Four Arthurian Romances, by Chretien DeTroyes

Part 1 out of 9

Four Arthurian Romances
("Erec et Enide", "Cliges", "Yvain", and "Lancelot")

by Chretien DeTroyes
Fl. 12th Century A.D.

Originally written in Old French, sometime in the second half of
the 12th Century A.D., by the court poet Chretien DeTroyes.

This electronic edition was edited, proofed, and prepared by
Douglas B. Killings (DeTroyes@EnterAct.COM), November 1996.




Carroll, Carleton W. (Ed.): "Chretien DeTroyes: Erec and Enide"
(Garland Library of Medieval Literature, New York & London,
1987). Edited with a translation (see Penguin Classics edition

Kibler, William W. (Ed.): "Chretien DeTroyes: The Knight with the
Lion, or Yvain (Garland Library of Medieval Literature 48A, New
York & London, 1985). Original text with English translation
(See Penguin Classics edition below).

Kibler, William W. (Ed.): "Chretien DeTroyes: Lancelot, or The
Knight of the Cart (Garland Library of Medieval Literature 1A,
New York & London, 1981). Original text with English translation
(See Penguin Classics edition below).

Micha, Alexandre (Ed.): "Les Romans de Chretien de Troyes, Vol.
II: Cliges" (Champion, Paris, 1957).


Cline, Ruth Harwood (Trans.): "Chretien DeTroyes: Yvain, or the
Knight with the Lion" (University of Georgia Press, Athens GA,

Kibler, William W. & Carleton W. Carroll (Trans.): "Chretien
DeTroyes: Arthurian Romances" (Penguin Classics, London, 1991).
Contains translations of "Erec et Enide" (by Carroll), "Cliges",
"Yvain", "Lancelot", and DeTroyes' incomplete "Perceval" (by
Kibler). Highly recommended.

Owen, D.D.R (Trans.): "Chretien DeTroyes: Arthurian Romances"
(Everyman Library, London, 1987). Contains translations of "Erec
et Enide", "Cliges", "Yvain", "Lancelot", and DeTroyes'
incomplete "Perceval". NOTE: This edition replaced W.W.
Comfort's in the Everyman Library catalogue. Highly recommended.


Anonymous: "Lancelot of the Lake" (Trans: Corin Corely; Oxford
University Press, Oxford, 1989). English translation of one of
the earliest prose romances concerning Lancelot.

Anonymous: "The Mabinogion" (Ed: Jeffrey Gantz; Penguin Classics,
London, 1976). Contains a translation of "Geraint and Enid", an
earlier Welsh version of "Erec et Enide".

Anonymous: "Yvain and Gawain", "Sir Percyvell of Gales", and "The
Anturs of Arther" (Ed: Maldwyn Mills; Everyman, London, 1992).
NOTE: Texts are in Middle-English; "Yvain and Gawain" is a
Middle-English work based almost exclusively on Chretien
DeTroyes' "Yvain".

Malory, Sir Thomas: "Le Morte D'Arthur" (Ed: Janet Cowen; Penguin
Classics, London, 1969).



Chretien De Troyes has had the peculiar fortune of becoming the
best known of the old French poets to students of mediaeval
literature, and of remaining practically unknown to any one else.
The acquaintance of students with the work of Chretien has been
made possible in academic circles by the admirable critical
editions of his romances undertaken and carried to completion
during the past thirty years by Professor Wendelin Foerster of
Bonn. At the same time the want of public familiarity with
Chretien's work is due to the almost complete lack of
translations of his romances into the modern tongues. The man
who, so far as we know, first recounted the romantic adventures
of Arthur's knights, Gawain. Yvain, Erec, Lancelot, and Perceval,
has been forgotten; whereas posterity has been kinder to his
debtors, Wolfram yon Eschenbach, Malory, Lord Tennyson, and
Richard Wagner. The present volume has grown out of the desire
to place these romances of adventure before the reader of English
in a prose version based directly upon the oldest form in which
they exist.

Such extravagant claims for Chretien's art have been made in some
quarters that one feels disinclined to give them even an echo
here. The modem reader may form his own estimate of the poet's
art, and that estimate will probably not be high. Monotony, lack
of proportion, vain repetitions, insufficient motivation,
wearisome subtleties, and threatened, if not actual, indelicacy
are among the most salient defects which will arrest, and mayhap
confound, the reader unfamiliar with mediaeval literary craft.
No greater service can be performed by an editor in such a case
than to prepare the reader to overlook these common faults, and
to set before him the literary significance of this twelfth-century poet.

Chretien de Troyes wrote in Champagne during the third quarter of
the twelfth century. Of his life we know neither the beginning
nor the end, but we know that between 1160 and 1172 he lived,
perhaps as herald-at-arms (according to Gaston Paris, based on
"Lancelot" 5591-94) at Troyes, where was the court of his
patroness, the Countess Marie de Champagne. She was the daughter
of Louis VII, and of that famous Eleanor of Aquitaine, as she is
called in English histories, who, coming from the South of France
in 1137, first to Paris and later to England, may have had some
share in the introduction of those ideals of courtesy and woman
service which were soon to become the cult of European society.
The Countess Marie, possessing her royal mother's tastes and
gifts, made of her court a social experiment station, where these
Provencal ideals of a perfect society were planted afresh in
congenial soil. It appears from contemporary testimony that the
authority of this celebrated feudal dame was weighty, and widely
felt. The old city of Troyes, where she held her court, must be
set down large in any map of literary history. For it was there
that Chretien was led to write four romances which together form
the most complete expression we possess from a single author of
the ideals of French chivalry. These romances, written in
eight-syllable rhyming couplets, treat respectively of Erec and
Enide, Cliges, Yvain, and Lancelot. Another poem, "Perceval le
Gallois", was composed about 1175 for Philip, Count of Flanders,
to whom Chretien was attached during his last years. This last
poem is not included in the present translation because of its
extraordinary length of 32,000 verses, because Chretien wrote
only the first 9000 verses, and because Miss Jessie L. Weston has
given us an English version of Wolfram's wellknown "Parzival",
which tells substantially the same story, though in a different
spirit. To have included this poem, of which he wrote less than
one-third, in the works of Chretien would have been unjust to
him. It is true the romance of "Lancelot" was not completed by
Chretien, we are told, but the poem is his in such large part
that one would be over-scrupulous not to call it his. The other
three poems mentioned are his entire. In addition, there are
quite generally assigned to the poet two insignificant lyrics,
the pious romance of "Guillaume d'Angleterre", and the
elaboration of an episode from Ovid's "Metamorphoses" (vi., 426-
674) called "Philomena" by its recent editor (C. de Boer, Paris,
1909). All these are extant and accessible. But since
"Guillaume d'Angleterre" and "Philomena" are not universally
attributed to Chretien, and since they have nothing to do with
the Arthurian material, it seems reasonable to limit the present
enterprise to "Erec and Enide", "Cliges", "Yvain", and

Professor Foerster, basing his remark upon the best knowledge we
possess of an obscure matter, has called "Erec and Enide" the
oldest Arthurian romance extant. It is not possible to dispute
this significant claim, but let us make it a little more
intelligible. Scholarship has shown that from the early Middle
Ages popular tradition was rife in Britain and Brittany. The
existence of these traditions common to the Brythonic peoples was
called to the attention of the literary world by William of
Malmesbury ("Gesta regum Anglorum") and Geoffrey of Monmouth
("Historia regum Britanniae") in their Latin histories about 1125
and 1137 respectively, and by the Anglo-Norman poet Wace
immediately afterward. Scholars have waged war over the theories
of transmission of the so-called Arthurian material during the
centuries which elapsed between the time of the fabled
chieftain's activity in 500 A.D. and his appearance as a great
literary personage in the twelfth century. Documents are lacking
for the dark ages of popular tradition before the Norman
Conquest, and the theorists may work their will. But Arthur and
his knights, as we see them in the earliest French romances, have
little in common with their Celtic prototypes, as we dimly catch
sight of them in Irish, Welsh, and Breton legend. Chretien
belonged to a generation of French poets who rook over a great
mass of Celtic folk-lore they imperfectly understood, and made of
what, of course, it had never been before: the vehicle to carry a
rich freight of chivalric customs and ideals. As an ideal of
social conduct, the code of chivalry never touched the middle and
lower classes, but it was the religion of the aristocracy and of
the twelfth-century "honnete homme". Never was literature in any
age closer to the ideals of a social class. So true is this that
it is difficult to determine whether social practices called
forth the literature, or whether, as in the case of the
seventeenth-century pastoral romance in France, it is truer to
say that literature suggested to society its ideals. Be that as
it may, it is proper to observe that the French romances of
adventure portray late mediaeval aristocracy as it fain would be.
For the glaring inconsistencies between the reality and the
ideal, one may turn to the chronicles of the period. Yet, even
history tells of many an ugly sin rebuked and of many a gallant
deed performed because of the courteous ideals of chivalry. The
debt of our own social code to this literature of courtesy and
frequent self-sacrifice is perfectly manifest.

What Chretien's immediate and specific source was for his
romances is of deep interest to the student. Unfortunately, he
has left us in doubt. He speaks in the vaguest way of the
materials he used. There is no evidence that he had any Celtic
written source. We are thus thrown back upon Latin or French
literary originals which are lost, or upon current continental
lore going back to a Celtic source. This very difficult problem
is as yet unsolved in the case of Chretien, as it is in the case
of the Anglo-Norman Beroul, who wrote of Tristan about 1150. The
material evidently was at hand and Chretien appropriated it,
without much understanding of its primitive spirit, but
appreciating it as a setting for the ideal society dreamed of but
not realised in his own day. Add to this literary perspicacity,
a good foundation in classic fable, a modicum of ecclesiastical
doctrine, a remarkable facility in phrase, figure, and rhyme and
we have the foundations for Chretien's art as we shall find it
upon closer examination.

A French narrative poet of the twelfth century had three
categories of subject-matter from which to choose: legends
connected with the history of France ("matiere de France"),
legends connected with Arthur and other Celtic heroes ("matiere
de Bretagne"), and stories culled from the history or mythology
of Greece and Rome, current in Latin and French translations
("matiere de Rome la grant"). Chretien tells us in "Cliges" that
his first essays as a poet were the translations into French of
certain parts of Ovid's most popular works: the "Metamorphoses",
the "Ars Amatoria", and perhaps the "Remedia Amoris". But he
appears early to have chosen as his special field the stories of
Celtic origin dealing with Arthur, the Round Table, and other
features of Celtic folk-lore. Not only was he alive to the
literary interest of this material when rationalised to suit the
taste of French readers; his is further the credit of having
given to somewhat crude folk-lore that polish and elegance which
is peculiarly French, and which is inseparably associated with
the Arthurtan legends in all modern literature. Though Beroul,
and perhaps other poets, had previously based romantic poems upon
individual Celtic heroes like Tristan, nevertheless to Chretien,
so far as we can see, is due the considerable honour of having
constituted Arthur's court as a literary centre and rallying-
point for an innumerable company of knights and ladies engaged in
a never-ending series of amorous adventures and dangerous quests.
Rather than unqualifiedly attribute to Chretien this important
literary convention, one should bear in mind that all his poems
imply familiarity on the part of his readers with the heroes of
the court of which he speaks. One would suppose that other
stories, told before his versions, were current. Some critics
would go so far as to maintain that Chretien came toward the
close, rather than at the beginning, of a school of French
writers of Arthurian romances. But, if so, we do not possess
these earlier versions, and for lack of rivals Chretien may be
hailed as an innovator in the current schools of poetry.

And now let us consider the faults which a modern reader will not
be slow to detect in Chretien's style. Most of his salient
faults are common to all mediaeval narrative literature. They
may be ascribed to the extraordinary leisure of the class for
whom it was composed--a class which was always ready to read an
old story told again, and which would tolerate any description,
however detailed. The pastimes of this class of readers were
jousting, hunting, and making love. Hence the preponderance of
these matters in the literature of its leisure hours. No detail
of the joust or hunt was unfamiliar or unwelcome to these
readers; no subtle arguments concerning the art of love were too
abstruse to delight a generation steeped in amorous casuistry and
allegories. And if some scenes seem to us indelicate, yet after
comparison with other authors of his times, Chretien must be let
off with a light sentence. It is certain he intended to avoid
what was indecent, as did the writers of narrative poetry in
general. To appreciate fully the chaste treatment of Chretien
one must know some other forms of mediaeval literature, such as
the fabliaux, farces, and morality plays, in which courtesy
imposed no restraint. For our poet's lack of sense of
proportion, and for his carelessness in the proper motivation of
many episodes, no apology can be made. He is not always guilty;
some episodes betoken poetic mastery. But a poet acquainted, as
he was, with some first-class Latin poetry, and who had made a
business of his art, ought to have handled his material more
intelligently, even in the twelfth century. The emphasis is not
always laid with discrimination, nor is his yarn always kept free
of tangles in the spinning.

