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Title: Tales from the Old French
Author: Various
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Tales from the Old French" ***

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[Illustration]



Tales from the Old French

Translated by Isabel Butler

  London
  Constable & Co. Ltd.
  Houghton Mifflin Co.
  Boston and New York
  Mdccccx


  COPYRIGHT 1910 BY ISABEL BUTLER
  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

[Illustration]



Contents


  ¶ Lais

    THE LAY OF THE BIRD                                   3
    THE WOFUL KNIGHT              _Marie de France_      17
    THE TWO LOVERS                _Marie de France_      26
    ELIDUC                        _Marie de France_      35
    MELION                                               73
    THE LAY OF THE HORN             _Robert Biquet_      93


  ¶ Fabliaux

    THE DIVIDED BLANKET                   _Bernier_     111
    OF THE CHURL WHO WON PARADISE                       125
    THE GRAY PALFREY                   _Huon Leroi_     131

  ¶ Contes dévots et didactiques

    THE KNIGHT OF THE LITTLE CASK                       173
    THE ANGEL AND THE HERMIT                            207
    THE JOUSTING OF OUR LADY                            228
    THE ORDER OF CHIVALRY                               232

  ¶ Epilogue                                            249

  ¶ Bibliography                                        263

  ¶ Translator's Note                                   264



Lais



The Lay of the Bird


[Illustration]

Once upon a time, a hundred years and more agone, there lived a rich
villein; his name I know not for certain, but he was rich as beseemeth
a great lord in woodland, stream and meadow, and in whatsoever else
longeth to a puissant man. And to tell you the sum thereof, his manor
was so goodly no town, or burg, or castle hath its like, for to tell
you true, in all the world is none other so fair and delectable; and if
any were to show you its form and fashion, the tale would seem to you
but fable, for none, methinketh, could ever make such a keep, or so
mighty a tower. Round about it ran a river, encircling all the close,
that the orchard, which was of great price, was all walled in by wood
and water. Wise was the gentle knight who contrived it, but from him it
went to his son, who sold it to this villein; so passed it from hand to
hand: and wit ye well, an ill heir ofttimes bringeth thorpe and manor
into dishonour.

Fair as man can desire was that orchard, and therein grew many an herb
whose name I know not; yet may I tell you of a truth there were roses
and flowers that gave forth a strong and pleasant fragrance; and such
manner of spices grew there that if any creature, suffering from
sickness and infirmity, were brought thither in a litter, and lay in
that orchard but for the space of a single night, he would go forth
healed and strong; so rich it was in goodly herbs. And the meadow was
so level even that in it was neither hill nor hollow, and all the
tree-tops were of one height; no other orchard close so fair was there
in all the world. Ask ye not of its fruit, for none such shall ye find;
but in the garden they ripened in every season. Wise was he who contrived
it, and by enchantment he wrought it, whereof within was many a proof.

Full great was the orchard and wide, like a round ring in its form; and
in its midst was a fountain whose waters were clear and fresh, and ran
so swiftly they seemed to boil in fury, yet was it colder than marble.
A goodly tree gave shade there, wide reaching were the branches and
cunningly trained; good store of leaves there were, for in the longest
day of summer, when came the month of May, ye could not see a ray of
the sun, so leafy was it. Full dear should that tree be held, for its
kind was such that it kept its leaves in all seasons, and neither wind
nor storm had might to strip its bark or its branches.

Pleasant and delectable was that green tree; and to it twice each day,
and no more, came a bird to sing, in the morning namely, and again at
eventide. So wondrous fair was the bird it were over long to tell you
all its fashion. More small it was than the sparrow, yet somewhat
greater than the wren, and it sang so sweetly and fairly that know
ye of a sooth, not nightingale, nor merle, nor mavis, nor starling,
methinketh, nor voice of lark or calender, were so good to hear as was
its song. And it was so ready with refrains and lays and songs and
new tunes, that harp, or viol, or rebec were as nought beside it. So
wondrous was its song that never before was its like heard of living
man, for such was its virtue that no man might be so sorrowful, but if
he heard it sing, he must straightway rejoice, and forget all heaviness
and grief; and though he had never before spoken of love, now was he
kindled by it, and deemed himself worshipful as king or emperor, though
he were but villein or burgess; and even had he passed his hundredth
year, if, as he yet lingered in the world, he heard the song of the
bird, he deemed himself then but as a youth and a stripling, and so
comely, he must be loved of ladies and maids and damsels. But yet
another wondrous virtue had it; for that orchard might not endure, if
the bird came not thither to sing its sweet refrain; for out of song
issueth love, which giveth their virtue to flower and tree and coppice;
whereas, if the bird were gone, the orchard would straightway wither,
and the fountain run dry, for that they kept their virtue only by
reason of the song.

Now it was the wont of the villein, who was master there, to come twice
each day to hear this sweetness. So on a morning, he came to the fountain
beneath the tree to wash his face in the waters; and from the branches
the bird sang to him loud and clear a song of most delectable cadence;
good was the lay to hear, and ensample might one draw therefrom whereby
one were bettered at the last. For in his language the bird said:
"Listen ye to my song, both knight and clerk and layman, all ye who have
to do with love, and suffer his torments; and to ye likewise I speak, ye
maids fair and sweet, who would have the world for your own. And I tell
you of a sooth, ye should love God before all things, and hold his law
and his commandments; go ye with good heart to the minster, and give
heed to the holy office, for to hear God's service cometh not amiss to
any man; and to tell you true, God and love are of one accord. For God
loveth honour and courtesy, and true Love despiseth them not; God hateth
pride and treachery, and Love likewise holdeth them in despite; God
giveth ear to sweet prayer, and from it Love turneth not away; and above
all else God desireth largesse, for in him is nought of ill, but good
only. The misers are the envious hearted, and it is the jealous who
are the covetous; the churlish are the wicked, and the traitors are the
vile; but wisdom and courtesy, honour and loyalty uphold Love; and if ye
hold to this ye may have both God and the world." So sang the bird his
lay.

But when he saw the churl, who was cruel and envious, sit listening
beneath the tree, then sang he in another manner: "Flow ye no more,
O river; waste to ruin, ye donjons; and towers, fall ye down; fade, ye
flowers; dry and wither, ye herbs; bear no more fruit, ye trees; for
here, of old, clerks and knights and ladies were wont to give ear to me,
who held the fountain full dear, and drew delight from my song, and
loved the better _par amors_; and by reason of it they did much largess,
and practised courtesy and prowess, and upheld chivalry; but now am I
heard only by a churl, who is full of envy, and to whom silver and gold
are more dear than the service of Love; the knights and ladies came to
hear me for delight, and for Love's sake, and to lighten their hearts,
but this man cometh only that he may eat the better and drink the
better."

And when the bird had so sung it flew away; and the churl, who yet
lingered there, bethought him if he might not take it; easily might he
sell it full dear, or, if he could not sell it, he would shut it up in a
cage that it might sing to him early and late. So he contrived a device,
and arranged it; he sought and looked and spied until he made sure of
the branches whereon the bird sat oftenest; then he maketh a snare and
spread it,--well hath he contrived the thing. And when eventide came,
the bird returned again to the orchard, and so soon as it lighted on
the tree was straightway taken in the net. Thereupon the villein, the
caitiff, the felon, climbeth up and taketh the bird. "Such reward hath
he ever that serveth a churl, methinketh," saith the bird. "Now ill
hast thou done in that thou hast taken me, for of me shalt thou get
small ransom." "Yet shall I have many a song of this capture," quoth the
villein; "before, ye served according to your own will, but now shall ye
serve after mine."

"This throw is evilly divided, and the worser half falleth to me,"
saith the bird. "Of old, I had field and wood and river and meadow,
according to my desire, but now shall I be prisoned in a cage; never
again shall I know joy and solace. Of old, I was wont to live by prey,
now must I, like any prisoner, have my meat doled out to me. Prithee,
fair, sweet friend, let me go; for be ye sage and certain never will
I sing as prisoner." "By my faith, then I will eat you up; on no other
terms shall ye escape." "Poor victual shall ye find in me, so small and
slight am I; and if ye kill so frail a thing, in no wise shall your
worship be increased. To slay me were very sin, but it were a good deed
to set me free." "By my faith, ye speak idly, for the more you beseech
me the less will I do." "Certes," saith the bird, "ye say well, for so
runneth the law; and often have we heard it said that fair reasoning
angers the churl. But a proverb teacheth and showeth us that necessity
is a hard master; here my strength may not avail me, but if you will
set me free, I will make you wise with three wisdoms that were never
yet known to any man of your lineage, and which would much avail you."
"If I may have surety thereof, I will do it straightway," saith the
villein. "Thereto I pledge you all my faith," the bird made answer;
and forthright the villein let him go.

So the bird that had won his freedom by ready speech, taketh flight to
the tree; all spent he was, and ruffled, for he had been rudely handled,
and all his plumage turned awry. With his beak as best he might, he
smoothed and ordered his feathers; but the churl, who was fain of the
three wisdoms, admonished him to speak. Full of craft was that bird, and
he saith: "If thou givest good heed, great lore shalt thou learn: _Set
not thy trust in all thou hearest._" But the villein frowned in anger:
"That knew I already," quoth he. "Fair friend, henceforth hold it well
in mind, and forget it not." Quoth the churl: "Now in sooth may I look
to learn wisdom! He who biddeth me bear this in mind, doth but jibe;
but certes, when you escape me again, no man else shall you mock:--but
I brag over late. Wherefore, now tell me the next wisdom, for this one
I know well."

"Give good heed," saith the bird, "fair and goodly is the second: _Weep
not for that thou hast never had._" Then the churl could not hold his
peace, but answered all in anger: "Thou hast belied thy pledge to me;
three wisdoms thou wert to teach me--so thou didst promise me--that were
never yet known to any of my kin; but every man knoweth this, for there
is none so foolish, or ever was, that he would weep for what was never
his. Sorely hast thou lied to me." Thereupon the bird made answer:
"Wouldst thou that I say them over to thee lest thou forget them? Ye are
so ready of speech I fear for thy memory; methinketh ye will not bear
the wisdoms in mind." "I know them better than you yourself," quoth the
churl, "and long ago knew them. Foul fall him who shall ever thank you
for showing him that in which he was already wise. By my head, I am not
so untaught as ye deem me, and it is but because ye have escaped me that
ye now mock me. But if ye hold by your covenant with me, ye will tell
me the third wisdom, for of these two I have full understanding. Now
speak out at your will, in that I have no power over you; tell me its
substance, and I will give heed to it."

"Listen well, and I will tell you: the third is of such a nature that
whosoever knoweth it will never be a poor man." Greatly the churl
rejoiced when he heard the virtue of that wisdom, and saith: "This I
needs must know, for riches I dearly desire." Lo, how he urgeth the
bird, and saith: "It is time to eat, so tell me now speedily." And when
the bird heard him, it maketh answer: "I warn thee, churl, that ye _Let
not fall to your feet that which you hold in your hand_." All angry was
the villein: for a long time he spoke not, and then he asketh: "And is
there nought else? These are the sooth-sayings of children, for well
I ween that many a man poor and in want knoweth this, even as thou
knowest; ye have duped me and lied to me, for all that ye have shown
me I was wise in before."

Then the bird maketh answer: "By my faith, and if thou hadst known this
last wisdom, never wouldst thou have let me go, for if thou hadst killed
me as thou didst think to do, never, by my eyes, had there dawned a day
ye had not been the better for it." "Ha, in God's name, what good had ye
been?" "Ahi, foul churl, ill son of an ill race, thou knowest not what
hath befallen thee; thou hast sorely miscarried. In my body is a gem of
great worth and price, and of the weight of three ounces; its virtue is
so great that whoso hath it in his possession may never wish for aught,
but straightway he hath it at his hand."

Now when the churl heard this, he beat his breast, and tore his
garments, and rent his face with his nails, and cried out woe and alas.
But the bird, who watched him from the tree, had great joy thereof. It
waited until he had torn all his raiment, and wounded himself in many a
place; then it said to him: "Wretched churl, when thou didst hold me in
thy hand I was smaller than sparrow, or tit, or finch, which weigheth
not so much as half an ounce." And the villein who groaneth in anger,
saith: "By my faith, ye say true." "Churl, now mayest thou see well I
have lied to thee concerning the gem." "Now I know it of a sooth, but
certes, at first I believed thee." "Churl, now have I proved to thee on
the spot thou knewest not the three wisdoms; and, for what thou didst
say to me, that no man is, or ever was, so foolish he would weep for
that he had never had, now, meseemeth, thou thyself makest lament for
what was never thine and never will be. And when you had me in your
snare, then did you cast down to your feet that which you held in your
hand. So have you been brought to shame by the three wisdoms; henceforth,
fair friend, hold them in mind. Good it is to learn goodly lore, for
many a one heareth yet understandeth not, many a one speaketh of wisdom
who is yet no whit wise in thought, many a one speaketh of courtesy who
knoweth nought of the practice thereof, and many a man holdeth himself
for wise who is given over to folly."

Now when the bird had so spoken, it took flight, and departed, never to
return again to the garden. The leaves fell from the tree, the orchard
failed and withered, the fountain ran dry, whereby the churl lost all
his delight. Now know ye one and all that the proverb showeth us clearly
that he who covets all, loses all.

_explicit_ li Lais de l'Oiselet.



The Woful Knight


[Illustration]

Gladly would I call to remembrance a lay whereof I have heard men speak;
I will tell you its name and its story, and show you the city whence it
sprang. Some call it The Woful Knight, but many there are who name it
The Four Sorrows.

At Nantes in Bretaigne dwelt a lady who was rich in beauty and wisdom
and all seemliness. And in that land was no knight of prowess who, and
if he did but see her, straightway loved her not and besought her. She
could in no wise love them all, yet none did she wish to renounce. And
better it is to love and woo all the ladies of the land than to rob
one fool of his motley, for he will speedily fall to fighting over it,
whereas a lady doth pleasure to all in fair friendliness. And though it
be not her will to hearken to them, yet ought she not to give them ill
words, but rather hold them dear and honour them, and render them
service and thanks. Now the lady of whom I would tell you was so besought
in love by reason of her beauty and worth that many a one had a hand
therein.

In Bretaigne, in those days, lived four barons; their names I cannot
tell you, but though they were young of age, yet were they comely,
brave, and valiant knights, generous, courteous, and free-handed; of
gentle birth were they in that land, and held in high honour. These four
loved the lady, and strove in well doing for her sake; and each did his
uttermost to win her and her love. Each sought her by himself, and set
thereto all his intent; and there was not one but thought to succeed
above all the rest.

Now the lady was of right great discretion, and much bethought her to
inquire and discover which it were best to love; for all alike were of
such great worship that she knew not how to choose the best among them.
And in that she was not minded to lose three for one, she made fair
semblance to each, and gave them tokens, and sent them messengers; of
the four not one knew how it stood with other, and none could she bring
herself to reject. So each one hoped by entreaty and loyal service to
speed better than the rest. And wheresoever knights come together, each
wished to be the first in well doing, if that he might, to thereby
please his lady. All alike called her their love, each one wore her
favour, whether ring or sleeve or pennon, and each cried her name in
the tourney.

And she on her part loved them all, and bore them all in hand, until it
fell that after an Easter time, a tournament was cried before the city
of Nantes. To learn the worth of the four lovers, many a man came from
other lands,--Frenchmen and Normans, Flemings and Angevins, and men of
Brabant, and of Boulogne, and likewise those from near at hand; all
alike came thither with good will, and long time sojourned there. And
on the evening of the tourney they joined battle full sharply.

The four lovers had armed themselves and issued out of the city: and
though their knights followed after, on them fell the burden. Those from
abroad knew them by their pennons and shields, and against them they
sent four knights, two Flemings and two Hainaulters, ready dight for the
onset; not one but was keen to join battle. And the four lovers on their
part, when they saw the knights come against them, were of no mind to
give back. At full speed, with lowered lance, each man chooseth his
fellow, and they come together so stoutly that the four out-landers are
brought to ground. No care had the four comrades for the horses, rather
they let them run free, and they took their stand above the fallen
knights, who anon are rescued by their fellows. Great was the press in
that rescue, and many a blow was struck with sword.

The lady, meantime, was on a tower, whence she might well behold her men
and their followers; she seeth her lovers bear themselves right bravely,
and which among them deserveth best she knoweth not.

So the tourney was begun, and the ranks increased and thickened; and
many a time that day before the gate was the battle renewed. The four
lovers did right valiantly, that they won praise above all the rest,
till evening fell and it was time to dispart. Then far from their men,
too recklessly they set their lives in jeopardy; dearly they paid for
it, for there three were slain, and the fourth hurt and so wounded in
thigh and body that the lance came out at his back. Right through were
they smitten, and all four fell to ground. They who had slain them threw
down their shields upon the field; unwittingly had they done it, and
right heavy were they therefor. So the noise arose and the cry; never
was sorrow heard like unto that. They of the city hasted thither, for no
whit did they fear those outlanders. Two thousand were there that for
sorrow for the four knights unlaced their ventails, and tore their hair
and their beards. All alike shared that grief.

Then each of those four was laid upon a shield, and carried into the
city to the lady who had loved them, and so soon as she heard the
adventure, she fell down on the hard ground in a swoon. When she
recovered her wit, she made sore lament for each by name. "Alas," saith
she, "what shall I do? Never more shall I know gladness. These four
knights I loved, and each by himself I desired, for of great worship
were they, and they loved me more than aught else that liveth. By reason
of their beauty and prowess, their valour and generosity, I led them
to set their thoughts on love of me, and I would not lose all three by
taking one. Now I know not which I should pity most; yet can I not
feign or disemble herein. One I see wounded and three slain; nothing
have I in the world to comfort me. Now will I let bury the dead; and if
the wounded knight may be healed, gladly will I do what I may herein,
and fetch him good doctors of physic." So she made him be carried into
her own chambers. Then she directed that the others be made ready;
richly and nobly she appareled them with great love. And to a rich
abbey, wherein they were buried, she made great gifts and offerings.
Now may God grant them sweet mercy.

Meantime she had summoned wise leeches, and had set them in charge of
the knight, who lay wounded in her own chamber until he began to mend.
Often she went to see him, and sweetly she comforted him; but much she
regretted the other three, and made great lament for them.

And one summer day after meat, when she was talking with the knight,
she remembered her of her great sorrow, and bent low her head. So she
fell deep in thought, and he, beginning to watch her, perceived her
thoughtfulness. Courteously he addressed her: "Lady, you are in
distress. What is in your thoughts? Tell me, and let be your sorrow.
Surely you should take comfort." "Friend," saith she, "I fell
a-thinking, and remembered me of your comrades. Never will any lady of
my lineage, however fair and worthy and wise she may be, love another
such four, or in one day lose them all, as I lost all,--save you alone,
who were wounded and in sore jeopardy of death. And in that I have
so loved ye four, I would that my griefs were held in remembrance,
wherefore of you I will make a lay, and call it The Four Sorrows."
When he had heard her, quickly the knight made answer: "Dame, make the
new lay, but call it The Woful Knight. And I will show you why it should
be so named: the other three long since died, and spent all their
worldly life in the great torment they endured by reason of the love
they bore you. But I, who have escaped with life, all uncounselled and
all woful, often see her whom I love most in the world come and go,
and speak to me morning and evening, yet may I have neither kiss nor
embrace, nor any joy of her, save that of speech only. A hundred such
sorrows you make me endure; rather had I suffer death. For this reason
shall the lay be named for me; The Woful Knight shall it be called, and
whosoever termeth it The Four Sorrows will change its true name." "By my
faith," saith she, "this pleaseth me well; now let us call it The Woful
Knight."

Thus was the lay begun, and thereafter ended and spread abroad; but of
those that carried it through the land some called it The Four Sorrows.
Each of the names suiteth the lay well, for the matter demandeth both;
but commonly it is called The Woful Knight. Here it endeth and goeth no
farther; more there is not so far as I have heard or known, and no more
will I tell you.



The Two Lovers


[Illustration]

In Normandy, of old, there fell an adventure oft recounted; 'tis a tale
of two children who loved one another, and how both through their love
died. Of this the Bretons made a lay and called it "Les Dous Amanz."

Know ye that in Neustria, which we call Normandy, is a great mountain
marvellous high, and on its summit lie the two lovers. Near to this
mountain on one side, a king with great care and counsel built him a
city; lord he was of the Pistreis, and because of his folk he called the
town Pitres. Still has the name endured, and there to this day may ye
see houses and city; and all that region, as is well known, men call
the Vale of Pitres.

This king had a daughter, a fair damsel and a courteous; no other child
had he, and much he loved and cherished her. She was sought for in
marriage by many a great lord, who would gladly have taken her to wife;
but the king would give her to none, for that he could not bear to part
with her. No other companion had he, but kept her with him night and
day, for since the death of the queen she was his only solace. Yet many
a one held it ill done on his part, and even his own household blamed
him for it. And when he knew that men talked thereof, much it grieved
and troubled him; and he began to bethink him how he might so contrive
that none would willingly seek his daughter. And he let it be known far
and wide, that whosoever would have the maiden, must know one thing of
a sooth: it was decreed and appointed that her suitor should carry her
in his arms, with no stop for rest upon the way, to the summit of the
mountain without the city. When the news thereof were made known and
spread abroad through the land, many a one assayed the feat but none
might achieve it. Some there were who with much striving carried her
midway up the mountain; then they could go no farther but must needs
let be. So for a long space the damsel remained unwedded, and no man
would ask her in marriage.

In that same land was a damoiseau, son to a count he was, and full fresh
and fair; and much he strove in well doing that he might have praise
above all others. He frequented the king's court and often sojourned
there; and he grew to love the king's daughter, and ofttimes besought
her that she would grant him her favour, and love him with all her love.
And in that he was brave and courteous, and much praised of the king,
she granted him her grace, and in all humility he rendered her thanks
therefor.

Often they held speech together, and loyally each loved the other, yet
they concealed it as best they might, that none should know thereof.
Grievous was this time to them, but the youth bethought him that it was
better to endure this evil than to make haste over much only to fail;
yet was he brought to sore anguish through love. And it fell on a time
that the damoiseau who was so fair and valiant came unto his love, and
speaking, made her his plaint. Piteously he besought her that she should
flee thence with him, for he could no longer endure his pain; yet he
knew full well that were he to ask her of her father, he loved her so
much he would give her to none who did not first bear her in his arms
to the top of the mountain. Then the damsel made answer: "Dear heart,
I know full well you could not carry me so far, for your strength is
not great enough; yet were I to flee with you my father would suffer so
great dolour and grief it were torment for him to live; and of a sooth
I hold him so dear and love him so much I would not willingly bring him
sorrow. Other counsel must you find, for to this I will not hearken.
But in Salerno I have a kinswoman, a rich dame and a wealthy; more than
thirty years has she dwelt there, and she is so practised in the art of
physic that she is wise in medicines and healing. So learned is she in
herbs and roots, that if you will but go to her, taking with you letters
from me, and tell her all your plight, she will give you help and
counsel. Such electuaries will she prepare for you, and such cordials
will she give you that they will comfort you and renew your strength.
When you return again to this land, seek ye my father. He will deem you
but a child, and will show you the covenant whereby he will give me to
no man or take thought of none, save him who shall carry me in his arms
to the top of the mountain, without once resting by the way; and ye
shall freely agree with him that only in such wise may ye win me."

The youth hearkened to the words and the counsel of the damsel; full
glad was he thereof, and gave her his thanks. And thereafter he asked
leave of her; and straightway returned into his own land, and speedily
gathered together money and rich stuffs, palfreys and sumpters; and
took with him such of his men as were most worthy of trust. So he goeth
to Salerno, and seeketh speech with the aunt of his sweet friend, and
giveth her the letter. And when she had read it from end to end, she
kept him with her till he had told her all his plight. Thereafter she
strengthened him with medicines, and gave him such a draught that were
he ever so weary and spent and fordone, it would yet refresh all his
body, alike his bones and his sinews, that so soon as he had drunk it,
he would have his full strength again. Then, bearing the draught in a
phial, he returned to his own country.

Joyous and glad of heart was the damoiseau when he was come again to
his own land; yet he lingered not in his domain, but went straightway
to the king to ask of him his daughter, and that he might take her and
carry her up the mountain. The king did not deny him, yet he deemed it
but folly, for the youth was young of age and many a sage and valiant
man had assayed the feat, yet none might achieve it. But he named and
appointed a day, and summoned all his friends and vassals, and all those
whom he could assemble together, nor would he suffer any to disobey his
call. So, for the sake of the king's daughter and the youth who would
assay the adventure of carrying her to the top of the mountain, they
came from all the country round about. The damsel on her part prepared
herself, and to lighten her weight oft she fasted and forebore from
meat, for she would fain help her friend.

On the appointed day, of all those that came thither the damoiseau was
the first, nor did he forget his draught. Then into the meadow beside
the Seine, among all the great folk there assembled, the king led forth
his daughter; no garment wore she save her shift only. And so the youth
took her in his arms; and in that he knew she would not betray him, he
gave her the phial that contained the potion, to carry in her hand.
Yet I fear it will avail him nought, for he hath in him no measure.

With the damsel in his arms he set off at a swift pace, and climbed
midway up the mountain, and for the joy that he had of her he took no
thought of his draught. But she felt that he was growing weary, and
said: "Dear heart, I pray you drink. I know that ye are weary; drink and
renew your strength." But the youth made answer: "Sweet, I feel my heart
strong within me; for no price would I stop long enough to drink, while
I am yet able to go three steps. The folk would cry out to us, and their
noise would confound me, and so might they hinder us. I will not stop
here." But when he had gone two thirds of the way, he was near to
falling. Ofttimes the maid besought him, "Dear heart, drink now the
potion." But he would not heed or hearken to her, and in sore pain he
yet pressed forward. Thus he came at last to the top of the mountain,
but so wearied and spent was he that there he fell down and rose up no
more, for his heart failed within him.

The maid as she looked on her love deemed him in a swoon; so she knelt
down at his side, and sought to give him the drink. But he could speak
no word to her, and so he died even as I tell you. With great outcry
she lamented him, and she cast from her the vessel containing the
potion that it was scattered abroad. By it the mount was well sprinkled,
whereby all the land and country was much bettered, for many a precious
herb hath been found there that sprang from that potion.

But now speak we again of the damsel. Never was she so woful as now in
losing her love. She lieth down beside him, and taketh him in her arms
and straineth him close, and many a time she kisseth him on eyes and
mouth, till her grief for him pierceth her heart. There died the maid
who had been so valiant, wise and fair.

Now when the king and those that were awaiting them saw that the twain
came not again, they followed after and found them. And there the king
fell to the ground in a swoon; and when he recovered his speech he made
great lament, and so did all the stranger folk. Three days they kept the
twain above earth; and caused two coffins of marble to be brought, and
in them they laid the two lovers, and by the counsel of all, buried them
upon the top of the mountain; and then they all went their ways.

Because of the adventure of these twain the mountain is still called by
the name of Les Deux Amants. So it fell, even as I have told you, and
the Bretons turned it into a lay.



Eliduc


[Illustration]

Now will I tell you all the matter and story of a most ancient Breton
lay, even as I have heard it, and hold it for true.

