Four Arthurian Romances, by Chretien DeTroyes

Part 3 out of 9

damsel as they all kiss and embrace each other. They propose to
return to the castle, for they have stayed too long in the
garden. They are all prepared to go out; so they sally forth
joyfully, kissing each other on the way. All go out after the
King, but before they reached the castle, the nobles were
assembled from all the country around, and all those who knew of
the Joy, and who could do so, came hither. Great was the
gathering and the press. Every one, high and low, rich and poor,
strives to see Erec. Each thrusts himself before the other, and
they all salute him and bow before him, saying constantly: "May
God save him through whom joy and gladness come to our court!
God save the most blessed man whom God has ever brought into
being!" Thus they bring him to the court, and strive to show
their glee as their hearts dictate. Breton zithers, harps, and
viols sound, fiddles, psalteries, and other stringed instruments,
and all kinds of music that one could name or mention. But I
wish to conclude the matter briefly without too long delay. The
King honours him to the extent of his power, as do all the others
ungrudgingly. There is no one who does not gladly offer to do
his service. Three whole days the Joy lasted, before Erec could
get away. On the fourth he would no longer tarry for any reason
they could urge. There was a great crowd to accompany him and a
very great press when it came to taking leave. If he had wished
to reply to each one, he would not have been able in half a day
to return the salutations individually. The nobles he salutes
and embraces; the others he commends to God in a word, and
salutes them. Enide, for her part, is not silent when she takes
leave of the nobles. She salutes them all by name, and they in
turn do the like. Before she goes, she kisses her cousin very
tenderly and embraces her. Then they go and the Joy is over.

(Vv. 6411-6509.) They go off and the others return. Erec and
Guivret do not tarry, but keep joyfully on their way, until they
came in nine days to Robais, where they were told the King was.
The day before he had been bled privately in his apartments; with
him he had only five hundred nobles of his household. Never
before at any time was the King found so alone, and he was much
distressed that he had no more numerous suite at his court. At
that time a messenger comes running, whom they had sent ahead to
apprise the King of their approach. This man came in before the
assembly, found the King and all his people, and saluting him
correctly, said: "I am a messenger of Erec and of Guivret the
Little." Then he told him how they were coming to see him at his
court. The King replies: "Let them be welcome, as valiant and
gallant gentlemen! Nowhere do I know of any better than they
two. By their presence my court will be much enhanced." Then he
sent for the Queen and told her the news. The others have their
horses saddled to go and meet the gentlemen. In such haste are
they to mount that they did not put on their spurs. I ought to
state briefly that the crowd of common people, including squires,
cooks, and butlers, had already entered the town to prepare for
the lodgings. The main party came after, and had already drawn
so near that they had entered the town. Now the two parties have
met each other, and salute and kiss each other. They come to the
lodgings and make themselves comfortable, removing their hose and
making their toilet by donning their rich robes. When they were
completely decked out, they took their way to the court. They
come to court, where the King sees them, and the Queen, who is
beside herself with impatience to see Erec and Enide. The King
makes them take seats beside him, kisses Erec and Guivret; about
Enide's neck he throws his arms and kisses her repeatedly, in his
great joy. Nor is the Queen slow in embracing Erec and Enide.
One might well rejoice to see her now so full of joy. Every one
enters with spirit into the merry-making. Then the King causes
silence to be made, and appeals to Erec and asks news of his
adventures. When the noise had ceased, Erec began his story,
telling him of his adventures, without forgetting any detail. Do
you think now that I shall tell you what motive he had had in
starting out? Nay, for you know the whole truth about this and
the rest, as I have revealed it to you. To tell the story again
would burden me; for the tale is not short, that any one should
wish to begin it afresh and re-embelish it, as he told and
related it: of the three knights whom he defeated, and then of
the five, and then of the Count who strove to do him harm, and
then of the two giants--all in order, one after the other, he
told him of his adventures up to the point where he met Count
Oringle of Limors. "Many a danger have you gone through, fair
gentle friend," said the King to him; "now tarry in this country
at my court, as you are wont to do." "Sire, since you wish it, I
shall remain very gladly three or four years entire. But ask
Guivret to remain here too a request in which I would fain join."
The King prays him to remain, and he consents to stay. So they
both stay: the King kept them with him, and held them dear and
honoured them.

(Vv. 6510-6712.) Erec stayed at court, together with Guivret and
Enide, until the death of his father, the king, who was an old
man and full of years. The messengers then started out: the
nobles who went to seek him, and who were the greatest men of the
land, sought and searched for him until they found him at
Tintagel three weeks before Christmas; they told him the truth
what had happened to his old, white-haired father, and how he now
was dead and gone. This grieved Erec much more than he showed
before the people. But sorrow is not seemly in a king, nor does
it become a king to mourn. There at Tintagel where he was, he
caused vigils for the dead and Masses to be sung; he promised and
kept his promises, as he had vowed to the religious houses and
churches; he did well all that he ought to do: he chose out more
than one hundred and sixty-nine of the wretched poor, and clothed
them all in new garments. To the poor clerks and priors he gave,
as was right, black copes and warm linings to wear beneath. For
God's sake he did great good to all: to those who were in need he
distributed more than a barrel of small coins. When he had
shared his wealth, he then did a very wise thing in receiving his
land from the King's hand; and then he begged the King to crown
him at his court. The King bade him quickly be prepared; for
they shall both be crowned, he together with his wife, at the
approaching Christmastide; and he added: "You must go hence to
Nantes in Brittany; there you shall carry a royal ensign with
crown on head and sceptre in hand; this gift and privilege I
bestow upon you." Erec thanked the King, and said that that was
a noble gift. At Christmas the King assembles all his nobles,
summoning them individually and commanding them to come to
Nantes. He summoned them all, and none stayed behind. Erec,
too, sent word to many of his followers, and summoned them to
come thither; but more came than he had bidden, to serve him and
do him honour. I cannot tell you or relate who each one was, and
what his name; but whoever came or did not come, the father and
mother of my lady Enide were not forgotten. Her father was sent
for first of all, and he came to court in handsome style, like a
great lord and a chatelain. There was no great crowd of
chaplains or of silly, gaping yokels, but of excellent knights
and of people well equipped. Each day they made a long day's
journey, and rode on each day with great joy and great display,
until on Christmas eve they came to the city of Nantes. They
made no halt until they entered the great hall where the King and
his courtiers were. Erec and Enide see them, and you may know
how glad they were. To meet them they quickly make their way,
and salute and embrace them, speaking to them tenderly and
showing their delight as they should. When they had rejoiced
together, taking each other by the hand, they all four came
before the King, saluting him and likewise the Queen, who was
sitting by his side. Taking his host by the hand, Erec said:
"Sire, behold my good host, my kind friend, who did me such
honour that he made me master in his own house. Before he knew
anything about me, he lodged me well and handsomely. All that he
had he made over to me, and even his daughter he bestowed upon
me, without the advice or counsel of any one." "And this lady
with him," the King inquires, "who is she?" Erec does not
conceal the truth: "Sire," says he, "of this lady I may say that
she is the mother of my wife." "Is she her mother?" "Yes,
truly, sire." "Certainly, I may then well say that fair and
comely should be the flower born of so fair a stem, and better
the fruit one picks; for sweet is the smell of what springs from
good. Fair is Enide and fair she should be in all reason and by
right; for her mother is a very handsome lady, and her father is
a goodly knight. Nor does she in aught belie them; for she
descends and inherits directly from them both in many respects."
Then the King ceases and sits down, bidding them be seated too.
They do not disobey his command, but straightway take seats. Now
is Enide filled with joy when she sees her father and mother, for
a very long time had passed since she had seen them. Her
happiness now is greatly increased, for she was delighted and
happy, and she showed it all she could, but she could not make
such demonstration but that her joy was yet greater. But I wish
to say no more of that, for my heart draws me toward the court
which was now assembled in force. From many a different country
there were counts and dukes and kings, Normans, Bretons. Scotch,
and Irish: from England and Cornwall there was a very rich
gathering of nobles; for from Wales to Anjou, in Maine and in
Poitou, there was no knight of importance, nor lady of quality,
but the best and the most elegant were at the court at Nantes, as
the King had bidden them. Now hear, if you will, the great joy
and grandeur, the display and the wealth, that was exhibited at
the court. Before the hour of nones had sounded, King Arthur
dubbed four hundred knights or more all sons of counts and of
kings. To each one he gave three horses and two pairs of suits,
in order that his court may make a better showing. Puissant and
lavish was the King; for the mantles he bestowed were not of
serge, nor of rabbit-skins, nor of cheap brown fur, but of heavy
silk and ermine, of spotted fur and flowered silks, bordered with
heavy and stiff gold braid. Alexander, who conquered so much
that he subdued the whole world, and who was so lavish and rich,
compared with him was poor and mean. Caesar, the Emperor of
Rome, and all the kings whose names you hear in stories and in
epic songs, did not distribute at any feast so much as Arthur
gave on the day that he crowned Erec; nor would Caesar and
Alexander dare to spend so much as he spent at the court. The
raiment was taken from the chests and spread about freely through
the halls; one could take what he would, without restraint. In
the midst of the court, upon a rug, stood thirty bushels of
bright sterlings; (43) for since the time of Merlin until that
day sterlings had currency throughout Britain. There all helped
themselves, each one carrying away that night all that he wanted
to his lodging-place. At nine o'clock on Christmas day, all came
together again at court. The great joy that is drawing near for
him had completely filched Erec's heart away. The tongue and the
mouth of no man, however skilful, could describe the third, or
the fourth, or the fifth part of the display which marked his
coronation. So it is a mad enterprise I undertake in wishing to
attempt to describe it. But since I must make the effort, come
what may, I shall not fail to relate a part of it, as best I may.

(Vv. 6713-6809.) The King had two thrones of white ivory, well
constructed and new, of one pattern and style. He who made them
beyond a doubt was a very skilled and cunning craftsman. For so
precisely did he make the two alike in height, in breadth, and in
ornamentation, that you could nor look at them from every side to
distinguish one from the other and find in one aught that was not
in the other. There was no part of wood, but all of gold and
fine ivory. Well were they carved with great skill, for the two
corresponding sides of each bore the representation of a leopard,
and the other two a dragon's shape. A knight named Bruiant of
the Isles had made a gift and present of them to King Arthur and
the Queen. King Arthur sat upon the one, and upon the other he
made Erec sit, who was robed in watered silk. As we read in the
story, we find the description of the robe, and in order that no
one may say that I lie, I quote as my authority Macrobius, (44)
who devoted himself to the description of it. Macrobius
instructs me how to describe, according as I have found it in the
book, the workmanship and the figures of the cloth. Four fairies
had made it with great skill and mastery. (45) One represented
there geometry, how it estimates and measures the extent of the
heavens and the earth, so that nothing is lacking there; and then
the depth and the height, and the width, and the length; then it
estimates, besides, how broad and deep the sea is, and thus
measures the whole world. Such was the work of the first fairy.
And the second devoted her effort to the portrayal of arithmetic,
and she strove hard to represent clearly how it wisely enumerates
the days and the hours of time, and the water of the sea drop by
drop, and then all the sand, and the stars one by one, knowing
well how to tell the truth, and how many leaves there are in the
woods: such is the skill of arithmetic that numbers have never
deceived her, nor will she ever be in error when she wishes to
apply her sense to them. The third design was that of music,
with which all merriment finds itself in accord, songs and
harmonies, and sounds of string: of harp, of Breton violin, and
of viol. This piece of work was good and fine; for upon it were
portrayed all the instruments and all the pastimes. The fourth,
who next performed her task, executed a most excellent work; for
the best of the arts she there portrayed. She undertook
astronomy, which accomplishes so many marvels and draws
inspiration from the stars, the moon, and the sun. Nowhere else
does it seek counsel concerning aught which it has to do. They
give it good and sure advice. Concerning whatever inquiry it
make of them, whether in the past or in the future, they give it
information without falsehood and without deception. This work
was portrayed on the stuff of which Erec's robe was made, all
worked and woven with thread of gold. The fur lining that was
sewed within, belonged to some strange beasts whose heads are all
white, and whose necks are as black as mulberries, and which have
red backs and green bellies, and dark blue tail. These beasts
live in India and they are called "barbiolets". They eat nothing
but spices, cinnamon, and fresh cloves. What shall I tell you of
the mantle? It was very rich and fine and handsome; it had four
stones in the tassels--two chrysolites on one side, and two
amethysts on the other, which were mounted in gold.