Reference has been made to Chretien's use of his sources. The
tendency of some critics has been to minimise the French poet's
originality by pointing out striking analogies in classic and
Celtic fable. Attention has been especially directed to the
defence of the fountain and the service of a fairy mistress in
"Yvain", to the captivity of Arthur's subjects in the kingdom of
Gorre, as narrated in "Lancelot", reminding one so insistently of
the treatment of the kingdom of Death from which some god or hero
finally delivers those in durance, and to the reigned death of
Fenice in "Cliges", with its many variants. These episodes are
but examples of parallels which will occur to the observant
reader. The difficult point to determine, in speaking of
conceptions so widespread in classic and mediaeval literature, is
the immediate source whence these conceptions reached Chretien.
The list of works of reference appended to this volume will
enable the student to go deeper into this much debated question,
and will permit us to dispense with an examination of the
arguments in this place. However, such convincing parallels for
many of Chretien's fairy and romantic episodes have been adduced
by students of Irish and Welsh legend that one cannot fail to be
impressed by the fact that Chretien was in touch, either by oral
or literary tradition, with the populations of Britain and of
Brittany, and that we have here his most immediate inspiration.
Professor Foerster, stoutly opposing the so-called Anglo-Norman
theory which supposes the existence of lost Anglo-Norman romances
in French as the sources of Chretien de Troyes, is, nevertheless,
well within the truth when he insists upon what is, so far as we
are concerned, the essential originality of the French poet. The
general reader will to-day care as little as did the reader of
the twelfth century how the poet came upon the motives and
episodes of his stories, whether he borrowed them or invented
them himself. Any poet should be judged not as a "finder" but as
a "user" of the common stock of ideas. The study of sources of
mediaeval poetry, which is being so doggedly carried on by
scholars, may well throw light upon the main currents of literary
tradition, but it casts no reflection, favourable or otherwise,
upon the personal art of the poet in handling his stuff. On that
count he may plead his own cause before the jury.

Chretien's originality, then, consists in his portrayal of the
social ideal of the French aristocracy in the twelfth century.
So far as we know he was the first to create in the vulgar
tongues a vast court, where men and women lived in conformity
with the rules of courtesy, where the truth was told, where
generosity was open-handed, where the weak and the innocent were
protected by men who dedicated themselves to the cult of honour
and to the quest of a spotless reputation. Honour and love
combined to engage the attention of this society; these were its
religion in a far more real sense than was that of the Church.
Perfection was attainable under this code of ethics: Gawain, for
example, was a perfect knight. Though the ideals of this court
and those of Christianity are in accord at many points, vet
courtly love and Christian morality are irreconcilable. This
Arthurian material, as used by Chretien, is fundamentally immoral
as judged by Christian standards. Beyond question, the poets and
the public alike knew this to be the case, and therein lay its
charm for a society in which the actual relations or the sexes
were rigidly prescribed by the Church and by feudal practice,
rather than by the sentiments of the individuals concerned. The
passionate love of Tristan for Iseut, of Lancelot for Guinevere,
of Cliges for Fenice, fascinate the conventional Christian
society of the twelfth century and of the twentieth century
alike, but there-is only one name among men for such relations as
theirs, and neither righteousness nor reason lie that way. Even
Tennyson, in spite of all he has done to spiritualise this
material, was compelled to portray the inevitable dissolution and
ruin of Arthur's court. Chretien well knew the difference
between right and wrong, between reason and passion, as the
reader of "Cliges" may learn for himself. Fenice was not Iseut,
and she would not have her Cliges to be a Tristan. Infidelity,
if you will, but not "menage a trois". Both "Erec" and "Yvain"
present a conventional morality. But "Lancelot" is flagrantly
immoral, and the poet is careful to state that for this
particular romance he is indebted to his patroness Marie de
Champagne. He says it was she who furnished him with both the
"matiere" and the "san", the material of the story and its method
of treatment.

Scholars have sought to fix the chronology of the poet's works,
and have been tempted to speculate upon the evolution of his
literary and moral ideas. Professor Foerster's chronology is
generally accepted, and there is little likelihood of his being
in error when he supposes Chretien's work to have been done as
follows: the lost "Tristan" (the existence of which is denied by
Gaston Paris in "Journal des Savants", 1902, pp. 297 f.), "Erec
and Enide", "Cliges", "Lancelot", "Yvain", "Perceval". The
arguments for this chronology, based upon external as well as
internal criticism, may be found in the Introductions to
Professor Foerster's recent editions. When we speculate upon the
development of Chretien's moral ideas we are not on such sure
ground. As we have seen, his standards vary widely in the
different romances. How much of this variation is due to chance
circumstance imposed by the nature of his subject or by the taste
of his public, and how much to changing conviction it is easy to
see, when we consider some contemporary novelist, how dangerous
it is to judge of moral convictions as reflected in literary
work. "Lancelot" must be the keystone of any theory constructed
concerning the moral evolution of Chretien. The following
supposition is tenable, if the chronology of Foerster is correct.
After the works of his youth, consisting of lyric poems and
translations embodying the ideals of Ovid and of the school of
contemporary troubadour poets, Chretien took up the Arthurinn
material and started upon a new course. "Erec" is the oldest
Arthurinn romance to have survived in any language, but it is
almost certainly not the first to have been written. It is a
perfectly clean story: of love, estrangement, and reconciliation
in the persons of Erec and his charming sweetheart Enide. The
psychological analysis of Erec's motives in the rude testing of
Enide is worthy of attention, and is more subtle than anything
previous in French literature with which we are acquainted. The
poem is an episodical romance in the biography of an Arthurinn
hero, with the usual amount of space given to his adventures.
"Cliges" apparently connects a Byzantine tale of doubtful origin
in an arbitrary fashion with the court of Arthur. It is thought
that the story embodies the same motive as the widespread tale of
the deception practised upon Solomon by his wife, and that
Chretien's source, as he himself claims, was literary (cf. Gaston
Paris in "Journal des Savants", 1902, pp. 641-655). The scene
where Fenice feigns death in order to rejoin her lover is a
parallel of many others in literary history, and will, of course,
suggest the situation in Romeo and Juliet. This romance well
illustrates the drawing power of Arthur's court as a literary
centre, and its use as a rallying-point for courteous knights of
whatever extraction. The poem has been termed an "Anti-Tristan",
because of its disparaging reference to the love of Tristan and
Iseut, which, it is generally supposed, had been narrated by
Chretien in his earlier years. Next may come "Lancelot", with
its significant dedication to the Countess of Champagne. Of all
the poet's work, this tale of the rescue of Guinevere by her
lover seems to express most closely the ideals of Marie's court
ideals in which devotion and courtesy but thinly disguise free
love. "Yvain" is a return to the poet's natural bent, in an
episodical romance, while "Perceval" crowns his production with
its pure and exalted note, though without a touch of that
religious mysticism which later marked Wolfram yon Eschenbach's
"Parzival". "Guillaime d'Angleterre" is a pseudo-historical
romance of adventure in which the worldly distresses and the
final reward of piety are conventionally exposed. It is
uninspired, its place is difficult to determine, and its
authorship is questioned by some. It is aside from the Arthurian
material, and there is no clue to its place in the evolution of
Chretien's art, if indeed it be his work.

A few words must be devoted to Chretien's place in the history of
mediaeval narrative poetry. The heroic epic songs of France,
devoted either to the conflict of Christendom under the
leadership of France against the Saracens, or else to the strife
and rivalry of French vassals among themselves, had been current
for perhaps a century before our poet began to write. These
epic poems, of which some three score have survived, portray a
warlike, virile, unsentimental feudal society, whose chief
occupation was fighting, and whose dominant ideals were faith in
God, loyalty to feudal family ties, and bravery in battle.
Woman's place is comparatively obscure, and of love-making there
is little said. It is a poetry of vigorous manhood, of
uncompromising morality, and of hard knocks given and taken for
God, for Christendom, and the King of France. This poetry is
written in ten- or twelve- sylabble verses grouped, at first in
assonanced, later in rhymed, "tirades" of unequal length. It was
intended for a society which was still homogeneous, and to it at
the outset doubtless all classes of the population listened with
equal interest. As poetry it is monotonous, without sense of
proportion, padded to facilitate memorisation by professional
reciters, and unadorned by figure, fancy, or imagination. Its
pretention to historic accuracy begot prosaicness in its approach
to the style of the chronicles. But its inspiration was noble,
its conception of human duties was lofty. It gives a realistic
portrayal of the age which produced it, the age of the first
crusades, and to this day we would choose as our models of
citizenship Roland and Oliver rather than Tristan and Lancelot.
The epic poems, dealing with the pseudo-historical characters who
had fought in civil and foreign wars under Charlemagne, remained
the favourite literary pabulum of the middle classes until the
close of the thirteenth century. Professor Bedier is at present
engaged in explaining the extraordinary hold which these poems
had upon the public, and in proving that they exercised a
distinct function when exploited by the Church throughout the
period of the crusades to celebrate local shrines and to promote
muscular Christianity. But the refinement which began to
penetrate the ideals of the French aristocracy about the middle
of the twelfth century craved a different expression in narrative
literature. Greek and Roman mythology and history were seized
upon with some effect to satisfy the new demand. The "Roman de
Thebes", the "Roman d'Alexandre", the "Roman de Troie", and its
logical continuation, the "Roman d'Eneas", are all twelfth-
century attempts to clothe classic legend in the dress of
mediaeval chivalry. But better fitted to satisfy the new demand
was the discovery by the alert Anglo-Normans perhaps in Brittany,
perhaps in the South of England, of a vast body of legendary
material which, so far as we know, had never before this century
received any elaborate literary treatment. The existence of the
literary demand and this discovery of the material for its prompt
satisfaction is one of the most remarkable coincidences in
iiterary history. It would seem that the pride of the Celtic
populations in a Celtic hero, aided and abetted by Geoffrey of
Monmouth, who first showed the romantic possibilities of the
material, made of the obscure British chieftain Arthur a world
conqueror. Arthur thus became already in Geoffrey's "Historia
regum Britaniae" a conscious protagonist of Charlemagne and his
rival in popularity. This grandiose conception of Arthur
persisted in England, but this conception of the British
chieftain did not interest the French. For Chretien Arthur had
no political significance. He is simply the arbiter of his court
in all affairs of justice and courtesy. Charlemagne's very
realistic entourage of virile and busy barons is replaced by a
court of elegant chevaliers and unemployed ladies. Charlemagne's
setting is historical and geographical; Arthur's setting is ideal
and in the air. In the oldest epic poems we find only God-
fearing men and a few self-effacing women; in the Arthurian
romances we meet gentlemen and ladies, more elegant and seductive
than any one in the epic poems, but less fortified by faith and
sense of duty against vice because breathing an enervating
atmosphere of leisure and decadent morally. Though the Church
made the attempt in "Parzival", it could never lay its hands so
effectively upon this Celtic material, because it contained too
many elements which were root and branch inconsistent with the
essential teachings of Christianity. A fleeting comparison of
the noble end of Charlemagne's Peers fighting for their God and
their King at Ronceval with the futile and dilettante careers of
Arthur's knights in joust and hunt, will show better than mere
words where the difference lies.

The student of the history of social and moral ideals will find
much to interest him in Chretien's romances. Mediaeval
references show that he was held by his immediate successors, as
he is held to-day when fairly viewed, to have been a master of
the art of story-telling. More than any other single narrative
poet, he was taken as a model both in France and abroad.
Professor F. M. Warren has set forth in detail the finer points
in the art of poetry as practised by Chretien and his
contemporary craftsmen (see "Some Features of Style in Early
French Narrative Poetry, 1150-1170 in "Modern Philology", iii.,
179-209; iii., 513-539; iv., 655-675). Poets in his own land
refer to him with reverence, and foreign poets complimented him
to a high degree by direct translation and by embroidering upon
the themes which he had made popular. The knights made famous by
Chretien soon crossed the frontiers and obtained rights of
citizenship in counties so diverse as Germany, England,
Scandinavia, Holland, Italy, and to a lesser extent in Spain and
Portugal. The inevitable tendency of the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries to reduce poetry to prose affected the
Arthurian material; vast prose compilations finally embodied in
print the matter formerly expressed in verse, and it was in this
form that the stories were known to later generations until
revived interest in the Middle Ages brought to light the
manuscripts in verse.

