Four Arthurian Romances, by Chretien DeTroyes

Part 4 out of 9

way more quickly than a fleeing stag. Within a month, I think,
they arrived in port before Athens, a rich and powerful city.
Indeed, the emperor was residing there, and had convoked, a great
assembly of his noblemen. As soon as they arrived Alexander sent
a privy messenger into the city to learn whether they would
receive him, or whether they would resist his claim to be their
only lawful lord.

(Vv. 2457-2494.) He who was chosen for this mission was a
courteous knight with good judgment, named Acorionde, a rich man
and eloquent; he was a native of the country, too, having been
born in Athens. His ancestors for generations had always
exercised lordship in the city. When he had learned that the
emperor was in the city he went and challenged the crown on
behalf of his brother Alexander, accusing him openly of having
usurped it unlawfully. Arriving at the palace, he finds plenty
of people who welcome him; but he says nothing to any of those
who greet him until he learns what is their attitude and
disposition toward their lawful lord. Coming into the presence
of the emperor he neither greets him nor bows before him nor
calls him emperor. "Alis," he says, "I bring thee tidings of
Alexander, who is out yonder in the harbour. Listen to thy
brother's message: he asks thee for what belongs to him, nor does
he demand what is unjust. Constantinople, which thou dost hold,
should be his and shall be his. It would be neither just nor
right that discord should arise between you two. So give him the
crown without contest, for it is right that thou shouldst
surrender it."

(Vv. 2495-2524.) Alis replies: "Fair gentle friend, thou hast
undertaken a mad enterprise in bearing this message. There is
little comfort in thy speech, for well I know that my brother is
dead. I should rejoice, indeed, to learn that he was still
alive. But I shall not believe the news until I have seen him
with my eyes. He died some time ago, alas! What thou sayest is
not credible. And if he lives, why does he not come? He need
never fear that I will not bestow on him some lands. He is a
fool to hold aloof from me, for in serving me he will find
profit. But no one shall possess the crown and empire beside
me." He liked not the speech of the emperor, and did not fail to
speak his mind in the reply he made. "Alis," he says, "may God
confound me if the matter is thus allowed to stand. I defy thee
in thy brother's name, and dutifully speaking in his name, I
summon all those whom I see here to renounce thee and to join his
cause. It is right that they should side with him and recognise
him as their lord. Let him who is loyal now stand forth."

(Vv. 2525-2554.) Upon saying this he leaves the court, and the
emperor summons those in whom he has most confidence. He
requests their advice concerning this defiance upon his brother's
part, and wishes to learn if he can trust them to lend no support
or help to his brother's claim. Thus he tries to test the
loyalty of each; but he finds not one who sides with him in the
dispute, rather do they all bid him remember the war which
Eteocles undertook against his own brother Polynices, and how
each one died by the other's hand. (23) "So, too, it may happen
to you, if you undertake a war, and all the land will be
distressed." Therefore, they advise that such a peace be sought
as shall be both reasonable and just, and that neither one make
excessive demands. Thus Alis understands that if he does not
make an equitable agreement with his brother all his vassals will
desert him; so he says that he will respect their wishes in
making any suitable contract, provided that however the affair
may rum out the crown shall remain in his possession.

(Vv. 2555-2618.) In order to secure a firm and stable peace Alis
sends one of his officers to Alexander, bidding him come to him
in person and receive the government of the land, but stipulating
that he should leave to him the honour of emperor in name and of
wearing the crown: thus, if Alexander is willing, peace may be
established between them. When this news was brought to
Alexander his men made ready with him and came to Athens, where
they were received with joy. But Alexander is not willing that
his brother should have the sovereignty of the empire and of the
crown unless he will pledge his word never to take a wife, and
that after him Cliges shall be emperor of Constantinople. Upon
this the brothers both agreed. Alexander dictated the terms of
the oath, and his brother agreed and gave his word that he would
never in his life take a wife in marriage. So peace is made, and
they are friends again, to the great satisfaction of the lords.
They hold Alis as their emperor, but all business is referred to
Alexander. What he commands is done, and little is done except
through him. Alis has nothing but the name of emperor; but
Alexander is served and loved; and he who does not serve him for
love must needs do so from fear. Through the effect of one or
the other of these two motives he has all the land within his
power. But he whom they call Death spares neither the strong man
nor the weak, but kills and slays them all. So Alexander had to
die; for a disease caught him in its grip from which he could
obtain no relief. But before he was surprised by death he
summoned his son and said to him: "Fair son Cliges, thou canst
never know that prowess and valour are thine unless thou go first
to make test of them with the Bretons and French at King Arthur's
court. If adventure takes thee thither, so conduct and demean
thyself that thy identity be not known until thou hast tried thy
strength with the most excellent knights of that court. I beg
thee to heed my counsel in this matter, and if the occasion
arises have no fear to measure thy skill with thy uncle, my lord
Gawain. Do not forget this advice, I pray."

(Vv. 2619-2665.) After he had thus exhorted him, he did not live
long. Soredamors' grief was such that she could not survive him,
but died after him of a broken heart. Alis and Cliges both
mourned him becomingly, but finally they ceased their grief, for
sorrow, like everything else, must be outlived. To continue in
sorrow is wrong, for no good can come from it. So the mourning
was ended, and the emperor refrained for a long time from taking
a wife, being careful of his word. But there is no court in all
the world which is free from evil counsel. Great men often go
astray, and do not observe loyalty because of the bad advice they
take. Thus, the emperor hears his men giving him advice and
counselling him to take a wife; and daily they so exhort and urge
him that by their very insistence they persuade him to break his
oath, and to accede to their desire. But he insists that she who
is to be mistress of Constantinople must be gentle, fair, wise,
rich, and noble. Then his counsellors say that they wish to
prepare to go away to the German land, and seek the daughter of
the emperor. She is the choice they propose to him; for the
emperor of Germany is very rich and powerful, and his daughter is
so charming that never was there a maid of her beauty in
Christendom. The emperor grants them full authority, and they
set out upon the journey well provided with all they need. They
proceeded on their way until they found the emperor at
Regensburg, when they asked him to give them his oldest daughter
at the instance of their lord.

(Vv. 2669-2680.) The emperor was pleased with this request, and
gladly gave them his daughter; for in doing so, he does not
debase himself, nor diminish his honour in any way. But he says
that he had promised her to the Duke of Saxony, and that they
would not be able to lead her away unless the emperor should come
with a great army, so that the duke would be unable to do him any
harm or injury while homeward bound.

(Vv. 2681-2706.) When the messengers heard the emperor's reply,
they took leave and departed. They returned to their lord, and
bore him the answer. And the emperor selected a chosen company
of the most experienced knights whom he could find, and took with
him his nephew, in whose interests he had vowed never to marry a
wife, but he will not respect this vow if he can once reach
Cologne. (24) Upon a certain day he leaves Greece and draws near
to Germany, intending to take a wife despite all blame and
reproach; but his honour will be smirched. Upon reaching
Cologne, he found that the emperor had assembled all his court
for a festival. When the company of the Greeks reached Cologne,
there was such a great number of Greeks and Germans that it was
necessary to lodge more than sixty thousand of them outside the

(Vv.2707-2724.) Great was the crowd of people, and great the joy
of the two emperors when they met. When the barons had gathered
in the vast palace, the emperor summoned his charming daughter.
The maiden made no delay in coming straightway into the palace.
She had been made very fair and shapely by the Creator, whose
pleasure it had been to arouse the people's admiration. God, who
had fashioned her, never gave man a word which could adequately
express such beauty as she possessed.

(Vv. 2725-2760.) Fenice was the maiden's name, and for this
there was good reason: (25) for if the Phoenix bird is unique as
the most beautiful of all the birds, so Fenice, it seems to me,
had no equal in beauty. She was such a miracle and marvel that
Nature was never able to make her like again. In order to be
more brief, I will not describe in words her arms, her body, her
head and hands; for if I should live a thousand years, and if my
skill were to double every day, yet should I waste all my time in
trying to tell the truth about her. I know very well, if I
should undertake it, that I would exhaust my brain and waste my
pains: it would be but misspent energy. (26) The damsel hastened
until she came into the palace, with head uncovered and face
unveiled; and the radiance of her beauty lighted the palace more
brightly than four carbuncles would have done. Cliges stood, his
over-cloak removed, in his uncle's presence. The day outside was
somewhat dark, but he and the maiden were both so fair that a ray
shone forth from their beauty which illumined the palace, just as
the morning sun shines clear and red.

(Vv. 2761-2792.) I wish to attempt in a very few words to
describe the beauty of Cliges. He was in his flower, being now
almost fifteen years of age. He was more comely and charming
than Narcissus who saw his reflection in the spring beneath the
elm-tree, and, when he saw it, he loved it so that he died, they
say, because he could not get it. Narcissus was fair, but had
little sense; (27) but as fine gold surpasses copper, so was
Cliges better endowed with wisdom, and even then I have not said
all. His locks seemed made of fine gold, and his face was of a
fresh rosy colour. He had a well-formed nose and shapely mouth,
and in stature he was built upon Nature's best pattern; for in
him she had united gifts which she is wont to scatter wide.
Nature was so lavish with him that she gave him all she could,
and placed all in one receptacle. Such was Cliges, who combined
good sense and beauty, generosity and strength. He possessed the
wood as well as the bark; he knew more of fencing and of the bow
than did Tristan, King Mark's nephew, and more about birds and
hounds than he. (28) In Cliges there lacked no good thing.

(Vv. 2793-2870.) Cliges stood in all his beauty before his
uncle, and those who did not know who he was looked at him with
eager curiosity. And on the other hand, the interest was aroused
of those who did not know the maiden: wonderingly they gaze upon
her. But Cliges, under the sway of love, let his eyes rest on
her covertly, and withdrew them again so discreetly that in their
passage to and fro no one could blame his lack of skill.
Blithely he looks upon the maid, but does not note that she
repays him in kind. Not flattering him, but in sincere love, she
gives him her eyes, and takes back his. This exchange seems good
to her, and would have seemed to her better still had she known
something of who he was. But she knows nothing except that he is
fair, and that, if she is ever to love any one for beauty's sake,
she need not seek elsewhere to bestow her heart. She handed over
to him the possession of her eyes and heart, and he pledged his
in turn to her. Pledged? Rather gave outright. Gave? Nay,
upon my faith, I lie; for no one can give away his heart. I must
express it some other way. I will not say it, as some have done
who make two hearts dwell in one body, for it bears not even the
semblance of truth that there should be in one body two hearts;
and even if they could be so united, it would never seem true.
But if it please you to heed my words, I shall be able explain
how two hearts form but one without coming to be identified.
Only so far are they merged in one as the desire of each passes
from one to the other, thus joining in one common desire; and
because of this harmony of desire, there are some who are wont to
say that each one has both hearts; but one heart cannot be in two
places. Each one always keeps his own heart, though the desire
be shared by both, just as many different men may sing a song or
tune in unison. By this comparison I prove that for one body to
contain two hearts it is not enough to know each other's wish,
nor yet for one to know what the other loves and what he hates;
just as voices which are heard together seem to be merged in one,
and yet do not all come from one mouth, so it is with a body
which can contain but one heart. But there is no need of further
argument, for other matters press upon me. I must speak now of
the damsel and of Cliges, and you shall hear of the Duke of
Saxony, who has sent to Cologne a young nephew of his. This
youth informs the emperor that his uncle, the duke, sends word
that he need expect no peace or trace with him, unless he sends
to him his daughter, and that the one who is intending to carry
her away with him had better not start home, for he will find the
road occupied and well defended unless the maiden be surrendered.

