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´╗┐Title: Aucassin and Nicolete
Author: Lang, Andrew, 1844-1912 [Translator]
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcribed from the 1910 David Nutt edition by David Price, email


AUCASSIN AND NICOLETE


Dedicated to the Hon. James Russell Lowell.



INTRODUCTION


There is nothing in artistic poetry quite akin to "Aucassin and
Nicolete."

By a rare piece of good fortune the one manuscript of the Song-Story has
escaped those waves of time, which have wrecked the bark of Menander, and
left of Sappho but a few floating fragments.  The very form of the tale
is peculiar; we have nothing else from the twelfth or thirteenth century
in the alternate prose and verse of the _cante-fable_. {1}  We have
fabliaux in verse, and prose Arthurian romances.  We have _Chansons de
Geste_, heroic poems like "Roland," unrhymed assonant _laisses_, but we
have not the alternations of prose with _laisses_ in seven-syllabled
lines.  It cannot be certainly known whether the form of "Aucassin and
Nicolete" was a familiar form--used by many _jogleors_, or wandering
minstrels and story-tellers such as Nicolete, in the tale, feigned
herself to be,--or whether this is a solitary experiment by "the old
captive" its author, a contemporary, as M. Gaston Paris thinks him, of
Louis VII (1130).  He was original enough to have invented, or adopted
from popular tradition, a form for himself; his originality declares
itself everywhere in his one surviving masterpiece.  True, he uses
certain traditional formulae, that have survived in his time, as they
survived in Homer's, from the manner of purely popular poetry, of
_Volkslieder_.  Thus he repeats snatches of conversation always in the
same, or very nearly the same words.  He has a stereotyped form, like
Homer, for saying that one person addressed another, "ains traist au
visconte de la vile si l'apela" [Greek text] . . . Like Homer, and like
popular song, he deals in recurrent epithets, and changeless courtesies.
To Aucassin the hideous plough-man is "Biax frere," "fair brother," just
as the treacherous Aegisthus is [Greek text] in Homer; these are
complimentary terms, with no moral sense in particular.  The _jogleor_ is
not more curious than Homer, or than the poets of the old ballads, about
giving novel descriptions of his characters.  As Homer's ladies are "fair-
tressed," so Nicolete and Aucassin have, each of them, close yellow
curls, eyes of vair (whatever that may mean), and red lips.  War cannot
be mentioned except as war "where knights do smite and are smitten," and
so forth.  The author is absolutely conventional in such matters,
according to the convention of his age and profession.

Nor is his matter more original.  He tells a story of thwarted and
finally fortunate love, and his hero is "a Christened knight"--like
Tamlane,--his heroine a Paynim lady.  To be sure, Nicolete was baptized
before the tale begins, and it is she who is a captive among Christians,
not her lover, as usual, who is a captive among Saracens.  The author has
reversed the common arrangement, and he appears to have cared little more
than his reckless hero, about creeds and differences of faith.  He is not
much interested in the recognition of Nicolete by her great Paynim
kindred, nor indeed in any of the "business" of the narrative, the
fighting, the storms and tempests, and the burlesque of the kingdom of
Torelore.

What the nameless author does care for, is his telling of the love-story,
the passion of Aucassin and Nicolete.  His originality lies in his
charming medley of sentiment and humour, of a smiling compassion and
sympathy with a touch of mocking mirth.  The love of Aucassin and
Nicolete--

   "Des grans paines qu'il soufri,"

that is the one thing serious to him in the whole matter, and that is not
so very serious. {2} The story-teller is no Mimnermus, Love and Youth are
the best things he knew,--"deport du viel caitif,"--and now he has "come
to forty years," and now they are with him no longer.  But he does not
lament like Mimnermus, like Alcman, like Llwyarch Hen.  "What is Life,
what is delight without golden Aphrodite?  May I die!" says Mimnermus,
"when I am no more conversant with these, with secret love, and gracious
gifts, and the bed of desire."  And Alcman, when his limbs waver beneath
him, is only saddened by the faces and voices of girls, and would change
his lot for the sea-birds. {3}

   "Maidens with voices like honey for sweetness that breathe desire,
   Would that I were a sea-bird with limbs that never could tire,
   Over the foam-flowers flying with halcyons ever on wing,
   Keeping a careless heart, a sea-blue bird of the spring."

But our old captive, having said farewell to love, has yet a kindly
smiling interest in its fever and folly.  Nothing better has he met, even
now that he knows "a lad is an ass."  He tells a love story, a story of
love overmastering, without conscience or care of aught but the beloved.
And the _viel caitif_ tells it with sympathy, and with a smile.  "Oh
folly of fondness," he seems to cry, "oh merry days of desolation"

   "When I was young as you are young,
   When lutes were touched and songs were sung,
   And love lamps in the windows hung."

It is the very tone of Thackeray, when Thackeray is tender, and the world
heard it first from this elderly, nameless minstrel, strolling with his
viol and his singing boys, perhaps, like a blameless d'Assoucy, from
castle to castle in "the happy poplar land."  One seems to see him and
hear him in the twilight, in the court of some chateau of Picardy, while
the ladies on silken cushions sit around him listening, and their lovers,
fettered with silver chains, lie at their feet.  They listen, and look,
and do not think of the minstrel with his grey head and his green heart,
but we think of him.  It is an old man's work, and a weary man's work.
You can easily tell the places where he has lingered, and been pleased as
he wrote.  They are marked, like the bower Nicolete built, with flowers
and broken branches wet with dew.  Such a passage is the description of
Nicolete at her window, in the strangely painted chamber,

   "ki faite est par grant devisse
   panturee a miramie."

Thence

      "she saw the roses blow,
   Heard the birds sing loud and low."

Again, the minstrel speaks out what many must have thought, in those
incredulous ages of Faith, about Heaven and Hell, Hell where the gallant
company makes up for everything.  When he comes to a battle-piece he
makes Aucassin "mightily and knightly hurl through the press," like one
of Malory's men.  His hero must be a man of his hands, no mere sighing
youth incapable of arms.  But the minstrels heart is in other things, for
example, in the verses where Aucassin transfers to Beauty the
wonder-working powers of Holiness, and makes the sight of his lady heal
the palmer, as the shadow of the Apostle, falling on the sick people,
healed them by the Gate Beautiful.  The Flight of Nicolete is a familiar
and beautiful picture, the daisy flowers look black in the ivory
moonlight against her feet, fair as Bombyca's "feet of carven ivory" in
the Sicilian idyll, long ago. {4} It is characteristic of the poet that
the two lovers begin to wrangle about which loves best, in the very mouth
of danger, while Aucassin is yet in prison, and the patrol go down the
moonlit street, with swords in their hands, sworn to slay Nicolete.  That
is the place and time chosen for this ancient controversy.  Aucassin's
threat that if he loses Nicolete he will not wait for sword or knife, but
will dash his head against a wall, is in the very temper of the prisoned
warrior-poet, who actually chose this way of death.  Then the night
scene, with its fantasy, and shadow, and moonlight on flowers and street,
yields to a picture of the day, with the birds singing, and the shepherds
laughing, in the green links between wood and water.  There the shepherds
take Nicolete for a fairy, so bright a beauty shines about her.  Their
mockery, their independence, may make us consider again our ideas of
early Feudalism.  Probably they were in the service of townsmen, whose
good town treated the Count as no more than an equal of its corporate
dignity.  The bower of branches built by Nicolete is certainly one of the
places where the minstrel himself has rested and been pleased with his
work.  One can feel it still, the cool of that clear summer night, the
sweet smell of broken boughs, and trodden grass, and deep dew, and the
shining of the star that Aucassin deemed was the translated spirit of his
lady.  Romance has touched the book here with her magic, as she has
touched the lines where we read how Consuelo came by moonlight to the
Canon's garden and the white flowers.  The pleasure here is the keener
for contrast with the luckless hind whom Aucassin encountered in the
forest: the man who had lost his master's ox, the ungainly man who wept,
because his mother's bed had been taken from under her to pay his debt.
This man was in that estate which Achilles, in Hades, preferred above the
kingship of the dead outworn.  He was hind and hireling to a villein,

   [Greek text]

It is an unexpected touch of pity for the people, and for other than love-
sorrows, in a poem intended for the great and courtly people of chivalry.

At last the lovers meet, in the lodge of flowers beneath the stars.  Here
the story should end, though one could ill spare the pretty lecture the
girl reads her lover as they ride at adventure, and the picture of
Nicolete, with her brown stain, and jogleor's attire, and her viol,
playing before Aucassin in his own castle of Biaucaire.  The burlesque
interlude of the country of Torelore is like a page out of Rabelais,
stitched into the _cante-fable_ by mistake.  At such lands as Torelore
Pantagruel and Panurge touched many a time in their vague voyaging.
Nobody, perhaps, can care very much about Nicolete's adventures in
Carthage, and her recognition by her Paynim kindred.  If the old captive
had been a prisoner among the Saracens, he was too indolent or incurious
to make use of his knowledge.  He hurries on to his journey's end;

   "Journeys end in lovers meeting."