Aside from certain episodes of Chretien's romances, the student
will be most interested in the treatment of love as therein
portrayed. On this topic we may hear speaking the man of his
time. "Cliges" contains the body of Chretien's doctrine of love,
while Lancelot is his most perfect lover. His debt to Ovid has
not yet been indicated with sufficient preciseness. An elaborate
code to govern sentiment and its expression was independently
developed by the troubadours of Provence in the early twelfth
century. These Provencal ideals of the courtly life were carried
into Northern France partly as the result of a royal marriage in
1137 and of the crusade of 1147, and there by such poets as
Chretien they were gathered up and fused with the Ovidian
doctrine into a highly complicated but perfectly definite
statement of the ideal relations of the sexes. Nowhere in the
vulgar tongues can a better statement of these relations be found
than in "Cliges."

So we leave Chretien to speak across the ages for himself and his
generation. He is to be read as a story-teller rather than as a
poet, as a casuist rather than as a philosopher. But when all
deductions are made, his significance as a literary artist and as
the founder of a precious literary tradition distinguishes him
from all other poets of the Latin races between the close of the
Empire and the arrival of Dante.



(Vv. 1-26.) The rustic's proverb says that many a thing is
despised that is worth much more than is supposed. Therefore he
does well who makes the most of whatever intelligence he may
possess. For he who neglects this concern may likely omit to say
something which would subsequently give great pleasure. So
Chretien de Troyes maintains that one ought always to study and
strive to speak well and teach the right; and he derives from a
story of adventure a pleasing argument whereby it may be proved
and known that he is not wise who does not make liberal use of
his knowledge so long as God may give him grace. The story is
about Erec the son of Lac--a story which those who earn a
living by telling stories are accustomed to mutilate and spoil in
the presence of kings and counts. And now I shall begin the tale
which will be remembered so long as Christendom endures. This is
Chretien's boast.

(Vv. 27-66.) One Easter Day in the Springtime, King Arthur held
court in his town of Cardigan. Never was there seen so rich a
court; for many a good knight was there, hardy, bold, and brave,
and rich ladies and damsels, gentle and fair daughters of kings.
But before the court was disbanded, the King told his knights
that he wished to hunt the White Stag, (2) in order to observe
worthily the ancient custom. When my lord Gawain heard this, he
was sore displeased. and said: "Sire, you will derive neither
thanks nor goodwill from this hunt. We all know long since what
this custom of the White Stag is: whoever can kill the White Stag
must forsooth kiss the fairest maiden of your court, come what
may. But of this there might come great ill, for there are here
five hundred damsels of high birth, gentle and prudent daughters
of kings, and there is none of them but has a bold and valiant
knight for her lover who would be ready to contend, whether fight
or wrong, that she who is his lady is the fairest and gentlest of
them all." The King replies: "That I know well; yet will I not
desist on that account; for a king's word ought never to be
gainsaid. To-morrow morning we shall all gaily go to hunt the
White Stag in the forest of adventure. And very delightful this
hunt will be."

(Vv. 67-114.) And so the affair is arranged for the next morning
at daybreak. The morrow, as soon as it is day, the King gets up
and dresses, and dons a short jacket for his forest ride. He
commands the knights to be aroused and the horses to be made
ready. Already they are ahorse, and off they go, with bows and
arrows. After them the Queen mounts her horse, taking a damsel
with her. A maid she was, the daughter of a king, and she rode a
white palfrey. After them there swiftly followed a knight, named
Erec, who belonged to the Round Table, and had great fame at the
court. (3) Of all the knights that ever were there, never one
received such praise; and he was so fair that nowhere in the
world need one seek a fairer knight than he. He was very fair,
brave, and courteous, though not yet twenty-five years old.
Never was there a man of his age of greater knighthood. And what
shall I say of his virtues? Mounted on his horse, and clad in an
ermine mantle, he came galloping down the road, wearing a coat of
splendid flowered silk which was made at Constantinople. He had
put on hose of brocade, well made and cut, and when his golden
spurs were well attached, he sat securely in his stirrups. He
carried no arm with him but his sword. As he galloped along, at
the corner of a street he came up with the Queen, and said: "My
lady, if it please you, I should gladly accompany you along this
road, having come for no other purpose than to bear you company."
And the Queen thanks him: "Fair friend, I like your company well,
in truth; for better I could not have."

(Vv. 115-124.) Then they ride along at full speed until they
come into the forest, where the party who had gone before them
had already started the stag. Some wind the horns and others
shout; the hounds plunge ahead after the stag, running,
attacking, and baying; the bowmen shoot amain. And before them
all rode the King on a Spanish hunter.

(Vv. 125-154.) Queen Guinevere was in the wood listening for the
dogs; beside her were Erec and the damsel, who was very courteous
and fair. But those who had pursued the stag were so far from
them that, however intently they might listen to catch the sound
of horn or baying of hound, they no longer could hear either
horse, huntsman, or hound. So all three of them drew rein in a
clearing beside the road. They had been there but a short time
when they saw an armed knight along on his steed, with shield
slung about his neck, and his lance in hand. The Queen espied
him from a distance By his right side rode a damsel of noble
bearing, and before them, on a hack, came a dwarf carrying in his
hand a knotted scourge. When Queen Guinevere saw the comely and
graceful knight, she desired to know who he and his damsel were.
So she bid her damsel go quickly and speak to him,

(Vv. 155-274.) "Damsel," says the Queen, "go and bid yonder
knight come to me and bring his damsel with him." The maiden
goes on amble straight toward the knight. But the spiteful dwarf
sallies forth to meet her with his scourge in hand, crying:
"Halt, maiden, what do you want here? You shall advance no
farther." "Dwarf," says she, "let me pass. I wish to speak with
yonder knight; for the Queen sends me hither." The dwarf, who
was rude and mean, took his stand in the middle of the road. and
said: "You have no business here. Go back. It is not meet that
vou should speak to so excellent a knight." The damsel advanced
and tried to pass him by force, holding the dwarf in slight
esteem when she saw that he was so small. Then the dwarf raised
his whip, when he saw her coming toward him and tried to strike
her in the face. She raised her arm to protect herself, but he
lifted his hand again and struck her all unprotected on her bare
hand: and so hard did he strike her on the back of her hand that
it turned all black and blue. When the maiden could do nothing
else, in spite of herself she must needs return. So weeping she
turned back. The tears came to her eyes and ran down her cheeks.
When the Queen sees her damsel wounded, she is sorely grieved and
angered and knows not what to do. "Ah, Erec, fair friend," she
says, "I am in great sorrow for my damsel whom that dwarf has
wounded. The knight must be discourteous indeed, to allow such a
monster to strike so beautiful a creature. Erec, fair friend, do
you go to the knight and bid him come to me without delay. I
wish to know him and his lady." Erec starts off thither, giving
spurs to his steed, and rides straight toward the knight. The
ignoble dwarf sees him coming and goes to meet him. "Vassal,"
says he, "stand back! For I know not what business you have
here. I advise you to withdraw." "Avaunt," says Erec,
"provoking dwarf! Thou art vile and troublesome. Let me pass."
"You shall not." "That will I." "You shall not." Erec thrusts
the dwarf aside. The dwarf had no equal for villainy: he gave
him a great blow with his lash right on the neck, so that Erec's
neck and face are scarred with the blow of the scourge; from top
to bottom appear the lines which the thongs have raised on him.
He knew well that he could not have the satisfaction of striking
the dwarf; for he saw that the knight was armed, arrogant, and
of evil intent, and he was afraid that he would soon kill him,
should he strike the dwarf in his presence. Rashness is not
bravery. So Erec acted wisely in retreating without more ado.
"My lady," he says, "now matters stand worse; for the rascally
dwarf has so wounded me that he has badly cut my face. I did not
dare to strike or touch him; but none ought to reproach me, for I
was completely unarmed. I mistrusted the armed knight, who,
being an ugly fellow and violent, would take it as no jest, and
would soon kill me in his pride. But this much I will promise
you; that if I can, I shall yet avenge my disgrace, or increase
it. But my arms are too far away to avail me in this time of
need; for at Cardigan did I leave them this morning when I came
away. And if I should go to fetch them there, peradventure I
should never again find the knight who is riding off apace. So I
must follow him at once, far or near, until I find some arms to
hire or borrow. If I find some one who will lend me arms, the
knight will quickly find me ready for battle. And you may be
sure without fail that we two shall fight until he defeat me, or
I him. And if possible, I shall be back by the third day, when
you will see me home again either joyous or sad, I know not
which. Lady, I cannot delay longer, for I must follow after the
knight. I go. To God I commend you." And the Queen in like
manner more than five hundred rimes commends him to God, that he
may defend him from harm.

(Vv. 275-310.) Erec leaves the Queen and ceases not to pursue
the knight. The Queen remains in the wood, where now the King
had come up with the Stag. The King himself outstripped the
others at the death. Thus they killed and took the White Stag,
and all returned, carrying the Stag, till they came again to
Cardigan. After supper, when the knights were all in high
spirits throughout the hall, the King, as the custom was, because
he had taken the Stag, said that he would bestow the kiss and
thus observe the custom of the Stag. Throughout the court a
great murmur is heard: each one vows and swears to his neighbour
that it shall not be done without the protest of sword or ashen
lance. Each one gallantly desires to contend that his lady is
the fairest in the hall. Their conversation bodes no good, and
when my lord Gawain heard it, you must know that it was not to
his liking. Thus he addressed the King: "Sire," he says, "your
knights here are greatly aroused, and all their talk is of this
kiss. They say that it shall never be bestowed without
disturbance and a fight." And the King wisely replied to him:
"Fair nephew Gawain, give me counsel now, sparing my honour and
my dignity, for I have no mind for any disturbance."

(Vv. 311-341.) To the council came a great part of the best
knights of the court. King Yder (4) arrived, who was the first
to be summoned, and after him King Cadoalant, who was very wise
and bold. Kay and Girflet came too, and King Amauguin was there,
and a great number of other knights were there with them. The
discussion was in process when the Queen arrived and told them of
the adventure which she had met in the forest, of the armed
knight whom she saw, and of the malicious little dwarf who had
struck her damsel on the bare hand with his whip, and who struck
Erec, too, in the same way an ugly blow on the face; but that
Erec followed the knight to obtain vengeance, or increase his
shame, and how he said that if possible he would be back by the
third day. "Sire," says the Queen to the King, "listen to me a
moment. If these knights approve what I say, postpone this kiss
until the third day, when Erec will be back." There is none who
does not agree with her, and the King himself approves her words.

(Vv. 342-392.) Erec steadily follows the knight who was armed
and the dwarf who had struck him until they come to a well placed
town, strong and fine (5). They enter straight through the gate.
Within the town there was great joy of knights and ladies, of
whom there were many and fair. Some were feeding in the streets
their sparrow-hawks and moulting falcons; others were giving an
airing to their tercels, (6) their mewed birds, and young yellow
hawks; others play at dice or other game of chance, some at
chess, and some at backgammon. The grooms in front of the
stables are rubbing down and currying the horses. The ladies are
bedecking themselves in their boudoirs. As soon as they see the
knight coming, whom they recognised with his dwarf and damsel,
they go out three by three to meet him. The knight they all
greet and salute, but they give no heed to Erec, for they did not
know him. Erec follows close upon the knight through the town,
until he saw him lodged. Then, very joyful, he passed on a
little farther until he saw reclining upon some steps a vavasor
(7) well on in years. He was a comely man, with white locks,
debonair, pleasing, and frank. There he was seated all alone,
seeming to be engaged in thought. Erec took him for an honest
man who would at once give him lodging. When he turned through
the gate into the yard, the vavasor ran to meet him, and saluted
him before Erec had said a word. "Fair sir," says he, "be
welcome. If you will deign to lodge with me, here is my house
all ready for you." Erec replies: "Thank you! For no other
purpose have I come; I need a lodging place this night."

(Vv. 393-410.) Erec dismounts from his horse, which the host
himself leads away by the bridle, and does great honour to his
guest. The vavasor summons his wife and his beautiful daughter,
who were busy in a work-room--doing I know not what. The lady
came out with her daughter, who was dressed in a soft white
under-robe with wide skirts hanging loose in folds. Over it she
wore a white linen garment, which completed her attire. And this
garment was so old that it was full of holes down the sides.
Poor, indeed, was her garb without, but within her body was fair.