(Vv. 2871-3010.) The youth spoke his message well, without pride
and without insult. But he found neither knight nor emperor who
would answer him. When he saw that they all held their peace and
treated him with scorn, he left the court in defiant mood. But
youth and thirst for daring deeds made Cliges defy him in combat
as he left. For the contest they mount their steeds, three
hundred of them on either side, exactly equal thus in strength.
All the palace is quite emptied of knights and ladies, who mount
to the balconies, battlements, and windows to see and watch those
who were about to fight. Even the maiden, whose will Love had
subdued beneath his sway, sought for a point from which to see.
She took her place at a window, where she sat with great delight,
because from there she could get a view of him whom she holds
secretly in her heart with no desire to remove him thence; for
she will never love any other man. But she does not know his
name, nor who he is, nor of what race; for it is not proper to
ask questions; but she yearns to hear tidings which will bring
joy to her heart. She looks out of the window at the shields
with their gleaming gold, and she gazes at those who wear the
shields about their necks, as they prepare for the trial at arms.
But all her thoughts and glances soon rest upon one object, and
to all others she is indifferent. Whereever Cliges goes, she
seeks to follow him with her eyes. And he in turn does his best
for her, and battles openly, in order that she at least may hear
it said that he is bold and very skilled: thus she will be
compelled to prize him for his prowess. He attacks the duke's
nephew, who was breaking many a lance and sorely discomfiting the
Greeks. But Cliges, who is displeased at this, braces himself
firmly in his stirrups, and goes to strike him so speedily that
in spite of himself he had to vacate the saddle-bows. When he
got up, the uproar was great; for the youth arose and mounted,
thinking to avenge his shame. But many a man only falls into
deeper disgrace who thinks to avenge his shame when he has the
chance. The young man rushes at Cliges, who lowers his lance to
meet him, and thrusts at him with such force that he carries him
to earth again. Now his shame is doubled, and all his followers
are in dismay, seeing that they can never leave the field with
honour; for not one of them is so valiant that he can keep his
seat in the saddle when Cliges thrust reaches him. But those of
Germany and the Greeks are overjoyed when they see their party
drive off the Saxons, who retreat discomfited. With mockery they
pursue them until they come up with them at a stream, into which
they drive them for a plunge. In the deepest part of the ford
Cliges unhorsed the duke's nephew and so many of his men that
they escaped grieving and sad in their shame and confusion. But
Cliges, twice victor, returned in glee, and entered a gate which
was near the apartment where the maiden was; and as he passed
through the gate she exacted as toll a tender glance, which he
paid her as their eyes met. Thus was the maiden subdued by the
man. But there is not a German of the lowland or highland,
possessing the power of speech who does not cry: "God! who is
this in whom such beauty is radiant? God! how has it happened
that so suddenly he has attained such great success?" Thus one
man and another asks: "Who is this youth, who is he, I say?"
Thus, soon throughout the city it is known what his name is, and
who is his father, and what pledge that was which had been made
to him by the emperor. So much was said and noised about that
the news reached the ears of her who in her heart rejoiced
because she could no more say that Love had made sport of her,
nor had she any ground for complaint. For Love has made her give
her heart to the fairest, most courteous, and valiant man that
could anywhere be found. But some force must be employed, if she
would gain possession of him who is not free do her will. This
makes her anxious and distraught. For she has no one with whom
to take counsel concerning him for whom she pines, but must waste
herself in thought and vigils. She becomes so affected by these
cares that she loses her colour and grows wan, and it becomes
plain to all that her loss of colour betokens an unfulfilled
desire. She plays less now than she used to do, and laughs less
and loses her gaiety. But she conceals her trouble and passes it
off, if any one asks what her ailment is. Her old nurse's name
was Thessala, (29) who was skilled in necromancy, having been
born in Thessaly, where devilish charms are taught and wrought;
for the women of that country perform many a charm and mystic

(Vv. 3011-3062.) Thessala saw pale and wan her whom Love holds
in his bonds, and thus she addressed her with advice: "God!" she
said, "are you bewitched, my lady dear, that your face should be
so pale? I wonder what your trouble is. Tell me, if you can,
where this pain attacks you most, for if any one can cure you,
you may safely trust me to give you back your health again. I
can cure the dropsy, gout, quinsy, and asthma; I am so expert in
examining the urine and the pulse that you need consult no other
physician. And I dare say that I know more than ever Medea (30)
knew of enchantments and of charms which tests have proven to be
true. I have never spoken to you of this, though I have cared
for you all your life; and now I should not mention it did I not
plainly see that you are so afflicted as to need my
ministrations. My lady, you will do well to tell me what your
sickness is before its hold becomes more severe. The emperor has
committed you to me in order that I may care for you, and my
devotion has been such that I have kept you safe and sound. Now
all my pains will come to naught if I do not relieve this malady.
Take care not to conceal from me whether this is sickness or
something else." The damsel dares not openly expose her desire
in all its fullness for she is in fear lest she be disapproved
and blamed. And when she hears and understands how Thessala
boasts and highly rates herself as being expert in enchantments,
charms, and potions, she decides to tell her what is the cause of
her pale and colourless face; but first she makes her promise to
keep her secret and never to oppose her will.

(Vv. 3063-3216.) "Nurse," she said, "I truly thought I felt no
pain, but I shall soon feel differently. For as soon as I begin
to think about it, I feel great pain, and am dismayed. But when
one has no experience, how can one tell what is sickness and what
is health? My illness is different from all others; for when I
wish to speak of it, it causes me both joy and pain, so happy I
am in my distress. And if it can be that sickness brings
delight, then my trouble and joy are one, and in my illness
consists my health. So I do not know why I complain, for I know
not whence my trouble comes, unless it is caused by my desire.
Perchance my desire is my disease, but I find so much joy in it
that the suffering it causes me is grateful, and there is so much
contentment in my pain that it is sweet to suffer so. Nurse
Thessala, now tell me true, is not this a deceitful ill, to charm
and torment me both at once? I do not see how I can tell whether
this is a disease or not. Nurse, tell me now its name, nature,
and character. But understand well that I have no desire to be
cured of it, for my distress is very dear to me." Thessala, who
was very wise about love and its symptoms knows full well from
what she hears that it is love which is tormenting her; the
tender, endearing terms she uses are certain proof that she is in
love, for all other woes are hard to bear, except that alone
which comes from love; but love transforms its bitterness into
sweetness and joy, then often transforms them back again. The
nurse, who was expert in this matter, thus replies to her: "Have
no fear, for I will tell you at once the name of your malady.
You told me, I believe, that the pain which you feel seems rather
to be joy and health: now of such a nature is love-sickness, for
in it, too, there is joy and bliss. You are in love, then, as I
can prove to you, for I find no pleasure in any malady save only
in love. All other sickness is always bad and horrible, but love
is sweet and peaceable. You are in love; of that I am sure, nor
do I see any wrong in that. But I shall consider it very wrong,
if through some childish folly you conceal from me your heart."
"Nurse, there is no need of your speaking so. But first I must
be sure and certain that under no circumstances will you speak of
it to any living soul." "My lady, surely the winds will speak of
it before I do without your leave, and I will give you my word so
to favour your desires that you may safely trust in having your
joy fulfilled through my services." "In that case, Nurse, I
shall be cured. But the emperor is giving me in marriage,
wherefore I grieve and am sorrowful; for he who has won my heart
is the nephew of him whom I must take. And though he may find
joy in me, yet is my joy forever lost, and no respite is
possible. I would rather be torn limb from limb than that men
should speak of us as they speak of the loves of Iseut and
Tristan, of so many unseemly stories are told that I should be
ashamed to mention them. I could never bring myself to lead the
life that Iseut led. Such love as hers was far too base; for her
body belonged to two, whereas her heart was possessed by one.
Thus all her life was spent, refusing her favours to neither one.
But mine is fixed on one object, and under no circumstances will
there be any sharing of my body and heart. Never will my body be
portioned out between two shareholders. Who has the heart has
the body, too, and may bid all others stand aside. But I cannot
clearly see how he whom I love can have my body when my father
gives me to another, and his will I do not dare resist. And when
this other is lord of my body, and does something which
displeases me, it is not right for me to summon another to my
aid. Nor can this man marry a wife without breaking his plighted
word; for, unless injustice be done, Cliges is to have the empire
after his uncle's death. But I should be well served by you, if
you were so skilful as to present him, to whom I am pledged and
engaged, from having any claim upon me. O Nurse, exert yourself
to the end that he may not break the pledge which he gave to the
father of Cliges, when he promised him solemnly never to take a
wife in marriage. For now, if he should marry me his promise
would be broken. But Cliges is so dear to me that I would rather
be under ground than that he should ever lose through me a penny
of the fortune which should be his. May never a child be born to
me to cause his disinheritance! Nurse, now do your best, and I
will always be your slave." Then the nurse tells her and assures
her that she will cast so many charms, and prepare so many
potions and enchantments that she need never have any worry or
fear concerning the emperor after he shall have drunk of the
potion which she will give him; even when they shall lie together
and she be at his side, she may be as secure as if there were a
wall between them. "But do not be alarmed, if, in his sleep, he
sports with you, for when he is plunged in sleep he will have his
sport with you, and he will be convinced that he has had you when
wide awake, nor will he think it is all a dream, a fiction, and
illusion. Thus he will have his sport with you when asleep, he
will think he is awake."

(Vv. 3217-3250.) The maiden is highly pleased and delighted by
the nurse's kindness and offer of help. Her nurse inspires good
hope in her by the promise which she makes, and which she binds
herself to keep; with this hope she expects to obtain her desire,
in spite of wearisome delay, for if Cliges' nature is as noble as
she takes it to be he cannot fail to take pity upon her when he
learns that she loves him, and that she has imposed virginity
upon herself in order to insure his inheritance. So the maiden
believes her nurse, and puts full confidence in her. One
promises to the other, and gives her word, that this plot shall
be kept so secret as never to be revealed. At this point their
conversation ceases, and the next morning the emperor summons his
daughter. At his command she goes to him. But why should I
weary you with details? The two emperors have so settled the
matter that the marriage is solemnised, and joy reigns in the
palace. But I do not wish to stop to describe all this in
detail. Rather will I address myself to Thessala, as she
diligently prepares and tempers her potions.

(Vv. 3251-3328.) Thessala steeps her drink, putting in spices in
abundance to sweeten and temper it. After having well beaten and
mixed it, she strains it clear, with no sharp or bitter taste,
for the spices she puts in give it a sweet and pleasant
fragrance. When the potion was prepared, the day had drawn to a
close, the tables were set for supper, and the cloths were
spread. But Thessala delays the supper, because she must
discover by what device and what agent she can have the potion
served. At supper, finally, all were seated, and more than six
dishes had been passed, and Cliges served behind his uncle's
place. Thessala, as she watches him, thinks how ill he serves
his own interests, and how he is assisting in his own
disinheritance, and the thought torments and worries her. Then
in her kindness she conceives the plan of having the potion
served by him to whom it will bring both joy and honour. So
Thessala summoned Cliges; and when he had come to her, he asked
her why she had sent for him. "Friend," said she, "I wish to
present the emperor at this meal with a beverage which he will
esteem highly, and I want him to taste no other to-night, either
at supper or when he goes to bed. I think he cannot fail to
relish it, for he never has tasted a better drink or one that has
cost so much. And I warn you, take good care to let no one else
drink of it, for there is but a little of it. And this, too, I
beg of you, not to let him know whence it came; but tell him it
came about by chance that you found it among the presents, and
tasted it yourself, and detected the aroma of the sweet spices in
the air; then, seeing the wine to be all clear you poured it into
his cup. If by chance he should inquire, you can satisfy him
with this reply. But have no suspicion yourself, after what I
have said, for the drink is pure and healthful, full excellent
spices, and I think it may some day bring you joy." When he
heard that advantage would come to him, he took the potion and
went away, for he did not know there was any harm in it. He set
it in a crystal cup before the emperor, who took it without
question, trusting in his nephew. After taking a long draught of
the beverage, he straightway feels its strength, as it descends
from head to heart, and rises again from heart to head, and
penetrates every part of him without doing the slightest harm.
And by the time they left the tables, the emperor had drunk so
much of the pleasing drink that he can never escape it
influence. Every night he will sleep under its influence, and its
effects will be such that he will think he is awake when sound

(Vv. 3329-3394.) Now the emperor has been deceived. Many
bishops and abbots were present to bless and hallow the marriage-
bed. When the time came to retire, the emperor, as was his
right, lay beside his wife that night. "As was his right;" but
the statement is inexact, for he neither kissed nor fondled her,
yet they lay together in one bed. At first the maiden trembled
with fear and anxiety lest the potion should not act. But it has
so mastered him that he will never desire her or any other woman
except in his sleep. But when asleep he will have such sport
with her as one may have in dreams, and he will think the dream
is true. Nevertheless, she is on her guard, and at first, holds
aloof from him, so that he cannot approach her. But now he must
needs fall asleep; then he sleeps and dreams, though, the senses
are awake, and he exerts himself to win the favours of the maid.
while she, realising the danger, defends her virginity. He woos
her and calls her gently his sweetheart, and thinks he possesses
her, but in vain. But he is gratified by this vain semblance,
embracing, kissing, and fondling an empty thing, seeing and
speaking to no purpose, struggling and striving without effect.
Surely the potion was effective in thus possessing and mastering
him. All his pains are of no avail, as he thinks and is
persuaded that the fortress is won. Thus he thinks and is
convinced, when he desists after his vain efforts. But now I may
say once for all that his satisfaction was never more than this.
To such relations with her he will for ever be condemned if
indeed he can lead her to his own land; but before he can get her
to safety, I judge that there is trouble in store for him. For
while he is on his journey home, the duke, to whom his bride had
been betrothed, will appear upon the scene. The duke gathered a
numerous force, and garrisoned the frontiers, while at court he
had his spies to inform him each day of the emperor's doings and
preparations, and how long they are going to stay, and by what
route they intend to return. The emperor did not tarry long
after the marriage, but left Cologne in high spirits. The German
emperor escorted him with a numerous company, fearing and
dreading the force of the Duke of Saxony.