So he finishes the tale.  What lives in it, what makes it live, is the
touch of poetry, of tender heart, of humorous resignation.  The old
captive says the story will gladden sad men:-

   "Nus hom n'est si esbahis,
   tant dolans ni entrepris,
   de grant mal amaladis,
   se il l'oit, ne soit garis,
   et de joie resbaudis,
      tant par est douce."

This service it did for M. Bida, the painter, as he tells us when he
translated Aucassin in 1870.  In dark and darkening days, _patriai
tempore iniquo_, we too have turned to _Aucassin et Nicolete_. {5}



BALLADE OF AUCASSIN


Where smooth the Southern waters run
   Through rustling leagues of poplars gray,
Beneath a veiled soft Southern sun,
   We wandered out of Yesterday;
   Went Maying in that ancient May
Whose fallen flowers are fragrant yet,
   And lingered by the fountain spray
With Aucassin and Nicolete.

The grassgrown paths are trod of none
   Where through the woods they went astray;
The spider's traceries are spun
   Across the darkling forest way;
   There come no Knights that ride to slay,
No Pilgrims through the grasses wet,
   No shepherd lads that sang their say
With Aucassin and Nicolete.

'Twas here by Nicolete begun
   Her lodge of boughs and blossoms gay;
'Scaped from the cell of marble dun
   'Twas here the lover found the Fay;
   O lovers fond, O foolish play!
How hard we find it to forget,
   Who fain would dwell with them as they,
With Aucassin and Nicolete.

ENVOY.

Prince, 'tis a melancholy lay!
   For Youth, for Life we both regret:
How fair they seem; how far away,
   With Aucassin and Nicolete.

A. L.



BALLADE OF NICOLETE


All bathed in pearl and amber light
She rose to fling the lattice wide,
And leaned into the fragrant night,
Where brown birds sang of summertide;
('Twas Love's own voice that called and cried)
"Ah, Sweet!" she said, "I'll seek thee yet,
Though thorniest pathways should betide
The fair white feet of Nicolete."

They slept, who would have stayed her flight;
(Full fain were they the maid had died!)
She dropped adown her prison's height
On strands of linen featly tied.
And so she passed the garden-side
With loose-leaved roses sweetly set,
And dainty daisies, dark beside
The fair white feet of Nicolete!

Her lover lay in evil plight
(So many lovers yet abide!)
I would my tongue could praise aright
Her name, that should be glorified.
Those lovers now, whom foes divide
A little weep,--and soon forget.
How far from these faint lovers glide
The fair white feet of Nicolete.

ENVOY.

My Princess, doff thy frozen pride,
Nor scorn to pay Love's golden debt,
Through his dim woodland take for guide
The fair white feet of Nicolete.

GRAHAM R. TOMSON



THE SONG-STORY OF AUCASSIN AND NICOLETE


'Tis of Aucassin and Nicolete.

   Who would list to the good lay
   Gladness of the captive grey?
   'Tis how two young lovers met,
   Aucassin and Nicolete,
   Of the pains the lover bore
   And the sorrows he outwore,
   For the goodness and the grace,
   Of his love, so fair of face.

   Sweet the song, the story sweet,
   There is no man hearkens it,
   No man living 'neath the sun,
   So outwearied, so foredone,
   Sick and woful, worn and sad,
   But is healed, but is glad
      'Tis so sweet.

So say they, speak they, tell they the Tale:

How the Count Bougars de Valence made war on Count Garin de Biaucaire,
war so great, and so marvellous, and so mortal that never a day dawned
but alway he was there, by the gates and walls, and barriers of the town
with a hundred knights, and ten thousand men at arms, horsemen and
footmen: so burned he the Count's land, and spoiled his country, and slew
his men.  Now the Count Garin de Biaucaire was old and frail, and his
good days were gone over.  No heir had he, neither son nor daughter, save
one young man only; such an one as I shall tell you.  Aucassin was the
name of the damoiseau: fair was he, goodly, and great, and featly
fashioned of his body, and limbs.  His hair was yellow, in little curls,
his eyes blue and laughing, his face beautiful and shapely, his nose high
and well set, and so richly seen was he in all things good, that in him
was none evil at all.  But so suddenly overtaken was he of Love, who is a
great master, that he would not, of his will, be dubbed knight, nor take
arms, nor follow tourneys, nor do whatsoever him beseemed.  Therefore his
father and mother said to him;

"Son, go take thine arms, mount thy horse, and hold thy land, and help
thy men, for if they see thee among them, more stoutly will they keep in
battle their lives, and lands, and thine, and mine."

"Father," said Aucassin, "I marvel that you will be speaking.  Never may
God give me aught of my desire if I be made knight, or mount my horse, or
face stour and battle wherein knights smite and are smitten again, unless
thou give me Nicolete, my true love, that I love so well."

"Son," said the father, "this may not be.  Let Nicolete go, a slave girl
she is, out of a strange land, and the captain of this town bought her of
the Saracens, and carried her hither, and hath reared her and let
christen the maid, and took her for his daughter in God, and one day will
find a young man for her, to win her bread honourably.  Herein hast thou
naught to make or mend, but if a wife thou wilt have, I will give thee
the daughter of a King, or a Count.  There is no man so rich in France,
but if thou desire his daughter, thou shalt have her."

"Faith! my father," said Aucassin, "tell me where is the place so high in
all the world, that Nicolete, my sweet lady and love, would not grace it
well?  If she were Empress of Constantinople or of Germany, or Queen of
France or England, it were little enough for her; so gentle is she and
courteous, and debonaire, and compact of all good qualities."

_Here singeth one_:

   Aucassin was of Biaucaire
   Of a goodly castle there,
   But from Nicolete the fair
   None might win his heart away
   Though his father, many a day,
   And his mother said him nay,
   "Ha! fond child, what wouldest thou?
   Nicolete is glad enow!
   Was from Carthage cast away,
   Paynims sold her on a day!
   Wouldst thou win a lady fair
   Choose a maid of high degree
   Such an one is meet for thee."
   "Nay of these I have no care,
   Nicolete is debonaire,
   Her body sweet and the face of her
   Take my heart as in a snare,
   Loyal love is but her share
      That is so sweet."

Then speak they, say they, tell they the Tale:

When the Count Garin de Biaucaire knew that he would avail not to
withdraw Aucassin his son from the love of Nicolete, he went to the
Captain of the city, who was his man, and spake to him, saying:

"Sir Count; away with Nicolete thy daughter in God; cursed be the land
whence she was brought into this country, for by reason of her do I lose
Aucassin, that will neither be dubbed knight, nor do aught of the things
that fall to him to be done.  And wit ye well," he said, "that if I might
have her at my will, I would burn her in a fire, and yourself might well
be sore adread."

"Sir," said the Captain, "this is grievous to me that he comes and goes
and hath speech with her.  I had bought the maiden at mine own charges,
and nourished her, and baptized, and made her my daughter in God.  Yea, I
would have given her to a young man that should win her bread honourably.
With this had Aucassin thy son naught to make or mend.  But, sith it is
thy will and thy pleasure, I will send her into that land and that
country where never will he see her with his eyes."

"Have a heed to thyself," said the Count Garin, "thence might great evil
come on thee."

So parted they each from other.  Now the Captain was a right rich man: so
had he a rich palace with a garden in face of it; in an upper chamber
thereof he let place Nicolete, with one old woman to keep her company,
and in that chamber put bread and meat and wine and such things as were
needful.  Then he let seal the door, that none might come in or go forth,
save that there was one window, over against the garden, and strait
enough, where through came to them a little air.

_Here singeth one_:

   Nicolete as ye heard tell
   Prisoned is within a cell
   That is painted wondrously
   With colours of a far countrie,
   And the window of marble wrought,
   There the maiden stood in thought,
   With straight brows and yellow hair
   Never saw ye fairer fair!
   On the wood she gazed below,
   And she saw the roses blow,
   Heard the birds sing loud and low,
   Therefore spoke she wofully:
   "Ah me, wherefore do I lie
   Here in prison wrongfully:
   Aucassin, my love, my knight,
   Am I not thy heart's delight,
   Thou that lovest me aright!
   'Tis for thee that I must dwell
   In the vaulted chamber cell,
   Hard beset and all alone!
   By our Lady Mary's Son
   Here no longer will I wonn,
      If I may flee!