(Vv. 411-458.) The maid was charming, in sooth, for Nature had
used all her skill in forming her. Nature herself had marvelled
more than five hundred times how upon this one occasion she had
succeeded in creating such a perfect thing. Never again could
she so strive successfully to reproduce her pattern. Nature
bears witness concerning her that never was so fair a creature
seen in all the world. In truth I say that never did Iseut the
Fair have such radiant golden tresses that she could be compared
with this maiden. (8) The complexion of her forehead and face
was clearer and more delicate than the lily. But with wondrous
art her face with all its delicate pallor was suffused with a
fresh crimson which Nature had bestowed upon her. Her eyes were
so bright that they seemed like two stars. God never formed
better nose, mouth, and eyes. What shall I say of her beauty?
In sooth, she was made to be looked at; for in her one could have
seen himself as in a mirror. So she came forth from the work-
room: and when she saw the knight whom she had never seen before,
she drew back a little, because she did not know him, and in her
modesty she blushed. Erec, for his part, was amazed when he
beheld such beauty in her, and the vavasor said to her: "Fair
daughter dear, take this horse and lead him to the stable along
with my own horses. See that he lack for nothing: take off his
saddle and bridle, give him oats and hay, look after him and
curry him, that he may be in good condition."

(Vv. 459-546) The maiden takes the horse, unlaces his breast-
strap, and takes off his bridle and saddle. Now the horse is in
good hands, for she takes excellent care of him. She throws a
halter over his head, rubs him down, curries him, and makes him
comfortable. Then she ties him to the manger and puts plenty of
fresh sweet hay and oats before him. Then she went back to her
father, who said to her: "Fair daughter dear, take now this
gentleman by the hand and show him all honour. Take him by the
hand upstairs." The maiden did not delay (for in her there was
no lack of courtesy) and led him by the hand upstairs. The lady
had gone before and prepared the house. She had laid embroidered
cushions and spreads upon the couches, where they all three sat
down Erec with his host beside him, and the maiden opposite.
Before them, the fire burns brightly. The vavasor had only one
man-servant, and no maid for chamber or kitchen work. This one
man was busy in the kitchen preparing meat and birds for supper.
A skilful cook was he, who knew how to prepare meal in boiling
water and birds on the spit. When he had the meal prepared in
accordance with the orders which had been given him, he brought
them water for washing in two basins. The table was soon set,
cloths, bread, and wine set out, and they sat down to supper.
They had their fill of all they needed. When they had finished
and when the table was cleared, Erec thus addressed his host, the
master of the house: "Tell me, fair host." he asked, "why your
daughter, who is so passing fair and clever, is so poorly and
unsuitably attired." "Fair friend," the vavasor replies, "many a
man is harmed by poverty, and even so am I. I grieve to see her
so poorly clad, and yet I cannot help it, for I have been so long
involved in war that I have lost or mortgaged or sold all my
land. (9) And yet she would be well enough dressed if I allowed
her to accept everything that people wish to give her. The lord
of this castle himself would have dressed her in becoming fashion
and would have done her every manner of favour, for she is his
niece and he is a count. And there is no nobleman in this
region, however rich and powerful, who would not willingly have
taken her to wife had I given my consent. But I am waiting yet
for some better occasion, when God shall bestow still greater
honour upon her, when fortune shall bring hither some king or
count who shall lead her away, for there is under Heaven no king
or count who would be ashamed of my daughter, who is so wondrous
fair that her match cannot be found. Fair, indeed, she is; but
yet greater far than her beauty, is her intelligence. God never
created any one so discreet and of such open heart. When I have
my daughter beside me, I don't care a marble about all the rest
of the world. She is my delight and my pastime, she is my joy
and comfort, my wealth and my treasure, and I love nothing so
much as her own precious self."

(Vv. 547-690.) When Erec had listened to all that his host told
him, he asked him to inform him whence came all the chivalry that
was quartered in the town. For there was no street or house so
poor and small but it was full of knights and ladies and squires.
And the vavasor said to him: "Fair friend, these are the nobles
of the country round; all, both young and old, have come to a
fete which is to be held in this town tomorrow; therefore the
houses are so full. When they shall all have gathered, there
will be a great stir to-morrow; for in the presence of all the
people there will be set upon a silver perch a sparrow-hawk of
five or six moultings--the best you can imagine. Whoever
wishes to gain the hawk must have a mistress who is fair,
prudent, and courteous. And if there be a knight so bold as to
wish to defend the worth and the name of the fairest in his eyes,
he will cause his mistress to step forward and lift the hawk from
the perch, if no one dares to interpose. This is the custom they
are observing, and for this each year they gather here."
Thereupon Erec speaks and asks him: "Fair host, may it not
displease you, but tell me, if you know, who is a certain knight
bearing arms of azure and gold, who passed by here not long ago,
having close beside him a courtly damsel, preceded by a hump-
backed dwarf." To him the host then made reply: "That is he who
will win the hawk without any opposition from the other knights.
I don't believe that any one will offer opposition; this time
there will be no blows or wounds. For two years already he has
won it without being challenged; and if he wins it again this
year, he will have gained permanent possession of it. Every
succeeding year he may keep it without contest or challenge."
Quickly Erec makes reply: "I do not like that knight. Upon my
word, had I some arms I should challenge him for the hawk. Fair
host, I beg you as a boon to advise me how I may be equipped with
arms whether old or new, poor or rich, it matters not." And he
replies to him generously: "It were a pity for you to feel
concern on that score! I have good fine arms which I shall be
glad to lend you. In the house I have a triple-woven hauberk,
(10) which was selected from among five hundred. And I have some
fine valuable greaves, polished, handsome, and light in weight.
The helmet is bright and handsome, and the shield fresh and new.
Horse, sword, and lance all I will lend you, of course; so let no
more be said." "Thank you kindly, fair gentle host! But I wish
for no better sword that this one which I have brought with me,
nor for any other horse than my own, for I can get along well
enough with him. If you will lend me the rest, I shall esteem it
a great favour. But there is one more boon I wish to ask of you,
for which I shall make just return if God grant that I come off
from the battle with honour." And frankly he replies to him:
"Ask confidently for what you want, whatever it be, for nothing
of mine shall lack you." Then Erec said that he wished to defend
the hawk on behalf of his daughter; for surely there will be no
damsel who is one hundredth part as beautiful as she. And if he
takes her with him, he will have good and just reason to maintain
and to prove that she is entitled to carry away the hawk. Then
he added: "Sire, you know not what guest you have sheltered here,
nor do you know my estate and kin. I am the son of a rich and
puissant king: my father's name is King Lac, and the Bretons call
me Erec. I belong to King Arthur's court, and have been with him
now three years. I know not if any report of my father or of me
has ever reached this land. But I promise you and vow that if
you will fit me out with arms, and will give me your daughter
to-morrow when I strive for the hawk, I will take her to my
country, if God grant me the victory, and I will give her a crown
to wear, and she shall be queen of three cities." "Ah, fair sir!
Is it true that you are Erec, the son of Lac?" "That is who I
am, indeed" quoth he. Then the host was greatly delighted and
said: "We have indeed heard of you in this country. Now I think
all the more of you, for you are very valiant and brave. Nothing
now shall you be refused by me. At your request I give you my
fair daughter." Then taking her by the hand, he says: "Here, I
give her to you." Erec received her joyfully, and now has all he
desired. Now they are all happy there: the father is greatly
delighted, and the mother weeps for joy. The maiden sat quiet;
but she was very happy and glad that she was betrothed to him,
because he was valiant and courteous: and she knew that he would
some day be king, and she should receive honour and be crowned
rich queen.

(Vv. 691-746.) They had sat up very late that night. But now
the beds were prepared with white sheets and soft pillows, and
when the conversation flagged they all went to bed in happy
frame. Erec slept little that night, and the next morn, at crack
of dawn, he and his host rose early. They both go to pray at
church, and hear a hermit chant the Mass of the Holy Spirit, not
forgetting to make an offering. When they had heard Mass both
kneel before the altar and then return to the house. Erec was
eager for the battle; so he asks for arms, and they are given to
him. The maiden herself puts on his arms (though she casts no
spell or charm), (11) laces on his iron greaves, and makes them
fast with thong of deer-hide. She puts on his hauberk with its
strong meshes, and laces on his ventail. The gleaming helmet she
sets upon his head, and thus arms him well from tip to toe. At
his side she fastens his sword, and then orders his horse to be
brought, which is done. Up he jumped clear of the ground. The
damsel then brings the shield and the strong lance: she hands him
the shield, and he takes it and hangs it about his neck by the
strap. She places the lance in his hand, and when he had grasped
it by the butt-end, he thus addressed the gentle vavasor: "Fair
sire," quoth he, "if you please, make your daughter ready now;
for I wish to escort her to the sparrow-hawk in accordance with
our agreement." The vavasor then without delay had saddled a bay
palfrey. There can nothing be said of the harness because of the
dire poverty with which the vavasor was afflicted. Saddle and
bridle were put on, and up the maiden mounted all free and in
light attire, without waiting to be urged. Erec wished to delay
no longer; so off he starts with the host's daughter by his side,
followed by the gentleman and his lady.

(Vv. 747-862.) Erec rides with lance erect and with the comely
damsel by his side. All the people, great and small, gaze at
them with wondering eyes as they pass through the streets. And
thus they question each other: "Who is yonder knight? He must be
doughty and brave, indeed, to act as escort for this fair maid.
His efforts will be well employed in proving that this damsel is
the fairest of them all." One man to another says: "In very
truth, she ought to have the sparrow-hawk." Some praised the
maid, while many said: "God! who can this knight be, with the
fair damsel by his side?" "I know not." "Nor I." Thus spake
each one. "But his gleaming helmet becomes him well, and the
hauberk, and shield, and his sharp steel sword. He sits well
upon his steed and has the bearing of a valiant vassal, well-
shapen in arm, in limb and foot." While all thus stand and gaze
at them, they for their part made no delay to take their stand by
the sparrow-hawk, where to one side they awaited the knight. And
now behold! they see him come, attended by his dwarf and his
damsel. He had heard the report, that a knight had come who
wished to obtain the sparrow-hawk, but he did not believe there
could be in the world a knight so bold as to dare to fight with
him. He would quickly defeat him and lay him low. All the
people knew him well, and all welcome him and escort him in a
noisy crowd: knights, squires, ladies, and damsels make haste to
run after him. Leading them all the knight rides proudly on,
with his damsel and his dwarf at his side, and he makes his way
quickly to the sparrow-hawk. But all about there was such a
press of the rough and vulgar crowd that it was impossible to
touch the hawk or to come near where it was. Then the Count
arrived on the scene, and threatened the populace with a switch
which he held in his hand. The crowd drew back, and the knight
advanced and said quietly to his lady: "My lady, this bird, which
is so perfectly moulted and so fair, should be yours as your just
portion; for you are wondrous fair and full of charm. Yours it
shall surely be so long as I live. Step forward, my dear, and
lift the hawk from the perch." The damsel was on the point of
stretching forth her hand when Erec hastened to challenge her,
little heeding the other's arrogance. "Damsel," he cries, "stand
back! Go dally with some other bird, for to this one you have no
right. In spite of all, I say this hawk shall never be yours.
For a better one than you claims it--aye, much more fair and
more courteous." The other knight is very wroth; but Erec does
not mind him, and bids his own maiden step forward. "Fair one."
he cries, "come forth. Lift the bird from the perch, for it is
right that you should have it. Damsel, come forth! For I will
make boast to defend it if any one is so bold as to intervene.
For no woman excels you in beauty or worth, in grace or honour
any more than the moon outshines the sun." The other could
suffer it no longer, when he hears him so manfully offer himself
to do battle. "Vassal," he cries, "who art thou who dost thus
dispute with me the hawk?" Erec boldly answers him: "A knight I
am from another land. This hawk I have come to obtain; for it is
right, I say it in spite of all, that this damsel of mine should
have it." "Away!" cries the other, "it shall never be. Madness
has brought thee here. If thou dost wish to have the hawk, thou
shalt pay fight dearly for it." "Pay, vassal; and how?" "Thou
must fight with me, if thou dost not resign it to me." "You talk
madness," cries Erec; "for me these are idle threats; for little
enough do I fear you." "Then I defy thee here and now. The
battle is inevitable." Erec replies: "God help me now; for never
did I wish for aught so much." Now soon you will hear the noise
of battle.