(Vv. 3395-3424.) The two emperors pursued their journey until
they were beyond Regensburg, where one evening they were encamped
in a meadow by the Danube. The Greeks were in their tents in the
fields bordering upon the Black Forest. Opposite to them the
Saxons were lodged, spying upon them. The duke's nephew stood
alone upon a hill, whence he could reconnoitre for a chance to
inflict some loss or harm on the enemy. From that point of
vantage he espied Cliges with three of his young men disporting
themselves with lances and shields, eager for a conflict and
shock of arms. If he could get the chance the duke's nephew
would gladly attack them and do them harm. Starting out with
five companions he concealed them in a valley close by a wood, so
that the Greeks never saw them until they emerged from the
valley; then the duke's nephew made an attack, and striking
Cliges, wounded him slightly in the back. Cliges, bending over,
avoids the lance which passed him, inflicting only a slight hurt.

(Vv. 3425-3570.) When Cliges felt himself wounded, he charged
the youth, and struck him with such force that he drove his lance
quite through his heart, and stretched him dead. Then all the
Saxons in fear of him betook themselves to flight through the
woods. And Cliges, ignorant of the ambuscade, courageously but
imprudently leaving his companions behind, pursues them to the
place where the duke's troops were in force preparing to attack
the Greeks. Alone he goes in hot pursuit after the youths, who,
in despair over their lord whom they had lost, come running to
the duke and tell him weeping of his nephew's death. The duke
saw no joke in this affair; and, swearing by God and all His
saints that he will take no joy or pride in life so long as the
slayer of his nephew remains alive, he adds that whoever will
bring him his head will be his friend and will serve him well.
Then a knight made boast that if he can find the guilty man, he
will present him with Cliges' head. Cliges follows the young men
until he falls among the Saxons, when he is seen by him who had
undertaken to carry off his head, and who starts after him
without delay. But Cliges haste had turned back to escape from
his enemies and came in to where he had left his companions; he
found none there, for they had returned to camp to relate their
adventure. And the emperor ordered to horse the Greeks and
Germans in one band. Soon all through the camp the knights are
arming and mounting. Meanwhile Cliges is hotly pursued by his
enemy, all armed and with helmet closed. Cliges, who never
wished to be numbered among the coward and craven-hearted,
notices that he comes alone. First, the knight challenged him,
calling him "fellow," unable to conceal his rage: "Young fellow,"
he cried, "thou shalt leave me here a pledge for my lord whom
thou hast killed. If I do not carry away thy head with me, I am
not worth a counterfeit besant. I must make of it a present to
the duke, and will accept no other forfeit. In return for his
nephew, I shall make such restitution that he will profit by the
exchange." Cliges hears him reproaching him thus boldly and with
impudence. "Vassal," he says, "be on your guard! For I will
defend my head, and you shall not get it without my leave." Then
the attack begins. The other missed his blow, while Cliges
struck him with such force that horse and rider went down
together in one heap. The horse fell upon him so heavily that he
shattered completely one of his legs. Cliges dismounted on the
greensward and disarmed him. When he had disarmed him, he
appropriated his weapons, and cut off his enemy's head with the
sword which had just now been his. After severing his head he
fixed it firmly on the point of his lance, thinking to offer it
to the duke, to whom his nephew had promised to present his own
if he could meet him in the strife. Cliges had no sooner put on
the dead man's helmet and taken his shield and mounted his steed,
letting his own stray at large to terrify the Greeks, than he saw
advancing with more than a hundred banners flying several full
squadrons of Greeks and Germans. Now the fierce and cruel
struggles will soon begin between the Saxons and the Greeks. As
soon as Cliges sees his men advancing, he betakes himself toward
the Saxons, his own men hotly pursuing him, and not knowing him
in his disguise. It is no wonder that his uncle is in despair
and fear, when he sees the head he is carrying off. So all the
host pursue him fast, while Cliges leads them on to provoke a
fight, until the Saxons see him drawing near. But they, too, are
quite misled by the arms with which he has armed and equipped
himself. He succeeds in deceiving and mocking them; for the duke
and all the rest, when they saw him approaching lance in rest,
cried out: "Here comes our knight! On the point of his lance he
carries Cliges' head, and the Greeks are hotly pursuing him!"
Then, as they give their horses rein, Cliges spurs to meet the
Saxons, crouching low beneath his shield, the lance out straight
with the head affixed. Now, though he was braver than a lion, he
was no stronger than any other man. Both parties think that he
is dead, and while the Saxons rejoice, the Greeks and Germans
grieve. But before long the truth will out. For Cliges no
longer held his peace: but, rushing fiercely at a Saxon, he
struck him with his ashen lance upon the head and in the breast,
so that he made him lose his stirrups, and at the same time he
cried aloud: "Strike gentlemen, for I am Cliges whom you seek.
Come on, my bold and hardy knights! Let none hold back, for the
first joust is already won! He is a coward who does not relish
such a dish."

(Vv. 3571-3620.) The emperor's joy was great when he heard the
voice of his nephew Cliges summoning and exhorting them; he was
greatly pleased and comforted. But the duke is greatly chagrined
now when he sees he is betrayed, unless his force should prove
the stronger. While he draws together his troops in serried
lines, the Greeks do the same, and pressing them close, attack
and rush upon them. On both sides lances are lowered as they
meet for the proper reception of a hostile host. At the first
shock shields are pierced and lances shattered, girths are cut
and stirrups broken, while the horses of those who fall to earth
are left without a rider. But regardless of what any other does,
Cliges and the duke meet in the fray; holding their lances low,
they strike one another upon the shield with such violence that
the strong and well-made lances fly into splinters. Cliges was
skilful on horseback, and sits straight in his saddle without
shaking or losing his balance. But the duke has lost his seat,
and in spite of himself quits the saddle-bows. Cliges struggled
and strove to capture him and carry him away, but his strength
did not suffice, for the Saxons were around about fighting to
rescue him. Nevertheless, Cliges escapes from the conflict
without receiving harm and with a precious prize; for he makes
off with the duke's steed, which was whiter than wool, and was
worth more to a gentleman than the fortune of Octavian (31) at
Rome. The steed was an Arabian. The Greeks and Germans are
overjoyed to see Cliges on such a mount, for they had already
remarked the excellence and beauty of the Arab steed. But they
were not on their guard against an ambuscade; and before they are
aware of it great damage will be done.

(Vv. 3621-3748.) A spy came to the duke, bringing him welcome
news. "Duke," says the spy, "not a man remains in all the
encampment of the Greeks who is able to defend himself. If thou
wilt take my word for it, now is the time to have the emperor's
daughter seized, while the Greeks are seen intent upon the battle
and the strife. Lend me a hundred of thy knights, and I will put
the lady in their hands. By an old and secluded path I will lead
them so carefully that they will not be seen or met by any man of
Germany, until they can seize the damsel in her tent and carry
her off so handily that no resistance will be made." At this the
duke is highly pleased. He sent a hundred and more tried knights
with the spy, who so successfully conducted them that they
carried the maiden away captive without exerting any force; for
they could abduct her easily. After carrying her some distance
from the tents, they send her on under escort of twelve of their
number whom they accompany but a short distance. While the
twelve led the damsel on, the others went to tell the duke how
successful they had been. The duke's desire being now satisfied,
he at once makes a truce with the Greeks until next day. The
truce was sworn by both parties. The duke's men then turned
back, while the Greeks without delay repaired each man to his own
tent. But Cliges stays behind alone, stationed upon a little
hill where no one caught sight of him, until he saw the twelve
pass by with her whom they were carrying off at topmost speed.
Cliges, in his thirst for glory, rides at them without delay; for
he thinks within himself, and his heart tells him, that it is not
for nothing that they flee. So, as soon as he espied them, he
spurred after them; and when they saw him coming on, a foolish
thought occurred to them: "It is the duke," they said, "who
comes. Let us rein in a little; for he has left the troops and
is riding hard after us alone." Every man thinks that so it is.
They all want to turn back to meet him, but each one wishes to go
alone. Meanwhile, Cliges must needs descend a deep valley
between two mountains. He would never have recognised their
blazons, if they had not come to meet him, or if they had not
awaited him. Six of the twelve come to meet him in an encounter
they will soon regret. The other six stay with the damsel,
leading her gently at a walk and easy jog. And the six ride
quickly on, spurring up the valley, until he who had the swiftest
horse reached him first and cried aloud: "Hail, Duke of Saxony!
God bless thee! Duke, we have recovered thy lady. The Greeks
shall not get her now, for she shall be placed in thy hands."
When Cliges heard the words this fellow shouts, his heart is not
gay; rather is it strange that he does not lose his wits. Never
was any wild beast--leopard, tiger, or lion--upon seeing its
young captured, so fierce and furious as Cliges, who sets no
value upon his life if he deserts his sweetheart now. He would
rather die than not win her back. In his trouble he feels great
wrath, which gives him the courage he requires. He urges and
spurs the Arab steed, and rushes to give the Saxon such a blow
upon his painted shield that without exaggeration, he makes his
heart feel the lance. This gives Cliges confidence. He drove
and spurred the Arab charger on for more than the space of an
acre before he came upon the next Saxon, for they came up singly,
each fearless of his predecessor's fare, for Cliges fights them
one by one. As he takes them thus individually, no one receives
another's aid. He makes a rush at the second one, who, like the
first, thought to give him joy by telling him of his own evil
fate. But Cliges has no concern to heed his talk and idle
charter. Thrusting his lance into his body so that the blood
spurts out when it is withdrawn, he deprives him of life and the
gift of speech. After these two he meets the third, who expects
to find him in good humour and to make him rejoice over his own
mischance. Spurring eagerly he came up to him; but before he has
time to say a word, Cliges ran a fathom of his lance through the
middle of his body, leaving him senseless on the ground. To the
fourth he gives such a blow that he leaves him fainting on the
field. After the fourth he goes at the fifth, and after him he
attacks the sixth. None of them could defend himself, but each
was left silent and mute. He stood in less fear of the others
now, and more hardily pressed after them, taking no further
thought of the six dead men.

(Vv. 3749-3816.) Feeling no further care for them, he starts to
present a debt of shame and woe to the others who are leading the
maid away. He caught up with them, and made such an onslaught
upon them as a hungry and ravenous wolf makes when leaping upon
its prey. Now he feels his luck has come, when he can display
his chivalry and bravery openly before her who is his very life.
Now may he die, if he does not rescue her! And she, too, is at
death's door from anxiety for his sake, though she does not know
that he is no near. Lance in rest, Cliges made an attack which
pleased him well; for he struck first one Saxon and then another,
so that with a single rush he carried them both to earth, though
it cost him his ashen lance. And they both fall in such
distress, being wounded in the body, that they have no power to
rise again and do him any harm or ill. The other four in bitter
rage join in an attack upon Cliges; but he neither quails nor
trembles, and they are unable to dislodge him from his seat.
Quickly drawing his keen sword from its sheath, in order to
please her who awaits his love, he rode hard at a Saxon and,
striking him with his whetted blade, he severed his head and half
his neck from the body: such was the limit of his pity. Fenice,
who witnesses what transpires, does not know yet that this is
Cliges. She wishes that it were he, indeed, but because of the
present danger she says to herself that she would not have him
there. Thus, doubly she shows the devotion of a sweetheart,
fearing at once his death, and desiring that honour may be his.
And Cliges sword in hand attacks the other three, who face him
bravely and puncture and split his shield. But they are unable
to lay hands upon him, or to pierce the meshes of his hauberk.
And whatever Cliges reaches cannot stand against his blow, but
must needs be split and torn apart; for he turns faster than a
top driven and lashed by the whip. Boldness and love, which
holds him enthralled, make him eager for the fray. He pressed
the Saxons so hard that he left them all dead and defeated, some
only wounded, and others dead--except one whom he let escape,
disdaining to kill him when left alone at his mercy; besides, he
wished him to tell the duke of the loss and injury he had
sustained. But before this fellow left Cliges, he begged him to
tell him his name, which later he repeated to the duke, thus
rousing his bitter ire.