In Bretaigne dwelt a knight, brave and courteous, hardy and bold; Eliduc
was his name, methinketh, and in all the land was no other man so
valiant. And he had for wife a woman wise and honourable, of high
parentry and goodly lineage. Long they lived together, and loyally they
loved one another; but at length it fell that by reason of strife the
knight went to seek service abroad, and there he grew to love a maid,
daughter to a king and queen; Guilliadun was the name of the damsel, and
she was the fairest of that realm. Now Eliduc's wife was called among
her own folk Guildeluëc, and from these twain the lay hath taken the
name of Guildeluëc and Guilliadun; of old it was called Eliduc, but now
is its title changed, in that the adventure from which the lay is drawn
turneth upon the two dames. Now even as it befell so will I recite it,
and tell you all the truth thereof.

Eliduc had for liege lord the king of Britain the Less, who showed him
much love and favour, and to whom he gave faithful service. Whenever
the king must needs be absent, it was given to him to guard the land,
and hold it by his prowess. Yet even better fortune befell him, for he
was made free to hunt in the king's forest, nor was there any forester
therein so bold he dared gainsay him, or speak him grudgingly. But as
often falleth through other men's envy of our fortune, he was estranged
from his lord, and so slandered and belied, that without hearing he was
banished from the court, though on what grounds he knew not. Ofttimes he
besought the king not to give ear to calumny, but to show him justice,
in that he had long served him with right good will; yet ever the king
would give him no answer.

Now when Eliduc saw he could win no hearing, he must needs depart. He
went back to his own house, and called all his friends together, and
told them of the wrath of the king, his liege lord, whom he had served
as best he might,--never should the king have borne him hate. But as the
villein saith in proverb when he chideth his plowman, "Lord's love is no
fief"; so is he wise and discreet who keeps faith with his liege lord,
yet spendeth his love on his good friends. Now the knight was minded to
abide no more in that land, but would, he said, cross the sea and go
into the kingdom of Logres, to solace himself there for a space. His
wife he would leave in his domain, and bade his friends and liegemen
that they guard her loyally.

So he abode by this judgment, and prepared him full richly for the
journey; but his friends were right sorrowful that he should depart from
them. He took with him ten knights, and his wife conducted him on the
way. At parting with her lord she made exceeding great dole, but he
assured her he would keep good faith with her. With that she left him,
and he held straight on his way till he came to the sea, and passed over
it, and came into Totness.

In that land were divers kings, and between them was war and strife. One
dwelt near Exeter, full puissant, but an old man and an ancient. No heir
male had he, but only a daughter yet unwedded; and in that he would not
give her in marriage to his neighbor, that other made war upon him, and
laid waste all his land, and besieged him in his castle; nor was there
among those within any man who dared issue out to risk onset and battle.
When Eliduc heard thereof, he was fain to go no farther, but to abide in
that land wherein was war, and to seek service with, and help as best he
might, the king who was so harried and hard pressed and beset. Wherefore
he sent messengers thither, and by letter showed the king how he had
issued out of his own land and stood ready to his aid; furthermore, he
prayed him to make known his pleasure herein, and if he would have none
of him, to grant him safe conduct through the land, that he might seek
service elsewhere.

Now when the king saw the messengers, he looked on them kindly and made
them good cheer. He called his constable to him, and bade him straightway
make ready an escort to bring thither the knight, and prepare a hostel
where he and his men might lodge, and furthermore, bade give and grant
them as much as they would spend for a month. The escort made them
ready, and set out to fetch Eliduc; and he was received with great
honour, for right welcome was he to the king. He was given lodging in
the house of a burgess full discreet and courteous, who gave up to his
guest his own fair tapestried chamber. Eliduc bade the board be well set
forth, and invited all needy knights that lodged in the town to share
his victual. And moreover, he commanded his men that none be so forward
that he take either gift or denier for the first forty days.

Now three days after his coming, a cry arose in the city that their
enemies were upon them, and overspread all the land thereabouts, and
pressed up to the very gates, for that they would assail the town.
Eliduc heard the noise of the folk, who were sore dismayed, and
forthright he armed himself, and his comrades likewise. Now though many
a man had been slain and many a one made prisoner, fourteen mounted
knights were yet left in the town, and when they saw Eliduc get him to
horseback, they hastened to their lodgings to arm themselves; and with
him they issued out of the gate, without waiting for summons. "Sir,"
they cried to him, "we will go with thee, and what thou dost we likewise
will do." "Gramercy," he made answer. "Now is there none among you who
knows of some hidden way or ambush where we may take them unawares? If
we await them here, it may be we shall do battle with them, but to no
purpose, if any have better counsel." And they made answer: "In faith,
sir, near this wood through a bed of reeds runneth a narrow cart-road,
whereby they are wont to take their way back. When they have won their
booty they will repair thither; ofttimes they ride there unarmed upon
their palfreys, and so put themselves in jeopardy of speedy death; right
soon could we do them damage, and hurt and annoy." And Eliduc answered
them: "Friends, I give you my word, he who doth not often venture where
he thinketh to lose, will never win much, nor achieve high honour. Ye
are all the king's liegemen, and ye should keep good faith with him.
Come with me where I shall go, and what I do, do ye in likewise; I
pledge you my faith, ye shall suffer no hurt so long as I can help you
in aught. And if it chance we win somewhat, the damage we do to the foe
will be turned to our praise." Thereupon they all made pledge, and
thereafter drew towards the wood.

Thus they took ambush near the roadside until those others should
return; and Eliduc commanded his men, and showed and devised to them how
they should cry out upon their foes, and how they should spur against
them. So when the outlanders drew near to the pass ... Eliduc cried his
cry, and called to his comrades, and bade them do their best. Rudely
they laid on with their swords, and spared no whit, that their enemies
were all abashed,--speedily were they broken and scattered, and within
short time vanquished. Their constable was taken, and likewise many
another knight, and Eliduc's men gave them into the charge of their
squires. Twenty-five were they of the town, and thirty they captured of
those without; eagerly they seized upon the armour, and good booty had
they therein. So they returned again, and glad were they in that they
had well prospered.

The king was upon a tower, in sore dread because of his men; and much
he complained of Eliduc, who, he feared, had brought his knights into
jeopardy through treason. And now they draw near, riding close ranked
and laden with spoils. Many more were they at the return than at the
outgoing, wherefore the king knew them not, but was full of fear and
misgiving. He bade the gates be closed, and commanded his folk that they
mount the walls to draw their bows and cast down missiles,--but of this
there will be no need. Eliduc had sent before a squire spurring fast,
who now made known the adventure to the king, and told him of Eliduc,
how he had vanquished the besiegers, and how bravely he had borne
himself; he had wounded many and slain many, and had taken captive their
constable and nine-and-twenty more,--never was there such a knight.
Great joy had the king of these tidings; he left the tower and rode out
to meet Eliduc, and thanked him for his well doing. And Eliduc on his
part gave over the prisoners to the king, and divided the armour among
the knights; his own share he dealt out to the prisoners and other folk,
nought kept he for his profit save three of the horses he had heard well
praised.

After the deed whereof I have told you, he was loved and cherished of
the king, who retained him in his service a whole year, and his comrades
likewise. And Eliduc gave his oath to the king, and was made warden of
the land.

Eliduc was wise and courteous, a comely knight, brave and free-handed.
So it fell the king's daughter heard him named, and his valour
recounted; and she sent one of her own chamberlains to him, to pray and
entreat that he come to her for talk and for disport, that they might
learn to know one another,--much she marveled that he had not yet
sought her. Eliduc made answer he would go, gladly would he make her
acquaintance. So he mounted his horse, and taking with him one knight,
goeth forth to speak with the damsel. But when he was about to enter her
bower, he sent the chamberlain before, and lingered somewhat, delaying
until the man returned again.

Then with gentle bearing, frank courtesy, and right noble cheer he
addressed Guilliadun that fair damsel, as one ready of speech, and gave
her his thanks for that it had pleased her to call him to speak with
her. The damsel hath taken him by the hand, and side by side they sat
upon a couch, speaking of many things. The maiden looked at him long, at
face and body and bearing, and to herself she said: "He hath in him no
fault"; greatly she commended him in her heart. And love sent thither
his messenger, who commanded her that she love the knight, and caused
her to sigh and turn pale. Yet she would not speak her thought, lest he
should misprize her.

He tarried there a long space, then asked leave to go away; sorrowfully
she granted it, and he hath departed and returned again to his hostel.
Heavy was he and full of thought, and sore disquieted by reason of the
fair damsel, the daughter of the king his lord, for that she had so
sweetly summoned him, and that she had sighed. Much it misliked him
that he had been so long in the land, and yet had not often seen her;
but when he had so thought, much he repented him, and he called to
remembrance his wife, how he had pledged him to keep good faith with
her, and to live loyally.

Now when the maiden had seen him she would fain have had him for her
lover; none had ever seemed to her so goodly, and if she may she will
bind him fast to her. Thus she lay awake all night long, and neither
rested nor slept. On the morrow she rose early, and went to the window,
and called to the chamberlain, and showed him all her thought. "By my
faith," saith she, "it goes hardly with me, I have fallen into an evil
plight, for I love the new man of arms, Eliduc, the good knight. No rest
had I this night, nor once closed my eyes in sleep. If he will but love
me in very love, and give himself to me, I will do all his desire, and
he shall win great good thereby, for he shall be king of all this land.
But if he will not give himself to me, I must die in great dolour, for
love of his wisdom and courtesy." When she had said what she would, the
chamberlain gave her true counsel,--let none blame him therefor. "Lady,"
saith he, "if you love him, send to him and tell him. And it were well
done to give him a girdle, a ring, or a scarf; if he receive it gladly,
and if he have joy of the sending, you may be sure of his love. There is
no emperor under heaven who would not be rejoiced if you chose to love
him." When she heard his counsel, the damsel made answer: "But how shall
I know by my gift whether he hath desire to love me? I never yet saw
knight who, whether he loved or hated, had to be prayed in like matter,
or would not willingly keep the gift sent him. Much would it mislike me
that he should scorn me. Yet none the less, can one learn somewhat from
a look; so make yourself ready and go." "I am ready now," saith he.
"Take him a ring of gold, and give him my girdle, greet him from me
a thousand times!"

Thereupon the chamberlain set forth, but the damsel was in such a plight
that well nigh had she called him back to her; yet none the less she let
him go, and thus began to lament her: "Woe is me, how is my heart taken
captive by a man from a strange land. I know not even if he be of high
kindred, and belike he will go hence suddenly, and I shall be left
unhappy. Foolishly have I set my heart. Never till yesterday did I speak
with him, and now I would beseech his love. I fear lest he scorn me;
yet if he be courteous, he will show me grace. Now have I set all at
adventure, and if he desire not my love I shall be in an evil plight.
Never in all my life shall I know joy."

Now while she made lament the chamberlain went on in all haste until he
came unto Eliduc. Privately he gave him greetings from the damsel, and
offered him the ring and the girdle. The knight said him thanks; the
golden ring he put on his finger, and the girdle he bound about him.
Nought else said he to the varlet, nor asked him aught, save that he
offered him somewhat of his own treasure, but the youth would take
nothing, and went his way and returned again to his lady. In her chamber
he found her, and gave her the knight's greetings and thanks for her
gift. "Say on," saith she, "and hide nought from me; will he love me in
very love?" "So I believe," he answered; "but the knight is not light
minded, rather I deem him to be wise and courteous, one who knoweth well
how to hold his own counsel. I gave him your greetings and your gifts;
your girdle he bound about him; tightly he girt it around his waist, and
the ring he set on his finger. Nought else said I to him, or he to me."
"And he did not take it for love? If this be so, I am undone." "By my
faith," saith he, "I know not. Yet hear me; if he had not wished you
well, he would have had nought to do with your gifts." "Ye speak folly,"
saith she, "I know right well he doth not hate me, for never have I done
him any ill, save that I love him bitterly, and if he hate me for this,
then is he worthy of death. Never again by you or any other will I ask
him aught till I may have speech with him: I myself will tell him how I
am constrained by love. But I know not if he is to abide here." "Lady,"
the chamberlain maketh answer, "the king hath bound him by oath to a
year's loyal service. Thus you will have time in plenty to make known
your pleasure to him."

When she heard the knight was to stay she rejoiced greatly, right glad
was she of his sojourn. But nought knew she of the trouble he endured
since seeing her; never knew he joy or delight save only as he thought
of her. And for this he deemed himself given over to evil, in that
before he left his own land he had promised his wife to love none save
her only. Now is his heart in sore torment; he would fain keep faith,
yet can he not withhold him from loving the damsel, Guilliadun, who was
so fair to see and hold speech withal, to clip and kiss. Yet hath he
resolved not to seek her love, deeming that dishonour, in that he would
keep faith with his wife, and in that he was in the king's service. In
sore distress was Eliduc. But now he tarries no longer; he mounts his
horse, and calls his comrades to him, and goeth to the castle to speak
with the king. And if he may he will see the damsel likewise; it was for
this chance he went.

The king had risen from meat, and entered into his daughter's chamber;
and now he played at chess with a knight from over sea, and thereby
taught his daughter who sat on the other side of the board. Eliduc came
forward, and the king made him fair semblance, and gave him a place at
his side. "Damsel," he saith to his daughter, "you should in truth know
this knight, and do him great honour, for among five hundred you will
find none better." Now when the maid heard her father's command, she was
right glad; and she riseth and calleth to her the knight, and they sat
together apart from the rest. Both were kindled with love; she dared not
speak to him, and he feared to address her, save to thank her for the
gift she had sent him,--none had he ever had so dear and goodly. She
answered the knight that of this she was right glad, for she had sent
him the ring and the girdle in token she had given herself to him, for
she loved him with such a love that she longed to make him her lord; and
if she might not have him, one thing she knew of a sooth, never would
she have living man,--now let him make known his will. "Lady," said he,
"grateful am I for your love, and great joy have I therein; that I am so
prized by you maketh me dearly glad, and on my side there will be no
withholding. Yet though I remain a year with the king--for I have given
him my word not to depart until his war is ended--thereafter I must go
back into my own land, for I would not longer remain here, if I may have
my leave of you." "Friend, good thanks to you," the damsel maketh
answer. "Before that time you, who are so wise and courteous, will well
devise what to do with me; I love and trust in you beyond all living
creature." Thus they came to good accord, and at that time spoke no
more together.

Eliduc goeth to his hostel glad at heart, in that he hath well prospered.
Often may he have speech with his friend, and great is the love between
them. And thereafter he so bestirred himself in the strife that he
seized and captured him who had made war upon the king, and brought
peace to all the land. Greatly was he honoured for his prowess, wisdom
and largess; and high fortune was his.

Now in time already past, the king of Bretaigne, his liege lord, had
sent three messengers from out his land to seek him, in that he was
beset and beleagered and harried and pillaged; many of his castles were
taken, and all his land laid waste. Right often he repented him that he
had parted with Eliduc; ill counsel had been his when that he looked
askance upon him. But now the traitors who had slandered and accused him
had been banished from the land, and exiled forever; and now he conjured
him by his great need, and summoned and besought him by the faith he
owed as liegeman and by the oath of his vassalage, that he come now to
aid him, for right great was his need.

Eliduc heard the message, and he was full heavy of heart because of the
damsel, for he loved her sorely, and she him so much it might not be
more. But between them was no lightness or folly or wrong doing, and
their love showed itself only in speech and sweet customs and goodly
gifts. Her hope and thought was that he should be wholly hers, and that
she would hold him to her; for she knew nought of his wife. "Alas,"
saith he, "ill have I done; too long have I tarried in this region, and
on an ill day saw I this land. Here have I loved a maiden, Guilliadun
the king's daughter, right sorely, and she me. If I needs must part with
her, one of us will die, or both mayhap. And yet it behooves me to go;
my liege lord hath sent for me by letter, and conjured me by my oath,
and so hath my wife likewise. Now it beseems me to have care. I may
not longer abide here, but must needs depart. Were I to marry my love,
christianity would not suffer it; all paths lead to ill; on all sides
lieth sorrow. God! how she feareth the parting. But I will deal fairly
with her, let whoso will blame me; I will do her will, and act according
to her counsel. The king her father hath fair peace; no man, I think,
will again make war upon him; and so because of my liege lord's need, I
will ask leave of him before the day of the term set for my service, and
I will go to the damsel and make known to her this matter; she shall
tell me her desire herein, and I will fulfil it as well as in me lieth."

The knight tarried no longer, but goeth to ask leave of the king. He
speaketh and telleth all the story, and showed and read him his liege
lord's letter that had summoned him at need. The king heard the summons,
and that the knight would abide there no longer, and he was right
grieved and sorry. He offered him good share of his havings, the third
part of his heritage, and what was left of his treasure. "If you will
but abide here," he saith, "I will do so much for you that you will
thank me all the days of your life." "In God's name," saith the knight,
"in that my liege is so hard pressed, and hath sent to me from afar off,
I must go to him in his need; nor will I in anywise abide here at this
time; but if you again have need of my service, I will gladly return
unto you, and with good force of knights." For this the king gave him
thanks and sweetly granted him leave. And the king further made him free
of all the goods of his household, gold and silver, horses and dogs, and
stuffs of silk goodly and fair; and of all these he took in measure.

Then he said courteously to the king that with his leave he would gladly
go speak with his daughter. "Right willingly," the king made answer,
and sent with him a damsel to open the chamber. So Eliduc goeth to
speak with the maiden, and so soon as she saw him she called him to her,
and gave him greeting a thousand times. He showed her his affair, and
briefly maketh known to her his going; but before he had told her all,
or had asked leave of her, she lost her colour, and swooned for very
sorrow. Now when Eliduc saw her swoon, he began to make lament; many
times he kissed her on the mouth, and weepeth right tenderly; and he
took her and held her in his arms until she recovered her senses. "In
God's name, sweet friend," saith he, "suffer me to speak to you for a
little; you are my life and my death, and in you lies all my comfort,
wherefore now I would take counsel with you because of the faith that
is between us. 'Tis for dire need that I return into my own land and
have asked leave of your father; yet will I do your pleasure herein,
whatsoever may befall me." "Take me with you," saith she, "sith ye will
not remain here; or if you will not have it so, then will I slay myself,
for without you never shall I know joy or gladness." Eliduc answered her
gently, for much he loved her with true love: "Fair one, I am of a truth
pledged by oath to your father's service until the day when our term was
set, and if I take you with me now I shall belie my faith. But truly
I swear and promise you that if you will grant me leave, and appoint
a respite, and name a day when you would have me return to you again,
nothing in the world shall keep me from you if I be a living man and
sound. My life is wholly in your hands." When the damsel heard his great
love, she appointed a term, and named a day when he should come and take
her away with him. Great sorrow they made at parting; they exchanged
rings of gold, and sweetly each kissed the other.

Then Eliduc rode down to the sea. The wind was fair and the passage
short; and when he was come into his own land again, his liege lord
rejoiced and made merry. So did his friends and kinsmen, and other folk
likewise, but more than all others his good wife who was so fair and
wise and valiant. But always he was sad because of the love by which he
was held captive, and never for any thing he saw would he show joy or
gladness; never will he be of good cheer till he see his sweet friend
again. Well he guarded his secret and ever he kept his own counsel.
His wife was grieved at heart and knew not what it might mean, and to
herself made great lament. Often she asked him if he had heard any say
that she had misdone while he was out of the land; willingly would
she clear herself before his people, whensoever it should please him.
"Lady," saith he, "none hath accused you of fault or misdeed. But in
the land where I have been I have given oath and pledge to the king that
I will return to him again, for that he hath right great need of me. If
the king my lord were at peace I should not abide here eight days. Sore
travail must I endure before I can return thither, and never shall I
know joy or gladness until I have so done, for I would not belie my
oath." Thereafter the dame let be.

Eliduc, meantime, was with his lord; much he aided and strengthened
him, and the king acted ever after his counsel and maintained all the
land. But when the term drew near that the damsel had appointed, he set
himself to make peace, and brought all his enemies to accord. Thereafter
he made him ready to set forth, together with such folk as he desired
to take with him,--his two nephews whom he greatly loved, his squire,
and one of his chamberlains, who was in the counsel of those twain and
carried their messages. He had no care for other folk, and these he made
swear and promise to keep his counsel.

He tarried no longer, but took the sea, and speedily won the other
shore, and came into the country where he was so sore desired. Eliduc
was right cunning, and took lodging far from the haven, for that he
desired not to be seen or known or discovered. He made ready his
chamberlain and sent him to his love, and made known to her that he had
come, well had he obeyed her commandment; and he bade her that night,
when all was dark, that she should issue out of the city, together with
the chamberlain, and that he would meet her. The messenger changed his
garments and set forth on foot in all haste; straight to the city he
went where dwelt the king's daughter, and he so sought and contrived
that he entered into her chamber. He gave greeting to the damsel and
told her that her love had come. When she heard the news she was sore
abashed and shaken, full softly she wept for joy, and many a time she
kissed the messenger. He told her how at dusk she was to go with him;
and all day they were together and devised well concerning their going.
At night when it was wholly dusk, the youth issued out of the city and
the damsel with him, and none other save those two only. She was dressed
in stuff of silk but scantly broidered with gold, and all wrapped about
in a short mantle; in great fear was she lest she be seen.

A bow's shot from the gate was a wood enclosed by a goodly paling,
and beside it her friend awaited their coming. Thither the chamberlain
brought her, and the knight lighted down from his horse and kissed her;
great joy was theirs at being together again. Then he set her upon his
horse, and mounted likewise, and took the reins and rode off in all
haste. They came unto the haven of Totness, and entered into the ship
forthright; no other company was there save only Eliduc's followers and
Guilliadun his friend. The wind was fresh and fair and the weather
serene.

But when they were about to come to land, there was a storm upon the
sea, and a head wind arose that drave them far from the haven, and broke
and splintered their masts, and tore all their sails. They called
devotely upon God and Saint Nicolas and Saint Clement, and Our Lady,
Saint Mary, that she beseech aid of her son, that he save them from
destruction and suffer them to come into the haven. Now forward and now
back, so are they driven along the shore; right sore was their peril.
Then one of the shipmen cried aloud: "What can we do? Sir, here within
you have with you her by reason of whom we perish; never shall we reach
land. You are married to a loyal wife, yet besides, you carry with
you this other, against God and the law, against right and faith and
justice. Let us cast her into the sea, then shall we straightway come to
shore." Eliduc heareth what he saith and is well nigh burnt with anger.
"Dog," he saith, "foul traitor, say not so a second time. If I could
leave my love I would make you pay dear." But even then he was holding
her in his arms, and was giving such comfort as he might against the
sickness she had from the sea, and for that she had heard her lord had
a wife other than herself in his own land. She turned all pale and fell
down in a swoon, and so she remained, and neither revived nor breathed
forth even a sigh. And those who helped her friend bear her thence
thought of a truth that she was dead. As for him he made great sorrow;
and sprang to his feet and ran swiftly towards the sailor who had
spoken, and struck him with an oar that he felled him flat, then he
seized him by the leg and cast him over the ship's side that the waves
bore away his body. Then after he had cast him into the sea, he took the
helm, and so guided and directed the boat that he brought her into the
haven and came to land; and when she rode safe, they lowered the bridge
and cast anchor.

But Guilliadun still lay in a swoon and seemed as one dead. Eliduc made
right great sorrow and was full fain of death likewise. He asked of his
companions what counsel they could give him as to where he might carry
the damsel, for he would not part with her, and she should be buried in
holy ground with great honour and high estate, in that she was a king's
daughter, and such was her right. But his comrades were all abashed and
could in no wise counsel him. So Eliduc set himself to think to what
spot he should bear her. His house was so near the sea he might be
there at the hour of meat, and round about his house lay a forest a good
thirty leagues of length. Therewithin dwelt a hermit, and near his cell
he had a chapel; forty years had he dwelt there, and Eliduc had ofttimes
spoken with him. To him, he saith, he will bear the damsel, and bury her
there in the chapel, and he will give of his land enough to found an
abbey, and to establish there a convent of monks and nuns and chanons,
who every day shall pray for her that God grant her sweet mercy. Then he
let bring the horses, and bade all mount, but first he had them all give
oath that they would keep his secret. Thereafter they set out, and he
himself bore his love before him on his palfrey.

They followed the highroad so long that they entered into the forest and
came to the chapel; there they knocked and called, but found none to
answer or open to them, and at last the knight sent one of his men
forward to unbar the door. Eight days before, the holy hermit, that
perfect one, had died, and within they found the new made tomb. Right
sorry was Eliduc and sore troubled; his comrades would fain have made
ready a grave wherein he might lay his friend, but he thrust them back,
saying: "This shall not be until I have taken counsel with the wise
folk of the land how I may sanctify this place with abbey and minster.
Meanwhile, we will lay her before the altar and commend her to God."

So he let bring his cloak, and straightway a couch was made whereon they
laid the damsel, and left her as one dead. But when the knight came to
depart he thought to die of sorrow. He kissed her eyes and face: "Fair
one," saith he, "may it not be God's will that I bear arms henceforth,
or live the life of the world. Fair friend, on an ill day did you set
eyes on me, and on an ill day you followed me, sweet love. Fair one, a
queen you were, and the love with which you loved me was loyal and true.
Right sore is my heart for you, and that day whereon I shall bury you I
will receive the order of monkhood; and each day will I lay my sorrow
upon your tomb." Therewith he departed from the damsel and shut behind
him the door of the chapel.

He sent a messenger to his house, and let his wife know he was coming,
but was weary and spent. When she heard the tidings she was right glad
thereof, and made herself ready against his coming. Right fairly she
received her lord, but little joy had he thereof, for he made no good
cheer, nor said any fair word; and no one dared ask him aught. Two days
he spent in the house in this manner: early in the morning he heard
mass, and then set forth on the highway, and rode to the chapel in the
wood where lay the damsel. He found her ever in the swoon, and ever she
gave forth no sigh, nor revived, nor recovered her wit; yet it seemed to
him a great marvel that she was still so red and white, and save that
she was a little pale had not changed colour. Right bitterly he wept for
her, and prayed for her soul; and when he had made his prayer, he
returned home again.

One morning as they came from mass his wife had him watched by one
of his servants, and she promised the varlet if he rode far, and saw
whither her lord went, she would give him horse and arms. The youth did
her commandment; he entered into the wood, and followed after the knight
in such wise that he should not be seen. Well he watched, and saw how
he entered the chapel, and heard the lament he made there; but before
Eliduc issued forth, he returned again to his lady. All he had heard he
told her: the grief, the noise and the outcry her lord had made in the
chapel hermitage. All her heart was moved thereby, and she saith: "Let
us go straightway, and seek through the chapel. My lord, methinketh,
will ride forth soon, for he goeth to the court today to speak with the
king. The hermit died a while agone, and I know that my lord loved him
well, yet never for him would he make such sorrow." So at that time she
let the matter be.

That same day past noon, Eliduc goeth to hold speech with the king, and
his wife setteth forth with the varlet, who bringeth her to the
hermitage; so she entered into the chapel, and saw the bed of the damsel
who was like unto a fresh rose; she turned back the coverlet, and saw
her slender body, her fair arms and white hands, and her long, smooth,
delicate fingers. Now she knoweth the truth, and why her lord maketh
such sorrow. She calleth to her the varlet, and showed him the wonder:
"See now this woman who is like unto a gem for beauty. She is the love
of my lord, and 't is for her he maketh such lament, and by my faith,
I marvel not thereat, sith so fair a woman hath perished. What for pity
and what for love, I shall never know joy again." Then she began to weep
and make lament for the maiden.