(Vv. 863-1080.) The large place was cleared, with the people
gathered all around. They draw off from each other the space of
an acre, then drive their horses together; they reach for each
other with the tips of their lances, and strike each other so
hard that the shields are pierced and broken; the lances split
and crack; the saddle-bows are knocked to bits behind. They must
needs lose their stirrups, so that they both fall to the ground,
and the horses run off across the field. Though smitten with the
lances, they are quickly on their feet again, and draw their
swords from the scabbards. With great fierceness they attack
each other, and exchange great sword blows, so that the helmets
are crushed and made to ring. Fierce is the clash of the swords,
as they rain great blows upon neck and shoulders. For this is no
mere sport: they break whatever they touch, cutting the shields
and shattering the hauberks. The swords are red with crimson
blood. Long the battle lasts; but they fight so lustily that
they become weary and listless. Both the damsels are in tears,
and each knight sees his lady weep and raise her hands to God and
pray that He may give the honours of the battle to the one who
strives for her. "Ha! vassal," quoth the knight to Erec, "let
us withdraw and rest a little; for too weak are these blows we
deal. We must deal better blows than these; for now it draws
near evening. It is shameful and highly discreditable that this
battle should last so long. See yonder that gentle maid who
weeps for thee and calls on God. Full sweetly she prays for
thee, as does also mine for me. Surely we should do our best
with our blades of steel for the sake of our lady-loves." Erec
replies: "You have spoken well." Then they take a little rest,
Erec looking toward his lady as she softly prays for him. While
he sat and looked on her, great strength was recruited within
him. Her love and beauty inspired him with great boldness. He
remembered the Queen, to whom he pledged his word that he would
avenge the insult done him, or would make it greater yet. "Ah!
wretch," says he, "why do I wait? I have not yet taken vengeance
for the injury which this vassal permitted when his dwarf struck
me in the wood." His anger is revived within him as he summons
the knight: "Vassal," quoth he, "I call you to battle anew. Too
long we have rested; let us now renew our strife." And he
replies: "That is no hardship to me." Whereupon, they again
fall upon each other. They were both expert fencers. At his
first lunge the knight would have wounded Erec had he not
skilfully parried. Even so, he smote him so hard over the shield
beside his temple that he struck a piece from his helmet.
Closely shaving his white coif, the sword descends, cleaving the
shield through to the buckle, and cutting more than a span from
the side of his hauberk. Then he must have been well stunned, as
the cold steel penetrated to the flesh on his thigh. May God
protect him now! If the blow had not glanced off, it would have
cut right through his body. But Erec is in no wise dismayed: he
pays him back what is owing him, and. attacking him boldly,
smites him upon the shoulder so violently a blow that the shield
cannot withstand it, nor is the hauberk of any use to prevent the
sword from penetrating to the bone. He made the crimson blood
flow down to his waist-band. Both of the vassals are hard
fighters: they fight with honours even, for one cannot gain from
the other a single foot of ground. Their hauberks are so torn
and their shields so hacked, that there is actually not enough of
them left to serve as a protection. So they fight all exposed.
Each one loses a deal of blood, and both grow weak. He strikes
Erec and Erec strikes him. Erec deals him such a tremendous blow
upon the helmet that he quite stuns him. Then he lets him have
it again and again, giving him three blows in quick succession,
which entirely split the helmet and cut the coif beneath it. The
sword even reaches the skull and cuts a bone of his head, but
without penetrating the brain. He stumbles and totters, and
while he staggers, Erec pushes him over, so that he falls upon
his right side. Erec grabs him by the helmet and forcibly drags
it from his head, and unlaces the ventail, so that his head and
face are completely exposed. When Erec thinks of the insult done
him by the dwarf in the wood, he would have cut off his head, had
he not cried for mercy. "Ah! vassal," says he, "thou hast
defeated me. Mercy now, and do not kill me, after having
overcome me and taken me prisoner: that would never bring thee
praise or glory. If thou shouldst touch me more, thou wouldst do
great villainy. Take here my sword; I yield it thee." Erec,
however, does not take it, but says in reply: "I am within an ace
of killing thee." "Ah! gentle knight, mercy! For what crime,
indeed, or for what wrong shouldst thou hate me with mortal
hatred? I never saw thee before that I am aware, and never have
I been engaged in doing thee any shame or wrong." Erec replies:
"Indeed you have." "Ah, sire, tell me when! For I never saw
you, that I can remember, and if I have done you any wrong, I
place myself at your mercy." Then Erec said: "Vassal, I am he
who was in the forest yesterday with Queen Guinevere, when thou
didst allow thy ill-bred dwarf to strike my lady's damsel. It is
disgraceful to strike a woman. And afterwards he struck me,
taking me for some common fellow. Thou wast guilty of too great
insolence when thou sawest such an outrage and didst complacently
permit such a monster of a lout to strike the damsel and myself.
For such a crime I may well hate thee; for thou hast committed a
grave offence. Thou shalt now constitute thyself my prisoner,
and without delay go straight to my lady whom thou wilt surely
find at Cardigan, if thither thou takest thy way. Thou wilt
reach there this very night, for it is not seven leagues from
here, I think. Thou shalt hand over to her thyself, thy damsel,
and thy dwarf, to do as she may dictate; and tell her that I send
her word that to-morrow I shall come contented, bringing with me
a damsel so fair and wise and fine that in all the world she has
not her match. So much thou mayst tell her truthfully. And now
I wish to know thy name." Then he must needs say in spite of
himself: "Sire, my name is Yder, son of Nut. This morning I had
not thought that any single man by force of arms could conquer
me. Now I have found by experience a man who is better than I.
You are a very valiant knight, and I pledge you my faith here and
now that I will go without delay and put myself in the Queen's
hands. But tell me without reserve what your name may be. Who
shall I say it is that sends me? For I am ready to start." And
he replies: "My name I will tell thee without disguise: it is
Erec. Go, and tell her that it is I who have sent thee to her."
"Now I'll go, and I promise you that I will put my dwarf, my
damsel, and myself altogether at her disposal (you need have no
fear), and I will give her news of you and of your damsel." Then
Erec received his plighted word, and the Count and all the people
round about the ladies and the gentlemen were present at the
agreement. Some were joyous, and some downcast; some were sorry,
and others glad. The most rejoiced for the sake of the damsel
with the white raiment, the daughter of the poor vavasor she of
the gentle and open heart; but his damsel and those who were
devoted to him were sorry for Yder.

(Vv. 1081-1170.) Yder, compelled to execute his promise, did not
wish to tarry longer, but mounted his steed at once. But why
should I make a long story? Taking his dwarf and his damsel,
they traversed the woods and the plain, going on straight until
they came to Cardigan. In the bower (12) outside the great hall,
Gawain and Kay the seneschal and a great number of other lords
were gathered. The seneschal was the first to espy those
approaching, and said to my lord Gawain: "Sire, my heart divines
that the vassal who yonder comes is he of whom the Queen spoke as
having yesterday done her such an insult. If I am not mistaken,
there are three in the party, for I see the dwarf and the
damsel." "That is so," says my lord Gawain; "it is surely a
damsel and a dwarf who are coming straight toward us with the
knight. The knight himself is fully armed, but his shield is not
whole. If the Queen should see him, she would know him. Hello,
seneschal, go call her now!" So he went straightway and found
her in one of the apartments. "My lady," says he, "do you
remember the dwarf who yesterday angered you by wounding your
damsel?" "Yes, I remember him right well. Seneschal, have you
any news oś him? Why have you mentioned him?" "Lady, because I
have seen a knight-errant armed coming upon a grey horse, and if
my eyes have not deceived me, I saw a damsel with him; and it
seems to me that with him comes the dwarf, who still holds the
scourge from which Erec received his lashing." Then the Queen
rose quickly and said: "Let us go quickly, seneschal, to see if
it is the vassal. If it is he, you may be sure that I shall tell
you so, as soon as I see him." And Kay said: "I will show him to
you. Come up into the bower where your knights are assembled.
It was from there we saw him coming, and my lord Gawain himself
awaits you there. My lady, let us hasten thither, for here we
have too long delayed." Then the Queen bestirred herself, and
coming to the windows she took her stand by my lord Gawain, and
straightway recognised the knight. "Ha! my lords," she cries,
"it is he. He has been through great danger. He has been in a
battle. I do not know whether Erec has avenged his grief, or
whether this knight has defeated Erec. But there is many a dent
upon his shield, and his hauberk is covered with blood, so that
it is rather red than white." "In sooth, my lady," quoth my lord
Gawain, "I am very sure that you are quite right. His hauberk is
covered with blood, and pounded and beaten, showing plainly that
he has been in a fight. We can easily see that the battle has
been hot. Now we shall soon hear from him news that will give us
joy or gloom: whether Erec sends him to you here as a prisoner at
your discretion, or whether he comes in pride of heart to boast
before us arrogantly that he has defeated or killed Erec. No
other news can he bring, I think." The Queen says: "I am of the
same opinion." And all the others say: "It may well be so."

(Vv. 1171-1243.) Meanwhile Yder enters the castle gate, bringing
them news. They all came down from the bower, and went to meet
him. Yder came up to the royal terrace and there dismounted from
his horse. And Gawain took the damsel and helped her down from
her palfrey; the dwarf, for his part, dismounted too. There were
more than one hundred knights standing there, and when the three
newcomers had all dismounted they were led into the King's
presence. As soon as Yder saw the Queen, he bowed low and first
saluted her, then the King and his knights, and said: "Lady, I am
sent here as your prisoner by a gentleman, a valiant and noble
knight, whose face yesterday my dwarf made smart with his knotted
scourge. He has overcome me at arms and defeated me. Lady, the
dwarf I bring you here: he has come to surrender to you at
discretion. I bring you myself, my damsel, and my dwarf to do
with us as you please." The Queen keeps her peace no longer, but
asks him for news of Erec: "Tell me," she says, "if you please,
do you know when Erec will arrive?" "To-morrow, lady, and with
him a damsel he will bring, the fairest of all I ever knew."
When he had delivered his message, the Queen, who was kind and
sensible, said to him courteously: "Friend, since thou hast
thrown thyself upon my mercy, thy confinement shall be less
harsh; for I have no desire to seek thy harm. But tell me now,
so help thee God, what is thy name?" And he replies: "Lady, my
name is Yder, son of Nut." And they knew that he told the truth.
Then the Queen arose, and going before the King, said: "Sire, did
you hear? You have done well to wait for Erec, the valiant
knight. I gave you good advice yesterday, when I counselled you
to await his return. This proves that it is wise to take
advice." The King replies: "That is no lie; rather is it
perfectly true that he who takes advice is no fool. Happily we
followed your advice yesterday. But if you care anything for me,
release this knight from his durance, provided he consent to join
henceforth my household and court; and if he does not consent,
let him suffer the consequence." When the King had thus spoken,
the Queen straightway released the knight; but it was on this
condition, that he should remain in the future at the court. He
did not have to be urged before he gave his consent to stay. Now
he was of the court and household to which he had not before
belonged. Then valets were at hand to run and relieve him of his

(Vv. 1244-1319.) Now we must revert to Erec, whom we left in the
field where the battle had taken place. Even Tristan, when he
slew fierce Morhot on Saint Samson's isle (13), awakened no such
jubilee as they celebrated here over Erec. Great and small, thin
and stout--all make much of him and praise his knighthood.
There is not a knight but cries: "Lord what a vassal! Under
Heaven there is not his like!" They follow him to his lodgings,
praising him and talking much. Even the Count himself embraces
him, who above the rest was glad, and said: "Sire, if you please,
you ought by right to lodge in my house, since you are the son of
King Lac. If you would accept of my hospitality you would do me
a great honour, for I regard you as my liege. Fair sire, may it
please you, I beg you to lodge with me." Erec answers: "May it
not displease you, but I shall not desert my host to-night, who
has done me much honour in giving me his daughter. What say you,
sir? Is it not a fair and precious gift?" "Yes, sire," the
Count replies; "the gift, in truth, is fine and good. The maid
herself is fair and clever, and besides is of very noble birth.
You must know that her mother is my sister. Surely, I am glad at
heart that you should deign to take my niece. Once more I beg
you to lodge with me this night." Erec replies: "Ask me no more.
I will not do it." Then the Count saw that further insistence
was useless, and said: "Sire, as it please you! We may as well
say no more about it; but I and my knights will all be with you
to-night to cheer you and bear you company." When Erec heard
that, he thanked him, and returned to his host's dwelling, with
the Count attending him. Ladies and knights were gathered there,
and the vavasor was glad at heart. As soon as Erec arrived, more
than a score of squires ran quickly to remove his arms. Any one
who was present in that house could have witnessed a happy scene.
Erec went first and took his seat; then all the others in order
sit down upon the couches, the cushions, and benches. At Erec's
side the Count sat down, and the damsel with her radiant face,
who was feeding the much disputed hawk upon her wrist with a
plover's wing. (14) Great honour and joy and prestige had she
gained that day, and she was very glad at heart both for the bird
and for her lord. She could not have been happier, and showed it
plainly, making no secret of her joy. All could see how gay she
was, and throughout the house there was great rejoicing for the
happiness of the maid they loved.