Then speak they, say they, tell they the Tale:

Nicolete was in prison, as ye have heard soothly, in the chamber.  And
the noise and bruit of it went through all the country and all the land,
how that Nicolete was lost.  Some said she had fled the country, and some
that the Count Garin de Biaucaire had let slay her.  Whosoever had joy
thereof, Aucassin had none, so he went to the Captain of the town and
spoke to him, saying:

"Sir Captain, what hast thou made of Nicolete, my sweet lady and love,
the thing that best I love in all the world?  Hast thou carried her off
or ravished her away from me?  Know well that if I die of it, the price
shall be demanded of thee, and that will be well done, for it shall be
even as if thou hadst slain me with thy two hands, for thou hast taken
from me the thing that in this world I loved the best."

"Fair Sir," said the Captain, "let these things be.  Nicolete is a
captive that I did bring from a strange country.  Yea, I bought her at my
own charges of the Saracens, and I bred her up and baptized her, and made
her my daughter in God.  And I have cherished her, and one of these days
I would have given her a young man, to win her bread honourably.  With
this hast thou naught to make, but do thou take the daughter of a King or
a Count.  Nay more, what wouldst thou deem thee to have gained, hadst
thou made her thy leman, and taken her to thy bed?  Plentiful lack of
comfort hadst thou got thereby, for in Hell would thy soul have lain
while the world endures, and into Paradise wouldst thou have entered
never."

"In Paradise what have I to win?  Therein I seek not to enter, but only
to have Nicolete, my sweet lady that I love so well.  For into Paradise
go none but such folk as I shall tell thee now: Thither go these same old
priests, and halt old men and maimed, who all day and night cower
continually before the altars, and in the crypts; and such folk as wear
old amices and old clouted frocks, and naked folk and shoeless, and
covered with sores, perishing of hunger and thirst, and of cold, and of
little ease.  These be they that go into Paradise, with them have I
naught to make.  But into Hell would I fain go; for into Hell fare the
goodly clerks, and goodly knights that fall in tourneys and great wars,
and stout men at arms, and all men noble.  With these would I liefly go.
And thither pass the sweet ladies and courteous that have two lovers, or
three, and their lords also thereto.  Thither goes the gold, and the
silver, and cloth of vair, and cloth of gris, and harpers, and makers,
and the prince of this world.  With these I would gladly go, let me but
have with me, Nicolete, my sweetest lady."

"Certes," quoth the Captain, "in vain wilt thou speak thereof, for never
shalt thou see her; and if thou hadst word with her, and thy father knew
it, he would let burn in a fire both her and me, and thyself might well
be sore adread."

"That is even what irketh me," quoth Aucassin.  So he went from the
Captain sorrowing.

_Here singeth one_:

   Aucassin did so depart
   Much in dole and heavy at heart
   For his love so bright and dear,
   None might bring him any cheer,
   None might give good words to hear,
   To the palace doth he fare
   Climbeth up the palace-stair,
   Passeth to a chamber there,
   Thus great sorrow doth he bear,
   For his lady and love so fair.

   "Nicolete how fair art thou,
   Sweet thy foot-fall, sweet thine eyes,
   Sweet the mirth of thy replies,
   Sweet thy laughter, sweet thy face,
   Sweet thy lips and sweet thy brow,
   And the touch of thine embrace,
   All for thee I sorrow now,
   Captive in an evil place,
   Whence I ne'er may go my ways
   Sister, sweet friend!"

So say they, speak they, tell they the Tale:

While Aucassin was in the chamber sorrowing for Nicolete his love, even
then the Count Bougars de Valence, that had his war to wage, forgat it no
whit, but had called up his horsemen and his footmen, so made he for the
castle to storm it.  And the cry of battle arose, and the din, and
knights and men at arms busked them, and ran to walls and gates to hold
the keep.  And the towns-folk mounted to the battlements, and cast down
bolts and pikes.  Then while the assault was great, and even at its
height, the Count Garin de Biaucaire came into the chamber where Aucassin
was making lament, sorrowing for Nicolete, his sweet lady that he loved
so well.

"Ha! son," quoth he, "how caitiff art thou, and cowardly, that canst see
men assail thy goodliest castle and strongest.  Know thou that if thou
lose it, thou losest all.  Son, go to, take arms, and mount thy horse,
and defend thy land, and help thy men, and fare into the stour.  Thou
needst not smite nor be smitten.  If they do but see thee among them,
better will they guard their substance, and their lives, and thy land and
mine.  And thou art so great, and hardy of thy hands, that well mightst
thou do this thing, and to do it is thy devoir."

"Father," said Aucassin, "what is this thou sayest now?  God grant me
never aught of my desire, if I be dubbed knight, or mount steed, or go
into the stour where knights do smite and are smitten, if thou givest me
not Nicolete, my sweet lady, whom I love so well."

"Son," quoth his father, "this may never be: rather would I be quite
disinherited and lose all that is mine, than that thou shouldst have her
to thy wife, or to love _par amours_."

So he turned him about.  But when Aucassin saw him going he called to him
again, saying,

"Father, go to now, I will make with thee fair covenant."

"What covenant, fair son?"

"I will take up arms, and go into the stour, on this covenant, that, if
God bring me back sound and safe, thou wilt let me see Nicolete my sweet
lady, even so long that I may have of her two words or three, and one
kiss."

"That will I grant," said his father.

At this was Aucassin glad.

Here one singeth:

   Of the kiss heard Aucassin
   That returning he shall win.
   None so glad would he have been
   Of a myriad marks of gold
   Of a hundred thousand told.
   Called for raiment brave of steel,
   Then they clad him, head to heel,
   Twyfold hauberk doth he don,
   Firmly braced the helmet on.
   Girt the sword with hilt of gold,
   Horse doth mount, and lance doth wield,
   Looks to stirrups and to shield,
   Wondrous brave he rode to field.
   Dreaming of his lady dear
   Setteth spurs to the destrere,
   Rideth forward without fear,
   Through the gate and forth away
      To the fray.

So speak they, say they, tell they the Tale:

Aucassin was armed and mounted as ye have heard tell.  God! how goodly
sat the shield on his shoulder, the helm on his head, and the baldric on
his left haunch!  And the damoiseau was tall, fair, featly fashioned, and
hardy of his hands, and the horse whereon he rode swift and keen, and
straight had he spurred him forth of the gate.  Now believe ye not that
his mind was on kine, nor cattle of the booty, nor thought he how he
might strike a knight, nor be stricken again: nor no such thing.  Nay, no
memory had Aucassin of aught of these; rather he so dreamed of Nicolete,
his sweet lady, that he dropped his reins, forgetting all there was to
do, and his horse that had felt the spur, bore him into the press and
hurled among the foe, and they laid hands on him all about, and took him
captive, and seized away his spear and shield, and straightway they led
him off a prisoner, and were even now discoursing of what death he should
die.

And when Aucassin heard them,

"Ha! God," said he, "sweet Saviour.  Be these my deadly enemies that have
taken me, and will soon cut off my head?  And once my head is off, no
more shall I speak with Nicolete, my sweet lady, that I love so well.
Natheless have I here a good sword, and sit a good horse unwearied.  If
now I keep not my head for her sake, God help her never, if she love me
more!"

The damoiseau was tall and strong, and the horse whereon he sat was right
eager.  And he laid hand to sword, and fell a-smiting to right and left,
and smote through helm and _nasal_, and arm and clenched hand, making a
murder about him, like a wild boar when hounds fall on him in the forest,
even till he struck down ten knights, and seven be hurt, and straightway
he hurled out of the press, and rode back again at full speed, sword in
hand.  The Count Bougars de Valence heard say they were about hanging
Aucassin, his enemy, so he came into that place, and Aucassin was ware of
him, and gat his sword into his hand, and lashed at his helm with such a
stroke that he drave it down on his head, and he being stunned, fell
grovelling.  And Aucassin laid hands on him, and caught him by the
_nasal_ of his helmet, and gave him to his father.

"Father," quoth Aucassin, "lo here is your mortal foe, who hath so warred
on you with all malengin.  Full twenty years did this war endure, and
might not be ended by man."

"Fair son," said his father, "thy feats of youth shouldst thou do, and
not seek after folly."

"Father," saith Aucassin, "sermon me no sermons, but fulfil my covenant."

"Ha! what covenant, fair son?"

"What, father, hast thou forgotten it?  By mine own head, whosoever
forgets, will I not forget it, so much it hath me at heart.  Didst thou
not covenant with me when I took up arms, and went into the stour, that
if God brought me back safe and sound, thou wouldst let me see Nicolete,
my sweet lady, even so long that I may have of her two words or three,
and one kiss?  So didst thou covenant, and my mind is that thou keep thy
word."

