall fix. Remember that I shall keep my word; if you break your word I will keep mine. If you wish to possess my love, and if you have any regard for me, remember to come back again at the latest a year from the present date a week after St. John’s day; for today is the eighth day since that feast. You will be checkmated of my love if you are not restored to me on that day.”
(Vv. 2579–2635.) My lord Yvain weeps and sighs so bitterly that he can hardly find words to say: “My lady, this date is indeed a long way off. If I could be a dove, whenever the fancy came to me, I should often rejoin you here. And I pray God that in His pleasure He may not detain me so long away. But sometimes a man intends speedily to return who knows not what the future has in store for him. And I know not what will be my fate — perhaps some urgency of sickness or imprisonment may keep me back: you are unjust in not making an exception at least of actual hindrance.” “My lord,” says she, “I will make that exception. And yet I dare to promise you that, if God deliver you from death, no hindrance will stand in your way so long as you remember me. So put on your finger now this ring of mine, which I lend to you. And I will tell you all about the stone: no true and loyal lover can be imprisoned or lose any blood, nor can any harm befall him, provided he carry it and hold it dear, and keep his sweetheart in mind. You will become as hard as iron, and it will serve you as shield and hauberk. I have never before been willing to lend or entrust it to any knight, but to you I give it because of my affection for you.” Now my lord Yvain is free to go, but he weeps bitterly on taking leave. The King, however, would not tarry longer for anything that might be said: rather was he anxious to have the palfreys brought all equipped and bridled. They acceded at once to his desire, bringing the palfreys forth, so that it remained only to mount. I do not know whether I ought to tell you how my lord Yvain took his leave, and of the kisses bestowed on him, mingled with tears and steeped in sweetness. And what shall I tell you about the King how the lady escorts him, accompanied by her damsels and seneschal? All this would require too much time. When he sees the lady’s tears, the King implores her to come no farther, but to return to her abode. He begged her with such urgency that, heavy at heart, she turned about followed by her company.
(Vv. 2639–2773.) My lord Yvain is so distressed to leave his lady that his heart remains behind. The King may take his body off, but he cannot lead his heart away. She who stays behind clings so tightly to his heart that the King has not the power to take it away with him. When the body is left without the heart it cannot possibly live on. For such a marvel was never seen as the body alive without the heart. Yet this marvel now came about: for he kept his body without the heart, which was wont to be enclosed in it, but which would not follow the body now. The heart has a good abiding-place, while the body, hoping for a safe return to its heart, in strange fashion takes a new heart of hope, which is so often deceitful and treacherous. He will never know in advance, I think, the hour when this hope will play him false, for if he overstays by single day the term which he has agreed upon, it will be hard for him to gain again his lady’s pardon and goodwill. Yet I think he will overstay the term, for my lord Gawain will not allow him to part from him, as together they go to joust wherever tournaments are held. And as the year passes by my lord Yvain had such success that my lord Gawain strove to honour him, and caused him to delay so long that all the first year slipped by, and it came to the middle of August of the ensuing year, when the King held court at Chester, whither they had returned the day before from a tournament where my lord Yvain had been and where he had won the glory and the story tells how the two companions were unwilling to lodge in the town, but had their tents set up outside the city, and held court there. For they never went to the royal court, but the King came rather to join in theirs, for they had the best knights, and the greatest number, in their company. Now King Arthur was seated in their midst, when Yvain suddenly had a thought which surprised him more than any that had occurred to him since he had taken leave of his lady, for he realised that he had broken his word, and that the limit of his leave was already exceeded. He could hardly keep back his tears, but he succeeded in doing so from shame. He was still deep in thought when he saw a damsel approaching rapidly upon a black palfrey with white forefeet. As she got down before the tent no one helped her to dismount, and no one went to take her horse. As soon as she made out the King, she let her mantle fall, and thus displayed she entered the tent and came before the King, announcing that her mistress sent greetings to the King, and to my lord Gawain and all the other knights, except Yvain, that disloyal traitor, liar, hypocrite, who had deserted her deceitfully. “She has seen clearly the treachery of him who pretended he was a faithful lover while he was a false and treacherous thief. This thief has traduced my lady, who was all unprepared for any evil, and to whom it never occurred that he would steal her heart away. Those who love truly do not steal hearts away; there are, however, some men, by whom these former are called thieves, who themselves go about deceitfully making love, but in whom there is no real knowledge of the matter. The lover takes his lady’s heart, of course, but he does not run away with it; rather does he treasure it against those thieves who, in the guise of honourable men, would steal it from him. But those are deceitful and treacherous thieves who vie with one another in stealing hearts for which they care nothing. The true lover, wherever he may go, holds the heart dear and brings it back again. But Yvain has caused my lady’s death, for she supposed that he would guard her heart for her, and would bring it back again before the year elapsed. Yvain, thou wast of short memory when thou couldst not remember to return to thy mistress within a year. She gave thee thy liberty until St. John’s day, and thou settest so little store by her that never since has a thought of her crossed thy mind. My lady had marked every day in her chamber, as the seasons passed: for when one is in love, one is ill at ease and cannot get any restful sleep, but all night long must needs count and reckon up the days as they come and go. Dost thou know how lovers spend their time? They keep count of the time and the season. Her complaint is not presented prematurely or without cause, and I am not accusing him in any way, but I simply say that we have been betrayed by him who married my lady. Yvain, my mistress has no further care for thee, but sends thee word by me never to come back to her, and no longer to keep her ring. She bids thee send it back to her by me, whom thou seest present here. Surrender it now, as thou art bound to do.”
(Vv. 2774–3230.) Senseless and deprived of speech, Yvain is unable to reply. And the damsel steps forth and takes the ring from his finger, commending to God the King and all the others except him, whom she leaves in deep distress. And his sorrow grows on him: he feels oppressed by what he hears, and is tormented by what he sees. He would rather be banished alone in some wild land, where no one would know where to seek for him, and where no man or woman would know of his whereabouts any more than if he were in some deep abyss. He hates nothing so much as he hates himself, nor does he know to whom to go for comfort in the death he has brought upon himself. But he would rather go insane than not take vengeance upon himself, deprived, as he is, of joy through his own fault. He rises from his place among the knights, fearing he will lose his mind if he stays longer in their midst. On their part, they pay no heed to him, but let him take his departure alone. They know well enough that he cares nothing for their talk or their society. And he goes away until he is far from the tents and pavilions. Then such a storm broke loose in his brain that he loses his senses; he tears his flesh and, stripping off his clothes, he flees across the meadows and fields, leaving his men quite at a loss, and wondering what has become of him.106 They go in search of him through all the country around — in the lodgings of the knights, by the hedgerows, and in the gardens — but they seek him where he is not to be found. Still fleeing, he rapidly pursued his way until he met close by a park a lad who had in his hand a bow and five barbed arrows, which were very sharp and broad. He had sense enough to go and take the bow and arrows which he held. However, he had no recollection of anything that he had done. He lies in wait for the beasts in the woods, killing them, and then eating the venison raw. Thus he dwelt in the forest like a madman or a savage, until he came upon a little, low-lying house belonging to a hermit, who was at work clearing his ground. When he saw him coming with nothing on, he could easily perceive that he was not in his right mind; and such was the case, as the hermit very well knew. So, in fear, he shut himself up in his little house, and taking some bread and fresh water, he charitably set it outside the house on a narrow window-ledge. And thither the other comes, hungry for the bread which he takes and eats. I do not believe that he ever before had tasted such hard and bitter bread. The measure of barley kneaded with the straw, of which the bread, sourer than yeast, was made, had not cost more than five sous; and the bread was musty and as dry as bark. But hunger torments and whets his appetite, so that the bread tasted to him like sauce. For hunger is itself a well mixed and concocted sauce for any food. My lord Yvain soon ate the hermit’s bread, which tasted good to him, and drank the cool water from the jar. When he had eaten, he betook himself again to the woods in search of stags and does. And when he sees him going away, the good man beneath his roof prays God to defend him and guard him lest he ever pass that way again. But there is no creature, with howsoever little sense, that will not gladly return to a place where he is kindly treated. So, not a day passed while he was in this mad fit that he did not bring to his door some wild game. Such was the life he led; and the good man took it upon himself to remove the skin and set a good quantity of the venison to cook; and the bread and the water in the jug was always standing on the window-ledge for the madman to make a meal. Thus he had something to eat and drink: venison without salt or pepper, and good cool water from the spring. And the good man exerted himself to sell the hide and buy bread made of barley, or oats, or of some other grain; so, after that, Yvain had a plentiful supply of bread and venison, which sufficed him for a long time, until one day he was found asleep in the forest by two damsels and their mistress, in whose service they were. When they saw the naked man, one of the three ran and dismounted and examined him closely, before she saw anything about him which would serve to identify him. If he had only been richly attired, as he had been many a time, and if she could have seen him then she would have known him quickly enough. But she was slow to recognise him, and continued to look at him until at last she noticed a scar which he had on his face, and she recollected that my lord Yvain’s face was scarred in this same way; she was sure of it, for she had often seen it. Because of the scar she saw that it was he beyond any doubt; but she marvelled greatly how it came about that she found him thus poor and stripped. Often she crosses herself in amazement, but she does not touch him or wake him up; rather does she mount her horse again, and going back to the others, tells them tearfully of her adventure. I do not know if I ought to delay to tell you of the grief she showed; but thus she spoke weeping to her mistress: “My lady, I have found Yvain, who has proved himself to be the best knight in the world, and the most virtuous. I cannot imagine what sin has reduced the gentleman to such a plight. I think he must have had some misfortune, which causes him thus to demean himself, for one may lose his wits through grief. And any one can see that he is not in his right mind, for it would surely never be like him to conduct himself thus indecently unless he had lost his mind. Would that God had restored to him the best sense he ever had, and would that he might then consent to render assistance to your cause! For Count Alier, who is at war with you, has made upon you a fierce attack. I should see the strife between you two quickly settled in your favour if God favoured your fortunes so that he should return to his senses and undertake to aid you in this stress.” To this the lady made reply: “Take care now! For surely, if he does not escape, with God’s help I think we can clear his head of all the madness and insanity. But we must be on our way at once! For I recall a certain ointment with which Morgan the Wise presented me, saying there was no delirium of the head which it would not cure.” Thereupon, they go off at once toward the town, which was hard by, for it was not any more than half a league of the kind they have in that country; and, as compared with ours, two of their leagues make one and four make two. And he remains sleeping all alone, while the lady goes to fetch the ointment. The lady opens a case of hers, and, taking out a box, gives it to the damsel, and charges her not to be too prodigal in its use: she should rub only his temples with it, for there is no use of applying it elsewhere; she should anoint only his temples with it, and the remainder she should carefully keep, for there is nothing the matter with him except in his brain. She sends him also a robe of spotted fur, a coat, and a mantle of scarlet silk. The damsel takes them, and leads in her right hand an excellent palfrey. And she added to these, of her own store, a shirt, some soft hose, and some new drawers of proper cut. With all these things she quickly set out, and found him still asleep where she had left him. After putting her horse in an enclosure where she tied him fast, she came with the clothes and the ointment to the place where he was asleep. Then she made so bold as to approach the madman, so that she could touch and handle him: then taking the ointment she rubbed him with it until none remained in the box, being so solicitous for his recovery that she proceeded to anoint him all over with it; and she used it so freely that she heeded not the warning of her mistress, nor indeed did she remember it. She put more on than was needed, but in her opinion it was well employed. She rubbed his temples and forehead, and his whole body down to the ankles. She rubbed his temples and his whole body so much there in the hot sunshine that the madness and the depressing gloom passed completely out of his brain. But she was foolish to anoint his body, for of that there was no need. If she had had five measures of it she would doubtless have done the same thing. She carries off the box, and takes hidden refuge by her horse. But she leaves the robe behind, wishing that, if God calls him back to life, he may see it all laid out, and may take it and put it on. She posts herself behind an oak tree until he had slept enough, and was cured and quite restored, having regained his wits and memory. Then he sees that he is as naked as ivory, and feels much ashamed; but he would have been yet more ashamed had he known what had happened. As it is, he knows nothing but that he is naked. He sees the new robe lying before him, and marvels greatly how and by what adventure it had come there. But he is ashamed and concerned, because of his nakedness, and says that he is dead and utterly undone if any one has come upon him there and recognised him. Meanwhile, he clothes himself and looks out into the forest to see if any one was approaching. He tries to stand up and support himself, but cannot summon the strength to walk away, for his sickness has so affected him that he can scarcely stand upon his feet. Thereupon, the damsel resolves to wait no longer, but, mounting, she passed close by him, as if unaware of his presence. Quite indifferent as to whence might come the help, which he needed so much to lead him away to some lodging-place, where he might recruit his strength, he calls out to her with all his might. And the damsel, for her part, looks about her as if not knowing what the trouble is. Confused, she goes hither and thither, not wishing to go straight up to him. Then he begins to call again: “Damsel, come this way, here!” And the damsel guided toward him her soft-stepping palfrey. By this ruse she made him think that she knew nothing of him and had never seen him before; in so doing she was wise and courteous. When she had come before him, she said: “Sir knight, what do you desire that you call me so insistently?” “Ah,” said he, “prudent damsel, I have found myself in this wood by some mishap — I know not what. For God’s sake and your belief in Him, I pray you to lend me, taking my word as pledge, or else to give me outright, that palfrey you are leading in your hand.” “Gladly, sire: but you must accompany me whither I am going.” “Which way?” says he. “To a town that stands near by, beyond the forest.” “Tell me, damsel, if you stand in need of me.” “Yes,” she says, “I do; but I think you are not very well. For the next two weeks at least you ought to rest. Take this horse, which I hold in my right hand, and we shall go to our lodging-place.” And he, who had no other desire, takes it and mounts, and they proceed until they come to a bridge over a swift and turbulent stream. And the damsel throws into the water the empty box she is carrying, thinking to excuse herself to her mistress for her ointment by saying that she was so unlucky as to let the box fall into the water for, when her palfrey stumbled under her, the box slipped from her gasp, and she came near falling in too, which would have been still worse luck. It is her intention to invent this story when she comes into her mistress’ presence. Together they held their way until they came to the town, where the lady detained my lord Yvain and asked her damsel in private for her box and ointment: and the damsel repeated to her the lie as she had invented it, not daring to tell her the truth. Then the lady was greatly enraged, and said: “This is certainly a very serious loss, and I am sure and certain that the box will never be found again. But since it has happened so, there is nothing more to be done about it. One often desires a blessing which turns out to be a curse; thus I, who looked for a blessing and joy from this knight, have lost the dearest and most precious of my possessions. However, I beg you to serve him in all respects.” “Ah, lady, how wisely now you speak! For it would be too bad to convert one misfortune into two.”