Now as she sat weeping beside the bed, a weasel issued out from under
the altar and ran thither, and in that it had passed over the body, the
varlet struck it with his staff and killed it. He cast it aside, but
before a man might run a league, its mate sped thither and saw the spot
where it lay. The small beast ran about the head of its fellow, and
stirred it gently with its foot, and when it failed to rouse that other,
it seemed to make great sorrow, and issued out of the chapel and sought
among the herbs of the wood. There it seized in its teeth a flower, all
bright red of colour, and sped quickly back, and placed the blossom in
the mouth of its dead mate, in such wise that, lo you, it forthwith came
to life. The lady saw this and cried to the boy: "Stop it, throw your
staff, good youth, let it not escape you." So the varlet threw and
struck it, that it let fall the blossom. The lady riseth and taketh it,
and speedily returneth again, and layeth the flower upon the lips of the
maid who was so fair. And when it had rested there a little space, she
breathed forth a sigh and revived, and thereafter opened her eyes and
spake: "God! how I have slept," saith she.

Now when the dame heard her speak, she gave thanks to God, and asked the
maid who she was; and she made answer: "Lady, I am of Logres, daughter
to a king of that land. Greatly I loved a man of arms, Eliduc, the good
knight. He carried me away with him, but he sinned in that he deceived
me, for that he is married to a wife, yet never told me, nor made any
sign thereof. When I heard speak of his wife I must needs swoon for the
sorrow that I had; and churlishly he hath left me all uncounselled in a
strange land; he hath betrayed me, yet wherefore I know not. Great is
her folly who setteth her trust in a man."

"Fair one," the dame answered her, "there is nought living in all the
world that can give him joy,--this I can tell you of a sooth. He thinketh
you to be dead, and he is so out of all comfort that it is marvel to
see. Each day he cometh to look on you, and deemeth you lifeless beyond
all doubt. I am his wife, and my heart is heavy for him; because of the
grief he showed I wished to know whither he went, and I followed after
him and found you; great joy have I that you are on live. I will take
you with me and give you back to your friend. For my part I will cry him
quit of all, and will take the veil." In this wise the dame comforted
her, and led her away.

The lady made ready her servant and sent for her lord. The boy rideth
until he findeth Eliduc; he greeted him courteously and told him all the
adventure. The knight mounteth a horse, nor stayeth for any squire, and
that same night he reached his own house. When he found his love living,
right sweetly he thanked his wife. Full joyful was Eliduc, never on any
day was he so glad; often he kissed the maid, and she him right sweetly,
and together they made great joy. When his wife saw their countenance,
she bespoke her lord, and asked and besought his leave that she might
depart from him, for that she would fain be a nun and serve God. And
she besought him that he give her part of his land whereon to found an
abbey; and further, she bade him take to wife the maid he so loved; for
it is not meet or seemly that a man maintain two wives, nor will the
law suffer it. Eliduc accorded to her wish, and took leave of her in all
gentleness, saying he would do her will in all things, and would give
her of his land.

In a boscage, not far from the castle and hard by the chapel and the
hermitage, she established her church and let build her houses; wide
lands and goodly possessions her lord joined to these, that she may have
good maintenance there,--well will she have wherewithal to live. And
when all was well brought to an end, the lady let veil her head, and
thirty nuns with her, and there took up her life and her order.

Eliduc wedded his love; with great honour and rich service was the feast
held on the day he married her. Long they lived together, and right
perfect was the love between them. Many deeds of goodness and of alms
they did, until at last they turned them wholly to God. Then near the
castle upon the other side, Eliduc let build a church, and added thereto
the more part of his land, and all his gold and silver; and men of good
religion he placed there to maintain the house and the order. And when
all was made ready he delayed no longer, but he, together with his wife,
surrendered themselves to the service of God omnipotent.

The lady whom he held so dear he placed with his first wife, who
received her like a sister and did her great honour, and furthermore
admonished her to serve God, and instructed her in the rules of the
order. Together they prayed God for sweet mercy for their love, and he
on his part prayed for them. Ofttimes he sent his messengers to know
how it was with them, and what comfort each had. And all three strove to
love God with good faith, and all made a right fair ending, by grace of
God the true and holy.

In olden time, the Bretons of their courtesy made a lay of these three
for remembrance, that of men they be not forgotten.



Melion


[Illustration]

In the days when Arthur reigned, he who conquered lands and dealt out
rich gifts to knights and barons, there was with him a young lord whose
name, I have heard, was Melion. Full brave and courteous was he, and
made himself beloved of all; and he was of right great chivalry and
goodly fellowship.

The king had a full rich following, and throughout all the world he was
famed for courtesy and prowess, and bounty and largess. Now on that day
when all the knights made their vows--and know ye that well they held
to them--this same Melion pledged him to one that thereafter brought
him sore mischance. For he said he would never love any maid, howsoever
noble and fair, who had ever loved any other man, or had been talked
of by any. For a long time matters went on in this wise: those who
had heard the vow spread it abroad in many places, and told it to the
damsels, and all maids who heard it, had great hatred of Melion. And
they who were in the royal chambers and served the queen, and of such
there were above a hundred, held a council concerning the matter, and
swore they would never love him, or hold speech with him. No lady
desired to look on him, or any maid to talk with him.

Now when Melion heard this he was right heavy thereof; no more did he
desire to seek adventure, and no will had he to bear arms. Full heavy he
was and sorrowful, and he lost somewhat of his fame. Now the king had
news of the matter and had great grief thereof, and he called the knight
to him, and spoke with him. "Melion," saith King Arthur, "what hath
befallen thy wisdom and thy worth and thy chivalry? Tell me what aileth
thee and conceal it not. If thou would have land or manor, or any other
thing--so that it be in my realm--it shall be thine according to thy
desire; for gladly would I lighten thy sorrow," so saith the king to
him, "if that I might. Now upon the sea shore I have a castle, in all
the world is not such another; fair it is with wood and river and forest
which are full dear to thee, and this castle will I give thee for thy
cheer; good delight may ye find therein."

So the king gave it to him in fee; and Melion gave him thanks thereof,
and went away to his castle, taking with him an hundred knights. Right
pleasant was that country to him, and so was the forest that he held
full dear; and when he had lived there a year through, he grew greatly
to love the land, for he sought no disport but he found it in the
forest.

Now on a day, Melion and his foresters rode to the chase; with him he
took his huntsmen, who loved him with true love, inasmuch as he was
their liege lord, and all honour was found in him. Soon they came upon
a great stag, and forthright let loose the dogs upon him. Thereafter
it fell that Melion drew rein amid a heath that he might the better
listen for his pack. With him was a squire, and in his leash he held two
greyhounds; and anon, across the heath, the which was green and fair,
he saw come a damsel on a fair palfrey, and right rich was her array.
For she was clothed in scarlet samite, laced full seemly, and about
her neck hung a mantle of ermine, never did queen wear better. Well
fashioned was she of body, and comely of shoulder; her hair was yellow,
her mouth small and shapely, and red as any rose; gray-blue were her
eyes, and clear and laughing; right fair was all her seeming, full
winsome and gracious; and all alone without fellows came she.

Melion rideth to meet her, and courteously he greeted her: "Sweet,
I salute you in the name of the Glorious One, of Jesus the King; tell
me of what house you are, and what bringeth you hither." And the damsel
maketh answer: "Even that will I tell you in all truth: I am of good
parentry and born of noble lineage, and from Ireland have I come to you.
Know ye that I am much your lover. Never have I loved any man save you
only, and never will love any; so great praise have I heard of you that
no other save you alone have I ever desired to love, and never shall I
feel love for any other."

Now when Melion heard that his vows were fulfilled, he clipped her about
the middle, and kissed her thirty times over. Then he called together
his folk, and told them the adventure; and they looked upon the damsel,
and in all the realm was none so fair. So Melion took her to his castle,
and the people rejoiced greatly. He married her with great splendor,
and made great cheer thereof, that for fifteen whole days the tourneys
lasted.

For three years he dearly cherished her, and during those three years
they had two sons, whereof he was right glad and joyful. And on a day he
rode into the forest, taking with him his much loved wife, and a squire
to carry his bow and arrows. He soon came upon a stag, and they pursued
it, but it fled away with lowered head. Thereafter they came into a
heath, and in a thicket the knight saw standing a right great stag;
laughing, he looked down at his wife. "Dame," saith he, "if I would,
I could show you a right great stag. Look ye, he is yonder in that
thicket." "By my faith, Melion," said she, "know ye that if I have not
the flesh of that stag never more will I eat morsel." Therewith she
falleth in a swoon from her palfrey. Melion raised her up, but might
not comfort her, and bitterly she began to weep.

"Dame," saith he, "mercy in God's name. Weep no more, I beg of thee.
Here in my hand I have a ring; see it now on my finger. Two gems it
hath in its setting, one white and one red, never were any seen of like
fashion. Now hear ye a great marvel of them: if ye touch me with the
white, and lay it upon my head when I am stripped naked, I shall become
a great wolf, big of body; and for your love I will take the stag, and
bring you of its flesh. But I pray you, in God's name, that ye await
me here, and keep for me my garments. With you I leave my life and my
death; for I shall have no comfort if I be not touched with the other
gem, for never again shall I become man." Therewith he called his squire
to take off his shoes; the youth stepped forward and unshod him, and
Melion went into the wood and laid aside his garments, and remained
wholly naked, save that he wrapped his cloak about him. Now when his
wife saw him stripped of all his raiment, she touched him with the ring,
and he became a great wolf, big of body. So fell he into sore mischance.

The wolf set off running full swiftly to the place where he saw the stag
lie; forthwith he set himself upon the track,--now great will be the
strife before he hath taken and caught it, and had its flesh. Meantime
the lady saith to the squire: "Now let us leave him to take his fill of
the chase." Therewith she got her to horseback; no whit did she tarry,
but she took with her the squire, and straightway turned her towards
Ireland, her own land. She came to the haven, where she found a ship;
forthwith she addressed her to the sailors, and they carried her to
Dublin, a city upon the seashore, that held of her father, the king of
Ireland. Now hath she all that she asks. And so soon as she came to the
port, she was received with great joy: with this let us leave her, and
speak we again of Melion.

Melion, as he pursued the stag, pressed it wondrous hard, and at length
he drove it into a heath where he soon brought it down. Then he took a
great collop of it, and carried it away in his mouth. Swiftly he returned
again to the place where he had left his wife, but did not find her, for
she had taken her way towards Ireland. Right sorry was he, and knoweth
not what to do when he findeth her not in that spot. But none the less,
though he was a wolf, yet had he the sense and memory of a man. So he
lurked and waited until evening fell; and he saw men loading a ship that
was to set sail that night and go straightway to Ireland. Thither he
went, and waited till it grew quite dark, when he entered into it at
adventure, for he recked little of his life. There he crouched down
under a wattle, and hid and concealed himself. Meantime, the sailors
bestirred themselves, for the wind was fair, and so they set forth
towards Ireland, and each had that he desired. They spread aloft their
sails, and steered by the sky and stars; and the next day, at dawn,
they saw the shore of Ireland. And when they were come into port Melion
tarried no longer, but issued out of his hiding-place, and sprang from
the ship to the sand. The sailors cried out upon him, and threw their
gear at him, and one struck him with a staff, so that well nigh had they
captured him. Glad was he when he escaped them; and he went up into a
mountain, and looked long over the land where he knew his enemies dwelt.
Still had he the collop he had brought from his own domain, but now, in
that his hunger was great, he ate it; sorely had the sea wearied him.

And then he went away into a forest, where he found cows and oxen, and
of these he killed and destroyed many. So began his war, and in this
first onset he slew more than a hundred. The folk that dwelt in the
greenwood saw the damage he wrought to the beasts, and ran flocking into
the city, and told and recounted to the king that there was a wolf in
the forest that wasted all the land, and had slain many of their horned
beasts. And for all this they blamed the king.

So Melion ran through the forests and waste places, and over the
mountains, until he joined company with ten other wolves; and he so
cajoled and blandished them that they followed after him, and did all
his desire. Far and wide they wandered through the land, and sore
mishandled both men and women. So lived they a year long, and wasted all
that region, harrying the land and slaying the folk. Well knew they how
to guard themselves, and by no means could the king entrap them.

One night they had wandered far, and wearied and spent, they lay in a
wood near Dublin, on a little hill by the sea shore. Beyond the wood was
a meadow, and all round about was plain country. There they entered to
rest, but there they will be ensnared and betrayed. They had been seen
of a countryman, who ran forthright to the king: "Lord," saith he, "in
the wood yonder lie the eleven wolves." And when the king heard him he
was right glad, and spoke to his men of the matter.

Now the king called together his men: "Barons," saith he, "hearken to
this: know ye of a sooth this man hath seen all eleven wolves in my
forest." Then round about the wood they let spread the snares with which
they were wont to take the wild boar. And when the snares were spread,
the king went thither without tarrying, and his daughter said she would
come with him to see the chase of the wolves. Straightway they went
into the forest in all quiet and secretness, and surrounded the whole
wood, for they had folk in plenty, who bore axes and staves, and some
their naked swords. Then they cheered on their dogs to the number of
a thousand, and these soon found the wolves. Melion saw that he was
betrayed, well knew he that sore mischance had befallen him. The wolves
were hard pressed by the dogs, and in their flight they came upon the
snares, and all were torn to pieces and slain, save only Melion. He
sprang over the traps, and fled into a great wood; so by his wit he
escaped them. Meantime the folk went back to the town, and the king made
great joy. Greatly he rejoiced that he had ten of the eleven wolves;
well was he revenged on them, in that one only had escaped. But his
daughter said: "That one was the biggest. And yet will he work you woe."

When Melion had stolen away he went up into a mountain; full heavy and
sorrowful was he because of the wolves he had lost. Great travail had
been his, but anon he shall have help. Now at this time Arthur came into
Ireland to make peace, for there was war in the land, and he was fain
to bring the foes into accord, in that it was his desire to subdue the
Romans, and he wished to lead these men with him to battle. The king
came privately, bringing with him no great host; some twenty knights
only had he in his train. Sweet was the weather, and fair the wind, and
the ship was full rich and great; trusty was her helmsman, and full
well was she dight, and plenteously garnished with men and arms. Their
shields were hung along the side,--right well Melion knew them. First
he spied the shield of Gawain, then saw he that of Iwain, and then the
shield of Idel the king; and all this was dear and pleasant to him. Then
saw and knew he the shield of Arthur, and wit ye well, he had great joy
thereof; glad and blithe was he, for he hoped yet to have mercy. So came
they sailing towards the land; but now the wind was contrary to them,
and they might not make the port, whereof they were right sorry. So
turned they towards another haven some two leagues from the city, where,
of old, had been a great castle which was now ruined; and when they were
come thither, darkness fell, and it was night.

So the king is come into port; sore wearied and spent is he, for the
ship had much discomforted him. And he called his seneschal: "Go forth,"
saith he, "and see where I may lie this night." The seneschal turned
back into the ship, and called the chamberlain, saying: "Come forth
with me, and let us make ready the king's lodging." So they issued out
of the ship, and came to the castle; and they had two candles brought
thither, and forthwith had them lighted; and they let bring carpets and
coverlets, and speedily was the chamber well garnished. Then the king
issued forth, and went straight to his lodging, and when he came therein
right glad was he to find it so fair.

Now Melion had not tarried, but straightway went to meet the ship. Near
the moat he halted; right well he knew them all, and well he knoweth
that if he hath not comfort of the king, he shall come to his death in
Ireland. Yet he knoweth not what to do, for he is a wolf, and so hath no
power of speech; yet none the less will he go thither, and set himself
at adventure. When he came to the king's door, right well knew he all
the barons; for nought staid he, but hath passed straight in to the
king, though it be at the hazard of death. At the king's feet he cast
himself down, nor would he rise; whereof, lo you, Arthur hath great
wonder, and he saith: "A marvel see I; this wolf hath come hither to
seek me. Now see ye well that he is of my household, and woe to the man
who shall lay hands on or hurt him."

When supper was made ready and the barons had washed, the king likewise
washed and seated himself. Napkins were spread before them; and the king
called to Idel and made him sit at his side. And Melion lay at the
king's feet,--well knew he all the barons. Oftentimes the king looked
down at him, and anon gave him a piece of bread the which he took and
began to eat. Then greatly the king marvelleth, and saith to King Idel:
"Look now, know ye of a sooth this wolf knoweth our ways." Then the king
gave him a piece of roast meat, and gladly the wolf ate it; whereat
Gawain saith: "Lords, look you, this wolf is out of all nature." And the
barons all say one to another that never saw they so courteous a wolf.
Thereupon the king let wine be set before the wolf in a basin, and so
soon as he seeth it, he drinketh it, and certes, he was full fain of it;
good plenty he drank of that wine, as the king well saw.

Now when they arose from meat and the barons had washed, they issued out
upon the sands. And always the wolf followed after the king, and might
not be kept from him, wheresoever he went. And when the king desired to
go to rest, he commanded that his bed be made ready. So he withdrew him
to sleep, for he was sore wearied; but with him went the wolf, and he
lay at the king's feet, nor might any man dispart them.

Passing glad was the king of Ireland in that Arthur had come to him;
great joy had he thereof. Early at dawn, he rose, and went to the haven
together with his barons. Straight to the haven they came riding, and
each company gave fair welcome to other. Arthur showed the king much
love, and did him much honour. When he saw him come before him, he would
not be proud, but raised him up and kissed him. And anon the horses were
made ready, and without any tarrying they mounted and rode towards the
city.

The king mounteth upon his palfrey, and good convoy he hath of his wolf,
who would not be disparted from him, but kept always at his stirrup.
Passing glad was the king of Ireland because of Arthur, and the company
was rich and mighty. So came they to Dublin, and lighted down from their
horses before the high palace. And when Arthur went up into the donjon
tower, the wolf held him by the lap of his garment; and when King Arthur
was seated, the wolf lay at his feet.

The king hath looked down at his wolf, and hath called him up close
to the dais. Side by side sit the two kings, and right rich is their
following; right well are the barons served, for throughout all the
household great plenty is dealt out. But Melion looketh about him,
and midway down the hall he saw him who had brought thither his wife;
well knew he that she had crossed the sea and was come into Ireland.
Forthwith he seized the youth by the shoulder--no stand can he make
against the wolf--but Melion brought him to the ground amid the hall.
And he would have straightway killed and destroyed him, had it not been
for the king's sergeants, who ran thither in sore disorder; and from out
all the palace they brought rods and staves, and anon they would have
slain the wolf had not Arthur cried out: "By my faith, ill befall whoso
layeth hands on him, for know ye, the wolf is my own."

Then saith Idel, the son of Irien: "Lords, ye misdo herein; the wolf
would not have set upon the youth, and if he had not sore hated him."
"Thou sayest well, Idel," quoth the king; and therewith he left the
dais, and passed down the hall to the wolf, and saith to the youth:
"Thou shalt tell us why he set upon thee, or else thou shalt die."
Melion looked up at the king, and gripped the youth so hard he cried
out, and prayed the king's mercy, and said he would make known the
truth. So now he telleth the king how the lady had brought him thither,
and how she had touched Melion with the ring, and how she had borne it
away with her into Ireland; so hath he spoken and told all, even as it
befell.

Then Arthur bespoke the king: "Now know I well this is sooth, and right
glad am I of my baron; let the ring be given over to me, and likewise
thy daughter who stole it away; evilly hath she betrayed her lord." So
the king went thence, and entered into his daughter's chamber, and with
him went King Idel, and he so coaxed and cajoled her that she gave him
the ring, and he brought it to King Arthur. Now so soon as Melion saw
the ring right well he knew it; and he came to the king, and knelt down
and kissed his two feet. King Arthur would fain have touched him with
the ring, but Gawain would not so have it: "Fair uncle," saith he, "do
not so, but rather lead him into a chamber apart where ye twain may be
alone together, that he have not shame of the folk."

Then the king called to him Gawain, and Idel likewise he took with him:
so led he the wolf into a privy chamber, and when they had come within,
shut the door fast. Then he laid the ring upon the wolf's head, and
all his visage changed, and his face became human. So turned he to man
again, and he spoke, and fell down at the king's feet. They covered him
over with a mantle; and when they saw him very man, they made great joy.
But the king fell a-weeping for pity, and weeping asked him how it fell
that by sin he had lost him. And then he let summon his chamberlain, and
bade him bring rich raiment. Fairly they clothed and arrayed him, and so
led him into the hall; and all they of the household greatly marvelled
when they saw Melion come in amongst them.

Then the king of Ireland led forth his daughter, and gave her over to
Arthur that he might do as he would with her, whether it were to slay or
to burn her. Saith Melion: "I will touch her with the ring, nor will
I forbear." But Arthur said to him: "Do not so, rather let her be, for
the sake of thy fair children." All the barons likewise besought him,
and Melion accorded it.

Now King Arthur abode in Ireland until he had assuaged the war; then he
went again into his own land, and with him took Melion; full glad and
blithe was he thereof. But his wife he left in Ireland, and commanded
her to the devil; never again would he love her for that she had done
him such wrong; never would he take her unto him again, rather would he
have let burn or hang her. And he said: "Whoso believeth his wife in all
things cannot help but come into mischance at the end, for it is not
meet to set your trust in all her sayings."

True is the lay of Melion, so all good barons declare.



The Lay of the Horn


[Illustration]

Once upon a time, King Arthur held a mighty feast at Carlion. Our tale
saith that the king hath sent through all his realm; and from Esparlot
in Bretagne into Alemaigne, from the city of Boillande down even into
Ireland, the king, for fellowship, hath summoned his barons, that they
be at Carlion at Ascension tide. On this day all came, both high and
low; twenty thousand knights sat at the board, and thereto twenty
thousand damoiselles, maidens and dames. It was of great mark that each
man had his mate, for he who had no wife yet sat with a woman, whether
sister or friend: and herein lay great courtesy. But before they may eat
one and all shall be sore angered; for now, lo you, a youth, fair and
pleasing and mounted upon a swift horse, who cometh riding into the
palace.

In his hand he held a horn banded about four times with gold. Of ivory
was that horn, and wrought with inlay wherein amid the gold were set
stones of beryl and sardonyx and rich chalcedony; of elephant's ivory
was it made, and its like for size and beauty and strength was never
seen. Upon it was a ring inlaid with silver, and it had a hundred little
bells of pure gold,--a fairy, wise and skilful, wrought them in the
time of Constantine, and laid such a spell upon the horn as ye shall now
hear: whoever struck it lightly with his finger, the hundred bells rang
out so sweetly that neither harp nor viol, nor mirth of maidens, nor
syren of the sea were so joyous to hear. Rather would a man travel a
league on foot than lose that sound, and whoso hearkeneth thereto
straightway forgetteth all things.

So the messenger came into the palace and looked upon that great and
valiant company of barons. He was clad in a bliaut, and the horn was
hung about his neck, and he took it in his hand and raised it on high,
and struck upon it that all the palace resounded. The bells rang out in
so sweet accord that all the knights left eating. Not a damsel looked
down at her plate; and of the ready varlets who were serving drink, and
bore about cups of maplewood and beakers of fine gold filled with mulled
wine and hippocrass, with drinks spiced and aromatic, not one of these
but stopped where he was, and he who held aught scattered it abroad.
Nor was there any seneschal so strong or so skilful but if he carried
a plate, let it tremble or fall. He who would cut the bread cut his own
hand. All were astounded by the horn and fell into forgetfulness; all
ceased from speech to hearken to it; Arthur the great king grew silent,
and by reason of the horn both king and barons became so still that no
word was spoken.

The messenger goeth straightway to the king, bearing in his hand the
ivory horn; well knew he the ten kings by their rich array; and still
because of the horn's music all were silent about King Arthur. The
comely youth addressed him, greeted him fairly, and laughing, bespoke
him: "King Arthur, may God who dwells above save you and all your
baronage I see here assembled." And Arthur answered him: "May he give
you joy likewise." Saith the messenger: "Lord, now give heed to me for
a little space. The king of Moraine, the brave and courteous, sendeth
you this horn from out his treasure, on such a covenant--hearken to
his desire herein--that you give him neither love nor hate therefor."
"Friend," then saith the king, "courteous is thy lord, and I will take
the horn with its four bands of gold, but will return him neither
love nor hate therefor." So King Arthur took the horn which the varlet
proffered him: and he let fill with wine his cup of pure gold, and then
bespoke the youth: "Take this beaker, sit you down before me, and eat
and drink; and when we have eaten I will make you a knight, and on
the morrow I will give you a hundred _livres_ of pure gold." But
laughing the youth maketh answer: "It is not meet that the squire sit
at table with the knight, rather will I go to the inn and repose me;
and then when I am clothed and equipped and adorned I will come again
to you, and claim my promise." Thereupon the messenger goeth his way;
and forthright he issueth out of the city, for he feareth lest he be
followed.

The king was in his palace, and his barons were gathered about him:
never before was he in so deep a study. He still held the horn by its
ring, never had he seen one so fair; and he showeth it to Gawain and
Iwain and Giflet; the eighty brethren looked at it, and so likewise did
all the barons there gathered. Again the king took the horn, and on
it he saw letters in the gold, enameled with silver, and saith to his
chamberlain: "Take this horn, and show it to my chaplain, that he may
read this writing, for I would know what it saith." The chamberlain
taketh it, and gave it to the chaplain who read the writing. When he
saw it he laughed, and saith to the king: "Sir, give heed, and anon
I will tell you privately such a marvel that its like was never heard in
England or any other realm; but here and now it may not be spoken." None
the less the king will not so suffer it, rather he swore and declared
that the chaplain should speak out before them all, and that his barons
should hear it. "Nor shall a thing so desired be kept from the dames and
demoiselles and gentle maidens here assembled from many a far land," so
saith the king.

One and all rejoiced when they heard from the king that they should know
what the writing said; but many a one made merry who thereafter repented
him, many a one was glad who thereafter was sorry. Now the chaplain, who
was neither fool nor churl, saith: "If I had been heeded what is here
written would not be read out in this place; but since it is your will,
hear it now openly: 'Thus saith to you Mangon of Moraine, the Fair: this
horn was wrought by an evil fay and a spiteful, who laid such a spell
upon it that no man, howsoever wise and valiant, shall drink therefrom
if he be either jealous or deceived, or if he hath a wife who has ever
in folly turned her thoughts towards any man save him only; never will
the horn suffer such a one to drink from it, rather will it spill out
upon him what it may contain; howsoever valiant he be, and howsoever
high, yet will it bespatter him and his garments, though they be worth
a thousand marks. For whoso would drink from this horn must have a wife
who has never thought, whether from disloyalty, or love of power, or
desire of fortune, that she would fain have another, better than her
lord; if his wife be wholly true, then only may he drink from it.' But
I do not believe that any knight from here to Montpelier who hath taken
to him a wife will ever drink any whit therefrom, if it so be that the
writing speaketh truth."

God! then was many a happy dame made sorrowful. Not one was there so
true but she bowed her head; even the queen sat with bent brow, and so
did all the barons around and about who had wives that they doubted. The
maidens talked and jested among themselves, and looked at their lovers,
and smiled courteously, saying: "Now will we see the jealous brought to
the test; now will we learn who is shamed and deceived."