"I!" quoth the father, "God forsake me when I keep this covenant!  Nay,
if she were here, I would let burn her in the fire, and thyself shouldst
be sore adread."

"Is this thy last word?" quoth Aucassin.

"So help me God," quoth his father, "yea!"

"Certes," quoth Aucassin, "this is a sorry thing meseems, when a man of
thine age lies!"

"Count of Valence," quoth Aucassin, "I took thee?"

"In sooth, Sir, didst thou," saith the Count.

"Give me thy hand," saith Aucassin.

"Sir, with good will."

So he set his hand in the other's.

"Now givest thou me thy word," saith Aucassin, "that never whiles thou
art living man wilt thou avail to do my father dishonour, or harm him in
body, or in goods, but do it thou wilt?"

"Sir, in God's name," saith he, "mock me not, but put me to my ransom; ye
cannot ask of me gold nor silver, horses nor palfreys, _vair_ nor _gris_,
hawks nor hounds, but I will give you them."

"What?" quoth Aucassin.  "Ha, knowest thou not it was I that took thee?"

"Yea, sir," quoth the Count Bougars.

"God help me never, but I will make thy head fly from thy shoulders, if
thou makest not troth," said Aucassin.

"In God's name," said he, "I make what promise thou wilt."

So they did the oath, and Aucassin let mount him on a horse, and took
another and so led him back till he was all in safety.

Here one singeth:

   When the Count Garin doth know
   That his child would ne'er forego
   Love of her that loved him so,
   Nicolete, the bright of brow,
   In a dungeon deep below
   Childe Aucassin did he throw.
   Even there the Childe must dwell
   In a dun-walled marble cell.
   There he waileth in his woe
   Crying thus as ye shall know.

   "Nicolete, thou lily white,
   My sweet lady, bright of brow,
   Sweeter than the grape art thou,
   Sweeter than sack posset good
   In a cup of maple wood!
   Was it not but yesterday
   That a palmer came this way,
   Out of Limousin came he,
   And at ease he might not be,
   For a passion him possessed
   That upon his bed he lay,
   Lay, and tossed, and knew not rest
   In his pain discomforted.
   But thou camest by the bed,
   Where he tossed amid his pain,
   Holding high thy sweeping train,
   And thy kirtle of ermine,
   And thy smock of linen fine,
   Then these fair white limbs of thine,
   Did he look on, and it fell
   That the palmer straight was well,
   Straight was hale--and comforted,
   And he rose up from his bed,
   And went back to his own place,
   Sound and strong, and full of face!
   My sweet lady, lily white,
   Sweet thy footfall, sweet thine eyes,
   And the mirth of thy replies.
   Sweet thy laughter, sweet thy face,
   Sweet thy lips and sweet thy brow,
   And the touch of thine embrace.
   Who but doth in thee delight?
   I for love of thee am bound
   In this dungeon underground,
   All for loving thee must lie
   Here where loud on thee I cry,
   Here for loving thee must die
      For thee, my love."

Then say they, speak they, tell they the Tale:

Aucassin was cast into prison as ye have heard tell, and Nicolete, of her
part, was in the chamber.  Now it was summer time, the month of May, when
days are warm, and long, and clear, and the night still and serene.
Nicolete lay one night on her bed, and saw the moon shine clear through a
window, yea, and heard the nightingale sing in the garden, so she minded
her of Aucassin her lover whom she loved so well.  Then fell she to
thoughts of Count Garin de Biaucaire, that hated her to the death;
therefore deemed she that there she would no longer abide, for that, if
she were told of, and the Count knew whereas she lay, an ill death would
he make her die.  Now she knew that the old woman slept who held her
company.  Then she arose, and clad her in a mantle of silk she had by
her, very goodly, and took napkins, and sheets of the bed, and knotted
one to the other, and made therewith a cord as long as she might, so
knitted it to a pillar in the window, and let herself slip down into the
garden, then caught up her raiment in both hands, behind and before, and
kilted up her kirtle, because of the dew that she saw lying deep on the
grass, and so went her way down through the garden.

Her locks were yellow and curled, her eyes blue and smiling, her face
featly fashioned, the nose high and fairly set, the lips more red than
cherry or rose in time of summer, her teeth white and small; her breasts
so firm that they bore up the folds of her bodice as they had been two
apples; so slim she was in the waist that your two hands might have
clipped her, and the daisy flowers that brake beneath her as she went tip-
toe, and that bent above her instep, seemed black against her feet, so
white was the maiden.  She came to the postern gate, and unbarred it, and
went out through the streets of Biaucaire, keeping always on the shadowy
side, for the moon was shining right clear, and so wandered she till she
came to the tower where her lover lay.  The tower was flanked with
buttresses, and she cowered under one of them, wrapped in her mantle.
Then thrust she her head through a crevice of the tower that was old and
worn, and so heard she Aucassin wailing within, and making dole and
lament for the sweet lady he loved so well.  And when she had listened to
him she began to say:

Here one singeth:

   Nicolete the bright of brow
   On a pillar leanest thou,
   All Aucassin's wail dost hear
   For his love that is so dear,
   Then thou spakest, shrill and clear,
   "Gentle knight withouten fear
   Little good befalleth thee,
   Little help of sigh or tear,
   Ne'er shalt thou have joy of me.
   Never shalt thou win me; still
   Am I held in evil will
   Of thy father and thy kin,
   Therefore must I cross the sea,
   And another land must win."
   Then she cut her curls of gold,
   Cast them in the dungeon hold,
   Aucassin doth clasp them there,
   Kissed the curls that were so fair,
   Them doth in his bosom bear,
   Then he wept, even as of old,
      All for his love!

Then say they, speak they, tell they the Tale:

When Aucassin heard Nicolete say that she would pass into a far country,
he was all in wrath.

"Fair sweet friend," quoth he, "thou shalt not go, for then wouldst thou
be my death.  And the first man that saw thee and had the might withal,
would take thee straightway into his bed to be his leman.  And once thou
camest into a man's bed, and that bed not mine, wit ye well that I would
not tarry till I had found a knife to pierce my heart and slay myself.
Nay, verily, wait so long I would not: but would hurl myself on it so
soon as I could find a wall, or a black stone, thereon would I dash my
head so mightily, that the eyes would start, and my brain burst.  Rather
would I die even such a death, than know thou hadst lain in a man's bed,
and that bed not mine."

"Aucassin," she said, "I trow thou lovest me not as much as thou sayest,
but I love thee more than thou lovest me."

"Ah, fair sweet friend," said Aucassin, "it may not be that thou shouldst
love me even as I love thee.  Woman may not love man as man loves woman,
for a woman's love lies in the glance of her eye, and the bud of her
breast, and her foot's tip-toe, but the love of man is in his heart
planted, whence it can never issue forth and pass away."

Now while Aucassin and Nicolete held this parley together, the town's
guards came down a street, with swords drawn beneath their cloaks, for
the Count Garin had charged them that if they could take her they should
slay her.  But the sentinel that was on the tower saw them coming, and
heard them speaking of Nicolete as they went, and threatening to slay
her.

"God!" quoth he, "this were great pity to slay so fair a maid!  Right
great charity it were if I could say aught to her, and they perceive it
not, and she should be on her guard against them, for if they slay her,
then were Aucassin, my damoiseau, dead, and that were great pity."

_Here one singeth_:

   Valiant was the sentinel,
   Courteous, kind, and practised well,
   So a song did sing and tell
   Of the peril that befell.
   "Maiden fair that lingerest here,
   Gentle maid of merry cheer,
   Hair of gold, and eyes as clear
   As the water in a mere,
   Thou, meseems, hast spoken word
   To thy lover and thy lord,
   That would die for thee, his dear;
   Now beware the ill accord,
   Of the cloaked men of the sword,
   These have sworn and keep their word,
   They will put thee to the sword
      Save thou take heed!"

Then speak they, say they, tell they the Tale:

"Ha!" quoth Nicolete, "be the soul of thy father and the soul of thy
mother in the rest of Paradise, so fairly and so courteously hast thou
spoken me!  Please God, I will be right ware of them, God keep me out of
their hands."

So she shrank under her mantle into the shadow of the pillar till they
had passed by, and then took she farewell of Aucassin, and so fared till
she came unto the castle wall.  Now that wall was wasted and broken, and
some deal mended, so she clomb thereon till she came between wall and
fosse, and so looked down, and saw that the fosse was deep and steep,
whereat she was sore adread.

"Ah God," saith she, "sweet Saviour!  If I let myself fall hence, I shall
break my neck, and if here I abide, to-morrow they will take me and burn
me in a fire.  Yet liefer would I perish here than that to-morrow the
folk should stare on me for a gazing-stock."