(Vv. 3131–3254.) Then they say no more about the box, but minister in every way they can to the comfort of my lord Yvain, bathing him and washing his hair, having him shaved and clipped, for one could have taken up a fist full of hair upon his face. His every want is satisfied: if he asks for arms, they are furnished him: if he wants a horse, they provide him with one that is large and handsome, strong and spirited. He stayed there until, upon a Tuesday, Count Alier came to the town with his men and knights, who started fires and took plunder. Those in the town at once rose up and equipped themselves with arms. Some armed and some unarmed, they issued forth to meet the plunderers, who did not deign to retreat before them, but awaited them in a narrow pass. My lord Yvain struck at the crowd; he had had so long a rest that his strength was quite restored, and he struck a knight upon his shield with such force that he sent down in a heap, I think, the knight together with his horse. The knight never rose again, for his backbone was broken and his heart burst within his breast. My lord Yvain drew back a little to recover. Then protecting himself completely with his shield, he spurred forward to clear the pass. One could not have counted up to four before one would have seen him cast down speedily four knights. Whereupon, those who were with him waxed more brave, for many a man of poor and timid heart, at the sight of some brave man who attacks a dangerous task before his eyes, will be overwhelmed by confusion and shame, which will drive out the poor heart in his body and give him another like to a hero’s for courage. So these men grew brave and each stood his ground in the fight and attack. And the lady was up in the tower, whence she saw the fighting and the rush to win and gain possession of the pass, and she saw lying upon the ground many who were wounded and many killed, both of her own party and of the enemy, but more of the enemy than of her own. For my courteous, bold, and excellent lord Yvain made them yield just as a falcon does the teal. And the men and women who had remained within the town declared as they watched the strife: “Ah, what a valiant knight! How he makes his enemies yield, and how fierce is his attack! He was about him as a lion among the fallow deer, when he is impelled by need and hunger. Then, too, all our other knights are more brave and daring because of him, for, were it not for him alone, not a lance would have been splintered nor a sword drawn to strike. When such an excellent man is found he ought to be loved and dearly prized. See now how he proves himself, see how he maintains his place, see how he stains with blood his lance and bare sword, see how he presses the enemy and follows them up, how he comes boldly to attack them, then gives away and turns about; but he spends little time in giving away, and soon returns to the attack. See him in the fray again, how lightly he esteems his shield, which he allows to be cut in pieces mercilessly. Just see how keen he is to avenge the blows which are dealt at him. For, if some one should use all the forest of Argone 107 to make lances for him, I guess he would have none left by night. For he breaks all the lances that they place in his socket, and calls for more. And see how he wields the sword when he draws it! Roland never wrought such havoc with Durendal against the Turks at Ronceval or in Spain! 108 If he had in his company some good companions like himself, the traitor, whose attack we are suffering, would retreat today discomfited, or would stand his ground only to find defeat.” Then they say that the woman would be blessed who should be loved by one who is so powerful in arms, and who above all others may be recognised as a taper among candles, as a moon among the stars, and as the sun above the moon. He so won the hearts of all that the prowess which they see in him made them wish that he had taken their lady to wife, and that he were master of the land.
(Vv. 3255–3340.) Thus men and women alike praised him, and in doing so they but told the truth. For his attack on his adversaries was such that they vie with one another in flight. But he presses hard upon their heels, and all his companions follow him, for by his side they feel as safe as if they were enclosed in a high and thick stone wall. The pursuit continues until those who flee become exhausted, and the pursuers slash at them and disembowel their steeds. The living roll over upon the dead as they wound and kill each other. They work dreadful destruction upon each other; and meanwhile the Count flees with my lord Yvain after him, until he comes up with him at the foot of a steep ascent, near the entrance of a strong place which belonged to the Count. There the Count was stopped, with no one near to lend him aid; and without any excessive parley my lord Yvain received his surrender. For as soon as he held him in his hands, and they were left just man to man, there was no further possibility of escape, or of yielding, or of self-defence; so the Count pledged his word to go to surrender to the lady of Noroison as her prisoner, and to make such peace as she might dictate. And when he had accepted his word he made him disarm his head and remove the shield from about his neck, and the Count surrendered to him his sword. Thus he won the honour of leading off the Count as his prisoner, and of giving him over to his enemies, who make no secret of their joy. But the news was carried to the town before they themselves arrived. While all come forth to meet them, the lady herself leads the way. My lord Yvain holds his prisoner by the hand, and presents him to her. The Count gladly acceded to her wishes and demands, and secured her by his word, oath, and pledges. Giving her pledges, he swears to her that he will always live on peaceful terms with her, and will make good to her all the loss which she can prove, and will build up again the houses which he had destroyed. When these things were agreed upon in accordance with the lady’s wish, my lord Yvain asked leave to depart. But she would not have granted him this permission had he been willing to take her as his mistress, or to marry her. But he would not allow himself to be followed or escorted a single step, but rather departed hastily: in this case entreaty was of no avail. So he started out to retrace his path, leaving the lady much chagrined, whose joy he had caused a while before. When he will not tarry longer she is the more distressed and ill at ease in proportion to the happiness he had brought to her, for she would have wished to honour him, and would have made him, with his consent, lord of all her possessions, or else she would have paid him for his services whatever sum he might have named. But he would not heed any word of man or woman. Despite their grief he left the knights and the lady who vainly tried to detain him longer.
(Vv. 3341–3484.) Pensively my lord Yvain proceeded through a deep wood, until he heard among the trees a very loud and dismal cry, and he turned in the direction whence it seemed to come. And when he had arrived upon the spot he saw in a cleared space a lion, and a serpent which held him by the tail, burning his hind-quarters with flames of fire. My lord Yvain did not gape at this strange spectacle, but took counsel with himself as to which of the two he should aid. Then he says that he will succour the lion, for a treacherous and venomous creature deserves to be harmed. Now the serpent is poisonous, and fire bursts forth from its mouth — so full of wickedness is the creature. So my lord Yvain decides that he will kill the serpent first. Drawing his sword he steps forward, holding the shield before his face in order not to be harmed by the flame emerging from the creature’s throat, which was larger than a pot. If the lion attacks him next, he too shall have all the fight he wishes; but whatever may happen afterwards he makes up his mind to help him now. For pity urges him and makes request that he should bear succour and aid to the gentle and noble beast. With his sword, which cuts so clean, he attacks the wicked serpent, first cleaving him through to the earth and cutting him in two, then continuing his blows until he reduces him to tiny bits. But he had to cut off a piece of the lion’s tail to get at the serpent’s head, which held the lion by the tail. He cut off only so much as was necessary and unavoidable. When he had set the lion free, he supposed that he would have to fight with him, and that the lion would come at him; but the lion was not minded so. Just hear now what the lion did! He acted nobly and as one well-bred; for he began to make it evident that he yielded himself to him, by standing upon his two hind-feet and bowing his face to the earth, with his fore-feet joined and stretched out toward him. Then he fell on his knees again, and all his face was wet with the tears of humility. My lord Yvain knows for a truth that the lion is thanking him and doing him homage because of the serpent which he had killed, thereby delivering him from death. He was greatly pleased by this episode. He cleaned his sword of the serpent’s poison and filth; then he replaced it in its scabbard, and resumed his way. And the lion walks close by his side, unwilling henceforth to part from him: he will always in future accompany him, eager to serve and protect him. 109 He goes ahead until he scents in the wind upon his way some wild beasts feeding; then hunger and his nature prompt him to seek his prey and to secure his sustenance. It is his nature so to do. He started ahead a little on the trail, thus showing his master that he had come upon and detected the odour and scent of some wild game. Then he looks at him and halts, wishing to serve his every wish, and unwilling to proceed against his will. Yvain understands by his attitude that he is showing that he awaits his pleasure. He perceives this and understands that if he holds back he will hold back too, and that if he follows him he will seize the game which he has scented. Then he incites and cries to him, as he would do to hunting-dogs. At once the lion directed his nose to the scent which he had detected, and by which he was not deceived, for he had not gone a bow-shot when he saw in a valley a deer grazing all alone. This deer he will seize, if he has his way. And so he did, at the first spring, and then drank its blood still warm. When he had killed it he laid it upon his back and carried it back to his master, who thereupon conceived a greater affection for him, and chose him as a companion for all his life, because of the great devotion he found in him. It was near nightfall now, and it seemed good to him to spend the night there, and strip from the deer as much as he cared to eat. Beginning to carve it he splits the skin along the rib, and taking a steak from the loin he strikes from a flint a spark, which he catches in some dry brush-wood; then he quickly puts his steak upon a roasting spit to cook before the fire, and roasts it until it is quite cooked through. But there was no pleasure in the meal, for there was no bread, or wine, or salt, or cloth, or knife, or anything else. While he was eating, the lion lay at his feet; nor a movement did he make, but watched him steadily until he had eaten all that he could eat of the steak. What remained of the deer the lion devoured, even to the bones. And while all night his master laid his head upon his shield to gain such rest as that afforded, the lion showed such intelligence that he kept awake, and was careful to guard the horse as it fed upon the grass, which yielded some slight nourishment.
(Vv. 3485–3562.) In the morning they go off together, and the same sort of existence, it seems, as they had led that night, they two continued to lead all the ensuing week, until chance brought them to the spring beneath the pine-tree. There my lord Yvain almost lost his wits a second time, as he approached the spring, with its stone and the chapel that stood close by. So great was his distress that a thousand times he sighed “alas!” and grieving fell in a swoon; and the point of his sharp sword, falling from its scabbard, pierced the meshes of his hauberk right in the neck beside the cheek. There is not a mesh that does not spread, and the sword cuts the flesh of his neck beneath the shining mail, so that it causes the blood to start. Then the lion thinks that he sees his master and companion dead. You never heard greater grief narrated or told about anything than he now began to show. He casts himself about, and scratches and cries, and has the wish to kill himself with the sword with which he thinks his master has killed himself. Taking the sword from him with his teeth he lays it on a fallen tree, and steadies it on a trunk behind, so that it will not slip or give way, when he hurls his breast against it, His intention was nearly accomplished when his master recovered from his swoon, and the lion restrained himself as he was blindly rushing upon death, like a wild boar heedless of where he wounds himself. Thus my lord Yvain lies in a swoon beside the stone, but, on recovering, he violently reproached himself for the year during which he had overstayed his leave, and for which he had incurred his lady’s hate, and he said: “Why does this wretch not kill himself who has thus deprived himself of joy? Alas! why do I not take my life? How can I stay here and look upon what belongs to my lady? Why does the soul still tarry in my body? What is the soul doing in so miserable a frame? If it had already escaped away it would not be in such torment. It is fitting to hate and blame and despise myself, even as in fact I do. Whoever loses his bliss and contentment through fault or error of his own ought to hate himself mortally. He ought to hate and kill himself. And now, when no one is looking on, why do I thus spare myself? Why do I not take my life? Have I not seen this lion a prey to such grief on my behalf that he was on the point just now of thrusting my sword through his breast? And ought I to fear death who have changed happiness into grief? Joy is now a stranger to me. Joy? What joy is that? I shall say no more of that, for no one could speak of such a thing; and I have asked a foolish question. That was the greatest joy of all which was assured as my possession, but it endured for but a little while. Whoever loses such joy through his own misdeed is undeserving of happiness.”
