Four Arthurian Romances, by Chretien DeTroyes

Part 8 out of 9

he had felt the reproach of his action."

(Vv. 2615-2690.) Not a word does he deign to reply to what he
hears the other say; but the master of the house and all the
others express their surprise openly: "Ah, God, what a misfortune
this is," each one of them says to himself; "cursed be the hour
when first a cart was conceived or made! For it is a very vile
and hateful thing. Ah, God, of what was he accused? Why was he
carried in a cart? For what sin, or for what crime? He will
always suffer the reproach. If he were only clear of this
disgrace, no knight could be found in all the world, however his
valour might be proved, who would equal the merit of this knight.
If all good knights could be compared, and if the truth were to
be known, you could find none so handsome or so expert." Thus
they expressed their sentiments. Then he began his speech of
impudence: "Listen, thou knight, who art bound for the sword-
bridge! If thou wishest, thou shalt cross the water very easily
and comfortably. I will quickly have thee ferried over in a
skiff. But once on the other side, I will make thee pay me toll,
and I will take thy head, if I please to do so, or if not, thou
shalt be held at my discretion." And he replies that he is not
seeking trouble, and that he will never risk his head in such an
adventure for any consideration. To which the other answers at
once: "Since thou wilt not do this, whosesoever the shame and
loss may be, thou must come outside with me and there engage me
hand to hand." Then, to beguile him. the other says: "If I could
refuse, I would very gladly excuse myself; but in truth I would
rather fight than be compelled to do what is wrong." Before he
arose from the table where they were sitting, he told the youths
who were serving him, to saddle his horse at once, and fetch his
arms and give them to him. This order they promptly execute:
some devote themselves to arming him, while others go to fetch
his horse. As he slowly rode along completely armed, holding his
shield tight by the straps, you must know that he was evidently
to be included in the list of the brave and fair. His horse
became him so well that it is evident he must be his own, and as
for the shield he held by the straps and the helmet laced upon
his head, which fitted him so well, you would never for a moment
have thought that he had borrowed it or received it as a loan;
rather, you would be so pleased with him that you would maintain
that he had been thus born and raised: for all this I should like
you to take my word.

(Vv. 2691-2792.) Outside the gate, where the battle was to be
fought, there was a stretch of level ground well adapted for the
encounter. When they catch sight of each other, they spur hotly
to the attack and come together with such a shock, dealing such
blows with their lances, that they first bend, then buckle up,
and finally fly into splinters. With their swords they then hew
away at their shields, helmets, and hauberks. The wood is cut
and the steel gives way, so that they wound each other in several
places. They pay each other such angry blows that it seems as if
they had made a bargain. The swords often descend upon the
horses' croups, where they drink and feast upon their blood;
their riders strike them upon the flanks until at last they kill
them both. And when both have fallen to earth, they attack each
other afoot; and if they had cherished a mortal hatred, they
could not have assailed each other more fiercely with their
swords. They deal their blows with greater frequency than the
man who stakes his money at dice and never fails to double the
stakes every time he loses; yet, this game of theirs was very
different; for there were no losses here, but only fierce blows
and cruel strife. All the people came out from the house: the
master, his lady, his sons and daughters; no man or woman, friend
or stranger, stayed behind, but all stood in line to see the
fight in progress in the broad, level field. The Knight of the
Cart blames and reproaches himself for faintheartedness when he
sees his host watching him and notices all the others looking on.
His heart is stirred with anger, for it seems to him that he
ought long since to have beaten his adversary. Then he strikes
him, rushing in like a storm and bringing his sword down close by
his head; he pushes and presses him so hard that he drives him
from his ground and reduces him to such a state of exhaustion
that he has little strength to defend himself. Then the knight
recalls how the other had basely reproached him about the cart;
so he assails him and drubs him so soundly that not a string or
strap remains unbroken about the neck-band of his hauberk, and he
knocks the helmet and ventail from his head. His wounds and
distress are so great that he has to cry for mercy. Just as the
lark cannot withstand or protect itself against the hawk which
outflies it and attacks it from above, so he in his helplessness
and shame, must invoke him and sue for mercy. And when he hears
him beg for mercy, he ceases his attack and says: "Dost thou wish
for mercy?" He replies: "You have asked a very clever question;
any fool could ask that. I never wished for anything so much as
I now wish for mercy." Then he says to him: "Thou must mount,
then, upon a cart. Nothing thou couldst say would have any
influence with me, unless thou mountest the cart, to atone for
the vile reproaches thou didst address to me with thy silly
mouth." And the knight thus answers him: "May it never please
God that I mount a cart!" "No?" he asks; "then you shall die."
"Sire, you can easily put me to death; but I beg and beseech you
for God's sake to show me mercy and not compel me to mount a
cart. I will agree to anything, however grievous, excepting
that. I would rather die a hundred times than undergo such a
disgrace. In your goodness and mercy you can tell me nothing so
distasteful that I will not do it."

(Vv. 2793-2978.) While he is thus beseeching him, behold across
the field a maiden riding on a tawny mule, her head uncovered and
her dress disarranged. In her hand she held a whip with which
she belaboured the mule; and in truth no horse could have
galloped so fast as was the pace of the mule. The damsel called
out to the Knight of the Cart: "May God bless thy heart, Sir
Knight, with whatever delights thee most!" And he, who heard her
gladly, says: "May God bless you, damsel, and give you joy and
health!" Then she tells him of her desire. "Knight," she says,
"in urgent need I have come from afar to thee to ask a favour,
for which thou wilt deserve the best guerdon I can make to thee;
and I believe that thou wilt yet have need of my assistance."
And he replies: "Tell me what it is you wish; and if I have it,
you shall have it at once, provided it be not something
extravagant." Then she says: "It is the head of the knight whom
thou hast just defeated; in truth, thou hast never dealt with
such a wicked and faithless man. Thou wilt be committing no sin
or wrong, but rather doing a deed of charity, for he is the
basest creature that ever was or ever shall be." And when he who
had been vanquished hears that she wishes him to be killed, he
says to him: "Don't believe her, for she hates me; but by that
God who was at once Father and Son, and who chose for His mother
her who was His daughter and handmaiden, I beg you to have mercy
upon me!" "Ah, knight!" the maid exclaims, "pay no attention to
what this traitor says! May God give thee all the joy and honour
to which thou dost aspire, and may He give thee good success in
thy undertaking." Then the knight is in a predicament, as he
thinks and ponders over the question: whether to present to her
the head she asks him to cut off, or whether he shall allow
himself to be touched by pity for him. (17) He wishes to respect
the wishes of both her and him. Generosity and pity each command
him to do their will; for he was both generous and tender-
hearted. But if she carries off the head, then will pity be
defeated and put to death; whereas, if she does not carry off the
head, generosity will be discomfited. Thus, pity and generosity
hold him so confined and so distressed that he is tormented and
spurred on by each of them in turn. The damsel asks him to give
her the head, and on the other hand the knight makes his request,
appealing to his pity and kindness. And, since he has implored
him, shall he not receive mercy? Yes, for it never happened
that, when he had put down an enemy and compelled him to sue for
mercy, he would refuse such an one his mercy or longer bear him
any grudge. Since this is his custom, he will not refuse his
mercy to him who now begs and sues for it. And shall she have
the head she covets? Yes, if it be possible. "Knight," he says,
"it is necessary for thee to fight me again, and if thou dost
care to defend thy head again, I will show thee such mercy as to
allow thee to resume the helmet; and I will give thee time to arm
thy body and thy head as well as possible. But, if I conquer
thee again, know that thou shalt surely die." And he replies: "I
desire nothing better than that, and ask for no further favour."
"And I will give thee this advantage," he adds: "I will fight
thee as I stand, without changing my present position." Then the
other knight makes ready, and they begin the fight again eagerly.
But this time the knight triumphed more quickly than he had done
at first. And the damsel at once cries out: "Do not spare him,
knight, for anything he may say to thee. Surely he would not
have spared thee, had he once defeated thee. If thou heedest
what he says, be sure that he will again beguile thee. Fair
knight, cut off the head of the most faithless man in the empire
and kingdom, and give it to me! Thou shouldst present it to me,
in view of the guerdon I intend for thee. For another day may
well come when, if he can, he will beguile thee again with his
words." He, thinking his end is near, cries aloud to him for
mercy; but his cry is of no avail, nor anything that he can say.
The other drags him by the helmet, tearing all the fastening, and
he strikes from his head the ventail and the gleaming coif. Then
he cries out more loudly still: "Mercy, for God's sake! Mercy,
sir!" But the other answers: "So help me, I shall never again
show thee pity, after having once let thee off." "Ah," he says,
"thou wouldst do wrong to heed my enemy and kill me thus." While
she, intent upon his death, admonishes him to cut off his head,
and not to believe a word he says. He strikes: the head flies
across the sward and the body fails. Then the damsel is pleased
and satisfied. Grasping the head by the hair, the knight
presents it to the damsel, who takes it joyfully with the words:
"May thy heart receive such delight from whatever it most desires
as my heart now receives from what I most coveted. I had only
one grief in life, and that was that this man was still alive. I
have a reward laid up for thee which thou shalt receive at the
proper time. I promise thee that thou shalt have a worthy reward
for the service thou hast rendered me. Now I will go away, with
the prayer that God may guard thee from harm." Then the damsel
leaves him, as each commends the other to God. But all those who
had seen the battle in the plain are overjoyed, and in their joy
they at once relieve the knight of his armour, and honour him in
every way they can. Then they wash their hands again and take
their places at the meal, which they eat with better cheer than
is their wont. When they had been eating for some time, the
gentleman turned to his guest at his side, and said: "Sire, a
long while ago we came hither from the kingdom of Logres. We
were born your countrymen, and we should like to see you win
honour and fortune and joy in this country; for we should profit
by it as well as you, and it would be to the advantage of many
others, if you should gain honour and fortune in the enterprise
you have undertaken in this land." And he makes answer: "May God
hear your desire."