(Vv. 6810-6946.) As yet Enide had not come to the palace. When
the King sees that she delays, he bids Gawain go quickly to bring
her and the Queen. Gawain hastens and was not slow, and with him
King Cadoalant and the generous King of Galloway. Guivret the
Little accompanies them, followed by Yder the son of Nut. So
many of the other nobles ran thither to escort the two ladies
that they would have sufficed to overcome a host; for there were
more than a thousand of them. The Queen had made her best effort
to adorn Enide. Into the palace they brought her the courteous
Gawain escorting her on one side, and on the other the generous
King of Galloway, who loved her dearly on account of Erec who was
his nephew. When they came to the palace, King Arthur came
quickly toward them, and courteously seated Enide beside Erec;
for he wished to do her great honour. Now he orders to be
brought forth from his treasure two massive crowns of fine gold.
As soon as he had spoken and given the command, without delay the
crowns were brought before him, all sparkling with carbuncles, of
which there were four in each. The light of the moon is nothing
compared with the light which the least of the carbuncles could
shed. Because of the radiance which they shed, all those who
were in the palace were so dazzled that for a moment they could
see nothing; and even the King was amazed, and yet filled with
satisfaction, when he saw them to be so clear and bright. He had
one of them held by two damsels, and the other by two gentlemen.
Then he bade the bishops and priors and the abbots of the Church
step forward and anoint the new King, as the Christian practice
is. Now all the prelates, young and old, came forward; for at
the court there were a great number of bishops and abbots. The
Bishop of Nantes himself, who was a very worthy and saintly man,
anointed the new King in a very holy and becoming manner, and
placed the crown upon his head. King Arthur had a sceptre
brought which was very fine. Listen to the description of the
sceptre, which was clearer than a pane of glass, all of one solid
emerald, fully as large as your fist. I dare to tell you in very
truth that in all the world there is no manner of fish, or of
wild behest, or of man, or of flying bird that was not worked and
chiselled upon it with its proper figure. The sceptre was handed
to the King, who looked at it with amazement; then he put it
without delay into King Erec's right hand; and now he was King as
he ought to be. Then he crowned Enide in turn. Now the bells
ring for Mass, and they go to the main church to hear the Mass
and service; they go to pray at the cathedral. You would have
seen weeping with joy the father of Queen Enide and her mother,
Carsenefide. In truth this was her mother's name, and her
father's name was Liconal. Very happy were they both. When they
came to the cathedral, the procession came out from the church
with relics and treasures to meet them. Crosses and prayerbooks
and censers and reliquaries, with all the holy relics, of which
there were many in the church, were all brought out to meet them;
nor was there any lack of chants made. Never were seen so many
kings, counts, dukes, and nobles together at a Mass, and the
press was so great and thick that the church was completely
filled. No low-born man could enter there, but only ladies and
knights. Outside the door of the church a great number still
remained, so many were there come together who could not get
inside the church. When they had heard all the Mass they
returned to the palace. It was all prepared and decorated:
tables set and cloths spread five hundred tables and more were
there; but I do not wish to make you believe a thing which does
not seem true. It would seem too great a lie were I to say that
five hundred tables were set in rows in one palace, so I will not
say it; rather were there five hails so filled with them that
with great difficulty could one make his way among the tables.
At each table there was in truth a king or a duke or a count; and
full a hundred knights were seated at each table. A thousand
knights served the bread, and a thousand served the wine, and a
thousand the meat--all of them dressed in fresh fur robes of
ermine. All are served with divers dishes. Even if I did not
see them, I might still be able to tell you about them; but I
must attend to something else than to tell you what they had to
eat. They had enough, without wanting more; joyfully and
liberally they were served to their heart's desire.

(Vv. 6947-6958.) When this celebration was concluded, the King
dismissed the assemblage of kings, dukes, and counts, of which
the number was immense, and of the other humble folk who had come
to the festival. He rewarded them liberally with horses, arms
and silver, cloths and brocades of many kinds, because of his
generosity, and because of Erec whom he loved so much. Here the
story ends at last.

NOTE: Endnotes supplied by Prof. Foerster are indicated by
"(F.)"; all other endnotes are supplied by W.W. Comfort.

(1) A Welsh version, "Geraint the Son of Erbin", included in
Lady Charlotte Guest's translation of "The Mabinogion"
(London, 1838-49; a modern edition will be found in Everyman
Library, London, 1906), tells the same story as "Erec et
Enide" with some variations. This Welsh version has also
been translated into modern French by J. Loth ("Les
Mabinogion", Paris, 1889), where it may be consulted with
the greatest confidence. The relation of the Welsh prose to
the French poem is a moot point. Cf. E. Philipot in
"Romania", XXV. 258-294, and earlier, K. Othmer, "Ueber das
Verhaltnis Chrestiens Erec und Enide zu dem Mabinogion des
rothen Buch von Hergest" (Koln, 1889); G. Paris in
"Romania", XIX. 157, and id. XX. 148-166.
(2) We frequently read in the romances of a hunt at Easter (F.).
As here, so in "Fergus" (ed. Martin, Halle, 1872), p. 2 f.,
the knights hunt a white stag, which Perceval finally slays,
but there is no mention of the ceremony of the bestowal of a
(3) Chretien nowhere gives any description of the nature of the
Round Table. With him, it is an institution. Layamon in
"Brut" and Wace in "Le Roman de Brut" are more specific in
their accounts of this remarkable piece of furniture. From
their descriptions, and from other sources in Welsh and
Irish literature, it is reasonable to suppose that the Round
Table had a place in primitive Celtic folk-lore. Cf. L.F.
Mott, "The Round Table" in "Pub. of the Modern Language
Association of America", XX. 231-264; A.C.L. Brown, "The
Round Table before Wace" in "Harvard Studies and Notes in
Philology and Literature", vii. 183-205 (Boston, 1900); Miss
J.L Weston, "A Hitherto Unconsidered Aspect of the Round
Table" in "Melanges de philologie romane offerts a M.
Wilmotte", ii. 883-894, 2 vols. (Paris, 1910).
(4) There exists a romance devoted to Yder, of which G. Paris
printed a resume in "Hist. Litt. de la France", XXX., and
which has been recently edited by Heinrich Gelzer: "Der
altfranzosische Yderroman" (Dresden, 1913). There are
apparently three different knight of this name in the old
French romances (F.).
(5) The word "chastel" (from "castellum") is usually to be
translated as "town" or strong place within fortifications.
Only where it plainly refers to a detached building will the
word "castle" be used.
(6) A "tercel" is a species of falcon, of which the male bird is
one-third smaller than the female.
(7) A "vavasor" (from "vassus vassallorum") was a low order of
vassal, but a freeman. The vavasors are spoken of with
respect in the old French romances, as being of honourable
character, though not of high birth.
(8) The numerous references to the story of King Mark, Tristan,
and Iseut in the extant poems of Chretien support his own
statement, made at the outset of "Cliges", that he himself
composed a poem on the nephew and wife of the King of
Cornwall. We have fragments of poems on Tristan by the
Anglo-Norman poets Beroul and Thomas, who were
contemporaries of Chretien. Foerster's hypothesis that the
lost "Tristan" of Chretien antedated "Erec" is doubtless
correct. That the poet later treated of the love of Cliges
and Fenice as a sort of literary atonement for the
inevitable moral laxity of Tristan and Iseut has been held
by some, and the theory is acceptable in view of the
references to be met later in "Cliges". For the contrary
opinion of Gaston Paris see "Journal des Savants" (1902), p.
297 f.
(9) In the Mabinogi "Geraint the Son of Erbin", the host
explains that he had wrongfully deprived his nephew of his
possessions, and that in revenge the nephew had later taken
all his uncle's property, including an earldom and this
town. See Guest, "The Mabinogion".
(10) The hauberk was a long shirt of mail reaching to the knees,
worn by knights in combat. The helmet, and the "coiffe"
beneath it, protected the head; the "ventail" of linked
meshes was worn across the lower part of the face, and was
attached on each side of the neck to the "coiffe", so that
it protected the throat; the greaves covered the legs. The
body of the knight was thus well protected against blow of
sword or lance. Cf. Vv.711 f.
(11) This passage seems to imply that charms and enchantments
were sometimes used when a knight was armed (F.).
(12) The "loges", so often mentioned in old French romances, were
either window-balconies or architectural points of vantage
commanding some pleasing prospect. The conventional
translation in the old English romances is "bower".
(13) Tristan killed Morholt, the uncle of Iseut, when he came to
claim tribute form King Mark (cf. Bedier, "Le Roman de
Tristan", etc., i. 85 f., 2 vols., Paris, 1902). The combat
took place on an island, unnamed in the original text (id.
i. 84), but later identified with St. Samson's Isle, one of
the Scilly Isles.
(14) The same act of feeding a hunting-bird with a plover's wing
is mentioned in "Le Roman de Thebes", 3857-58 (ed. "Anciens
(15) For such figurative expressions used to complement the
negative, cf. Gustav Dreyling, "Die Ausdruckweise der
ubertriebenen Verkleinerung im altfranzosischen Karlsepos",
in Stengel's "Ausgaben und Abhandlungen", No. 82 (Marsburg,
1888); W.W. Comfort in "Modern Language Notes" (Baltimore,
February 1908).
(16) Chretien in his later romances will avoid compiling such a
prosaic blue-book as is found in this passage, though
similar lists of knights occur in the old English romances
as late as Malory, though of some of them but little is
known. Unfortunately, we have for the old French romances
no such complete work as that furnished for the epic poems
by E. Langois, "Table des noms propres de toute nature
compris dans les chansons de geste" (Paris, 1904).
(17) The only mention by Chretien of this son of Arthur, whose
role is absolutely insignificant in the Arthurian romances.
(18) What was this drinking-cup, and who sent it to Arthur? We
have "Le Lai du cor" (ed. Wulff, Lund, 1888), which tells
how a certain King Mangount of Moraine sent a magic
drinking-cup to Arthur. No one could drink of this cup
without spilling the contents if he were a cuckold.
Drinking from this cup was, then, one of the many current
tests of chastity. Further light may be thrown on the
passage in our text by the English poem "The Cokwold's
Daunce" (in C.H. Hartshorne's "Ancient Metrical Ballads",
London, 1829), where Arthur is described as a cuckold
himself and as having always by him a horn (cup) which he
delights in trying on his knights as a test of their ladies'
chastity. For bibliography see T.P. Cross, "Notes on the
Chastity-Testing Horns and Mantle" in "Modern Philology", x.
(19) A unique instance of such a division of the material in
Chretien's poems (F.).
(20) Outre-Gales=Estre-Gales (v.3883)=Extra-Galliam.
(21) Such fanciful descriptions of men and lands are common in
the French epic poems, where they are usually applied to the
Saracens (F.). Cf. W.w. Comfort, "The Saracens in Christian
Poetry" in "The Dublin Review", July 1911; J. Malsch, "Die
Charakteristik der Volker im altfranzosischen nationalen
Epos" (Heidelberg, 1912).
(22) With what seems to us mistaken taste, Chretien frequently
thus delays mentioning the name of his leading charecters.
The father and mother of Enide remain anonymous until the
end of this poem. The reader will remark other instances of
this peculiarity in "Yvain" and "Lancelot".
(23) The maid Brangien was substituted for Iseut, the bride, upon
the first night after her marriage with Mark. Similar
traditions are associated with the marriage of Arthur and
Guinevere, and of Pepin and Berte aus grans pies, the
parents of Charlemagne. Adenet le Roi toward the end of the
13th century is the author of the most artistic treatments
of Berte's history (ed. A. Scheler, Bruxelles, 1874). Cf.
W.W. Comfort, "Adenet le Roi: The End of a Literary Era" in
"The Quarterly Review", April 1913.
(24) The reading "Sanson" (=Samson) is Foerster's most recent
(1904) suggestion to replace the word "lion" which stands in
all the MSS. Solomon's name has always been syonymous with
wisdom, and Alexander's generosity was proverbial in the
Middle Ages. For Alexander, cf. Paul Meyer, "Alexandre le
Grand dans la litterature francaise du moyen age", 2 vols.
(Paris, 1886), vol ii., pp. 372-376, and Paget Toynbee,
"Dante Studies and Researches" (London, 1902), p. 144.
(25) Of Arthur's several nephews, Gawain is represented by
Chretien as peerless in respect of courage and courtesy. In
the English romances his character steadily deteriorates.
(26) This sentence contains the motive for all the action in the
sequel. The same situation is threatened in "Yvain", but
there Gawain rescues the hero from the lethargy, ignoble in
the eyes of a feudal audience, into which he was falling.
Cf. also "Marques de Rome" ("Lit. Verein in Stuttgart",
Tubingen, 1889), p. 36, where the Empress of Rome thus
incites her husband to the chase: "Toz jors cropez vos a
Postel; vos n'estes point chevalereus, si come vos deussiez
estre, si juenes hom come vos estes"; also J. Gower, "Le
Mirour de l'omme, 22, 813 ff.:
"Rois est des femmes trop decu,
Qant plus les ayme que son dieu,
Dont laist honour pour foldelit:
Cil Rois ne serra pas cremu,
Q'ensi voet laisser sou escu
Et querre le bataille ou lit."
(27) This brusque command, implying so sudden a change in Erec's
attitude toward his wife, initiates a long series of tests
of Enide's devotion, which fill the rest of the romance.
Why did Erec treat his wife with such severity? In the
Mabinogi of "Geraint the Son of Erbin", it is plain that
jealousy was the hero's motive. The reader of "Erec" may
judge whether, as we believe, the hero's sudden resolve is
not rather that of a man piqued at being justly reproved by
his wife for a delinquency he had not himself remarked;
irate at his wife's imputation, and fearful of having
forfeited her respect, he starts out to redeem his
reputation in her eyes, and to maker her retract any
insinuation she had made. Erec is simply angry with
himself, but he expends his wrath upon his defenceless wife
until he is reassured of her love and respect for him.
(28) The situation here is a common one. Parallels will be found
in the "Voyage de Charlemagne", in the first tale of the
"Arabian Nights", in the poem "Biterolf and Dietlieb", and
in the English ballad of "King Arthur and King Cornwall".
Professor Child, in his "English and Scotch Ballads",
indexes the ballads in his collection, which present this
motive, under the following caption: "King who regards
himself as the richest, most magnificent, etc., in the
world, is told that there is one who outstrips him, and
undertakes to see for himself whether this is so,
threatening death to the person who has affirmed his
inferiority in case this is disproved."
(29) The presence of the Irish in this connection is explained by
G. Paris in "Romania", xx. 149.
(30) Kay the Seneschal appears here for the first time in
Chretien's poems with the character which he regularly
ascribes to him. Readers of Arthurian romance are all
familiar with Sir Kay; they will find that in Chretien, the
seneschal, in addition to his undeniable qualities of
bravery and frankness, has less pleasing traits; he is
foolhardy, tactless, mean, and a disparager of others'
merit. He figures prominently in "Yvain" and "Lancelot".
His poetic history has not yet been written. His role in
the German romances has been touched upon by Dr. Friedrich
Sachse, "Ueber den Ritter Kei" (Berlin, 1860).
(31) No meat was eaten because it was the eve of Sunday.
(32) In the French epic poems and romances of adventure alike it
is customary for giants and all manner of rustic boors to
carry clubs, the arms of knighthood being appropriate for
such ignoble creatures. Other instances of this convention
will be remarked in the text.
(33) There follows and excellent example of an old French lament
for the dead. Such a wail was known in old French as a
"regret", a word which has lost its specific meaning in
(34) Many examples will be met of women skilled in the practice
of medicine and surgery. On the subject, cf. A. Hertel,
"Versauberte Oertlichkeiten und Gegenstande in der
altfranzosschen Dichtung" (Hanover, 1908); Georg Manheimer,
"Etwas liber die Aerzte im alten Frankreich" in "Romanische
Forschungen", vi. 581-614.
(35) The reference here and in v.5891 is probably suggested by
the "Roman d'Eneas", which tells the same story as Virgil's
"Aeneid", in old French eight-syllable rhymed couplets, and
which is dated by the most recent scholarship 1160 circ.
Cf. F.M. Warren in "Modern Philology", iii. 179-209; iii.
513-539; iv. 655-675. Also M. Wilmotte, "L'Evolution du
roman francais aux environs de 1150" (Paris, 1903). Scenes
from classical and medieval romance were for a long time
favourite subject of portrayal upon cloths and tapestries,
as well as of illuminations for manuscripts.
(36) Various conjectures have been advanced concerning the
significance of this strange adventure and its mysterious
name "La Joie de la cour". It is a quite extraneous
episode, and Tennyson in his artistic use of our hero and
heroine in the Idyl of "Geraint and Enid" did well to omit
it. Chretien's explanation, a little farther on, of "La
Joie de la cour" is lame and unsatisfactory, as if he
himself did not understand the significance of the matter
upon which he was working. Cf. E. Philipot in "Romania",
xxv. 258-294; K. Othmer, "Ueber das Verhaltnis Chrestiens
Erec und Enide zu dem Mabinogion des rothen Buch von
Hergest" (Bonn, 1889); G. Paris in "Romania", xx. 152 f.
(37) The following description of Erec's reception is repeated
with variations at the time of Yvain's entrance in the
"Chastel de Pesme Avanture" ("Yvain", 5107 f.) (F.).
(38) For such conventional mediaeval descriptions of other-world
castles, palaces, and landscapes, cf. O.M. Johnston in
"Ztsch fur romanische Philologie", xxxii. 705-710.
(39) Tiebaut li Esclavon, frequently mentioned in the epic poems,
was a Saracen king, the first husband of Guibourne, who
later married the Christian hero Guillaume d'Orange. Opinel
was also a Saracen, mentioned in "Gaufrey", p. 132, and the
hero of a lost epic poem (see G. Paris, "Historie poetique
de Charlemagne", p. 127). Fernagu was another Saracen king,
killed in a famous encounter by Roland, "Otinel", p. 9 (F.).
For further references to these characters, see E. Langlois,
"Table des noms propres de toute nature compris dans les
chansons de geste" (Paris, 1904).
(40) There is a similar picket fence topped with helmets in the
"Las de la Mule sanz frain", v. 433 (ed. By R.T. Hill,
Baltimore, 1911).
(41) For such magic horns, cf. A. Hertel, "Verzauberte
Oertlichkeiten", etc. (Hanover, 1908).
(42) In fact, nothing is known of this "lai", if, indeed, it ever
existed. For a recent definition of "lai", se L. Foulet in
"Ztsch. fur romanische Philologie", xxxii. 161 f.
(43) The sterling was the English silver penny, 240 of which
equalled 1 Pound Sterling of silver of 5760 grains 925 fine.
It is early described as "denarius Angliae qui vocatur
sterlingus" ("Ency. Brit").
(44) Macrobus was a Neoplatonic philosopher and Latin grammarian
of the early part of the 5th century A.D. He is best known
as the author of the "Saturnalia" and of a commentary upon
Cicero's "Somnium Scipionis" in that author's "De
republica". It is this latter work that is probably in the
mind of Chretien, as well as of Gower, who refers to him in
his "Mirour l'omme", and of Jean de Meun, the author of the
second part of the "Roman de la Rose".
(45) For fairies and their handiwork in the Middle Ages, cf.
L.F.A. Maury, "Les Fees du moyen age" (Paris, 1843);
Keightley, "Fairy Mythology" (London, 1860); Lucy A. Paton,
"Studies in the Fairy Mythology of Arthurian Romance",
Radcliffe Monograph (Boston, 1903); D.B. Easter, "The Magic
Elements in the romans d'aventure and the romans bretons"
(Baltimore, 1906).