(Vv. 3817-3864.) Now bad luck had fallen to the duke, who was in
great distress and grief. And Cliges takes back Fenice, whose
love torments and troubles him. If he does not confess to her
now, love will long be his enemy, and hers too, if she holds her
peace and speaks not the word which will bring him joy; for now
each can tell the other privily the thoughts that lie within the
heart. But they so fear to be refused that they dare not reveal
their hearts. For his part, he fears lest she will not accept
his love, whereas she, too, would have spoken out had she not
feared to be rejected. In spite of this, the eyes of each reveal
the hidden thought, if only they had heeded this evidence. They
converse by glance of eye, but their tongues are so cowardly that
they dare not speak in any wise of the love which possesses them.
No wonder if she hesitates to begin, for a maid must be a simple
and shrinking thing; but he--why does he wait and hold back who
was so bold for her just now, but now in her presence is
cowardly? God! whence comes this fear, that he should shrink
from a lonely girl, feeble and timid, simple and mild? It is as
if I should see the dog flee before the hare, and the fish chase
the beaver, the lamb the wolf, and the dove the eagle. In the
same fashion the labourer would forsake his pick with which he
strives to earn a livelihood, and the falcon would flee from the
duck, and the gerfalcon from the heron, and the pike from the
minnow, and the stag would chase the lion, and everything would
be reversed. Now I feel within me the desire to give some reason
why it should happen to true lovers that they lose their sense
and boldness to say what they have in mind when they have leisure
and place and time.

(Vv. 3865-3914.) Ye who are interested in the art of Love, who
do faithfully maintain the customs and usage of his court, who
never failed to obey his law, whatever the result might be, tell
me if there is anything that pleases because of love without
causing us to tremble and grow pale. If any one oppose me in
this, I can at once refute his argument; for whoever does not
grow pale and tremble, whoever does not lose his senses and
memory, is trying to filch and get by stealth what does not by
right belong to him. The servant who does not fear his master
ought not to remain in his employ nor do his service. He who
does not esteem his lord does not fear him, and whoever does not
esteem him does not hold him dear, but rather tries to deceive
him and to steal from him what is his. The servant ought to
tremble with fear when his master calls or summons him. And
whoever commits himself to Love owns him as his lord and master,
and is bound to do him reverence and fear him much and honour
him, if he wishes to be numbered in his court. Love without
alarm or fear is like a fire without flame or heat, day without
sun, comb without honey, summer without flowers, winter without
frost, sky without moon, and a book without letters. Such is my
argument in refutation, for where fear is absent love is not to
be mentioned. Whoever would love must needs feel fear, for
otherwise he cannot be in love. But let him fear only her whom
he loves, and for her sake be brave against all others. Then if
he stands in awe of his lady-love Cliges is guilty of nothing
wrong. Even so, he would not have failed to speak straightway
with her of love, whatever the outcome might have been, had it
not been that she was his uncle's wife. This causes the
festering of his wound, and it torments and pains him the more
because he dares not utter what he fain would say.

(Vv. 3915-3962.) Thus they make their way back to their own
people, and if they speak of anything it is nothing of much
concern. Each seated on a white horse, they rode rapidly toward
the camp, which was plunged in great sorrow. The whole army is
beside itself with grief, but they are altogether wrong in
supposing Cliges to be dead: hence their bitter and poignant
grief. And for Fenice, too, they are in dismay, thinking never
to win her back again. Thus, for her and him the whole army is
in great distress. But soon upon their return the whole affair
will change its aspect; for now they have reached the camp again,
and have quickly changed the grief to joy. Joy returns and
sorrow flees. All the troops come together and sally forth to
welcome them. The two emperors, upon hearing the report about
Cliges and the damsel, go to meet them with joyful hearts, and
each can hardly wait to hear how Cliges found and recovered the
empress. Cliges tells them, and, as they listen, they are amazed
and are loud in their praises of his courage and devotion. But,
for his part, the duke is furious, swearing and proclaiming his
determination to fight Cliges, if he dares, in single combat; and
it shall be agreed that if Cliges wins the battle the emperor
shall proceed unchallenged, and freely take the maiden with him,
and if he should kill or defeat Cliges, who had done him such
injury, then let there be no truce or stay to prevent each party
from doing its best. This is what the duke desires, and by an
interpreter of his, who knew both the Greek and the German
tongues, he announces to the two emperors his desire thus to
arrange the battle.

(Vv. 3963-4010.) The messenger delivered his message so well in
both languages that all could understand it. The entire army was
in an uproar, saying that may God forbid that Cliges ever engage
in the battle. Both emperors are in a fright, but Cliges throws
himself at their feet and begs them not to grieve, but if ever he
did them any favour, he prays them to grant him this battle as a
guerdon and reward. And if the right to fight should be denied
him, then he will never again serve for a single day his uncle's
cause and honour. The emperor, who loved his nephew as he
should, raised him by the hand and said: "Fair nephew, I am
deeply grieved to know you are so keen to fight; for after joy,
sorrow is to be expected. (32) You have made me glad, I cannot
deny it; but it is hard for me to yield the point and send you
forth to this battle, when I see you still so young. And yet I
know you to be so confident of yourself that I dare not ever
refuse anything that you choose to ask of me. Be assured that,
merely to gratify you, it should be done; but if my request has
any power, you would never assume this task." "My lord, there is
no need of further speech," said Cliges; "may God damn me, if I
would take the whole world, and miss this battle! I do not know
why I should seek from you any postponement or long delay." The
emperor weeps with pity, while Cliges sheds tears of joy when the
permission to fight is granted him. Many a tear was shed that
day, and no respite or delay was asked. Before the hour of
prime, by the duke's own messenger the challenge to battle was
sent back to him accepted as he had proposed.

(Vv. 4011-4036.) The duke, who thinks and confidently trusts
that Cliges will be unable to stave off death and defeat at his
hands, has himself quickly armed. Cliges, who is anxious for the
fight, feels no concern as to how he shall defend himself. He
asks the emperor for his arms, and desires him to dub him a
knight. So the emperor generously gives him his arms, and he
takes them, his heart being keen for the battle which he
anticipates with joy and eagerness. No time is lost in arming
him. And when he was armed from head to foot, the emperor, all
sorrowing, girds the sword upon his side. Thus Cliges completely
armed mounts his white Arab steed; from his neck he hangs by the
straps an ivory shield, such as will never break or split; and
upon it there was neither colour nor design. All his armour was
white, and the steed, and the harness, too, was all whiter than
any snow.

(Vv. 4037-4094.) Cliges and the duke, now being armed, summon
each other to meet half way, and they stipulate that their men
shall take their stand on either side, but without their swords
and lances, under oath and pledge that not a man will be so rash,
so long as the battle lasts, as to dare to move for any reason,
any more than he would dare to pluck out his own eye. When this
had been agreed upon, they came together, each yearning ardently
for the glory he hopes to win and for the joy of victory. But
before a single blow was dealt, the empress has herself borne
thither, solicitous for Cliges' fate. It seems to her that if he
dies, she, too, must needs do so. No comfort can avail to keep
her from joining him in death, for, without him, life has no joys
for her. When all were gathered on the field--high and low,
young and old--and the guards had taken their place, then both
seized their lances and rushed together so savagely that they
both broke their lances and fell to the ground, unable to keep
their saddles. But not being wounded, they quickly get upon
their feet and attack each other without delay. Upon their
resonant helmets they play such a tune with swords that it seems
to those who are looking on that the helmets are on fire and send
forth sparks. And when the swords rebound in air, gleaming
sparks fly off from them as from a smoking piece of iron which
the smith beats upon his anvil after, drawing it from the forge.
Both of the vassals are generous in dealing blows in great
plenty, and each has the best of intentions to repay quickly what
he borrows; neither one holds back from repaying promptly capital
and interest, without accounting and without measure. But the
duke is much chagrined with anger and discomfiture when he fails
to defeat and slay Cliges in the first assault. Such a
marvellously great and mighty blow he deals him that he falls at
his feet upon his knee.

(Vv. 4095-4138.) When this blow brought Cliges down, the emperor
was struck with fear, and would have been no more dismayed had he
himself been beneath the shield. Nor could Fenice in her fear
longer contain herself, whatever the effect might be, from
crying: "God help him!" as loud as she could. But that was the
only word she uttered, for straightway her voice failed her, and
she fell forward upon her face, which was somewhat wounded by the
fall. Two high nobles raised her up and supported her upon her
feet until she returned to consciousness. But in spite of her
countenance, none who saw her guessed why she had swooned. Not a
man there blamed her, but rather praised her for her act, for
each one supposes that she would have done the same thing for
him, if he had been in Cliges' place, but in all this they are
quite astray. Cliges heard, and well understood, the sound of
Fenice's cry. Her voice restored his strength and courage, as he
leaped up quickly, and came with fury, toward the duke, so
charging and attacking him that the duke in turn was now
dismayed. For now he found him more fierce for the fray,
stronger and more agile and energetic than when at first they
came together. And because he feared his onslaught, he cried:
"Young man, so help me God, I see thou art brave and very bold.
If it were not for my nephew now, whom I shall never more forget,
I would gladly make peace with thee, and leave thy quarrel
without interfering in it more."

(Vv. 4139-4236.) "Duke," says Cliges, "what is your pleasure
now? Must one not surrender his right when he is unable to
recover it? When one of two evils must be faced, one should
choose the lesser one. Your nephew was not wise to become
angrily embroiled with me. You may be sure that I shall treat
you in like fashion, if I get the chance, unless you agree to my
terms of peace." The duke, to whom it seems that Cliges' vigour
is steadily growing, thinks that he had better desist in mid-
career before he is utterly undone. Nevertheless, he does not
openly give in, but says: "Young man, I see thou art skilful and
alert and not lacking in courage. But thou art yet too young;
therefore I feel assured that if I defeat and kill thee I shall
gain no praise or fame, and I should never like to confess in the
hearing of a man of honour that I had fought with thee, for I
should but do thee honour, and myself win shame. But if thou art
aware of honour's worth, it will always be a glorious thing for
thee to have withstood me for two rounds at arms. So now my
heart and feeling bid me let thee have thy way, and no longer
fight with thee." (33) "Duke," says Cliges, "that will not do.
In the hearing of all you must repeat those words, for it shall
never be said and noised abroad that you let me off and had mercy
on me. In the hearing of all those who are gathered here, you
must repeat your words, if you wish to be reconciled with me."
So the duke repeats his words in the hearing of all. Then they
make peace and are reconciled. But however the matter be
regarded Cliges had all the honour and glory of it, and the
Greeks were greatly pleased. For their part, the Saxons could
not laugh, all of them having plainly seen that their lord was
worn out and exhausted just now; but there is no doubt at all
that, if he could have helped himself, this peace would never
have been made, and that Cliges' soul would have been drawn from
his body had it proven possible. The duke goes back to Saxony
sorrowing, downcast, and filled with shame; for of his men there
are not even two who do not regard him as worsted, defeated, and
disgraced. The Saxons with all their shame have now returned to
Saxony, while the Greeks without delay make their way with joy
and gladness toward Constantinople, for Cliges by his prowess has
opened the way for them. The emperor of Germany no longer
follows and convoys them. Taking leave oś the Greek troops and
of his daughter and Cliges, and finally of the emperor, he stayed
behind in Germany. And the emperor of the Greeks goes off
happily and in joyous mood. Cliges, brave and courteous, calls
to mind his sire's command. If his uncle, the emperor, will give
him his permission, he will go and ask him for leave to return to
Britain and there converse with his great-uncle, the King; for he
is desirous of seeing and knowing him. So he presents himself
before the emperor, and requests that he consent to let him go to
Britain to see his uncle and his friends. Gently he proffered
his request. But his uncle refused, when he had listened to the
request he made. "Fair nephew," he said, "it is not my will that
you should wish to leave me. I shall never give you without
regret this permission to go away. For it is my pleasure and
desire that you should be my companion and lord, with me, of all
my empire."