Then she crossed herself, and so let herself slip into the fosse, and
when she had come to the bottom, her fair feet, and fair hands that had
not custom thereof, were bruised and frayed, and the blood springing from
a dozen places, yet felt she no pain nor hurt, by reason of the great
dread wherein she went.  But if she were in cumber to win there, in worse
was she to win out.  But she deemed that there to abide was of none
avail, and she found a pike sharpened, that they of the city had thrown
out to keep the hold.  Therewith made she one stepping place after
another, till, with much travail, she climbed the wall.  Now the forest
lay within two crossbow shots, and the forest was of thirty leagues this
way and that.  Therein also were wild beasts, and beasts serpentine, and
she feared that if she entered there they would slay her.  But anon she
deemed that if men found her there they would hale her back into the town
to burn her.

_Here one singeth_:

   Nicolete, the fair of face,
   Climbed upon the coping stone,
   There made she lament and moan
   Calling on our Lord alone
   For his mercy and his grace.

   "Father, king of Majesty,
   Listen, for I nothing know
   Where to flee or whither go.
   If within the wood I fare,
   Lo, the wolves will slay me there,
   Boars and lions terrible,
   Many in the wild wood dwell,
   But if I abide the day,
   Surely worse will come of it,
   Surely will the fire be lit
   That shall burn my body away,
   Jesus, lord of Majesty,
   Better seemeth it to me,
   That within the wood I fare,
   Though the wolves devour me there
   Than within the town to go,
      Ne'er be it so!"

Then speak they, say they, tell they the Tale:

Nicolete made great moan, as ye have heard; then commended she herself to
God, and anon fared till she came unto the forest.  But to go deep in it
she dared not, by reason of the wild beasts, and beasts serpentine.  Anon
crept she into a little thicket, where sleep came upon her, and she slept
till prime next day, when the shepherds issued forth from the town and
drove their bestial between wood and water.  Anon came they all into one
place by a fair fountain which was on the fringe of the forest, thereby
spread they a mantle, and thereon set bread.  So while they were eating,
Nicolete wakened, with the sound of the singing birds, and the shepherds,
and she went unto them, saying, "Fair boys, our Lord keep you!"

"God bless thee," quoth he that had more words to his tongue than the
rest.

"Fair boys," quoth she, "know ye Aucassin, the son of Count Garin de
Biaucaire?"

"Yea, well we know him."

"So may God help you, fair boys," quoth she, "tell him there is a beast
in this forest, and bid him come chase it, and if he can take it, he
would not give one limb thereof for a hundred marks of gold, nay, nor for
five hundred, nor for any ransom."

Then looked they on her, and saw her so fair that they were all astonied.

"Will I tell him thereof?" quoth he that had more words to his tongue
than the rest; "foul fall him who speaks of the thing or tells him the
tidings.  These are but visions ye tell of, for there is no beast so
great in this forest, stag, nor lion, nor boar, that one of his limbs is
worth more than two deniers, or three at the most, and ye speak of such
great ransom.  Foul fall him that believes your word, and him that
telleth Aucassin.  Ye be a Fairy, and we have none liking for your
company, nay, hold on your road."

"Nay, fair boys," quoth she, "nay, ye will do my bidding.  For this beast
is so mighty of medicine that thereby will Aucassin be healed of his
torment.  And lo!  I have five sols in my purse, take them, and tell him:
for within three days must he come hunting it hither, and if within three
days he find it not, never will he be healed of his torment."

"My faith," quoth he, "the money will we take, and if he come hither we
will tell him, but seek him we will not."

"In God's name," quoth she; and so took farewell of the shepherds, and
went her way.

_Here singeth one_:

   Nicolete the bright of brow
   From the shepherds doth she pass
   All below the blossomed bough
   Where an ancient way there was,
   Overgrown and choked with grass,
   Till she found the cross-roads where
   Seven paths do all way fare,
   Then she deemeth she will try,
   Should her lover pass thereby,
   If he love her loyally.
   So she gathered white lilies,
   Oak-leaf, that in green wood is,
   Leaves of many a branch I wis,
   Therewith built a lodge of green,
   Goodlier was never seen,
   Swore by God who may not lie,
   "If my love the lodge should spy,
   He will rest awhile thereby
   If he love me loyally."
   Thus his faith she deemed to try,
   "Or I love him not, not I,
      Nor he loves me!"

Then speak they, say they, tell they the Tale:

Nicolete built her lodge of boughs, as ye have heard, right fair and
feteously, and wove it well, within and without, of flowers and leaves.
So lay she hard by the lodge in a deep coppice to know what Aucassin will
do.  And the cry and the bruit went abroad through all the country and
all the land, that Nicolete was lost.  Some told that she had fled, and
some that the Count Garin had let slay her.  Whosoever had joy thereof,
no joy had Aucassin.  And the Count Garin, his father, had taken him out
of prison, and had sent for the knights of that land, and the ladies, and
let make a right great feast, for the comforting of Aucassin his son.  Now
at the high time of the feast, was Aucassin leaning from a gallery, all
woful and discomforted.  Whatsoever men might devise of mirth, Aucassin
had no joy thereof, nor no desire, for he saw not her that he loved.  Then
a knight looked on him, and came to him, and said:

"Aucassin, of that sickness of thine have I been sick, and good counsel
will I give thee, if thou wilt hearken to me--"

"Sir," said Aucassin, "gramercy, good counsel would I fain hear."

"Mount thy horse," quoth he, "and go take thy pastime in yonder forest,
there wilt thou see the good flowers and grass, and hear the sweet birds
sing.  Perchance thou shalt hear some word, whereby thou shalt be the
better."

"Sir," quoth Aucassin, "gramercy, that will I do."

He passed out of the hall, and went down the stairs, and came to the
stable where his horse was.  He let saddle and bridle him, and mounted,
and rode forth from the castle, and wandered till he came to the forest,
so rode till he came to the fountain and found the shepherds at point of
noon.  And they had a mantle stretched on the grass, and were eating
bread, and making great joy.

_Here one singeth_:

   There were gathered shepherds all,
   Martin, Esmeric, and Hal,
   Aubrey, Robin, great and small.
   Saith the one, "Good fellows all,
   God keep Aucassin the fair,
   And the maid with yellow hair,
   Bright of brow and eyes of vair.
   She that gave us gold to ware.
   Cakes therewith to buy ye know,
   Goodly knives and sheaths also.
   Flutes to play, and pipes to blow,
      May God him heal!"

Here speak they, say they, tell they the Tale:

When Aucassin heard the shepherds, anon he bethought him of Nicolete, his
sweet lady he loved so well, and he deemed that she had passed thereby;
then set he spurs to his horse, and so came to the shepherds.

"Fair boys, God be with you."

"God bless you," quoth he that had more words to his tongue than the
rest.

"Fair boys," quoth Aucassin, "say the song again that anon ye sang."

"Say it we will not," quoth he that had more words to his tongue than the
rest, "foul fall him who will sing it again for you, fair sir!"

"Fair boys," quoth Aucassin, "know ye me not?"

"Yea, we know well that you are Aucassin, out damoiseau, natheless we be
not your men, but the Count's."

"Fair boys, yet sing it again, I pray you."

"Hearken! by the Holy Heart," quoth he, "wherefore should I sing for you,
if it likes me not?  Lo, there is no such rich man in this country,
saving the body of Garin the Count, that dare drive forth my oxen, or my
cows, or my sheep, if he finds them in his fields, or his corn, lest he
lose his eyes for it, and wherefore should I sing for you, if it likes me
not?"

"God be your aid, fair boys, sing it ye will, and take ye these ten sols
I have here in a purse."

"Sir, the money will we take, but never a note will I sing, for I have
given my oath, but I will tell thee a plain tale, if thou wilt."

"By God," saith Aucassin, "I love a plain tale better than naught."

"Sir, we were in this place, a little time agone, between prime and
tierce, and were eating our bread by this fountain, even as now we do,
and a maid came past, the fairest thing in the world, whereby we deemed
that she should be a fay, and all the wood shone round about her.  Anon
she gave us of that she had, whereby we made covenant with her, that if
ye came hither we would bid you hunt in this forest, wherein is such a
beast that, an ye might take him, ye would not give one limb of him for
five hundred marks of silver, nor for no ransom; for this beast is so
mighty of medicine, that, an ye could take him, ye should be healed of
your torment, and within three days must ye take him, and if ye take him
not then, never will ye look on him.  So chase ye the beast, an ye will,
or an ye will let be, for my promise have I kept with her."