(Vv. 2979-3020.) When the host had dropped his voice and ceased
speaking, one of his sons followed him and said: "Sire, we ought
to place all our resources at your service, and give them
outright rather than promise them; if you have any need of our
assistance, we ought not to wait until you ask for it. Sire, be
not concerned over your horse which is dead. We have good strong
horses here. I want you to take anything of ours which you need,
and you shall choose the best of our horses in place of yours."
And he replies: "I willingly accept." Thereupon, they have the
beds prepared and retire for the night. The next morning they
rise early, and dress, after which they prepare to start. Upon
leaving, they fail in no act of courtesy, but take leave of the
lady, her lord, and all the rest. But in order to omit nothing,
I must remark that the knight was unwilling to mount the borrowed
steed which was standing ready at the door; rather, he caused him
to be ridden by one of the two knights who had come with him,
while he took the latter's horse instead, for thus it pleased him
best to do. When each was seated on his horse, they all asked
for leave to depart from their host who had served them so
honourably. Then they ride along the road until the day draws to
a close, and late in the afternoon they reach the sword-bridge.

(Vv. 3021-3194.) At the end of this very difficult bridge they
dismount from their steeds and gaze at the wicked-looking stream,
which is as swift and raging, as black and turgid, as fierce and
terrible as if it were the devil's stream; and it is so dangerous
and bottomless that anything failing into it would be as
completely lost as if it fell into the salt sea. And the bridge,
which spans it, is different from any other bridge; for there
never was such a one as this. If any one asks of me the truth,
there never was such a bad bridge, nor one whose flooring was so
bad. The bridge across the cold stream consisted of a polished,
gleaming sword; but the sword was stout and stiff, and was as
long as two lances. At each end there was a tree-trunk in which
the sword was firmly fixed. No one need fear to fall because of
its breaking or bending, for its excellence was such that it
could support a great weight. But the two knights who were with
the third were much discouraged; for they surmised that two lions
or two leopards would be found tied to a great rock at the other
end of the bridge. The water and the bridge and the lions
combine so to terrify them that they both tremble with fear, and
say: "Fair sire, consider well what confronts you; for it is
necessary and needful to do so. This bridge is badly made and
built, and the construction of it is bad. If you do not change
your mind in time, it will be too late to repent. You must
consider which of several alternatives you will choose. Suppose
that you once get across (but that cannot possibly come to pass,
any more than one could hold in the winds and forbid them to
blow, or keep the birds from singing, or re-enter one's mother's
womb and be born again--all of which is as impossible as to
empty the sea of its water); but even supposing that you got
across, can you think and suppose that those two fierce lions
that are chained on the other side will not kill you, and suck
the blood from your veins, and eat your flesh and then gnaw your
bones? For my part, I am bold enough, when I even dare to look
and gaze at them. If you do not take care, they will certainly
devour you. Your body will soon be torn and rent apart, for they
will show you no mercy. So take pity on us now, and stay here in
our company! It would be wrong for you to expose yourself
intentionally to such mortal peril." And he, laughing, replies
to them: "Gentlemen, receive my thanks and gratitude for the
concern you feel for me: it comes from your love and kind hearts.
I know full well that you would not like to see any mishap come
to me; but I have faith and confidence in God, that He will
protect me to the end. I fear the bridge and stream no more than
I fear this dry land; so I intend to prepare and make the
dangerous attempt to cross. I would rather die than turn back
now." The others have nothing more to say; but each weeps with
pity and heaves a sigh. Meanwhile he prepares, as best he may,
to cross the stream, and he does a very marvellous thing in
removing the armour from his feet and hands. He will be in a
sorry state when he reaches the other side. He is going to
support himself with his bare hands and feet upon the sword,
which was sharper than a scythe, for he had not kept on his feet
either sole or upper or hose. But he felt no fear of wounds upon
his hands or feet; he preferred to maim himself rather than to
fall from the bridge and be plunged in the water from which he
could never escape. In accordance with this determination, he
passes over with great pain and agony, being wounded in the
hands, knees, and feet. But even this suffering is sweet to him:
for Love, who conducts and leads him on, assuages and relieves
the pain. Creeping on his hands, feet, and knees, he proceeds
until he reaches the other side. Then he recalls and recollects
the two lions which he thought he had seen from the other side;
but, on looking about, he does not see so much as a lizard or
anything else to do him harm. He raises his hand before his face
and looks at his ring, and by this test he proves that neither of
the lions is there which he thought he had seen, and that he had
been enchanted and deceived; for there was not a living creature
there. When those who had remained behind upon the bank saw that
he had safely crossed, their joy was natural; but they do not
know of his injuries. He, however, considers himself fortunate
not to have suffered anything worse. The blood from his wounds
drips on his shirt on all sides. Then he sees before him a
tower, which was so strong that never had he seen such a strong
one before: indeed, it could not have been a better tower. At
the window there sat King Bademagu, who was very scrupulous and
precise about matters of honour and what was right, and who was
careful to observe and practise loyalty above all else; and
beside him stood his son, who always did precisely the opposite
so far as possible, for he found his pleasure in disloyalty, and
never wearied of villainy, treason, and felony. From their point
of vantage they had seen the knight cross the bridge with trouble
and pain. Meleagant's colour changed with the rage and
displeasure he felt; for he knows now that he will be challenged
for the Queen; but his character was such that he feared no man,
however strong or formidable. If he were not base and disloyal,
there could no better knight be found; but he had a heart of
wood, without gentleness and pity. What enraged his son and
roused his ire, made the king happy and glad. The king knew of a
truth that he who had crossed the bridge was much better than any
one else. For no one would dare to pass over it in whom there
dwelt any of that evil nature which brings more shame upon those
who possess it than prowess brings of honour to the virtuous.
For prowess cannot accomplish so much as wickedness and sloth can
do: it is true beyond a doubt that it is possible to do more evil
than good.

(Vv. 3195-3318.) I could say more on these two heads, if it did
not cause me to delay. But I must turn to something else and
resume my subject, and you shall hear how the king speaks
profitably to his son: "Son," he says, "it was fortunate that
thou and I came to look out this window; our reward has been to
witness the boldest deed that ever entered the mind of man. Tell
me now if thou art not well disposed toward him who has performed
such a marvellous feat. Make peace and be reconciled with him,
and deliver the Queen into his hands. Thou shalt gain no glory
in battle with him, but rather mayst thou incur great loss. Show
thyself to be courteous and sensible, and send the Queen to meet
him before he sees thee. Show him honour in this land of thine,
and before he asks it, present to him what he has come to seek.
Thou knowest well enough that he has come for the Queen
Guinevere. Do not act so that people will take thee to be
obstinate, foolish, or proud. If this man has entered thy land
alone, thou shouldst bear him company, for one gentleman ought
not to avoid another, but rather attract him and honour him with
courtesy. One receives honour by himself showing it; be sure
that the honour will be thine, if thou doest honour and service
to him who is plainly the best knight in the world." And he
replies: "May God confound me, if there is not as good a knight,
or even a better one than he!" It was too bad that he did not
mention himself, of whom he entertains no mean opinion. And he
adds: "I suppose you wish me to clasp my hands and kneel before
him as his liegeman, and to hold my lands from him? So help me
God, I would rather become his man than surrender to him the
Queen! God forbid that in such a fashion I should deliver her to
him! She shall never be given up by me, but rather contested and
defended against all who are so foolish as to dare to come in
quest of her." Then again the king says to him: "Son, thou
wouldst act very courteously to renounce this pretension. I
advise thee and beg thee to keep the peace. Thou knowest well
that the honour will belong to the knight, if he wins the Queen
from thee in battle. He would doubtless rather win her in battle
than as a gift, for it will thus enhance his fame. It is my
opinion that he is seeking her, not to receive her peaceably, but
because he wishes to win her by force of arms. So it would be
wise on thy part to deprive him of the satisfaction of fighting
thee. I am sorry to see thee so foolish; but if thou dost not
heed my advice, evil will come of it, and the ensuing misfortune
will be worse for thee. For the knight need fear no hostility
from any one here save thee. On behalf of myself and all my men,
I will grant him a truce and security. I have never yet done a
disloyal deed or practised treason and felony, and I shall not
begin to do so now on thy account any more than I would for any
stranger. I do not wish to flatter thee, for I promise that the
knight shall not lack any arms, or horse or anything else he
needs, in view of the boldness he has displayed in coming thus
far. He shall be securely guarded and well defended against all
men here excepting thee. I wish him clearly to understand that,
if he can maintain himself against thee, he need have no fear of
any one else." "I have listened to you in silence long enough,"
says Meleagant, "and you may say what you please. But little do
I care for all you say. I am not a hermit, nor so compassionate
and charitable, and I have no desire to be so honourable as to
give him what I most love. His task will not be performed so
quickly or so lightly; rather will it turn out otherwise than as
you and he expect. You and I need not quarrel because you aid
him against me. Even if he enjoys peace and a truce with you and
all your men, what matters that to me? My heart does not quail
on that account; rather, so help me God, I am glad that he need
not feel concern for any one here but me; I do not wish you to do
on my account anything which might be construed as disloyalty or
treachery. Be as compassionate as you please, but let me be
cruel." "What? Wilt thou not change thy mind?" "No," he says.
"Then I will say nothing more. I will leave thee alone to do thy
best and will go now to speak with the knight. I wish to offer
and present to him my aid and counsel in all respects; for I am
altogether on his side."