Arthur was in great wrath, but made semblance of gladness, and he
calleth to Kay: "Now fill for me this rich horn, for I would make assay,
and know if I may drink therefrom." And Kay the seneschal straightway
filled it with a spiced wine, and offered it to the emperor. King Arthur
took it and set his lips to it, for he thought to drink, but the wine
poured out upon him, down even to his feet. Then was the king in sore
wrath. "This is the worst," crieth he, and he seized a knife, and would
have struck the queen in the heart below the breast, had not Gawain and
Iwain and Cadain wrung it from him; they three and Giflet between them
took the knife from his hand, and bitterly blamed him. "Lord," then
saith Iwain, "be not so churlish, for there is no woman born who, if she
be brought to the test, hath not sometime thought folly. No marvel is it
that the horn spilled its wine. All here that have wives shall try it,
to know if they can drink from it,--thereafter may ye blame the queen of
the fair face. Ye are of great valiance, and my lady is true; none ever
spoke blame of her." "Iwain," saith the queen, "now may my lord let
kindle a fire of thorns, and cast me into it, and if one hair of my head
burneth, or any of my garments, then may he let me be dragged to death
by horses. No man have I loved, and none will I ever love, save my lord
only. This horn is too veracious, it has attacked me for a small cause.
In years past I gave a ring to a damoiseau, a young boy who had slain
a giant, a hateful felon who here in the court accused Gawain of sore
treason. The boy, Gawain's cousin germain, gave him the lie, and did
battle with him, and cut off his head with his sword: and as soon as the
giant was slain the boy asked leave of us. I granted him my favour, and
gave him a ring, for I hoped to retain him to strengthen the court, but
even had he remained here, he had never been loved by me. Certes," saith
the queen, "since I was a maid and was given to thee--blessed was that
hour--no other evil have I done on any day of my life. On all the earth
is no man so mighty--no, not though he were king of Rome--that I would
love him, even for all the gold of Pavia, no, nor any count or amiral.
Great shame hath he done me who sent this horn; never did he love lady.
And until I be revenged, I shall never know gladness."

Then said Arthur, "Speak no more of this. Were any mighty neighbor, or
cousin or kinsman, to make war upon Mangon, never more would my heart
love him; for I made the king a covenant before all my folk, and by all
that is true, that I would hate him no hate for his gift. It is not meet
to gainsay my word,--that were great villany; I like not the king who
swiftly belies himself." "Lord," saith the queen, "blessed was I when
as a maiden I was given to you. When a lady of high parentry who hath a
good lord seeketh another friend, she doth great wrong. He who seeketh
a better wine than that of the grape, or better bread than that of
the wheat, such a one should be hung and his ashes given to the winds.
I have the best one of the three who were ever king under God, why then
should I go seeking a fairer or a braver? I promise you, lord, that
wrongfully are you angry with me. Never should a noble knight be offered
this horn to the shaming of his lady." But the king saith, "Let them do
it. All shall try it, kings and counts and dukes; I alone will not have
shame herein."

So Arthur giveth it to the king of Sinadone, but so soon as he took it,
the wine spilled out upon him; then King Nuz taketh it, and it spilled
out upon him; and Angus of Scotland would fain drink from it by force,
but the wine all poured out upon him, at which he was sore angered. The
king of Cornwall thought certes to drink from it, but it splashed all
over him that he was in great wrath; and the horn splashed over King
Gahor, and spilled great plenty upon King Glovien, and it spilled out
upon King Cadain as soon as he took it in his hands. Then King Lot
taketh it, and looketh on himself as a fool; and it splashed the beard
of Caraton; and of the two kings of Ireland there was not one it did not
bespatter; and it splashed all the thirty counts, who had great shame
thereof; nor of all the barons present who tried the horn was there one
who might take a drop therefrom. It poured out over each king, and each
was in great wrath; they passed it on and were in great sorrow by reason
of it; and they all said, may the horn, and he who brought it and he who
sent it, be given over to the devils, for whoso believeth this horn
shameth his wife.

Now when King Arthur saw it spilled out upon all, he forgot his sorrow
and wrath, and began to laugh and made great joy. "Lords," he saith to
his barons, "now hear me. I am not the only one bemocked. He who sent
me this horn gave me a good gift: by the faith I owe all those here
gathered, I will never part with it for all the gold of Pavia; no man
shall have it save he who shall drink from it." The queen grew bright
red because of the marvel whereof she dared not speak; fairer than the
rose was she. The king looked on her and found her most fair; he drew
her to him and three times he kissed her: "Gladly, dame, I forget my
ill will." "Lord, gramercy," saith she.

Then all, high and low, tried the ivory horn. A knight took it and
laughed across at his wife; he was the most joyous of all the court,
and the most courteous; none boasted less, yet when he was armed none
was more feared; for in Arthur's court there was no better warrior, none
mightier of his hands, save only my lord Gawain. Fair was his hair, his
beard russet, his eyes gray-blue and laughing, his body comely, his feet
straight and well arched; Caradoc was his name, a well skilled knight,
and of full good renown. His wife sat at his left; she was sister to
King Galahal and was born at Cirencester. Full true was she, and thereto
comely and gracious, featly fashioned and like unto a fay; her hair was
long and golden; fairer woman was there none, save the queen only. She
looked upon Caradoc, nor changed colour, but bespoke him, saying: "Fair
friend, fear not to drink from the horn at this high feast; lift up your
head and do me honour. I would not take any man for lord however mighty;
no, though he were amiral, I would not have him for my husband and leave
you, friend; rather would I become a nun and wear the veil. For every
woman should be as the turtle dove, who after she has had one mate will
never take another: thus should a lady do if she be of good lineage."

Full glad was Caradoc, and he sprang to his feet; fair he was, a well
skilled and a courteous knight. When they had filled the horn it held
a _lot_ and a half; full to the brim it was of red wine; "Wassail," he
saith to the king. He was tall and strong, and he set the horn to his
lips, and I tell you truly that he tasted the wine and drank it all
down. Right glad was he thereof, but all the table started in wonder.
Straightway he goeth before Arthur, and as he goeth he saith to him, nor
did he speak low-voiced: "Lord, I have emptied the horn, be ye certain
thereof." "Caradoc," saith the king, "brave and courteous are you; of
a sooth ye have drunk it, as was seen of more than a hundred. Keep you
Cirencester; two years is it since I gave it in charge to you, and never
will I take it from you, I give it to you for life and to your children;
and for your wife--who is of great worth--I will give you this horn
which is prized at a hundred pounds of gold." "Lord, I give you good
thanks," Caradoc made answer, and sat down again at the board beside his
wife of the fair face. Now when they had eaten, each man took leave and
went back to his own domain whence he had come, taking with him the
woman he best loved.

Lords, this lay was first sung by Caradoc, who wrought its adventure.
And whoso goeth to a high feast at Cirencester, will, of a sooth,
see there the horn: so say I, Robert Biquet, who have learned much
concerning the matter from an abbot, and do now, by his bidding, tell
the tale,--how in this wise the horn was tested at Carlion.



Fabliaux



The Divided Blanket


[Illustration]

In goodly words and speech, it behooves every man, as best he may, to
show and relate and tell clearly in the common tongue the adventures
that befall in this world. For as a man goeth to and fro he heareth
many a thing told that is good to tell again; and those who know and
may venture the emprise, should give to it all care and heed and study,
even as did those who came before us, the good masters of old time; for
they who would live hereafter must be no wise idle. But in these present
days, which are evil, men grow slothful, wherefore now the gentle
minstrels will venture little; for know ye of a sooth it is no light
thing to tell a goodly tale.

Now will I show you an adventure that befell some seventeen years agone,
or twenty mayhap. A rich man of Abbeville, well garnished with goods and
gold, departed out of his town, both he and his wife and his son, because
he had come into dispute with folk that were greater and stronger than
he, and much he feared and dreaded to abide among his enemies. So from
Abbeville he came unto Paris. There he lived peacefully, and did homage
to the king and became his liegeman and burgess. Now inasmuch as the
good man was discreet and courteous, and his dame of good disport, and
the lad showed himself no wise foolish or discourteous or ill-taught,
the neighbors in the street wherein they came to dwell were full glad
of them, and often visited them and did them much honour. So many a one
with no great endeavour on his part may make himself well loved, and by
mere fair and pleasant speech win much praise of all; for whoso speaketh
fair, getteth a fair answer, and whoso speaketh ill or doth ill, must
perforce win evil for himself again; even so is it ofttimes seen and
known, and the proverb saith, "Ye shall know the master by his works."

So for seven years and more the good man lived at Paris, and bought and
sold such goods as came in his way; and he so bartered here and there
that always he saved what he had, and added somewhat more thereto. So he
traded prosperously and lived plenteously until he lost his companion,
whenas God wrought his will in the wife who had been his fellow for
thirty years. No other child had they save the youth of whom I have told
you, who now at his father's side was all woful and discomforted; often
he swooned for grief and wept, and sorely he lamented the mother who had
reared him full softly. But his father comforted him, saying: "Fair son,
now thy mother is dead, let us pray God that he grant her pardon. Wipe
thine eyes and dry thy face for nought will tears avail thee; know of
a sooth we must needs all die, all must pass by the same road; none can
thwart death, and from death there is no return. Yet is there comfort
for thee, fair son, for thou art growing a comely youth, and art near
of an age to marry; whereas I am waxing old. If I can compass for thee
a union with persons of high estate, I will part with good share of my
havings; for thy friends are afar off and no wise speedily couldst thou
come by them at need, none hast thou in this land and if thou dost not
win them by thine own might. Now if I may but find a dame well born and
rich in kindred and friends, who hath brethren and uncles and aunts and
cousins germain, of good lineage and of good estate, I would help thee
to win that which would profit thee, nor would I forbear on the score
of my moneys."

Now, lordings, the story telleth us there were in that same land three
knights who were brethren. On both father's side and mother's side they
came of high parentage, and they were of much worship and honour in
arms, but all their inheritance had been put in pawn, lands and forests
and holdings, that they might follow tourneys; three thousand pounds at
usury had they borrowed on their inheritance, whereby they were sore
tormented. Now the eldest had a daughter born of his wife who was no
longer living, and from her mother the damsel held a goodly house in
Paris, face to face with the dwelling of the burgess of whom I have told
you. This house did not pertain to the father, and the friends of the
mother took good heed that he put it not in pawn, inasmuch as the rent
thereof was reckoned at forty pounds of Paris, nor had he ever been at
any pain or trouble for the ingathering of this sum.

Now because this damsel, by reason of her kin, had friends and power,
the good man sought her in marriage of her father and friends. The
knights questioned him of his goods and havings, how great they might
be, and readily he answered them: "What in chatel and what in moneys I
have of pounds one thousand and five hundred; I were but a liar and if
I boasted me of more, and at the most I would add thereto one hundred
pounds of Paris; honourably have I come by my fortune, and the half
thereof am I ready to give over to my son." But the knights made answer:
"This we may not agree to, fair sir; for if you were to become a templar
or a white monk or a black monk, anon you would leave all your havings
to the temple or the monastery; wherefore no such covenant will we make
with you; no, sir, no, in faith, fair sir." "What other covenant then,
tell me now I pray you." "Right gladly, fair, dear sir," quoth they.
"Whatsoever ye can render, we would that you should give your son
outright, that you should make over all to him, and that he should be
so invested therein that neither you, nor any other, may in any manner
dispute it with him. And if ye will agree to this, the marriage shall be
made, but other wise we would not that your son should have our daughter
and niece." The good man bethought him for a space, and looked at his
son; still he pondered, but little good did his thought bring him, for
soon he answered them, saying: "Sirs, whatsoever ye demand even that
will I fulfil, but it shall be on this covenant: let my son take your
daughter to wife, and I will give to him all that is mine, and since
ye will so have it that I withhold nothing, let him receive all and
take it for his own, for with it I endow and invest him." So the good
man stripped himself bare, and before all the folk there gathered,
disinvested and disinherited himself of all that he had in the world;
so was he left bare as a peeled wand, for, and if his son did not give
it him, he had neither chatel nor denier with which to buy his bread.
All he gave him and declared him free of all; and when the word was
spoken, the knight straightway took his daughter by the hand and gave
her to the young man, who forthwith espoused her.

So for two years thereafter they lived content and at peace as husband
and wife, at which time, meseemeth, the lady bore a fair son to the
young master; heedfully was he reared and cherished, and the lady
likewise was dearly cared for, and often went to the bath and enjoyed
much ease. And still the good man abode with them, but he had done
himself a mortal hurt when he stripped himself bare of all that he had
to live at another's mercy. Yet for twelve years and over he dwelt in
that house, until such time as the child was well grown and of wit to
see what passed about him. Often he heard told what his grandfather had
done for his father who thereby had espoused the dame his wife, and ever
the child kept it in his memory.

Meantime the good man had waxed in years, and age had so weakened him
that now he must needs support himself with a staff; and right liefly
would his son have bought his winding sheet, for it seemed to him
the old man had tarried over late above ground, and his long life was
grievous to him. And the wife, who was full of pride and disdain, could
not let be, but held the good man always in despite, and bore him such
malice that she could not withhold her from saying to her lord: "Sir,
for love's sake I pray you send hence your father, for by the faith
I owe my mother's soul, so long as I know him to be in this house, no
morsel shall pass my lips, for full fain am I that ye drive him hence."
"Dame," said he in answer, "even so will I do."

So, for that he feared and doubted his wife, he went to his father and
said to him forthright: "Father, father, now get thee gone, for I tell
thee here is nought to make or mend with thee or with thy lodging;
for these twelve years and over hath meat been given thee here in
this hostel, but now rise up and that speedily; go seek other lodging,
wheresoever else ye may find it, for so it must needs be." At these
words the father wept full sorely, and often he cursed the day and the
hour in that he had lived so long in the world. "Ah, fair, sweet son,
what sayest thou? For God's sake do me so much honour that ye suffer me
to abide within thy gates; no great place do I need for my bed, nor will
I crave of thee fire or carpet or rich coverlet, but let there be spread
for me a few handfuls of straw beneath the pent-house without there.
Never cast me out from thy house for reason that I eat of thy bread;
that my bed be made without yonder irketh me not, if ye do but grant
me my victual, but nowise should ye deny me wherewithal to live; and
soothly, if thou shouldst wear the hair, thou shalt not so well expiate
thy sins as if thou dost some comfort to me." "Fair father," quoth the
young man, "sermon me no sermons, but make haste and get thee gone, lest
my wife goeth out of her wit." "Where would ye that I should turn, fair
son, I that have not so much as a farthing in the world?" "Go ye out
into the city wherein there are a good ten thousand that seek and find
whereby to live; each one there abideth his adventure; great mischance
it were and if you likewise did not find sustenance; and many a one that
hath acquaintance with you will lend you hostel." "Lend me, son? Will
chance folk so do, when thou thyself deniest me thine house? Since thou
wilt give me no comfort, how should those that are nought to me grant me
anything ungrudgingly, when thou that art my son, failest me?" "Father,"
quoth he, "no more can I do herein, and I take upon me all the burden;
know ye that this is my will."

Thereat was his father so in dole that his heart was near to bursting,
and weak as he was, he riseth and goeth out of the house, weeping.
"Son," said he, "I commend thee to God. But since ye are fain of my
going, in God's name, give me a fragment of a strip of thy coverlet--no
very precious thing is that--for in truth I am so scantly clad I may not
endure the cold, and it is from this I most suffer; wherefore I ask of
thee wherewith to cover me withal." But his son, who ever shrank from
giving, made answer: "Father, I have none; this is not the season of
gifts, and none shall ye get at this time, and if I am not robbed and
pillaged." "But fair, sweet son, all my body is a-tremble and greatly do
I doubt the cold; do but give me such a covering as thou usest for thy
horse, that the frost may do me no hurt." And the young man who was fain
of his departure, saw that he could not be quit of him and if he did not
grant him somewhat; so, for that he desired to be rid of him, he bade
his son give the old man what he asked.

The child sprang up when he was called, "And what is your will, sir?"
asked he. "Fair son," quoth the young master, "I would that if ye find
the stable door open, ye give my father the blanket that is upon my
black horse; give him the best, and if it be his will, he may make of it
a covering or cloak or capuchon." "Fair grandfather, now come with me,"
said the child who was ready of wit. So the good man all in anger and
sorrow departed with him. The child found the covering, and he took the
newest and the best, the biggest and the widest, and folded it adown
the middle, and as fair and even as he might, cut it atwain with his
knife, and gave the half thereof to his grandfather. "Fair boy," quoth
the old man, "what would ye? Thy father hath given the cloak to me,
wherefore then hast thou cut it atwain? Herein hast thou done a great
wrong, for thy father had commanded that I should have it whole and
undivided, so now will I go my ways back to him again." "Go wheresoever
it pleaseth you, for no more shall you get of me," saith the boy.

So the good man issued out of the stable. "Son," quoth he, "all thy
sayings and doings are as nought. Why dost thou not chastise thy son
that he may hold thee in fear and dread? See ye not, he hath kept
back one half of the blanket?" "Foul fall thee, boy," saith the young
master, "now give him the whole thereof." "Certes, that will I not,"
quoth the child, "for then how would you be paid? This half will I lay
by for you, and no more shall ye get from me. And when I come to the
mastery here, I will turn you out, even as you now turn him. And as he
gave you all he had, so I would fain have all, and you shall take from
me only just so much as you now give him. And if it so be that ye let
him die in want, even so will I let you, and if I live." The young man
heareth him, and deeply he sigheth, and bethinketh and questioneth
himself; great heed he gave to the words of the child. Then he turneth
his eyes to his father, and saith: "Father, come hither again; it was
sin and the devil that laid an ambush for me, but please God, this shall
not be; rather I will make you from this day forth lord and master in my
house. And if my wife will not keep peace, and if she will not suffer
you, ye shall be served elsewhere. Hereafter, pillow and rich coverlet
shall be given you for your ease, and I pledge you by Saint Martin, that
I will never drink wine nor eat a rich morsel, but you shall have a
better; and you shall dwell in a cieled chamber, and keep a good fire in
the chimney place; and garments shall ye have, like unto mine. For ye
dealt fairly by me, sweet father, and if I am now rich and puissant, it
is by reason of thy silver."

This tale showeth clear and beareth witness how the child turned his
father from his ill intent. And moreover all they who have marriageable
children should give heed to it. Do not after the manner of the good
man, and when you are foremost, yield not up your place; give not so
much to your son but that ye may recover somewhat again; set not your
trust in him, for children are without pity, and speedily they weary of
the father that waxeth helpless; and whoso falleth into the power of
another in this world liveth in great torment. And he who liveth at the
mercy of another, and looketh to another for his very sustenance, should
be to you as a warning.

Bernier told this ensample that teacheth so goodly matter, and of it he
made what he might.



Of the Churl who won Paradise


[Illustration]

We find in writing a wondrous adventure that of old befell a churl. He
died of a Friday morning, and it so chanced, neither angel nor devil came
thither, and at the hour of his death when the soul departed out of his
body, he found none to ask aught of him or to lay any command upon him.
Know ye that full glad was that soul for he was sore afraid. And now as
he looked to the right towards Heaven, he saw Saint Michael the
Archangel who was bearing a soul in great joy; forthright he set out
after the angel, and followed him so long, meseemeth, that he came into
Paradise.

Saint Peter who kept the gate, received the soul borne by the angel,
and after he had so done, turned back towards the entrance. There he
found the soul all alone, and asked him who had brought him thither:
"For herein none hath lodging and if he have it not by judgment.
Moreover, by Saint Alain, we have little love for churls, for into this
place the vile may not enter." "Yet greater churl than you yourself is
there none, fair Sir Peter," saith the soul, "for you were ever harder
than a stone; and by the holy Paternoster God did folly when he made you
his apostle, little honour shall be his thereby, in that three times you
denied your Lord. Full little was your faith when thrice you denied him,
and though you be of his fellowship, Paradise is not for you. Go forth,
and that straightway, ye disloyal soul, but I am true and of good faith,
and bliss is rightfully mine."

Strangely shamed was Saint Peter; quickly he turned away, and as he
went, he met Saint Thomas, to whom he told all his misadventure word
for word, and all his wrath and bitterness. Then saith Saint Thomas:
"I myself will go to this churl; here he shall not abide, and it please
God." So he goeth into the square to the countryman. "Churl," quoth the
apostle, "this dwelling belongeth of right to us and to the martyrs and
confessors; wherein have you done such righteousness that you think
to abide in it? Here you cannot stay, for this is the hostel of the
true-hearted." "Thomas, Thomas, like unto a man of law ye are over quick
to make answer; yet are not you he who, as is well known, spake with the
apostles when they had seen the Lord after his resurrection? Then you
made oath that never would you believe it and if you felt not his wounds
with your hands; false and unbelieving were ye." Then Saint Thomas hung
his head, and yielded him in the dispute; and thereafter he went to
Saint Paul and told him of his discomfiture. "By my head," quoth Saint
Paul, "I will go thither, and try if he will argue."

Meantime, the soul who feareth not destruction taketh his delight down
in Paradise. "Soul," quoth Saint Paul, "who brought thee hither, and
wherein have you done such righteousness that the gate should be opened
to you? Get you gone out of Paradise, you false churl." "How is this,
Don Paul of the bald pate, are you now so wrathful who erst was so fell
a tyrant? Never will there be another so cruel; Saint Stephen paid dear
for it when you had him stoned to death. Well know I the story of your
life; through you many a brave man died, but in the end God gave you a
good big blow. Have we not had to pay for the bargain and the buffet?
Ha, what a divine and what a saint! Do ye think that I know you not?"
Then had Saint Paul great sorrow.

Swiftly he went thence, and met Saint Thomas who was taking counsel
with Saint Peter, and privately he told him of the churl who had so
vanquished him: "Rightfully hath he won Paradise of me, and I grant it
to him." Then all three went to bring complaint to God. Fairly Saint
Peter told him of the churl who had spoken shame of them: "By his tongue
hath he silenced, us, and I myself was so abashed that never again will
I speak thereof." Then spoke Our Lord: "I will go thither, for I myself
would hear this new thing."

He cometh to the soul and bespeaketh him, and asked how it chanced that
he had come there without leave: "For herein without consent hath no
soul, whether of man or woman, ever entered. My apostles you have
slandered and scorned and outraged, yet none the less you think to abide
here!" "Lord," saith the churl, "if judgment be accorded me, my right to
dwell here is as good as theirs: for never did I deny you, or doubt you,
nor did any man ever come to his death through me, but all these things
have they done, and yet are now in Paradise. While I lived on earth my
life was just and upright; I gave of my bread to the poor, I harboured
them morning and evening, I warmed them at my fire, and saw that they
lacked not for shirt or hose; I kept them even till death, and bore them
to holy church: and now I know not if I did wisely. Furthermore, I made
true confession, and received your body with due rites; and we are told
that to the man who so dies God forgiveth his sins. Well know you if I
speak the truth. I entered in and was not denied, and now I am here, why
go hence? Were it so, you would gainsay your word, for surely you have
declared that whoso entereth here goeth not out again; and you would
never lie because of me." "Churl," saith the Lord, "I grant it. You have
made good your case against Paradise, and have won it by debate. You
were brought up in a good school; ready of tongue are you, and know
right well how to turn a tale."

The countryman saith in proverb that many a man who hath sought wrong
hath won it by argument; wit hath falsified justice, and falsity hath
conquered nature; wrong goeth before and right falleth behind. Wit is
mightier than force.



The Gray Palfrey


[Illustration]

This tale is set in writing to portray and call to remembrance the
worth, gentleness and honour that can be drawn from women; for well
should we hold in mind the virtues that may be seen in them. Right sorry
am I, and much it irketh me that they are not exalted and praised of all
men to the height of their deserts. God! if but their hearts were sound
and steadfast, strong and true, there were in all the world no treasure
like unto them. It is great loss and great pity that they take not more
heed to themselves; at the lightest breath a woman will change and shift
and vary; her heart seemeth a very weather cock, for oft it chances that
in a little space her spirit changeth more quickly than the storm wind.

Now in that I have been commanded to that I have set my hand, I will not
leave it for dread of faithless cowards who envy those whose hearts are
brave and valiant, nor fail to run my race out, to make me known and win
me fame. In the lay of the Gray Palfrey, hear now the wisdom of Huon
Leroy wisely come down to you; and inasmuch as he knoweth how to listen
to reason, he would fain display his sayings,--right well he turns them,
methinketh.

Now know ye that a valiant knight, courteous and right chivalrous, high
of heart but poor in havings, dwelt in the land of Champagne. Full meet
it is I portray his worth and the valour wherewith he was kindled; in
many a place he proved his prowess, for he had wisdom and honour and
a heart of great valiancy. Had he but been as rich in gear as he was
in desire for good--provided always he did not worsen by reason of his
wealth--he would have known no peer, equal or fellow. And now I make
me ready for the story, for meet it is the deeds of a man of prowess
be told from end to end, that we may take therefrom a fair and goodly
example. Now this knight was praised of all folk.

Wheresoever he went his valour was confessed, for those who knew him
not yet loved the fame of him by reason of the good that sprang from
him. When he had helm on head and rode into the tourney, no thought
had he for the wooing of ladies, nor did he linger on the outskirts.
There where the press was greatest he smote right hardily. Armed and
ahorseback he was full fair to see; ever he went gaily clad, even in
midwinter; and of some he was blamed for his gaiety of heart. Little
wealth of land he had; at the most it yielded him no more than two
hundred pounds a year; but ever he rode far and wide in search of
honour.

In those days in Champagne the woodland was wilder than it is today and
likewise the open. Now it came to pass this knight fell to dreaming
of a love fair and valiant,--a damsel, to wit, daughter to one of the
foremost men of that land, one no wise wanting in riches, rather was he
well supplied with goods and gear, and dwelt within strong walls. A full
thousand pounds each year his land brought him; and often men came to
him to seek his daughter in marriage, in that all folk were won by her
great beauty. No other children he had, nor any wife living, and his
time was almost spent. His dwelling stood in a wood, and all round about
it the forest was great and thick.

Now the young knight of whom I told you made bold to seek the damsel,
but her father gainsaid him, no desire had he that the youth should
love her, or win him honor by means of her. The young knight's name was
Messire Guillaume of a sooth, and he abode in that same forest wherein
the old vavasour had his stronghold, with its riches and its wide lands.
The one manor was two leagues distant from the other; but on both sides
love could not fail to spring up, and on nought else was their thought
set save its maintenance. And when the knight wished to go to her he
loved, he made a path through the deep forest that was great and thick
thereabouts, a way traversed by no living man save him only. By it he
rode secretly to the damsel many a time, he and his palfrey, all still
and quietly. Sore vexed was he that he could not speak to her face
to face, but the court was right strongly enclosed, and high was the
barrier; the damsel dared not issue out, but her comfort was that she
spoke to him many a time through the timbers of the wall. Without, the
fosse was wide, and the hedge thick and strong, so they could not come
close to one another. The house stood upon a rock, and was full strongly
enclosed. At the entrance was a drawbridge; moreover, the old knight who
was in all ways crafty, and who had well nigh run out his time, seldom
stirred out of the house, for he could no longer ride abroad, but sat at
home in peace. He had his daughter well watched; and for his delight he
made her sit with him, which ofttimes irked her in that thereby she lost
that joy to which her heart was rooted. But the young knight who was
wise and valiant did not forget the way to her; he asketh only to see
her.

Inasmuch as he saw that matters could not be otherwise, ofttimes he
returned to her dwelling, but never could he enter in, and never could
he see her, who was so close a prisoner, as nigh at hand as his heart
desired. Oft he came to see her, yet never could he look upon her, for
she could not so stand that he could see her face all clearly. And the
heart of each was sore stricken.

The knight, whom it beseemed to love the maid who was of such marvellous
worth her like was not known, had--so the tale telleth us--a palfrey
of great price; a _vair_ it was, of wondrous colour, that no man might
conceive of any colour, or the semblance of any flower so perfect in its
beauty; know ye that in no kingdom was there its like in those days for
goodliness, and none that went so soft an amble. The knight loved it
much, and certes, he would not part with it for any treasure; long had
the folk of that land seen it in his possession. Now ofttimes on this
palfrey he rode to seek the damsel through the fair and solitary forest
where he had worn a path, known to none save to him and to the palfrey.
Little noise he made as he rode to seek his love; right great care must
he take that he be not seen of her father, for full bitter was her life
to her.