(Vv. 3563–3898.) While he thus bemoaned his fate, a lorn damsel in sorry plight, who was in the chapel, saw him and heard his words through a crack in the wall. As soon as he was recovered from his swoon, she called to him: “God,” said she, “who is that I hear? Who is it that thus complains?” And he replied: “And who are you?” “I am a wretched one,” she said, “the most miserable thing alive.” And he replied: “Be silent, foolish one! Thy grief is joy and thy sorrow is bliss compared with that in which I am cast down. In proportion as a man becomes more accustomed to happiness and joy, so is he more distracted and stunned than any other man by sorrow when it comes. A man of little strength can carry, through custom and habit, a weight which another man of greater strength could not carry for anything.” “Upon my word,” she said, “I know the truth of that remark; but that is no reason to believe that your misfortune is worse than mine. Indeed, I do not believe it at all, for it seems to me that you can go anywhere you choose to go, whereas I am imprisoned here, and such a fate is my portion that tomorrow I shall be seized and delivered to mortal judgment.” “Ah, God!” said he, “and for what crime?” “Sir knight, may God never have mercy upon my soul, if I have merited such a fate! Nevertheless, I shall tell you truly, without deception, why I am here in prison: I am charged with treason, and I cannot find any one to defend me from being burned or hanged tomorrow.” “In the first place,” he replied, “I may say that my grief and woe are greater than yours, for you may yet be delivered by some one from the peril in which you are. Is that not true:” “Yes, but I know not yet by whom. There are only two men in the world who would dare on my behalf to face three men in battle.” “What? In God’s name, are there three of them?” “Yes, sire, upon my word. There are three who accuse me of treachery.” “And who are they who are so devoted to you that either one of them would be bold enough to fight against three in your defence?” “I will answer your question truthfully: one of them is my lord Gawain, and the other is my lord Yvain, because of whom I shall tomorrow be handed over unjustly to the martyrdom of death.” “Because of whom?” he asked, “what did you say?” “Sire, so help me God, because of the son of King Urien.” “Now I understand your words, but you shall not die, without he dies too. I myself am that Yvain, because of whom you are in such distress. And you, I take it, are she who once guarded me safely in the hall, and saved my life and my body between the two portcullises, when I was troubled and distressed, and alarmed at being trapped. I should have been killed or seized, had it not been for your kind aid. Now tell me, my gentle friend, who are those who now accuse you of treachery, and have confined you in this lonely place?” “Sire, I shall not conceal it from you, since you desire me to tell you all. It is a fact that I was not slow in honestly aiding you. Upon my advice my lady received you, after heeding my opinion and my counsel. And by the Holy Paternoster, more for her welfare than for your own I thought I was doing it, and I think so still. So much now I confess to you: it was her honour and your desire that I sought to serve, so help me God! But when it became evident that you had overstayed the year when you should return to my mistress, then she became enraged at me, and thought that she had been deceived by putting trust in my advice. And when this was discovered by the seneschal — a rascally, underhanded, disloyal wretch, who was jealous of me because in many matters my lady trusted me more than she trusted him, he saw that he could now stir up great enmity between me and her. In full court and in the presence of all he accused me of having betrayed her in your favour. And I had no counsel or aid except my own; but I knew that I had never done or conceived any treacherous act toward my lady, so I cried out, as one beside herself, and without the advice of any one, that I would present in my own defence one knight who should fight against three. The fellow was not courteous enough to scorn to accept such odds, nor was I at liberty to retreat or withdraw for anything that might happen. So he took me at my word, and I was compelled to furnish bail that I would present within forty days a knight to do battle against three knights. Since then I have visited many courts; I was at King Arthur’s court, but found no help from any there, nor did I find any one who could tell me any good news of you, for they knew nothing of your affairs.” “Pray tell me. Where then was my good and gentle lord Gawain? No damsel in distress ever needed his aid without its being extended to her.” “If I had found him at court, I could not have asked him for anything which would have been refused me; but a certain knight has carried off the Queen, so they told me; surely the King was mad to send her off in his company. 110 I believe it was Kay who escorted her to meet the knight who has taken her away; and my lord Gawain in great distress has gone in search for her. He will never have any rest until he finds her. Now I have told you the whole truth of my adventure. To-morrow I shall be put to a shameful death, and shall be burnt inevitably, a victim of your criminal neglect.” And he replies: “May God forbid that you should be harmed because of me! So long as I live you shall not die! You may expect me tomorrow, prepared to the extent of my power to present my body in your cause, as it is proper that I should do. But have no concern to tell the people who I am! However the battle may turn out, take care that I be not recognised!” “Surely, sire, no pressure could make me reveal your name. I would sooner suffer death, since you will have it so. Yet, after all, I beg you not to return for my sake. I would not have you undertake a battle which will be so desperate. I thank you for your promised word that you would gladly undertake it, but consider yourself now released, for it is better that I should die alone than that I should see them rejoice over your death as well as mine; they would not spare my life after they had put you to death. So it is better for you to remain alive than that we both should meet death.” “That is very ungrateful remark, my dear,” says my lord Yvain; “I suppose that either you do not wish to be delivered from death, or else that you scorn the comfort I bring you with my aid. I will not discuss the matter more, for you have surely done so much for me that I cannot fail you in any need. I know that you are in great distress; but, if it be God’s will, in whom I trust, they shall all three be discomfited. So no more upon that score: I am going off now to find some shelter in this wood, for there is no dwelling near at hand.” “Sire,” she says, “may God give you both good shelter and good night, and protect you as I desire from everything that might do you harm!” Then my lord Yvain departs, and the lion as usual after him. They journeyed until they came to a baron’s fortified place, which was completely surrounded by a massive, strong, and high wall. The castle, being extraordinarily well protected, feared no assault of catapult or storming-machine; but outside the walls the ground was so completely cleared that not a single hut or dwelling remained standing. You will learn the cause of this a little later, when the time comes. My lord Yvain made his way directly toward the fortified place, and seven varlets came out who lowered the bridge and advanced to meet him. But they were terrified at sight of the lion, which they saw with him, and asked him kindly to leave the lion at the gate lest he should wound or kill them. And he replies: “Say no more of that! For I shall not enter without him. Either we shall both find shelter here or else I shall stay outside; he is as dear to me as I am myself. Yet you need have no fear of him! For I shall keep him so well in hand that you may be quite confident.” They made answer: “Very well!” Then they entered the town, and passed on until they met knights and ladies and charming damsels coming down the street, who salute him and wait to remove his armour as they say: “Welcome to our midst, fair sire! And may God grant that you tarry here until you may leave with great honour and satisfaction!” High and low alike extend to him a glad welcome, and do all they can for him, as they joyfully escort him into the town. But after they had expressed their gladness they are overwhelmed by grief, which makes them quickly forget their joy, as they begin to lament and weep and beat themselves. Thus, for a long space of time, they cease not to rejoice or make lament: it is to honour their guest that they rejoice, but their heart is not in what they do, for they are greatly worried over an event which they expect to take place on the following day, and they feel very sure and certain that it will come to pass before midday. My lord Yvain was so surprised that they so often changed their mood, and mingled grief with their happiness, that he addressed the lord of the place on the subject. “For God’s sake,” he said, “fair gentle sir, will you kindly inform me why you have thus honoured me, and shown at once such joy and such heaviness?” “Yes, if you desire to know, but it would be better for you to desire ignorance and silence. I will never tell you willingly anything to cause you grief. Allow us to continue to lament, and do you pay no attention to what we do!” “It would be quite impossible for me to see you sad and nor take it upon my heart, so I desire to know the truth, whatever chagrin may result to me.” “Well, then,” he said, “I will tell you all. I have suffered much from a giant, who has insisted that I should give him my daughter, who surpasses in beauty all the maidens in the world. This evil giant, whom may God confound, is named Harpin of the Mountain. Not a day passes without his taking all of my possessions upon which he can lay his hands. No one has a better right than I to complain, and to be sorrowful, and to make lament. I might well lose my senses from very grief, for I had six sons who were knights, fairer than any I knew in the world, and the giant has taken all six of them. Before my eyes he killed two of them, and tomorrow he will kill the other four, unless I find some one who will dare to fight him for the deliverance of my sons, or unless I consent to surrender my daughter to him; and he says that when he has her in his possession he will give her over to be the sport of the vilest and lewdest fellows in his house, for he would scorn to take her now for himself. That is the disaster which awaits me tomorrow, unless the Lord God grant me His aid. So it is no wonder, fair sir, if we are all in tears. But for your sake we strive for the moment to assume as cheerful a countenance as we can. For he is a fool who attracts a gentleman to his presence and then does not honour him; and you seem to be a very perfect gentleman. Now I have told you the entire story of our great distress. Neither in town nor in fortress has the giant left us anything, except what we have here. If you had noticed, you must have seen this evening that he has not left us so much as an egg, except these walls which are new; for he has razed the entire town. When he had plundered all he wished, he set fire to what remained. In this way he has done me many an evil turn.”
(Vv. 3899–3956.) My lord Yvain listened to all that his host told him, and when he had heard it all he was pleased to answer him: “Sire, I am sorry and distressed about this trouble of yours; but I marvel greatly that you have not asked assistance at good King Arthur’s court. There is no man so mighty that he could not find at his court some who would be glad to try their strength with his.” Then the wealthy man reveals and explains to him that he would have had efficient help if he had known where to find my lord Gawain. “He would not have failed me upon this occasion, for my wife is his own sister; but a knight from a strange land, who went to court to seek the King’s wife, has led her away. However, he could not have gotten possession of her by any means of his own invention, had it not been for Kay, who so befooled the King that he gave the Queen into his charge and placed her under his protection. He was a fool, and she imprudent to entrust herself to his escort. And I am the one who suffers and loses in all this; for it is certain that my excellent lord Gawain would have made haste to come here, had he known the facts, for the sake of his nephews and his niece. But he knows nothing of it, wherefore I am so distressed that my heart is almost breaking, for he is gone in pursuit of him, to whom may God bring shame and woe for having led the Queen away.” While listening to this recital my lord Yvain does not cease to sigh. Inspired by the pity which he feels, he makes this reply: “Fair gentle sire, I would gladly undertake this perilous adventure, if the giant and your sons should arrive tomorrow in time to cause me no delay, for tomorrow at noon I shall be somewhere else, in accordance with a promise I have made.” “Once for all, fair sire,” the good man said, “I thank you a hundred thousand times for your willingness.” And all the people of the house likewise expressed their gratitude.
(Vv. 3957–4384.) Just then the damsel came out of a room, with her graceful body and her face so fair and pleasing to look upon. She was very simple and sad and quiet as she came, for there was no end to the grief she felt: she walked with her head bowed to the ground. And her mother, too, came in from an adjoining room, for the gentleman had sent for them to meet his guest. They entered with their mantles wrapped about them to conceal their tears; and he bid them throw back their mantles, and hold up their heads, saying: “You ought not to hesitate to obey my behests, for God and good fortune have given us here a very well-born gentleman who assures me that he will fight against the giant. Delay no longer now to throw yourselves at his feet!” “May God never let me see that!” my lord Yvain hastens to exclaim; “surely it would not be proper under any circumstances for the sister and the niece of my lord Gawain to prostrate themselves at my feet. May God defend me from ever giving place to such pride as to let them fall at my feet! Indeed, I should never forget the shame which I should feel; but I should be very glad if they would take comfort until tomorrow, when they may see whether God will consent to aid them. I have no other request to make, except that the giant may come in such good time that I be not compelled to break my engagement elsewhere; for I would not fail for anything to be present tomorrow noon at the greatest business I could ever undertake.” Thus he is unwilling to reassure them completely, for he fears that the giant may not come early enough to allow him to reach in time the damsel who is imprisoned in the chapel. Nevertheless, he promises them enough to arouse good hope in them. They all alike join in thanking him, for they place great confidence in his prowess, and they think he must be a very good man, when they see the lion by his side as confident as a lamb would be. They take comfort and rejoice because of the hope they stake on him, and they indulge their grief no more. When the time came they led him off to bed in a brightly lighted room; both the damsel and her mother escorted him, for they prized him dearly, and would have done so a hundred thousand times more had they been informed of his prowess and courtesy. He and the lion together lay down there and took their rest. The others dared not sleep in the room; but they closed the door so tight that they could not come out until the next day at dawn. When the room was thrown open he got up and heard Mass, and then, because of the promise he had made, he waited until the hour of prime. Then in the hearing of all he summoned the lord of the town and said: “My lord, I have no more time to wait, but must ask your permission to leave at once; I cannot tarry longer here. But believe truly that I would gladly and willingly stay here yet awhile for the sake of the nephews and the niece of my beloved lord Gawain, if I did not have a great business on hand, and if it were not so far away.” At this the damsel’s blood quivered and boiled with fear, as well as the lady’s and the lord’s. They were so afraid he would go away that they were on the point of humbling themselves and casting themselves at his feet, when they recalled that he would not approve or permit their action. Then the lord makes him an offer of all he will take of his lands or wealth, if only he will wait a little longer. And he replied: “God forbid that ever I should take anything of yours!” Then the damsel, who is in dismay, begins to weep aloud, and beseeches him to stay. Like one distracted and prey to dread, she begs him by the glorious queen of heaven and of the angels, and by the Lord, not to go but to wait a little while; and then, too, for her uncle’s sake, whom he says he knows, and loves, and esteems. Then his heart is touched with deep pity when he hears her adjuring him in the name of him whom he loves the most, and by the mistress of heaven, and by the Lord, who is the very honey and sweet savour of pity. Filled with anguish he heaved a sigh, for were the kingdom of Tarsus at stake he would not see her burned to whom he had pledged his aid. If he could not reach her in time, he would be unable to endure his life, or would live on without his wits on the other hand, the kindness of his friend, my lord Gawain, only increased his distress; his heart almost bursts in half at the thought that he cannot delay. Nevertheless, he does not stir, but delays and waits so long that the giant came suddenly, bringing with him the knights: and hanging from his neck he carried a big square stake with a pointed end, and with this he frequently spurred them on. For their part they had no clothing on that was worth a straw, except some soiled and filthy shirts: and their feet and hands were bound with cords, as they came riding upon four limping jades, which were weak, and thin, and miserable. As they came riding along beside a wood, a dwarf, who was puffed up like a toad, had tied the horses’ tails together, and walked beside them, beating them remorselessly with a four-knotted scourge until they bled, thinking thereby to be doing something wonderful. Thus they were brought along in shame by the giant and the dwarf. Stopping in the plain in front of the city gate, the giant shouts out to the noble lord that he will kill his sons unless he delivers to him his daughter, whom he will surrender to his vile fellows to become their sport. For he no longer loves her nor esteems her, that he should deign to abase himself to her. She shall be constantly beset by a thousand lousy and ragged knaves, vacant wretches, and scullery boys, who all shall lay hands on her. The worthy man is well-nigh beside himself when he hears how his daughter will be made a bawd, or else, before his very eyes, his four sons will be put to a speedy death. His agony is like that of one who would rather be dead than alive. Again and again he bemoans his fate, and weeps aloud and sighs. Then my frank and gentle lord Yvain thus began to speak to him: “Sire, very vile and impudent is that giant who vaunts himself out there. But may God never grant that he should have your daughter in his power! He despises her and insults her openly. It would be too great a calamity if so lovely a creature of such high birth were handed over to become the sport of boys. Give me now my arms and horse! Have the drawbridge lowered, and let me pass. One or the other must be cast down, either I or he, I know not which. If I could only humiliate the cruel wretch who is thus oppressing you, so that he would release your sons and should come and make amends for the insulting words he has spoken to you, then I would commend you to God and go about my business.” Then they go to get his horse, and hand over to him his arms, striving so expeditiously that they soon have him quite equipped. They delayed as little as they could in arming him. When his equipment was complete, there remained nothing but to lower the bridge and let him go. They lowered it for him, and he went out. But the lion would by no means stay behind. All those who were left behind commended the knight to the Saviour, for they fear exceedingly lest their devilish enemy, who already had slain so many good men on the same field before their eyes, would do the same with him. So they pray God to defend him from death, and return him to them safe and sound, and that He may give him strength to slay the giant. Each one softly prays to God in accordance with his wish. And the giant fiercely came at him, and with threatening words thus spake to him: “By my eyes, the man who sent thee here surely had no love for thee! No better way could he have taken to avenge himself on thee. He has chosen well his vengeance for whatever wrong thou hast done to him.” But the other, fearing naught, replies: “Thou treatest of what matters not. Now do thy best, and I’ll do mine. Idle parley wearies me.” Thereupon my lord Yvain, who was anxious to depart, rides at him. He goes to strike him on the breast, which was protected by a bear’s skin, and the giant runs at him with his stake raised in air. My lord Yvain deals him such a blow upon the chest that he thrusts through the skin and wets the tip of his lance in his body’s blood by way of sauce. And the giant belabours him with the stake, and makes him bend beneath the blows. My lord Yvain then draws the sword with which he knew how to deal fierce blows. He found the giant unprotected, for he trusted in his strength so much that he disdained to arm himself. And he who had drawn his blade gave him such a slash with the cutting edge, and not with the flat side, that he cut from his cheek a slice fit to roast. Then the other in turn gave him such a blow with the stake that it made him sing in a heap upon his horse’s neck. Thereupon the lion bristles up, ready to lend his master aid, and leaps up in his anger and strength, and strikes and tears like so much bark the heavy bearskin the giant wore, and he tore away beneath the skin a large piece of his thigh, together with the nerves and flesh. The giant escaped his clutches, roaring and bellowing like a bull, for the lion had badly wounded him. Then raising his stake in both hands, he thought to strike him, but missed his aim, when the lion leaded backward so he missed his blow, and fell exhausted beside my lord Yvain, but without either of them touching the other. Then my lord Yvain took aim and landed two blows on him. Before he could recover himself he had severed with the edge of his sword the giant’s shoulder from his body. With the next blow he ran the whole blade of his sword through his liver beneath his chest; the giant falls in death’s embrace. And if a great oak tree should fall, I think it would make no greater noise than the giant made when he tumbled down. All those who were on the wall would fain have witnessed such a blow. Then it became evident who was the most fleet of foot, for all ran to see the game, just like hounds which have followed the beast until they finally come up with him. So men and women in rivalry ran forward without delay to where the giant lay face downward. The daughter comes running, and her mother too. And the four brothers rejoice after the woes they have endured. As for my lord Yvain they are very sure that they could not detain him for any reason they might allege, but they beseech him to return and stay to enjoy himself as soon as he shall have completed the business which calls him away. And he replies that he cannot promise them anything, for as yet he cannot guess whether it will fare well or ill with him. But thus much did he say to his host: that he wished that his four sons and his daughter should take the dwarf and go to my lord Gawain when they hear of his return, and should tell and relate to him how he has conducted himself. For kind actions are of no use if you are not willing that they be known. And they reply: “It is not right that such kindness as this should be kept hid: we shall do whatever you desire. But tell us what we can say when we come before him. Whose praises can we speak, when we know not what your name may be?” And he answers them: “When you come before him, you may say thus much: that I told you ‘The Knight with the Lion’ was my name. And at the same time I must beg you to tell him from me that, if he does not recognise who I am, yet he knows me well and I know him. Now I must be gone from here, and the thing which most alarms me is that I may too long have tarried here, for before the hour of noon be passed I shall have plenty to do elsewhere, if indeed I can arrive there in time.” Then, without further delay, he starts. But first his host begged him insistently that he would take with him his four sons: for there was none of them who would not strive to serve him, if he would allow it. But it did not please or suit him that any one should accompany him; so he left the place to them, and went away alone. And as soon as he starts, riding as fast as his steed can carry him, he heads toward the chapel. The path was good and straight, and he knew well how to keep the road. But before he could reach the chapel, the damsel had been dragged out and the pyre prepared upon which she was to be placed. Clad only in a shift, she was held bound before the fire by those who wrongly attributed to her an intention she had never had. My lord Yvain arrived, and, seeing her beside the fire into which she was about to be cast, he was naturally incensed. He would be neither courteous nor sensible who had any doubt about that fact. So it is true that he was much incensed; but he cherishes within himself the hope that God and the Right will be on his side. In such helpers he confides; nor does he scorn his lion’s aid. Rushing quickly toward the crowd, he shouts: “Let the damsel be, you wicked folk! Having committed no crime, it is not right that she should be cast upon a pyre or into a furnace.” And they draw off on either side, leaving a passage-way for him. But he yearns to see with his own eyes her whom his heart beholds in whatever place she may be. His eyes seek her until he finds her, while he subdues and holds in check his heart, just as one holds in check with a strong curb a horse that pulls. Nevertheless, he gladly gazes at her, and sighs the while; but he does not sigh so openly that his action is detected; rather does he stifle his sighs, though with difficulty. And he is seized with pity at hearing, seeing, and perceiving the grief of the poor ladies, who cried: “Ah, God, how hast Thou forgotten us! How desolate we shall now remain when we lose so kind a friend, who gave us such counsel and such aid, and interceded for us at court! It was she who prompted madame to clothe us with her clothes of vair. Henceforth the situation will change, for there will be no one to speak for us! Cursed be he who is the cause of our loss! For we shall fare badly in all this. There will be no one to utter such advice as this: ‘My lady, give this vair mantle, this cloak, and this garment to such and such an honest dame! Truly, such charity will be well employed, for she is in very dire need of them.’ No such words as these shall be uttered henceforth, for there is no one else who is frank and courteous; but every one solicits for himself rather than for some one else, even though he have no need.”