(Vv. 3319-3490.) Then the king goes down and orders them to
bring his horse. A large steed is brought to him, upon which he
springs by the stirrup, and he rides off with some of his men:
three knights and two squires he bade to go with him. They did
not stop their ride downhill until they came to the bridge, where
they see him stanching his wounds and wiping the blood from them.
The king expects to keep him as his guest for a long time while
his wounds are healing; but he might as well expect to drain the
sea. The king hastens to dismount, and he who was grievously
wounded, stood up at once to meet him, though he did not know
him, and he gave no more evidence of the pain he felt in his feet
and hands than if he had been actually sound. The king sees that
he is exerting himself, and quickly runs to greet him with the
words: "Sire, I am greatly amazed that you have fallen upon us in
this land. But be welcome, for no one will ever repeat the
attempt: it never happened in the past, and it will never happen
in the future that any one should perform such a hardy feat or
expose himself to such peril. And know that I admire you greatly
for having executed what no one before ever dared to conceive.
You will find me very kindly disposed, and loyal and courteous
toward you. I am the king of this land, and offer you freely all
my counsel and service; and I think I know pretty well what you
have come here to seek. You come, I am sure, to seek the Queen."
"Sire," he replies, "your surmise is correct; no other cause
brings me here." "Friend, you must suffer hardship to obtain
her," he replies; "and you are sorely wounded, as I see by the
wounds and the flowing blood. You will not find him who brought
her hither so generous as to give her up without a struggle; but
you must tarry, and have your wounds cared for until they are
completely healed. I will give you some of `the three Marys'
ointment, (18) and something still better, if it can be found,
for I am very solicitous about your comfort and your recovery.
And the Queen is so confined that no mortal man has access to her
-- not even my son, who brought her here with him and who resents
such treatment, for never was a man so beside himself and so
desperate as he. But I am well disposed toward you, and will
gladly give you, so help me God, all of which you stand in need.
My son himself will not have such good arms but that I will give
you some that are just as good, and a horse, too, such as you
will need, though my son will be angry with me. Despite the
feelings of any one, I will protect you against all men. You
will have no cause to fear any one excepting him who brought the
Queen here. No man ever menaced another as I have menaced him,
and I came near driving him from my land, in my displeasure
because he will not surrender her to you. To be sure, he is my
son; but feel no concern, for unless he defeats you in battle, he
can never do you the slightest harm against my will." "Sire," he
says, "I thank you. But I am losing time here which I do not
wish to waste. I have no cause to complain, and have no wound
which is paining me. Take me where I can find him; for with such
arms as I have, I am ready to divert myself by giving and
receiving blows." "Friend, you had better wait two or three
weeks until your wounds are healed, for it would be well for you
to tarry here at least two weeks, and not on any account could I
allow it, or look on, while you fought in my presence with such
arms and with such an outfit." And he replies: "With your
permission, no other arms would be used than these, for I should
prefer to fight with them, and I should not ask for the slightest
postponement, adjournment or delay. However, in deference to
you, I will consent to wait until to-morrow; but despite what any
one may say, longer I will not wait." Then the king assured him
that all would be done as he wished; then he has the
lodging-place prepared, and insistently requests his men, who are
in the company, to serve him, which they do devotedly. And the
king, who would gladly have made peace, had it been possible,
went at once to his son and spoke to him like one who desires
peace and harmony, saying: "Fair son, be reconciled now with this
knight without a fight! He has not come here to disport himself
or to hunt or chase, but he comes in search of honour and to
increase his fame and renown, and I have seen that he stands in
great need of rest. If he had taken my advice, he would not have
rashly undertaken, either this month or the next, the battle
which he so greatly desires. If thou makest over the Queen to
him, dost thou fear any dishonour in the deed? Have no fear of
that, for no blame can attach to thee; rather is it wrong to keep
that to which one has no rightful claim. He would gladly have
entered the battle at once, though his hands and feet are not
sound, but cut and wounded." Meleagant answers his father thus:
"You are foolish to be concerned. By the faith I owe St. Peter,
I will not take your advice in this matter. I should deserve to
be drawn apart with horses, if I heeded your advice. If he is
seeking his honour, so do I seek mine; if he is in search of
glory, so am I; if he is anxious for the battle, so am I a
hundred times more so than he." "I see plainly," says the king,
"that thou art intent upon thy mad enterprise, and thou shalt
have thy fill of it. Since such is thy pleasure, to-morrow thou
shalt try thy strength with the knight." "May no greater
hardship ever visit me than that!" Meleagant replies; "I would
much rather it were to-day than to-morrow. Just see how much
more downcast I am than is usual! My eyes are wild, and my face
is pale! I shall have no joy or satisfaction or any cause for
happiness until I am actually engaged with him."

(Vv. 3491-3684.) The king understands that further advice and
prayers are of no avail, so reluctantly he leaves his son and,
taking a good, strong horse and handsome arms, he sends them to
him who well deserves them, together with a surgeon who was a
loyal and Christian man. There was in the world no more trusty
man, and he was more skilled in the cure of wounds than all the
doctors of Montpeilier. (19) That night he treated the knight as
best he could, in accordance with the king's command. Already
the news was known by the knights and damsels, the ladies and
barons of all the country-side, and all through the night until
daybreak strangers and friends were making long journeys from all
the country round. When morning came, there was such a press
before the castle that there was not room to move one's foot.
And the king, rising early in his distress about the battle, goes
directly to his son, who had already laced upon his head the
helmet which was of Poitiers make. No delay or peace is
possible, for though the king did his best, his efforts are of no
effect. In the middle of the castle-square, where all the people
are assembled, the battle will be fought in compliance with the
king's wish and command. The king sends at once for the stranger
knight, and he is conducted to the grounds which were filled with
people from the kingdom of Logres. For just as people are
accustomed to go to church to hear the organ on the annual feast-
days of Pentecost or Christmas, so they had all assembled now.
All the foreign maidens from King Arthur's realm had fasted three
days and gone barefoot in their shifts, in order that God might
endow with strength and courage the knight who was to fight his
adversary on behalf of the captives. Very early, before prime
had yet been sounded, both of the knights fully armed were led to
the place, mounted upon two horses equally protected. Meleagant
was very graceful, alert, and shapely; the hauberk with its fine
meshes, the helmet, and the shield hanging from his neck--all
these became him well. All the spectators. however, favoured the
other knight, even those who wished him ill, and they say that
Meleagant is worth nothing compared with him. As soon as they
were both on the ground, the king comes and detains them as long
as possible in an effort to make peace between them, but he is
unable to persuade his son. Then he says to them: "Hold in your
horses until I reach the top of the tower. It will be only a
slight favour, if you will wait so long for me." Then in
sorrowful mood he leaves them and goes directly to the place
where he knew he would find the Queen. She had begged him the
evening before to place her where she might have an unobstructed
view of the battle; he had granted her the boon, and went now to
seek and fetch her, for he was very anxious to show her honour
and courtesy. He placed her at one window, and took his place at
another window on her right. Beside them, there were gathered
there many knights and prudent dames and damsels, who were
natives of that land; and there were many others, who were
captives, and who were intent upon their orisons and prayers.
Those who were prisoners were praying for their lord, for to God
and to him they entrusted their succour and deliverance. Then
the combatants without delay make all the people stand aside;
then they clash the shields with their elbows, and thrust their
arms into the straps, and spur at each other so violently that
each sends his lance two arms' length through his opponent's
shield, causing the lance to split and splinter like a flying
spark. And the horses meet head on, clashing breast to breast,
and the shields and helmets crash with such a noise that it seems
like a mighty thunder-clap; not a breast-strap, girth, rein or
surcingle remains unbroken, and the saddle-bows, though strong,
are broken to pieces. The combatants felt no shame in falling to
earth, in view of their mishaps, but they quickly spring to their
feet, and without waste of threatening words rush at each other
more fiercely than two wild boars, and deal great blows with
their swords of steel like men whose hate is violent. Repeatedly
they trim the helmets and shining hauberks so fiercely that after
the sword the blood spurts out. They furnished an excellent
battle, indeed, as they stunned and wounded each other with their
heavy, wicked blows. Many fierce, hard, long bouts they
sustained with equal honour, so that the onlookers could discern
no advantage on either side. But it was inevitable that he who
had crossed the bridge should be much weakened by his wounded
hands. The people who sided with him were much dismayed, for
they notice that his strokes are growing weaker, and they fear he
will get the worst of it; it seemed to them that he was
weakening, while Meleagant was triumphing, and they began to
murmur all around. But up at the window of the tower there was a
wise maiden who thought within herself that the knight had not
undertaken the battle either on her account or for the sake of
the common herd who had gathered about the list, but that his
only incentive had been the Queen; and she thought that, if he
knew that she was at the window seeing and watching him, his
strength and courage would increase. And if she had known his
name, she would gladly have called to him to look about him.
Then she came to the Queen and said: "Lady, for God's sake and
your own as well as ours, I beseech you to tell me, if you know,
the name of yonder knight, to the end that it may be of some help
to him." "Damsel," the Queen replies, "you have asked me a
question in which I see no hate or evil, but rather good intent;
the name of the knight, I know, is Lancelot of the Lake." (20)
"God, how happy and glad at heart I am!" the damsel says. Then
she leans forward and calls to him by name so loudly that all the
people hear: "Lancelot, turn about and see who is here taking
note of thee!"