(Vv. 1320-1352.) Erec thus addressed the vavasor: "Fair host,
fair friend, fair sire! You have done me great honour, and
richly shall it be repaid you. To-morrow I shall take away your
daughter with me to the King's court, where I wish to take her as
my wife; and if you will tarry here a little, I shall send
betimes to fetch you. I shall have you escorted into the country
which is my father's now, but which later will be mine. It is
far from here--by no means near. There I shall give you two
towns, very splendid, rich, and fine. You shall be lord of
Roadan, which was built in the time of Adam, and of another town
close by, which is no less valuable. The people call it
Montrevel, and my father owns no better town. (15) And before
the third day has passed, I shall send you plenty of gold and
silver, of dappled and grey furs, and precious silken stuffs
wherewith to adorn yourself and your wife my dear lady.
To-morrow at dawn I wish to take your daughter to court, dressed
and arrayed as she is at present. I wish my lady, the Queen, to
dress her in her best dress of satin and scarlet cloth."

(Vv. 1353-1478.) There was a maiden near at hand, very
honourable, prudent, and virtuous. She was seated on a bench
beside the maid with the white shift, and was her own cousin the
niece of my lord the Count. When she heard how Erec intended to
take her cousin in such very poor array to the Queen's court, she
spoke about it to the Count. "Sire," she says, "it would be a
shame to you more than to any one else if this knight should take
your niece away with him in such sad array." And the Count made
answer: "Gentle niece, do you give her the best of your dresses."
But Erec heard the conversation, and said: "By no means, my lord.
For be assured that nothing in the world would tempt me to let
her have another robe until the Queen shall herself bestow it
upon her." When the damsel heard this, she replied: "Alas! fair
sire, since you insist upon leading off my cousin thus dressed in
a white shift and chemise, and since you are determined that she
shall have none of my dresses, a different gift I wish to make
her. I have three good palfreys, as good as any of king or
count, one sorrel, one dappled, and the other black with white
forefeet. Upon my word, if you had a hundred to pick from, you
would not find a better one than the dappled mount. The birds in
the air do not fly more swiftly than the palfrey; and he is not
too lively, but just suits a lady. A child can ride him, for he
is neither skittish nor balky, nor does he bite nor kick nor
become unmanageable. Any one who is looking for something better
does not know what he wants. And his pace is so easy and gentle
that a body is more comfortable and easy on his back than in a
boat." Then said Erec: "My dear, I have no objection to her
accepting this gift; indeed, I am pleased with the offer, and do
not wish her to refuse it." Then the damsel calls one of her
trusty servants, and says to him: "Go, friend, saddle my dappled
palfrey, and lead him here at once." And he carries out her
command: he puts on saddle and bridle and strives to make him
appear well. Then he jumps on the maned palfrey, which is now
ready for inspection. When Erec saw the animal, he did not spare
his praise, for he could see that he was very fine and gentle.
So he bade a servant lead him back and hitch him in the stable
beside his own horse. Then they all separated, after an evening
agreeably spent. The Count goes off to his own dwelling, and
leaves Erec with the vavasor, saying that he will bear him
company in the morning when he leaves. All that night they slept
well. In the morning, when the dawn was bright, Erec prepares to
start, commanding his horses to be saddled. His fair sweetheart,
too, awakes, dresses, and makes ready. The vavasor and his wife
rise too, and every knight and lady there prepares to escort the
damsel and the knight. Now they are all on horseback, and the
Count as well. Erec rides beside the Count, having beside him
his sweetheart ever mindful of her hawk. Having no other riches,
she plays with her hawk. Very merry were they as they rode
along; but when the time came to part, the Count wished to send
along with Erec a party of his knights to do him honour by
escorting him. But he announced that none should bide with him,
and that he wanted no company but that of the damsel. Then, when
they had accompanied them some distance, he said: "In God's name,
farewell!" Then the Count kisses Erec and his niece, and
commends them both to merciful God. Her father and mother, too,
kiss them again and again, and could not keep back their tears:
at parting, the mother weeps, the father and the daughter too.
For such is love and human nature, and such is affection between
parents and children. They wept from sorrow, tenderness, and
love which they had for their child; yet they knew full well that
their daughter was to fill a place from which great honour would
accrue to them. They shed tears of love and pity when they
separated from their daughter, but they had no other cause to
weep. They knew well enough that eventually they would receive
great honour from her marriage. So at parting many a tear was
shed, as weeping they commend one another to God, and thus
separate without more delay.

(Vv. 1479-1690.) Erec quit his host; for he was very anxious to
reach the royal court. In his adventure he took great
satisfaction; for now he had a lady passing fair, discreet,
courteous, and debonair. He could not look at her enough: for
the more he looks at her, the more she pleases him. He cannot
help giving her a kiss. He is happy to ride by her side, and it
does him good to look at her. Long he gazes at her fair hair,
her laughing eyes, and her radiant forehead, her nose, her face,
and mouth, for all of which gladness fills his heart. He gazes
upon her down to the waist, at her chin and her snowy neck, her
bosom and sides, her arms and hands. But no less the damsel
looks at the vassal with a clear eye and loyal heart, as if they
were in competition. They would not have ceased to survey each
other even for promise of a reward! A perfect match they were in
courtesy, beauty, and gentleness. And they were so alike in
quality, manner, and customs, that no one wishing to tell the
truth could choose the better of them, nor the fairer, nor the
more discreet. Their sentiments, too, were much alike; so that
they were well suited to each other. Thus each steals the
other's heart away. Law or marriage never brought together two
such sweet creatures. And so they rode along until just on the
stroke of noon they approached the castle of Cardigan, where they
were both expected. Some of the first nobles of the court had
gone up to look from the upper windows and see if they could see
them. Queen Guinevere ran up, and even the King came with Kay
and Perceval of Wales, and with them my lord Gawain and Tor, the
son of King Ares; Lucan the cupbearer was there, too, and many
another doughty knight. Finally, they espied Erec coming along
in company with his lady. They all knew him well enough from as
far as they could see him. The Queen is greatly pleased, and
indeed the whole court is glad of his coming, because they all
love him so. As soon as he was come before the entrance hall,
the King and Queen go down to meet him, all greeting him in God's
name. They welcome Erec and his maiden, commending and praising
her great beauty. And the King himself caught her and lifted her
down from her palfrey. The King was decked in fine array and was
then in cheery mood. He did signal honour to the damsel by
taking her hand and leading her up into the great stone hall.
After them Erec and the Queen also went up hand in hand, and he
said to her: "I bring you, lady, my damsel and my sweetheart
dressed in poor garb. As she was given to me, so have I brought
her to you. She is the daughter of a poor vavasor. Through
poverty many an honourable man is brought low: her father, for
instance, is gentle and courteous, but he has little means. And
her mother is a very gentle lady, the sister of a rich Count.
She has no lack of beauty or of lineage, that I should not marry
her. It is poverty that has compelled her to wear this white
linen garment until both sleeves are torn at the side. And yet,
had it been my desire, she might have had dresses rich enough.
For another damsel, a cousin of hers, wished to give her a robe
of ermine and of spotted or grey silk. But I would not have her
dressed in any other robe until you should have seen her. Gentle
lady, consider the matter now and see what need she has of a fine
becoming gown." And the Queen at once replies: "You have done
quite right; it is fitting that she should have one of my gowns,
and I will give her straightway a rich, fair gown, both fresh and
new." The Queen then hastily took her off to her own private
room, and gave orders to bring quickly the fresh tunic and the
greenish-purple mantle, embroidered with little crosses, which
had been made for herself. The one who went at her behest came
bringing to her the mantle and the tunic, which was lined with
white ermine even to the sleeves. At the wrists and on the neck-
band there was in truth more than half a mark's weight of beaten
gold, and everywhere set in the gold there were precious stones
of divers colours, indigo and green, blue and dark brown. This
tunic was very rich, but not a writ less precious, I trow, was
the mantle. As yet, there were no ribbons on it; for the mantle
like the tunic was brand new. The mantle was very rich and fine:
laid about the neck were two sable skins, and in the tassels
there was more than an ounce of gold; on one a hyacinth, and on
the other a ruby flashed more bright than burning candle. The
fur lining was of white ermine; never was finer seen or found.
The cloth was skilfully embroidered with little crosses, all
different, indigo, vermilion, dark blue, white, green, blue, and
yellow. The Queen called for some ribbons four ells long, made
of silken thread and gold. The ribbons are given to her,
handsome and well matched. Quickly she had them fastened to the
mantle by some one who knew how to do it, and who was master of
the art. When the mantle needed no more touches, the gay and
gentle lady clasped the maid with the white gown and said to her
cheerily: "Mademoiselle, you must change this frock for this
tunic which is worth more than a hundred marks of silver. So
much I wish to bestow upon you. And put on this mantle, too.
Another time I will give you more." Not able to refuse the gift,
she takes the robe and thanks her for it. Then two maids took
her aside into a room, where she took off her frock as being of
no further value; but she asked and requested that it be given
away (to some poor woman) for the love of God. Then she dons the
tunic, and girds herself, binding on tightly a golden belt, and
afterwards puts on the mantle. Now she looked by no means ill;
for the dress became her so well that it made her look more
beautiful than ever. The two maids wove a gold thread in amongst
her golden hair: but her tresses were more radiant than the
thread of gold, fine though it was. The maids, moreover, wove a
fillet of flowers of many various colours and placed it upon her
head. They strove as best they might to adorn her in such wise
that no fault should be found with her attire. Strung upon a
ribbon around her neck, a damsel hung two brooches of enamelled
gold. Now she looked so charming and fair that I do not believe
that you could find her equal in any land, search as you might,
so skilfully had Nature wrought in her. Then she stepped out of
the dressing-room into the Queen's presence. The Queen made much
of her, because she liked her and was glad that she was beautiful
and had such gentle manners. They took each other by the hand
and passed into the King's presence. And when the King saw them,
he got up to meet them. When they came into the great hall,
there were so many knights there who rose before them that I
cannot call by name the tenth part of them, or the thirteenth, or
the fifteenth. But I can tell you the names of some of the best
of the knights who belonged to the Round Table and who were the
best in the world.

(Vv. 1691-1750.) Before all the excellent knights, Gawain ought
to be named the first, and second Erec the son of Lac, and third
Lancelot of the Lake. (16) Gornemant of Gohort was fourth, and
the fifth was the Handsome Coward. The sixth was the Ugly Brave,
the seventh Meliant of Liz, the eighth Mauduit the Wise, and the
ninth Dodinel the Wild. Let Gandelu be named the tenth, for he
was a goodly man. The others I shall mention without order,
because the numbers bother me. Eslit was there with Briien, and
Yvain the son of Uriien. And Yvain of Loenel was there, as well
as Yvain the Adulterer. Beside Yvain of Cavaliot was Garravain
of Estrangot. After the Knight with the Horn was the Youth with
the Golden Ring. And Tristan who never laughed sat beside
Bliobleheris, and beside Brun of Piciez was his brother Gru the
Sullen. The Armourer sat next, who preferred war to peace. Next
sat Karadues the Shortarmed, a knight of good cheer; and Caveron
of Robendic, and the son of King Quenedic and the Youth of
Quintareus and Yder of the Dolorous Mount. Gaheriet and Kay of
Estraus, Amauguin and Gales the Bald, Grain, Gornevain, and
Carabes, and Tor the son of King Aras, Girflet the son of Do, and
Taulas, who never wearied of arms: and a young man of great
merit, Loholt the son of King Arthur, (17) and Sagremor the
Impetuous, who should not be forgotten, nor Bedoiier the Master
of the Horse, who was skilled at chess and trictrac, nor Bravain,
nor King Lot, nor Galegantin of Wales, nor Gronosis, versed in
evil, who was son of Kay the Seneschal, nor Labigodes the
Courteous, nor Count Cadorcaniois. nor Letron of Prepelesant,
whose manners were so excellent, nor Breon the son of Canodan,
nor the Count of Honolan who had such a head of fine fair hair;
he it was who received the King's horn in an evil day; (18) he
never had any care for truth.