(Vv. 4385–4474.) Thus they were bemoaning their fate; and my lord Yvain who was in their midst, heard their complaints, which were neither groundless nor assumed. He saw Lunete on her knees and stripped to her shift, having already made confession, and besought God’s mercy for her sins. Then he who had loved her deeply once came to her and raised her up, saying: “My damsel, where are those who blame and accuse you? Upon the spot, unless they refuse, battle will be offered them.” And she, who had neither seen nor looked at him before, said: “Sire, you come from God in this time of my great need! The men who falsely accuse me are all ready before me here; if you had been a little later I should soon have been reduced to fuel and ashes. You have come here in my defence, and may God give you the power to accomplish it in proportion as I am guiltless of the accusation which is made against me!” The seneschal and his two brothers heard these words. “Ah!” they exclaim, “woman, chary of uttering truth but generous with lies! He indeed is mad who for thy words assumes so great a task. The knight must be simple-minded who has come here to die for thee, for he is alone and there are three of us. My advice to him is that he turn back before any harm shall come to him.” Then he replies, as one impatient to begin: “Whoever is afraid, let him run away! I am not so afraid of your three shields that I should go off defeated without a blow. I should be indeed discourteous, if, while yet unscathed and in perfect case, I should leave the place and field to you. Never, so long as I am alive and sound, will I run away before such threats. But I advise thee to set free the damsel whom thou hast unjustly accused; for she tells me, and I believe her word, and she has assured me upon the salvation of her soul, that she never committed, or spoke, or conceived any treason against her mistress. I believe implicitly what she has told me, and will defend her as best I can, for I consider the righteousness of her cause to be in my favour. For, if the truth be known, God always sides with the righteous cause, for God and the Right are one; and if they are both upon my side, then I have better company and better aid than thou.” 111 Then the other responds imprudently that he may make every effort that pleases him and is convenient to do him injury, provided that his lion shall not do him harm. And he replies that he never brought the lion to champion his cause, nor does he wish any but himself to take a hand: but if the lion attacks him, let him defend himself against him as best he can, for concerning him he will give no guarantee. Then the other answers: “Whatever thou mayst say; unless thou now warn thy lion, and make him stand quietly to one side, there is no use of thy longer staying here, but begone at once, and so shalt thou be wise; for throughout this country every one is aware how this girl betrayed her lady, and it is right that she receive her due reward in fire and flame.” “May the Holy Spirit forbid!” says he who knows the truth; “may God not let me stir from here until I have delivered her!” Then he tells the lion to withdraw and to lie down quietly, and he does so obediently.
(Vv. 4475–4532.) The lion now withdrew, and the parley and quarrel being ended between them two, they all took their distance for the charge. The three together spurred toward him, and he went to meet them at a walk. He did not wish to be overturned or hurt at this first encounter. So he let them split their lances, while keeping his entire, making for them a target of his shield, whereon each one broke his lance. Then he galloped off until he was separated from them by the space of an acre; but he soon returned to the business in hand, having no desire to delay. On his coming up the second time, he reached the seneschal before his two brothers, and breaking his lance upon his body, he carried him to earth in spite of himself, and he gave him such a powerful blow that for a long while he lay stunned, incapable of doing him any harm. And then the other two came at him with their swords bared, and both deal him great blows, but they receive still heavier blows from him. For a single one of the blows he deals is more than a match for two of theirs; thus he defends himself so well that they have no advantage over him, until the seneschal gets up and does his best to injure him, in which attempt the others join, until they begin to press him and get the upper hand. Then the lion, who is looking on, delays no longer to lend him aid; for it seems to him that he needs it now. And all the ladies, who are devoted to the damsel, beseech God repeatedly and pray to Him earnestly not to allow the death or the defeat of him who has entered the fray on her account. The ladies, having no other weapons, thus assist him with their prayers. And the lion brings him such effective aid, that at his first attack, he strikes so fiercely the seneschal, who was now on his feet, that he makes the meshes fly from the hauberk like straw, and he drags him down with such violence that he tears the soft flesh from his shoulder and all down his side. He strips whatever he touches, so that the entrails lie exposed. The other two avenge this blow.
(Vv. 4533–4634.) Now they are all even on the field. The seneschal is marked for death, as he turns and welters in the red stream of warm blood pouring from his body. The lion attacks the others; for my lord Yvain is quite unable, though he did his best by beating or by threatening him, to drive him back; but the lion doubtless feels confident that his master does not dislike his aid, but rather loves him the more for it: so he fiercely attacks them, until they have reason to complain of his blows, and they wound him in turn and use him badly. When my lord Yvain sees his lion wounded, his heart is wroth within his breast, and rightly so; but he makes such efforts to avenge him, and presses them so hard, that he completely reduces them; they no longer resist him, but surrender to him at discretion, because of the lion’s help, who is now in great distress; for he was wounded everywhere, and had good cause to be in pain. For his part, my lord Yvain was by no means in a healthy state, for his body bore many a wound. But he is not so anxious about himself as about his lion, which is in distress. Now he has delivered the damsel exactly in accordance with his wish, and the lady has very willingly dismissed the grudge that she bore her. And those men were burned upon the pyre which had been kindled for the damsel’s death; for it is right and just that he who has misjudged another, should suffer the same manner of death as that to which he had condemned the other. Now Lunete is joyous and glad at being reconciled with her mistress, and together they were more happy than any one ever was before. Without recognising him, all present offered to him, who was their lord, their service so long as life should last; even the lady, who possessed unknowingly his heart, begged him insistently to tarry there until his lion and he had quite recovered. And he replied: “Lady, I shall not now tarry here until my lady removes from me her displeasure and anger: then the end of all my labours will come.” “Indeed,” she said, “that grieves me. I think the lady cannot be very courteous who cherishes ill-will against you. She ought not to close her door against so valorous a knight as you, unless he had done her some great wrong.” “Lady,” he replies, “however great the hardship be, I am pleased by what ever may be her will. But speak to me no more of that; for I shall say nothing of the cause or crime, except to those who are informed of it.” “Does any one know it, then, beside you two?” “Yes, truly, lady.” “Well, tell us at least your name, fair sir; then you will be free to go.” “Quite free, my lady? No, I shall not be free. I owe more than I can pay. Yet, I ought not to conceal from you my name. You will never hear of ‘The Knight with the Lion’ without hearing of me; for I wish to be known by that name.” “For God’s sake, sir, what does that name mean? For we never saw you before, nor have we ever heard mentioned this name of yours.” “My lady, you may from that infer that my fame is not widespread.” Then the lady says: “Once more, if it did not oppose your will, I would pray you to tarry here.” “Really, my lady, I should not dare, until I knew certainly that I had regained my lady’s good-will.” “Well, then, go in God’s name, fair sir; and, if it be His will, may He convert your grief and sorrow into joy.” “Lady,” says he, “may God hear your prayer.” Then he added softly under his breath: “Lady, it is you who hold the key, and, though you know it not, you hold the casket in which my happiness is kept under lock.”
(Vv. 4635–4674.) Then he goes away in great distress, and there is no one who recognises him save Lunete, who accompanied him a long distance. Lunete alone keeps him company, and he begs her insistently never to reveal the name of her champion. “Sire,” says she, “I will never do so.” Then he further requested her that she should not forget him, and that she should keep a place for him in his mistress’ heart, whenever the chance arose. She tells him to be at ease on that score; for she will never be forgetful, nor unfaithful, nor idle. Then he thanks her a thousand times, and he departs pensive and oppressed, because of his lion that he must needs carry, being unable to follow him on foot. He makes for him a litter of moss and ferns in his shield. When he has made a bed for him there, he lays him in it as gently as he can, and carries him thus stretched out full length on the inner side of his shield. Thus, in his shield he bears him off, until he arrives before the gate of a mansion, strong and fair. Finding it closed, he called, and the porter opened it so promptly that he had no need to call but once. He reaches out to take his rein, and greets him thus: “Come in, fair sire. I offer you the dwelling of my lord, if it please you to dismount.” “I accept the offer gladly,” he replies, “for I stand in great need of it, and it is time to find a lodging.”
(Vv. 4675–4702.) Thereupon, he passed through the gate, and saw the retainers in a mass coming to meet him. They greeted him and helped him from his horse, and laid down upon the pavement his shield with the lion on it. And some, taking his horse, put it in a stable: while others very properly relieved him of his arms and took them. Then the lord of the castle heard the news, and at once came down into the courtyard, and greeted him. And his lady came down, too, with all her sons and daughters and a great crowd of other people, who all rejoiced to offer him a lodging. They gave him a quiet room, because they deemed that he was sick; but their good nature was put to a test when they allowed the lion to go with him. His cure was undertaken by two maidens skilled in surgery, who were daughters of the lord. I do not know how many days he stayed there, until he and his lion, being cured, were compelled to proceed upon their way.
(Vv. 4703–4736.) But within this time it came about that my lord of Noire Espine had a struggle with Death, and so fierce was Death’s attack that he was forced to die. After his death it happened that the elder of two daughters whom he had, announced that she would possess uncontested all the estates for herself during her entire lifetime, and that she would give no share to her sister. And the other one said that she would go to King Arthur’s court to seek help for the defence of her claim to the land. When the former saw that her sister would by no means concede all the estates to her without contest, she was greatly concerned, and thought that, if possible, she would get to court before her. At once she prepared and equipped herself, and without any tarrying or delay, she proceeded to the court. The other followed her, and made all the haste she could; but her journey was all in vain, for her eider sister had already presented her case to my lord Gawain, and he had promised to execute her will. But there was an agreement between them that if any one should learn of the facts from her, he would never again take arms for her, and to this arrangement she gave consent.
(Vv. 4737–4758.) Just then the other sister arrived at court, clad in a short mantle of scarlet cloth and fresh ermine. It happened to be the third day after the Queen had returned from the captivity in which Maleagant had detained her with all the other prisoners; but Lancelot had remained behind, treacherously confined within a tower. And on that very day, when the damsel came to court, news was received of the cruel and wicked giant whom the knight with the lion had killed in battle. In his name, my lord Gawain was greeted by his nephews and niece, who told him in detail of all the great service and great deeds of prowess he had done for them for his sake, and how that he was well acquainted with him, though not aware of his identity.
(Vv. 4759–4820.) All this was heard by her, who was plunged thereby into great despair and sorrow and dejection; for, since the best of the knights was absent, she thought she would find no aid or counsel at the court. She had already made several loving and insistent appeals to my lord Gawain; but he had said to her: “My dear, it is useless to appeal to me; I cannot do it; I have another affair on hand, which I shall in no wise give up.” Then the damsel at once left him, and presented herself before the King. “O King,” said she, “I have come to thee and to thy court for aid. But I find none, and I am very much mazed that I can get no counsel here. Yet it would not be right for me to go away without taking leave. My sister may know, however, that she might obtain by kindness whatever she desired of my property; but I will never surrender my heritage to her by force, if I can help it, and if I can find any aid or counsel.” “You have spoken wisely,” said the King; “since she is present here, I advise, recommend, and urge her to surrender to you what is your right.” Then the other, who was confident of the best knight in the world, replied: “Sire, may God confound me, if ever I bestow on her from my estates any castle, town, clearing, forest, land, or anything else. But if any knight dares to take arms on her behalf and desires to defend her cause, let him step forth at once.” “Your offer to her is not fair; she needs more time,” the King replied; “if she desires, she may have forty days to secure a champion, according to the practice of all courts.” To which the elder sister replied: “Fair King, my lord, you may establish your laws as it pleases you, and as seems good, nor is it my place to gainsay you, so I must consent to the postponement, if she desires it.” Whereupon, the other says that she does desire it, and she makes formal request for it. Then she commended the King to God, and left the court resolving to devote her life to the search through all the land for the Knight with the Lion, who devotes himself to succouring women in need of aid.