(Vv. 3685-3954.) When Lancelot heard his name, he was not slow
to turn around: he turns and sees seated up there at the window
of the tower her whom he desired most in the world to see. From
the moment he caught sight of her, he did not turn or take his
eyes and face from her, defending himself with backhand blows.
And Meleagant meanwhile attacked him as fiercely as he could,
delighted to think that the other cannot withstand him now; and
they of the country are well pleased too, while the foreigners
are so distressed that they can no longer support themselves, and
many of them fall to earth either upon their knees or stretched
out prone; thus some are glad, and some distressed. Then the
damsel cried again from the window: "Ah, Lancelot, how is it that
thou dost now conduct thyself so foolishly? Once thou wert the
embodiment of prowess and of all that is good, and I do not think
God ever made a knight who could equal thee in valour and in
worth. But now we see thee so distressed that thou dealest back-
hand blows and fightest thy adversary, behind thy back. Turn, so
as to be on the other side, and so that thou canst face toward
this tower, for it will help thee to keep it in view." Then
Lancelot is so ashamed and mortified that he hates himself, for
he knows full well that all have seen how, for some time past, he
has had the worst of the fight. Thereupon he leaps backward and
so manoeuvres as to force Meleagant into a position between him
and the tower. Meleagant makes every effort to regain his former
position. But Lancelot rushes upon him, and strikes him so
violently upon his body and shield whenever he tries to get
around him, that he compels him to whirl about two or three times
in spite of himself. Lancelot's strength and courage grow,
partly because he has love's aid, and partly because he never
hated any one so much as him with whom he is engaged. Love and
mortal hate, so fierce that never before was such hate seen, make
him so fiery and bold that Meleagant ceases to treat it as a jest
and begins to stand in awe of him, for he had never met or known
so doughty a knight, nor had any knight ever wounded or injured
him as this one does. He is glad to get away from him, and he
winces and sidesteps, fearing his blows and avoiding them. And
Lancelot does not idly threaten him, but drives him rapidly
toward the tower where the Queen was stationed on the watch.
There upon the tower he did her the homage of his blows until he
came so close that, if he advanced another step, he would lose
sight of her. Thus Lancelot drove him back and forth repeatedly
in whatever direction he pleased, always stopping before the
Queen, his lady, who had kindled the flame which compels him to
fix his gaze upon her. And this same flame so stirred him
against Meleagant that he was enabled to lead and drive him
wherever he pleased. In spite of himself he drives him on like a
blind man or a man with a wooden leg. The king sees his son so
hard pressed that he is sorry for him and he pities him, and he
will not deny him aid and assistance if possible; but if he
wishes to proceed courteously, he must first beg the Queen's
permission. So he began to say to her: "Lady, since I have had
you in my power, I have loved you and faithfully served and
honoured you. I never consciously left anything undone in which
I saw your honour involved; now repay me for what I have done.
For I am about to ask you a favour which you should not grant
unless you do so willingly. I plainly see that my son is getting
the worst of this battle; I do not speak so because of the
chagrin I feel, but in order that Lancelot, who has him in his
power, may not kill him. Nor ought you to wish to see him
killed; not because he has not wronged both you and him, but
because I make the request of you: so tell him, please, to stop
beating him. If you will, you can thus repay me for what I have
done for you." "Fair sire, I am willing to do so at your
request," the Queen replies; "had I mortal hatred for your son,
whom it is true I do not love, yet you have served me so well
that, to please you, I am quite willing that he should desist."
These words were not spoken privately, but Lancelot and
Meleagrant heard what was said. The man who is a perfect lover
is always obedient and quickly and gladly does his mistress'
pleasure. So Lancelot was constrained to do his Lady's will, for
he loved more than Pyramus, (21) if that were possible for any
man to do. Lancelot heard what was said, and as soon as the last
word had issued from her mouth, "since you wish him to desist, I
am willing that he should do so," Lancelot would not have
touched him or made a movement for anything, even if the other
had killed him. He does not touch him or raise his hand. But
Meleagant, beside himself with rage and shame when he hears that
it has been necessary to intercede in his behalf, strikes him
with all the strength he can muster. And the king went down from
the tower to upbraid his son, and entering the list he addressed
him thus: "How now? Is this becoming, to strike him when he is
not touching thee? Thou art too cruel and savage, and thy
prowess is now out of place! For we all know beyond a doubt that
he is thy superior." Then Meleagant, choking with shame, says to
the king: "I think you must be blind! I do not believe you see a
thing. Any one must indeed be blind to think I am not better
than he." "Seek some one to believe thy words!" the king
replies, "for all the people know whether thou speakest the truth
or a lie. All of us know full well the truth." Then the king
bids his barons lead his son away, which they do at once in
execution of his command: they led away Meleagant. But it was
not necessary to use force to induce Lancelot to withdraw, for
Meleagant might have harmed him grievously, before he would have
sought to defend himself. Then the king says to his son: "So
help me God, now thou must make peace and surrender the Queen.
Thou must cease this quarrel once for all and withdraw thy
claim." "That is great nonsense you have uttered! I hear you
speak foolishly. Stand aside! Let us fight, and do not mix in
our affairs!" But the king says he will take a hand, for he
knows well that, were the fight to continue, Lancelot would kill
his son. "He kill me! Rather would I soon defeat and kill him,
if you would leave us alone and let us fight." Then the king
says: "So help me God, all that thou sayest is of no avail."
"Why is that?" he asks. "Because I will not consent. I will not
so trust in thy folly and pride as to allow thee to be killed. A
man is a fool to court death, as thou dost in thy ignorance. I
know well that thou hatest me because I wish to save thy life.
God will not let me see and witness thy death, if I can help it,
for it would cause me too much grief." He talks to him and
reproves him until finally peace and good-will are restored. The
terms of the peace are these: he will surrender the Queen to
Lancelot, provided that the latter without reluctance will fight
them again within a year of such time as he shall choose to
summon him: this is no trial to Lancelot. When peace is made,
all the people press about, and it is decided that the battle
shall be fought at the court of King Arthur, who holds Britain
and Cornwall in his sway: there they decide that it shall be.
And the Queen has to consent, and Lancelot has to promise, that
if Meleagant can prove him recreant, she shall come back with him
again without the interference of any one. When the Queen and
Lancelot had both agreed to this, the arrangement was concluded,
and they both retired and removed their arms. Now the custom in
the country was that when one issued forth, all the others might
do so too. All called down blessings upon Lancelot: and you may
know that he must have felt great joy, as in truth he did. All
the strangers assemble and rejoice over Lancelot, speaking so as
to be heard by him: "Sire, in truth we were joyful as soon as we
heard your name, for we felt sure at once that we should all be
set free." There was a great crowd present at this glad scene,
as each one strives and presses forward to touch him if possible.
Any one who succeeded in touching him was more delighted than he
could tell. There was plenty of joy, and of sorrow too; those
who were now set free rejoiced unrestrainedly; but Meleagant and
his followers have not anything they want, but are pensive,
gloomy, and downcast. The king turns away from the list, taking
with him Lancelot, who begs him to take him to the Queen. "I
shall not fail to do so," the king replies; "for it seems to me
the proper thing to do. And if you like, I will show you Kay the
seneschal." At this Lancelot is so glad that he almost falls at
his feet. Then the king took him at once into the hall, where
the Queen had come to wait for him.