(Vv. 1-44.) He who wrote of Erec and Enide, and translated into
French the commands of Ovid and the Art of Love, and wrote the
Shoulder Bite, (2) and about King Mark and the fair Iseut, (3)
and about the metamorphosis of the Lapwing, (4) the Swallow, and
the Nightingale, will tell another story now about a youth who
lived in Greece and was a member of King Arthur's line. But
before I tell you aught of him, you shall hear of his father's
life, whence he came and of what family. He was so bold and so
ambitious that he left Greece and went to England, which was
called Britain in those days, in order to win fame and renown.
This story, which I intend to relate to you, we find written in
one of the books of the library of my lord Saint Peter at
Beauvais. (5) From there the material was drawn of which
Chretien has made this romance. The book is very old in which
the story is told, and this adds to its authority. (6) From such
books which have been preserved we learn the deeds of men of old
and of the times long since gone by. Our books have informed us
that the pre-eminence in chivalry and learning once belonged to
Greece. Then chivalry passed to Rome, together with that highest
learning which now has come to France. God grant that it may be
cherished here, and that it may be made so welcome here that the
honour which has taken refuge with us may never depart from
France: God had awarded it as another's share, but of Greeks and
Romans no more is heard, their fame is passed, and their glowing
ash is dead.

(Vv. 45-134.) Chretien begins his story as we find it in the
history, which tells of an emperor powerful in wealth and honour
who ruled over Greece and Constantinople. A very noble empress,
too, there was, by whom the emperor had two children. But the
elder son was already so far advanced before the younger one was
born that, if he had wished, he might have become a knight and
held all the empire beneath his sway. The name of the elder was
Alexander, and the other's name was Alis. Alexander, too, was
the father's name, and the mother's name was Tantalis. I shall
now say nothing more of the emperor and of Alis; but I shall
speak of Alexander, who was so bold and proud that he scorned to
become a knight in his own country. He had heard of King Arthur,
who reigned in those days, and of the knights whom he always kept
about him, thus causing his court to be feared and famed
throughout the world. However, the affair may result and
whatever fortune may await him, nothing can restrain Alexander
from his desire to go into Britain, but he must obtain his
father's consent before proceeding to Britain and Cornwall. So
Alexander, fair and brave, goes to speak with the emperor in
order to ask and obtain his leave. Now he will tell him of his
desire and what he wishes to do and undertake. "Fair sire," he
says, "in quest of honour and fame and praise I dare to ask you a
boon, which I desire you to give me now without delay, if you are
willing to grant it to me." The emperor thinks no harm will come
from this request: he ought rather to desire and long for his
son's honour. "Fair son," he says, "I grant you your desire; so
tell me now what you wish me to give you." Now the youth has
accomplished his purpose, and is greatly pleased when the boon is
granted him which he so greatly desired. "Sire," says he, "do
you wish to know what it is that you have promised me? I wish to
have a great plenty of gold and silver, and such companions from
among your men as I will select; for I wish to go forth from your
empire, and to present my service to the king who rules over
Britain, in order that he may make me a knight. I promise you
never in my life to wear armour on my face or helmet upon my head
until King Arthur shall gird on my sword, if he will graciously
do so. For from no other than from him will I accept my arms."
Without hesitation the emperor replies: "Fair son, for God's
sake, speak not so! This country all belongs to you, as well as
rich Constantinople. You ought not to think me mean, when I am
ready to make you such a gift. I shall be ready soon to have you
crowned, and to-morrow you shall be a knight. All Greece will be
in your hands, and you shall receive from your nobles, as is
right, their homage and oaths of allegiance. Whoever refuses
such an offer is not wise."

(Vv. 135-168.) The youth hears the promise how the next morning
after Mass his father is ready to dub him knight; but he says he
will seek his fortune for better or worse in another land. "If
you are willing in this matter to grant the boon I have asked of
you, then give me mottled and grey furs, some good horses and
silken stuffs: for before I become a knight I wish to enrol in
King Arthur's service. Nor have I yet sufficient strength to
bear arms. No one could induce me by prayer or flattery not to
go to the foreign land to see his nobles and that king whose fame
is so great for courtesy and prowess. Many men of high degree
lose through sloth the great renown which they might win, were
they to wander about the world. (7) Repose and glory ill agree,
as it seems to me; for a man of wealth adds nothing to his
reputation if he spends all his days at ease. Prowess is irksome
to the ignoble man, and cowardice is a burden to the man of
spirit; thus the two are contrary and opposite. He is the slave
of his wealth who spends his days in storing and increasing it.
Fair father, so long as I have the chance, and so long as my
rigour lasts, I wish to devote my effort and energy to the
pursuit of fame."