(Vv. 4821–4928.) Thus she entered upon her quest, and traversed many a country without hearing any news of him, which caused her such grief that she fell sick. But it was well for her that it happened so; for she came to the dwelling of a friend of hers, by whom she was dearly loved. By this time her face showed clearly that she was not in good health. They insisted upon detaining her until she told them of her plight; whereupon, another damsel took up the quest wherein she had been engaged, and continued the search on her behalf. So while the one remained in this retreat, the other rode rapidly all day long, until the darkness of night came on, and caused her great anxiety. 112 And her trouble was doubled when the rain came on with terrible violence, as if God Himself were doing His worst, while she was in the depths of the forest. The night and the woods cause her great distress, but she is more tormented by the rain than by either the woods or the night. And the road was so bad that her horse was often up to the girth in mud; any damsel might well be terrified to be in the woods, without escort, in such bad weather and in such darkness that she could not see the horse she was riding. So she called on God first, and His mother next, and then on all the saints in turn, and offered up many a prayer that God would lead her out from this forest and conduct her to some lodging-place. She continued in prayer until she heard a horn, at which she greatly rejoiced; for she thought now she would find shelter, if she could only reach the place. So she turned in the direction of the sound, and came upon a paved road which led straight toward the horn whose sound she heard; for the horn had given three long, loud blasts. And she made her way straight toward the sound, until she came to a cross which stood on the right side of the road, and there she thought that she might find the horn and the person who had sounded it. So she spurred her horse in that direction, until she drew near a bridge, and descried the white walls and the barbican of a circular castle. Thus, by chance she came upon the castle, setting her course by the sound which had led her thither. She had been attracted by the sound of the horn blown by a watchman upon the walls. As soon as the watchman caught sight of her, he called to her, then came down, and taking the key of the gate, opened it for her and said: “Welcome, damsel, whoe’er you be. You shall be well lodged this night.” “I have no other desire than that,” the damsel replied, as he let her in. After the toil and anxiety she had endured that day, she was fortunate to find such a lodging-place; for she was very comfortable there. After the meal the host addressed her, and inquired where she was going and what was her quest. Whereupon, she thus replied: “I am seeking one whom I never saw, so far as I am aware, and never knew; but he has a lion with him, and I am told that, if I find him, I can place great confidence in him.” “I can testify to that,” the other said: “for the day before yesterday God sent him here to me in my dire need. Blessed be the paths which led him to my dwelling. For he made me glad by avenging me of a mortal enemy and killing him before my eyes. Outside yonder gate you may see tomorrow the body of a mighty giant, whom he slew with such ease that he hardly had to sweat.” “For God’s sake, sire,” the damsel said, “tell me now the truth, if you know whither he went, and where he is.” “I don’t know,” he said, “as God sees me here; but tomorrow I will start you on the road by which he went away from here.” “And may God,” said she, “lead me where I may hear true news of him. For if I find him, I shall be very glad.”
(Vv. 4929–4964.) Thus they continued in long converse until at last they went to bed. When the day dawned, the maid arose, being in great concern to find the object of her quest. And the master of the house arose with all his companions, and set her upon the road which led straight to the spring beneath the pine. And she, hastening on her way toward the town, came and asked the first men whom she met, if they could tell her where she would find the lion and the knight who travelled in company. And they told her that they had seen him defeat three knights in that very place. Whereupon, she said at once: “For God’s sake, since you have said so much, do not keep back from me anything that you can add.” “No,” they replied; “we know nothing more than we have said, nor do we know what became of him. If she for whose sake he came here, cannot give you further news, there will be no one here to enlighten you. You will not have far to go, if you wish to speak with her; for she has gone to make prayer to God and to hear Mass in yonder church, and judging by the time she has been inside, her orisons have been prolonged.”
(Vv. 4965–5106.) While they were talking thus, Lunete came out from the church, and they said: “There she is.” Then she went to meet her, and they greeted each other. She asked Lunete at once for the information she desired; and Lunete said that she would have a palfrey saddled; for she wished to accompany her, and would take her to an enclosure where she had left him. The other maiden thanked her heartily. Lunete mounts the palfrey which is brought without delay, and, as they ride, she tells her how she had been accused and charged with treason, and how the pyre was already kindled upon which she was to be laid, and how he had come to help her in just the moment of her need. While speaking thus, she escorted her to the road which led directly to the spot where my lord Yvain had parted from her. When she had accompanied her thus far, she said: “Follow this road until you come to a place where, if it please God and the Holy Spirit, you will hear more reliable news of him than I can tell. I very well remember that I left him either near here, or exactly here, where we are now; we have not seen each other since then, and I do not know what he has done. When he left me, he was in sore need of a plaster for his wounds. So I will send you along after him, and if it be God’s will, may He grant that you find him to-night or tomorrow in good health. Now go: I commend you to God. I must not follow you any farther, lest my mistress be displeased with me.” Then Lunete leaves her and turns back; while the other pushed on until she found a house, where my lord Yvain had tarried until he was restored to health. She saw people gathered before the gate, knights, ladies and men-at-arms, and the master of the house; she saluted them, and asked them to tell her, if possible, news of a knight for whom she sought. “Who is he?” they ask. “I have heard it said that he is never without a lion.” “Upon my word, damsel,” the master says, “he has just now left us. You can come up with him to-night, if you are able to keep his tracks in sight, and are careful not to lose any time.” “Sire,” she answers, “God forbid. But tell me now in what direction I must follow him.” And they tell her: “This way, straight ahead,” and they beg her to greet him on their behalf. But their courtesy was not of much avail; for, without giving any heed, she galloped off at once. The pace seemed much too slow to her, though her palfrey made good time. So she galloped through the mud just the same as where the road was good and smooth, until she caught sight of him with the lion as his companion. Then in her gladness she exclaims: “God, help me now. At last I see him whom I have so long pursued, and whose trace I have long followed. But if I pursue and nothing gain, what will it profit me to come up with him? Little or nothing, upon my word. If he does not join in my enterprise, I have wasted all my pains.” Thus saying, she pressed on so fast that her palfrey was all in a sweat; but she caught up with him and saluted him. He thus at once replied to her: “God save you, fair one, and deliver you from grief and woe.” “The same to you, sire, who, I hope, will soon be able to deliver me.” Then she draws nearer to him, and says: “Sire, I have long searched for you. The great fame of your merit has made me traverse many a county in my weary search for you. But I continued my quest so long, thank God, that at last I have found you here. And if I brought any anxiety with me, I am no longer concerned about it, nor do I complain or remember it now. I am entirely relieved; my worry has taken flight the moment I met with you. Moreover, the affair is none of mine: I come to you from one that is better than I, a woman who is more noble and excellent. But if she be disappointed in her hopes of you, then she has been betrayed by your fair renown, for she has no expectation of other aid. My damsel, who is deprived of her inheritance by a sister, expects with your help to win her suit; she will have none but you defend her cause. No one can make her believe that any one else could bear her aid. By securing her share of the heritage, you will have won and acquired the love of her who is now disinherited, and you will also increase your own renown. She herself was going in search for you to secure the boon for which she hoped; no one else would have taken her place, had she not been detained by an illness which compels her to keep her bed. Now tell me, please, whether you will dare to come, or whether you will decline.” “No,” he says; “no man can win praise in a life of ease; and I will not hold back, but will follow you gladly, my sweet friend, whithersoever it may please you. And if she for whose sake you have sought me out stands in some great need of me, have no fear that I shall not do all I can for her. Now may God grant me the happiness and grace to settle in her favour her rightful claim.”
(Vv. 5107–5184.) 113 Thus conversing, they two rode away until they approached the town of Pesme Avanture. They had no desire to pass it by, for the day was already drawing to a close. They came riding to the castle, when all the people, seeing them approach, called out to the knight: “Ill come, sire, ill come. This lodging-place was pointed out to you in order that you might suffer harm and shame. An abbot might take his oath to that.” “Ah,” he replied, “foolish and vulgar folk, full of all mischief, and devoid of honour, why have you thus assailed me?” “Why? you will find out soon enough, if you will go a little farther. But you shall learn nothing more until you have ascended to the fortress.” At once my lord Yvain turns toward the tower, and the crowd cries out, all shouting aloud at him: “Eh, eh, wretch, whither goest thou? If ever in thy life thou hast encountered one who worked thee shame and woe, such will be done thee there, whither thou art going, as will never be told again by thee.” My lord Yvain, who is listening, says: “Base and pitiless people, miserable and impudent, why do you assail me thus, why do you attack me so? What do you wish of me, what do you want, that you growl this way after me?” A lady, who was somewhat advanced in years, who was courteous and sensible, said: “Thou hast no cause to be enraged: they mean no harm in what they say; but, if thou understoodest them aright, they are warning thee not to spend the night up there; they dare not tell thee the reason for this, but they are warning and blaming thee because they wish to arouse thy fears. This they are accustomed to do in the case of all who come, so that they may not go inside. And the custom is such that we dare not receive in our own houses, for any reason whatsoever, any gentleman who comes here from a distance. The responsibility now is thine alone; no one will stand in thy way. If thou wishest, thou mayst go up now; but my advice is to turn back again.” “Lady,” he says, “doubtless it would be to my honour and advantage to follow your advice; but I do not know where I should find a lodging-place to-night.” “Upon my word,” says she, “I’ll say no more, for the concern is none of mine. Go wherever you please. Nevertheless, I should be very glad to see you return from inside without too great shame; but that could hardly be.” “Lady,” he says, “may God reward you for the wish. However, my wayward heart leads me on inside, and I shall do what my heart desires.” Thereupon, he approaches the gate, accompanied by his lion and his damsel. Then the porter calls to him, and says: “Come quickly, come. You are on your way to a place where you will be securely detained, and may your visit be accursed.”
(Vv. 5185–5346.) The porter, after addressing him with this very ungracious welcome, hurried upstairs. But my lord Yvain, without making reply, passed straight on, and found a new and lofty hall; in front of it there was a yard enclosed with large, round, pointed stakes, and seated inside the stakes he saw as many as three hundred maidens, working at different kinds of embroidery. Each one was sewing with golden thread and silk, as best she could. But such was their poverty, that many of them wore no girdle, and looked slovenly, because so poor; and their garments were torn about their breasts and at the elbows, and their shifts were soiled about their necks. Their necks were thin, and their faces pale with hunger and privation. They see him, as he looks at them, and they weep, and are unable for some time to do anything or to raise their eyes from the ground, so bowed down they are with woe. When he had contemplated them for a while, my lord Yvain turned about and moved toward the door; but the porter barred the way, and cried: “It is no use, fair master; you shall not get out now. You would like to be outside: but, by my head, it is of no use. Before you escape you will have suffered such great shame that you could not easily suffer more; so you were not wise to enter here, for there is no question of escaping now.” “Nor do I wish to do so, fair brother,” said he; “but tell me, by thy father’s soul, whence came the damsels whom I saw in the yard, weaving cloths of silk and gold. I enjoy seeing the work they do, but I am much distressed to see their bodies so thin, and their faces so pale and sad. I imagine they would be fair and charming, if they had what they desire.” “I will tell you nothing,” was the reply; “seek some one else to tell you.” “That will I do, since there is no better way.” Then he searches until he finds the entrance of the yard where the damsels were at work: and coming before them, he greets them all, and sees tears flowing from their eyes, as they weep. Then he says to them: “May it please God to remove from your hearts, and turn to joy, this grief, the cause of which I do not know.” One of them answers: “May you be heard by God, to whom you have addressed your prayer. It shall not be concealed from you who we are, and from what land: I suppose that is what you wish to know.” “For no other purpose came I here,” says he. 114 “Sire, it happened a long while ago that the king of the Isle of Damsels went seeking news through divers courts and countries, and he kept on his travels like a dunce until he encountered this perilous place. It was an unlucky hour when he first came here, for we wretched captives who are here receive all the shame and misery which we have in no wise deserved. And rest assured that you yourself may expect great shame, unless a ransom for you be accepted. But, at any rate, so it came about that my lord came to this town, where there are two sons of the devil (do not take it as a jest) who were born of a woman and an imp. These two were about to fight with the king, whose terror was great, for he was not yet eighteen years old, and they would have been able to cleave him through like a tender lamb. So the king, in his terror, escaped his fate as best he could, by swearing that he would send hither each year, as required, thirty of his damsels, and with this rent he freed himself. And when he swore, it was agreed that this arrangement should remain in force as long as the two devils lived. But upon the day when they should be conquered and defeated in battle, he would be relieved from this tribute, and we should be delivered who are now shamefully given over to distress and misery. Never again shall we know what pleasure is. But I spoke folly just now in referring to our deliverance, for we shall never more leave this place. We shall spend our days weaving cloths of silk, without ever being better clad. We shall always be poor and naked, and shall always suffer from hunger and thirst, for we shall never be able to earn enough to procure for ourselves any better food. Our bread supply is very scarce — a little in the morning and less at night, for none of us can gain by her handiwork more than fourpence a day for her daily bread. And with this we cannot provide ourselves with sufficient food and clothes. For though there is not one of us who does not earn as much as twenty sous 115 a week, yet we cannot live without hardship. Now you must know that there is not a single one of us who does not do twenty sous worth of work or more, and with such a sum even a duke would be considered rich. So while we are reduced to such poverty, he, for whom we work, is rich with the product of our toil. We sit up many nights, as well as every day, to earn the more, for they threaten to do us injury, when we seek some rest, so we do not dare to rest ourselves. But why should I tell you more? We are so shamefully treated and insulted that I cannot tell you the fifth part of it all. But what makes us almost wild with rage is that we very often see rich and excellent knights, who fight with the two devils, lose their lives on our account. They pay dearly for the lodging they receive, as you will do tomorrow. For, whether you wish to do so or not, you will have to fight singlehanded and lose your fair renown with these two devils.” “May God, the true and spiritual, protect me,” said my lord Yvain, “and give you back your honour and happiness, if it be His will. I must go now and see the people inside there, and find out what sort of entertainment they will offer me.” “Go now, sire, and may He protect you who gives and distributes all good things.”
(Vv. 5347–5456.) Then he went until he came to the hall where he found no one, good or bad, to address him. Then he and his companion passed through the house until they came to a garden. They never spoke of, or mentioned, stabling their horses. But what matters it? For those who considered them already as their own had stabled them carefully. I do not know whether their expectation was wise, for the horses’ owners are still perfectly hale. The horses, however, have oats and hay, and stand in litter up to their belly. My lord Yvain and his company enter the garden. There he sees, reclining upon his elbow upon a silken rug, a gentleman, to whom a maiden was reading from a romance about I know not whom. There had come to recline there with them and listen to the romance a lady, who was the mother of the damsel, as the gentleman was her father; they had good reason to enjoy seeing and hearing her, for they had no other children. She was not yet sixteen years old, and was so fair and full of grace that the god of Love would have devoted himself entirely to her service, if he had seen her, and would never have made her fall in love with anybody except himself. For her sake he would have become a man, and would lay aside his deity, and would smite his own body with that dart whose wound never heals unless some base physician attends to it. It is not fitting that any one should recover until he meets with faithlessness. Any one who is cured by other means is not honestly in love. I could tell you so much about this wound, if you were pleased to listen to it, that I would not get through my tale today. But there would be some one who would promptly say that I was telling you but an idle tale; for people don’t fall in love nowadays, nor do they love as they used to do, so they do not care to hear of it.116 But hear now in what fashion and with what manner of hospitality my lord Yvain was received. All those who were in the garden leaped to their feet when they saw him come, and cried out: “This way, fair sire. May you and all you love be blessed with all that God can do or say.” I know not if they were deceiving him, but they receive him joyfully and act as if they are pleased that he should be comfortably lodged. Even the lord’s daughter serves him very honourably, as one should treat a worthy guest. She relieves him of all his arms, nor was it the least attention she bestowed on him when she herself washed his neck and face. The lord wishes that all honour should be shown him, as indeed they do. She gets out from her wardrobe a folded shirt, white drawers, needle and thread for his sleeves, which she sews on, thus clothing him. 117 May God want now that this attention and service may not prove too costly to him! She gave him a handsome jacket to put on over his shirt, and about his neck she placed a brand new spotted mantle of scarlet stuff. She takes such pains to serve him well that he feels ashamed and embarrassed. But the damsel is so courteous and open-hearted and polite that she feels she is doing very little. And she knows well that it is her mother’s will that she shall leave nothing undone for him which she thinks may win his gratitude. That night at table he was so well served with so many dishes that there were too many. The servants who brought in the dishes might well have been wearied by serving them. That night they did him all manner of honour, putting him comfortably to bed, and not once going near him again after he had retired. His lion lay at his feet, as his custom was. In the morning, when God lighted His great light for the world, as early as was consistent in one who was always considerate, my lord Yvain quickly arose, as did his damsel too. They heard Mass in a chapel, where it was promptly said for them in honour of the Holy Spirit.