"Fair boys," quoth Aucassin, "ye have said enough.  God grant me to find
this quarry."

_Here one singeth_:

   Aucassin when he had heard,
   Sore within his heart was stirred,
   Left the shepherds on that word,
   Far into the forest spurred
   Rode into the wood; and fleet
   Fled his horse through paths of it,
   Three words spake he of his sweet,
   "Nicolete the fair, the dear,
   'Tis for thee I follow here
   Track of boar, nor slot of deer,
   But thy sweet body and eyes so clear,
   All thy mirth and merry cheer,
   That my very heart have slain,
   So please God to me maintain
   I shall see my love again,
      Sweet sister, friend!"

Then speak they, say they, tell they the Tale:

Aucassin fared through the forest from path to path after Nicolete, and
his horse bare him furiously.  Think ye not that the thorns him spared,
nor the briars, nay, not so, but tare his raiment, that scarce a knot
might be tied with the soundest part thereof, and the blood sprang from
his arms, and flanks, and legs, in forty places, or thirty, so that
behind the Childe men might follow on the track of his blood in the
grass.  But so much he went in thoughts of Nicolete, his lady sweet, that
he felt no pain nor torment, and all the day hurled through the forest in
this fashion nor heard no word of her.  And when he saw Vespers draw
nigh, he began to weep for that he found her not.  All down an old road,
and grassgrown he fared, when anon, looking along the way before him, he
saw such an one as I shall tell you.  Tall was he, and great of growth,
laidly and marvellous to look upon: his head huge, and black as charcoal,
and more than the breadth of a hand between his two eyes, and great
cheeks, and a big nose and broad, big nostrils and ugly, and thick lips
redder than a collop, and great teeth yellow and ugly, and he was shod
with hosen and shoon of bull's hide, bound with cords of bark over the
knee, and all about him a great cloak twy-fold, and he leaned on a
grievous cudgel, and Aucassin came unto him, and was afraid when he
beheld him.

"Fair brother, God aid thee."

"God bless you," quoth he.

"As God he helpeth thee, what makest thou here?"

"What is that to thee?"

"Nay, naught, naught," saith Aucassin, "I ask but out of courtesy."

"But for whom weepest thou," quoth he, "and makest such heavy lament?
Certes, were I as rich a man as thou, the whole world should not make me
weep."

"Ha! know ye me?" saith Aucassin.

"Yea, I know well that ye be Aucassin, the son of the Count, and if ye
tell me for why ye weep, then will I tell you what I make here."

"Certes," quoth Aucassin, "I will tell you right gladly.  Hither came I
this morning to hunt in this forest; and with me a white hound, the
fairest in the world; him have I lost, and for him I weep."

"By the Heart our Lord bare in his breast," quoth he, "are ye weeping for
a stinking hound?  Foul fall him that holds thee high henceforth! for
there is no such rich man in the land, but if thy father asked it of him,
he would give thee ten, or fifteen, or twenty, and be the gladder for it.
But I have cause to weep and make dole."

"Wherefore so, brother?"

"Sir, I will tell thee.  I was hireling to a rich vilain, and drove his
plough; four oxen had he.  But three days since came on me great
misadventure, whereby I lost the best of mine oxen, Roger, the best of my
team.  Him go I seeking, and have neither eaten nor drunken these three
days, nor may I go to the town, lest they cast me into prison, seeing
that I have not wherewithal to pay.  Out of all the wealth of the world
have I no more than ye see on my body.  A poor mother bare me, that had
no more but one wretched bed; this have they taken from under her, and
she lies in the very straw.  This ails me more than mine own case, for
wealth comes and goes; if now I have lost, another tide will I gain, and
will pay for mine ox whenas I may; never for that will I weep.  But you
weep for a stinking hound.  Foul fall whoso thinks well of thee!"

"Certes thou art a good comforter, brother, blessed be thou!  And of what
price was thine ox?"

"Sir, they ask me twenty sols for him, whereof I cannot abate one doit."

"Nay, then," quoth Aucassin, "take these twenty sols I have in my purse,
and pay for thine ox."

"Sir," saith he, "gramercy.  And God give thee to find that thou
seekest."

So they parted each from other, and Aucassin rode on: the night was fair
and still, and so long he went that he came to the lodge of boughs, that
Nicolete had builded and woven within and without, over and under, with
flowers, and it was the fairest lodge that might be seen.  When Aucassin
was ware of it, he stopped suddenly, and the light of the moon fell
therein.

"God!" quoth Aucassin, "here was Nicolete, my sweet lady, and this lodge
builded she with her fair hands.  For the sweetness of it, and for love
of her, will I alight, and rest here this night long."

He drew forth his foot from the stirrup to alight, and the steed was
great and tall.  He dreamed so much on Nicolete his right sweet lady,
that he slipped on a stone, and drave his shoulder out of his place.  Then
knew he that he was hurt sore, natheless he bore him with what force he
might, and fastened with the other hand the mare's son to a thorn.  Then
turned he on his side, and crept backwise into the lodge of boughs.  And
he looked through a gap in the lodge and saw the stars in heaven, and one
that was brighter than the rest; so began he to say:

_Here one singeth_:

   "Star, that I from far behold,
   Star, the Moon calls to her fold,
   Nicolete with thee doth dwell,
   My sweet love with locks of gold,
   God would have her dwell afar,
   Dwell with him for evening star,
   Would to God, whate'er befell,
   Would that with her I might dwell.
   I would clip her close and strait,
   Nay, were I of much estate,
   Some king's son desirable,
   Worthy she to be my mate,
   Me to kiss and clip me well,
      Sister, sweet friend!"

So speak they, say they, tell they the Tale:

When Nicolete heard Aucassin, right so came she unto him, for she was not
far away.  She passed within the lodge, and threw her arms about his
neck, and clipped and kissed him.

"Fair sweet friend, welcome be thou."

"And thou, fair sweet love, be thou welcome."

So either kissed and clipped the other, and fair joy was them between.

"Ha! sweet love," quoth Aucassin, "but now was I sore hurt, and my
shoulder wried, but I take no force of it, nor have no hurt therefrom
since I have thee."

Right so felt she his shoulder and found it was wried from its place.  And
she so handled it with her white hands, and so wrought in her surgery,
that by God's will who loveth lovers, it went back into its place.  Then
took she flowers, and fresh grass, and leaves green, and bound these
herbs on the hurt with a strip of her smock, and he was all healed.

"Aucassin," saith she, "fair sweet love, take counsel what thou wilt do.
If thy father let search this forest to-morrow, and men find me here,
they will slay me, come to thee what will."

"Certes, fair sweet love, therefore should I sorrow heavily, but, an if I
may, never shall they take thee."

Anon gat he on his horse, and his lady before him, kissing and clipping
her, and so rode they at adventure.

_Here one singeth_:

   Aucassin the frank, the fair,
   Aucassin of the yellow hair,
   Gentle knight, and true lover,
   From the forest doth he fare,
   Holds his love before him there,
   Kissing cheek, and chin, and eyes,
   But she spake in sober wise,
   "Aucassin, true love and fair,
   To what land do we repair?"
   Sweet my love, I take no care,
   Thou art with me everywhere!
   So they pass the woods and downs,
   Pass the villages and towns,
   Hills and dales and open land,
   Came at dawn to the sea sand,
   Lighted down upon the strand,
      Beside the sea.

Then say they, speak they, tell they the Tale:

Aucassin lighted down and his love, as ye have heard sing.  He held his
horse by the bridle, and his lady by the hands; so went they along the
sea shore, and on the sea they saw a ship, and he called unto the
sailors, and they came to him.  Then held he such speech with them, that
he and his lady were brought aboard that ship, and when they were on the
high sea, behold a mighty wind and tyrannous arose, marvellous and great,
and drave them from land to land, till they came unto a strange country,
and won the haven of the castle of Torelore.  Then asked they what this
land might be, and men told them that it was the country of the King of
Torelore.  Then he asked what manner of man was he, and was there war
afoot, and men said,

"Yea, and mighty!"

Therewith took he farewell of the merchants, and they commended him to
God.  Anon Aucassin mounted his horse, with his sword girt, and his lady
before him, and rode at adventure till he was come to the castle.  Then
asked he where the King was, and they said that he was in childbed.

"Then where is his wife?"

And they told him she was with the host, and had led with her all the
force of that country.

Now when Aucassin heard that saying, he made great marvel, and came into
the castle, and lighted down, he and his lady, and his lady held his
horse.  Right so went he up into the castle, with his sword girt, and
fared hither and thither till he came to the chamber where the King was
lying.