(Vv. 4237-4282.) Now Cliges hears something that does not suit
him when his uncle refuses the prayer and request he made. "Fair
sire," said he, "I am not brave and wise enough, nor would it be
seemly for me to join myself with you or any one else in the duty
of governing this empire; I am too young and inexperienced. They
put gold to the test when they wish to learn if it is fine. And
so it is my wish, in brief, to try to prove myself, wherever I
can find the test. In Britain, if I am brave, I can apply myself
to the whetstone and to the real true test, whereby my prowess
shall be proved. In Britain are the gentlemen whom honour and
prowess distinguish. And he who wishes to win honour should
associate himself with them, for honour is won and gained by him
who associates with gentlemen. And so I ask you for leave to go,
and you may be very sure that if you do not grant me the boon and
send me thither I shall go without your leave." "Fair nephew, I
will give you leave, seeing you are so disposed that I cannot
keep you back either by force or prayer of mine. Now since
prayer, prohibition, and force do not avail, may God give you the
desire and inclination promptly to return. I wish you to take
with you more than a bushel of gold and silver, and I will give
for your pleasure such horses as you may choose." He had no
sooner spoken than Cliges bowed before him. All that the
emperor, mentioned and promised him was straightway brought

(Vv. 4283-4574.) Cliges took all the money and companions that
he wished and needed. For his personal use he took four horses
of different colours: one white, one sorrel, one fallow red, and
one black. But I must have passed over something which it is not
proper to omit. Cliges goes to ask and obtain leave to depart
from his sweetheart Fenice; for he wishes to commend her to God's
safe keeping. Coming before her, he throws himself upon his
knees, weeping so bitterly that the tears moisten his tunic and
ermine, the while keeping his eyes upon the ground; for he dares
not raise his eyes to her, as if he were guilty of some crime and
misdeed toward her, for which he seems overcome with shame. And
Fenice, who timidly and fearfully looks at him, does not know the
occasion of his coming, and speaks to him with difficulty.
"Rise, friend and fair sir! Sit here beside me. and weep no
more, and tell me what your pleasure is." "Lady, what shall I
say, and what leave unsaid? I come to ask your leave." "Leave?
To do what?" "Lady, I must go off to Britain." "Then tell me
what your business is, before I give you leave to go." "Lady, my
father, before he departed this life and died, begged me not to
fail to go to Britain as soon as I should be made a knight. I
should not wish for any reason to disregard his command. I must
not falter until I have accomplished the journey. It is a long
road from here to Greece, and if I should go thither, the journey
would be too long from Constantinople to Britain. But it is
right that I should ask leave from you to whom I altogether
belong." Many a covert sigh and sob marked the separation. But
the eyes of none were keen enough, nor the ears of any sharp
enough, to learn from what he saw and heard that there was any
love between these two. Cliges, in spite of the grief he felt,
took his leave at the first opportunity. He is full of thought
as he goes away, and so are the emperor and many others who stay
behind. But more than all the others, Fenice is pensive: she
finds no bottom or bound to the reflections which occupy her, so
abundantly are her cares multiplied. She was still oppressed
with thought when she arrived in Greece. There she was held in
great honour as mistress and empress; but her heart and mind
belong to Cliges, wherever he goes, and she wishes her heart
never to return to her, unless it is brought back to her by him
who is perishing of the same disease with which he has smitten
her. If he should get well, she would recover too, but he will
never be its victim without her being so as well. Her trouble
appears in her pale and changed colour; for the fresh, clear, and
radiant colour which Nature had given her is now a stranger to
her face. She often weeps and often sighs. Little she cares for
her empire and for the riches that are hers. She always
cherishes in her remembrance the hour when Cliges went away, and
the leave he took of her, how he changed colour and grew pale,
and how tearful his expression was, for he came to weep in her
presence humbly and simply upon his knees, as if constrained to
worship her. All this is sweet and pleasant for her to remember
and think about. And afterward, as a little treat, she takes on
her tongue instead of spice a sweet word which for all Greece she
would not wish him to have used contrary to the sense she had
understood when he first had uttered it; for she lives upon no
other dainty, and there is nothing else that pleases her. This
word alone sustains and nourishes her, and assuages all her pain.
She cares to eat and drink of no other dish or beverage, for when
the two lovers came to part, Cliges had said he was "altogether
hers." This word is so sweet and tastes so good that from the
tongue it stirs her heart, and she takes it into her mouth and
heart to be all the more sure of it. Under any other lock she
would not dare to store this treasure. Nowhere could it be
lodged so well as in her own bosom. She will never leave it
exposed at any price, being in such fear of robbers and thieves.
But there is no ground for her anxiety, and she need have no fear
of the birds of prey, for her treasure is not movable, but is
rather like a house which cannot be destroyed by fire or flood,
but will always stay fixed in a single place. But she feels no
confidence in the matter, so she worries and strives to find and
hold some ground on which to stand, interpreting the situation in
divers ways. She both opposes and defends her position, and
engages in the following argument: "With what intention should
Cliges say `I am altogether yours' unless it was love that
prompted him? What power can I have over him that he should
esteem me so highly as to make me the mistress of his heart? Is
he not more fair than I, and of higher rank than I? I see in it
naught but love, which could vouchsafe me such a boon. I, who
cannot escape its power, will prove by my own case that unless he
loved me he would never say that he was mine; unless love holds
him in its toils, Cliges could never say that he was mine any
more than I could say that I was altogether his unless love had
put me in his hands. For if he loves me not, at least he does
not fear me. I hope that love which gives me to him will in
return give him to me. But now I am sore dismayed because it is
so trite a word, and I may simply be deceived, for many there be
who in flattering terms will say even to a total stranger, `I and
all that I have are yours,' and they are more idle chatterers
than the jays. So I do not know what to think, for it might well
turn out that he said it just to flatter me. Yet I saw his
colour change, and I saw him weeping piteously. In my judgment,
the tears and his face confused and pale were not produced by
treachery, nor were they the fruits of trickery. Those eyes from
which I saw tears roll down were not guilty of falsehood. Signs
enough of love I saw, if I know anything about it. Yes, in an
evil hour I thought of love; woe is me that I ever learned it,
for the experience has been bitter. Has it indeed? Yes, verily.
I am dead when I cannot see him who has stolen my heart away by
his cajoling flattery, because of which my heart leaves its
dwelling, and will not abide with me, hating my home and
establishment. In truth I have been ill treated by him who has
my heart in his keeping. He who robs me and takes what is mine
cannot love me, of that I am sure. But am I sure? Why then did
he weep? Why? It was not in vain, for there was cause enough.
I must not assume that I was the cause of it, for one is always
loath to leave people whom one loves and knows. So it is not
strange if he was sorry and grieved and if he wept when he left
some one whom he knew. But he who gave him this advice to go and
dwell in Britain could not have smitten me more effectively. He
is cut to the quick who loses his heart. He who deserves it,
should be treated ill; but I have never deserved such treatment.
Alas, unhappy one, why has Cliges killed me when I am innocent?
But I am unjust to accuse him thus without cause. Surely Cliges
would never have deserted me if his heart were like mine. I am
sure his heart is not like mine. And if my heart is lodged in
his it will never draw away, and his will never part from mine,
for my heart follows him secretly: they have formed such a goodly
company. But, after all, to tell the truth, they are very
different and contrary. How are they different and contrary?
Why, his is the master and mine the slave; and the slave can have
no will of his own, but only do his master's will and forsake all
other affairs. But what reference has that to me? My heart and
service are no concern to him. This arrangement distresses me,
that one is master of us both. Why is not my heart as
independent as his? Then their power would be equalised. My
heart is now a prisoner, unable to move itself unless his moves
as well. And whether his heart wanders or stays still, mine must
needs prepare to follow him in his train. God! why are our
bodies not so near one another that I could in some way bring
back my heart! Bring back? Foolish one, if I should remove it
from its joy I should be the death of it. Let it stay there! I
have no desire to dislodge it, but rather wish that it tarry with
its lord until he feel some pity for it. For rather over there
than here ought he to have mercy on his servant, because they are
both in a foreign land. If my heart knows well the language of
flattery, as is necessary for the courtier, it will be rich ere
it comes back. Whoever wishes to stand in the good graces of his
lord and sit beside him on his right, to be in the fashion now-a-
days, must remove the feather from his head, even when there
is none there. But there is one bad feature of this practice:
while he is smoothing down his master, who is filled with evil
and villainy, he will never be so courteous as to tell him the
truth; rather he makes him think and believe that no one could
compare with him in prowess and in knowledge, and the master
thinks that he is speaking the truth. That man does not know
himself who takes another's word about qualities which he does
not possess. For even if he is a wicked and insolent wretch, and
as cowardly as a hare, mean, crazy, and misshapen, and a villain
both in word and deed--yet some man will praise him to his face
who behind his back will mock at him. But when in his hearing he
speaks of him to some other, he praises him, while his lord
pretends not to hear what they say between themselves; if,
however, he thought that he would not be heard, he would say
something his master would not like. And if his master is
pleased to lie, the servant is all ready with his consent, and
will never be backward in averring that all his master says is
true. He who frequents courts and lords must ever be ready with
a lie. So, too, must my heart do if it would find favour with
its lord. Let it flatter and be obsequious. But Cliges is such
a knight, so fair, so open, and so loyal, that my heart, in
praising him, need never be false or perfidious, for in him there
is nothing to be improved. Therefore I wish my heart to serve
him, for, as the people's proverb runs, `He who serves a noble
man is bad indeed if he does not improve in his company.'"

(Vv. 4575-4628.) Thus love harrows Fenice. But this torment is
her delight, of which she can never grow weary. And Cliges now
has crossed the sea and come to Wallingford. There he took
expensive quarters in great state. But his thoughts are always
of Fenice, not forgetting her for a single hour. While he delays
and tarries there, his men, acting under his instructions, made
diligent inquiries. They were informed that King Arthur's barons
and the King in person had appointed a tourney to be held in the
plain before Oxford, which lies close to Wallingford. (34) There
the struggle was arranged, and it was to last four days. But
Cliges will have abundant time to prepare himself if in the
meantime he needs anything, for more than a fortnight must elapse
before the tournament begins. He orders three of his squires to
go quickly to London and there buy three different sets of arms,
one black, another red, the third green, and that on the way back
each shall be kept covered with new cloth, so that if any one
should meet them on the road he may not know the colour of the
arms they carry. The squires start at once and come to London,
where they find available everything they need. Having finished
this errand, they return at once without losing any time. When
the arms they had brought were shown to Cliges he was well
pleased with them. He ordered them to be set away and concealed,
together with those which the emperor had given him by the
Danube, when he knighted him. I do not choose to tell you now
why he had them stored away; but it will be explained to you when
all the high barons of the land are mounted on their steeds and
assemble in search of fame.