(Vv. 5457–5770.) After the Mass my lord Yvain heard bad news, when he thought the time had come for him to leave and that nothing would stand in his way; but it could not be in accordance with his wish. When he said: “Sire, if it be your will, and with your permission, I am going now,” the master of the house replied: “Friend, I will not grant you permission yet. There is a reason why I cannot do so, for there is established in this castle a very terrible practice which I am bound to observe. I shall now cause to approach two great, strong fellows of mine, against whom, whether right or wrong, you must take arms. If you can defend yourself against them, and conquer and slay them both, my daughter desires you as her lord, and the suzerainty of this town and all its dependencies awaits you.” “Sire,” said he, “for all this I have no desire. So may God never bestow your daughter upon me, but may she remain with you; for she is so fair and so elegant that the Emperor of Germany would be fortunate to win her as his wife.” “No more, fair guest,” the lord replied: “there is no need of my listening to your refusal, for you cannot escape. He who can defeat the two, who are about to attack you, must by right receive my castle, and all my land, and my daughter as his wife. There is no way of avoiding or renouncing the battle. But I feel sure that your refusal of my daughter is due to cowardice, for you think that in this manner you can completely avoid the battle. Know, however, without fail that you must surely fight. No knight who lodges here can possibly escape. This is a settled custom and statute, which will endure yet for many a year, for my daughter will never be married until I see them dead or defeated.” “Then I must fight them in spite of myself. But I assure you that I should very gladly give it up. In spite of my reluctance, however, I shall accept the battle, since it is inevitable.” Thereupon, the two hideous, black sons of the devil come in, both armed with a crooked club of a cornelian cherry-tree, which they had covered with copper and wound with brass. They were armed from the shoulders to the knees, but their head and face were bare, as well as their brawny legs. Thus armed, they advanced, bearing in their hands round shields, stout and light for fighting. The lion begins to quiver as soon as he sees them, for he sees the arms they have, and perceives that they come to fight his master. He is aroused, and bristles up at once, and, trembling with rage and bold impulse, he thrashes the earth with his tail, desiring to rescue his master before they kill him. And when they see him they say: “Vassal, remove the lion from here that he may not do us harm. Either surrender to us at once, or else, we adjure you, that lion must be put where he can take no part in aiding you or in harming us. You must come alone to enjoy our sport, for the lion would gladly help you, if he could.” My lord Yvain then replies to them: “Take him away yourselves if you are afraid of him. For I shall be well pleased and satisfied if he can contrive to injure you, and I shall be grateful for his aid.” They answer: “Upon my word that will not do; you shall never receive any help from him. Do the best you can alone, without the help of any one. You must fight single-handed against us two. If you were not alone, it would be two against two; so you must follow our orders, and remove your lion from here at once, however much you may dislike to do so.” “Where do you wish him to be?” he asks, “or where do you wish me to put him?” Then they show him a small room, and say: “Shut him up in there.” “It shall be done, since it is your will.” Then he takes him and shuts him up. And now they bring him arms for his body, and lead out his horse, which they give to him, and he mounts. The two champions, being now assured about the lion, which is shut up in the room, come at him to injure him and do him harm. They give him such blows with the maces that his shield and helmet are of little use, for when they hit him on the helmet they batter it in and break it; and the shield is broken and dissolved like ice, for they make such holes in it that one could thrust his fists through it: their onslaught is truly terrible. And he — what does he do against these two devils? Urged on by shame and fear, he defends himself with all his strength. He strains every nerve, and exerts himself to deal heavy, and telling blows; they lost nothing by his gifts, for he returned their attentions with double measure. In his room, the lion’s heart is heavy and sad, for he remembers the kind deed done for him by this noble man, who now must stand in great need of his service and aid. If now he could escape from there, he would return him the kindness with full measure and full bushel, without any discount whatsoever. He looks about in all directions, but sees no way of escape. He hears the blows of the dangerous and desperate fight, and in his grief he rages and is beside himself. He investigates, until he comes to the threshold, which was beginning to grow rotten; and he scratches at it until he can squeeze himself in as far as his haunches, when he sticks fast. Meanwhile, my lord Yvain was hard pressed and sweating freely, for he found that the two fellows were very strong, fierce, and persistent. He had received many a blow, and repaid it as best he could, but without doing them any harm, for they were well skilled in fencing, and their shields were not of a kind to be hacked by any sword, however sharp and well tempered it might be. So my lord Yvain had good reason to fear his death, yet he managed to hold his own until the lion extricated himself by continued scratching beneath the threshold. If the rascals are not killed now, surely they will never be. For so long as the lion knows them to be alive, they can never obtain truce or peace with him. He seizes one of them, and pulls him down to earth like a tree-trunk. The wretches are terrified, and there is not a man present who does not rejoice. For he whom the lion has dragged down will never be able to rise again, unless the other succours him. He runs up to bring him aid, and at the same time to protect himself, lest the lion should attack him as soon as he had despatched the one whom he had thrown down; he was more afraid of the lion than of his master. But my lord Yvain will be foolish now if he allows him longer life, when he sees him turn his back, and sees his neck bare and exposed; this chance turned out well for him. When the rascal exposed to him his bare head and neck, he dealt him such a blow that he smote his head from his shoulders so quietly that the fellow never knew a word about it. Then he dismounts, wishing to help and save the other one from the lion, who holds him fast. But it is of no use, for already he is in such straits that a physician can never arrive in time; for the lion, coming at him furiously, so wounded him at the first attack, that he was in a dreadful state. Nevertheless, he drags the lion back, and sees that he had torn his shoulder from its place. He is in no fear of the fellow now, for his club has fallen from his hand, and he lies like a dead man without action or movement; still he has enough strength to speak, and he said as clearly as he could: “Please take your lion away, fair sire, that he may not do me further harm. Henceforth you may do with me whatever may be your desire. Whoever begs and prays for mercy, ought not to have his prayer refused, unless he addresses a heartless man. I will no longer defend myself, nor will I ever get up from here with my own strength; so I put myself in your hands.” “Speak out then,” he says, “if thou dost admit that thou art conquered and defeated.” “Sire,” he says, “it is evident. I am defeated in spite of myself, and I surrender, I promise you.” “Then thou needest have no further fear of me, and my lion will leave thee alone.” Then he is surrounded by all the crowd, who arrive on the scene in haste. And both the lord and his lady rejoice over him, and embrace him, and speak to him of their daughter, saying: “Now you will be the lord and master of us all, and our daughter will be your wife, for we bestow her upon you as your spouse.” “And for my part,” he says. “I restore her to you. Let him who has her keep her. I have no concern with her, though I say it not in disparagement. Take it not amiss if I do not accept her, for I cannot and must not do so. But deliver to me now, if you will, the wretched maidens in your possession. The agreement, as you well know, is that they shall all go free.” “What you say is true,” he says: “and I resign and deliver them freely to you: there will be no dispute on that score. But you will be wise to take my daughter with all my wealth, for she is fair, and charming, and sensible. You will never find again such a rich marriage as this.” “Sire,” he replies, “you do not know of my engagements and my affairs, and I do not dare to explain them to you. But, you may be sure, when I refuse what would never be refused by any one who was free to devote his heart and intentions to such a fair and charming girl, that I too would willingly accept her hand if I could, or if I were free to accept her or any other maid. But I assure you that I cannot do it: so let me depart in peace. For the damsel, who escorted me hither, is awaiting me. She has kept me company, and I would not willingly desert her whatever the future may have in store.” “You wish to go, fair sire? But how? My gate will never be opened for you unless my judgment bids me give the command; rather shall you remain here as my prisoner. You are acting haughtily and making a mistake when you disdain to take my daughter at my request.” “Disdain, my lord? Upon my soul, I do not disdain her. Whatever the penalty may be, I cannot marry a wife or tarry here. I shall follow the damsel who is my guide: for otherwise it cannot be. But, with your consent, I will pledge you my right hand, and you may take my word, that, just as you see me now, I will return if possible, and then will accept your daughter’s hand, whenever it may seem good ro you.” “Confound any one,” he says, “who asks you for your word or promise or pledge. If my daughter pleases you, you will return quickly enough. You will not return any sooner. I think, for having given your word or sworn an oath. Begone now. I release you from all oaths and promises. If you are detained by rain or wind, or by nothing at all, it is of no consequence to me. I do not hold my daughter so cheap as to bestow her upon you forcibly. Now go about your business. For it is quite the same to me whether you go or whether you stay.”
(Vv. 5771–5871.) Thereupon my lord Yvain turns away and delays no longer in the castle. He escorted the poor and ill-clad wretches, who were now released from captivity, and whom the lord committed to his care. These maidens feel that now they are rich, as they file out in pairs before him from the castle. I do not believe that they would rejoice so much as they do now were He who created the whole world to descend to earth from Heaven. Now all those people who had insulted him in every possible way come to beseech him for mercy and peace, and escort him on his way. He replies that he knows nothing of what they mean. “I do not understand what you mean,” he says; “but I have nothing against you. I do not remember that you ever said anything that harmed me.” They are very glad for what they hear, and loudly praise his courtesy, and after escorting him a long distance, they all commend him to God. Then the damsels, after asking his permission, separated from him. When they left him, they all bowed to him, and prayed and expressed the wish that God might grant him joy and health, and the accomplishment of his desire, wherever in the future he should go. Then he, who is anxious to be gone, says that he hopes God will save them all. “Go,” he says, “and may God conduct you into your countries safe and happy.” Then they continue their way joyfully; and my lord Yvain departs in the other direction. All the days of that week he never ceases to hurry on under the escort of the maid, who was well acquainted with the road, and with the retired place where she had left the unhappy and disconsolate damsel who had been deprived of her inheritance. But when she heard news of the arrival of the maiden and of the Knight with the Lion. There never was such joy as she felt within her heart. For now she thinks that, if she insists, her sister will cede her a part of her inheritance. The damsel had long lain sick, and had just recovered from her malady. It had seriously affected her, as was apparent from her face. Straightway she went forth to meet them, greeting them and honouring them in every way she could. There is no need to speak of the happiness that prevailed that night in the house. No mention will be made of it, for the story would be too long to tell. I pass over all that, until they mounted next morning and went away. They rode until they saw the town where King Arthur had been staying for a fortnight or more. And there, too, was the damsel who had deprived her sister of her heritage, for she had kept close to the court, waiting for the arrival of her sister, who now draws near. But she does not worry much, for she does not think that her sister can find any knight who can withstand my lord Gawain’s attack, and only one day of the forty yet remains. If this single day had passed, she would have had the reasonable and legal right to claim the heritage for herself alone. But more stands in the way than she thinks or believes. That night they spent outside the town in a small and humble house, where, in accordance with their desire, they were not recognised. At the first sign of dawn the next morning they necessarily issue forth, but ensconce themselves in hiding until broad daylight.
(Vv. 5872–5924.) I know not how many days had passed since my lord Gawain had so completely disappeared that no one at court knew anything about him, except only the damsel in whose cause he was to fight. He had concealed himself three or four leagues from the court, and when he returned he was so equipped that even those who knew him perfectly could not recognise him by the arms he bore. The damsel, whose injustice toward her sister was evident, presented him at court in the sight of all, for she intended with his help to triumph in the dispute where she had no rights. So she said to the King: “My lord, time passes. The noon hour will soon be gone, and this is the last day. As you see, I am prepared to defend my claim. If my sister were going to return, there would be nothing to do but await her arrival. But I may praise God that she is not coming back again. It is evident that she cannot better her affairs, and that her trouble has been for naught. For my part, I have been ready all the time up to this last day, to prove my claim to what is mine. I have proved my point entirely without a fight, and now I may rightfully go to accept my heritage in peace; for I shall render no accounting for it to my sister as long as I live, and she will lead a wretched and miserable existence.” Then the King, who well knew that the damsel was disloyally unjust toward her sister, said to her: “My dear, upon my word, in a royal court one must wait as long as the king’s justice sits and deliberates upon the verdict. It is not yet time to pack up, for it is my belief that your sister will yet arrive in time.” Before the King had finished, he saw the Knight with the Lion and the damsel with him. They two were advancing alone, having slipped away from the lion, who had stayed where they spent the night.
(Vv. 5925–5990.) The King saw the damsel whom he did not fail to recognise, and he was greatly pleased and delighted to see her, for he was on her side of the quarrel, because he had regard for what was right. Joyfully he cried out to her as soon as he could: “Come forward, fair one: may God save you!” When the other sister hears these words, she turns trembling, and sees her with the knight whom she had brought to defend in her claim: then she turned blacker than the earth. The damsel, after being kindly welcomed by all, went to where the King was sitting. When she had come before him, she spoke to him thus: “God save the King and his household. If my rights in this dispute can be settled by a champion, then it will be done by this knight who has followed me hither. This frank and courteous knight had many other things to do elsewhere; but he felt such pity for me that he cast aside all his other affairs for the sake of mine. Now, madame, my very dear sister, whom I love as much as my own heart, would do the right and courteous thing if she would let me have so much of what is mine by right that there might be peace between me and her; for I ask for nothing that is hers.” “Nor do I ask for anything that is thine,” the other replied; “for thou hast nothing, and nothing shalt thou have. Thou canst never talk so much as to gain anything by thy words. Thou mayest dry up with grief.” Then the other, who was very polite and sensible and courteous, replied with the words: “Certainly I am sorry that two such gentlemen as these should fight on our behalf over so small a disagreement. But I cannot disregard my claim, for I am in too great need of it. So I should be much obliged to you if you would give me what is rightly mine.” “Surely,” the other said, “any one would be a fool to consider thy demands. May I burn in evil fire and flame if I give thee anything to ease thy life! The banks of the Seine will meet, and the hour of prime will be called noon, before I refuse to carry out the fight.” “May God and the right, which I have in this cause, and in which I trust and have trusted till the present time, aid him, who in charity and courtesy has offered himself in my service, though he knows not who I am, and though we are ignorant of each other’s identity.”