(Vv. 1751-1844.) When the stranger maiden saw all the knights
arrayed looking steadfastly at her, she bowed her head in
embarrassment; nor was it strange that her face blushed all
crimson. But her confusion was so becoming to her that she
looked all the more lovely. When the King saw that she was
embarrassed, he did not wish to leave her side. Taking her
gently by the hand, he made her sit down on his right hand; and
on his left sat the Queen, speaking thus to the King the while.
"Sire, in my opinion he who can win such a fair lady by his arms
in another land ought by right to come to a royal court. It was
well we waited for Erec; for now you can bestow the kiss upon the
fairest of the court. I should think none would find fault with
you! for none can say, unless he lie, that this maiden is not
the most charming of all the damsels here, or indeed in all the
world." The King makes answer: "That is no lie; and upon her, if
there is no remonstrance, I shall bestow the honour of the White
Stag." Then he added to the knights: "My lords, what say you?
What is your opinion? In body, in face, and in whatever a maid
should have, this one is the most charming and beautiful to be
found, as I may say, before you come to where Heaven and earth
meet. I say it is meet that she should receive the honour of the
Stag. And you, my lords, what do you think about it? Can you
make any objection? If any one wishes to protest, let him
straightway speak his mind. I am King, and must keep my word and
must not permit any baseness, falsity, or arrogance. I must
maintain truth and righteousness. It is the business of a loyal
king to support the law, truth, faith, and justice. I would not
in any wise commit a disloyal deed or wrong to either weak or
strong. It is not meet that any one should complain of me; nor
do I wish the custom and the practice to lapse, which my family
has been wont to foster. You, too, would doubtless regret to see
me strive to introduce other customs and other laws than those my
royal sire observed. Regardless of consequences, I am bound to
keep and maintain the institution of my father Pendragon, who was
a just king and emperor. Now tell me fully what you think! Let
none be slow to speak his mind, if this damsel is not the fairest
of my household and ought not by right to receive the kiss of the
White Stag: I wish to know what you truly think." Then they all
cry with one accord: "Sire, by the Lord and his Cross! you may
well kiss her with good reason, for she is the fairest one there
is. In this damsel there is more beauty than there is of
radiance in the sun. You may kiss her freely, for we all agree
in sanctioning it." When the King hears that this is well
pleasing to them all, he will no longer delay in bestowing the
kiss, but turns toward her and embraces her. The maid was
sensible, and perfectly willing that the King should kiss her;
she would have been discourteous, indeed, to resent it. In
courteous fashion and in the presence of all his knights the King
kissed her, and said: "My dear. I give you my love in all
honesty. I will love you with true heart, without malice and
without guile." By this adventure the King carried out the
practice and the usage to which the White Stag was entitled at
his court.

Here ends the first part of my story. (19)

(Vv. 1845-1914.) When the kiss of the Stag was taken according
to the custom of the country, Erec, like a polite and kind man,
was solicitous for his poor host. It was not his intention to
fail to execute what he had promised. Hear how he kept his
covenant: for he sent him now five sumpter mules, strong and
sleek, loaded with dresses and clothes, buckrams and scarlets,
marks of gold and silver plate, furs both vair and grey, skins of
sable, purple stuffs, and silks. When the mules were loaded with
all that a gentleman can need, he sent with them an escort of ten
knights and sergeants chosen from his own men, and straightly
charged them to salute his host and show great honour both to him
and to his lady, as if it were to himself in person; and when
they should have presented to them the sumpters which they
brought them, the gold, the silver, and money, and all the other
furnishings which were in the boxes, they should escort the lady
and the vavasor with great honour into his kingdom of Farther
Wales. (20) Two towns there he had promised them, the most
choice and the best situated that there were in all his land,
with nothing to fear from attack. Montrevel was the name of one,
and the other's name was Roadan. When they should arrive in his
kingdom, they should make over to them these two towns, together
with their rents and their jurisdiction, in accordance with what
he had promised them. All was carried out as Erec had ordered.
The messengers made no delay, and in good time they presented to
his host the gold and the silver and the sumpters and the robes
and the money, of which there was great plenty. They escorted
them into Erec's kingdom, and strove to serve them well. They
came into the country on the third day, and transferred to them
the towers of the towns; for King Lac made no objection. He gave
them a warm welcome and showed them honour, loving them for the
sake of his son Erec. He made over to them the title to the
towns, and established their suzerainty by making knights and
bourgeois swear that they would reverence them as their true
liege lords. When this was done and accomplished, the messengers
returned to their lord Erec, who received them gladly. When he
asked for news of the vavasor and his lady, of his own father and
of his kingdom, the report they gave him was good and fair.

(Vv. 1915-2024.) Not long after this, the time drew near when
Erec was to celebrate his marriage. The delay was irksome to
him, and he resolved no longer to suffer and wait. So he went
and asked of the King that it might please him to allow him to be
married at the court. The King vouchsafed him the boon, and sent
through all his kingdom to search for the kings and counts who
were his liege-men, bidding them that none be so bold as not to
be present at Pentecost. None dares to hold back and not go to
court at the King's summons. Now I will tell you, and listen
well, who were these counts and kings. With a rich escort and
one hundred extra mounts Count Brandes of Gloucester came. After
him came Menagormon, who was Count of Clivelon. And he of the
Haute Montagne came with a very rich following. The Count of
Treverain came, too, with a hundred of his knights, and Count
Godegrain with as many more. Along with those whom I have just
mentioned came Maheloas, a great baron, lord of the Isle of
Voirre. In this island no thunder is heard, no lightning
strikes, nor tempests rage, nor do toads or serpents exist there,
nor is it ever too hot or too cold. (21) Graislemier of Fine
Posterne brought twenty companions, and had with him his brother
Guigomar, lord of the Isle of Avalon. Of the latter we have
heard it said that he was a friend of Morgan the Fay, and such he
was in very truth. Davit of Tintagel came, who never suffered
woe or grief. Guergesin, the Duke of Haut Bois, came with a very
rich equipment. There was no lack of counts and dukes, but of
kings there were still more. Garras of Cork, a doughty king, was
there with five hundred knights clad in mantles, hose, and tunics
of brocade and silk. Upon a Cappadocian steed came Aguisel, the
Scottish king, and brought with him his two sons, Cadret and Coi
-- two much respected knights. Along with those whom I have
named came King Ban of Gomeret, and he had in his company only
young men, beardless as yet on chin and lip. A numerous and gay
band he brought two hundred of them in his suite; and there was
none, whoever he be, but had a falcon or tercel, a merlin or a
sparrow-hawk, or some precious pigeon-hawk, golden or mewed.
Kerrin, the old King of Riel, brought no youth, but rather three
hundred companions of whom the youngest was seven score years
old. Because of their great age, their heads were all as white
as snow, and their beards reached down to their girdles. Arthur
held them in great respect. The lord of the dwarfs came next,
Bilis, the king of Antipodes. This king of whom I speak was a
dwarf himself and own brother of Brien. Bilis, on the one hand,
was the smallest of all the dwarfs, while his brother Brien was a
half-foot or full palm taller than any other knight in the
kingdom. To display his wealth and power, Bilis brought with him
two kings who were also dwarfs and who were vassals of his,
Grigoras and Glecidalan. Every one looked at them as marvels.
When they had arrived at court, they were treated with great
esteem. All three were honoured and served at the court like
kings, for they were very perfect gentlemen. In brief, when King
Arthur saw all his lords assembled, his heart was glad. Then, to
heighten the joy, he ordered a hundred squires to be bathed whom
he wished to dub knights. There was none of them but had a
parti-coloured robe of rich brocade of Alexandria, each one
choosing such as pleased his fancy. All had arms of a uniform
pattern, and horses swift and full of mettle, of which the worst
was worth a hundred livres.

(Vv. 2025-2068.) When Erec received his wife, he must needs call
her by her right name. For a wife is not espoused unless she is
called by her proper name. As yet no one knew her name, but now
for the first time it was made known: Enide was her baptismal
name. (22) The Archbishop of Canterbury, who had come to the
court, blessed them, as is his right. When the court was all
assembled, there was not a minstrel in the countryside who
possessed any pleasing accomplishment that did not come to the
court. In the great hall there was much merry-making, each one
contributing what he could to the entertainment: one jumps,
another tumbles, another does magic; there is story-telling,
singing, whistling, playing from notes; they play on the harp,
the rote, the fiddle, the violin, the flute, and pipe. The
maidens sing and dance, and outdo each other in the merry-making.
At the wedding that day everything was done which can give joy
and incline man's heart to gladness. Drums are beaten, large and
small, and there is playing of pipes, fifes, horns, trumpets, and
bagpipes. What more shall I say? There was not a wicket or a
gate kept closed; but the exits and entrances all stood ajar, so
that no one, poor or rich, was turned away. King Arthur was not
miserly, but gave orders to the bakers, the cooks, and the
butlers that they should serve every one generously with bread,
wine, and venison. No one asked anything whatever to be passed
to him without getting all he desired.

(Vv. 2069-2134.) There was great merriment in the palace. But I
will pass over the rest, and you shall hear of the joy and
pleasure in the bridal chamber. Bishops and archbishops were
there on the night when the bride and groom retired. At this
their first meeting, Iseut was not filched away, nor was Brangien
put in her place. (23) The Queen herself took charge of their
preparations for the night; for both of them were dear to her.
The hunted stag which pants for thirst does not so long for the
spring, nor does the hungry sparrow-hawk return so quickly when
he is called, as did these two come to hold each other in close
embrace. That night they had full compensation for their long
delay. After the chamber had been cleared, they allow each sense
to be gratified: the eyes, which are the entrance-way of love,
and which carry messages to the heart, take satisfaction in the
glance, for they rejoice in all they see; after the message of
the eyes comes the far surpassing sweetness of the kisses
inviting love; both of them make trial of this sweetness, and let
their hearts quaff so freely that hardly can they leave off.
Thus, kissing was their first sport. And the love which is
between them emboldened the maid and left her quite without her
fears; regardless of pain, she suffered all. Before she rose,
she no longer bore the name of maid; in the morning she was a
new-made dame. That day the minstrels were in happy mood, for
they were all well paid. They were fully compensated for the
entertainment they had given, and many a handsome gift was
bestowed upon them: robes of grey squirrel skin and ermine, of
rabbit skins and violet stuffs, scarlets and silken stuffs.
Whether it be a horse or money, each one got what he deserved
according to his skill. And thus the wedding festivities and the
court lasted almost a fortnight with great joy and magnificence.
For his own glory and satisfaction, as well as to honour Erec the
more, King Arthur made all the knights remain a full fortnight.
When the third week began, all together by common consent agreed
to hold a tournament. On the one side, my lord Gawain offered
himself as surety that it would take place between Evroic and
Tenebroc: and Meliz and Meliadoc were guarantors on the other
side. Then the court separated.