(Vv. 3955-4030.) When the Queen saw the king holding Lancelot by
the hand, she rose before the king, but she looked displeased
with clouded brow, and she spoke not a word. "Lady, here is
Lancelot come to see you," says the king; "you ought to be
pleased and satisfied." "I, sire? He cannot please me. I care
nothing about seeing him." "Come now, lady," says the king who
was very frank and courteous, "what induces you to act like this?
You are too scornful toward a man who has served you so
faithfully that he has repeatedly exposed his life to mortal
danger on this journey for your sake, and who has defended and
rescued you from my son Meleagant who had deeply wronged you."
"Sire, truly he has made poor use of his time. I shall never
deny that I feel no gratitude toward him." Now Lancelot is
dumbfounded; but he replies very humbly like a polished lover:
"Lady, certainly I am grieved at this, but I dare not ask your
reason." The Queen listened as Lancelot voiced his
disappointment, but in order to grieve and confound him, she
would not answer a single word, but returned to her room. And
Lancelot followed her with his eyes and heart until she reached
the door; but she was not long in sight, for the room was close
by. His eyes would gladly have followed her, had that been
possible; but the heart, which is more lordly and masterful in
its strength, went through the door after her, while the eyes
remained behind weeping with the body. And the king said privily
to him: "Lancelot, I am amazed at what this means: and how it
comes about that the Queen cannot endure the sight of you, and
that she is so unwilling to speak with you. If she is ever
accustomed to speak with you, she ought not to be niggardly now
or avoid conversation with you, after what you have done for her.
Now tell me, if you know, why and for what misdeed she has shown
you such a countenance." "Sire, I did not notice that just now;
but she will not look at me or hear my words, and that distresses
and grieves me much." "Surely," says the king, "she is in the
wrong, for you have risked your life for her. Come away now,
fair sweet friend, and we shall go to speak with the seneschal."
"I shall be glad to do so," he replies. Then they both go to the
seneschal. As soon as Lancelot came where he was, the
seneschal's first exclamation was: "How thou hast shamed me!"
"I? How so?" Lancelot inquires; "tell me what disgrace have I
brought upon you?" "A very great disgrace, for thou hast carried
out what I could not accomplish, and thou hast done what I could
not do."

(Vv. 4031-4124.) Then the king left them together in the room,
and went out alone. And Lancelot inquires of the seneschal if he
has been badly off. "Yes," he answers, "and I still am so. I was
never more wretched than I am now. And I should have died a long
time ago, had it not been for the king, who in his compassion has
shown me so much gentleness and kindness that he willingly let me
lack nothing of which I stood in need; but I was furnished at
once with ever)thing that I desired. But opposed to the kindness
which he showed me, was Meleagant his son, who is full of
wickedness, and who summoned the physicians to him and bade them
apply such ointments as would kill me. Such a father and
stepfather have I had! For when the king had a good plaster
applied to my wounds in his desire that I should soon be cured,
his treacherous son, wishing to put me to death, had it promptly
taken off and some harmful salve applied. But I am very sure
that the king was ignorant of this; he would not tolerate such
base and murderous tricks. But you do not know how courteous he
has been to my lady: no frontier tower since the time that Noah
built the ark was ever so carefully guarded, for he has guarded
her so vigilantly that, though his son chafed under the
restraint, he would nor let him see her except in the presence of
the king himself. Up to the present time the king in his mercy
has shown her all the marks of consideration which she herself
proposed. She alone had the disposition of her affairs. And the
king esteemed her all the more for the loyalty she showed. But
is it true, as I am told, that she is so angry with you that she
has publicly refused to speak with you?" "You have been told the
exact truth," Lancelot replies, "but for God's sake, can you tell
me why she is so displeased with me?" He replies that he does
not know, and that he is greatly surprised at it. "Well, let it
be as she pleases," says Lancelot, feeling his helplessness; "I
must now take my leave, and I shall go to seek my lord Gawain who
has entered this land, and who arranged with me that he would
proceed directly to the waterbridge." Then, leaving the room, he
appeared before the king and asked for leave to proceed in that
direction. And the king willingly grants him leave to go. Then
those whom Lancelot had set free and delivered from prison ask
him what they are to do. And he replies: "All those who desire
may come with me, and those who wish to stay with the Queen may
do so: there is no reason why they should accompany me." Then
all those, who so desire, accompany him, more glad and joyous
than is their wont. With the Queen remain her damsels who are
light of heart, and many knights and ladies too. But there is
not one of those who stay behind, who would not have preferred to
return to his own country to staying there. But on my lord
Gawain's account, whose arrival is expected, the Queen keeps
them, saying that she will never stir until she has news of him.

(Vv. 4125-4262.) The news spreads everywhere that the Queen is
free to go, and that all the other prisoners have been set at
liberty and are free to go whenever it suits and pleases them.
Wherever the people of the land gather together, they ask each
other about the truth of this report, and never talk of anything
else. They are very much enraged that all the dangerous passes
have been overcome, and that any one may come and go as he
pleases. But when the natives of the country, who had not been
present at the battle, learned how Lancelot had been the victor,
they all betook themselves to the place where they knew he must
pass by, thinking that the king would be well pleased if they
should seize Lancelot and hale him back to him. All of his own
men were without their arms, and therefore they were at a
disadvantage when they saw the natives of the country coming
under arms. It was not strange that they seized Lancelot, who
was without his arms. They lead him back prisoner, his feet
lashed together beneath his horse. Then his own men say:
"Gentlemen, this is an evil deed; for the king has given us his
safe-conduct, and we are under his protection." But the others
reply: "We do not know how that may be; but as we have taken you,
you must return with us to court." The rumour, which swiftly
flies and runs, reaches the king, that his men have seized
Lancelot and put him to death. When the king hears it, he is
sorely grieved and swears angrily by his head that they who have
killed him shall surely die for the deed; and that, if he can
seize or catch them, it shall be their fate to be hanged, burned,
or drowned. And if they attempt to deny their deed, he will not
believe what they say, for they have brought him such grief and
shame that he would be disgraced were vengeance not to be exacted
from them; but he will be avenged without a doubt. The news of
this spread until it reached the Queen, who was sitting at meat.
She almost killed herself on hearing the false report about
Lancelot, but she supposes it to be true, and therefore she is in
such dismay that she almost loses the power to speak; but,
because of those present, she forces herself to say: "In truth, I
am sorry for his death, and it is no wonder that I grieve, for he
came into this country for my sake, and therefore I should mourn
for him." Then she says to herself, so that the others should
not hear, that no one need ask her to drink or eat, if it is true
that he is dead, in whose life she found her own. Then grieving
she rises from the table, and makes her lament, but so that no
one hears or notices her. She is so beside herself that she
repeatedly grasps her throat with the desire to kill herself; but
first she confesses to herself, and repents with self-reproach,
blaming and censuring herself for the wrong she had done him,
who, as she knew, had always been hers, and would still be hers,
if he were alive. She is so distressed at the thought of her
cruelty, that her beauty is seriously impaired. Her cruelty and
meanness affected her and marred her beauty more than all the
vigils and fastings with which she afflicted herself. When all
her sins rise up before her, she gathers them together, and as
she reviews them, she repeatedly exclaims: "Alas! of what was I
thinking when my lover stood before me and I should have welcomed
him, that I would not listen to his words? Was I not a fool,
when I refused to look at or speak to him? Foolish indeed?
Rather was I base and cruel, so help me God. I intended it as a
jest, but he did not take it so, and has not pardoned me. I am
sure it was no one but me who gave him his death-blow. When he
came before me smiling and expecting that I would be glad to see
him and would welcome him, and when I would not look at him, was
not that a mortal blow? When I refused to speak with him, then
doubtless at one blow I deprived him of his heart and life.
These two strokes have killed him, I am sure; no other bandits
have caused his death. God! can I ever make amends for this
murder and this crime? No, indeed; sooner will the rivers and
the sea dry up. Alas! how much better I should feel, and how
much comfort I should take, if only once before he died I had
held him in my arms! What? Yes, certainly, quite unclad, in
order the better to enjoy him. If he is dead, I am very wicked
not to destroy myself. Why? Can it harm my lover for me to live
on after he is dead, if I take no pleasure in anything but in the
woe I bear for him? In giving myself up to grief after his
death, the very woes I court would be sweet to me, if he were
only still alive. It is wrong for a woman to wish to die rather
than to suffer for her lover's sake. It is certainly sweet for
me to mourn him long. I would rather be beaten alive than die
and be at rest."