(Vv. 169-234.) Upon hearing this; the emperor doubtless feels
both joy and grief: he is glad that his son's intention is fixed
upon honour, and on the other hand he is sorrowful because his
son is about to be separated from him. Yet, because of the
promise which he made, despite the grief he feels, he must grant
his request; for an emperor must keep his word. "Fair son," he
says, "I must not fail to do your pleasure, when I see you thus
striving for honour. From my treasure you may have two barges
full of gold and silver; but take care to be generous and
courteous and well-behaved." Now the youth is very happy when
his father promises him so much, and places his treasure at his
disposal, and bids him urgently to give and spend generously.
And his father explains his reason for this: "Fair son," he says,
"believe me, that generosity is the dame and queen which sheds
glory upon all the other virtues. And the proof of this is not
far to seek. For where could you find a man, be he never so rich
and powerful, who is not blamed if he is mean? Nor could you
find one, however ungracious he may be, whom generosity will not
bring into fair repute? Thus largess makes the gentleman, which
result can be accomplished neither by high birth, courtesy,
knowledge, gentility, money, strength, chivalry, boldness,
dominion, beauty, or anything else. (8) But just as the rose is
fairer than any other flower when it is fresh and newly blown, so
there, where largess dwells, it takes its place above all
other virtues, and increases five hundred fold the value of other
good traits which it finds in the man who acquits himself well.
So great is the merit of generosity that I could not tell you the
half of it." The young man has now successfully concluded the
negotiations for what he wished; for his father has acceded to
all his desires. But the empress was sorely grieved when she
heard of the journey which her son was about to take. Yet,
whoever may grieve or sorrow, and whoever may attribute his
intention to youthful folly, and ever may blame and seek to
dissuade him, the youth ordered his ships to be made ready as
soon as possible, desiring to tarry no longer in his native land.
At his command the ships were freighted that very night with
wine, meat, and biscuit.

(Vv. 235-338.) The ships were loaded in the port, and the next
morning Alexander came to the strand in high spirits, accompanied
by his companions, who were happy over the prospective voyage.
They were escorted by the emperor and the empress in her grief.
At the port they find the sailors in the ships drawn up beside
the cliff. The sea was calm and smooth, the wind was light, and
the weather clear. When he had taken leave of his father, and
bidden farewell to the empress, whose heart was heavy in her
bosom, Alexander first stepped from the small boat into the skip;
then all his companions hastened by fours, threes, and twos to
embark without delay. Soon the sail was spread and the anchor
raised. Those on shore whose heart is heavy because of the men
whom they watch depart, follow them with their gaze as long as
they can: and in order to watch them longer, they all climb a
high hill behind the beach. From there they sadly gaze, as long
as their eyes can follow them. With sorrow, indeed, they watch
them go, being solicitous for the youths, that God may bring them
to their haven without accident and without peril. All of April
and part of May they spent at sea. Without any great danger or
mishap they came to port at Southampton. (9) One day, between
three o'clock and vespers, they cast anchor and went ashore. The
young men, who had never been accustomed to endure discomfort or
pain, had suffered so long from their life at sea that they had
all lost their colour, and even the strongest and most vigorous
were weak and faint. In spite of that, they rejoice to have
escaped from the sea and to have arrived where they wished to be.
Because of their depleted state, they spend the night at
Southampton in happy frame, and make inquiries whether the King
is in England. They are told that he is at Winchester, and that
they can reach there in a very short time if they will start
early in the morning and keep to the straight road. At this news
they are greatly pleased, and the next morning at daybreak the
youths wake early, and prepare and equip themselves. And when
they were ready, they left Southampton, and kept to the direct
road until they reached Winchester, where the King was. Before
six o'clock in the morning the Greeks had arrived at the court.
The squires with the horses remain below in the yard, while the
youths go up into the presence of the King, who was the best that
ever was or ever will be in the world. And when the King sees
them coming, they please him greatly, and meet with his favour.
But before approaching the King's presence, they remove the
cloaks from about their necks, lest they should be considered
ill-bred. Thus, all unmantled, they came before the King, while
all the nobles present held their peace, greatly pleased at the
sight of these handsome and well-behaved young men. They suppose
that of course they are all sons of counts or kings; and, to be
sure, so they were, and of a very charming age, with graceful and
shapely forms. And the clothes they wore were all of the same
stuff and cut of the same appearance and colour. There were
twelve of them beside their lord, of whom I need tell you no more
than that there was none better than he. With modesty and
orderly mien, he was handsome and shapely as he stood uncovered
before the King. Then he kneeled before him, and all the others,
for honour's sake, did the same beside their lord.

(Vv. 339-384.) Alexander, with his tongue well skilled in
speaking fair and wisely, salutes the King. "King," he says,
"unless the report is false that spreads abroad your fame, since
God created the first man there was never born a God-fearing man
of such puissance as yours. King, your widespread renown has
drawn me to serve and honour you in your court, and if you will
accept my service, I would fain remain here until I be dubbed a
knight by your hand and by no one else. For unless I receive
this honour from your hand, I shall renounce all intention of
being knighted. If you will accept my service until you are
willing to dub me a knight, retain me now, oh gentle King, and my
companions gathered here." To which at once the King replies:
"Friend, I refuse neither you nor your companions. Be welcome
all. For surely you seem, and I doubt it not, to be sons of
high-born men. Whence do you come?" "From Greece." "From
Greece?" "Yes." "Who is thy father?" "Upon my word, sire, the
emperor." "And what is thy name, fair friend?" "Alexander is
the name that was given me when I received the salt and holy oil,
and Christianity and baptism." "Alexander, my dear, fair friend.
I will keep you with me very gladly, with great pleasure and
delight. For you have done me signal honour in thus coming to my
court. I wish you to be honoured here, as free vassals who are
wise and gentle. You have been too long upon your knees; now, at
my command, and henceforth make your home with man and in my
court; it is well that you have come to us."

(Vv. 385-440.) Then the Greeks rise up, joyful that the King has
so kindly invited them to stay. Alexander did well to come; for
he lacks nothing that he desires, and there is no noble at the
court who does not address him kindly and welcome him. He is not
so foolish as to be puffed up, nor does he vaunt himself nor
boast. He makes acquaintance with my lord Gawain and with the
others, one by one. He gains the good graces of them all, but my
lord Gawain grows so fond of him that he chooses him as his
friend and companion. (10) The Greeks took the best lodgings to
be had, with a citizen of the town. Alexander had brought great
possessions with him from Constantinople, intending to give heed
above all to the advice and counsel of the Emperor, that his
heart should be ever ready to give and dispense his riches well.
To this end he devotes his efforts, living well in his lodgings,
and giving and spending liberally, as is fitting in one so rich,
and as his heart dictates. The entire court wonders where he got
all the wealth that he bestows; for on all sides he presents the
valuable horses which he had brought from his own land. So much
did Alexander do, in the performance of his service, that the
King, the Queen, and the nobles bear him great affection. King
Arthur about this time desired to cross over into Brittany. So
he summons all his barons together to take counsel and inquire to
whom he may entrust England to be kept in peace and safety until
his return. By common consent, it seems, the trust was assigned
to Count Angres of Windsor, for it was their judgement that there
was no more trustworthy lord in all the King's realm. When this
man had received the land, King Arthur set out the next day
accompanied by the Queen and her damsels. The Bretons make great
rejoicing upon hearing the news in Brittany that the King and his
barons are on the way.

(Vv. 441-540.) Into the ship in which the King sailed there
entered no youth or maiden save only Alexander and Soredamors,
whom the Queen brought with her. This maiden was scornful of
love, for she had never heard of any man whom she would deign to
love, whatever might be his beauty, prowess, lordship, or birth.
And yet the damsel was so charming and fair that she might fitly
have learned of love, if it had pleased her to lend a willing
ear; but she would never give a thought to love. Now Love will
make her grieve, and will avenge himself for all the pride and
scorn with which she has always treated him. Carefully Love has
aimed his dart with which he pierced her to the heart. Now she
grows pale and trembles, and in spite of herself must succumb to
Love. Only with great difficulty can she restrain herself from
casting a glance toward Alexander; but she must be on her guard
against her brother, my lord Gawain. Dearly she pays and atones
for her great pride and disdain. Love has heated for her a bath
which heats and burns her painfully. At first it is grateful to
her, and then it hurts; one moment she likes it, and the next she
will have none of it. She accuses her eyes of treason, and says:
(11) "My eyes, you have betrayed me now! My heart, usually so
faithful, now bears me ill-will because of you. Now what I see
distresses me. Distresses? Nay, verily, rather do I like it
well. And if I actually see something that distresses me, can I
not control my eyes? My strength must indeed have failed, and
little should I esteem myself, if I cannot control my eyes and
make them turn their glance elsewhere. Thus, I shall be able to
baffle Love in his efforts to get control of me. The heart feels
no pain when the eye does not see; so, if I do not look at him,
no harm will come to me. He addresses me no request or prayer,
as he would do were he in love with me. And since he neither
loves nor esteems me, shall I love him without return? If his
beauty allures my eyes, and my eyes listen to the call, shall I
say that I love him just for that? Nay, for that would be a lie.
Therefore, he has no ground for complaint, nor can I make any
claim against him. One cannot love with the eyes alone. What
crime, then, have my eyes committed, if their glance but follows
my desire? What is their fault and what their sin? Ought I to
blame them, then? Nay, verily. Who, then, should be blamed?
Surely myself, who have them in control. My eye glances at
nothing unless it gives my heart delight. My heart ought not to
have any desire which would give me pain. Yet its desire causes
me pain. Pain? Upon my faith, I must be mad, if to please my
heart I wish for something which troubles me. If I can, I ought
to banish any wish that distresses me. If I can? Mad one, what
have I said? I must, indeed, have little power if I have no
control over myself. Does Love think to set me in the same path
which is wont to lead others astray? Others he may lead astray,
but not me who care not for him. Never shall I be his, nor ever
was, and I shall never seek his friendship." Thus she argues
with herself, one moment loving, and hating the next. She is in
such doubt that she does not know which course she had better
adopt. She thinks to be on the defence against Love, but defence
is not what she wants. God! She does not know that Alexander is
thinking of her too! Love bestows upon them equally such a share
as is their due. He treats them very fairly and justly, for each
one loves and desires the other. And this love would be true and
right if only each one knew what was the other's wish. But he
does not know what her desire is, and she knows not the cause of
his distress.

(Vv. 541-574.) The Queen takes note of them and sees them often
blanch and pale and heave deep sighs and tremble. But she knows
no reason why they should do so, unless it be because of the sea
where they are. I think she would have divined the cause had the
sea not thrown her off her guard, but the sea deceives and tricks
her, so that she does not discover love because of the sea; and
it is from love that comes the bitter pain that distresses them.
(12) But of the three concerned, the Queen puts all the blame
upon the sea; for the other two accuse the third to her, and hold
it alone responsible for their guilt. Some one who is not at
fault is often blamed for another's wrong. Thus, the Queen lays
all the blame and guilt upon the sea, but it is unfair to put the
blame upon the sea, for it is guilty of no misdeed. Soredamors'
deep distress continued until the vessel came to port. As for
the King, it is well known that the Bretons were greatly pleased,
and served him gladly as their liege lord. But of King Arthur I
will not longer speak in this place; rather shall you hear me
tell how Love distresses these two lovers whom he has attacked.