Thus then they spent their days, each longing for the other, for they
could never comfort themselves with kiss or embrace, and I tell you of a
sooth that if ever the lips of the one might have touched those of the
other, right sweet had it seemed to the fellowship of those twain. Full
fierce was the fire they could in no wise quench, for if they might have
drawn each other close, and kissed and embraced full sweetly as they had
great will and desire to do, then could no man have wrought them annoy,
but their joy had been perfect. Now right great was their pain in that
they might in no wise touch or solace one another.

Little joy could they have in one another save that of speech and
hearing, and rarely they saw one another, for too cruel was the interdict
between these two lovers. She was in fear of her father, for were he to
know of the intercourse between those twain, he would more quickly give
her in marriage elsewhere; and the knight on his part desired to do
nought that might undo the love that was between them, and would not
risk a quarrel, for much he feared that old man who was rich out of all
measure.

Now the knight bethought himself, and day after day pondered the life he
led, for ever he held it in mind. And at length the thought came to his
heart that let it be for good or for ill, he would go speak to the old
vavasour, and ask him for his daughter to wife, let what so will come
of it, for he knoweth not what his present life will bring to him. Every
day of the week he is denied that which he coveteth, for over narrow is
the path.

So one day he made him ready and went to hold speech with the old man in
his own house, there where his daughter was. Right well was he received,
for full well was he known to the old man and to his household. And the
knight who was brave and courteous, and ready of speech like a man of
worth in whom naught lacketh, spoke, saying: "Sir, I am come hither, and
of your grace I pray you hearken to my words. I have come into your
house to ask a boon, may God let you grant it me." The old man looked
upon him, and thereafter asked: "What may it be? By my faith, I will help
you herein, if I may, saving my honour." "Yea, sir, this much I know of
your matters that right well ye may do it; now may God grant you concede
it." "I will if it liketh me, but if it liketh me not, right well shall
I know how to give denial; and if it is not my will to vouchsafe it,
I will not deceive you by either token or promise." "Sir," he saith,
"I will tell you now the gift I would ask of you. You know somewhat of
my estate; well knew ye my father, my house and dwelling, and right
well know ye the time and manner wherein I take my delight; and now in
guerdon of this, sir, I would ask of you your daughter, if it be your
will. Now may God grant that no thought so trouble your heart that by
reason of the presumption of my request ye refuse me this gift. And
I would that you know I was never of her acquaintance; right glad and
joyous had I been if I might have spoken with her, and seen for myself
the goodliness for which she is famed. Greatly is she beloved in this
land by reason of her virtues; meseemeth she hath not her like in all
the world. So tell me all those who know her, though but to few is she
known, in that she lives imprisoned herewithin. An overbold thought was
mine when I dared ask her of you, but if I have your consent, and ye
deign to give me the gift of her by way of service and guerdon, right
glad and joyful shall I be thereof. Now have I made my prayer and do
you answer me at your pleasure."

Then forthright and without staying for any counsel the old man saith
to him: "Right well do I understand all ye have said, for all is plain
therein. My daughter is young and fair and wise and a damsel of high
lineage; and I am a rich vavasour, sprung of a noble house, and my land
yieldeth a good thousand pounds each year. Now I am not so out of my
wit that I would give my daughter to a knight who lives by what he may
chance to win; for I have no other children save her only, nor has she
failed my love, and after my time all will be hers, wherefore I desire
to marry her well. I know of no prince in this kingdom, nor from here
even to Lorraine, who howsoever wise and valiant he may be would not
do well in having her to wife. Awhile agone, scarce a month since, one
asked her of me in marriage whose land yieldeth a good five hundred
pounds a year, which would now be made over to me, if I would give
assent to his offer. But my daughter can well wait a little, for I am so
rich in goods and gear that she will not lose her price or her value in
marriage. The man of highest lineage in all this land or from here to
Alemaigne, save only king or count, may well be hers."

Now when the knight heard this he was sorely abashed, nor did he make
any tarrying but took leave and went away. But he knew not what to do in
that he was so swayed and constrained by love, wherefore he made bitter
lament.

When the damsel knew of the dismissal, and what her father had said,
she was full sorrowful, for she was not light of love but had given her
heart wholly to the knight, more so than words can tell. Before he who
was wrathful with grief returned home again, they held speech together
without the wall, and both spoke their thought. The knight told her all
he had said to her father and of their falling out. "O lady, frank and
free," saith the knight, "now what shall I do? Meseemeth I must leave
this land and ride at errantry, for all I desired is vanished. You I may
not win, and I know not what will become of me. On an ill day I came to
know the great riches whereon your father so prides himself; liefer
would I have you poorer, for had your father not been so rich he would
have looked with favour on what I may win." "Certes," saith she, "and I
might have my way, gladly would I have less than I am to have. Ah, sir,
if my father would but give thought to your valour and worth, by my
faith, he would not gainsay your wooing me, and making a covenant with
him; if he but weighed your riches over against your valiancy surely he
would grant the compact. But his heart is overladen with prudence; he
does not desire what I desire, nor sorrow at my sorrow. If he were at
one with my thought, right soon were the thing granted. But the heart
that beats in old age giveth no thought to youth nor to the desire of
youth, for the heart of the old is not as that of the young, methinketh.
Yet if you will do according to my counsel you cannot fail of winning me."

"Yes, by my faith, even so will I do, damsel; now without fail tell me
your will." "I have bethought me," she saith, "of a thing on which my
mind hath often dwelt. You know right well you have an uncle who is of
great wealth, and a strong manor he hath within his defences. Even so
rich as my father is he, and he hath neither wife nor child nor brother,
nor any heir nearer than you yourself. 'T is well and fully known that
after his death all will be yours, and his money and rents are well
worth sixty marks of fine gold. Now go to him straightway, old he is and
frail, as ye know right well; tell him that you have had such words with
my father that never can you be of accord with him unless he aid you
in the matter. Let him promise you as much land as will bring in three
hundred pounds yearly, and let him come to ask this thing of my father,
who greatly loves him. Your uncle looks on my father as a sage, and each
deems the other a man of worth; both are old and full of years, each
wholly trusts the other; and if your uncle will graciously do so much
for your love that you can induce him to promise you so much of his
havings that he can say to my father: 'My nephew shall have three
hundred pounds of my land in return for your daughter whom he seeketh,'
then the marriage will indeed come to pass, for I truly believe my
father would yea-say it, if your uncle spoke in this wise. And when you
shall have married me, you will return to him again all the land which
he will have promised to you on these terms; and I have so given myself
over to your love that I shall be well content of the bargain." "Fair
one," he saith, "now know ye of a sooth that never did I desire anything
so much, and straightway will I speak with my uncle."

So he took his leave and returned home again; but his thoughts were
sad and sombrous because of the refusal he had met with. Thus he rideth
through the forest upon his gray palfrey; in sore wrath is he, and yet
right glad at heart by reason of the wise and good counsel the damsel
had given him. So he rode without let or hindrance to Medet where his
uncle dwelleth. Straightway he came before him and maketh to him sore
complaint and lament. Thereafter they went into an upper chamber, and
there he told his uncle plainly all his plight and his covenant. "Uncle,
if you will do so much," saith he, "that you will speak to him of the
matter, and tell him that you have given over to me three hundred pounds
of your land, I will without condition pledge you, and my hand in your
hand, herewith promise you, that when I shall have married the damsel
who is now denied me you shall have your land again all quit, as guerdon
and reward; now do as I beseech you." "Nephew," saith his uncle, "right
willingly, for I am well pleased and content with the project. By my
head, you would marry the best in the land, and I think I can bring it
to pass." "Uncle," saith he, "prithee hasten my suit, and so press it
that he consent to the marriage, for I would fain no longer waste my
time; and meantime, I will go to the tournament at Galardon; I shall be
full richly accoutred, and may God grant me as guerdon that I do so well
that my suit may thereby be bettered. And do you bethink you to so
contrive that the wedding may be on my return." "Right willingly, fair
nephew," saith he, "I am right glad of your tidings, in that the maid is
frank and free." Then Messire Guillaume rode away forthwith; and he made
great joy in that his uncle had said that he should of a sooth have to
wife her whom he so desired,--of no other joy is he fain. So all alight
with happiness he rode to the tourney as one who is well wont thereto.

The next morning at dawn of day, his uncle got him to horseback, and six
more with him, and before the hour of prime came to the spot where dwelt
the old vavasour, who maintained a full rich household, and who was
father to her whose beauty knew no fault. He was received with full
great state, for he was much beloved of the old man whose fellow he was
in years, in that he was his neighbour and mightily rich. So the old man
made great cheer and joy, in that this other who was of high estate had
come to see him, and forgot not to say: "Right welcome are you, fair
sir." And a goodly feast was spread, for the old man was frank and free,
and knew well how to honour him whom he would.

When the tables were removed there were tales told,--old meetings of
lance and sword and shield; and of old deeds was many a fair word said.
But the uncle of the good knight did not over long forget himself, but
laid bare his thought, and all openly he saith to the old man: "Where am
I wandering? As God may aid me, I love you right well, as you shall now
hear. I am come to you to seek help in a matter; may God so incline your
heart that my prayer be heard in such wise and manner that I may attain
it." And the old vavasour maketh answer: "By my head, I have so taken
you into my heart, that even though it be to my hurt, nothing sought
by you shall be refused, but rather shall the boon be granted you."
"Sir, thanks and guerdon will I gladly give you," saith the old man, who
delayeth no longer to speak his thought: "Fair sir, I have come to ask
for your daughter who is wise and discreet; fain would I take her to
wife, and before I marry her, she shall receive a dower from my own
store, for I am passing rich. Ye know I have no heir of my own flesh
and blood, which sore grieveth me, and to her I will be of good faith
inasmuch as you are right dear to me. When I shall have taken your
daughter to wife, I shall not be fain to leave you, or to dispart my
wealth from yours, rather all shall be one; and together we will hold in
common that which God hath given us." Then he who was prudent and wise
was right glad, and said: "Sir, without any nay-saying I will give her
to you, and right willingly, inasmuch as you are a man of worth and
honesty. Full glad am I that you have asked her of me; had I been given
the best castle in all Friesland I would not have known such joy; to
none would I give her in marriage so gladly as to you, for I have found
you discreet and a man of wisdom in all points wherein I have known
ought of your affairs."

Thereupon he promised and affianced to him the damsel who had no desire
for him, but thought surely to have another. Now when the damsel knew
the truth she was in sore grief and dismay. Ofttimes she maketh oath to
Saint Mary that she would never be married to that old man; all woful
she was, and weeping, ofttimes she made lament: "Alas, unhappy that
I am, how am I undone. What treason hath this old man wrought! Surely he
deserves death. How he hath deceived his nephew, that brave and gentle
knight who is all compact of goodness. And now, lo you, I am given
to this old man, all only because of his riches. May God give him his
reward for it. Surely he hath wrought great folly; never will he know
gladness, and on the day he weddeth me he will win a mortal enemy. Alas,
that I should ever see the day. Nay, may God not grant me life so long
that I do see it. Now hath my friend sorrow and great anguish; never
have I heard of such treason. If I were not so imprisoned right soon
would I end this matter; but I can do nought, nor even issue out of this
house. I must needs abide here and endure my father's will; but the pain
is over cruel. Ah, God, what can I do, and when will he who hath been so
cruelly betrayed return again? If he knew how his uncle had dealt by him,
and had sinned towards me, I know full well that all joyless I would die
and cease to be; and if he knew this, by my head, I think he would come
to his end; and my great woes would cease. God, how my heart is torn;
better would I love death than life. What envy and what treason! How did
that old man dare think this thing? None can dispute with him for me,
for my father loveth covetousness which doth overmuch tempt and allure
him. Fie upon old age, fie upon wealth! Shall no man ever win a wife
rich and of high lineage unless he have great possessions? Certes,
I ought to hate him who separateth me from the one in whom I claim a
part, and who thought of a surety to have me, but now meseemeth, I shall
fail him."

Thus the damsel made lament in her sore distress, for her heart was
so bound in love to the young knight that scarce can she conceal her
thought from any; and contrary wise, she hateth him to whom her father
hath given her. She thinketh herself evilly bestowed, for he is old and
of great age, his face is all wrinkled and his eyes red and hateful.
From Chalons even unto Beauvais was no knight older than he seemed
in all points, nor even unto Sens any of greater riches, so men say.
But the folk of that land held him for coward and felon, whereas she
so shone with beauty and valiancy that in all the kingdom of France
was no woman so fair, or so frank and courteous. Full diverse was the
portioning, on one side bright, on the other dark; nor was there any
shadow in the light, or any glimmer in the darkness. Fain would the
damsel whom love so grieved and tormented have changed her plight.
But he who had betrothed her and had great joy of her well devised his
affair, and set term for the wedding, even as one who had no suspicions,
and knew nought of the debate and grief in her whom love held captive,
even as ye have heard me relate.

Now I must not fail to tell you of the conclusion of the marriage.
He who was wise and a man of worth made himself ready full richly.
And before the third day dawned the old vavasour had bidden all the hoary
old heads sprung of that land and countryside, those he deemed men of
most wisdom, to be present at the high marriage of his daughter,--she
who had set her heart elsewhere. She had given her love and desire to
the brave and far-famed knight, but now 't is seen how without hope she
is tricked and betrayed. The two old knights have assembled a goodly
company, for they were well known to all the men of years and worth in
that land, and the more part came thither, a good thirty in number; not
one of them but had revenue and safeguard from the old vavasour, and now
they are come together in his house.

So the word is gone forth that the damsel shall be married at dawn of
day. And the maidens who attend her are bidden to make her ready; but
they give thought to the day and the hour, which sorely displeases them,
and assume looks of great dismay. The old knight asketh them on whom
his command is laid if his daughter is fully prepared, and if she is in
doubt about aught, and if anything lacketh whereof she hath need. "No,
fair sir, nought that I can see," so made answer one of the damsels,
"if but we had palfreys and saddles to carry us all to the minster; for
there will be, methinketh, great company of ladies, cousins and kindred
who dwell nigh at hand." "There need be no fear for palfreys," quoth
he, "methinketh there will be enough and to spare." And there was not a
baron in the land from whom he did not command one; and he to whom the
message was given went straightway to the dwelling of him whose heart
was all fulfilled with valour,--he who shone with prowess.

Now Messire Guillaume, the brave and wise, knew not that the marriage
had been plotted to this point, but love which goaded his heart had
hastened his return. Of nought could he think save that which tormented
him; and his love waxed and flourished. Yet he had come back from the
tourney as one no wise unglad, for he still thought to have for his own
her he has now lost,--unless it please God and some adventure betide.
Each day he expected fair and pleasant tidings, and that his uncle would
send word to him that he might marry the damsel. So he went singing
through the house, and he made a minstrel play new songs upon the viol;
full of joy and mirth he was, for furthermore, he had won every prize at
the tourney. But ever he looks towards the door to see if anyone cometh
with news.

Much he wonders when they will send to him, and at the last he stops
his singing, for love forbids him to set his thought on aught beside.
And now, lo you, without more tarrying, a varlet enters the court. When
Messire Guillaume saw him his heart leaped and trembled with joy; and
the varlet saith to him: "God save you, sir; the old vavasour who has
long been your friend, as ye well know, hath in great need sent me to
you. You have a palfrey of great price, no other in the world goeth so
soft an amble; now my lord prayeth and commandeth that you loan it to
him of your love, and send it to him this same night." "And wherefore,
friend?" saith he. "Sir, to bear his daughter to the minster, our lady
gracious and fair." "And to what end goeth she thither?" "Fair sir,
there she is to marry your uncle to whom she is affianced; and tomorrow
morning at dawn she is to be escorted to the waste chapel that lieth on
the edge of the forest. But ye delay too long, sir, prithee haste; lend
now to your uncle and my liege lord your palfrey, the best in the
kingdom as I well know, for oft has it been so proven."

Messire Guillaume heareth him. "God," saith he, "hath my uncle whom I so
trusted, and besought so fairly that he help me in my need, now betrayed
me? May the Lord God never forgive him his misdeed and his treason!
Scarce can I believe he has done this; methinketh you speak not truly."
"You may know it of a truth tomorrow," saith he, "before the hour of
prime; and already great is the assembly at his house of ancient knights
of the land." "Alas," saith he, "how I have been tricked and deceived
and betrayed." And for sorrow he well nigh fell to the ground in a
swoon; in sooth, had he not feared blame from the folk of the household
he would have done otherwise than he did. All hot he was with wrath and
sorrow, and knew not what to do or say. Unceasingly he made lament; but
despite his sore distress, the messenger urgeth him and changeth his
thought: "Sir, let your good palfrey be saddled straightway, and my lady
will ride upon him to the minster, for softly he goeth." And he who was
easily moved still maketh sorrow, even while he masters his grief in
bethinking what he will do, namely, to know of a truth if he will indeed
send his gray palfrey to him he needs must hate above all others. "Yes,"
saith he straightway, "she who is of such high excellence, and whom I
have now lost, hath no blame herein,--much it irketh me. My palfrey will
go to serve her, and requite the high honour I have always found in her,
for I have proven her at all points; but never more will she be mine,
this I may know of a truth.

"Now I have not spoken wisely, rather have I lost my wit and fallen
short of the mark, when I thought to send my palfrey for the joy and
delight of him who has betrayed me and brought me to nought. Hath he not
forced me to turn away from her whom I thought to have for mine own?
No man should love one who seeketh his betrayal. Over bold is he who
asketh for my palfrey; nothing of mine will I send to him of whom I have
nought. Hath he not disinherited me of the sweetness, beauty and great
courtesy for which my lady is praised?

"Long time I served her in vain; well had I deserved the sovereign
honour of her; but now no joy of her shall I have henceforth. How send
him who maketh me so sorrowful anything whereof he will be glad? But
none the less, though it cost me somewhat that she who is of such
goodness should ride upon my palfrey, well I know that when she looks
on him, he will recall me to her remembrance. I have loved her in good
faith, I do love her and shall love her always, but her love costs me
too dear. All solitary I will be her lover, yet I know not if she put
her heart into the old intimacy that hath made my heart so heavy and
sorrowful; methinketh it was not dear to her; Cain the brother of Abel
did no greater treason. Now is my heart in sore torment by reason of
her of whom I have no comfort." Thus he made lament unceasingly; but
he let saddle the palfrey and called the squire; to his enemy he sent
the gray palfrey, and the messenger set out straightway.

Messire Guillaume had no respite from his sorrow, he shut himself into
his chamber all wrathful and sorrowful, and said to all his sergeants
that were any so bold as to attempt to make merry, he would have him
hung or put to the sword. No heart had he for joy, rather he was fain to
lead a life without cheer, for he could no wise drive out the heaviness,
the grief and the pain from his heart. Meantime, he to whom he had given
the palfrey led it away, and returned forthwith to the house of his
master, who made great joy.

The night was clear and still, and within the house was a great company
of ancient knights. When they had eaten plenteously, the old man bade
the watch, and said to all and commanded them, that an hour before
daylight they be all awake and ready, and horses and palfreys be saddled
and accoutred without noise or disorder; and thereafter they all went to
rest and sleep. But she whom love caused to sigh and tremble with dread
had no thought of sleep, not once that night did she slumber; all others
slept, she watched. Nor was her heart asleep but all intent on making
moan; and if it might have been, she would never have waited for the
stirring of the men or the coming of the dawn, but would have fled away
forthwith.

After midnight, the moon arose, and lighted all the heavens and the air;
and when the watch, who had drunk deep, saw the great light round about
him, he thought the dawn was breaking. "The high company of knights
should have been astir before now," he thought; and he sounded the dawn,
and called aloud and cried: "Up lordings, the day breaketh." So cried he
who was all bemuddled from the wine he had drunk over night. And they
who had scarce rested or slept arose all bewildered, and hastily the
squires saddled the horses, for they thought the day had come. But
before ever the dawn shall break they may well ride and travel a good
five leagues.

The palfreys were saddled, and all the old men who were to escort the
damsel to the waste chapel on the edge of the forest had mounted, and
the maiden was committed to the care of the most discreet. The gray
palfrey had been saddled, and when it was led forth, she made greater
sorrow than ever she had made before. But the wise old men guessed
nothing, nor knew her thought, rather they deemed she wept because she
was leaving her father's house; nought they understood of her tears
or the sorrow that she made; all wofully she got her to horseback.

So they rode forth together, and turned straight towards the forest,
methinketh. They found the path so narrow that no two could ride
abreast; now they who accompanied the damsel were in the rear, and the
others went on before; and he who was her escort, in that he saw the
path was narrow, made her go before him, while he rode behind by reason
of the straitness of the way.

Long was the cavalcade, but inasmuch as they had slept little they were
wearied and worn, and somewhat dispirited; also they rode the more
heavily in that they old were and ancient, and by reason it was long
before day they were the more given over to slumber. So drowsing upon
the necks of their horses they rode up hill and down dale; and he who
had been chosen as the most discreet escorted the damsel; but passing
little rest had he had in his bed that night, and sleep tricked him
into forgetfulness, for great was his desire of slumber.

Now as for the damsel she was distressed by nought save her love and
her grief. And while she was in this narrow path whereof I have spoken,
the great company of knights and barons passed on; the more part were
bent low over their saddles, some few watched, but their thoughts were
on other matters than the escort of the damsel; and ever they rode on
swiftly through the deep forest. The damsel was in deep distress, even
as one who would fain be elsewhere, in London or Winchester.

The gray palfrey well knew this old and narrow way, for many a time had
he traversed it. Anon they rode down a steep hillside where the forest
grew so thick that the light of the moon was hidden; full dusky there
was the wood, for right deep was the valley. Loud was the noise of the
horses, and the more part of the barons rode before her. Some bent low
in sleep over their comrades, some waked and talked; and so they all
fared on together. Now the gray palfrey which the damsel rode, following
in the rear of the company, did not know the way of the highroad that
ran straight before them, but chose a by-path to the right which led
directly to the house of Messire Guillaume. The palfrey seeth the path,
full oft had he traversed it, and straightway left the road and the
cavalcade of horses. As for the knight who accompanied the damsel, he
was so overtaken with sleep that ever and again he let his palfrey stop
short in the roadway. And now no one guides the damsel, save God only;
she gives her palfrey the rein and he turns into the tangled by-way. Not
one of the knights discover that the damsel is no longer following them,
more than a league they ride before they take note thereof; little care
hath her guide and leader given her. And she did not wittingly take
flight, but rather rode on as one who knoweth not the way nor to what
land the road leadeth.

The palfrey follows the path nor goeth astray, for often, both summer
and winter, had he been there before. The damsel all woful ofttimes
looketh about her, but sees neither knight nor baron. Full perilous
seemed the forest, sombre and darksome; and she was right fearful in
that she was without companions. No great marvel is it that she was
afraid, and much she wondered what had become of the knights who had
borne her company. Full glad she was of the mischance, yet woful that
she had no guide, save God alone, for herself and the palfrey who had
often passed that way before. But she committed her to God, and the
palfrey bore her away. She who was sore discomforted gave him the rein,
nor did she utter a single cry, for she had no wish that those others
should hear her, or return to her again. Rather would she die in the
wild wood than make such a marriage.

Thus she rode deep in thought, and the palfrey, which knew the path well
and was eager to get him home again, went at so swift a pace that he
speedily traversed that great forest. On a hillside was a stream which
ran swift and dark; the palfrey went straight thither, for he knew the
ford, which was not very deep or wide, and he passed over it as fast as
might be. Scarce had they left it behind when the damsel heard the sound
of a horn from the side whither the gray palfrey was bearing her. The
watch was above the gate, and played upon his horn to herald the day,
and thither rode the damsel. Straight to the house she came, all abashed
and astray, even as one who knoweth neither the road nor the pass nor
how to ask the way. Thus the palfrey left the path, and came out upon
the bridge which led across a deep water that enclosed all the manor.

And the watch on guard sounding his horn heard the noise and clatter of
the palfrey upon the bridge, which had crossed there many a time before.
He stopped his horn blowing for a little and cometh down from his place,
and asketh forthright: "Who is it rides so hard over the bridge at this
hour?" And the damsel maketh answer: "Surely the most unhappy lady ever
born of woman. In God's name let me within until the day dawneth, for I
know not whither I should go." "Certes, damsel," he maketh answer, "that
I dare not do, nor to bring anyone into this house, save by the leave
of my lord; and never hath any man been in greater grief than he now is;
right sorrowful is he in that he hath been cruelly betrayed."

Now even as he spoke in this wise, he put his face and eyes to an
opening in the postern; neither torch nor lantern had he, for the
moon shone clear, and he seeth the gray palfrey; right well he knew
it,--often had he looked on it aforetime. Much he wondered whence it
came; and long he looked upon the damsel who held it by the rein, and
who was richly dight in new and goodly raiment. Speedily the watch
goeth to his master, who lay upon his bed all joyless. "Sir," saith he,
"a damsel is come hither out of the wood, all uncounselled is she, and
young of look and seeming; rich is her array, full rich her garments;
meseemeth, she is wrapped about in a mantle richly furred, and her gown,
methinketh, is of fine scarlet. Sad and downcast she rideth upon your
gray palfrey; no whit unpleasing is her speech, but fair and gracious:
I would not willingly lie to you, sir, but I believe in all this land
is no maid so fair and winsome. Methinketh she is a fay that God hath
brought hither to you, to make good the loss that hath rendered you so
heavy hearted; fair amends will she make you for her ye have lost."

Messire Guillaume heareth him, and forthwith springeth to his feet; with
a surcoat upon his back and nought beside he cometh to the door, and
bade it be speedily opened. The damsel crieth out to him, sighing:
"Ah, gentle sir, sore travail hath been mine this night. Sir, in God's
name, be not angry, but let me enter now your house,--I ask not to abide
there. I am in sore distress by reason of a company of knights who are
now in great dismay inasmuch as they have lost me. For safeguard I have
come to you, even as chance has led me; right sorrowful am I and all
astray."

Messire Guillaume heard her and had great joy thereof. He knew the
palfrey that had long been his own, and he looketh hard upon the
damsel,--a more joyful man there might not be. So he leadeth her into
his house; he hath set her down from her palfrey, and taking her by the
hand hath kissed her more than twenty times. And she made no denial, for
right well she knew him. One looked upon the other, and right great joy
made they between them; and in one another they forgot all their griefs.
He took from her her mantle, and joyfully they sat them down upon a
cushion of rich silk bordered with gold. Each maketh the sign of the
cross a good twenty times, for scarcely can they believe it is not a
dream they look upon. And when the serving-men were gone, much they
solaced themselves with kisses, but no other misdoing was there between
them.

Freely the damsel told him all her plight; now she saith blessed was
the hour of her birth, in that God that led her thither, and hath, as
fortune willed it, delivered her from that other who thought to make her
his own in return for his chatels and gear. Now in the morning at dawn
of day, Messire Guillaume arrays himself, and lets bring the damsel into
his court and chapel, and without delay he lets summon his chaplain.
Speedily the knight had himself married and bound in holy wedlock; not
lightly may the twain be disparted. And when the mass was sung, maids
and serving-men and squires made great joy within the house.

But great annoy was theirs who had heedlessly lost her. They were come
together at the waste chapel, and right weary were they from riding the
night long, not one of them but was the worse for it. Then the old man
demanded his daughter of him who had guarded her so ill; he knew not
what to say, but speedily he made answer; "Sir, she rode before me,
I was behind, for right narrow was the path and the forest great and
thick. I know not if she turned aside, for I drowsed in my saddle; now
and again I awoke and ever I deemed her near me, but certes, she is not
here, now, and I know not what hath become of her; right ill have we
guarded her."