(Vv. 2135-2292.) A month after Pentecost the tournament
assembled, and the jousting began in the plain below Tenebroc.
Many an ensign of red, blue, and white, many a veil and many a
sleeve were bestowed as tokens of love. Many a lance was carried
there, flying the colours argent and green, or gold and azure
blue. There were many, too, with different devices, some with
stripes and some with dots. That day one saw laced on many a
helmet of gold or steel, some green, some yellow, and others red,
all aglowing in the sun; so many scutcheons and white hauberks;
so many swords girt on the left side; so many good shields, fresh
and new, some resplendent in silver and green, others of azure
with buckles of gold; so many good steeds marked with white, or
sorrel, tawny, white, black, and bay: all gather hastily. And
now the field is quite covered with arms. On either side the
ranks tremble, and a roar rises from the fight. The shock of the
lances is very great. Lances break and shields are riddled, the
hauberks receive bumps and are torn asunder, saddles go empty and
horsemen ramble, while the horses sweat and foam. Swords are
quickly drawn on those who tumble noisily, and some run to
receive the promise of a ransom, others to stave off this
disgrace. Erec rode a white horse, and came forth alone at the
head of the line to joust, if he may find an opponent. From the
opposite side there rides out to meet him Orguelleus de la Lande,
mounted on an Irish steed which bears him along with marvellous
speed. On the shield before his breast Erec strikes him with
such force that he knocks him from his horse: he leaves him prone
and passes on. Then Raindurant opposed him, son of the old dame
of Tergalo, covered with blue cloth of silk; he was a knight of
great prowess. Against one another now they charge and deal
fierce blows on the shields about their neck. Erec from lance's
length lays him over on the hard ground. While riding back he
met the King of the Red City, who was very valiant and bold.
They grasp their reins by the knots and their shields by the
inner straps. They both had fine arms, and strong swift horses,
and good shields, fresh and new. With such fury they strike each
other that both their lances fly in splinters. Never was there
seen such a blow. They rush together with shields, arms, and
horses. But neither girth nor rein nor breast-strap could
prevent the king from coming to earth. So he flew from his
steed, carrying with him saddle and stirrup, and even the reins
of his bridle in his hand. All those who witnessed the jousting
were filled with amazement, and said it cost him dear to joust
with such a goodly knight. Erec did not wish to stop to capture
either horse or rider, but rather to joust and distinguish
himself in order that his prowess might appear. He thrills the
ranks in front of him. Gawain animates those who were on his
side by his prowess, and by winning horses and knights to the
discomfiture of his opponents. I speak of my lord Gawain, who
did right well and valiantly. In the fight he unhorsed Guincel,
and took Gaudin of the Mountain; he captured knights and horses
alike: my lord Gawain did well. Girtlet the son of Do, and
Yvain, and Sagremor the Impetuous, so evilly entreated their
adversaries that they drove them back to the gates, capturing and
unhorsing many of them. In front of the gate of the town the
strife began again between those within and those without. There
Sagremor was thrown down, who was a very gallant knight. He was
on the point of being detained and captured, when Erec spurs to
rescue him, breaking his lance into splinters upon one of the
opponents. So hard he strikes him on the breast that he made him
quit the saddle. Then he made of his sword and advances upon
them, crushing and splitting their helmets. Some flee, and
others make way before him, for even the boldest fears him.
Finally, he distributed so many blows and thrusts that he rescued
Sagremor from them, and drove them all in confusion into the
town. Meanwhile, the vesper hour drew to a close. Erec bore
himself so well that day that he was the best of the combatants.
But on the morrow he did much better yet: for he took so many
knights and left so many saddles empty that none could believe it
except those who had seen it. Every one on both sides said that
with his lance and shield he had won the honours of the
tournament. Now was Erec's renown so high that no one spoke save
of him, nor was any one of such goodly favour. In countenance he
resembled Absalom, in language he seemed a Solomon, in boldness
he equalled Samson, (24) and in generous giving and spending he
was the equal of Alexander. On his return from the tourney Erec
went to speak with the King. He went to ask him for leave to go
and visit his own land; but first he thanked him like a frank,
wise, and courteous man for the honour which he had done him; for
very deep was his gratitude. Then he asked his permission to
leave, for he wished to visit his own country, and he wished to
take his wife with him. This request the King could not deny,
and yet he would have had him stay. He gives him leave and begs
him to return as soon as possible: for in the whole court there
was no better or more gallant knight, save only his dear nephew
Gawain; (25) with him no one could be compared. But next after
him, he prized Erec most, and held him more dear than any other

(Vv. 2293-2764.) Erec wished to delay no longer. As soon as he
had the King's leave, he bid his wife make her preparations, and
he retained as his escort sixty knights of merit with horses and
with dappled and grey furs. As soon as he was ready for his
journey, he tarried little further at court, but took leave of
the Queen and commended the knights to God. The Queen grants him
leave to depart. At the hour of prime he set out from the royal
palace. In the presence of them all he mounted his steed, and
his wife mounted the dappled horse which she had brought from her
own country; then all his escort mounted. Counting knights and
squires, there were full seven score in the train. After four
long days' journey over hills and slopes, through forests,
plains, and streams, they came on the fifth day to Camant, where
King Lac was residing in a very charming town. No one ever saw
one better situated; for the town was provided with forests and
meadow-land, with vineyards and farms, with streams and orchards,
with ladies and knights, and fine, lively youths, and polite,
well-mannered clerks who spent their incomes freely, with fair
and charming maidens, and with prosperous burghers. Before Erec
reached the town, he sent two knights ahead to announce his
arrival to the King. When he heard the news, the King had
clerks, knights, and damsels quickly mount, and ordered the bells
to be rung, and the streets to be hung with tapestries and silken
stuffs, that his son might be received with joy; then he himself
got on his horse. Of clerks there were present fourscore, gentle
and honourable men, clad in grey cloaks bordered with sable. Of
knights there were full five hundred, mounted on bay, sorrel, or
white-spotted steeds. There were so many burghers and dames that
no one could tell the number of them. The King and his son
galloped and rode on till they saw and recognised each other.
They both jump down from their horses and embrace and greet each
other for a long time, without stirring from the place where they
first met. Each party wished the other joy: the King makes much
of Erec, but all at once breaks off to turn to Enide. On all
sides he is in clover: he embraces and kisses them both, and
knows not which of the two pleases him the more. As they gaily
enter the castle, the bells all ring their peals to honour Erec's
arrival. The streets are all strewn with reeds, mint, and iris.
and are hung overhead with curtains and tapestries of fancy silk
and satin stuffs. There was great rejoicing; for all the people
came together to see their new lord, and no one ever saw greater
happiness than was shown alike by young and old. First they came
to the church, where very devoutly they were received in a
procession. Erec kneeled before the altar of the Crucifix, and
two knights led his wife to the image of Our Lady. When she had
finished her prayer, she stepped back a little and crossed
herself with her right hand, as a well-bred dame should do. Then
they came out from the church and entered the royal palace, when
the festivity began. That day Erec received many presents from
the knights and burghers: from one a palfrey of northern stock,
and from another a golden cup. One presents him with a golden
pigeon-hawk, another with a setter-dog, this one a greyhound,
this other a sparrowhawk, and another a swift Arab steed, this
one a shield, this one an ensign, this one a sword, and this a
helmet. Never was a king more gladly seen in his kingdom, nor
received with greater joy, as all strove to serve him well. Yet
greater joy they made of Enide than of him, for the great beauty
which they saw in her, and still more for her open charm. She
was seated in a chamber upon a cushion of brocade which had been
brought from Thessaly. Round about her was many a fair lady; yet
as the lustrous gem outshines the brown flint, and as the rose
excels the poppy, so was Enide fairer than any other lady or
damsel to be found in the world, wherever one might search. She
was so gentle and honourable, of wise speech and affable, of
pleasing character and kindly mien. No one could ever be so
watchful as to detect in her any folly, or sign of evil or
villainy. She had been so schooled in good manners that she had
learned all virtues which any lady can possess, as well as
generosity and knowledge. All loved her for her open heart, and
whoever could do her any service was glad and esteemed himself
the more. No one spoke any ill of her, for no one could do so.
In the realm or empire there was no lady of such good manners.
But Erec loved her with such a tender love that he cared no more
for arms, nor did he go to tournaments, nor have any desire to
joust; but he spent his time in cherishing his wife. He made of
her his mistress and his sweetheart. He devoted all his heart
and mind to fondling and kissing her, and sought no delight in
other pastime. His friends grieved over this, and often
regretted among themselves that he was so deep in love. Often it
was past noon before he left her side; for there he was happy,
say what they might. He rarely left her society, and yet he was
as open-handed as ever to his knights with arms, dress, and
money. There was not a tournament anywhere to which he did not
send them well apparelled and equipped. Whatever the cost might
be, he gave them fresh steeds for the tourney and joust. All the
knights said it was a great pity and misfortune that such a
valiant man as he was wont to be should no longer wish to bear
arms. He was blamed so much on all sides by the knights and
squires that murmurs reached Enide's ears how that her lord had
turned craven about arms and deeds of chivalry, and that his
manner of life was greatly changed. (26) She grieved sorely over
this, but she did not dare to show her grief; for her lord at
once would take affront, if she should speak to him. So the
matter remained a secret, until one morning they lay in bed where
they had had sport together. There they lay in close embrace,
like the true lovers they were. He was asleep, but she was
awake, thinking of what many a man in the country was saying of
her lord. And when she began to think it all over, she could not
keep back the tears. Such was her grief and her chagrin that by
mischance she let fall a word for which she later felt remorse,
though in her heart there was no guile. She began to survey her
lord from head to foot, his well-shaped body and his clear
countenance, until her tears fell fast upon the bosom of her
lord, and she said: "Alas, woe is me that I ever left my country!
What did I come here to seek? The earth ought by right to
swallow me up when the best knight, the most hardy, brave, fair,
and courteous that ever was a count or king, has completely
abjured all his deeds of chivalry because of me. And thus, in
truth, it is I who have brought shame upon his head, though I
would fain not have done so at any price." Then she said to him:
"Unhappy thou!" And then kept silence and spoke no more. Erec
was not sound asleep and, though dozing, heard plainly what she
said. He aroused at her words, and much surprised to see her
weeping, he asked her: "Tell me, my precious beauty, why do you
weep thus? What has caused you woe or sorrow? Surely it is my
wish to know. Tell me now, my gentle sweetheart; and raise care
to keep nothing back, why you said that woe was me? For you said
it of me and of no one else. I heard your words plainly enough."
Then was Enide in a great plight, afraid and dismayed. "Sire,"
says she, "I know nothing of what you say." "Lady, why do you
conceal it? Concealment is of no avail. You hare been crying; I
can see that, and you do not cry for nothing. And in my sleep I
heard what you said." "Ah! fair sire, you never heard it, and I
dare say it was a dream." "Now you are coming to me with lies.
I hear you calmly lying to me. But if you do not tell me the
truth now, you will come to repent of it later." "Sire, since
you torment me thus, I will tell you the whole truth, and keep
nothing back. But I am afraid that you will not like it. In
this land they all say--the dark, the fair, and the ruddy--that
it is a great pity that you should renounce your arms; your
reputation has suffered from it. Every one used to say not long
ago that in all the world there was known no better or more
gallant knight. Now they all go about making game of you--old
and young, little and great--calling you a recreant. Do you
suppose it does not give me pain to hear you thus spoken of with
scorn? It grieves me when I hear it said, and yet it grieves me
more that they put the blame for it on me. Yes, I am blamed for
it, I regret to say, and they all assert it is because I have so
ensnared and caught you that you are losing all your merit, and
do not care for aught but me. You must choose another course, so
that you may silence this reproach and regain your former fame;
for I have heard too much of this reproach, and yet I did not
dare to disclose it to you. Many a time, when I think of it, I
have to weep for very grief. Such chagrin I felt just now that I
could not keep myself from saying that you were ill-starred."
"Lady," said he, "you were in the right, and those who blame me
do so with reason. And now at once prepare yourself to take the
road. Rise up from here, and dress yourself in your richest
robe, and order your saddle to be put on your best palfrey." Now
Enide is in great distress: very sad and pensive, she gets up,
blaming and upbraiding herself for the foolish words she spoke:
she had now made her bed, and must lie in it. "Ah!" said she,
"poor fool! I was too happy, for there lacked me nothing. God!
why was I so forward as to dare to utter such folly? God! did
not my lord love me to excess? In faith, alas, he was too fond
of me. And now I must go away into exile. But I have yet a
greater grief, that I shall no longer see my lord, who loved me
with such tenderness that there was nothing he held so dear. The
best man that was ever born had become so wrapped up in me that
he cared for nothing else. I lacked for nothing then. I was
very happy. But pride it is that stirred me up: because of my
pride, I must suffer woe for telling him such insulting words,
and it is right that I should suffer woe. One does not know what
good fortune is until he has made trial of evil." Thus the lady
bemoaned her fate, while she dressed herself fitly in her richest
robe. Yet nothing gave her any pleasure, but rather cause for
deep chagrin. Then she had a maid call one of her squires, and
bids him saddle her precious palfrey of northern stock, than
which no count or king ever had a better. As soon as she had
given him the command, the fellow asked for no delay, but
straightway went and saddled the dappled palfrey. And Erec
summoned another squire and bade him bring his arms to arm his
body withal. Then he went up into a bower, and had a Limoges rug
laid out before him on the floor. Meanwhile, the squire ran to
fetch the arms and came back and laid them on the rug. Erec took
a seat opposite, on the figure of a leopard which was portrayed
on the rug. He prepares and gets ready to put on his arms:
first, he had laced on a pair of greaves of polished steel; next,
he dons a hauberk, which was so fine that not a mesh could be cut
away from it. This hauberk of his was rich, indeed, for neither
inside nor outside of it was there enough iron to make a needle,
nor could it gather any rust; for it was all made of worked
silver in tiny meshes triple-wove; and it was made with such
skill that I can assure you that no one who had put it on would
have been more uncomfortable or sore because of it, than if he
had put on a silk jacket over his undershirt. The knights and
squires all began to wonder why he was being armed; but no one
dared to ask him why. When they had put on his hauberk, a valet


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