(Vv. 4263-4414.) For two days the Queen thus mourned for him
without eating or drinking, until they thought she too would die.
There are plenty of people ready to carry bad news rather than
good. The news reaches Lancelot that his lady and sweetheart is
dead. You need have no doubt of the grief he felt; every one may
feel sure that he was afflicted and overcome with grief. Indeed,
if you would know the truth, he was so downcast that he held his
life in slight esteem. He wished to kill himself at once, but
first he uttered a brief lament. He makes a running noose at one
end of the belt he wore, and then tearfully communes thus with
himself: "Ah, death, how hast thou spied me out and undone me,
when in the bloom of health! I am undone, and yet I feel no pain
except the grief within my heart. This is a terrible mortal
grief. I am willing that it should be so, and if God will, I
shall die of it. Then can I not die some other way, without
God's consent? Yes, if he will let me tie this noose around my
neck. I think I can compel death, even against her will, to take
my life. Death, who covets only those who fear her, will not
come to me; but my belt will bring her within my power, and as
soon as she is mine, she will execute my desire. But, in truth,
she will come too tardily for me, for I yearn to have her now!"
Then he delays and hesitates no longer, but adjusts his head
within the noose until it rests about his neck; and in order that
he may not fail to harm himself, he fastens the end of the belt
tightly about the saddle-bow, without attracting the attention of
any one. Then he let himself slide to earth, intending his horse
to drag him until he was lifeless, for he disdains to live
another hour. When those who ride with him see him fallen to
earth, they suppose him to be in a faint, for no one sees the
noose which he had attached about his neck. At once they caught
him in their arms and, on raising him, they found the noose which
he had put around his neck and with which he sought to kill
himself. They quickly cut the noose; but the noose had so hurt
his throat that for some time he could not speak; the veins of
his neck and throat are almost broken. Now he could not harm
himself, even had he wished to do so; however, he is grieved that
they have laid hands on him, and he almost burns up with rage,
for willingly would he have killed himself had no one chanced to
notice him. And now when he cannot harm himself, he cries: "Ah,
vile and shameless death! For God's sake, why hadst thou not the
power and might to kill me before my lady died? I suppose it was
because thou wouldst not deign to do what might be a kindly deed.
If thou didst spare me, it must be attributed to thy wickedness.
Ah, what kind of service and kindness is that! How well hast
thou employed them here! A curse upon him who thanks thee or
feels gratitude for such a service! I know not which is more my
enemy: life, which detains me, or death, which will not slay me.
Each one torments me mortally; and it serves me right, so help me
God, that in spite of myself I should still live on. For I ought
to have killed myself as soon as my lady the Queen showed her
hate for me; she did not do it without cause, but she had some
good reason, though I know not what it is. And if I had known
what it was before her soul went to God, I should have made her
such rich amends as would have pleased her and gained her mercy.
God! what could my crime have been? I think she must have known
that I mounted upon the cart. I do not know what other cause she
can have to blame me. This has been my undoing. If this is the
reason of her hate, God! what harm could this crime do? Any one
who would reproach me for such an act never knew what love is,
for no one could mention anything which, if prompted by love,
ought to be turned into a reproach. Rather, everything that one
can do for his lady-love is to be regarded as a token of his love
and courtesy. Yet, I did not do it for my `lady-love'. I know
not by what name to call her, whether `lady-love', or not. I do
not dare to call her by this name. But I think I know this much
of love: that if she loved me, she ought not to esteem me less
for this crime, but rather call me her true lover, inasmuch as I
regarded it as an honour to do all love bade me do, even to mount
upon a cart. She ought to ascribe this to love; and this is a
certain proof that love thus tries his devotees and thus learns
who is really his. But this service did not please my lady, as I
discovered by her countenance. And yet her lover did for her
that for which many have shamefully reproached and blamed him,
though she was the cause of it; and many blame me for the part I
have played, and have turned my sweetness into bitterness. In
truth, such is the custom of those who know so little of love,
that even honour they wash in shame. But whoever dips honour
into shame, does not wash it, but rather sullies it. But they,
who maltreat him so, are quite ignorant of love; and he, who
fears not his commands, boasts himself very superior to him. For
unquestionably he fares well who obeys the commands of love, and
whatever he does is pardonable, but he is the coward who does not

(Vv. 4415-4440.) Thus Lancelot makes his lament, and his men
stand grieving by his side, keeping hold of him and guarding him.
Then the news comes that the Queen is not dead. Thereupon
Lancelot at once takes comfort, and if his grief for her death
had before been intense and deep, now his joy for her life was a
hundred thousand times as great. And when they arrived within
six or seven leagues of the castle where King Bademagu was,
grateful news of Lancelot was told him, how he was alive and was
coming hale and hearty, and this news the king was glad to hear.
He did a very courteous thing in going at once to appraise the
Queen. And she replies: "Fair sire, since you say so, I believe
it is true, but I assure you that, if he were dead, I should
never be happy again. All my joy would be cut off, if a knight
had been killed in my service."

(Vv. 4441-4530.) Then the king leaves her, and the Queen yearns
ardently for the arrival of her lover and her joy. She has no
desire this time to bear him any grudge. But rumour, which never
rests but runs always unceasingly, again reaches the Queen to the
effect that Lancelot would have killed himself for her sake, if
he had had the chance. She is happy at the thought that this is
true, but she would not have had it happen so for anything, for
her sorrow would have been too great. Thereupon Lancelot arrived
in haste. (22) As soon as the king sees him, he runs to kiss and
embrace him. He feels as if he ought to fly, borne along by the
buoyancy of his joy. But his satisfaction is cut short by those
who had taken and bound his guest, and the king tells them they
have come in an evil hour, for they shall all be killed and
confounded. Then they made answer that they thought he would
have it so. "It is I whom you have insulted in doing your
pleasure. He has no reason to complain," the king replies; "you
have not shamed him at all, but only me who was protecting him.
However you look at it, the shame is mine. But if you escape me
now, you will see no joke in this." When Lancelot hears his
wrath, he puts forth every effort to make peace and adjust
matters; when his efforts have met with success, the king takes
him away to see the Queen. This time the Queen did not lower her
eyes to the ground, but she went to meet him cheerfully,
honouring him all she could, and making him sit down by her side.
Then they talked together at length of all that was upon their
hearts, and love furnished them with so much to say that topics
did not lack. And when Lancelot sees how well he stands, and
that all he says finds favour with the Queen, he says to her in
confidence: "Lady, I marvel greatly why you received me with such
a countenance when you saw me the day before yesterday, and why
you would not speak a word to me: I almost died of the blow you
gave me, and I had not the courage to dare to question you about
it, as I now venture to do. I am ready now, lady, to make
amends, when you have told me what has been the crime which has
caused me such distress." Then the Queen replies: "What? Did
you not hesitate for shame to mount the cart? You showed you
were loath to get in, when you hesitated for two whole steps.
That is the reason why I would neither address nor look at you."
"May God save me from such a crime again," Lancelot replies, "and
may God show me no mercy, if you were not quite right! For God's
sake, lady, receive my amends at once, and tell me, for God's
sake, if you can ever pardon me." "Friend, you are quite
forgiven," the Queen replies; "I pardon you willingly." "Thank
you for that, lady," he then says; "but I cannot tell you here
all that I should like to say; I should like to talk with you
more at leisure, if possible." Then the Queen indicates a window
by her glance rather than with her finger, and says: "Come
through the garden to-night and speak with me at yonder window,
when every one inside has gone to sleep. You will not be able to
get in: I shall be inside and you outside: to gain entrance will
be impossible. I shall be able to touch you only with my lips or
hand, but, if you please, I will stay there until morning for
love of you. Our bodies cannot be joined, for close beside me in
my room lies Kay the seneschal, who is still suffering from his
wounds. And the door is not open, but is tightly closed and
guarded well. When you come, take care to let no spy catch sight
of you." "Lady," says he, "if I can help it, no spy shall see me
who might think or speak evil of us." Then, having agreed upon
this plan, they separate very joyfully.

(Vv. 4551-4650.) Lancelot leaves the room in such a happy frame
that all his past troubles are forgotten. But he was so
impatient for the night to come that his restlessness made the
day seem longer than a hundred ordinary days or than an entire
year. If night had only come, he would gladly have gone to the
trysting place. Dark and sombre night at last won its struggle
with the day, and wrapped it up in its covering, and laid it away
beneath its cloak. When he saw the light of day obscured, he
pretended to be tired and worn, and said that, in view of his
protracted vigils, he needed rest. You, who have ever done the
same, may well understand and guess that he pretends to be tired
and goes to bed in order to deceive the people of the house; but
he cared nothing about his bed, nor would he have sought rest
there for anything, for he could not have done so and would not
have dared, and furthermore he would not have cared to possess
the courage or the power to do so. Soon he softly rose, and was
pleased to find that no moon or star was shining, and that in the
house there was no candle, lamp, or lantern burning. Thus he
went out and looked about, but there was no one on the watch for
him, for all thought that he would sleep in his bed all night.
Without escort or company he quickly went out into the garden,
meeting no one on the way, and he was so fortunate as to find
that a part of the garden-wall had recently fallen down. Through
this break he passes quickly and proceeds to the window, where he
stands, taking good care not to cough or sneeze, until the Queen
arrives clad in a very white chemise. She wore no cloak or coat,
but had thrown over her a short cape of scarlet cloth and
shrew-mouse fur. As soon as Lancelot saw the Queen leaning on
the window-sill behind the great iron bars, he honoured her with
a gentle salute. She promptly returned his greeting, for he was
desirous of her, and she of him. Their talk and conversation are
not of vulgar, tiresome affairs. They draw close to one another,
until each holds the other's hand. But they are so distressed at
not being able to come together more completely, that they curse
the iron bars. Then Lancelot asserts that, with the Queen's
consent, he will come inside to be with her, and that the bars
cannot keep him out. And the Queen replies: "Do you not see how
the bars are stiff to bend and hard to break? You could never so
twist, pull or drag at them as to dislodge one of them." "Lady,"
says he, "have no fear of that. It would take more than these
bars to keep me out. Nothing but your command could thwart my
power to come to you. If you will but grant me your permission,
the way will open before me. But if it is not your pleasure,
then the way is so obstructed that I could not possibly pass
through." "Certainly," she says, "I consent. My will need not
stand in your way; but you must wait until I retire to my bed
again, so that no harm may come to you, for it would be no joke
or jest if the seneschal, who is sleeping here, should wake up on
hearing you. So it is best for me to withdraw, for no good could
come of it, if he should see me standing here." "Go then, lady,"
he replies; "but have no fear that I shall make any noise. I
think I can draw out the bars so softly and with so little effort
that no one shall be aroused."