The old man looked for her up and down, and asked and inquired of all
where she was, and if they had seen her; sorely were they all abashed
thereat, and had no word to say. And he who was to wed the damsel was
yet more woful. He was not slow to seek her, but nought avails him
his search for the right scent was lost. Now even amid their dismay
a squire rode spurring down the path, and anon he cometh before the
old man. "Sir," saith he, "Messire Guillaume sendeth you his goodliest
fellowship. Very early this morning in the first dawn, he married your
daughter; wherefore right glad and joyful is he. Come ye to him, sir;
and likewise he biddeth his uncle who did so falsely by him, but now
he pardoneth him the offence, inasmuch as he hath the gift of your
daughter."

The old man gave ear to the marvel, never had he heard its like. He
calleth and assembleth all his barons, and when, they were come together
he taketh counsel that he will go, and take with him that other to whom
he had pledged his daughter; the marriage he seeth to be a sooth, no
undoing may there be of that. So he who was right wise rode thither
quickly and all his barons with him. When they came to the house
they were received full richly, and Messire Guillaume made great joy,
even as one who is glad at heart by reason of his guerdon. The father
must needs grant the marriage whether he would or no, and the old man
of the twisted moustaches took what comfort he might therein. Even so,
lordings, the Lord God willed that this marriage which seemed good to
him be established.

Messire Guillaume was brave, courteous and right valourous, and no
whit did his prowess abate, but rather he strove the more, and was well
looked on by counts and princes. Now before the third year, as the tale
telleth us, the old man died, this is sooth, and he gave and granted all
his wealth to the knight, who thereafter held all his lands which were
rich and plenteous. A good thousand pounds a year the land yielded
him.... And he held it quit of all claim.

So the adventure I have related endeth in this wise, as truth telleth
you.



Contes dévots et didactiques



The Knight of the Little Cask


[Illustration]

Aforetime, in the wild land between Normandy and Bretaigne, there dwelt
a mighty lord who was of much great fame. Near to the border and beside
the sea, he let build a castle full well embattled, and so strong and so
well garnished that he feared neither count nor viscount, neither prince
nor duke nor king. And the high man whereof I speak, was, the tale
saith, most comely of body and countenance, rich in goods and noble of
lineage; and from his face it seemed that in all the world was no man
more debonair, but of a sooth, he was all falseness and disloyalty, so
traitorous and so cruel, so fierce and so proud, so fell and of so great
disdain he feared neither God nor man; and all the country round about
him he had laid waste,--this is the sum thereof.

No man might he meet, but he did him some outrage of his body, so great
was his licence; he held all the roads and waylaid the pilgrims and did
the merchants annoy; and many were oft sore discomforted thereby. He
spared neither churchman nor cloistered monk, neither canon nor eremite;
and monks and nuns, whereas they are most bound unto God, he made to
live shamefully whensoever he had them in his might; and likewise dames
and damsels, and widows and maids. He spared neither the wise nor the
simple; and he laid his hand upon both the rich and the poor; and many
folk had he driven forth in dishonour, and of those he had slain the
tale may not be told. Nor would he ever take to him a wife but thought
to be abased thereby, for had he been married to a woman he had deemed
himself much shamed. And always he ate flesh, nor would he observe any
fast day; no will had he to hear either mass or sermon or holy writ, and
all good men he held in despite. Methinketh there was never yet man so
fulfilled with vile customs; for all the evil a man may do in deed or
word or thought he devised, and all were brought together in him. And
so he lived for more than thirty years and there was no let to his ill
doing.

So the days came and went until a certain lenten tide, upon the morning
of Good Friday. He that was nowise tender of God had risen full early,
and said to his household after his wont: "Make ready now the venison,
for this is the hour to break our fast; I would eat betimes and then we
will ride out to win somewhat." The kitchen knaves were all abashed;
doubtful and troubled they made answer: "We will do your command, lord;
yet we would ye had said otherwise." But when his knights, whose hearts
were more inclined to God, heard him, they straightway said to him:
"Fool, what say ye? This is lent, a holy time, and it is that high
Friday whereon God endured the Passion to bring us to salvation; every
man should abstain this day, and you, you would break your fast and eat
meat in evil wise. The whole world is under chastisement, in fasting and
abstinence; yea, the very children do penance,--and you would eat flesh
this day. God must revenge himself upon you, and certes, he will in
time." "By my faith," he made answer, "it will not be straightway, nor
before I have done much malice, and many a man hath been hanged and
burned and undone." "Have ye no respite in doing despite to God?" quoth
they then. "Now ought ye incontinent to cry upon our Lord Jesus Christ
and beweep the sins with which ye are tainted." "Weep?" quoth he, "what
jest is this? I have no mind for such folly. But do ye make moan and
I will laugh, for certes weep will I never."

"Hearken, sir," they make answer, "in this wood dwelleth a right holy
man, and to him those folk who would turn from their sin, go to make
confession; come, let us confess to him and give up our evil life; man
should not always live sinfully but rather should turn again to God."
"A hundred devils!" saith he. "Confess? shall I become a jest and a
by-word? Cursed be he that turneth his footsteps thither with such
intent, but if there be any spoils to be got I will go hang this
hermit." "Nay, sir," quoth they, "prithee come with us. Do this kindness
for our sake." "For your sake," he then made answer, "I will follow
you, but for God will I do nought; 't is but for fellowship I go
with ye. Bring up my horse, and I will forth with these hypocrites.
But liefer had I two good mallards, nay, two tiny sparrows than all
their confessions; yet will I go thither to make a jape of them. Whenso
that they are shriven they will go rob here or there; it is even as
the confession made between Reynard and the hen-hawk,--such repentance
falleth at a breath." "Sir," quoth they, "now mount your horse, that God
who knows no lie may do his will with you and give you true humility."
"By my faith," saith he, "may it never so fall that I become mild and
debonair and be feared of no man." And straightway thereafter they set
forth. He who is possessed of the devil rideth behind singing, and his
fellows go before weeping. And as his men fare on before him, ever he
gives them ill words, pricks and prods and misprises them; but they,
on their part, to humour him, say whatsoever he will.

And they ride on by the straight paved way so long they come into the
forest to the hermitage. There they enter, and within the chapel they
find the holy man; but their lord has stayed without, for he was fell
and stark and full of malice, and fiercer than mad dog or werewolf;
ofttimes he looketh down at his feet and proudly he straighteneth
himself. "Lord," they say, "now light ye down and come within, amend
your ways, or at the least, pray God's mercy." "Nay, I will not stir
hence," quoth he; "and why should I pray his mercy when nought would
I do for his sake? But now speed ye your affair for therein have I no
part or portion; and much I fear lest I lose all my day through this
dallying. For even now the merchants and pilgrims, whom it behooveth me
to bring to ground, fare along the highroad, and now they will go their
way unhindered; and as God may aid me, this weighs heavy upon me. By
Saint Remi, I had liefer that ye were never shriven than that they go
hence unshamed."

His men perceive that he will do no otherwise, and they pass into the
chapel before the altar and speak with the holy hermit. Each hath said
his matter as fairly as he might, and the hermit, as his wont was,
assoiled them full sweetly, but only by making covenant with them,--to
wit, that ever thenceforth they should withhold them from evil so much
as they might. Fairly they pledged them, and then gently they besought
him: "Lord, our master is without; for God's sake now call ye him, for
he would not come within for our asking, and who knoweth if he will come
for you." "Certes, lords," saith he, "I know not, but gladly will I make
assay; yet do I greatly fear him."

So he issued out, leaning upon his staff, for he was feeble of body, and
saith forthright to the baron: "Sir, be ye welcome. It is meet we put
all evil from us, repent us and confess, and think full sweetly of God."
"Think ye of him, who forbiddeth you? But I will think of him no whit."
"Yea, that ye shall, fair sir, for you should be gentle of heart, you
that be a knight. A priest am I, and I require you, for the sake of him
who suffered death and offered up himself for us upon the cross, that
ye speak with me a little." "Speak? In the devil's name what would ye
I should say, and what have ye to make known to me? I am hot to depart
from your house and you, for by a fat bellwether would I set more
store." "Sir," the hermit made answer, "I believe ye, wherefore do it
not for my sake but only for that of God." "Proud and persistent are
ye," quoth the knight; "but if I go within, it will be for neither
prayer nor orison nor almsgiving." "Sir, at the least, ye will see our
chapel and convent." "I will go," he saith, "but on such conditions that
I shall give no alms nor say no paternoster." "Now come but within,"
he maketh answer, "and if it pleases you nought, return again." And for
very weariness the knight lighteth down from his horse: "Methinks ye
will not have done to-day; to no good did I come hither this morn, and
alack that I rose so early."

But the good man took him by the hand, and urging him on full gently,
led him into the chapel before the altar. "Sir," saith he then, "there
is no help, here are ye in my prison; now take it not ill of me that
ye perforce must speak with me. Ye may cut my head from off my body, but
for nought you may do shall you escape from me until that ye have told
me of your life." He that was stark and full of malice maketh answer:
"Certes, that will I not, and for this were I like to slay ye; never
shall ye learn aught from me, so let me go and that speedily." "My
lord," saith he then, "go you shall not, so please you, before you tell
me of your life and the sins with which you are tainted; I would know
all your deeds." "No, certes, that will I not, sir priest," saith he.
"Never shall ye know my doings. I am not so drunken with wine that I
will tell you aught." "Not for me, but for the sake of God the Glorious,
speak, and I will hearken." "Nay, certes, I will have nought to do
therewith. Is it to this end that you brought me hither? I am like to
slay you, and in truth the world were well rid of you. Methinks you are
either mad or besotted with wine that you would know my life, and
moreover would drive me to speak by force; now are you over-masterful,
in sooth, you that would make me say that to which I am not minded."
"Yet will ye do it," quoth he, "fair friend; and may he who was nailed
upon the cross bring you to true penitence, and grant you so deep
repentance that ye shall know your sin; now begin and I will listen."

Then looked hard upon him the tyrant who was fell and a seeker of evil.
The good man was in sore dread, and every moment feared the knight
would strike him, but he set all at adventure, and calling to mind the
scriptures, said right gently: "Brother, for the sake of God omnipotent
tell me but one sin; and when you have once begun I know well God will
aid ye to tell truly all your life from end to end." "Nay, in sooth,
nought shall ye hear thereof," quoth the knight. "Yea, but in truth
I will." "Nay, ye shall not." "How now, ye will tell me nought! Have
ye then no mind for well doing?" "No, in sooth, ye may die in your
lament but nought shall ye hear from me." "Yet shall ye do my bidding,
whomsoever it grieves; rather shall ye stay here until nightfall than
that I hear nought. And now to make an end, I conjure you by God himself
and by his most high virtue; this is the day whereon Christ suffered
death and was nailed upon the cross, and I conjure you by that death
that slew and destroyed the arch-enemy, and by the saints and martyrs,
that you open your heart to me; yea, I command you," so spake the
hermit, "that ye tell me all your sins. Now delay ye no longer." "Nay,
ye go too far with me," quoth the baron, sore moved; and so confounded
and astonied was he that he became all shamed. "How now," said he, "are
ye such that I must perforce tell my story, may it be no other wise?
Despite me then I will speak, but, certes, no more will I do."

Then wrathfully he began to tell over the tale of his sins one after
the other, word by word he told them, nor did he fail of any. And when
he had made his confession he said to the hermit: "Now have I told you
all my deeds; are ye well content, and wherein are ye bettered? By St.
James, meseems ye had not been appeased and if I had not told you the
whole tale of my deeds. But now all is said,--and what then? Will ye
leave me in peace henceforth? Now methinks I can go. By St. James, I
have no will to talk more with you, nor to let my eyes rest longer upon
you. Certes, without sword ye have won the day of me, ye that have made
me speak perforce."

The good man had no will to laugh, but he weepeth full sorrowfully in
that the knight doth not repent him. "Sir," he maketh answer, "well have
ye said your say, save that it is without repentance; but now if you
will do some penance I shall hold me well repaid." "And a fair return ye
would make me," quoth he, "ye that would make me a penitent. Foul fall
him who hath aught to do herein or who would desire it of me. But if
it were my will so to do, what penance would ye lay on me?" "In sooth,
even that which ye would." "Nay, but tell me." "Sir, with good will;
to overcome your sins you should fast a space, each Friday these seven
years." "Seven years!" quoth he, "nay, that I will not." "Then for
three." "Nay, in sooth." "Each Friday for but a single month." "Hold your
peace, nought will I do herein for I may not achieve it." "Go barefoot
for but one full year." "No, by Saint Abraham!" "Go all in wool without
linen." "Anon my body would be preyed upon and devoured of vermin." "Do
but chastise yourself with rods each night." "That is ill said," quoth
he; "know that I may not endure to beat or mutilate my flesh." "Then go
a pilgrimage over sea," quoth the hermit. "That is too bitter a word,"
answered the knight; "say no more of it; herein ye speak idly, for full
of peril is the sea." "Go but to Rome, or to the shrine of Saint James."
"By my soul," said he, "thither will I never." "Go then each day to
church and hear God's service, and kneel till that ye have said two
prayers, an ave and a pater noster, that God may grant you salvation."
"That labour were over great," made he answer. "All this ado avails not,
for certes, no one of these things will I agree unto." "How now! Ye will
nought of good? yet shall ye do somewhat, and it please God and please
you, before we twain dispart. Now do but take my water cask to yonder
stream for the love of God omnipotent, and dip it into the fountain,
no hurt will that be to you, and if ye bring it to me full, ye shall
be freed and absolved of both your sins and your penance, no more need
you be in doubt, but I will take upon myself all the burden of your
iniquity; lo, now your penalty is meted out to you."

The baron heard him and laughed out in scorn, and then he spoke, saying:
"No great toil will it be and if I do go to the fountain; and speedily
will this penance be done. Now give me the cask forthwith for I am in
haste." The good man brought it to him, and lightly, as one untroubled,
he received it, saying: "I take it on this covenant, that, until I have
brought it back full to you I will never rest me." "And on this covenant
I give it unto you, friend." So the knight fared forth, and his men
would fain have followed him, but he would have none of them: "No, in
sooth, abide where ye are," he saith.

So he cometh to the fountain and dippeth in the cask, but not a single
drop runneth into it, although he turns it this way and that until he
is well nigh beside himself. Then he thinketh something hath stopped the
opening and thrusteth in a stick, but finds it all free and empty. So
again in his wrath, he that was proud of heart dipped the little cask
into the fountain, but not a drop would enter therein. "God's death!"
saith he, "how is it that nought comes into it?" Then yet again he
thrust the cask into the water; yet were he to lose his head thereby
no whit might he fill it.

Then in his chagrin he ground his teeth, and rose up in great wrath,
and went again to the hermit. Hot and ireful he hardened his heart, and
spoke, saying: "God! I have not a single drop. I have done my uttermost,
yet I could not contrive or so dip the cask that so much as a tear-drop
of water came therein; but by him who made my soul never will I rest,
nor will I cease night or day till that I have brought it to you again
filled to overflowing." And again he spoke to the hermit, saying: "Ye
have brought me into sore trouble by this cask of the devil. Cursed be
the day whereon it was shaped and fashioned, since by reason of it so
great toil must be mine, that never may I rest, nor know solace or ease
by day or by night, nor let my face be washen, nor my nails trimmed,
nor my hair or my beard be cut, till that I have fulfilled my covenant;
afoot will I travel, and penniless will I go, nor take with me so much
as a farthing in my doublet, nor yet bread nor meat."

The hermit heareth him and weepeth full gently: "Brother," quoth he,
"in an ill hour were ye born, and most bitter are your days. Certes, and
if a child had lowered this cask into the fountain he would have drawn
it forth full to overflowing, and you have not gathered a single drop.
Wretch, it is by reason of your sins that God is in anger against you,
but now in his mercy he would that you should do your penance, and
torment your body for his sake; now be not unwise but serve God full
sweetly." But in wrath the baron made answer: "For God, certes, will I
do nought, but I will do it for very pride, and in wrath and vexation:
it is done neither for good, nor for the sake of my fellows." Then all
in pride he turned to his men, saying: "Now get ye gone forthright, and
take with you my horse, and bide you quiet in your own land. And if you
hear men talk of me, mind that ye tell them nought, neither one nor
other, nor this man nor his fellow, but hold your peace and be silent,
and live after your wont; for I have become such that never henceforth
shall I know a day without travail and toil, by reason of this cask
which is of the fiend,--may the cursed fire and the cursed flame devour
it! Meseems the devils have had it in their care and have laid a spell
upon it; but I tell you of a sooth that rather will I seek out all the
waters of all the world than not bring it back again full to
overflowing."

Then without taking leave he fared forth, and passed out of the door
with the little cask hung about his neck. But know ye of a truth that,
save only the garments he wore, he took not with him so much treasure
as would buy him four straws; and alone he set forth, for none went with
him save God only. Now know ye what anon he will know, what hardships
will fall to him by night and by day, at morning and evening, for he
goeth forth into strange lands. Few will he have of those delights to
which he is wont, and he must lie hard and lodge ill, and cold victual
will be his and scanty bread; poverty will be ofttimes his neighbor,
and much toil and trouble will be his.

So over hill and dale fared he, and to whatsoever water he cometh he
thrusteth in his cask and testeth it, but it avails him not, for nought
can he gather up. And his great wrath, that sways him overmuch, is ever
kindled and burning. Well nigh half a week it was before he bethought
him of food or had any desire thereof. Ever his great wrath consumed
him, but when he saw that hunger so beset him that he might not defend
him, it behooved him to sell and barter his robe, whatever else anyone
should tell you, for a paltry tunic that was worn and tattered and
shameful for so high a man. Nor had he any sleeves, whether full or
narrow, and neither hood nor capuchon. So he wandered by valley and
plain until his face, which of old had been fresh and fair, grew changed
and tanned and blackened. But whatsoever water he came unto, ever he
thrust in his cask and proved it, but little his labour profited him,
for howsoever much he toiled, he might not gather up a single drop; and
much he suffered and endured thereby.

His sorry raiment soon grew worn and tattered. Barefooted he crossed
many a great hill and many a valley. He wandereth in cold and in heat:
he fareth through briars and thorns, and among the wild beasts; his
flesh is torn in many a place, and many a drop of blood falleth from
him, and sore pain and trouble is his. Now he passeth ill days and ill
nights: now he is poor and a-beggared; now rebuffs and ill words are his
portion, and he hath neither robe nor chattle; now he findeth no hostel,
and again he meeteth with folk full harsh, churlish and cruel, for in
that they see him so denuded, so stark and tall and great of limb, so
hideous and tanned and blackened, and bare legged even to the thighs,
many a one, forsooth, feareth to give him lodging, so that ofttimes
he must lie in the fields. Neither jest nor song had he, but ever great
wrath and sore torment. And I may tell you thus much, that never could
he humble himself, or lighten his sore heart, save in so far as he made
lament to God of the great travail and misease he endured; yet it was,
but for bewilderment, for he was nowise repentant.

When that he had spent the money he won by the sale of his raiment, he
had not wherewith to buy bread; and if he would eat he must perforce
learn to beg. Now are all his woes exceeded, for never again shall he
know solace, but woe only so long as he liveth. Often he fasteth for two
days or three, and when his heart is so weakened that he may no longer
endure his hunger, in wrath he goeth aside to seek for bread or some
crumb or morsel, and then he fares on for a space.

Thus he sought through all of Anjou, Maine, Touraine, and Poitou,
Normandy and France and Burgundy, Provence and Spain and Gascony, and
all of Hungary and Moriane, and Apulia and Calabria and Tuscany, and
Germany, and Romagna, and all the plain of Lombardy, and all Lorraine
and Alsace; and everywhere he setteth his heart to the task. Methinketh
I need not tell you more; the day long I might tell ye of the woes he
endured, but in a word, from the sea that circles and encloses England
even unto Baretta that lieth on the Eastern shore, ye cannot name a land
that he hath not searched, nor any river that he hath not tested; nor
lake, nor mere, nor spring, nor fountain, nor any water foul or fresh,
into which he hath not dipped his cask, but never might he draw a single
drop; never would any whit come into it, howsoever much he strove; and
yet he did all his endeavour, and more and still more he laboured.

And amid all his woe which was so great and grievous, a marvel befell
him, for never by any chance of adventure did he find any man who did
him aught of kindness, or spoke him fair in fellowship, but all men
hated him and mocked and chid him, nor spake with him, whether in field
or wood or hostel, and it were not to revile him; yet whatsoever shame
men might say to him, he would neither dispute with any nor defame any,
for he held them overmuch in scorn, and all men he hated and despised.

What more should I tell you? He fared for so long, up and down, here
and there, that his body grew so tanned and stained and blackened that
scarce had any man known him that had seen him aforetime. His hair was
long and tangled and hung in locks about his shoulders; his fair hair
and face and forehead grew black as a flitch of bacon, and his neck that
had been great and thick, was long and thin to the bone. All lean from
hunger he was and hairy; his eyebrows had grown shaggy, his eyes sunken;
his sides were all uncovered, and his skin so hung about his bones that
you might count the ribs beneath; his legs were bared and brown and lean
and shrunken; his veins showed and his sinews, and from toe to groin no
shred of raiment had he, and black and brown and stained he was. Thereto
had he waxed so weary and spent that scarce might he stand upright; he
needs must have a stick to lean on as he walked, and much the cask, that
he had carried night and day for a year, now weighed upon him. What more
need I tell you? His body had been in so great torment the year through
that marvel it was how he had brooked it; and so much had he borne and
suffered that he knew right well he might not longer endure. Yet was
there a thing he must do. He holdeth he must return again,--never will
the hermit laugh when he seeth him, rather will he weep. So the knight
set forth leaning upon his staff, and often he maketh lament in a
loud voice, yet he strove so much that still he held on his way to the
hermitage. At the end of the year on the same day he had departed from
that most holy place, the high day of Good Friday, even in such guise
as I have told you, he came thither again. Now hear ye what befell him.

All dolorous he entered; and the hermit, who had no thought of him, was
alone within, and he looked at him in wonder for that he saw in him a
man so weary and wasted. Him he knew not, but the cask, which was hung
about his neck, he knew right well that aforetime he had seen it. And
the holy man spoke, saying: "Fair brother, what need brings thee here,
and who gave thee this cask? Ofttimes have I seen it, and this same
day, a year past, I gave it forsooth to the fairest man in all the
Empire of Rome and to the starkest, methinketh, but if he be alive or
dead I know not, for never since hath he returned hither again; but
tell me now of thy courtesy, who thou art and how men call thee, for
never did I see so weary a man as thou seemest, nor one so poor and
disgarnished. Had the Saracens had you in their prison even so stripped
and denuded had ye seemed; whence thou art come I know not, but of a
sooth thou hast fallen among ill folk." But the other brake out in
anger, for still was his wrath great, and irefully he spoke: "Even to
such a plight hast thou thyself brought me!" "I, how so, friend? For
methinks I have never before set eyes upon thee. What wrong have I done
thee? Prithee tell me, and if I can, I will amend it." "Sir," quoth he,
"I will tell thee: I am he whom a year ago this day thou didst confess,
and gave me as a penance this cask which has brought me to such straits
as ye see." Then he told him all the tale of his travels, of all the
lands and countries he had travelled through, of the sea and the rivers
and the great and mighty waters. "Sir," saith he, "everywhere have I
sought, and everywhere have I tested the cask, but never a drop hath
entered therein, and yet I have done mine uttermost; and well I know
that anon I must die, and may endure no more."

The good man heard him and was sore moved, and all in sorrow he began to
speak, saying: "Wretch, wretch," so spake the hermit, "thou art worse
than a Sodomite, or dog or wolf or any other beast. By the eyes of my
head, methinketh that had a dog dragged the cask to so many waters, and
through so many fords, he had drawn it full,--and thou hast not taken
up a single drop! Now I see of a sooth God hateth thee, and thy penance
is without savour, for that thou hast done it without repentance, and
without love or pity." Then he wept and lamented and wrung his hands,
and so rent was his heart that he cried aloud, "God, thou who seest and
knowest all things and canst do all, look now upon this creature who
has led so toilsome a life, who has lost both body and soul, and spent
his time to no purpose. Blessed Mary, sweet mother, now pray God your
sovereign father that it be his will to keep this man, and to rest his
fair eyes upon him. If ever I did aught of good, sweet and dear God, or
aught pleasing in thy sight, I pray thee here and now that thou grantest
mercy to this man who hath been brought to so great distress through
me; God, in thy mercy let not his misery be wasted, but lead him to
repentance. God, if he were to die through me, I must render account
thereof, and my grief were greater than I could bear. God, if thou
takest to thee one of us twain, leave me here at adventure, and take
thou this man." And he wept right tenderly.

The knight looked long upon him yet spake no word, but all low within
himself he said: "Lo, here in sooth is a strange thing, whereof my heart
hath great marvel, that this man who is not of my house, and hath no
kinship with me save in God, should so harass himself for my sake, and
weep and lament for my sins. Now of a surety, I am the basest man living,
and the vilest sinner, that this man holds my soul so dear that he
destroyeth himself because of my offences, and I am so spotted with
evil, and have in me so little goodness that I have no compunction
thereof; and yet he is full of sorrow because of them. Ah, sweet God,
and thou wilt, through thy might and thy power, grant me such repentance
that this good man who is so out of all cheer may be given solace. God,
let not all my travail be vain and profitless to my soul; when all is
said, by reason of my sin was this cask laid upon me, and for my sins I
took it, sweet God, if I have done wrong herein, now do thou thy will;
lo, I am ready." And God straightway so wrought in him that his heart
was freed and discumbered of all pride and hardness, and fulfilled with
humility and love and repentance, and fear and hope, whereby his spirit
melteth, and he weepeth. Then he cast away the world from him, and the
tears flowed forth from his heart, that nought might staunch them, all
burning they were with repentance, and he drew such great sighs that at
each it seemed his spirit must issue out of him. His repentance was so
puissant that his very heart had been broke had it not been lightened
by tears; but he shed them in so great plenteousness his relief is no
marvel. Such dolour laid hold of his heart that he might not speak with
his lips, but he made covenant with God within his heart full sweetly,
that thenceforth he would sin no more, nor do more wrong towards him.

Now God seeth well that he repents him. The cask which had caused him
such woe still hangeth about his neck, but still it was empty, and it
was all his desire that it should be filled. And God seeth his longing,
that his mind was bent on well-doing, and that he was no wise feigning;
and then God did a great bounty and a fair kindness,--but what need to
say it, for never did he unkindness. But now hear you what God did to
comfort his friend who had cause to be out of all comfort. In his sore
distress there sprang from his eyes a great tear which God drew forth
from a true source; with the flight of a bolt it sprang straight into
the cask, and the book telleth us that the cask was filled so full by
the tear that the overflow gushed out and ran down on all sides, for
this tear was so hot with repentance, and so boiling, that the froth
over-ran.