_Here one singeth_:

   Aucassin the courteous knight
   To the chamber went forthright,
   To the bed with linen dight
   Even where the King was laid.
   There he stood by him and said:
   "Fool, what mak'st thou here abed?"
   Quoth the King: "I am brought to bed
   Of a fair son, and anon
   When my month is over and gone,
   And my healing fairly done,
   To the Minster will I fare
   And will do my churching there,
   As my father did repair.
   Then will sally forth to war,
   Then will drive my foes afar
      From my countrie!"

Then speak they, say they, tell they the Tale:

When Aucassin heard the King speak on this wise, he took all the sheets
that covered him, and threw them all abroad about the chamber.  Then saw
he behind him a cudgel, and caught it into his hand, and turned, and took
the King, and beat him till he was well-nigh dead.

"Ha! fair sir," quoth the King, "what would you with me?  Art thou beside
thyself, that beatest me in mine own house?"

"By God's heart," quoth Aucassin, "thou ill son of an ill wench, I will
slay thee if thou swear not that never shall any man in all thy land lie
in of child henceforth for ever."

So he did that oath, and when he had done it,

"Sir," said Aucassin, "bring me now where thy wife is with the host."

"Sir, with good will," quoth the King.

He mounted his horse, and Aucassin gat on his own, and Nicolete abode in
the Queen's chamber.  Anon rode Aucassin and the King even till they came
to that place where the Queen was, and lo! men were warring with baked
apples, and with eggs, and with fresh cheeses, and Aucassin began to look
on them, and made great marvel.

_Here one singeth_:

   Aucassin his horse doth stay,
   From the saddle watched the fray,
   All the stour and fierce array;
   Right fresh cheeses carried they,
   Apples baked, and mushrooms grey,
   Whoso splasheth most the ford
   He is master called and lord.
   Aucassin doth gaze awhile,
   Then began to laugh and smile
      And made game.

Then speak they, say they, tell they the Tale:

When Aucassin beheld these marvels, he came to the King, and said, "Sir,
be these thine enemies?"

"Yea, Sir," quoth the King.

"And will ye that I should avenge you of them?"

"Yea," quoth he, "with all my heart."

Then Aucassin put hand to sword, and hurled among them, and began to
smite to the right hand and the left, and slew many of them.  And when
the King saw that he slew them, he caught at his bridle and said,

"Ha! fair sir, slay them not in such wise."

"How," quoth Aucassin, "will ye not that I should avenge you of them?"

"Sir," quoth the King, "overmuch already hast thou avenged me.  It is
nowise our custom to slay each other."

Anon turned they and fled.  Then the King and Aucassin betook them again
to the castle of Torelore, and the folk of that land counselled the King
to put Aucassin forth, and keep Nicolete for his son's wife, for that she
seemed a lady high of lineage.  And Nicolete heard them, and had no joy
of it, so began to say:

_Here singeth one_:

   Thus she spake the bright of brow:
   "Lord of Torelore and king,
   Thy folk deem me a light thing,
   When my love doth me embrace,
   Fair he finds me, in good case,
   Then am I in such derray,
   Neither harp, nor lyre, nor lay,
   Dance nor game, nor rebeck play
      Were so sweet."

Then speak they, say they, tell they the Tale:

Aucassin dwelt in the castle of Torelore, in great ease and great
delight, for that he had with him Nicolete his sweet love, whom he loved
so well.  Now while he was in such pleasure and such delight, came a
troop of Saracens by sea, and laid siege to the castle and took it by
main strength.  Anon took they the substance that was therein and carried
off the men and maidens captives.  They seized Nicolete and Aucassin, and
bound Aucassin hand and foot, and cast him into one ship, and Nicolete
into another.  Then rose there a mighty wind over sea, and scattered the
ships.  Now that ship wherein was Aucassin, went wandering on the sea,
till it came to the castle of Biaucaire, and the folk of the country ran
together to wreck her, and there found they Aucassin, and they knew him
again.  So when they of Biaucaire saw their damoiseau, they made great
joy of him, for Aucassin had dwelt full three years in the castle of
Torelore, and his father and mother were dead.  So the people took him to
the castle of Biaucaire, and there were they all his men.  And he held
the land in peace.

_Here singeth one_:

   Lo ye, Aucassin hath gone
   To Biaucaire that is his own,
   Dwelleth there in joy and ease
   And the kingdom is at peace.
   Swears he by the Majesty
   Of our Lord that is most high,
   Rather would he they should die
   All his kin and parentry,
   So that Nicolete were nigh.
   "Ah sweet love, and fair of brow,
   I know not where to seek thee now,
   God made never that countrie,
   Not by land, and not by sea,
   Where I would not search for thee,
      If that might be!"

Then speak they, say they, tell they the Tale:

Now leave we Aucassin, and speak we of Nicolete.  The ship wherein she
was cast pertained to the King of Carthage, and he was her father, and
she had twelve brothers, all princes or kings.  When they beheld
Nicolete, how fair she was, they did her great worship, and made much joy
of her, and many times asked her who she was, for surely seemed she a
lady of noble line and high parentry.  But she might not tell them of her
lineage, for she was but a child when men stole her away.  So sailed they
till they won the City of Carthage, and when Nicolete saw the walls of
the castle, and the country-side, she knew that there had she been
nourished and thence stolen away, being but a child.  Yet was she not so
young a child but that well she knew she had been daughter of the King of
Carthage; and of her nurture in that city.

_Here singeth one_:

   Nicolete the good and true
   To the land hath come anew,
   Sees the palaces and walls,
   And the houses and the halls!
   Then she spake and said, "Alas!
   That of birth so great I was,
   Cousin of the Amiral
   And the very child of him
   Carthage counts King of Paynim,
   Wild folk hold me here withal;
   Nay Aucassin, love of thee
   Gentle knight, and true, and free,
   Burns and wastes the heart of me.
   Ah God grant it of his grace,
   That thou hold me, and embrace,
   That thou kiss me on the face
      Love and lord!"

Then speak they, say they, tell they the Tale:

When the King of Carthage heard Nicolete speak in this wise, he cast his
arms about her neck.

"Fair sweet love," saith he, "tell me who thou art, and be not adread of
me."

"Sir," said she, "I am daughter to the King of Carthage, and was taken,
being then a little child, it is now fifteen years gone."

When all they of the court heard her speak thus, they knew well that she
spake sooth: so made they great joy of her, and led her to the castle in
great honour, as the King's daughter.  And they would have given her to
her lord a King of Paynim, but she had no mind to marry.  There dwelt she
three days or four.  And she considered by what means she might seek for
Aucassin.  Then she got her a viol, and learned to play on it, till they
would have married her on a day to a great King of Paynim, and she stole
forth by night, and came to the sea-port, and dwelt with a poor woman
thereby.  Then took she a certain herb, and therewith smeared her head
and her face, till she was all brown and stained.  And she let make coat,
and mantle, and smock, and hose, and attired herself as if she had been a
harper.  So took she the viol and went to a mariner, and so wrought on
him that he took her aboard his vessel.  Then hoisted they sail, and
fared on the high seas even till they came to the land of Provence.  And
Nicolete went forth and took the viol, and went playing through all that
country, even till she came to the castle of Biaucaire, where Aucassin
lay.

_Here singeth one_:

   At Biaucaire below the tower
   Sat Aucassin, on an hour,
   Heard the bird, and watched the flower,
   With his barons him beside,
   Then came on him in that tide,
   The sweet influence of love
   And the memory thereof;
   Thought of Nicolete the fair,
   And the dainty face of her
   He had loved so many years,
   Then was he in dule and tears!
   Even then came Nicolete
   On the stair a foot she set,
   And she drew the viol bow
   Through the strings and chanted so;
   "Listen, lords and knights, to me,
   Lords of high or low degree,
   To my story list will ye
   All of Aucassin and her
   That was Nicolete the fair?
   And their love was long to tell
   Deep woods through he sought her well,
   Paynims took them on a day
   In Torelore and bound they lay.
   Of Aucassin nought know we,
   But fair Nicolete the free
   Now in Carthage doth she dwell,
   There her father loves her well,
   Who is king of that countrie.
   Her a husband hath he found,
   Paynim lord that serves Mahound!
   Ne'er with him the maid will go,
   For she loves a damoiseau,
   Aucassin, that ye may know,
   Swears to God that never mo
   With a lover will she go
   Save with him she loveth so
      In long desire."

So speak they, say they, tell they the Tale:

When Aucassin heard Nicolete speak in this wise, he was right joyful, and
drew her on one side, and spoke, saying:

"Sweet fair friend, know ye nothing of this Nicolete, of whom ye have
thus sung?"