(Vv. 4651-4754.) Then the Queen retires, and he prepares to
loosen the window. Seizing the bars, he pulls and wrenches them
until he makes them bend and drags them from their places. But
the iron was so sharp that the end of his little finger was cut
to the nerve, and the first joint of the next finger was torn;
but he who is intent upon something else paid no heed to any of
his wounds or to the blood which trickled down. Though the
window is not low, Lancelot gets through it quickly and easily.
First he finds Kay asleep in his bed, then he comes to the bed of
the Queen, whom he adores and before whom he kneels, holding her
more dear than the relic of any saint. And the Queen extends her
arms to him and, embracing him, presses him tightly against her
bosom, drawing him into the bed beside her and showing him every
possible satisfaction; her love and her heart go out to him. It
is love that prompts her to treat him so; and if she feels great
love for him, he feels a hundred thousand times as much for her.
For there is no love at all in other hearts compared with what
there is in his; in his heart love was so completely embodied
that it was niggardly toward all other hearts. Now Lancelot
possesses all he wants, when the Queen voluntarily seeks his
company and love, and when he holds her in his arms, and she
holds him in hers. Their sport is so agreeable and sweet, as
they kiss and fondle each other, that in truth such a marvellous
joy comes over them as was never heard or known. But their joy
will not be revealed by me, for in a story, it has no place.
Yet, the most choice and delightful satisfaction was precisely
that of which our story must not speak. That night Lancelot's
joy and pleasure were very great. But, to his sorrow, day comes
when he must leave his mistress' side. It cost him such pain to
leave her that he suffered a real martyr's agony. His heart now
stays where the Queen remains; he has not the power to lead it
away, for it finds such pleasure in the Queen that it has no
desire to leave her: so his body goes, and his heart remains.
But enough of his body stays behind to spot and stain the sheets
with the blood which has fallen from his fingers. Full of sighs
and tears, Lancelot leaves in great distress. He grieves that no
time is fixed for another meeting, but it cannot be. Regretfully
he leaves by the window through which he had entered so happily.
He was so badly wounded in the fingers that they were in sorry,
state; yet he straightened the bars and set them in their place
again, so that from neither side, either before or behind, was it
evident that any one had drawn out or bent any of the bars. When
he leaves the room, he bows and acts precisely as if he were
before a shrine; then he goes with a heavy heart, and reaches his
lodgings without being recognised by any one. He throws himself
naked upon his bed without awaking any one, and then for the
first time he is surprised to notice the cuts in his fingers; but
he is not at all concerned, for he is very sure that the wound
was caused by dragging the window bars from the wall. Therefore
he was not at all worried, for he would rather have had both arms
dragged from his body than not enter through the window. But he
would have been very angry and distressed, if he had thus injured
and wounded himself under any other circumstances.

(Vv. 4755-5006.) In the morning, within her curtained room, the
Queen had fallen into a gentle sleep; she had not noticed that
her sheets were spotted with blood, but she supposed them to be
perfectly white and clean and presentable. Now Meleagant, as
soon as he was dressed and ready, went to the room where the
Queen lay. He finds her awake, and he sees the sheets spotted
with fresh drops of blood, whereupon he nudges his companions
and, suspicious of some mischief, looks at the bed of Kay the
seneschal, and sees that his sheets are blood-stained too, for
you must know that in the night his wounds had begun to bleed
afresh. Then he said: "Lady, now I have found the evidence that
I desired. It is very true that any man is a fool to try to
confine a woman: he wastes his efforts and his pains. He who
tries to keep her under guard loses her sooner than the man who
takes no thought of her. A fine watch, indeed, has been kept by
my father, who is guarding you on my behalf! He has succeeded in
keeping you from me, but, in spite of him, Kay the seneschal has
looked upon you last night, and has done what he pleased with
you, as can readily be proved." "What is that?" she asks.
"Since I must speak, I find blood on your sheets, which proves
the fact. I know it and can prove it, because I find on both
your sheets and his the blood which issued from his wounds: the
evidence is very strong." Then the Queen saw on both beds the
bloody sheets, and marvelling, she blushed with shame and said:
"So help me God, this blood which I see upon my sheets was never
brought here by Kay, but my nose bled during the night, and I
suppose it must be from my nose." In saying so, she thinks she
tells the truth. "By my head," says Meleagant, "there is nothing
in what you say. Swearing is of no avail, for you are taken in
your guilt, and the truth will soon be proved." Then he said to
the guards who were present: "Gentlemen, do not move, and see to
it that the sheets are not taken from the bed until I return. I
wish the king to do me justice, as soon as he has seen the
truth." Then he searched until he found him, and failing at his
feet, he said: "Sire, come to see what you have failed to guard.
Come to see the Queen, and you shall see the certain marvels
which I have already seen and tested. But, before you go, I beg
you not to fail to be just and upright toward me. You know well
to what danger I have exposed myself for the Queen; yet, you are
no friend of mine and keep her from me under guard. This morning
I went to see her in her bed, and I remarked that Kay lies with
her every night. Sire, for God's sake, be not angry, if I am
disgruntled and if I complain. For it is very humiliating for me
to be hated and despised by one with whom Kay is allowed to lie."
"Silence!" says the king; "I don't believe it." "Then come, my
lord, and see the sheets and the state in which Kay has left
them. Since you will not believe my words, and since you think I
am lying, I will show you the sheets and the quilt covered with
blood from Kay's wounds." "Come now," says the king, "I wish to
see for myself, and my eyes will judge of the truth." Then the
king goes directly to the room, where the Queen got up at his
approach. He sees that the sheets are blood-stained on her bed
and on Kay's alike and he says: "Lady, it is going badly now, if
what my son has said is true." Then she replies: "So help me
God, never even in a dream was uttered such a monstrous lie. I
think Kay the seneschal is courteous and loyal enough not to
commit such a deed, and besides, I do not expose my body in the
market-place, nor offer it of my own free will. Surely, Kay is
not the man to make an insulting proposal to me, and I have never
desired and shall never desire to do such a thing myself."
"Sire, I shall be much obliged to you," says Meleagant to his
father, "if Kay shall be made to atone for this outrage, and the
Queen's shame thus be exposed. It devolves upon you to see that
justice is done, and this justice I now request and claim. Kay
has betrayed King Arthur, his lord, who had such confidence in
him that he entrusted to him what he loved most in the world."
"Let me answer, sire," says Kay, "and I shall exonerate myself.
May God have no mercy upon my soul when I leave this world, if I
ever lay with my lady! Indeed, I should rather be dead than ever
do my lord such an ugly wrong, and may God never grant me better
health than I have now but rather kill me on the spot, if such a
thought ever entered my mind! But I know that my wounds bled
profusely last night, and that is the reason why my sheets are
stained with blood. That is why your son suspects me, but surely
he has no right to do so." And Meleagant answers him: "So help
me God, the devils and demons have betrayed you. You grew too
heated last night and, as a result of your exertions, your wounds
have doubtless bled afresh. There is no use in your denying it;
we can see it, and it is perfectly evident. It is right that he
should atone for his crime, who is so plainly taken in his guilt.
Never did a knight with so fair a name commit such iniquities as
this, and yours is the shame for it." "Sire, sire," says Kay to
the king, "I will defend the Queen and myself against the
accusation of your son. He harasses and distresses me, though he
has no ground to treat me so." "You cannot fight," the king
replies, "you are too ill." "Sire, if you will allow it, I will
fight with him, ill as I am, and will show him that I am not
guilty of the crime which he imputes to me." But the Queen,
having secretly sent word to Lancelot, tells the king that she
will present a knight who will defend the seneschal, if Meleagant
dares to urge this charge. Then Meleagant said at once: "There
is no knight without exception, even were he a giant, whom I will
not fight until one of us is defeated." Then Lancelot came in,
and with him such a rout of knights that the whole hall was
filled with them. As soon as he had entered, in the hearing of
all, both young and old, the Queen told what had happened, and
said: "Lancelot, this insult has been done me by Meleagant. In
the presence of all who hear his words he says I have lied, if
you do not make him take it back. Last night, he asserted, Kay
lay with me, because he found my sheets, like his, all stained
with blood; and he says that he stands convicted, unless he will
undertake his own defence, or unless some one else will fight the
battle on his behalf." Lancelot says: "You need never use
arguments with me. May it not please God that either you or he
should be thus discredited! I am ready to fight and to prove to
the extent of my power that he never was guilty of such a
thought. I am ready to employ my strength in his behalf, and to
defend him against this charge." Then Meleagant jumped up and
said: "So help me God, I am pleased and well satisfied with that:
no one need think that I object." And Lancelot said: "My lord
king, I am well acquainted with suits and laws, with trials and
verdicts: in a question of veracity an oath should be taken
before the fight." Meleagant at once replies: "I agree to take
an oath; so let the relics be brought at once, for I know well
that I am right." And Lancelot answers him: "So help me God, no
one who ever knew Kay the seneschal would doubt his word on such
a point." Then they call for their horses, and ask that their
arms be brought. This is promptly done, and when the valets had
armed them, they were ready for the fight. Then the holy relics
are brought forth: Meleagant steps forward, with Lancelot by his
side, and both fall on their knees. Then Meleagant, laying his
hands upon the relics, swears unreservedly: "So help me God and
this holy relic, Kay the seneschal lay with the Queen in her bed
last night and, had his pleasure with her." "And I swear that
thou liest," says Lancelot, "and furthermore I swear that he
neither lay with her nor touched her. And may it please God to
take vengeance upon him who has lied, and may He bring the truth
to light! Moreover, I will take another oath and swear, whoever
may dislike it or be displeased, that if I am permitted to
vanquish Meleagant to-day, I will show him no mercy, so help me
God and these relics here!" The king felt no joy when he heard
this oath.