(Vv. 5991–6148.) So they talked until their conversation ceased, and then produced the knights in the middle of the court. Then all the people crowd about, as people are wont to do when they wish to witness blows in battle or in joust. But those who were about to fight did not recognise each other, though their relations were wont to be very affectionate. Then do they not love each other now? I would answer you both “yes” and “no.” And I shall prove that each answer is correct. In truth, my lord Gawain loves Yvain and regards him as his companion, and so does Yvain regard him, wherever he may be. Even here, if he knew who he was, he would make much of him, and either one of them would lay down his head for the other before he would allow any harm to come to him. Is not that a perfect and lofty love? Yes, surely. But, on the other hand, is not their hate equally manifest? Yes; for it is a certain thing that doubtless each would be glad to have broken the other’s head, and so to have injured him as to cause his humiliation. Upon my word, it is a wondrous thing, that Love and mortal Hate should dwell together. God! How can two things so opposed find lodging in the same dwelling-place? It seems to me they cannot live together; for one could not dwell with the other, without giving rise to noise and contention, as soon as each knew of the other’s presence. But upon the ground-floor there may be several apartments: for there are halls and sleeping-rooms. It may be the same in this case: I think Love had ensconced himself in some hidden room, while Hate had betaken herself to the balconies looking on the high-road, because she wishes to be seen. Just now Hate is in the saddle, and spurs and pricks forward as she can, to get ahead of Love who is indisposed to move. Ah! Love, what has become of thee? Come out now, and thou shalt see what a host has been brought up and opposed to thee by the enemies of thy friends. The enemies are these very men who love each other with such a holy love for love, which is neither false nor feigned, is a precious and a holy thing. In this case Love is completely blind, and Hate, too, is deprived of sight. For if Love had recognised these two men, he must have forbidden each to attack the other, or to do any thing to cause him harm. In this respect, then, Love is blind and discomfited and beguiled; for, though he sees them, he fails to recognise those who rightly belong to him. And though Hate is unable to tell why one of them should hate the other, yet she tries to engage them wrongfully, so that each hates the other mortally. You know, of course, that he cannot be said to love a man who would wish to harm him and see him dead. How then? Does Yvain wish to kill his friend, my lord Gawain? Yes, and the desire is mutual. Would, then, my lord Gawain desire to kill Yvain with his own hands, or do even worse than I have said? Nay, not really, I swear and protest. One would not wish to injure or harm the other, in return for all that God has done for man, or for all the empire of Rome. But this, in turn, is a lie of mine, for it is plainly to be seen that, with lance raised high in rest, each is ready to attack the other, and there will be no restraint of the desire of each to wound the other with intent to injure him and work him woe. Now tell me! When one will have defeated the other, of whom can he complain who has the worst of it? For if they go so far as to come to blows, I am very much afraid that they will continue the battle and the strife until victory be definitely decided. If he is defeated, will Yvain be justified in saying that he has been harmed and wronged by a man who counts him among his friends, and who has never mentioned him but by the name of friend or companion? Or, if it comes about perchance that Yvain should hurt him in turn, or defeat him in any way, will Gawain have the right to complain? Nay, for he will not know whose fault it is. In ignorance of each other’s identity, they both drew off and took their distance. At this first shock, their lances break, though they were stout, and made of ash. Not a word do they exchange, for if they had stopped to converse their meeting would have been different. In that case, no blow would have been dealt with lance or sword; they would have kissed and embraced each other rather than sought each other’s harm. For now they attack each other with injurious intent. The condition of the swords is not improved, nor that of the helmets and shields, which are dented and split; and the edges of the swords are nicked and dulled. For they strike each other violently, not with the fiat of the swords, but with the edge, and they deal such blows with the pommels upon the nose-guards and upon the neck, forehead and cheeks, that they are all marked black and blue where the blood collects beneath the skin. And their hauberks are so torn, and their shields so broken in pieces, that neither one escaped without wounds. Their breath is almost exhausted with the labour of the strife; they hammer away at each other so lustily that every hyacinth and emerald set in their helmets is crushed and smashed. For they give each other such a battering with their pommels upon the helmets that they are quite stunned, as they almost beat out each other’s brains. The eyes in their heads gleam like sparks, as, with stout square fists, and strong nerves, and hard bones, they strike each other upon the mouth as long as they can grip their swords, which are of great service to them in dealing their heavy blows.
(Vv. 6149–6228.) When they had for a long time strained themselves, until the helmets were crushed, and the hauberks’ meshes were torn apart with the hammering of the swords, and the shields were split and cracked, they drew apart a little to give their pulse a rest and to catch their breath again. However, they do not long delay, but run at each other again more fiercely than before. And all declare that they never saw two more courageous knights. “This fight between them is no jest, but they are in grim earnest. They will never be repaid for their merits and deserts.” The two friends, in their bitter struggle, heard these words, and heard how the people were talking of reconciling the two sisters; but they had no success in placating the elder one. And the younger one said she would leave it to the King, and would not gainsay him in anything. But the elder one was so obstinate that even the Queen Guinevere and the knights and the King and the ladies and the townspeople side with the younger sister, and all join in beseeching the King to give her a third or a fourth part of the land in spite of the elder sister, and to separate the two knights who had displayed such bravery, for it would be too bad if one should injure the other or deprive him of any honour. And the King replied that he would take no hand in making peace, for the elder sister is so cruel that she has no desire for it. All these words were heard by the two, who were attacking each other so bitterly that all were astonished thereat; for the battle is waged so evenly that it is impossible to judge which has the better and which the worse. Even the two men themselves, who fight, and who are purchasing honour with agony, are filled with amazement and stand aghast, for they are so well matched in their attack, that each wonders who it can be that withstands him with such bravery. They fight so long that the day draws on to night, while their arms grow weary and their bodies sore, and the hot, boiling blood flows from many a spot and trickles down beneath their hauberks: they are in such distress that it is no wonder if they wish to rest. Then both withdraw to rest themselves, each thinking within himself that, however long he has had to wait, he now at last has met his match. For some time they thus seek repose, without daring to resume the fight. They feel no further desire to fight, because of the night which is growing dark, and because of the respect they feel for each other’s might. These two considerations keep them apart, and urge them to keep the peace. But before they leave the field they will discover each other’s identity, and joy and mercy will be established between them.
(Vv. 6229–6526.) My brave and courteous lord Yvain was the first to speak. But his good friend was unable to recognise him by his utterance; for he was prevented by his low tone and by his voice which was hoarse, weak, and broken; for his blood was all stirred up by the blows he had received. “My lord,” he says, “the night comes on! I think no blame or reproach will attach to us if the night comes between us. But I am willing to admit, for my own part, that I feel great respect and admiration for you, and never in my life have I engaged in a battle which has made me smart so much, nor did I ever expect to see a knight whose acquaintance I should so yearn to make. You know well how to land your blows and how to make good use of them: I have never known a knight who was so skilled in dealing blows. It was against my will that I received all the blows you have bestowed on me today; I am stunned by the blows you have I struck upon my head.” “Upon my word,” my lord Gawain replies, “you are not so stunned and faint but that I am as much so, or more. And if I should tell you the simple truth, I think you would not be loath to hear it, for if I have lent you anything of mine, you have fully paid me back, principal and interest; for you were more ready to pay back than I was to accept the payment. But however that may be, since you wish me to inform you of my name, it shall not be kept from you: my name is Gawain the son of King Lot.” As soon as my lord Yvain heard that, he was amazed and sorely troubled; angry and grief-stricken, he cast upon the ground his bloody sword and broken shield, then dismounted from his horse, and cried: “Alas, what mischance is this! Through what unhappy ignorance in not recognising each other have we waged this battle! For if I had known who you were, I should never have fought with you; but, upon my word, I should have surrendered without a blow.” “How is that?” my lord Gawain inquires, “who are you, then?” “I am Yvain, who love you more than any man in the whole wide world, for you have always been fond of me and shown me honour in every court. But I wish to make you such amends and do you such honour in this affair that I will confess myself to have been defeated.” “Will you do so much for my sake?” my gentle lord Gawain asks him; “surely I should be presumptuous to accept any such amends from you. This honour shall never be claimed as mine, but it shall be yours, to whom I resign it.” “Ah, fair sire, do not speak so. For that could never be. I am so wounded and exhausted that I cannot endure more.” “Surely, you have no cause to be concerned.” his friend and companion replies; “but for my part, I am defeated and overcome; I say it not as a compliment; for there is no stranger in the world, to whom I would not say as much, rather than receive any more blows.” Thus saying, he got down from his horse, and they threw their arms about each other’s neck, kissing each other, and each continuing to assert that it is he who has met defeat. The argument is still in progress when the King and the knights come running up from every side, at the sight of their reconciliation; and great is their desire to hear how this can be, and who these men are who manifest such happiness. The King says: “Gentlemen, tell us now who it is that has so suddenly brought about this friendship and harmony between you two, after the hatred and strife there has been this day?” Then his nephew, my lord Gawain, thus answers him: “My lord, you shall be informed of the misfortune and mischance which have been the cause of our strife. Since you have tarried in order to hear and learn the cause of it, it is right to let you know the truth. I, Gawain, who am your nephew, did not recognise this companion of mine, my lord Yvain, until he fortunately, by the will of God, asked me my name. After each had informed the other of his name, we recognised each other, but not until we had fought it out. Our struggle already has been long; and if we had fought yet a little longer, it would have fared ill with me, for, by my head, he would have killed me, what with his prowess and the evil cause of her who chose me as her champion. But I would rather be defeated than killed by a friend in battle.” Then my lord Yvain’s blood was stirred, as he said to him in reply: “Fair dear sire, so help me God, you have no right to say so much. Let my lord, The King, well know in this battle I am surely the one who has been defeated and overcome!” “I am the one” “No, I am.” Thus each cries out, and both are so honest and courteous that each allows the victory and crown to be the other’s prize, while neither one of them will accept it. Thus each strives to convince the King and all the people that he has been defeated and overthrown. But when he had listened to them for a while, the King terminated the dispute. He was well pleased with what he heard and with the sight of them in each other’s arms, though they had wounded and injured each other in several places. “My lords,” he says, “there is deep affection between you two. You give clear evidence of that, when each insists that it is he who has been defeated. Now leave it all to me! For I think I can arrange it in such a way that it will redound to your honour, and every one will give consent.” Then they both promised him that they would do his will in every particular. And the King says that he will decide the quarrel fairly and faithfully. “Where is the damsel,” he inquires, “who has ejected her sister from her land, and has forcibly and cruelly disinherited her?” “My lord,” she answers, “here I am.” “Are you there? Then draw near to me! I saw plainly some time ago that you were disinheriting her. But her right shall no longer be denied; for you yourself have avowed the truth to me. You must now resign her share to her.” “Sire,” she says, “if I uttered a foolish and thoughtless word, you ought not to take me up in it. For God’s sake, sire, do not be hard on me! You are a king, and you ought to guard against wrong and error.” The King replies: “That is precisely why I wish to give your sister her rights; for I have never defended what is wrong. And you have surely heard how your knight and hers have left the matter in my hands. I shall not say what is altogether pleasing to you; for your injustice is well known. In his desire to honour the other, each one says that he has been defeated. But there is no need to delay further: since the matter has been left to me, either you will do in all respects what I say, without resistance, or I shall announce that my nephew has been defeated in the fight. That would be the worst thing that could happen to your cause, and I shall be sorry to make such a declaration.” In reality, he would not have said it for anything; but he spoke thus in order to see if he could frighten her into restoring the heritage to her sister; for he clearly saw that she never would surrender anything to her for any words of his unless she was influenced by force or fear. In fear and apprehension, she replied to him: “Fair lord, I must now respect your desire, though my heart is very loath to yield. Yet, however hard it may go with me, I shall do it, and my sister shall have what belongs to her. I give her your own person as a pledge of her share in my inheritance, in order that she may be more assured of it.” “Endow her with it, then, at once,” the King replies; “let her receive it from your hands, and let her vow fidelity to you! Do you love her as your vassal, and let her love you as her sovereign lady and as her sister.” Thus the King conducts the affair until the damsel takes possession of her land, and offers her thanks to him for it. Then the King asked the valiant and brave knight who was his nephew to allow himself to be disarmed; and he requested my lord Yvain to lay aside his arms also; for now they may well dispense with them. Then the two vassals lay aside their arms and separate on equal terms. And while they are taking off their armour, they see the lion running up in search of his master. As soon as he catches sight of him, he begins to show his joy. Then you would have seen people draw aside, and the boldest among them takes to flight. My lord Yvain cries out: “Stand still, all! Why do you flee? No one is chasing you. Have no fear that yonder lion will do you harm. Believe me, please, when I say that he is mine, and I am his, and we are both companions.” Then it was known of a truth by all those who had heard tell of the adventures of the lion and of his companion that this must be the very man who had killed the wicked giant. And my lord Gawain said to him: “Sir companion, so help me God, you have overwhelmed me with shame this day. I did not deserve the service that you did me in killing the giant to save my nephews and my niece. I have been thinking about you for some time, and I was troubled because it was said that we were acquainted as loving friends. I have surely thought much upon the subject: but I could not hit upon the truth, and had never heard of any knight that I had known in any land where I had been, who was called ‘The Knight with the Lion.’” While they chatted thus they took their armour off, and the lion came with no slow step to the place where his master sat, and showed such joy as a dumb beast could. Then the two knights had to be removed to a sick-room and infirmary, for they needed a doctor and piaster to cure their wounds. King Arthur, who loved them well, had them both brought before him, and summoned a surgeon whose knowledge of surgery was supreme. He exercised his art in curing them, until he had healed their wounds as well and as quickly as possible. When he had cured them both, my lord Yvain, who had his heart set fast on love, saw clearly that he could not live, but that he finally would die unless his lady took pity upon him; for he was dying for love of her; so he thought he would go away from the court alone, and would go to fight at the spring that belonged to her, where he would cause such a storm of wind and rain that she would be compelled perforce to make peace with him; otherwise, there would be no end to the disturbance of the spring, and to the rain and wind.