(Vv. 575-872.) Alexander loves and desires her; and she, too,
pines for the love of him, but he knows it not, nor will he know
it until he has suffered many a pain and many a grief. It is for
her sake that he renders to the Queen loving service, as well as
to her maids-in-waiting; but to her on whom his thoughts are
fixed, he dares not speak or address a word. If she but dared to
assert to him the right which she thinks she has, she would
gladly inform him of the truth; but she does not dare, and cannot
do it. They dare neither speak nor act in accordance with what
each sees in the other--which works a great hardship to them
both, and their love but grows and flames the more. However, it
is the custom of all lovers to feast their eyes gladly with
gazing, if they can do no more; and they assume that, because
they find pleasure in that which causes their love to be born and
grow, therefore it must be to their advantage; whereas it only
harms them more, just as he who approaches and draws close beside
the fire burns himself more than he who holds aloof. Their love
waxes and grows anon; but each is abashed before the other, and
so much is hidden and concealed that no flame or smoke arises
from the coals beneath the ashes. The heat is no less on this
account, but rather is better sustained beneath the ashes than
above. Both of them are in great torment; for, in order that
none may perceive their trouble, they are forced to deceive
people by a feigned bearing; but at night comes the bitter moan,
which each one makes within his breast. Of Alexander I will tell
you first how he complains and vents his grief. Love presents
before his mind her for whom he is in such distress; it is she
who has filched his heart away, and grants him no rest upon his
bed, because, forsooth, he delights to recall the beauty and the
grace of her who, he has no hope, will ever bring him any joy.
"I may as well hold myself a madman." he exclaims. "A madman?
Truly, I am beside myself, when I dare not speak what I have in
mind; for it would speedily fare worse with me (if I held my
peace). I have engaged my thoughts in a mad emprise. But is it
not better to keep my thoughts to myself than to be called a
fool? My wish will never then be known. Shall I then conceal
the cause of my distress, and not dare to seek aid and healing
for my wound? He is mad who feels himself afflicted, and seeks
not what will bring him health, if perchance he may find it
anywhere; but many a one seeks his welfare by striving for his
heart's desire, who pursues only that which brings him woe
instead. And why should one ask for advice, who does not expect
to gain his health? He would only exert himself in vain. I feel
my own illness to be so grievous that I shall never be healed by
any medicine or draught, by any herb or root. For some ills
there is no remedy, and mine lies so deep within that it is
beyond the reach of medicine. Is there no help, then? Methinks
I have lied. When first I felt this malady, if I had dared to
make mention of it. I might have spoken with a physician who
could have completely cured me. But I like not to discuss such
matters; I think he would pay me no heed and would not consent to
accept a fee. No wonder, then, if I am terrified; for I am very
ill, yet I do not know what disease this is which has me in its
grip, and I know not whence this pain has come. I do not know?
I know full well that it is Love who does me this injury. How is
that? Can Love do harm? Is he not gentle and well-bred? I used
to think that there was naught but good in Love; but I have found
him full of enmity. He who has not had experience of him does
not know what tricks Love plays. He is a fool who joins his
ranks; for he always seeks to harm his followers. Upon my faith,
his tricks are bad. It is poor sport to play with him, for his
game will only do me harm. What shall I do, then? Shall I
retreat? I think it would be wise to do so, but I know not how
to do it. If Love chastens and threatens me in order to teach
and instruct me, ought I to disdain my teacher? He is a fool who
scorns his master. I ought to keep and cherish the lesson which
Love teaches me, for great good may soon come of it. But I am
frightened because he beats me so. And dost thou complain, when
no sign of blow or wound appears? Art thou not mistaken? Nay,
for he has wounded me so deep that he has shot his dart to my
very heart, and has not yet drawn it out again. (13) How has he
pierced thy body with it, when no wound appears without? Tell me
that, for I wish to know. How did he make it enter in? Through
the eye. Through the eye? But he has not put it out? He did
not harm the eye at all, but all the pain is in the heart. Then
tell me, if the dart passed through the eye, how is it that the
eye itself is not injured or put out. If the dart entered
through the eye, why does the heart in the breast complain, when
the eye, which received the first effect, makes no complaint of
it at all? I can readily account for that: the eye is not
concerned with the understanding, nor has it any part in it; but
it is the mirror of the heart, and through this mirror passes,
without doing harm or injury, the flame which sets the heart on
fire. For is not the heart placed in the breast just like a
lighted candle which is set in a lantern? If you take the candle
away no light will shine from the lantern; but so long as the
candle lasts the lantern is not dark at all, and the flame which
shines within does it no harm or injury. Likewise with a pane of
glass, which might be very strong and solid, and yet a ray of the
sun could pass through it without cracking it at all; yet a piece
of glass will never be so bright as to enable one to see, unless
a stronger light strikes its surface. Know that the same thing
is true of the eyes as of the glass and the lantern; for the
light strikes the eyes in which the heart is accustomed to see
itself reflected, and lo! it sees some light outside, and many
other things, some green, some purple, others red or blue; and
some it dislikes, and some it likes, scorning some and prizing
others. But many an object seems fair to it when it looks at it
in the glass, which will deceive it if it is not on its guard.
My mirror has greatly deceived me; for in it my heart saw a ray
of light with which I am afflicted, and which has penetrated deep
within me, causing me to lose my wits. I am ill-treated by my
friend, who deserts me for my enemy. I may well accuse him of
felony for the wrong he has done to me. I thought I had three
friends, my heart and my two eyes together; but it seems that
they hate me. Where shall I ever find a friend, when these three
are my enemies, belonging to me, yet putting me to death? My
servants mock at my authority, in doing what they please without
consulting my desire. After my experience with these who have
done me wrong, I know full well that a good man's love may be
befouled by wicked servants in his employ. He who is attended by
a wicked servant will surely have cause to rue it, sooner or
later. Now I will tell you how the arrow, which has come into my
keeping and possession, is made and fashioned; but I fear greatly
that I shall fail in the attempt; for the fashion of it is so
fine that it will be no wonder if I fail. Yet I shall devote all
my effort to telling you how it seems to me. The notch and the
feathers are so close together, when carefully examined, that the
line of separation is as fine as a hair's breadth; but the notch
is so smooth and straight that in it surely no improvement could
be made. The feathers are coloured as if they were of gold or
gilt; but gilt is here beside the mark, for I know these feathers
were more brilliant than any gilt. This dart is barbed with the
golden tresses that I saw the other day at sea. That is the dart
which awakes my love. God! What a treasure to possess! Would
he who could gain such a prize crave other riches his whole life
long? For my part I could swear that I should desire nothing
else; I would not give up even the barb and the notch for all the
gold of Antioch. And if I prize so highly these two things, who
could estimate the value of what remains? That is so fair and
full of charm, so dear and precious, that I yearn and long to
gaze again upon her brow, which God's hand has made so clear that
it were vain to compare with it any mirror, emerald, or topaz.
But all this is of little worth to him who sees her flashing
eyes; to all who gaze on them they seem like twin candles
burning. And whose tongue is so expert as to describe the
fashion of her well-shaped nose and radiant face, in which the
rose suffuses the lily so as to efface it somewhat, and thus
enhance the glory of her visage? And who shall speak of her
laughing mouth, which God shaped with such great skill that none
might see it and not suppose that she was laughing? And what
about her teeth? They are so close to one another that it seems
they are all of one solid piece, and in order that the effect
might still be enhanced Nature added her handiwork; for any one,
to see her part her lips, would suppose that the teeth were of
ivory or of silver. There is so much to be said were I to
portray each detailed charm of chin and ears, that it would not
be strange were I to pass over some little thing. Of her throat
I shall only say that crystal beside it looks opaque. And her
neck beneath her hair is four times as white as ivory. Between
the border of her gown and the buckle at the parted throat, I saw
her bosom left exposed and whiter than new-fallen snow. My pain
would be indeed assuaged, if I had seen the dart entire. Gladly
would I tell, if I but knew, what was the nature of the shaft.
But I did nor see it, and it is not my fault if I do not attempt
to describe something I have never seen. At that time Love
showed me only the notch and the barb; for the shaft was hidden
in the quiver, to wit, in the robe and shift in which the damsel
was arrayed. Upon my faith, malady which tortures me is the
arrow--it is the dart at which I am a wretch to be enraged. I
am ungrateful to be incensed. Never shall a straw be broken
because of any distrust or quarrel that may arise between Love
and me. Now let Love do what he will with me as with one who
belongs to him; for I wish it, and so it pleases me. I hope that
this malady may never leave me, but that it may thus always
maintain its hold, and that health may never come to me except
from the source of my illness."

(Vv. 873-1046.) Alexander's complaint is long enough; but that
of the maiden is nothing less. All night she lies in such
distress that she cannot sleep or get repose. Love has confined
within her heart a struggle and conflict which disturbs her
breast, and which causes her such pain and anguish that she weeps
and moans all night, and tosses about with sudden starts, so that
she is almost beside herself. And when she has tossed and sobbed
and groaned and started up and sighed again then she looked
within her heart to see who and what manner of man it was for
whom Love was tormenting her. And when she has refreshed herself
somewhat with thinking to her heart's content, she stretches and
tosses about again, and ridicules all the thoughts she has had.
Then she takes another course, and says: "Silly one, what matters
it to me if this youth is of good birth and wise and courteous
and valorous? All this is simply to his honour and credit. And
as for his beauty, what care I? Let his beauty be gone with him!
But if so, it will be against my will, for it is not my wish to
deprive him of anything. Deprive? No, indeed! That I surely
will not do. If he had the wisdom of Solomon, and if Nature had
bestowed on him all the beauty she can place in human form, and
if God had put in my power to undo it all, yet would I not injure
him; but I would gladly, if I could, make him still more wise and
fair. In faith, then, I do not hate him! And am I for that
reason his friend? Nay, I am not his any more than any other
man's. Then what do I think of him so much, if he pleases me no
more than other men? I do not know; I am all confused; for I
never thought so much about any man in the world, and if I had my
will, I should see him all the time, and never take my eyes from
him. I feel such joy at the sight of him! Is this love? Yes, I
believe it is. I should not appeal to him so often, if I did not
love him above all others. So I love him, then, let it be
agreed. Then shall I not do what I please? Yes, provided he
does not refuse. This intention of mine is wrong; but Love has
so filled my heart that I am mad and beside myself, nor will any
defence avail me now, if I must endure the assault of Love. I
have demeaned myself prudently toward Love so long, and would
never accede to his will; but now I am more than kindly disposed
toward him. And what thanks will he owe to me, if he cannot have
my loving service and good-will? By force he has humbled my
pride, and now I must follow his pleasure. Now I am ready to
love, and I have a master, and Love will teach me--but what?
How I am to serve his will. But of that I am very well informed,
and am so expert in serving him that no one could find fault with
me. I need learn no more of that. Love would have it, and so
would I, that I should be sensible and modest and kind and
approachable to all for the sake of one I love. Shall I love all
men, then, for the sake of one? I should be pleasant to every
one, but Love does not bid me be the true friend of every one.
Love's lessons are only good. It is not without significance
that I am called by the name of Soredamors. (14) I am destined
to love and be loved in turn, and I intend to prove it by my
name, if I can find the explanation there. There is some
significance in the fact that the first part of my name is of
golden colour; for what is golden is the best. For this reason I
highly esteem my name, because it begins with that colour with
which the purest gold harmonises. And the end of the name calls
Love to my mind; for whoever calls me by my right name always
refreshes me with love. And one half gilds the other with a
bright coat of yellow gold; for Soredamors has the meaning of
`one gilded over with Love.' Love has highly honoured me in
gilding me over with himself. A gilding of real gold is not so
fine as that which makes me radiant. And I shall henceforth do
my best to be his gilding, and shall never again complain of it.
Now I love and ever more shall love. Whom? Truly, that is a
fine question! Him whom Love bids me love, for no other shall
ever have my love. What will he care in his ignorance, unless I
tell him of it myself? What shall I do, if l do not make to him
my prayer? Whoever desires anything ought to ask for it and make
request. What? Shall I beseech him, then? Nay. Why? Did ever
such a thing come about that a woman should be so forward as to
make love to any man; unless she were clean beside herself. I
should be mad beyond question if I uttered anything for which I
might be reproached. If he should know the truth through word of
mine I think he would hold me in slight esteem, and would often
reproach me with having solicited his love. May love never be so
base that I should be the first to prefer a request which would
lower me in his eyes! Alas, God! How will he ever know the
truth, since I shall not tell him of it? As yet I have very
little cause to complain. I will wait until his attention is
aroused, if ever it is to be aroused. He will surely guess the
truth, I think, if ever he has had commerce with Love, or has
heard of it by word of mouth. Heard of it? That is a foolish
thing to say. Love is not of such easy access that any one may
claim acquaintance by hear-say only and without personal
experience. I have come to know that well enough myself; for I
could never learn anything of love through flattery and wooing
words, though I have often been in the school of experience, and
have been flattered many a time. But I have always stood aloof,
and now he makes me pay a heavy penalty: now I know more about it
than does the ox of ploughing. But one thing causes me despair:
I fear he has never been in love. And if he is not in love, and
never has been so, then I have sowed in the sea where no seed can
take root. So there is nothing to do but wait and suffer, until
I see whether I can lead him on by hints and covered words. I
shall continue this until he is sure of my love and dares to ask
me for it. So there is nothing more about the matter, but that I
love him and am his. If he loves me not, yet will I love him."

(Vv. 1047-1066.) Thus he and she utter their complaint, unhappy
at night and worse by day, each hiding the truth from the other's
eyes. In such distress they remained a long time in Brittany, I
believe, until the end of the summer came. At the beginning of
October there came messengers by Dover from London and
Canterbury, bearing to the King news which troubled him. The
messengers told him that he might be tarrying too long in
Brittany; for, he to whom he had entrusted the kingdom was
intending to withstand him, and had already summoned a great army
of his vassals and friends, and had established himself in London
for the purpose of defending the city against Arthur when he
should return.