"Yea, Sir, I know her for the noblest creature, and the most gentle, and
the best that ever was born on ground.  She is daughter to the King of
Carthage that took her there where Aucassin was taken, and brought her
into the city of Carthage, till he knew that verily she was his own
daughter, whereon he made right great mirth.  Anon wished he to give her
for her lord one of the greatest kings of all Spain, but she would rather
let herself be hanged or burned, than take any lord, how great soever."

"Ha! fair sweet friend," quoth the Count Aucassin, "if thou wilt go into
that land again, and bid her come and speak to me, I will give thee of my
substance, more than thou wouldst dare to ask or take.  And know ye, that
for the sake of her, I have no will to take a wife, howsoever high her
lineage.  So wait I for her, and never will I have a wife, but her only.
And if I knew where to find her, no need would I have to seek her."

"Sir," quoth she, "if ye promise me that, I will go in quest of her for
your sake, and for hers, that I love much."

So he sware to her, and anon let give her twenty livres, and she departed
from him, and he wept for the sweetness of Nicolete.  And when she saw
him weeping, she said:

"Sir, trouble not thyself so much withal.  For in a little while shall I
have brought her into this city, and ye shall see her."

When Aucassin heard that, he was right glad thereof.  And she departed
from him, and went into the city to the house of the Captain's wife, for
the Captain her father in God was dead.  So she dwelt there, and told all
her tale; and the Captain's wife knew her, and knew well that she was
Nicolete that she herself had nourished.  Then she let wash and bathe
her, and there rested she eight full days.  Then took she an herb that
was named _Eyebright_ and anointed herself therewith, and was as fair as
ever she had been all the days of her life.  Then she clothed herself in
rich robes of silk whereof the lady had great store, and then sat herself
in the chamber on a silken coverlet, and called the lady and bade her go
and bring Aucassin her love, and she did even so.  And when she came to
the Palace she found Aucassin weeping, and making lament for Nicolete his
love, for that she delayed so long.  And the lady spake unto him and
said:

"Aucassin, sorrow no more, but come thou on with me, and I will shew thee
the thing in the world that thou lovest best; even Nicolete thy dear
love, who from far lands hath come to seek of thee."  And Aucassin was
right glad.

_Here singeth one_:

   When Aucassin heareth now
   That his lady bright of brow
   Dwelleth in his own countrie,
   Never man was glad as he.
   To her castle doth he hie
   With the lady speedily,
   Passeth to the chamber high,
   Findeth Nicolete thereby.
   Of her true love found again
   Never maid was half so fain.
   Straight she leaped upon her feet:
   When his love he saw at last,
   Arms about her did he cast,
   Kissed her often, kissed her sweet
   Kissed her lips and brows and eyes.
   Thus all night do they devise,
   Even till the morning white.
   Then Aucassin wedded her,
   Made her Lady of Biaucaire.
   Many years abode they there,
   Many years in shade or sun,
   In great gladness and delight
   Ne'er hath Aucassin regret
   Nor his lady Nicolete.
   Now my story all is done,
      Said and sung!



NOTES


"THE BLENDING"--of alternate prose and verse--"is not unknown in various
countries."  Thus in Dr. Steere's _Swahili Tales_ (London, 1870), p. vii.
we read: "It is a constant characteristic of popular native tales to have
a sort of burden, which all join in singing.  Frequently the skeleton of
the story seems to be contained in these snatches of singing, which the
story-teller connects by an extemporized account of the intervening
history . . . Almost all these stories had sung parts, and of some of
these, even those who sung them could scarcely explain the meaning . . .
I have heard stories partly told, in which the verse parts were in the
Yao and Nyamwezi languages."  The examples given (_Sultan Majnun_) are
only verses supposed to be chanted by the characters in the tale.  It is
improbable that the Yaos and Nyamwezis borrowed the custom of inserting
verse into prose tales from Arab literature, where the intercalated verse
is usually of a moral and reflective character.

Mr. Jamieson, in _Illustrations of Northern Antiquities_ (p. 379),
preserved a _cante-fable_ called _Rosmer Halfman_, or _The Merman
Rosmer_.  Mr. Motherwell remarks (_Minstrelsy_, Glasgow, 1827, p. xv.):
"Thus I have heard the ancient ballad of _Young Beichan and Susy Pye_
dilated by a story-teller into a tale of remarkable dimensions--a
paragraph of prose and then a _screed_ of rhyme alternately given."  The
example published by Mr. Motherwell gives us the very form _of Aucassin
and Nicolete_, surviving in Scotch folk lore:-

"Well ye must know that in the Moor's Castle, there was a mafsymore,
which is a dark deep dungeon for keeping prisoners.  It was twenty feet
below the ground, and into this hole they closed poor Beichan.  There he
stood, night and day, up to his waist in puddle-water; but night or day
it was all one to him, for no ae styme of light ever got in.  So he lay
there a lang and weary while, and thinking on his heavy weird, he made a
murnfu' sang to pass the time--and this was the sang that he made, and
grat when he sang it, for he never thought of escaping from the
mafsymore, or of seeing his ain countrie again:

   "My hounds they all run masterless,
   My hawks they flee from tree to tree;
   My youngest brother will heir my lands,
   And fair England again I'll never see.

   "O were I free as I hae been,
   And my ship swimming once more on sea,
   I'd turn my face to fair England,
   And sail no more to a strange countrie."

"Now the cruel Moor had a beautiful daughter called Susy Pye, who was
accustomed to take a walk every morning in her garden, and as she was
walking ae day she heard the sough o' Beichan's sang, coming as it were
from below the ground."

All this is clearly analogous in form no less than in matter to our
_cante-fable_.  Mr. Motherwell speaks of _fabliaux_, intended partly for
recitation, and partly for being sung; but does not refer by name to
_Aucassin and Nicolete_.  If we may judge by analogy, then, the form of
the _cante-fable_ is probably an early artistic adaptation of a popular
narrative method.

STOUR; an ungainly word enough, familiar in Scotch with the sense of wind-
driven dust, it may be dust of battle.  The French is _Estor_.

BIAUCAIRE, opposite Tarascon, also celebrated for its local hero, the
deathless Tartarin.  There is a great deal of learning about Biaucaire;
probably the author of the _cante-fable_ never saw the place, but he need
not have thought it was on the sea-shore, as (p. 39) he seems to do.
There he makes the people of Beaucaire set out to wreck a ship.  Ships do
not go up the Rhone, and get wrecked there, after escaping the perils of
the deep.

On p. 42, the poet clearly thinks that Nicolete, after landing from her
barque, had to travel a considerable distance before reaching Biaucaire.
The fact is that the poet is perfectly reckless of geography, like him
who wrote of the set-shore of Bohemia.

PAINTED WONDROUSLY.  No one knows what is really meant by a _miramie_.

PLENTIFUL LACK OF COMFORT: rather freely for _Mout i aries peu conquis_.

MALENGIN: a favourite word of Sir Thomas Malory: "mischievous intent."

FEATS OF YOUTH: ENFANCES, the regular term for the romance of a knight's
early prowess.

TWO APPLES; nois gauges in the original.  But _walnuts_ sound inadequate.

Here the MS. has a _lacuna_.

There is much useless learning about the realm of _Torelore_.  It is
somewhere between Kor and Laputa.  The custom of the _Couvade_ was dimly
known to the poet.  The feigned lying-in of the father may have been
either a recognition of paternity (as in the sham birth whereby Hera
adopted Heracles) or may have been caused by the belief that the health
of the father at the time of the child's birth affected that of the
child.  Either origin of the _Couvade_ is consistent with early beliefs
and customs.

EYEBRIGHT.  This is a purely fanciful rendering of _Esclaire_.



Footnotes:


{1}  Gaston Paris, in M. Bida's edition, p. xii.  Paris, 1878.  The
blending is not unknown in various countries.  See note at end of
Translation.

{2}  I know not if I unconsciously transferred this criticism from M.
Gaston Paris.

{3}  "Love in Idleness."  London, 1883, p. 169.

{4}  Theocritus, x. 37.

{5}  I have not thought it necessary to discuss the conjectures,--they
are no more,--about the Greek or Arabic origin of the cante-fable, about
the derivation of Aucassin's name, the supposed copying of _Floire et
Blancheflor_, the longitude and latitude of the land of Torelore, and so
forth.  In truth "we are in Love's land to-day," where the ships sail
without wind or compass, like the barques of the Phaeacians.  Brunner and
Suchier add nothing positive to our knowledge, and M. Gaston Paris
pretends to cast but little light on questions which it is too curious to
consider at all.  In revising the translation I have used with profit the
versions of M. Bida, of Mr. Bourdillon, the glossary of Suchier, and Mr.
Bourdillon's glossary.  As for the style I have attempted, if not Old
English, at least English which is elderly, with a memory of Malory.





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