(Vv. 4629-4726.) On the day which had been agreed upon, the
nobles of renown came together. King Arthur, with all his men
whom he had selected from among the best, took up his position at
Oxford, while most of the knights ranged themselves near
Wallingford. Do not expect me to delay the story and tell you
that such and such kings and counts were there, and that this,
that, and the other were of the number. (35) When the time came
for the knights to gather, in accordance with the custom of those
days, there came forth alone between two lines one of King
Arthur's most valiant knights to announce that the tourney should
begin. But in this case no one dares to advance and confront him
for the joust. There is none who does not hold back. And there
are some who ask: "Why do these knights of ours delay, without
stepping forward from the ranks? Some one will surely soon
begin." And the others make reply: "Don't you see, then, what an
adversary yonder party has sent against us? Any one who does not
know should learn that he is a pillar, (36) able to stand beside
the best three in the world." "Who is he, then?" "Why, don't
you see? It is Sagremor the Wild." "Is it he?" "It surely is."
Cliges listens and hears what they say, as he sits on his horse
Morel, clad in armour blacker than a mulberry: for all his armour
was black. As he emerges from the ranks and spurs Morel free of
the crowd, there is not one, upon seeing him, but exclaims to his
neighbour: "That fellow rides well lance in rest; he is a very,
skilful knight and carries his arms right handily; his shield
fits well about his neck. But he must be a fool to undertake of
his own free will to joust with one of the most valiant knights
to be found in all the land. Who can he be? Where was he born?
Who knows him here?" "Not I." "Nor I." "There is not a flake
of snow on him; but all his armour is blacker far than the cloak
of any monk or prior." While thus they talk, the two contestants
give their horses rein without delay, for they are very eager and
keen to come together in the fight. Cliges strikes him so that
he crushes the shield against his arm, and the arm against his
body, whereupon Sagremor falls full length. Cliges goes
unerringly and bids him declare himself his prisoner, which
Sagremor does at once. Now the tourney is fairly begun, and
adversaries meet in rivalry. Cliges rushes about the field,
seeking adversaries with whom to joust, but not a knight presents
himself whom he does not cast down or take prisoner. He excels
in glory, all the knights on either side, for wherever he goes to
battle, there the fight is quickly ended. That man may be
considered brave who holds his ground to joust with him, for it
is more credit to dare face him than it is to defeat another
knight. And if Cliges leads him away prisoner, for this at least
he gains renown that he dared to wait and fight with him. Cliges
wins the fame and glory of all the tournament. When evening
came, he secretly repaired to his lodging-place in order that
none might have any words with him. And lest any one should seek
the house where the black arms are displayed, he puts them away
in a room in order that no one may find them or see them, and he
hangs up his green arms at the street-door, where they will be in
evidence, and where passers-by will see them. And if any one
asks and inquires where his lodging is, he cannot learn when he
sees no sign of the black shield for which he seeks.

(Vv. 4727-4758.) By this ruse Cliges remains hidden in the town.
And those who were his prisoners went from one end of the town to
the other asking for the black knight, but none could give them
any information. Even King Arthur himself has search made up and
down for him; but there is only one answer: "We have not seen him
since we left the lists, and do not know what became of him."
More than twenty young men seek him, whom the King sent out; but
Cliges so successfully concealed himself that they cannot find a
trace of him. King Arthur is filled with astonishment when he is
informed that no one of high or low degree can point out his
lodging-place, any more than if he were in Caesarea, Toledo, or
Crete. "Upon my word," he says, "I know not what they may say,
but to me this seems a marvellous thing. Perchance it was a
phantom that appeared in our midst. Many a knight has been
unhorsed, and noble men have pledged faith to one whose house
they cannot find, or even his country or locality; each of these
men perforce must fail to keep his pledge." Thus the King spoke
his mind, but he might as well have held his peace.

(Vv. 4759-4950.) That evening among all the barons there was
much talk of the black knight, for indeed they spoke of nothing
else. The next day they armed themselves again without summons
and without request. Lancelot of the Lake, in whom there is no
lack of courage, rides forth with lance upright to await a
contestant in the first joust. Here comes Cliges tiding fast,
greener than the grass of the field, and mounted on a fallow red
steed, carrying its mane on the right-hand side. Wherever Cliges
spurs the horse, there is no one, either with hair or without,
who does not look at him amazed and exclaim to his neighbour on
either side: "This knight is in all respects more graceful and
skilful than the one who yesterday wore the black arms, just as a
pine is more beautiful than a white beech, and the laurel than
the elder-bush. As yet we know not who yesterday's victor was;
but we shall know to-night who this man is." Each one makes
reply: "I don't know him, nor did I ever see him, that I am
aware. But he is fairer than he who fought yesterday, and fairer
than Lancelot of the Lake. If this man rode armed in a bag and
Lancelot in silver and gold, this man would still be fairer than
he." Thus they all take Cliges' part. And the two champions
drive their steeds together with all the force of spur. Cliges
gives him such a blow upon the golden shield with the lion
portrayed thereon that he knocks him down from his saddle and
stands over him to receive his surrender. For Lancelot there was
no help; so he admitted himself his prisoner. Then the noise
began afresh with the shock of breaking lances. Those who are on
Cliges' side place all their confidence in him. For of those
whom he challenges and strikes, there is none so strong but must
fall from his horse to earth. That day Cliges did so well, and
unhorsed and took captive so many knights, that he gave double
the satisfaction to his side, and won for himself twice the glory
that he had gained on the preceding day. When evening came, he
betook himself as fast as he could to his lodging-place, and
quickly ordered out the vermilion shield and his other arms,
while he ordered the arms which he had worn that day to be laid
away: the host carefully put them aside. Again that evening the
knights whom he had captured sought for him, but without hearing
any news of him. In their lodging-places, most of those who
speak of him do so with praise and admiration. The next day the
gay and doughty knights return to the contest. From the Oxford
side comes forth a vassal of great renown--his name was
Perceval of Wales. As soon as Cliges saw him start, and learned
certainly who it was, when he had heard the name of Perceval he
was very anxious to contest with him. He issued straightway from
the ranks upon a Spanish sorrel steed, and completely clad in
vermilion armour. Then all gaze at him, wondering more than ever
before, and saying that they had never seen so perfect a knight.
And the contestants without delay spur forward until their mighty
blows land upon their shields. The lances, though they were
short and stout, bend until they look like hoops. In the sight
of all who were looking on, Cliges struck Perceval so hard that
he knocked him from his horse and made him surrender without a
long struggle or much ado. When Perceval had pledged his word
then the joust began again, and the engagement became general.
Every knight whom Cliges meets he forces to earth. He did not
quit the lists that day even for a single hour, while all the
others struck at him as at a tower--individually, of course,
and not in groups of two or three, for such was not the custom
then. Upon his shield, as upon an anvil, the others strike and
pound, splitting and hewing it to bits. But every one who
strikes him there, he pays back by casting him from his stirrups
and saddle; and no one, unless he wished to lie, could fail to
say when the jousting ceased that the knight with the red shield
had won all the glory on that day. And all the best and most
courtly knights would fain have made his acquaintance. But their
desire was not felt before he had departed secretly, seeing the
sun already set; and he had his vermilion shield and all his
other harness removed, and ordered his white arms to be brought
out, in which he had first been dubbed a knight, while the other
arms and the steeds were fastened outside by the door. Those who
notice this realise and exclaim that they have all been defeated
and undone by one single man; for each day he has disguised
himself with a different horse and set of armour, thus seeming to
change his identity; for the first time now they noticed this.
And my lord Gawain proclaimed that he never saw such a champion,
and therefore he wished to make his acquaintance and learn his
name, announcing that on the morrow he himself will be the first
at the rally of the knights. Yet, withal, he makes no boast; on
the other hand, he says that he fully expects the stranger knight
will have all the advantage with the lance; but it may be that
with the sword he will not be his superior (for with the sword
Gawain had no master). Now it is Gawain's desire to measure his
strength on the morrow with this strange knight who changes every
day his arms, as well as his horse and harness. His moultings
will soon be numerous if he continues thus each day, as is his
custom, to discard his old and assume new plumage. Thus, when he
thought of the sword and the lance respectively. Gawain
disparaged and esteemed highly the prowess of his foe. The next
day he sees Cliges come back whiter than the fleur-delis, his
shield grasped tight by the inside straps and seated on his white
Arab steed, as he had planned the night before. Gawain, brave
and illustrious, seeks no repose on the battleground, but spurs
and rides forward, endeavouring as best he may to win honour in
the fray, if he can find an opponent. In a moment they will both
be on the field. For Cliges had no desire to hold back when he
overheard the words of the men who said: "There goes Gawain, who
is no weakling either on foot or ahorse. He is a man whom no one
will attack." When Cliges hears these words, he rushes toward
him in mid-field; they both advance and come together with a
swifter leap than that of the stag who hears the sound of the
dogs as they come baying after him. The lances are thrust at the
shields, and the blows produce such havoc that the lances split,
crack and break clear down to the butt-end, and the saddle-bows
behind give away, and the girths and breast-straps snap. Both
come to earth at once and draw their naked swords, while the
others gather round to watch the battle. Then King Arthur
stepped forward to separate them and establish peace. But before
the truce was sworn, the white hauberks were badly torn and rent
apart, the shields were cracked and hewed to bits, and the
helmets crushed.

(Vv. 4951-5040.) The King viewed them with pleasure for a while,
as did many others who said that they esteemed the white knight's
deeds of arms no less than those of my lord Gawain, and they were
not ready yet to say which was the better and which the worse,
nor which was likely to win, if they had been allowed to fight to
a finish; but it did not please the King to let them do more than
they had done. So he stepped forward to separate them, saying:
"Stop now! Woe if another blow be struck! Make peace now, and
be good friends. Fair nephew Gawain, I make this request of you;
for without resentment and hate it is not becoming for a
gentleman to continue to fight and defy his foe. But if this
knight would consent to come to my court and join our sport it
would not be to his sorrow or hurt. Nephew, make this request of
him." "Gladly, my lord." Cliges has no desire to refuse, and
gladly consents to go when the tourney is concluded. For now he
has more than sufficiently carried out the injunction of his
father. And the King says he has no desire that the tournament
shall last too long, and that they can afford to stop at once.
So the knights drew off, according to the wish and order of the
King. Now that he is to follow in the royal suite, Cliges sends
for all his armour. As soon as he can, he comes to court; but
first, he completely changed his gear, and came dressed in the
style of the French. As soon as he arrived at court, all ran to
meet him without delay, making such joy and festival that never
was there greater seen, and all those call him lord whom he had
captured in the joust; but he would hear none of this, and said
they might all go free, if they were quite sure and satisfied
that it was he who had captured them. And there was not one who
did not cry: "You were the man; we are sure of that! We value
highly your acquaintance, and we ought to love and esteem you and
call you our lord, for none of us can equal you. Just as the sun
outshines the little stars, so that their light cannot be seen in
the sky when the sun's rays appear, so is our prowess
extinguished and abased in the presence of yours, though ours too
was once famous in the world." Cliges knows not what to reply,
for in his opinion they all praise him more than he deserves; it
pleases him, but he feels ashamed, and the blood rises in his
face, revealing to all his modesty. Escorting him into the
middle of the hall, they led him to the King, where all ceased
their words of compliment and praise. The time for the meal had
come, and those whose duty it was hastened to set the tables.
The tables in the hall were quickly spread, then while some took
the towels, and others held the basins, they offered water to all
who came. When all had washed, they took their seats. And the
King, taking Cliges by the hand, made him sit down in front of
him, for he wished to learn this very day, if possible, who he
was. Of the meal I need not further speak, for the courses were
as well supplied as if beef were selling at a penny.

(Vv. 5041-5114.) When all the courses had been served, the King
no longer held his peace. "My friend," he says, "I wish to learn
if it was from pride that you did not deign to come to court as
soon as you arrived in this country, and why you kept aloof from
people, and why you changed your arms; and tell me what your name
is, too, and from what race you spring." Cliges replies: "It
shall not be hid." He told and related to the King everything he
wished to know. And when the King had heard it all, he embraced
him, and made much of him, while all joined in greeting him. And
when my lord Gawain learned the truth, he, more than the others,
cordially welcomed him. Thus, all unite in saluting him, saying
that he is very fair and brave. The King loves and honours him
above all his nephews. Cliges tarries with the King until the
summer comes around, in the meantime visiting all Brittany,
France, and Normandy, where he did so many knightly deeds that he
thoroughly proved his worth. But the love whose wound he bears
gives him no peace or relief. The inclination of his heart keeps
him fixed upon a single thought. To Fenice his thought harks
back, who from afar afflicts his heart. The desire takes him to
go back; for he has been deprived too long of the sight of the
most desired lady who was ever desired by any one. He will not
prolong this privation, but prepares to return to Greece, and
sets out, after taking leave. The King and my lord Gawain were
grieved, I can well believe, when they could no longer detain
him. But he is anxious to return to her whom he loves and so
covets that the way seems long to him as he passes over land and
sea: so ardently he longs for the sight of her who has stolen and
filched Iris heart away. But she makes him recompense in full;
for she pays him, as it were rent, the coin of her own heart,
which is no less dear to her. But he is by no means sure of
that, having no contract or agreement to show; wherefore his
anxiety is great. And she is in just as great distress, harried
and tormented by love, taking no pleasure in aught she sees since
that moment when she saw him last. The fact that she does not
even know whether he be alive or not fills her heart with
anguish. But Cliges draws nearer day by day, being fortunate in
having favourable winds, until he joyfully comes to port before
Constantinople. When the news reached the city, none need ask if
the emperor was glad; but a hundred times greater was the
empress's joy.