(Vv. 1067-1092.) When the King heard this news, angry and sore
displeased he summons all his knights. In order the better to
spur them on to punish the traitor, he tells them that they are
entirely to blame for his trouble and strife; for on their advice
he entrusted his land to the hands of the traitor, who is worse
than Ganelon. (15) There is not a single one who does not agree
that the King is right, for he had only followed their advice;
but now this man is to be outlawed, and you may be sure that no
town or city will avail to save his body from being dragged out
by force. Thus they all assure the King, giving him their word
upon oath, that they will deliver the traitor to him, or never
again claim their fiefs. And the King proclaims throughout
Brittany that no one who can bear arms shall refuse to follow him
at once.

(Vv. 1093-1146.) All Brittany is now astir. Never was such an
army seen as King Arthur brought together. When the ships came
to set sail, it seemed that the whole world was putting out to
sea; for even the water was hid from view, being covered with the
multitude of ships. It is certainly true that, to judge by the
commotion, all Brittany is under way. Now the ships have crossed
the Channel, and the assembled host is quartered on the shore.
Alexander bethought himself to go and pray the King to make him a
knight, for if ever he should win renown it will be in this war.
Prompted by his desire, he takes his companions with him to
accomplish what he has in mind. On reaching the King's quarters,
they found him seated before his tent. When he saw the Greeks
approaching, he summoned them to him, saying: "Gentlemen, do not
conceal what business has brought you here." Alexander replied
on behalf of all, and told him his desire: "I have come," he
says, "to request of you, as I ought to do of my liege lord, on
behalf of my companions and myself, that you should make us
knights." The King replies: "Very gladly; nor shall there be any
delay about it, since you have preferred your request." Then the
King commands that equipment shall be furnished for twelve
knights. Straightway the King's command is done. As each one
asks for his equipment, it is handed to him-- rich arms and a
good horse: thus each one received his outfit. The arms and
robes and horse were of equal value for each of the twelve; but
the harness for Alexander s body, if it should be valued or sold,
was alone worth as much as that of all the other twelve. At the
water's edge they stripped, and then washed and bathed
themselves. Not wishing that any other bath should be heated for
them, they washed in the sea and used it as their tub. (16)

(Vv. 1147-1196.) All this is known to the Queen, who bears
Alexander no ill will, but rather loves, esteems, and values him.
She wishes to make Alexander a gift, but it is far more precious
than she thinks. She seeks and delves in all her boxes until she
finds a white silk shirt, well made of delicate texture, and very
soft. Every thread in the stitching of it was of gold, or of
silver at least. Soredamors had taken a hand in the stitching of
it here and there, and at intervals, in the sleeves and neck, she
had inserted beside the gold a strand of her own hair, to see if
any man could be found who, by close examination, could detect
the difference. For the hair was quite as bright and golden as
the thread of gold itself. The Queen takes the shirt and
presents it to Alexander. Ah, God! What joy would Alexander
have felt had he known what the Queen was giving him! And how
glad would she, too, have been, who had inserted her own hair, if
she had known that her lover was to own and wear it! She could
then have taken great comfort; for she would not have cared so
much for all the hair she still possessed as for the little that
Alexander had. But, more is the pity, neither of them knew the
truth. The Queen's messenger finds the youths on the shore where
they are bathing, and gives the shirt to Alexander. He is
greatly pleased with it, esteeming the present all the more
because it was given him by the Queen. But if he had known the
rest, he would have valued it still more; in exchange for it he
would not have taken the whole world, but rather would have made
a shrine of it and worshipped it, doubtless, day and night.

(Vv. 1197-1260.) Alexander delays no longer, but dresses himself
at once. When he was dressed and ready, he returned to the
King's tent with all his companions. The Queen, it seems, had
come there, too, wishing to see the new knights present
themselves. They might all be called handsome, but Alexander
with his shapely body was the fairest of them all. Well, now
that they are knights I will say no more of them for the present,
but will tell of the King and of his host which came to London.
Most of the people remained faithful to him, though many allied
themselves with the opposition. Count Angres assembled his
forces, consisting of all those whose influence could be gained
by promises or gifts. When he had gathered all his strength, he
slipped away quietly at night, fearing to be betrayed by the many
who hated him. But before he made off, he sacked London as
completely as possible of provisions, gold and silver, which he
divided among his followers. This news was told to the King, how
the traitor had escaped with all his forces, and that he had
carried off from the city so many supplies that the distressed
citizens were impoverished and destitute. Then the King replied
that he would not take a ransom for the traitor, but rather hang
him, if he could catch him or lay hands on him. Thereupon, all
the army proceeded to Windsor. However it may be now, in those
days the castle was not easy to take when any one chose to defend
it. The traitor made it secure, as soon as he planned his
treacherous deed, with a triple line of walls and moats, and had
so braced the walls inside with sharpened stakes that catapults
could not throw them down. They had taken great pains with the
fortifications, spending all of June, July, and August in
building walls and barricades, making moats and drawbridges,
ditches, obstructions, and barriers, and iron portcullises and a
great square tower of stone. The gate was never closed from fear
or against assault. The castle stood upon a high hill, and
around beneath it flows the Thames. The host encamped on the
river bank, and that day they have time only to pitch camp and
set up the tents.

(Vv. 1261-1348.) The army is in camp beside the Thames, and all
the meadow is filled with green and red tents. The sun, striking
on the colours, causes the river to flash for more than a league
around. Those in the town had come down to disport themselves
upon the river bank with only their lances in their hands and
their shields grasped before their breasts, and carrying no other
arms at all. In coming thus, they showed those without the walls
that they stood in no fear of them. Alexander stood aloof and
watched the knights disporting themselves at feats of arms. He
yearns to attack them, and summons his companions one by one by
name. First Cornix, whom he dearly loved, then the doughty
Licorides, then Nabunal of Mvcene, and Acorionde of Athens, and
Ferolin of Salonica, and Calcedor from Africa, Parmenides and
Francagel, mighty Torin and Pinabel, Nerius and Neriolis. "My
lords," he says, "I feel the call to go with shield and lance to
make the acquaintance of those who disport themselves yonder
before our eyes. I see they scorn us and hold us in slight
esteem, when they come thus without their arms to exercise before
our very eyes. We have just been knighted, and have not yet
given an account of ourselves against any knight or manikin. (17)
We have kept our first lances too long intact. And for what were
our shields intended? As yet, they have not a hole or crack to
show. There is no use in having them except in a combat or a
fight. Let's cross the ford and rush at them!" "We shall not
fail you," all reply; and each one adds: "So help me God, who
fails you now is no friend of yours." Then they fasten on their
swords, tighten their saddles and girths, and mount their steeds
with shields in hand. When they had hung the shields about their
necks, and taken their lances with the gaily coloured ensigns,
they all proceed to the ford at once. Those on the farther side
lower their lances, and quickly ride to strike at them. But they
(on the hither bank) knew how to pay them back, not sparing nor
avoiding them, nor yielding to them a foot of ground. Rather,
each man struck his opponent so fiercely that there is no knight
so brave but is compelled to leave the saddle. They did not
underestimate the experience, skill, and bravery of their
antagonists, but made their first blows count, and unhorsed
thirteen of them. The report spread to the camp of the fight and
of the blows that were being struck. There would soon have been
a merry strife if the others had dared to stand their ground.
All through the camp they run to arms, and raising a shout they
cross the ford. And those on the farther bank take to flight,
seeing no advantage in staying where they are. And the Greeks
pursue them with blows of lance and sword. Though they struck
off many a head they themselves did not receive a wound, and gave
a good account of themselves that day. But Alexander
distinguished himself, who by his own efforts led off four
captive knights in bonds. The sands are strewn with headless
dead, while many others lie wounded and injured.

(Vv. 1349-1418.) Alexander courteously presents the victims of
his first conquest to the Queen, not wishing them to fall into
the hands of the King, who would have had them all hanged. The
Queen, however, had them seized and safely kept under guard, as
being charged with treason. Throughout the camp they talk of the
Greeks, and all maintain that Alexander acted very courteously
and wisely in not surrendering the knights whom he had captured
to the King, who would surely have had them burned or hanged.
But the King is not so well satisfied, and sending promptly to
the Queen he bids her come into his presence and not detain those
who have proved treacherous towards him, for either she must give
them up or offend him by keeping them. While the Queen was in
conference with the King, as was necessary, about the traitors,
the Greeks remained in the Queen's tent with her maids-in-
waiting. While his twelve companions conversed with them,
Alexander uttered not a word. Soredamors took note of this,
seated as she was close by his side. Her head resting upon her
hand, it was plain that she was lost in thought. (18) Thus they
sat a long time, until Soredamors saw on his sleeve and about his
neck the hair which she had stitched into the shirt. Then she
drew a little closer thinking now to find an excuse for speaking
a word to him. She considers how she can address him first, and
what the first word is to be--whether she should address him by
his name; and thus she takes counsel with herself: "What shall I
say first?" she says; "shall I address him by his name, or shall
I call him `friend'? Friend? Not I. How then? Shall I call
him by his name? God! The name of `friend' is fair and sweet to
take upon the lips. If I should dare to call him `friend.!
Should I dare? What forbids me to do so? The fact that that
implies a lie. A lie? I know not what the result will be, but I
shall be sorry if I do not speak the truth. Therefore, it is
best to admit that I should not like to speak a lie. God! yet
he would not speak a lie were he to call me his sweet friend!
And should I lie in thus addressing him? We ought both to tell
the truth. But if I lie the fault is his. But why does his name
seem so hard to me that I should wish to replace it by a surname?
I think it is because it is so long that I should stop in the
middle. But if I simply called him `friend', I could soon utter
so short a name. Fearing lest I should break down in uttering
his proper name, I would fain shed my blood if his name were
simply `my sweet friend.'"

(Vv. 1419-1448.) She turns this thought over in her mind until
the Queen returns from the King who had summoned her. Alexander,
seeing her come, goes to meet her, and inquires what is the
King's command concerning the prisoners, and what is to be their
fate. "Friend," says she, "he requires of me to surrender them
at his discretion, and to let his justice be carried out.
Indeed, he is much incensed that I have not already handed them
over. So I must needs send them to him, since I see no help for
it." Thus they passed that day; and the next day there was a
great assembly of all the good and loyal knights before the royal
tent to sit in judgment and decide by what punishment and torture
the four traitors should die. Some hold that they should be
flayed alive, and others that they should be hanged or burned.
And the King, for his part, maintains that traitors ought to be
torn asunder. Then he commands them to be brought in. When they
are brought, he orders them to be bound, and says that they shall
not be torn asunder until they are taken beneath the town, so
that those within may see the sight. (19)

(Vv. 1449-1472.) When this sentence was pronounced, the King
addresses Alexander, calling him his dear friend. "My friend,"
he says, "yesterday I saw you attack and defend yourself with
great bravery. I wish now to reward your action! I will add to
your company five hundred Welsh knights and one thousand troopers
from that land. In addition to what I have given you, when the
war is over I will crown you king of the best kingdom in Wales.
Towns and castles, cities and halls will I give you until the
time you receive the land which your father holds, and of which
you are to be emperor." Alexander's companions join him in
thanking the King kindly for this boon, and all the nobles of the
court say that the honour which the King has bestowed upon
Alexander is well deserved.

(Vv. 1473-1490.) As soon as Alexander sees his force, consisting
of the companions and the men-at-arms whom it had pleased the
King to give him, straightway they begin to sound the horns and
trumpets throughout the camp. Men of Wales and Britain, of
Scotland and Cornwall, both good and bad without exception--all
take arms, for the forces of the host were recruited from all
quarters. The Thames was low because of the drought resulting
from a summer without rain, so that all the fish were dead, and
the ships were stranded upon the shore, and it was possible to
ford the stream even in the widest part.

(Vv. 1491-1514.) After fording the Thames, the army divided,
some taking possession of the valley, and others occupying the
high ground. Those in the town take notice of them, and when
they see approaching the wonderful array, bent upon reducing and
taking the town, they prepare on their side to defend it. But
before any assault is made, the King has the traitors drawn by
four horses through the valleys and over the hills and unploughed
fields. At this Count Angres is much distressed, when he sees
those whom he held dear dragged around outside the town. And his
people, too, are much dismayed, but in spite of the anxiety which
they feel, they have no mind to yield the place. They must needs
defend themselves, for the King makes it plain to all that he is
angry, and ill-disposed, and they see that if he should lay hands
upon them he would make them die a shameful death.