And the hermit hastened to him, and cast himself down at his feet, and
kissed them both all naked as they were. "Brother," said he, "fair sweet
friend, the holy Ghost hath entered into thee. Brother, God hath heard
thee, God hath saved thee from hell's pit, never henceforth shalt thou
be defiled. God hath pardoned thee thy sins, now rejoice and be glad,
for thine expiation is complete." Then was the knight so glad methinketh
never again shall I see such joy in any man; and still he weepeth, this
is the sum thereof. Then he spake to the holy hermit, and told him all
his desire: "Father," saith he, "I am wholly thine; father, all good
hast thou done me. Fair, sweet father, and I might, how gladly would
I stay with thee. Never in sooth would I leave thee; but ever would I
serve thee and love thee; but I may endure no longer and I needs must
suffer death, most sweet father, through God's mercy. This day a year
past I was here, as vain and foolish as thou knowest, fair sweet father,
and told thee all my sins in anger and sore wrath, without fear or
repentance; and now I would tell them again in great love and great
compunction, if it may be that God, who is life eternal, grant me to-day
a good end." Saith the hermit: "Fair sweet brother, blessed be God who
hath given thee this thought; and behold, now I am ready, speak and
I will listen."

Then the knight beginneth, and from his very heart telleth all his life,
weeping and with joined hands; nought did he mis-say, and from his heart
he sigheth full softly, and his tears spring forth in great plenty. When
the good man saw it was time to shrive him, he gave him absolution and
granted him great treasure, the body of Jesus Christ, to wit, and well
he showed its great virtue. "Dear son, lo, here is thy salvation, lo,
here is thy life and thy healing. Believest thou so?" "Yes, fair father,
well do I believe that this is my Redeemer and he that may save us all;
but haste thee, for death is near me." And the holy man giveth him all
the body of God; and the other taketh it, nor doth he delude himself,
and in all excellence receiveth it, in love and in truth, and in right
great humility.

When he was houseled, and so cleansed and purified that there remained
in him no drop of the lees of folly and sin, he spake to the hermit,
and told him all his desire, saying: "Fair sweet father, now I go hence,
pray for me for I am near my end; here I may not tarry, but must seek
another dwelling; my heart faileth me, sweet father, and no more may I
speak with thee. Most sweet father, I commend thee to God, and now at
the last I pray thee that thou put thy arms about me." And straightway
the good man embraced him full gently and gladly and with good will.

The knight lieth him down before the altar, and hath given all his heart
to God. He closeth his eyes and saith his _mea culpa_ and setteth all
his hopes in God. His little cask that had done him more good than ill,
lay upon his breast, nor would he let it be taken from him, for it was
all his desire to keep it in death as in life. So upon his heart lieth
his penance, and a flood of repentance hath so shaken him that God hath
wholly pardoned him all sin and sorrow. His heart travaileth and his
body is anguished, and it behooveth the twain to dispart, and the soul
to leave the body. And it hath issued forth so purged and cleansed and
purified that there is neither spot nor sin therein. So soon as the soul
is freed of the body and hath gone forth, the blessed angels that have
come thither, have received it. Great comfort hath come to the soul that
was snatched by the holy angels, and sore peril hath it escaped, for the
devil was waiting for it, and he thought to have it, in all certainty
and surety, but now he goeth thence discomforted. And all this was seen
of the good man from point to point to the end, for he was illumined by
the Holy Spirit. All clear he saw the angels that bore away the soul,
the while the body resteth barefoot and naked, and lieth under a sorry
covering.

But hear ye now what adventure befell upon his death, for his knights,
who had been with him just a year before and to whom he had done so
great annoy, came that day by reason of prayer, as was right and
fitting, for it was the high day of Good Friday. Close upon noon the men
of arms came within and found their lord dead; well they recognized him
by his stature and all his form and seeming, and the cask they knew
right well; and that it was their lord whose body was so wasted, they
doubted not. Then were they sore troubled in that they knew not how he
came to his end, whether well or ill, and every man maketh great lament;
but the good man comforteth them and told them all the truth. From point
to point, he told them all as it befell,--how their lord had come to
him, and the hour and the time when he confessed and was repentant, and
how his soul was ravished above into life perdurable, and how he had
seen the angels all clearly that had borne it away. Then the knights
made great joy, and honoured the body full nobly, right gently they
shrouded it, and after mass, gave it due burial. And when that they
had eaten and drunk they took leave of the good man, and each went again
to his own land, and everywhere they told and recounted all they knew of
their lord; and the folk of that land had great joy thereof and great
pity, and gave thanks to Our Lord.

Now have I told you all the tale of this high man, even as it hath come
down to us from holy men who mistell nought herein, but all they accord
in true telling, and disagree in nought of good. These men tell us how
the knight strove and how God redeemed him,--and ever God knoweth how to
work in this wise, and to ransom sinners who would return to him, for
no man may do so great wrong, but, if it be his desire to turn again to
God, God will not pardon him. And none should despise his fellow, but
should hold himself to be the worst, and God who hath power to create
men, knoweth their hearts, and hath the power rightfully to judge them;
and subtle are his judgments. Here endeth the story of the cask, and in
this wise the knight came to his death. Now let us pray God who created
all things that it be his will to lead us to that glory wherein he
dwelleth.



The Angel and the Hermit


[Illustration]

There dwelt in Egypt, of old time, a holy father who while yet young
of age had withdrawn into a hermitage. There he set himself to great
toil and sore labour, fasting, weeping, and living ever in solitude;
and much pain and torment he endured of his body that he might bring
joy and content to his soul. But ofttimes it betideth that one man, be
he religious or layman, hath more of happiness than falleth to the lot
of two of his fellows. And to him of whom the tale telleth, it seemed
he had few of those delights which God giveth to his own, delights
spiritual, to wit, and fain would he have had such as were enjoyed by
certain of his acquaintance; for long had he served without reward, him
seemed. Now oftentimes God giveth fair gifts to one who doth him scant
service; and yet another who is more deserving, he leaveth, mayhap,
all his life days in poverty, misery and sore want. And the hermit
pondered much wherefore God's judgments are of so great diversity. Now
it is summer, now winter; now it is one man, and anon to-morrow no more
of him; and our life is even as a wheel that turns, abiding in no one
estate. Such judgments are dark, yet are they good and right and just
for God doth naught unwisely. And the good man so pondered the matter,
that he said to himself he would go forth into the world to see if any
man therein were of so great wisdom that he could show him wherefore
God made the world after this manner, and wherefore men are not equal
in good hap and ill hap. He was all desirous to know of this matter;
and albeit there was neither road nor highway near him to his knowledge,
he took his staff and set forth from his hut.

He had not travelled far before he came to a footpath; and thereinto the
good man turned, and when he had walked on for a space, he looked behind
him and saw a youth that came after him with all speed. In his hand he
bore a javelin, and full comely he was, and well fashioned, and he was
girded up to the knee. His dress was seemly and such as befitteth a
sergeant; fair of face he was, and goodly of body; and well might it
be seen he served a rich lord and a mighty.

So he drew near and bowed him and gave greeting; and the good man spoke
to him, saying: "Now tell me, brother, whom dost thou serve?" "By my
faith, sir, that will I full gladly; I am the servant of God who made
all things." "Certes, thine is a right good lord, none better canst thou
find. But tell me now where thou goest." "Sir," he saith, "I would fain
visit the friends and fair ladies I have known in this land." "Now and
if I might go with thee it would please me much, for never till to-day
was I in this land and naught know I thereof." "Sir, full fair of speech
are ye, and I were right glad of your company; so come with me, fair and
dear father, for full well know I the land." Thereupon they set forth
together; the varlet goeth before, and after him cometh the hermit,
praying to God.

Thus they journeyed the day long, until that they came to a little wood
wherein they espied a dead man who had been traitorously slain there,
and who had lain so long upon the ground that, what with the summer and
the warm weather, the body stunk so foully that there is no man in this
earthly world were not sickened thereby, so be that he passed that way
and he did not well cover his face. The hermit held his nose and thought
to die because of the foul smell. But the varlet straightway went up
to the body, nor did he show by any sign that he perceived aught evil
therein. "Fair father," he saith, "now come with me, for God hath guided
us hither that here we may bury this dead man." "Fair, sweet brother,
in God's mercy know that I may not do this thing. Because of the foul
stink I cannot bring myself to set hand to him, for I am sore sickened
thereby." Then saith the varlet: "I myself will give him burial, if that
I may." And thereupon he dragged him into a ditch that he found hard by,
and covered the body over with earth. The hermit marvelled much that the
other smelt not the stink, or made no sign or semblance of so doing.

Thereafter the varlet set forth again, and the hermit followed after,
striving to keep pace with him. When that they had gone on for a space
they encountered upon the way a train of knights and ladies; fast riding
they drew towards them, and right fair was their array. They came from
a feast, and I know not if they had drunk deep, but as they rode one
jostled other, and profligate they were of seeming. The varlet covered
over his face as well as he might, even as if he could not well endure
the odour that came from them, and turned aside from the path. The
hermit marvelled much that his comrade should so do, and that he should
hide his face because of the knights, he that had not so done for the
carrion.

But why tell ye a long tale? They journeyed on after this manner
until night, when they lodged with a hermit who gave them shelter full
willingly. Such meat as he had he set before them, and gladly they
received it. And that evening as soon as they had supped they should
have turned to prayer; but the varlet saw that their host gave himself
much trouble because of a certain hanap or drinking-cup that he had,
and that he spent more pains in drying and rubbing it than he did in
praying to God. And the varlet took note where the good man bestowed
the hanap, and he stole it away and hid it, for he would not leave it
behind. On the morrow at dawn he carried it away, and thereafter showed
it to his comrade. Now when the hermit saw it he was full sorrowful, nor
might he hold his peace: "For love of God let us take it back again;
you have done me much wrong and hurt in that you have deceived that
good man, and robbed him of that which was his. Why have ye done such
wickedness?" "Hold your peace and say no more, fair and dear father,"
saith the varlet; "know that there was need for this, and hereafter ye
shall learn the truth herein. And whatsoever ye see me do, be not angry,
but follow and be silent, for all is done in reason." And the youth so
wrought with the hermit that he durst say no more, but goeth after him
with bent head.

At evening they came to a city and besought lodging in many places, but
could find none; ever it behooved them to pass on, for in that they were
penniless the simplest folk looked askance at them; for still in many
places do men love money dearer than God,--great is the pity and the
blame thereof. The hermit and the varlet who were weary and wet to the
skin, for it had rained the day long, sat them down upon the perron
before the door of a great house. Both entreated the master thereof,
but little they won thereby, for he refused them aught. Then saith the
hermit to the varlet: "Certes, fair brother, I am sore weary, and here
have we no shelter from the rain, let us rather creep under yonder
pent-house." "Nay," saith the varlet, "let us call out again, for yet
will I lodge within." And they so clamoured and beat upon the door that
for very weariness they were suffered to enter and take refuge beneath
the stairway, where was strewn a little of musty straw. "Here ye may
rest until the morning," quoth the damsel; and so withdrew her, and left
the twain in small comfort, for they had neither eaten nor drunk, nor
had they either light or fire.

The master of the house was a usurer, full rich in gear and gold; but
rather would he go without bread the day long than give a farthing to
God, for the devil had him in his toils. Now that night when he had
taken his pleasure and eaten and drunk plenteously, a few peas were
yet left that might not be eaten, and these he sent to his guests. The
damsel brought them the dish, but if she gave them a light I know not.
Thus then they passed the night, and when the day dawned the hermit
saith: "Now let us go hence." "What say ye, sir?" the varlet made
answer; "for naught would I depart and if I did not first commend our
host to God. I go now to take leave of him, and inasmuch as he hath
given us lodging I would give him this good hanap that is neither of
pine nor maplewood but of fair and well polished mazer,"--the same it
was which he had taken from the hermit. Therewith the varlet mounted
the stairway, and in the chamber above he met with his host. "Sir," he
saith, "we would fain take leave of you; and in return for our lodging
we give you this hanap which is right fair, for we would be just and
naught beholden unto you." "Now as God may aid me, here is a proper
guest," saith the burgher, and taketh the cup. "Fair sir, come ye often
back hither; and may God keep ye, for fair is the bargain." So leave
taken, the varlet went his way, and with him the hermit.

When they were without the city, "Varlet," saith the hermit, "I know not
whether it be in my despite thou dost so bear thyself; thou didst rob
the good hermit who was a religious, and now to this man who entertained
us so churlishly thou hast given a gift; such deeds are against reason."
"Good sir, I pray you hold your peace," saith the varlet, "you are no
sage, instead you were brought up in these woods and wastes, and know
not good from evil. Now follow me and fear naught, for as yet ye have
seen but little."

That day they made good speed, and at night came to a convent wherein
the monks gladly gave them lodging, and let serve them freely and
bounteously; for great was the brotherhood and full rich in land and
rents and harvest, and thereto many a fair house was theirs; no fear
had they of times of dearth. Right well were those twain lodged; but in
the morning when they were shod for their journey, the varlet lighted
a brand and laid it at the foot of his bed. There was good plenty of
straw, and the room was low, and lightly the blaze caught. Then the
youth called to the hermit to hasten, saying: "Hie you fast, for anon
the fire will run through all the place." And the hermit made what speed
he might, for of the deed he was in sore fear. The varlet goeth before
him, and leadeth him up a great hill from the top whereof he looketh
abroad, and saith to the hermit: "Lo you, how clear and bright the abbey
burneth." But the hermit crieth out aloud, and teareth and beateth his
breast. "Woe and alas! what will become of me? Unhappy the father that
engendered me, unhappy she who bore me, and most unhappy me in that I
have lost all. Alack for my soul and my salvation! Lo now, I have become
a burner of houses; never was man so wofully betrayed. Alack the day
that I met this youth, and woe is me that I became his comrade, for he
hath robbed me of my life and my soul!" And sore he rendeth himself with
his nails. Thereupon the varlet cometh to him and beginneth to comfort
him. "Nay, I have no love for thee," saith the good man; "thou hast
taken from me my life." "Sir," the youth maketh answer, "ye do wrong to
make such sorrow for naught. In the beginning I covenanted with you to
do these things, and thereby to bring you to wisdom; now come away and
say no more." And he so soothed the good man that he led him away in
quietness.

All that day they fared on together, and at night they came to a city
that stood beside a wide river, and whereof the burghers were rich and
of good conditions. The youth made great cheer in that he knew the place
well, and goeth straight unto a house wherein it seemeth him they might
lodge at their ease. He cometh to the door with his master and asketh
shelter in God's name. And right good cheer was theirs methinketh, for
the burgher was a goodly man. A wife he had, and one child, a boy whom
they dearly loved; no other had they and they were already waxing old;
and the boy was ten years of his age. They washed the feet of the two
travellers, and gave them to eat and to drink, and let them sleep until
the day. In the morning when the time was come to depart, "Fair host,"
the varlet saith, "lend us the child for a little, that he may guide
us beyond the bridge since we must pass that way." "That will I gladly.
Come, fair son," and straightway the boy riseth up; he goeth before,
and the other twain follow after. Now when they were come to the bridge,
where there was neither edge-stone nor parapet, the varlet so jostled
the boy that he fell down into the water, and the stream swept him away
and drowned him. "Herein have we done well," saith the varlet; "and
stay, sir hermit, and ye will, for ye shall not be destroyed or slain."
But the hermit set himself to run, for he was all a-sweat with fear, and
well-nigh had he slain himself for sorrow. When he was come into the
fields he cast himself down. "Alas, unhappy that I am, what will become
of me," saith the hermit. "Woe worth the day whereon I was born, for
now I am come to despair and madness. Alas, caitiff that I am, why did I
leave the place whereto I was appointed and wherein I had come to my old
age? The devil hath betrayed and destroyed me. Never again shall I know
joy nor peace. Was I not a party to the burning of the abbey and the
death of the child? Christ! what will become of me? Now with mine own
hands will I slay myself!"

Then saith the varlet within himself: "It behooveth me to go comfort
that old man and foolish." So he getteth his javelin into his hand and
cometh to the hermit, and saith: "Fond and simple that ye are, now give
ear unto me. I am nowise mad; and do ye hold your peace and hear reason
which shall bring you solace. Now shall be shown unto you the virtue of
my deeds which ye thought done against reason. Now give heed unto me,
fair, sweet sir; well know I that ye are a hermit, but ye were tempted
of the devil when ye thought to go forth into the world to seek out
a man of wisdom who knew all things, and who would tell you why God
made the world such as we now see it. You would seek to understand
his judgments, so do ye dote in your old age, whereas ye should have
amended and bettered thyself; no whit wouldst thou struggle against this
temptation, but thou didst wander forth from thy house, thou that wert
bewildered as a silly sheep. The devil would have put thee to shame, and
if God had not had pity upon thee, and sent a holy angel to thee to lead
and guide thee; for thy sake he sent me to the earth,--for know that I
am an angel. And I have shown thee that thou soughtest to know, and that
which it was thy will to seek in the world, but thou knewest it not. Now
listen and thou shalt learn.

"And for the dead body which lay in the wood and rotted upon the ground,
and whereof ye smelt so great a stink that ye might not aid me
therewith,--it is but in the course of nature that a body should rot,
and therefore should it be buried; but such odour vexes me not, nor was
it displeasing to Jesus Christ, for it is nowise contrary to nature;
therefore I had no will to hide my face, but thou that wert neither God
nor angel might not endure it. But when I saw the knights and squires
and ladies that came from such a feast, each with a chaplet of flowers
upon his head, and all fulfilled with luxury, they so stunk in my
nostrils that it behooved me to hold my nose. Such evil odours rise even
to God in paradise, and he lamenteth them to his own; Jesus Christ will
revenge him of such sin and wickedness; and for them, they are filled
with such vileness I have no will to say more thereof; and for the stink
of them I covered my face.

"And now I will tell thee of the hermit whose hanap I stole, which deed
seemed evil in thy sight. But the cup did him much hurt, for that he
gave himself more toil and trouble in the rubbing and polishing thereof
than he took in praying to God; to it he gave the greater part of his
days and thereby was he come to sore peril, for it is God's will that
a man should love naught save him only, and the more if that man be
a hermit and a religious. Now there are certain men who hold their
possessions so dear that they will lend them to none, and rather than
so do they hide them away; and this methinketh is a great sin, that they
should make of them an indulgence and an idol; and certes, he is but
foolish who enters into religion and giveth not his whole heart to God.
Now the hermit had set his heart upon the drinking-cup which he loved
overmuch, and therefore God willed that I should take it from him.

"And again I will tell thee of the usurer who left us to call and
clamour at his door, and where we entered only through vexation. In the
morning when it was time to depart, I told thee I would take courteous
leave of our host and would give him the hanap; God willed that I should
so do, for else the usurer, when he received his damnation, might have
said: 'Lord, Lord, I gave lodging to thy people; can I in justice be
damned?' But God cares naught for the alms of such as he, and no usurer
shall be saved if he does not return that which he hath wrongfully
received of others; God will not permit or suffer him to give in charity
the goods which are not rightfully his. If he bringeth a poor man into
his house and shareth with him his bread, God will straightway return
it to him again. Here and now, in this world, he taketh his portion, for
into no other paradise shall he come. And therefore fair, sweet friend,
God willed that he should be doubly paid by us. Now judge if it were
well done."

"I am content," saith the hermit; "but tell me now of the abbey, and
wherefore ye set fire to it; surely herein thou didst ill." Saith
the angel: "I will tell thee in all truth. When the order was first
established it was poor and unfavoured; the monks lived without
chattels or revenue, yet they had sufficient unto each day, for God
gave plenteously unto them that were their purveyors. In those days the
brethren of the convent led holy lives and served God with all their
might; and never, either morning or evening, did they neglect or fail
of prayer. But now they had come to such a pass the order was going to
destruction, their rule was no longer heeded by them, for they would not
look before, and feared neither God nor man. Despite all their rents
and goods they had no will to visit the poor nor aid them, nor do aught
in charity. To get money and heap up wealth that they might take their
pleasure, they grew false and cruel. Each one thought to be abbot, or at
the least, provost, steward or cellarer; and each one was all desirous
to have his the richest abbey. The churches and chapterhouses were
neglected, and the refectory and halls were given over to idle talk and
tale telling; and God willed that they should lose these things and
become poor. Never shall ye hear praise of a rich monk; but know ye
well a monk should be lowly, and he would be truly religious. Among
the poor shall ye find God, there is his true hostel upon the earth; and
therefore it was God's will to bring these monks again to poverty, to
amend them of their folly and sin. Those who desired power and place
will no longer, in that it would now yield them nought. They will build
them new houses nought so rich as before, and the poor labourer will
gain somewhat of the wealth of the monks, who henceforth will be more
compassionate. For such reasons God made me to kindle the fire that
destroyed all the convent." Quoth the hermit: "Well didst thou do, and
herein I hold me content. But why didst thou drown the child of the good
man who made us such cheer? For nought will I believe that was not very
murder." Saith the angel: "Now hear why this was done in all justice;
wise is he who learneth well.

"Now know, fair and dear hermit, the good man ye saw yesterday and who
entertained us with such good will, had lived together with his wife for
thirty years uprightly. Never a poor man came to his house but he gave
him lodging and shared with him what he had, and so much of his fortune
he gave away for God's sake that little was left him thereof; and he
shone with charity. But much he desired to have a son, that he might
leave his lands to him and teach him to serve God with all his heart.
Many prayers he made to heaven, and many tears he wept, and at last God
granted them a child. Ten years of age or more he had come to be, and
the good man had grown hard of heart because of the son to whom he would
bequeath his goods, and had so set himself to the heaping up of money
that his heart had no other thought; that which had been his wont he
turned from, and had grown cold and fainthearted; his good deeds he
forgot, and within a short space he would have become a usurer rather
than see his child poor in goods and heritage; it was in his heart, and
such a thought would soon have come to him that all his well doing had
been undone, and he had lost his soul and that of his son. But now
through the loss of the child he hath escaped all peril, and the child
knew nought of sin, wholly pure he was, wherefore he was taken to such a
place that his soul is now in paradise. And his father will amend him,
and he and the mother will be more fearful, and will turn to deeds of
charity. So all three shall be saved, and God did graciously to the
parents in that he took the child to his profit. Now have I made known
to you, fair, sweet friend, the reason of my deeds. In this wise God
hath shown you how divers are his judgments, that in this world he taxes
his people and renders them poor and destitute; and ofttimes grants great
riches to his enemies, for that they shall have no part in heaven. So
it is even as I tell you; and now may I abide here no longer; bethink
ye of well doing, get ye back to your hermitage and do penance." And
forthright the youth changeth his semblance, and became a wondrous
angel; and he rose into heaven, singing, "Gloria in excelsis Deo."

To the hermit it seemed he had heard him for too short a space, and fain
had he not been parted from such joy. He cast himself upon the ground
and stretched out his arms in the form of the cross, and weeping, gave
thanks to God for the goodness he had shown him. He returned again to
the hermitage which he had left in his folly; there he lived all his
life, and when death came to him God saved his soul, and crowned it in
paradise.

Now may God grant us in this life such desire of well doing that we
shall win the light whereby we may know God and man.



The Jousting of Our Lady


[Illustration]

Sweet Jesus, what a fair feat of arms he doth, and how nobly he bears
his part in the tourney who of good will entereth the minster wherein
is celebrated the holy mystery of the sweet son of the Virgin Mother.
To show this I will now tell a story, even as I found it in the book
of examples.

A knight, sage and courteous, hardy and of great valiance, that none in
all chivalry was of so great worship, held ever in great love Mary the
Virgin. To prove his valiance and to exercise his body in feats of arms
he was on his way to a tourney, armed and fortified in his joy. So it
befell on the day of the jousting, that he to please God rode forth full
hastily, for fain would he be first in the field. But anon from a church
hardby he heard the bells give signal of the singing of holy mass. And
straightway the knight turned into the church to listen to the service
of God. Within they sang nobly and devoutly a mass in praise of Mary
the Holy Virgin; and then straightway they began another. Full well
the knight gave ear and prayed with good heart to Our Lady.

Now when the second mass was done a third was begun forthright in the
same place. Thereupon his squire bespoke the knight: "Sir, by the holy
body of God the hour of the tourney is passing, and do you yet linger
here? Come away I pray you. Think you to turn hermit, or devotee, or
hypocrite? Go we now about our own proper trade." "Friend," the knight
then made answer, "he jousts right nobly who listens to the service of
God. When all the masses are said and sung we will ride our way; and
if it please God, we will not leave before; but afterwards, for God's
honour, I will go joust full hardily." Thereafter he spoke no more,
but turned his face to the altar and remained at prayer until all the
chanting was ended.

Then the twain mounted their horses, as it behooved them to do, and
fared forth towards the place wherein they were to take their sport.
But even as they rode, they met other knights returning from the tourney
which already had been fought out from end to end. And lo you, the
knight who came even then from mass was he who had won the prize. They
who were returning, greeted him and praised him, and said that never
had any knight done so great feats of arms as he had that day done, and
always thenceforth would the honour thereof be his. Many there were who
surrendered themselves to him, saying: "We are your prisoners, this we
may not deny, nor that you won us by force of arms." Then was the knight
no longer abashed, for he understood speedily that she for whose sake he
had stayed him in the church had borne his part in the battle.

Frank and free he called his barons about him, and said to them: "Now
give ear, all ye of your courtesy, for I would tell you of such a marvel
that never have ye heard its like." Then he told them point by point how
he had waited to hear out the masses, and had not entered the lists, nor
fought with either lance or shield, but he believed that the Maid whom
he had worshipped within the church had fought for him in his stead.
"Right wondrous is the tourney wherein she hath jousted for me, yet I
should make small account thereof and if I did not now do combat for
her; foolish and simple would I be and if I turned me again to the
vanities of the world." And so of a sooth he promised God that never
thenceforth would he tourney save before the true judge, who knoweth
all good knights and passeth sentence upon them according to their
deeds. Then he took leave full piteously, and many a one wept thereat
right tenderly. But he departed from them, and in an abbey of monks
thenceforth served the Virgin Mary, and methinks he held to the path
that leadeth to a good end.

By this ensample we may well see that the gentle God, whom we worship,
loves and cherishes and honours him who gladly stays him to hear mass
in holy church, and who gladly does service to his fair, sweet Mother.
Fruitful is the custom thereof, and he who is sage and courteous
willingly practises good manners; for what the colt learneth in
teething time that will he hold to so long as he liveth.



The Order of Chivalry


[Illustration]

Well it is when the wise man speaketh, for thereby may we win much of
wisdom and good and courtesy; well it is to haunt the company of him who
taketh heed to his ways and setteth not his heart upon folly. For as
we read in Solomon, the man who hath understanding doeth well in all
things, and if at whiles he fail in aught unwittingly, lightly should
he be forgiven, inasmuch as he would forsake his wrongdoing.

But now it behooveth me to speak and tell and relate a tale I heard of
a king in the land of paynimry, who of old was a right great lord and a
full loyal Saracen. Saladin was his name; cruel he was, and many a time
did great hurt to our faith and damage to our folk by his pride and
outrageousness; until upon a time it fell that a prince came to do
battle with him. Hugh of Tabarie he hight, and with him was a great
company of knights of Galilee, for he was lord of that land. Many
good deeds of arms were done that day, but it was not the will of the
Creator, whom we call the King of Glory, that the victory should be with
us, for there Prince Hugh was taken prisoner. He was led away down the
streets, and forthwith brought before Saladin, who greeted him in his
own tongue which he knew right well. "By Mahomet," so saith the king,
"I am right glad of thy taking, Hugh; and now one thing I promise thee,
either thou must die or render great ransom." "Since you give me choice
herein," Hugh answered him, "I will take the ransom, if it be that I
have the wherewithal to defray it." "Yea," so saith the king to him,
"thou shalt give over to me a hundred thousand besants." "Ha, sir, that
could I not compass, even were I to sell all my land." "In sooth ye
shall do it," quoth Saladin. "But by what means, sir?" "Thou art of
great valiance and full of high chivalry, and no man of worth will
refuse thee when thou askest for thy ransom, but will give thee a fair
gift; and in this wise thou shalt aquit thee." "Now I would fain ask
thee how I may depart from here?" And Saladin made answer: "Hugh, thou
shalt pledge me on thy word and thy law that two years from to-day
without fail thou shalt have paid thy ransom, or thou wilt return again
to my prison; on these terms ye may depart." "Sir," saith he, "I give
thee good thanks, and even so make pledge."