(Vv. 6527–6658.) As soon as my lord Yvain felt that he was cured and sound again, he departed without the knowledge of any one. But he had with him his lion, who never in his life wished to desert him. They travelled until they saw the spring and made the rain descend. Think not that this is a lie of mine, when I tell you that the disturbance was so violent that no one could tell the tenth part of it: for it seemed as if the whole forest must surely be engulfed. The lady fears for her town, lest it, too, will crumble away; the walls totter, and the tower rocks so that it is on the verge of falling down. The bravest Turk would rather be a captive in Persia than be shut up within those walls. The people are so stricken with terror that they curse all their ancestors, saying: “Confounded be the man who first constructed a house in this neighbourhood, and all those who built this town! For in the wide world they could not have found so detestable a spot, for a single man is able here to invade and worry and harry us.” “You must take counsel in this matter, my lady,” says Lunete; “you will find no one who will undertake to aid you in this time of need unless you seek for him afar. In the future we shall never be secure in this town, nor dare to pass beyond the walls and gate. You know full well that, were some one to summon together all your knights for this cause, the best of them would not dare to step forward. If it is true that you have no one to defend your spring, you will appear ridiculous and humiliated. It will redound greatly to your honour, forsooth, if he who has attacked you shall retire without a fight! Surely you are in a bad predicament if you do not devise some other plan to benefit yourself.” The lady replies: “Do thou, who art so wise, tell me what plan I can devise, and I will follow thy advice.” “Indeed, lady, if I had any plan, I should gladly propose it to you. But you have great need of a wiser counsellor. So I shall certainly not dare to intrude, and in common with the others I shall endure the rain and wind until, if it please God, I shall see some worthy man appear here in your court who will assume the responsibility and burden of the battle; but I do not believe that that will happen today, and we have not yet seen the worst of your urgent need.” Then the lady replies at once: “Damsel, speak now of something else! Say no more of the people of my household; for I cherish no further expectation that the spring and its marble brim will ever be defended by any of them. But, if it please God, let us hear now what is your opinion and plan; for people always say that in time of need one can test his friend.” 118 “My lady, if there is any one who thinks he could find him who slew the giant and defeated the three knights, he would do well to go to search for him. But so long as he shall incur the enmity, wrath, and displeasure of his lady, I fancy there is not under heaven any man or woman whom he would follow, until he had been assured upon oath that everything possible would be done to appease the hostility which his lady feels for him, and which is so bitter that he is dying of the grief and anxiety it causes him.” And the lady said: “Before you enter upon the quest, I am prepared to promise you upon my word and to swear that, if he will return to me, I will openly and frankly do all I can to bring about his peace of mind.” Then Lunete replies to her: “Lady, have no fear that you cannot easily effect his reconciliation, when once it is your desire to do so; but, if you do not object, I will take your oath before I start.” “I have no objection,” the lady says. With delicate courtesy, Lunete procured at once for her a very precious relic, and the lady fell upon her knees. Thus Lunete very courteously accepted her upon her oath. In administering the oath, she forgot nothing which it might be an advantage to insert. “Lady,” she says, “now raise your hand! I do not wish that the day after tomorrow you should lay any charge upon me; for you are not doing anything for me, but you are acting for your own good. If you please now, you shall swear that you will exert yourself in the interests of the Knight with the Lion until he recover his lady’s love as completely as he ever possessed it.” The lady then raised her right hand and said: “I swear to all that thou hast said, so help me God and His holy saint, that my heart may never fail to do all within my power. If I have the strength and ability, I will restore to him the love and favour which with his lady he once enjoyed.”
(Vv. 6659–6716.) Lunete has now done well her work; there was nothing which she had desired so much as the object which she had now attained. They had already got out for her a palfrey with an easy pace. Gladly and in a happy frame of mind Lunete mounts and rides away, until she finds beneath the pine-tree him whom she did not expect to find so near at hand. Indeed, she had thought that she would have to seek afar before discovering him. As soon as she saw him, she recognised him by the lion, and coming toward him rapidly, she dismounted upon the solid earth. And my lord Yvain recognised her as soon as he saw her, and greeted her, as she saluted him with the words: “Sire, I am very happy to have found you so near at hand.” And my lord Yvain said in reply: “How is that? Were you looking for me, then?” “Yes, sire, and in all my life I have never felt so glad, for I have made my mistress promise, if she does not go back upon her word, that she will be again your lady as was once the case, and that you shall be her lord; this truth I make bold to tell.” My lord Yvain was greatly elated at the news he hears, and which he had never expected to hear again. He could not sufficiently show his gratitude to her who had accomplished this for him. He kisses her eyes, and then her face, saying: “Surely, my sweet friend, I can never repay you for this service. I fear that ability and time will fail me to do you the honour and service which is your due.” “Sire,” she replies, “have no concern, and let not that thought worry you! For you will have an abundance of strength and time to show me and others your good will. If I have paid this debt I owed, I am entitled to only so much gratitude as the man who borrows another’s goods and then discharges the obligation. Even now I do not consider that I have paid you the debt I owed.” “Indeed you have, as God sees me, more than five hundred thousand times. Now, when you are ready, let us go. But have you told her who I am?” “No, I have not, upon my word. She knows you only by the name of ‘The Knight with the Lion.’”
(Vv. 6717–6758.) Thus conversing they went along, with the lion following after them, until they all three came to the town. They said not a word to any man or woman there, until they arrived where the lady was. And the lady was greatly pleased as soon as she heard that the damsel was approaching, and that she was bringing with her the lion and the knight, whom she was very anxious to meet and know and see. All clad in his arms, my lord Yvain fell at her feet upon his knees, while Lunete, who was standing by, said to her: “Raise him up, lady, and apply all your efforts and strength and skill in procuring that peace and pardon which no one in the world, except you, can secure for him.” Then the lady bade him rise, and said: “He may dispose of all my power! I shall be very happy, if possible, to accomplish his wish and his desire.” “Surely, my lady,” Lunete replied, “I would not say it if it were not true. But all this is even more possible for you than I have said: but now I will tell you the whole truth, and you shall see: you never had and you never will have such a good friend as this gentleman. God, whose will it is that there should be unending peace and love between you and him, has caused me to find him this day so near at hand. In order to test the truth of this, I have only one thing to say: lady, dismiss the grudge you bear him! For he has no other mistress than you. This is your husband, my lord Yvain.”
(Vv. 6759–6776.) The lady, trembling at these words, replied: “God save me! You have caught me neatly in a trap! You will make me love, in spite of myself, a man who neither loves nor esteems me. This is a fine piece of work, and a charming way of serving me! I would rather endure the winds and the tempests all my life: And if it were not a mean and ugly thing to break one’s word, he would never make his peace or be reconciled with me. This purpose would have always lurked within me, as a fire smoulders in the ashes; but I do not wish to renew it now, nor do I care to refer to it, since I must be reconciled with him.”
(Vv. 6777–6798.) My lord Yvain hears and understands that his cause is going well, and that he will be peacefully reconciled with her. So he says: “Lady, one ought to have mercy on a sinner. I have had to pay, and dearly to pay, for my mad act. It was madness that made me stay away, and I now admit my guilt and sin. I have been bold, indeed, in daring to present myself to you; but if you will deign to keep me now, I never again shall do you any wrong.” She replied: “I will surely consent to that; for if I did not do all I could to establish peace between you and me, I should be guilty of perjury. So, if you please, I grant your request.” “Lady,” says he, “so truly as God in this mortal life could not otherwise restore me to happiness, so may the Holy Spirit bless me five hundred times!”
(Vv. 6799–6813.) Now my lord Yvain is reconciled, and you may believe that, in spite of the trouble he has endured, he was never so happy for anything. All has turned out well at last; for he is beloved and treasured by his lady, and she by him. His troubles no longer are in his mind; for he forgets them all in the joy he feels with his precious wife. And Lunete, for her part, is happy too: all her desires are satisfied when once she had made an enduring peace between my polite lord Yvain and his sweetheart so dear and so elegant.
(Vv. 6814–6818.) Thus Chretien concludes his romance of the Knight with the Lion; for I never heard any more told of it, nor will you ever hear any further particulars, unless some one wishes to add some lies.
Endnotes supplied by Prof. Foerster are indicated by “(F.)”; all other endnotes are supplied by W.W. Comfort.
“cele feste, qui tant coste,
Qu’an doit clamer la pantecoste.”
This rhyme is frequently met in mediaeval narrative poems. (F.)
91 The contemporary degeneracy of lovers and of the art of love is a favourite theme of mediaeval poets.
92 Cf. “Roman de la Rose”, 9661, for the stinking manure pit. (F.)
93 The forest of Broceliande is in Brittany, and in it Chretien places the marvellous spring of Barenton, of which we read in the sequel. In his version the poet forgets that the sea separates the court at Carduel from the forest of Broceliande. His readers, however, probably passed over this “lapsus”. The most famous passage relating to this forest and its spring is found in Wace, “Le Roman de Rou et des dues de Normandie”, vv. 6395–6420, 2 vols. (Heilbronn, 1877–79). Cf. further the informing note by W.L. Holland, “Chretien von Troies”, p. 152 f. (Tubingen, 1854).
94 This grotesque portrait of the “vilain” is perfectly conventional in aristocratic poetry, and is also applied to some Saracens in the epic poems. Cf. W.W. Comfort in “Pub. of the Modern Language Association of America”, xxi. 494 f., and in “The Dublin Review”, July 1911.
95 For the description of the magic fountain, cf. W.A. Nitze, “The Fountain Defended” in “Modern Philology”, vii. 145–164; G.L. Hamilton, “Storm-making Springs”, etc., in “Romantic Review”, ii. 355–375; A.F. Grimme in “Germania”, xxxiii. 38; O.M. Johnston in “Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association”, xxxiii., p. lxxxiii. f.
96 Eugen Kolbing, “Christian von Troyes Yvain und die Brandanuslegende” in “Ztsch. fur vergleichende Literaturgeschichte” (Neue Folge, xi. Brand, 1897), pp. 442–448, has pointed out other striking allusions in the Latin “Navigatio S. Brandans” (ed. Wahlund, Upsala, 1900) and elsewhere in Celtic legend to trees teeming with singing birds, in which the souls of the blessed are incorporated. A more general reference to trees, animated by the souls of the dead, is found in J.G. Frazer, “The Golden Bough” (2nd ed. 1900), vol. I., p. 178 f.
97 Cf. A. Tobler in “Ztsch. fur romanische Philologie”, iv. 80–85, who gives many other instances of boasting after meals. See next note.
98 Noradin is the Sultan Nureddin Mahmud (reigned 1146–1173), a contemporary of the poet; Forre is a legendary Saracen king of Naples, mentioned in the epic poems (cf. E. Langlois, “Table des noms propres de toute nature compris dans les chansons de geste”, Paris, 1904; Albert Counson, “Noms epiques entres dans le vocabulaire commun” in “Romanische Forschungen”, xxiii. 401–413). These names are mentioned here in connection with the brave exploits which Christian knights, while in their cups, may boast that they will accomplish (F.). This practice of boasting was called indulging in “gabs” (=Eng. “gab”), a good instance of which will be found in “Le Voyage de Charlemagne a Jeruslaem” (ed. Koschwitz), v. 447 ff.
99 It is evident in this passage that Chretien’s version is not clear; the reader cannot be sure in what sort of an apartment Yvain is secreted. The passage is perfectly clear, however, in the Welsh “Owein”, as shown by A.C.L. Brown in “Romanic Review”, iii. 143–172, “On the Independent Character of the Welsh ‘Owain’”, where he argues convincingly for an original older than either the extant French of Welsh versions.
100 The damsel’s surprise and fright at the sight of Yvain, which puzzled Professor Foerster, is satisfactorily explained by J. Acher in “Ztsch. fur franzosische Sprache und Literatur”, xxxv. 150.
101 For magic rings, cf. A. Hertel, “Verzauberte Oertlichkeiten”, etc. (Hanover, 1908); D.B. Easter, “The Magic Elements in the romans d’aventure and the romans bretons” (Baltimore, 1906).
102 Much has been written on the widespread belief that a dead person’s wounds would bleed afresh in the presence of his murderer. The passage in our text is interesting as being the earliest literary reference to the belief. Other instances will be found in Shakespear (“King Richard III., Act. I., Sc. 2), Cervantes (“Don Quixote”), Scott (“Ballads”), and Schiller (“Braut von Messina”). In the 15th and 16th centuries especially, the bleeding of the dead became in Italy, Germany, France, and Spain an absolute or contributory proof of guilt in the eyes of the law. The suspected culprit might be subjected to this ordeal as part of the inquisitional method to determine guilt. For theories of the origin of this belief and of its use in legal trials, as well as for more extended bibliography, cf. Karl Lehmann in “Germanistische Abhandlungen fur Konrad von Maurer” (Gottingen, 1893), pp. 21–45; C.V. Christensen, “Baareproven” (Copenhagen, 1900).
103 W.L. Holland in his note for this passage recalls Schiller’s “Jungfrau von Orleans”, Act III. Sc. 7, and Shakespeare, first part of “King Henry IV.”, Act V. Sc. 4:
“When that this body did contain a spirit,
A kingdom for it was too small a bound;
But now two paces of the vilest earth
Is room enough.”
104 Foerster regards this excuse for Kay’s defeat as ironical.
105 It is hoped that the following passage may have retained in the translation some of the gay animation which clothes this description of a royal entry into a mediaeval town.
106 This idea forms the dominating motive, it will be recalled, in “Erec et Enide” (cf. note to “Erec”, v. 2576).
107 The parallel between Yvain’s and Roland’s madness will occur to readers of Ariosto’s “Orlando Furioso”, though in the former case Yvain’s madness seems to be rather a retribution for his failure to keep his promise, while Roland’s madness arises from excess of love.
108 Argonne is the name of a hilly and well-wooded district in the north-east of France, lying between the Meuse and the Aisne.
109 An allusion to the well-known epic tradition embodied in the “Chanson de Roland”. It was common for mediaeval poets to give names to both the horses and the swords of their heroes.
110 For the faithful lion in the Latin bestiaries and mediaeval romances, see the long note of W.L. Holland, “Chretien von Troies” (Tubingen, 1854), p. 161 f., and G. Baist in Zeitschrift fur romanische Philologie, xxi. 402–405. To the examples there cited may be added the episodes in “Octavian” (15th century), published in the “Romanische Bibliothek” (Heilbronn, 1883).
111 This is the first of three references in this poem to the abduction of Guinevere as fully narrated in the poem of “Lancelot”. The other references are in v. 3918 and v.4740 f.
112 Yvain here states the theory of the judicial trial by combat. For another instance see “Lancelot”, v. 4963 f. Cf. M. Pfeffer in “Ztsch. fur romanische Philogie”, ix. 1–74, and L. Jordan, id. Xxix. 385–401.
113 A similar description of a distressed damsel wandering at night in a forest is found in “Berte aus grans pies”, by Adenet le Roi (13th century).
114 The lion is forgotten for the moment, but will appear again v. 5446. (F.)
115 This entire passage belongs in the catagory of widespread myths which tell of a tribute of youths or maidens paid to some cruel monster, from which some hero finally obtains deliverance. Instances are presented in the adventures of Theseus and Tristan.
116 The old French monetary table was as follows:
10 as = 1 denier; 12 deniers = 1 sol; 20 sous = 1 livre
117 It appears to be the poet’s prerogative in all epochs of social history to bemoan the degeneracy of true love in his own generation.
118 The sleeves of shirts were detachable, and were sewed on afresh when a clean garment was put on. (F.)
119 This was an axiom of feudal society, and occurs more frequently in feudal literature than any other statement of mediaeval social relations.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:48