(Vv.1515-1552.) When the four had been torn asunder and their
limbs lay strewn upon the field, then the assault begins. But
all their labour is in vain, for no matter how much they cast and
shoot, their efforts are of no effect. Yet they strive to do
their utmost, hurling their javelins amain, and shooting darts
and bolts. On all sides is heard the din of cross-bows and
slings as the arrows and the round stones fly thick, like rain
mixed with hail. Thus all day long the struggle of attack and
defence continues, until the night separates them. And the King
causes to be proclaimed what gift he will bestow upon him who
shall effect the surrender of the town: a cup of great price
weighing fifteen marks of gold, the richest in his treasure,
shall be his reward. The cup will be very fine and rich, and, to
tell the truth, the cup is to be esteemed for the workmanship
rather than for the material of which it is made. But good as
the workmanship may be, and fine though the gold, if the truth be
told, the precious stones set in the outside of the cup were of
most value. He through whose efforts the town shall be taken is
to have the cup, if he be only a foot soldier; and if the town is
taken by a knight, with the cup in his possession he shall never
seek his fortune in vain, if there is any to be found in the

(Vv. 1553-1712.) When this news was announced, Alexander had not
forgotten his custom of going to see the Queen each evening.
That night, too, he had gone thither and was seated beside the
Queen. Soredamors was sitting alone close by them, looking at
him with such satisfaction that she would not have exchanged her
lot for Paradise. The Queen took Alexander by the hand, and
examined the golden thread which was showing the effects of wear;
but the strand of hair was becoming more lustrous, while the
golden thread was tarnishing. And she laughed as she happened to
recall that the embroidery was the work of Soredamors. Alexander
noticed this, and begged her to tell him, if suitable, why she
laughed. The Queen was slow to make reply, and looking toward
Soredamors, bade her come to her. Gladly she went and knelt
before her. Alexander was overjoyed when he saw her draw so near
that he could have touched her. But he is not so bold as even to
look at her; but rather does he so lose his senses that he is
well-nigh speechless. And she, for her part, is so overcome that
she has not the use of her eyes; but she casts her glance upon
the ground without fastening it upon anything. The Queen marvels
greatly at seeing her now pale, now crimson, and she notes well
in her heart the bearing and expression of each of them. She
notices and thinks she sees that these changes of colour are the
fruit of love. But not wishing to embarrass them, she pretends
to understand nothing of what she sees. In this she did well,
for she gave no evidence of what was in her mind beyond saying:
"Look here, damsel, and tell us truly where the shirt was sewed
that this knight has on, and if you had any hand in it or worked
anything of yours into it." Though the maiden feels some shame,
yet she tells the story gladly; for she wishes the truth to be
known by him, who, when he hears her tell of how the shirt was
made, can hardly restrain himself for joy from worshipping and
adoring the golden hair. His companions and the Queen, who were
with him, annoy him and embarrass him; for their presence
prevents him from raising the hair to his eyes and mouth, as he
would fain have done, had he not thought that it would be
remarked. He is glad to have so much of his lady, but he does
not hope or expect ever to receive more from her: his very desire
makes him dubious. Yet, when he has left the Queen and is by
himself, he kisses it more than a hundred thousand times, feeling
how fortunate he is. All night long he makes much of it, but is
careful that no one shall see him. As he lies upon his bed, he
finds a vain delight and solace in what can give him no
satisfaction. All night he presses the shirt in his arms, and
when he looks at the golden hair, he feels like the lord of the
whole wide world. Thus Love makes a fool of this sensible man,
who finds his delight in a single hair and is in ecstasy over its
possession. But this charm will come to an end for him before
the sun's bright dawn. For the traitors are met in council to
discuss what they can do; and what their prospects are. To be
sure they will be able to make a long defence of the town if they
determine so to do; but they know the King's purpose to be so
firm that he will not give up his efforts to take the town so
long as he lives, and when that time comes they needs must die.
And if they should surrender the town, they need expect no mercy
for doing so. Thus either outcome looks dark indeed, for they
see no help, but only death in either case. But this decision at
last is reached, that the next morning, before dawn appears, they
shall issue secretly from the town and find the camp disarmed,
and the knights still sleeping in their beds. Before they wake
and get their armour on there will have been such slaughter done
that posterity will always speak of the battle of that night.
Having no further confidence in life, the traitors as a last
resort all subscribe to this design. Despair emboldened them to
fight, whatever the result might be; for they see nothing sure in
store for them save death or imprisonment. Such an outcome is
not attractive; nor do they see any use in flight, for they see
no place where they could find refuge should they betake
themselves to flight, being completely surrounded by the water
and their enemies. So they spend no more time in talk, but arm
and equip themselves and make a sally by an old postern gate (20)
toward the north-west, that being the side where they thought the
camp would least expect attack. In serried ranks they sallied
forth, and divided their force into five companies, each
consisting of two thousand well armed foot, in addition to a
thousand knights. That night neither star nor moon had shed a
ray across the sky. But before they reached the tents, the moon
began to show itself, and I think it was to work them woe that it
rose sooner than was its wont. Thus God, who opposed their
enterprise, illumined the darkness of the night, having no love
for these evil men, but rather hating them for their sin. For
God hates traitors and treachery more than any other sin. So the
moon began to shine in order to hamper their enterprise.

(Vv. 1713-1858.) They are much hampered by the moon, as it
shines upon their shields, and they are handicapped by their
helmets, too, as they glitter in the moonlight. They are
detected by the pickets keeping watch over the host, who now
shout throughout the camp: "Up. knights, up! Rise quickly, take
your arms and arm yourselves! The traitors are upon us."
Through all the camp they run to arms, and hastily strive to
equip themselves in the urgent need; but not a single one of them
left his place until they were all comfortably armed and mounted
upon their steeds. While they are arming themselves, the
attacking forces are eager for battle and press forward, hoping
to catch them off their guard and find them disarmed. They bring
up from different directions the five companies into which they
had divided their troops: some hug the woods, others follow the
river, the third company deploys upon the plain, while the fourth
enters a valley, and the fifth proceeds beside a rocky cliff.
For they planned to fall upon the tents suddenly with great fury.
But they did not find the path clear. For the King's men resist
them, defying them courageously and reproaching them for their
treason. Their iron lance-tips are splintered and shattered as
they meet; they come together with swords drawn, striking each
other and casting each other down upon the face. They rush upon
each other with the fury of lions, which devour whatever they
capture. In this first rush there was heavy slaughter on both
sides. When they can no longer maintain themselves, help comes
to the traitors, who are defending themselves bravely and selling
their lives dearly. They see their troops from four sides arrive
to succour them. And the King's men ride hard with spur to
attack them. They deal such blows upon their shields that,
beside the wounded, they unhorse more than five hundred of them.
Alexander, with his Greeks, has no thought of sparing them,
making every effort to prevail into the thickest of the fight he
goes to strike a knave whose shield and hauberk are of no avail
to keep him from falling to the earth. When he has finished with
him, he offers his service to another freely and without stint,
and serves him, too, so savagely that he drives the soul from his
body quite, and leaves the apartment without a tenant. After
these two, he addresses himself to another, piercing a noble and
courteous knight clean through and through, so that the blood
spurts out on the other side, and his expiring soul takes leave
of the body. Many he killed and many stunned, for like a flying
thunderbolt he blasts all those whom he seeks out. Neither coat
of mail nor shield can protect him whom he strikes with lance or
sword. His companions, too, are generous in the spilling of
blood and brains, for they, too, know well how to deal their
blows. And the royal troops butcher so many of them that they
break them up and scatter them like low-born folk who have lost
their heads. So many dead lay about the fields, and so long did
the battle rage, that long before the day dawned the ranks were
so cut in pieces that the rows of dead stretched for five leagues
along the stream. Count Angres leaves his banner on the field
and steals away, accompanied by only seven of his men. Towards
his town he made his way by a secret path, thinking that no one
could see him. But Alexander notices this, and sees them
escaping from the troops, and he thinks that if he can slip away
without the knowledge of any one, he will go to catch up with
them. But before he got down into the valley, he saw thirty
knights following him down the path, of whom six were Greeks, and
twenty-four were men of Wales. These intended to follow him at a
distance until he should stand in need of them. When Alexander
saw them coming, he stopped to wait for them, without failing to
observe what course was taken by those who were making their way
back to the town. Finally, he saw them enter it. Then he began
to plan a very daring deed and a very marvellous design. And
when he had made up his mind, he turned toward his companions and
thus addressed them: "My lords," says he, "whether it be folly or
wisdom, frankly grant me my desire if you care for my good-will."
And they promised him never to oppose his will in aught. Then he
says: "Let us change our outer gear, by taking the shields and
lances from the traitors whom we have killed. Thus, when we
approach the town, the traitors within will suppose that we are
of their party, and regardless of the fate in store for them,
they will throw open the gates for us. And do you know what
reward we shall offer them? If God so will we shall take them
all dead or alive. Now, if any of you repents of his promise, be
sure that, so long as I live, I shall never hold him dear."

(Vv. 1859-1954.) All the others grant his boon, and, despoiling
the corpses of their shields, they arm themselves with them
instead. The men within the town had mounted to the battlements,
and, recognising the shields, suppose that they belong to their
party, never dreaming of the ruse hidden beneath the shields.
The gatekeeper opens the gate for them and admits them to the
town. He is beguiled and deceived in not addressing them a word;
for no one of them speaks to him, but silently and mute they
pass, making such a show of grief that they trail their lances
after them and support themselves upon their shields. Thus it
seems that they are in great distress, as they pass on at their
own sweet will until they are within the triple walls. Inside
they find a number of men-at-arms and knights with the Count. I
cannot tell you just how many; but they were unarmed, except
eight of them who had just returned from the fight, and even they
were preparing to remove their arms. But their haste was ill
considered; for now the other party make no further pretence, but
without any challenge by way of warning, they brace themselves in
the stirrups, and let their horses charge straight at them,
attacking them with such rigour that they lay low more than
thirty-one of them. The traitors in great dismay shout out: "We
are betrayed, betrayed!" But the assailants take no heed of
this, and let those whom they find unarmed feel the temper of
their swords. Indeed, three of those whom they found still armed
were so roughly handled that but five remained alive. Count
Angres rushed at Calcedor, and in the sight of all struck him
upon his golden shield with such violence that he stretched him
dead upon the ground. Alexander is greatly troubled, and is
almost beside himself with rage when he sees his companion dead;
his blood boils with anger, but his strength and courage are
doubled as he strikes the Count with such fury that he breaks his
lance. If possible, he would avenge his friend. But the Count
was a powerful man and a good and hardy knight, whose match it
would have been hard to find, had he not been a base traitor. He
now returns the blow, making his lance double up so that it
splits and breaks; but the other's shield holds firm, and neither
gives way before the other any more than a rock would do, for
both men were passing strong. But the fact that the Count was in
the wrong disturbs him greatly and troubles him. (21) The anger
of each rises higher as they both draw their swords after their
lances had been broken. No escape would have been possible if
these two swordsmen had persisted in continuing the fight. But
at last one or the other must die. The Count dares not longer
hold his ground, when he sees lying dead about him his men who
had been caught unarmed. Meanwhile the others press them hard,
cutting, slashing, and carving them, spilling their brains, and
reproaching the Count for his treachery. When he hears himself
accused of treason, he flees for safety to his tower, followed by
his men. And their enemies follow after them, fiercely charging
them from the rear, and not letting a single one escape of all
upon whom they lay their hands. They kill and slay so many of
them that I guess not more than seven made good their escape.