Then he straightway asked leave in that he would return again to his own
country, but the king took him by the hand and led him away into his own
chamber, and gently besought him: "Hugh," he saith, "by the faith that
ye owe to the God of your law, make me wise for I am fain to know all
the Order of Chivalry, and how knights are made." "Fair sir," Hugh made
answer, "this I may not do." "Why so, fair sir?" "Even that will I tell
thee. In thee the holy order of knighthood would be ill bestowed, for
thou art of the false law, and have neither faith nor baptism. It were
great folly were I to deck and cover a dunghill with cloth of silk to
the end it should no longer stink; in no wise could I compass it; and
even so would I misdo, were I to invest thee with this order; never
would I dare do it, for much would I be blamed." "Not so, Hugh," saith
he, "no blame would be thine herein, for thou art my prisoner and
needs must do my will, howsoever much it mislike thee." "Sir, if I must
perforce do this thing, and no denial will avail, do it I will without
more caviling."

Thereupon Hugh beginneth to show him all it behooved him to do, and let
dress his hair and beard and face right fairly, as is meet for a new
knight. And next he made him enter a bath, and when the soudan asked him
what this might signify, "Sir," he made answer, "this bath wherein you
are bathed is to signify that even as the child which is born in sin
issueth out of the font pure after baptism, even so, sir, should you
issue forth clean of all felony, and be fulfilled with courtesy; for you
should bathe in honesty and courtesy and kindliness, that you may come
to be loved of all men." "God! right fair is this beginning," then said
the king. And thereafter he was taken out of the bath, and laid in a
goodly bed which was dight right heedfully. "Hugh, tell me now without
fail what this bed betokeneth." "Sir, this bed signifieth to you that by
your chivalry you should win the bed of Paradise that God granteth to
his friends; for this is the bed of rest, and great is the folly of him
who will not lie therein."

Now when he had lain in that bed for a little space, they raised him up,
and clothed him in white garments of linen. Then again Hugh spake in his
own tongue: "Take not this thing lightly, for these white garments that
cover your body give you to understand that a knight should always
study to keep his flesh pure if he would attain to God." Thereafter he
invested him with a robe of scarlet, whereat Saladin marveleth much why
the prince so dighteth him. "Hugh," he saith, "now what does this robe
betoken?" And Hugh of Tabarie maketh answer: "Sir, this robe giveth
you to understand that you must hold you ready to shed your blood for
the defense of holy church, that it be wronged of no man; for so it
behooveth a knight to do, if he would fain please God: this the scarlet
colour betokeneth." "Hugh," saith he, "much I marvel." Thereafter the
knight did upon his feet shoes of dark and fine-wrought say, and saith
to him: "Sir, of a sooth, this black foot-gear should remind you to hold
death ever in remembrance, and the earth wherein you shall lie, that
dust from which you came and to which you shall return again; upon this
you should set your eye, and fall not into pride; for pride should not
hold sway over a knight, nor have any place within him, but he should
seek simplicity in all things." "All this is right good to hear," saith
the king, "and rejoiceth me much."

Thereafter he stood upon his feet, and Hugh girt him about with a white
girdle finely wrought. "Sir, by this girdle you are given to understand
that you should keep your flesh, your reins and all your body pure, even
as in virginity, and scorn and blame all luxury. For a true knight
greatly loveth purity of body, that he sin not herein, in that such
vileness is sore hated of God." And the king maketh answer: "Good is
uprightness." Next Hugh did two spurs upon his feet, and said to him:
"Even as swift as you would have your horse, and eager for the race when
you smite him with your spurs, and that he turn quickly this way or that
according to your will, even so these golden spurs betoken that ye be
eager to serve God all your life; for so do all knights that love God
with their very hearts, always they serve him loyally." Well pleased
therewith was Saladin.

Thereafter he was girt with a sword, and asked what the blade might
signify. "Sir," saith Hugh, "ward and surety against the onset of the
foe. The sword is two-edged, even as you see, which giveth you to
understand that always should the knight have both justice and loyalty;
which is to say, meseemeth, that he should always protect the poor that
the rich may not tread them down, and support the weak that the strong
may not bring them to shame. Even such is the work of mercy." Saladin,
who hath given good heed to his words, agreeth well thereto. Next Hugh
set upon his head a coif all of white, and of this likewise the Sultan
asked the meaning. "Look you sir," saith Hugh, "even as you know the
coif to be without spot, but that, fair and white, clean and pure, it
crowneth your head, even so upon the Day of Doom must we straightway
render up the soul pure and clean of our sins and all the wrong that the
body ever doeth to God, that we may earn the delights of Paradise,--for
tongue may not tell, nor the ear hear, nor the heart dream what is the
beauty of that Paradise which God granteth to his friends."

The king gave heed to all this, and thereafter asked if there were now
no more to be done. "Yes, fair sir, but this one thing I dare not." "And
what may it be?" "Sir, the accolade." "But why have you not given it to
me and told its significance?" "Sir, it is the reminder of him who girt
a knight with his gear and invested him with the order; but never will
I give it to you, for though I am in your power I ought to do no felony
for aught that may be said or done to me, wherefore I will not give you
the accolade; and this you must hold for true. But none the less I will
show and tell and teach you the four weightiest matters that a knight
should know and hold to all his life, if he would fain win honour.

"First of all let him have no part in false judgments, or be in that
place wherein is treason, but flee from it right speedily, for if he may
not change the wrong, let him straightway depart from it. Full fair is
the second charge: that he in no wise miscounsel dame or damsel, but if
they have need of him, aid them he must with all his might, if he would
have glory and praise; for a knight should hold women in honour and do
high deeds in their defense. Now soothly the third point is that he
should practise abstinence; and truly I tell you that he should fast on
Friday in holy remembrance of Jesus Christ, that for our redemption he
was smitten with the spear and gave pardon to Longinus. All his life
through should the knight fast upon that day for the sake of our Lord
Jesus Christ,--if he be not forced to fail of it by reason of sickness,
or of fellowship, and if for such cause he fail of his fast it behooveth
him to make peace with God by alms-giving or other good deeds. And
lastly, the fourth charge is that he should hear mass each day, and if
he have the wherewithal should make offering, for right well is that
gift placed that is laid upon the table of God, for so it beareth great
virtue."

The king hath given right good heed to all that Hugh telleth him, and
hath great joy therein. And now he riseth, dight even as he is, and
goeth straight into his hall, where were assembled fifty amirals, all of
his own land. He sitteth down in his great chair; and Hugh sat at his
feet, but right soon the king raised him up, and showed him to one of
the high seats, and spoke, saying: "Know now of a sooth that I would
fain make thee a fair gift in that thou art a man of valour and worth,
for I promise thee fairly that if any of thy folk are taken, in melée or
battle, they shall for thy sake go free, if thou wilt come to ask it.
But thou shalt ride through my land peacefully and without disorder;
hang thy helm on the neck of thy palfrey in all men's sight, that no man
may do thee any hurt. And of thy folk that are now in my prison I will
surrender ten of them to thee, if thou wouldst fain take them hence with
thee." "Gramercy sir," saith Hugh, "for this deed deserveth good thanks.
But I would not forget that thou didst bid me whenever I met with a man
of worth, that I ask him to aid me in my ransom; now none know I of so
great worth as thou thyself, sir king, wherefore give me somewhat, as
is meet in that thou didst bid me ask." Whereupon Saladin laughed and
spoke, even as a man well pleased, saying: "Thou hast begun right well,
and freely and fairly will I give thee fifty thousand good besants, for
I would not that thou shouldst fail through me." Thereafter he arose and
said to Hugh: "Go now to each baron and I will go with thee." And he
spoke to them, saying, "Lords, give us wherewith to help ransom this
high prince." Then the amirals there gathered began to give to him, so
that he had his full ransom, and thirteen thousand besants over and
above, so much they gave and promised him.

Thereafter Hugh asked leave to go from the land of paynimry. "Nay,"
saith the king, "go thou shalt not until thou hast received the residue
of that they have promised us, for out of my own treasury shall be taken
those thirteen thousand besants of pure gold." Whereupon he commanded
his treasurer that he give the besants to Hugh, and thereafter claim
them again from those who had made promise to give. And the treasurer
hath justly measured out the besants, and given them over to Count Hugh
who must needs take them, though liefer had he left them behind, for he
was fain to ransom his folk who were in thraldom and sore captivity in
the hands of the Saracens. But when Saladin heard this, he swore by
Mahomet that never should they be ransomed; and Hugh, when he heard him
say so, had great wrath in his heart, but inasmuch as the king had sworn
by Mahomet, he did not make bold to press him further, for he dared not
anger him.

Then he bade array his ten companions, the which he was free to take
back into his own land. Yet thereafter he abode and tarried a good
eight days in high feasting and great delight, but at the end demanded
safe-conduct through that land of disbelief. And Saladin granted him
good store of his men, fifty there were who without pride or felony
escorted them through the land of paynimry, that they had no let or
hindrance on the way. Then the Saracens turned back, and each departed
into his own land; and the Prince of Galilee likewise returned home,
but sore he grieved because of his folk he must needs leave behind
him; he might no wise amend it, yet he was more wroth thereat than any
man beside. So into his own land he came with those ten and no more.
Thereupon he divided the great treasure he had brought with him, and
gave of it to many a man who thereby grew wealthy.

Lords, this tale should be welcome to good folk, but to others it shall
be as nought, for they understand no better than silly sheep. By the
faith I owe to God in Paradise, he will of a sooth lose his jewels who
casteth them before swine, for know ye they will tread them underfoot,
and take no delight therein, for they have not wit thereto, rather they
will take them all awry. And whoso should tell this tale to such like,
he too would be spurned and held as nought by their folly. But whoso
would learn herein may find two things right goodly in this same tale:
one, in the beginning, telleth the manner wherein knights are made, such
as all men should honour, inasmuch as they defend us all. For if it were
not for chivalry little would our baronage avail, for 'tis the knights
defend Holy Church, and do justice against those who would mishandle us;
and I will not withhold me from their praise. He who loveth them not
showeth himself a fool, even as one who should steal away the chalices
from the table of God before our eyes, and might not be restrained
therefrom. Now their righteousness taketh heed that by them we have
good defense; for if they did not repulse evil folk the good might not
endure, and there would be none left save Albigenses and Saracens and
Barbarians and folk of the false law who would make us deny our faith.
But such as these stand in fear of knights, wherefore of us those same
should be held right dear, and exalted and honoured, and we should
always rise upon our feet when from afar we see them coming. Certes, we
should scorn those who hold them of little worth. And now I tell you of
a sooth the knight is privileged to have all his arms and to bear them
in holy church when he goeth to hear mass, that no ill man may interrupt
the service of the Son of Mary, or that of the Holy Sacrament whereby
we win salvation; and if any seek to hinder it, him the knight may slay
forthwith.

Yet a little more it behooveth me to say: come what may, do ye the
right. This command is laid upon the knight, and if we are to hold him
dear, let him give good heed to it. And boldly I tell you that if he
live according to his order, he cannot fail of coming straight into
Paradise. So have I taught you this: do that you ought, and honour
knights above all other men, save only the priest who doth the sacrament
of God's own body.

Now soothly I tell you by this tale ye may know the truth of what befell
Prince Hugh, who was right brave and wise. And inasmuch as he found him
full valiant, Saladin praised him, and bade great honour be done to him,
in that he did good with all his might, for thereby may one win great
worth. And I find writ in Latin, good deeds bring a good ending. And now
at the end let us pray to him who is without end, that when we come to
the end of all things, we may so end that we shall win that pure joy
which for the good hath no end. And for him who wrote this, may he dwell
with Jesus Christ, and in the love of Saint Mary; amen, amen, saith each
and all.

Here endeth The Order of Chivalry.



Epilogue


[Illustration]

The tales in this volume are among the earliest examples of the French
short story that have come down to us. They grew up in that little
renaissance of the XII and XIII centuries, when the tradition that
literature must be epic, that it must tell of national heroes or the
history of some great house, was passing, and the trouvère was free to
take his matter where he found it and make of it what he would. Celtic
traditions, stories from the East or the classics, every day happenings,
old legends and new manners, all were turned to account, and woven, it
might be, into a long romance full of leisurely digressions, or retold
in a tale admirably compact.

The short stories, like most of the literature of the time, were
composed in octo-syllabic rhyming couplets, verse narratives for
minstrels to recite. Of their authors for the most part we know nothing.
Their very names have vanished save in the few cases where they were
wrought into prelude or epilogue, and made part of the text: and to none,
with the exception of Marie de France can more than one or two tales be
attributed. So impersonal, however, are the stories that their being
anonymous matters little. We look to them not for the flavour of any one
man's mind, but for an impression of the age in which they were
produced, its shows and fashions, its manners, its sentiments and
ideals, its inheritance of early legends, of old, word-of-mouth
story-telling, stories which the trouvères dressed anew and preserved
to us.

The tales fall into three main groups: _lais_, _fabliaux_, and _contes
dévots_. The _lais_, like the romances to which they are close akin,
belong to the courtly literature of the time and found their audience in
hall and castle. Denis Pyramus, a contemporary, in writing of Marie de
France, tells us her lays were "beloved and held right dear by counts
and barons and knights," and that "ladies likewise took great joy and
delight in them." Like the romances which they helped to foster and
which superseded them, the lays tell of love and adventure, of enchantment
and strange happenings. In them side by side with the knights and
squires and ladies move fays and giants and werewolves. Their material
is that of folklore and fairy-tale. A knight hunting in the _lande
adventureuse_ meets a maiden in the forest who leads him to a castle
with green walls and shining towers. There he spends three days, and
when he would return home again, learns that three hundred years have
gone by, that the king, his uncle is dead and his cities have fallen,
and there lingers but a legend of the king's nephew who went out to hunt
the white boar and was lost in the forest. Often in such lays the old
fairy-tale simplicity, its matter-of-fact narration of the marvellous
survives; and yet in their somewhat spare brevity they have a grace and
charm that lets one feel the beauty, the wonder, or the tragedy of the
story.

But the interest in the lays is not always that of the land of faery;
sometimes it is human enough, as in The Two Lovers where, despite the
old-time test and the magic potion, our delight is all in the maid and
the damoiseau "who hath in him no measure." Sometimes, as in Eliduc, we
find old, rude material--here a primitive Celtic tale of a man with two
wives ill cloaked by its additions of mediæval Christianity--retold with
a strange gentleness and sweetness, and turned at moments into a story
of emotion and scruple.

Both types occur in the lays of Marie de France,--the best that have
come down to us. Besides her lays she versified a collection of fables,
_Isopet_, and translated from the Latin _The Purgatory of Saint
Patrick_,--one of those other-world journeys that preceded the Divine
Comedy. Yet apart from her works we have no record of her life. She
herself in the prologue of her fables, tells her name: "I am called
Marie, and I am of France"; but that is all, and it is only the internal
evidence of her writings, their Anglo-Norman dialect, and a few chance
hints and phrases that have made scholars decide that she was a Norman,
or from that part of the Isle de France which borders upon Normandy,
that she lived and wrote in England in the second half of the twelfth
century, and that the unnamed king to whom she dedicated the lays was
Henry II.

Marie makes no claim to originality of theme; in her prologues she tells
us she is but rhyming anew the stories "whereof the Bretons have made
lays." Just what the source was of the Celtic matter used by Marie and
other French writers of the time is a point of dispute among scholars.
Some will have it the tales came wholly from the Celts of Brittany,
others that they are derived only from those of Wales. But there is
reason in both theories, and the tendency now is to unite them. The
Normans of the continent had not a little to do with their Breton
neighbors of Armorica; sometimes they fought as enemies and sometimes
as allies. Again, in England the Normans early settled in South Wales,
and intermarriages were frequent. In both regions, then, they may well
have learned to know the songs and tales of the folk about them.

But were they Welsh or Armorican, both history and romance bear
testimony to the popularity of Breton minstrels in France during the
twelfth century. No feast was complete without their music. Their lays
were sung to the accompaniment of a little harp called the _rote_, and
seem to have been given in their own tongue. But constantly in Marie and
other writers we find a distinction between the _lai_ and the _conte_,
and it seems probable that the songs were preceded by a short prose
narrative, or that prose and verse were interspersed after the manner of
_Aucassin and Nicolette_. In just what form the tales came to Marie, how
much she added to them, we cannot tell. We only know that her rendering
of them was to the liking of the time and was long popular. Denis
Pyramus tells us her writings were often repeated and often copied,
and we have manuscripts of them that date from a hundred years after
her time.

As the _lai_ was the favorite literature of the courts the _fabliau_ was
that of the bourgeoisie, the proper kind of tale for telling at fairs or
guild-hall feasts, at gatherings where women were not present. In time
they are a little later than the _lais_, for beginning in the twelfth,
the thirteenth century is their chief period. They deal not with the
fanciful and the sentimental, but with the real and the comic; they
forego magic and miracle for the happenings of every-day life. "When a
tale is historic," says M. de Montaiglon, who has given us a complete
edition of this type of story, "or when it is impossible, when it is
devout or didactic, when it is imaginative or romantic, lyric or poetic,
it can by no means be classed as a _fabliau_."

At their worst they are often gross, often puerile, mere _contes pour
rire_ from which the laughter has long ago faded; but at their best they
interest by the very fact that they mark an early venture into the real.
They show us plainly the figures of the time, knights that put their
lands in pawn that they might follow tourneys, the rich bourgeois riding
armed to one of the great fairs, the minstrel ready to recite a _chanson
de geste_ or carry a love message. Light and gay, always brief and to
the point, they tell good humoredly of the odd chances of life, they
satirize manners and morals. Unlike the lays that idealize women, they
ridicule them; and they are ready to mock the villein, the lords of the
earth, or the saints in heaven.

Often the story they tell is of eastern origin, often one of those
stories that reappear in all times and among many races. Sometimes it
is only a situation, a figure or two that they give us. Two minstrels
meet and mock one another; each boasts his skill and decries that of
the other, each enumerates his repertory, and in so doing hopelessly
confuses the names and incidents of well-known romances of the time:
"I know all about Kay the good knight; I know about Perceval of Blois,
and of Pertenoble le Gallois." Each, as he brags, sets before us the
stock in trade of the minstrel of the time; each shows his own utter
incompetence,--and that is all the story. If the tale has a moral, as in
_The Divided Blanket_, it is but the moral of common sense. If it tells
a romance, as in _The Gray Palfrey_, it is still kept within the solid
world of pounds and pence. We are told precisely concerning everybody's
income. The heroine shows herself as accurate in her knowledge of the
property of the hero's uncle as would one of the practical-minded damsels
of Balzac. Her rescue is brought about not by the help of magic or
knightly adventure, but by a lucky chance; the conclusion turns upon a
sleepy escort and a horse's eagerness for his stable. Time and place,
again, are definitely specified. In the lays it is usually, "Once upon a
time," or "Of old, there lived a king," but _The Divided Blanket_ begins:
"Some twenty years ago, a rich man of Abbeville left his home and came
up to Paris."

More limited in scope than the other tales of the period, they at least
accomplish their aim, that is, they give us a swift and entertaining
narrative. "A little tale wearies less than a long one," says one of
the prologues, and most of the _fabliaux_ contrive to tell their story
in four or five hundred lines. Peculiarly Gallic in character, they
influenced the literature of other countries less than did the French
lays and romances, they were less often imitated and translated. In
France they were popular for two hundred years; then we hear no more
of them. But in the fifteenth century, when printed books and the stage
were taking the place of the minstrel, we find, as M. de Montaiglon
points out, similar plots and situations, the same shrewd though not
deep observation, the same fashion of treating the every-day incidents
of life from the comic point of view recurring again in the farces.

The church in the middle ages looked askance upon the minstrels and
their stock in trade; the sermons of the time denounce their "ignoble
fables," their "tales all falsehood and lying." But the church did
not only censure, it tried to supplant, and produced within its own
boundaries, quite apart from its more learned work in Latin, a large
body of narrative literature in the vulgar tongue. These religious
stories were written by lay clerks or by monks in the monastery schools,
and like other tales were spread abroad by minstrels. Those who recited
them were shown some favour, and M. Petit de Julleville quotes a
_Somme de Penitence_ of the thirteenth century which would admit to
the sacraments those "jongleurs who sing the exploits of princes and
the lives of the saints, and use their instruments of music to console
men in their sadness and weariness."

Besides the lives of saints we have tales of miracles performed by Our
Lady, tales of penitence, tales of good counsel. As a whole they are
less interesting than the lay literature of the time. Written for
edification, many of them are rather bare little "examples" and their
authors show themselves more concerned with the lesson in point than
with the story. Others are told with more elaboration and skill and
give us good tale-telling. Sometimes, as in _The Angel and the Hermit_,
an ancient story is given a mediæval setting. M. Gaston Paris, in
_La Poésie au Moyen Age_, has traced the history of this tale, which,
originally of Jewish invention, has travelled all over Europe; a tale
that was given a place in the _Koran_, and that was told both by Luther
and Voltaire, besides its good rendering by some unknown clerk of
France. Another story, _Theophilus_, gives a version of the Faust
legend, and tells the story of a man who has made a compact with the
devil, but who in this case is saved in the end by Our Lady.

But if among the _contes dévots_ tales as vivid as that of the proud
knight on whom was laid the penance of the cask are rare, there are yet
not a few that charm us by their mere sincerity and simplicity, that
interest by revealing to us the superstitions and the beliefs of the
time. They show us how vividly present to men's minds was the triple
division of the world, how concrete that heaven and hell, whence issued
on the one side the demons, on the other the Virgin and the saints to
take share in the combat on earth for men's temptation and salvation.
To turn the pages of a collection of these stories is like looking up
at the dim, stiff figures of some early fresco, to see again, say, the
strife of angels and devils for souls in The Triumph of Death on the
walls of the Campo Santo in Pisa.

Just as the spirit of the _fabliaux_ is found again in the farces, so
that of the _contes dévots_ continues in the miracle plays. But when,
in the fifteenth century, prose drives out verse narrative, all three
types of tale cease. In the renaissance and for long after they were
neglected. It was in the eighteenth century, with its curiosity
concerning the mediæval, that men turned back to the manuscripts so long
disregarded. Barbazan brought out a collection of texts, and Legrand
d'Aussy published a collection of abridgments of twelfth and thirteenth
century tales. Since then, various editors, both French and German, have
made the best of the tales available to us.

Taken together, apart from the pleasure of the story for the story's
sake, they give us a fresh sense of the time in which they were written,
its feasts and tourneys bright with the gold and the vair; its wars, its
interrupted traffic and barter; its license, its asceticism; its prayers
and its visions. More than that, they interest us as standing midway
between the old and the new. In them one may look for fragments of
vanished stories, bits of myth and folklore, salvage of an age that told
its tales instead of writing them; and, at the same time, we find in
them the beginnings of modern literature, the first of that long and
goodly line, the French short story. For all their simplicity they show
the beginnings of a shrewd observation, of delicate description, and
above all of compact narrative where no words are wasted. Already there
is a conscious artistic pride; Marie de France tells us she has waked
many a night in rhyming her verses; and "Know ye," one of the _fabliaux_
charges us, "it is no light thing to tell a goodly tale."



Bibliography

List of Texts followed in These Translations


The Lay of the Bird, _Le Lai de l'Oiselet_, edited by Gaston Paris,
    Paris, 1884. Privately printed.

The Two Lovers, The Woful Knight (Chaitivel), Eliduc: _Die Lais der
    Marie de France_, edited by Karl Warnke, Halle, 1900.

Melion, _Lai d'Ignaurès, Suivi des Lais de Melion et du Trot_, edited
    by Monmerqué et Francisque Michel, Paris, 1832.

The Lay of the Horn: _Le Lai du Cor_, edited by F. Wulf, Lunt, 1888.
    Also Tobler's notes on the same, _Zeitschrift für Romanische
    Philologie_, XII., 266.

Of the Churl who Won Paradise, The Divided Blanket, The Gray Palfrey:
    _Recueil des Fabliaux des xii^e et xiii^e Siècles_, edited by
    A. de Montaiglon and G. Raynaud, 6 vols., Paris, 1872-90.

The Knight of the Little Cask: _Zwei Altfranzösische Dichtungen_,
    _La Chastelaine de Saint Gille_, _Du Chevalier au Barisel_,
    edited by O. Schultzgora, Halle, 1889.

The Angel and the Hermit: _Nouveau Recueil de Fabliaux et Contes_,
    edited by M. Méon, 2 vols. Paris, 1823.

The Jousting of Our Lady: Chrestomatie de l'ancien français, Karl
    Bartsch, Leipzig, 1880.

The Order of Chivalry: _Fabliaux et Contes_, edited by E. Barbazan,
    and revised by M. Méon, 4 vols., Paris, 1808.



Translator's Note


NOTE.--In recent years, in various small books, a number of mediæval
French tales, chiefly the lays, have been rendered accessible to English
readers, but no attempt has been made to bring together in a single
collection examples of the different types of tales. The translator has
tried within a small compass to show something of the range and scope of
the Old French short story, and at the same time to choose, as far as
might be, tales that had not been previously translated.

Three of those included in the volume have, however, already been done
into English. _The Two Lovers_ and _Eliduc_ appeared in _Seven Lays
of Marie de France_, by Edith Rickert, London, 1901; and a metrical
translation by William Morris of _The Order of Chivalry_ was printed
in the Kelmscott Press edition of Caxton's _Order of Chivalry_. Of the
others, I believe, no complete English version has been made. Condensed
renderings, however, of _The Order of Chivalry_ and _The Lay of the
Bird_ occur in Way's Selections of Fabliaux and Tales, London, 1796 and
1800. Also Leigh Hunt used the plot of _Le Vair Palefroi_ for his poem
_The Palfrey_; and in Parnell's _Hermit_ an often told story is again
repeated, and the anchorite and his divine comrade move, strange
figures, through the ordered, eighteenth century landscape.

Many of the Old French tales have been preserved to us in but a single
manuscript, with the result we have few critical texts. Such excellent
editions as Warnke's _Lais of Marie de France_ are rare, and the
translator often encounters difficulties by the way. Some of the
readings must perforce be conjectural, and others can but reproduce
the ambiguities of the original. At the end of _The Gray Palfrey_
I have omitted altogether a long but incomplete sentence that begins
to tell us what happened next between the hero and his uncle. Zorak's
text of _Melion_ (_Zeitsckrift für Romanische philologie_, vol. vi.)
unfortunately did not come to my notice until these translations were
in press, too late to do more than borrow a few readings where Michel
is most unsatisfactory.

A word should be said as to the grouping of the tales. The types are not
so distinct but that there is a borderland between the _lai_ and the
_fabliau_ in which are found a few examples with the characteristics of
each. _The Lay of the Bird_ is a case in point. Gaston Paris, in his
_Littérature Française au Moyen Age_, classes it as a _fabliau_ because
the story is not of Celtic but Eastern origin; yet M. de Montaiglon does
not admit it to his complete edition of the _Fabliaux_. Indeed, the
enchanted orchard, the talking bird, the sentiments, the praise of love
are all in the manner of the courtly poetry. It is therefore, on account
of its accessories, here included among the _lais_.

       *       *       *       *       *

  The Riverside Press
  CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS
  U.S.A.





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