(Vv. 5115-5156.) Cliges, with his company, having landed at
Constantinople, has now returned to Greece. The richest and most
noble men all come to meet him at the port. And when the emperor
encounters him, who before all others had gone to meet him with
the empress by his side, he runs to embrace and greet him in the
presence of them all. And when Fenice welcomes him, each changes
colour in the other's presence, and it is indeed a marvel, when
they are so close together, how they keep from embracing each
other and bestowing such kisses as love would have; but that
would have been folly and madness. The people come together from
all sides with the desire to see him, and conduct him through the
city, some on foot and some on horseback, until they bring him to
the imperial palace. No words can ever tell the joy and honour
and courteous service that were there displayed. But each one
strove as best he might to do everything which he thought would
please and gratify Cliges. And his uncle hands over to him all
his possessions, except the crown: he wishes him to gratify his
pleasure fully, and to take all he desires of his wealth, either
in the form of land or treasure. But he has no care for silver
or gold, so long as he dares not reveal his thoughts to her
because of whom he can find no repose; and yet he has plenty of
time and opportunity to speak, if he were not afraid of being
repelled; for now he can see her every day, and sit beside her
"tete-a-tete" without opposition or hindrance, for no one sees
any harm in that.

(Vv. 5157-5280.) Some time after his return, he came alone one
day to the room of her who was not his enemy, and you may be sure
that the door was not barred at his approach. By her side he
took his seat, while the others moved away, so that no one might
be seated near them and hear their words. First, Fenice spoke of
Britain, and asked him about the character and appearance of my
lord Gawain, until her words finally hit upon the subject which
filled her with dread. She asked him if he had given his love to
any dame or damsel in that land. Cliges was not obstinate or
slow to respond to this demand, but he knew at once what reply to
make as soon as she had put the question. "Lady," he says, "I
was in love while there, but not with any one of that land. In
Britain my body was without my heart, as a piece of bark without
the wood. Since leaving Germany I have not known what became of
my heart, except that it came here after you. My heart was here,
and my body was there. I was not really away from Greece; for
hither my heart had come, for which I now have come back again;
yet, it does not return to its lodging-place, nor can I draw it
back to me, nor do I wish to do so, if I could. And you--how
has it fared with you, since you came to this country? What joy
have you had here? Do you like the people, do you like the land?
I ought not to ask you any other question than whether the
country pleases you." "It has not pleased me until now; but at
present I feel a certain joy and satisfaction, which, you may be
sure, I would not lose for Pavia or Piacenza. From this joy I
cannot wrest my heart, nor shall I ever use force in the attempt.
Nothing but the bark is left in me, for I live and exist without
a heart. I have never been in Britain, and yet without me my
heart has been engaged in business there I know not what."
"Lady, when was it that your heart was there? Tell me when it
went thither--the time and season--if it be a thing that you
can fairly tell me or any one else. Was it there while I was
there?" "Yes, but you were not aware of it. It was there as
long as you were, and came away again with you." "God! I never
saw it, nor knew it was there. God! why did I not know it? If
I had been informed of this, surely, my lady, I would have borne
it pleasant company." "You would have repaid me with the
consolation which you really owed to me, for I should have been
very gracious to your heart if it had been pleased to come where
it might have known I was." "Lady, surely it came to you." "To
me? Then it came to no strange place, for mine also went to
you." "Then, lady, according to what you say, our hearts are
here with us now, for my heart is altogether in your hands."
"You in turn have mine, my friend; so we are in perfect accord.
And you may be sure, so help me God, that your uncle has never
shared in me, for it was not my pleasure, and he could not.
Never has he yet known me as Adam knew his wife. In error I am
called a wife; but I am sure that whoever calls me wife does not
know that I am still a maid. Even your uncle is not aware of it,
for, having drunk of the sleeping potion, he thinks he is awake
when he is asleep, and he fancies he has his sport with me while
I lie in his embrace. But his exclusion has been complete. My
heart is yours, and my body too, and from me no one shall ever
learn how to practise villainy. For when my heart went over to
you it presented you with the body too, and it made a pledge that
none other should ever share in it. Love for you has wounded me
so deep that I should never recover from it, any more than the
sea can dry up. If I love you, and you love me, you shall never
be called Tristan, nor I Iseut; (37) for then our love would not
be honourable. But I make you this promise, that you shall never
have other joy of me than that you now have, unless you can
devise some means whereby I can be removed from your uncle and
his society without his finding me again, or being able to blame
either you or me, or having any ground for accusation. And
to-morrow you shall tell me of the best plan you have devised,
and I, too, will think of it. To-morrow, as soon as I arise,
come and speak with me; then each of us will speak his mind, and
we shall proceed to execute whatever seems best.

(Vv. 5281-5400.) As soon as Cliges heard her will he fully
agreed with her, and said that would be the best thing to do. He
leaves her happy, and goes off with a light heart himself. That
night each one lies awake thinking over, with great delight, what
the best plan will be. The next morning, as soon as they had
arisen, they meet again to take counsel privately, as indeed they
must. Cliges speaks first and says what he had thought of in the
night: "My lady," says he, "I think, and am of the opinion, that
we could not do better than go to Britain; I thought I might take
you there; now do not refuse, for never was Helen so joyfully
received at Troy when Paris took her thither but that still
greater joy would be felt over you and me in the land of the
King, my uncle. And if this plan does not meet with your favour,
tell me what you think, for I am ready, whatever may happen, to
abide by your decision." And she replies: "This is my answer: I
will never go off with you thus; for after we had gone away,
every one would speak of us as they do of Iseut the Blond and of
Tristan. And everywhere all men and women would speak evil of
our love. No one would believe, nor is it natural that they
should do so, the truth of the matter. Who would believe that I
have thus, all to no purpose, evaded and escaped from your uncle
still a maid? I should be regarded simply as wanton and
dissolute, and you would be thought mad. It is well to remember
and observe the injunction of St. Paul: if any one is unwilling
to live chaste, St. Paul counsels him to act so that he shall
receive no criticism, or blame, or reproach. (38) It is well to
stop evil mouths, and therefore, if you agree, I have a proposal
to make: it seems best to me to consent to feign that I am dead.
I shall fall sick in a little while. And you in the meantime may
plan some preparations for a place of burial. Put all your wits
to work to the end that a sepulchre and bier be so constructed
that I shall not die in it, or be stifled, and that no one shall
mount guard over it at night when you come to take me out. So
now seek such a retreat for me, where no one may see me excepting
you; and let no one provide for any need of mine except you, to
whom I surrender and give myself. Never, my whole life long, do
I wish to be served by other man than you. My lord and my
servant you shall be; whatever you do shall seem good to me; and
never shall I be mistress of any empire unless you are its
master. Any wretched place, however dark and foul, will seem
brighter to me than all these halls if you are with me. If I
have you where I can see you, I shall be mistress of boundless
treasure, and the world will belong to me. And if the business
is carefully managed, no harm will come of it, and no one will
ever be able to speak ill of it, for it will be believed
throughout the empire that I am mouldering in the ground. My
maid, Thessala, who has been my nurse, and in whom I have great
confidence, will give me faithful aid, for she is very clever,
and I trust her fully." And Cliges, when he heard his
sweetheart, replies: "My lady, if this is feasible, and if you
think your nurse's advice reliable, we have nothing to do but
make our preparations without delay; but if we commit any
imprudence, we are lost without escape. In this city there is an
artisan who cuts and carves wonderful images: there is no land
where he is not known for the figures which he has shapen and
carved and made. John is his name, and he is a serf oś mine. No
one could cope with John's best efforts in any art, however
varied it might be. For, compared with him, they are all
novices, and like a child with nurse. By imitating his handiwork
the artisans of Antioch and Rome have learned all they know how
to do--and besides there is no more loyal man. Now I want to
make a test, and if I can put trust in him I will set him and all
his descendants free; and I shall not fail to tell him of all our
plan if he will swear and give his word to me that he will aid me
loyally, and will never divulge my secret."

(Vv. 5401-5466.) And she replies: "So let it be." With her
permission Cliges left the room and went away. And she sends for
Thessala, her maid, whom she brought with her from her native
land. Thessala came at once without delay, yet not knowing why
she was summoned. When she asked Fenice privately what was her
desire and pleasure, she concealed none of her intentions from
her. "Nurse," she said, "I know full well that anything I tell
you will go no further, for I have tried you thoroughly and have
found you very prudent. I love you for all you have done for me.
In all my troubles I appeal to you without seeking counsel
elsewhere. You know why I lie awake, and what my thoughts and
wishes are. My eyes behold only one object which pleases me, but
I can have no pleasure or joy in it if I do not first buy it with
a heavy price. For I have now found my peer; and if I love him
he loves me in return, and if I grieve he grieves too for my pain
and sorrow. Now I must acquaint you with a plan and project upon
which we two have privately agreed." Then she told and explained
to her how she was willing to feign illness, and would complain
so bitterly that at last she would pretend to be dead, and how
Cliges would steal her away at night, and then they would be
together all their days. She thinks that in no other way she
could longer bear to live. But if she was sure that she would
consent to lend her aid, the matter would be arranged in
accordance with their wishes. "But I am tired of waiting for my
joy and luck." Then her nurse assured her that she would help
her in every way, telling her to have no further fear. She said
that as soon as she set to work she would bring it about that
there would be no man, upon seeing her, who would not certainly
believe that the soul had left the body after she had drunk of a
potion which would leave her cold, colourless, pale, and stiff,
without power of speech and deprived of health; yet she would be
alive and well, and would have no sensations of any kind, and
would be none the worse for a day and a night entire spent in the
sepulchre and bier. (39)

(Vv. 5467-5554.) When Fenice heard these words, she thus spoke
in reply: "Nurse, I commit myself to you, and, with full
confidence in you, will take no steps in my own behalf. I am in
your hands; so think of my interests, and tell all the people who
are here to betake themselves away, for I am ill, and they bother
me." So, like a prudent woman, she said to them: "My lords, my
lady is not well, and desires you all to go away. You are
talking loud and making a noise, and the noise is disagreeable to
her. She can get no rest or repose so long as you are in the
room. I never remember her to have complained of such a sickness
as this so violent and serious does it seem. So go away, and
don't feel hurt." As soon as she had issued this command, they
all quickly go away. And Cliges sent for John to come quickly,
and thus in private spoke to him: "John, dost thou know what I am
about to say? Thou art my slave and I thy master, and I can give
away or sell thy body like a thing which is my own. But if I
could trust thee in an affair I meditate, thou wouldst go for
ever free, as well as the heirs which may be born of thee."
John, in his desire for freedom, replies at once: "My lord, there
is nothing I would not gladly do to see myself, my wife, and
children free. Tell me what your orders are, for nothing can be
so hard as to cause me any work or pain or be hard for me to
execute. For that matter, even were it against my will, I must
needs obey your commands and give up my own affairs." "True,
John; but this is a matter of which I hardly dare to speak,
unless thou wilt assure me upon thy oath thou wilt faithfully
give me aid and never betray me." "Willingly, sire," John makes
reply: "have never a fear on that account! For I will swear and
pledge my word that, so long as I live, I will never say a word
which I think will grieve you or cause you harm." "Ah John, even
were I to die for it, there is no man to whom I would dare
mention the matter in which I desire thy counsel; I would rather
have my eye plucked out; I would rather be put to death by thee
than that thou shouldst speak of it to another man. But I hold
thee to be so loyal and prudent that I will reveal to thee all my
thought. I am sure thou wilt observe my wishes, both by aiding
me and holding thy peace." "Truly, sire so, help me God!" Then
Cliges speaks and explains to him openly the adventurous plan.
And when he had revealed the project--as you have heard me set
it forth--then John said that he would promise to construct the
sepulchre in accordance with his best skill, and said that he
would take him to see a certain house of his which no one yet had
ever seen--not even his wife or any child of his. This house,
which he had built, he would show him, if he cared to go with him
to the place where in absolute privacy he works and paints and
carves. He would show him the finest and prettiest place that he
had ever seen. Cliges replies: "Let us go thither then."