(Vv. 1955-2056.) When they had got inside the tower, they made a
stand at the gate; for those who were coming close behind had
followed so closely after them that they too would have pressed
in had the gateway been left exposed. The traitors make a brave
defence, waiting for succour from their friends, who were arming
themselves down in the town. But upon the advice of Nabunal, who
was a Greek of great wisdom, the approach was blocked so that
relief could not arrive in time; for those below had tarried too
long, either from cowardice or sloth. Now there was only one
entrance to the stronghold; so that, if they stop that entrance-
way, they need have no fear that any force shall approach to do
them harm. Nabunal bids and exhorts twenty of them to hold the
gate; for soon such a company might arrive with force as would do
them harm by their assault and attack. While these twenty hold
the gate, the remaining ten should attack the tower and prevent
the Count from barricading himself inside. Nabunal's advice is
taken: ten remain to continue the assault at the entrance of the
tower, while twenty go to defend the gate. In doing so, they
delay almost too long; for they see approaching, furious and keen
for the fight, a company containing many cross-bow men and foot
soldiers of different grades who carried arms of divers sorts.
Some carried light missiles, and others Danish axes, lances and
Turkish swords, bolts for cross-bows, arrows and javelins. The
Greeks would have had to pay a heavy score, if this crowd had
actually fallen upon them; but they did not reach the place in
time. Nabunal by his foresight and counsel had blocked their
plans, and they were forced to remain outside. When they see
that they are shut out, they pause in their advance, as it is
evident they can gain nothing by making an assault. Then there
begins such weeping and wailing of women and young children, of
old men and youths, that those in the town could not have heard a
thunder-clap from heaven. At this the Greeks are overjoyed; for
now they know of a certainty that the Count by no good luck can
escape capture. Four of them mount the walls to keep watch lest
those outside by any means or ruse should enter the stronghold
and fall upon them. The remaining sixteen returned to where the
ten were fighting. The day was already breaking, and the ten had
fought so well that they had forced their way within the tower.
The Count took his stand against a post, and, armed with a
battleaxe, defended himself with great bravery. Those whom he
reaches, he splits in half. And his men line up about him, and
are not slow to avenge themselves in this last stand of the day,
Alexander's men have reason to complain, for of the original
sixteen there remain now but thirteen. Alexander is almost
beside himself when he sees the havoc wrought among his dead or
exhausted followers. Yet his thoughts are fixed on vengeance:
finding at hand a long heavy club, he struck one of the rascals
with it so fiercely that neither shield nor hauberk was worth a
button in preventing him from failing to the ground. After
finishing with him, he pursues the Count, and raising his club to
strike him he deals him such a blow with his square club that the
axe falls from his hands; and he was so stunned and bewildered
that he could not have stood up unless he had leaned against the

(Vv. 2057-2146.) After this blow the battle ceases. Alexander
leaps at the Count and holds him so that he cannot move. Of the
others nothing need be said, for they were easily mastered when
they saw the capture of their lord. All are made prisoners with
the Count and led away in disgrace, in accordance with their
deserts. Of all this the men outside knew nothing. But when
morning came they found their companions shields lying among the
slain when the battle was over. Then the Greeks, misled, made a
great lament for their lord. Recognising his shield, all are in
an agony of grief, swooning at sight of his shield and saying
that now they have lived too long. Cornix and Nerius first
swoon, then, recovering their senses, wish they were dead. So do
Torin and Acorionde. The tears run down in floods from their
eyes upon their breasts. Life and joy seem hateful now. And
Parmenides more than the rest tore his hair in dire distress. No
greater grief could be shown than that of these five for their
lord. Yet, their dismay is groundless, for it is another's body
which they bear away when they think to have their lord. Their
distress is further increased by the sight of the other shields,
which cause them to mistake these corpses for their companions.
So over them they lament and swoon. But they are deceived by all
these shields, for of their men only one was killed, whose name
was Neriolis. Him, indeed, they would have borne away had they
known the truth. But they are in as great anxiety for the others
as for him; so they bore them all away. In every case but one
they were misled. But like the man who dreams and takes a
fiction for the truth, so the shields cause them to suppose this
illusion to be a reality. It is the shields, then, that cause
this mistake. (22) Carrying the corpses, they move away and come
to their tents, where there was a sorrowing troop. Upon hearing
the lament raised by the Greeks, soon all the others gathered,
until there was but one great outcry. Now Saredamors thinks of
her wretched estate when she hears the cry and lament over her
lover. Their anguish and distress cause her to lose her senses
and her colour, and her grief and sorrow are increased because
she dares not openly show a trace of her distress. She shut up
her grief within her heart. Had any one looked at her, he could
have seen by the expression of her face what agony she was in;
but every one was so engrossed with his own sorrow that he had no
care for another's grief. Each one lamented his own loss. For
they find the river bank covered with their relatives and
friends, who had been wounded or roughly treated. Each one wept
for his own heavy and bitter loss: here is a son weeping for a
father, there a father for a son; one swoons at the sight of his
cousin, another over his nephew. Thus fathers, brothers, and
relatives bemoan their loss on every side. But above all is
noticeable the sorrow of the Greeks; and yet they might have
anticipated great joy, for the deepest grief of all the camp will
soon be changed into rejoicing.

(Vv. 2147-2200.) The Greeks outside continue their lament, while
those inside strive to let them know the news which will cause
them to rejoice. They disarm and bind their prisoners, who pray
and beg of them to strike off their heads straightway. But the
Greeks are unwilling, and disdain their entreaties, saying that
them will keep then under guard and hand them over to the King,
who will grant them such recompense as shall require their
services. When they had disarmed them all they made them go up
on the wall that they might be seen by the troops below. This
privilege is not to their liking, and when they saw their lord
bound as a prisoner, they were unhappy men. Alexander upon the
walls swears to God and all the saints that he will not let one
of them live, but will kill them all speedily, unless they will
go to surrender to the King before he can seize them. "Go," says
he, "confidently to the King at my command, and cast yourselves
upon his mercy. None of you, except the Count, has deserved to
die. You shall not lose either life or limb if you surrender to
the King. If you do not deliver yourselves from death by crying
for mercy, you need have little hope of saving your lives or
bodies. Go forth disarmed to meet the King, and tell him from me
that Alexander sends you to him. Your action will not be in
vain; for my lord the King is so gentle and courteous that he
will lay aside his wrath and anger. But if you wish to act
otherwise, you must expect to die, for his heart will be closed
to pity." All agree in accepting this advice, and do not
hesitate until they come to the King's tent, where they all fall
at his feet. The story they told was soon known throughout the
camp. The King and all his men mounted and spurred their horses
to the town without delay.

(Vv. 2201-2248.) Alexander goes out from the town to meet the
King, who was greatly pleased, and to surrender to him the Count.
The King did not delay in fitly punishing him. But Alexander is
congratulated and praised by the King and all the others who
esteem him highly. Their joy drives away the grief which they
had felt not long before. But no joy of the others can compare
with the exultation of the Greeks. The King presents him with
the precious cup, weighing fifteen marks, and tells him
confidently that there is nothing in his possession so valuable
that he would not place it in his hands upon request--save only
the crown and the Queen. Alexander dares not mention his heart's
desire, though he knows well that he would not be refused in
asking for his sweetheart's hand. But he fears so much lest he
might displease her, whose heart would have been made glad, that
he prefers to suffer without her rather than to win her against
her will. Therefore, he asks for a little time, not wishing to
prefer his request until he is sure of her pleasure. But he
asked for no respite or delay in accepting the cup of gold. He
takes the cup, and courteously begs my lord Gawain to accept this
cup as a gift from him, which Gawain did most reluctantly. When
Soredamors learned the truth about Alexander she was greatly
pleased and delighted. When she heard that he was alive, she was
so happy that it seemed to her as though she could never be sad
again. But she reflects that he is slower in coming than is his
wont. Yet in good time she will have her wish, for both of them
in rivalry are occupied with one common thought.

(Vv. 2249-2278.) It seemed to Alexander an age before he could
feast his eyes with even one soft glance from her. Long ago he
would fain have gone to the Queen's tent, if he had not been
detained elsewhere. He was much put out by this delay, and as
soon as he could, he betook himself to the Queen in her tent.
The Queen went to greet him, and, without his having confided in
her, she had already read his thoughts, and knew what was passing
in his mind. She greets him at the entrance of the tent, and
strives to make him welcome, well knowing for what purpose he has
come. Desirous of according him a favour, she beckons Soredamors
to join them, and they three engage in conversation at some
distance from the rest. The Queen first speaks, in whose mind
there was no doubt that this couple were in love. Of this fact
she is quite sure, and is persuaded moreover that Soredamors
could not have a better lover. She took her place between the
two and began to say what was appropriate.

(Vv. 2279-2310.) "Alexander," says the Queen, "any love is worse
than hate, when it torments and distresses its devotee. Lovers
know not what they do when they conceal their passion from one
another. Love is a serious business, and whoever does not boldly
lay its foundation firm can hardly succeed in completing the
edifice. They say there is nothing so hard to cross as the
threshold. Now I wish to instruct you in the lore of love; for I
know well that Love is tormenting you. Therefore, I have
undertaken to instruct you; and do you take good care not to keep
anything back from me, for I have plainly seen in the faces of
you both that of two hearts you have made but one. So beware,
and conceal nothing from me! You are acting very foolishly in
not speaking out your mind; for concealment will be the death of
you; thus you will be the murderers of Love. Now I counsel you
to exercise no tyranny, and to seek no passing gratification in
your love; but to be honourably joined together in marriage. So,
I believe, your love shall long endure. I can assure you that,
if you agree to this, I will arrange the marriage."

(Vv. 2311-2360.) When the Queen had spoken her mind, Alexander
thus made reply: "Lady," he says, "I enter no defence against the
charge you make, but rather admit the truth of all you say. I
wish never to be deserted by love, but always to fix my thoughts
on it. I am pleased and delighted by what you have so kindly
said. Since you know what my wishes are, I see no reason why I
should conceal them from you. Long ago, if I had dared I would
have confessed them openly; for the silence has been hard. But
it may well be that for some reason this maiden may not wish that
I be hers and she mine. But even if she grant me no rights over
her, yet will I place myself in her hands." At these words she
trembled, having no desire to refuse the gift. Her heart's
desire betrays itself in her words and her countenance.
Falteringly she gives herself to him, and says that without
exception her will, her heart, and her body all is at the
disposal of the Queen, to do with her as she may please. The
Queen clasps them both in her arms, and presents one to the
other. Then laughingly she adds: "I give over to thee,
Alexander, thy sweetheart's body, and I know that thy heart does
not draw back. Whoever may like it or like it not, I give each
of you to the other. Do thou, Soredamors, take what is thine,
and thou, Alexander, take what is thine!" Now she has her own
entire, and he has his without lack. At Windsor that day, with
the approval and permission of my lord Gawain and the King, the
marriage was celebrated. No one could tell, I am sure, so much
of the magnificence and the food, of the pleasure and
entertainment, at this wedding without falling short of the
truth. Inasmuch as it would be distasteful to some, I do not
care to waste further words upon the matter, but am anxious to
turn to another subject.

(Vv. 2361-2382.) That day at Windsor Alexander had all the
honour and happiness that he could desire. Three different joys
and honours were his: one was the town which he captured; another
was the present of the best kingdom in Wales, which King Arthur
had promised to give him when the war was over; that very day he
made him king in his hall. But the greatest joy of all was the
third--that his sweetheart was queen of the chess-board where
he was king. Before five months had passed, Soredamors found
herself with child, and carried it until the time was fulfilled.
The seed remained in germ until the fruit was fully matured. No
more beautiful child was ever born before or since than he whom
they now called Cliges.

(Vv. 2383-2456.) So Cliges was born, in whose honour this story
has been put in the Romance tongue. You shall hear me tell of
him and of his valorous deeds, when he shall have grown to
manhood and obtained a good report. But meanwhile in Greece it
came about that he who ruled over Constantinople drew near his
end. He died, as indeed he must, not being able to outlive his
time. But before he died he assembled all the nobles of his land
to send and seek for his son Alexander, who was happily detained
in Britain. The messengers start out from Greece, and begin
their voyage over the seas; but a tempest catches them in its
grasp, and damages their ship and company. They were all drowned
at sea, except one unfaithful wretch, who was more devoted to
Alis the younger son than to Alexander the eider. When he
escaped from the sea, he returned to Greece with the story that
they had all been lost at sea as they were conducting their lord
back from Britain, and that he was the only survivor of the
tragedy. They believed this lie of his, and, taking Alis without
objection or dissent, they crowned him emperor of Greece. But it
was not long before Alexander learned that Alis was emperor.
Then he took leave of King Arthur, unwilling to let his brother
usurp his land without protest. The King makes no opposition to
his plan, but bids him take with him so great a company of
Welshmen, Scots, and Cornishmen that his brother will not dare to
withstand him when he sees him come with such a host. Alexander,
had he pleased, might have led a mighty force; but he has no
desire to harm his own people, if his brother will consent to do
his will. He took with him forty knights besides Soredamors and
his son; these two persons, who were so dear to him, he did not
wish to leave behind. Escorted as far as Shoreham by the entire
court, they there embarked, and with fair winds their ship made


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