(Vv. 5555-5662.) Below the city, in a remote spot, John had
expended much labour in the construction of a tower. Thither he
conducted Cliges, leading him through the different storeys,
which were decorated with fine painted pictures. He shows him
the rooms and the fire-places, taking him everywhere up and down.
Cliges examines this lonely house where no one lives or has
access. He passes from one room to another, until he thinks he
has seen it all, and he is much pleased with the tower and says
he thinks it is very fine. The lady will be comfortable there as
long as she lives, for no one will know of her dwelling place.
"No sire, you are right; she will never be discovered here. But
do you think you have seen all of my tower and fair retreat?
There still remain rooms so concealed that no man could ever find
them out. And if you choose to test the truth of this by
investigating as thoroughly as you can, you can never be so
shrewd and clever in your search as to find another story here,
unless I show you and point it out. You must know that baths are
not lacking here, nor anything else which a lady needs, and which
I can think of or recall. The lady will be here at her ease.
Below the level of the ground the tower widens out, as you will
see, and you cannot anywhere find any entrance-door. The door is
made of hard stone with such skill and art that you cannot find
the crack." Cliges says: "These are wonderful things I hear.
Lead on and I will follow you, for I am anxious to see all this."
Then John started on, taking Cliges by the hand, until he came to
a smooth and polished door, all coloured and painted over. When
John came to the wall, he stopped, holding Cliges by the right
hand. "Sire," he says, "there is no one who could see a window
or a door in this wall; and do you think that any one could pass
through it without using violence and breaking it down?" And
Cliges replies that he does not think so, and that he will never
think so, unless he sees it first. Then John says that he shall
see it at once, and that he will open a door in the wall for him.
John, who constructed this piece of work, unfastens the door in
the wall and opens it for him, so that he has to use no strength
or violence to force it; then, one stepping before the other,
they descend by a winding-stair to a vaulted apartment where John
used to do his work, when it pleased him to labour at anything.
"Sire," he says, "of all the men God ever made, no one but us two
has ever been where we are now. And you shall see presently how
convenient the place is. My advice is that you choose this as
your retreat, and that your sweetheart be lodged here. These
quarters are good enough for such a guest; for there are
bedrooms, and bathrooms with hot water in the tubs, which comes
through pipes under the ground. Whoever is looking for a
comfortable place in which to establish and conceal his lady,
would have to go a long way before he would find anything so
charming. When you shall have explored it thoroughly you will
find this place very suitable." Then John showed him everything,
fine chambers and painted vaults, pointing out many examples of
his work which pleased Cliges much. When they had examined the
whole tower, Cliges said: "John, my friend, I set you free and
all your descendants, and my life is absolutely in your hands. I
desire that my sweetheart be here all alone, and that no one
shall know of it excepting me and you and her." John makes
answer: "I thank you, sire. Now we have been here long enough,
and as we have nothing more to do, let us return." "That is
right," says Cliges, "let us be gone." Then they go away, and
leave the tower. Upon their return they hear every one in the
city saying to his neighbour: "Don't you know the marvellous news
about my lady, the empress? May the Holy Spirit give her health
-- the gentle and prudent lady; for she lies sick of a grievous

(Vv. 5663-5698.) When Cliges heard this talk he went in haste to
the court. But there was no joy or gladness there: for all the
people were sad and prostrated because of the empress, who is
only feigning to be ill; for the illness of which she complains
causes her no grief or pain. But she has told them all that she
wishes no one to enter her room so long as her sickness maintains
its grip with its accompanying pains in her heart and head. She
makes an exception, however, in favour of the emperor and his
nephew, not wishing to place a ban upon them; but she will not
care if the emperor, her lord, does not come. For Cliges' sake
she is compelled to pass through great pain and peril. It
distresses her that he does not come, for she has no desire to
see any one but him. Cliges, however, will soon be there, to
tell her of what he has seen and found. He came into the room
and spoke to her, but stayed only a moment, for Fenice, in order
that they might think she was annoyed by what pleased her so,
cried out aloud: "Be gone, be gone! You disturb and bother me
too much, for I am so seriously ill that I shall never rise up
again." Cliges, though pleased with this, goes away with a sad
face: you would never see so woeful a countenance. To judge from
his appearance he is very sad; but within his heart is gay in
anticipation of its joy.

(Vv. 5699-5718.) The empress, without being really ill,
complains and pretends that she is sick. And the emperor, who
has faith in her, ceases not to grieve, and summons a physician.
But she will not allow any one to see her or touch her. The
emperor may well feel chagrined when she says that she will never
have but one doctor, who can easily restore her to health
whenever it pleases him to do so. He can cause her to die or to
live, and to him she trusts her health and life. They think that
she refers to God; but her meaning is very different, for she is
thinking of no one but Cliges. He is her god who can bring her
health, or who can cause her death.

(Vv. 5719-5814.) Thus the empress takes care that no physician
shall examine her; and more completely to deceive the emperor she
refuses to eat or drink, until she grows all pale and blue.
Meanwhile her nurse keeps busy about her, and with great
shrewdness sought privily all through the city, without the
knowledge of any one, until she found a woman who was hopelessly
ill with a mortal disease. In order to perfect her ruse she used
to go to see her often and promised to cure her of her illness;
so each day she used to take a urinal in which to examine the
urine, until she saw one day that no medicine could ever be of
any help, and that she would die that very day. This urine
Thessala carried off and kept until the emperor arose, when she
went to him and said: "If now it be your will, my lord, send for
all your physicians; for my mistress has passed some water; she
is very ill with this disease, and she desires the doctors to see
it, but she does not wish them to come where she is." The
doctors came into the hall and found upon examination that the
urine was very bad and colourless, and each one said what he
thought about it. Finally, they all agreed that she would never
recover, and that she would scarcely live till three o'clock,
when, at the latest, God would take her soul to Himself. This
conclusion they reached privately, when the emperor asked and
conjured them to tell him the truth. They reply that they have
no confidence in her recovery, and that she cannot live past
three o'clock but will yield up her soul before that time. When
the emperor heard this, he almost fell unconscious to the floor,
as well as many others who heard the news. Never did any people
make such moan as there was then throughout the palace. However,
I will speak no further of their grief; but you shall hear of
Thessala's activities--how she mixes and brews the potion. She
mixed and stirred it up, for she had provided herself a long time
in advance with everything which she would need for the potion.
A little before three o'clock she gives her the potion to drink.
At once her sight became dimmed, her face grew as pale and white
as if she had lost her blood: she could not have moved a foot or
hand, if they had flayed her alive, and she does not stir or say
a word, although she perceives and hears the emperor's grief and
the cries which fill the hall. The weeping crowds lament through
all the city, saying: "God! what woe and misfortune has been
brought upon us by wicked death! O covetous and voracious death!
Death is worse than a she-wolf which always remains insatiable.
Such a cruel bite thou hast never inflicted upon the world!
Death, what hast thou done? May God confound thee for having put
out the light of perfect beauty! Thou hast done to death the
fairest and most lovely creature, had she but lived, whom God has
ever sought to form. God's patience surely is too great when He
suffers thee to have the power to break in pieces what belongs to
Him. Now God ought to be wroth with thee, and cast thee out of
thy bailiwick; for thy impudence has been too great, as well as
thy pride and disrespect." Thus the people storm about and wring
their arms and beat their hands; while the priests read their
psalms, making prayers for the good lady, that God may have mercy
on her soul.

(Vv. 5815-5904.) (40) In the midst of the tears and cries, as
the story runs, there arrived aged physicians from Salerno, where
they had long sojourned. At the sight of the great mourning they
stopped to ask and inquire the cause of the cries and tears--why
all the people are in such sorrow and distress. And this is
the answer they receive: "God! gentlemen, don't you know? The
whole world would be beside itself as we are, if it but knew of
the great sorrow and grief and woe and loss which has come to us
this day. God! where have you come from, then, that you do not
know what has happened just now in this city? We will tell you
the truth, for we wish you to join with us in the grief we feel.
Do you not know about grim Death, who desires and covets all
things, and everywhere lies in wait for what is best, do you not
know what mad act she has committed to-day, as it is her wont to
do? God has illuminated the world with one great radiance, with
one bright light. But Death cannot restrain herself from acting
as her custom is. Every day, to the extent of her power, she
blots out the best creature she can find. So she wishes to try
her power, and in one body she has carried off more excellence
than she has left behind. She would have done better to take the
whole world, and leave alive and sound this prey which now she
has carried off. Beauty, courtesy, and knowledge, and all that a
lady can possess of goodness has been taken and filched from us
by Death, who has destroyed all goodness in the person of our
lady, the empress. Thus Death has deprived us all of life."
"Ah, God!" the doctors say, "we know that Thou art wroth with
this city because we did not reach here sooner. If we had
arrived here yesterday, Death might have boasted of her strength
if she could wrest her prey from us." "Gentlemen, madame would
not have allowed you at any price to see her or to exercise your
skill. Of good physicians there was no lack, but madame would
not permit any one of them to see her or to investigate her
malady." "No?" "Truly, sirs, that she would not." Then they
recalled the case of Solomon, who was so hated by his wife that
she deceived him by feigning death. (41) They think this woman
has done the same. But if they could in any way bring about her
cure, no one could make them lie or keep them from exposing the
truth, if they discovered any trickery. So to the court they
take their way, where there was such a noise and cry that you
could not have heard God's thunder crash. The chief of these
three doctors, who knew the most, drew near the bier. No one
says to him "Keep hands off," and no one tries to hold him back.
He places his hand on her breast and side, and surely feels that
life is still in the body: he perceives and knows that well
enough. He sees the emperor standing by, mad and tormented by
his grief. Seeing him, he calls aloud: "Emperor, console
thyself! I am sure and plainly see that this lady is not dead.
Leave off thy grief, and be comforted! If I do not restore her
alive to thee, thou mayst kill me or string me up."

(Vv. 5995-5988.) At once throughout the palace the noise is
quieted and hushed. And the emperor bade the doctor tell him
fully his orders and wishes, whatever they might be. If he can
restore life in the empress he will be sire and lord over the
emperor himself; but if he has in any respect lied to him he will
be hanged like a common thief. And the doctor said: "I consent
to that, and may you never have mercy upon me if I do not cause
her to speak to you here! Without tarrying and without delay
have the palace cleared at once, and let not a single soul
remain. I must examine in private the illness which afflicts the
lady. These two doctors, who are my friends, will remain with me
alone in the room, and let every one else go out." This order
would have been opposed by Cliges, John, and Thessala; but all
the others who were there might have turned against them if they
had tried to oppose his order. So they hold their peace and
approve what they hear approved by the others, and leave the
palace. After the three doctors had forcibly tipped apart the
lady's winding-sheer, without using any knife or scissors, they
said to her: "Lady, don't be frightened, have no fear, but speak
to us with confidence! We know well enough that you are
perfectly sound and in good state. Be sensible and obliging now,
and do not despair of anything, for if you have any need of us we
will all three assure you of our aid, whether for good or ill.
We shall be very loyal to you, both in keeping our counsel and in
helping you. Do not keep us talking here! Since we put at your
disposal our skill and service, you should surely not refuse."
Thus they think to hoodwink and deceive her, but they have no
success; for she has no need or care for the service which they
promise her; so they are wasting their time in a vain effort.
When the three physicians see that they will make nothing out of
her either by prayer or flattery, then they take her from her
bier, and begin to beat and belabour her. But their efforts are
foolish, for not a word can they extract from her. Then they
threaten and try to terrify her by saying that if she does not
speak she will soon have reason to repent of her folly, for they
are going to do such a wonderful thing to her that such a thing
was never done to the body of any wretched woman. "We know that
you are alive, and will not deign to speak to us. We know that
you are feigning death, and would thus deceive the emperor. Have
no fear of us! If any of us has angered you, before we do you
further harm, cease your mad behaviour now, for you are acting
wickedly; and we will lend you our aid in any enterprise--wise
or mad." But it cannot be; they have no success. Then they
renew their attack, striking her with thongs upon the back, so
that the welts are plainly seen, and they combine to tear her
tender flesh until they cause the blood to flow.

(Vv. 5989-6050.) When they had beaten her with the thongs until
they had slashed her flesh, and when the blood is dropping down,
as it trickles from among the wounds, even then their efforts are
of no avail to extract from her a sigh or word, nor to make her
stir or move. Then they say that they must procure fire and
lead, which they will melt and lay upon her hands, rather than
fail in their efforts to make her speak. After securing a light
and some lead they kindle a fire and melt the lead. Thus the


Back to Full Books