(Vv. 5007-5198.) When the oaths had been taken, their horses
were brought forward, which were fair and good in every way.
Each man mounts his own home, and they ride at once at each other
as fast as the steeds can carry them; and when the horses are in
mid-career, the knights strike each other so fiercely that there
is nothing left of the lances in their hands. Each brings the
other to earth; however, they are not dismayed, but they rise at
once and attack each other with their sharp drawn swords. The
burning sparks fly in the air from their helmets. They assail
each other so bitterly with the drawn swords in their hands that,
as they thrust and draw, they encounter each other with their
blows and will not pause even to catch their breath. The king in
his grief and anxiety called the Queen, who had gone up in the
tower to look out from the balcony: he begged her for God's sake,
the Creator, to let them be separated. "Whatever is your
pleasure is agreeable to me," the Queen says honestly: "I shall
not object to anything you do." Lancelot plainly heard what
reply the Queen made to the king's request, and from that time he
ceased to fight and renounced the struggle at once. But
Meleagant does not wish to stop, and continues to strike and hew
at him. But the king rushes between them and stops his son, who
declares with an oath that he has no desire for peace. He wants
to fight, and cares not for peace. Then the king says to him:
"Be quiet, and take my advice, and be sensible. No shame or harm
shall come to thee, if thou wilt do what is right and heed my
words. Dost thou not remember that thou hast agreed to fight him
at King Arthur's court? And dost thou not suppose that it would
be a much greater honour for thee to defeat him there than
anywhere else?" The king says this to see if he can so influence
him as to appease him and separate them. And Lancelot, who was
impatient to go in search of my lord Gawain, requests leave of
the king and Queen to depart. With their permission he goes away
toward the water-bridge, and after him there followed a great
company of knights. But it would have suited him very well, if
many of those who went had stayed behind. They make long days'
journeys until they approach the water-bridge, but are still
about a league from it. Before they came in sight of the bridge,
a dwarf came to meet them on a mighty hunter, holding a scourge
with which to urge on and incite his steed. In accordance with
his instructions, he at once inquired: "Which of you is Lancelot?
Don't conceal him from me; I am of your party; tell me
confidently, for I ask the question for your good." Lancelot
replies in his own behalf, and says: "I am he whom thou seekest
and askest for." "Ah," says the dwarf, "frank knight, leave
these people, and trust in me. Come along with me alone, for I
will take thee to a goodly place. Let no one follow thee for
anything, but let them wait here; for we shall return presently."
He, suspecting no harm in this, bids all his men stay there, and
follows the dwarf who has betrayed him. Meanwhile his men who
wait for him may continue to expect him long in vain, for they,
who have taken and seized him, have no desire to give him up.
And his men are in such a state of grief at his failure to return
that they do not know what steps to take. They all say
sorrowfully that the dwarf has betrayed them. It would be
useless to inquire for him: with heavy hearts they begin to
search, but they know not where to look for him with any hope of
finding him. So they all take counsel, and the most reasonable
and sensible agree on this, it seems: to go to the passage of the
water-bridge, which is close by, to see if they can find my lord
Gawain in wood or plain, and then with his advice search for
Lancelot. Upon this plan they all agree without dissension.
Toward the water-bridge they go, and as soon as they reach the
bridge, they see my lord Gawain overturned and fallen from the
bridge into the stream which is very deep. One moment he rises,
and the next he sinks; one moment they see him, and the next they
lose him from sight. They make such efforts that they succeed in
raising him with branches, poles and hooks. He had nothing but
his hauberk on his back, and on his head was fixed his helmet,
which was worth ten of the common sort, and he wore his iron
greaves, which were all rusty with his sweat, for he had endured
great trials, and had passed victoriously through many perils and
assaults. His lance, his shield, and horse were all behind on
the other bank. Those who have rescued him do not believe he is
alive. For his body was full of water, and until he got rid of
it, they did not hear him speak a word. But when his speech and
voice and the passageway to his heart are free, and as soon, as
what he said could be heard and understood, he tried to speak he
inquired at once for the Queen, whether those present had any
news of her. And they replied that she is still with King
Bademagu, who serves her well and honourably. "Has no one come
to seek her in this land?" my lord Gawain then inquires of them.
And they answer him: "Yes, indeed." "Who?" "Lancelot of the
Lake," they say, "who crossed the sword-bridge, and rescued and
delivered her as well as all the rest of us. But we have been
betrayed by a pot-bellied, humpbacked, and crabbed dwarf. He has
deceived us shamefully in seducing Lancelot from us, and we do
not know what he has done with him." "When was that?" my lord
Gawain inquires. "Sire, near here this very day this trick was
played on us, while he was coming with us to meet you." "And how
has Lancelot been occupied since he entered this land?" Then
they begin to tell him all about him in detail, and then they
tell him about the Queen, how she is waiting for him and
asserting that nothing could induce her to leave the country,
until she sees him or hears some credible news of him. To them
my lord Gawain replies: "When we leave this bridge, we shall go
to search for Lancelot." There is not one who does not advise
rather that they go to the Queen at once, and have the king seek
Lancelot, for it is their opinion that his son Meleagant has
shown his enmity by having him cast into prison. But if the king
can learn where he is, he will certainly make him surrender him:
they can rely upon this with confidence.

(Vv. 5199-5256.) They all agreed upon this plan, and started at
once upon their way until they drew near the court where the
Queen and king were. There, too, was Kay the seneschal, and that
disloyal man, full to overflowing of treachery, who has aroused
the greatest anxiety for Lancelot on the part of the party which
now arrives. They feel they have been discomfited and betrayed,
and they make great lament in their misery. It is not a gracious
message which reports this mourning to the Queen. Nevertheless,
she deports herself with as good a grace as possible. She
resolves to endure it, as she must, for the sake of my lord
Gawain. However, she does not so conceal her grief that it does
not somewhat appear. She has to show both joy and grief at once:
her heart is empty for Lancelot, and to my lord Gawain she shows
excessive joy. Every one who hears of the loss of Lancelot is
grief-stricken and distracted. The king would have rejoiced at
the coming of my lord Gawain and would have been delighted with
his acquaintance; but he is so sorrowful and distressed over the
betrayal of Lancelot that he is prostrated and full of grief.
And the Queen beseeches him insistently to have him searched for,
up and down throughout the land, without postponement or delay.
My lord Gawain and Kay and all the others join in this prayer and
request. "Leave this care to me, and speak no more of it," the
king replies, "for I have been ready to do so for some time.
Without need of request or prayer this search shall be made with
thoroughness." Everyone bows in sign of gratitude, and the king
at once sends messengers through his realm, sagacious and prudent
men-at-arms, who inquired for him throughout the land. They made
inquiry for him everywhere, but gained no certain news of him.
Not finding any, they come back to the place where the knights
remain; then Gawain and Kay and all the others say that they will
go in search of him, fully armed and lance in rest; they will not
trust to sending some one else.

(Vv. 5257-5378.) One day after dinner they were all in the hall
putting on their arms, and the point had been reached where there
was nothing to do but start, when a valet entered and passed by
them all until he came before the Queen, whose cheeks were by no
means rosy! For she was in such mourning for Lancelot, of whom
she had no news, that she had lost all her colour. The valet
greeted her as well as the king, who was by her side, and then
all the others and Kay and my lord Gawain. He held a letter in
his hand which he gave to the king, who took it. The king had it
read in the hearing of all by one who made no mistake in reading
it. The reader knew full well how to communicate to them what
was written in the parchment: he says that Lancelot sends
greetings to the king as his kind lord, and thanks him for the
honour and kindness he has shown him, and that he now places
himself at the king's orders. And know that he is now hale and
hearty at King Arthur's court, and he bids him tell the Queen to
come thither, if she will consent, in company with my lord Gawain
and Kay. In proof of which, he affixed his signature which they
should recognise, as indeed they did. At this they were very
happy and glad; the whole court resounds with their jubilation,
and they say they will start next day as soon as it is light.
So, when the day broke, they make ready and prepare: they rise
and mount and start. With great joy and jubilee the king escorts
them for a long distance on their way. When he has conducted
them to the frontier and has seen them safely across the border,
he takes leave of the Queen, and likewise of all the rest. And
when he comes to take his leave, the Queen is careful to express
her gratitude for all the kindness he has shown to her, and
throwing her arms about his neck, she offers and promises him her
own service and that of her lord: no greater promise can she
make. And my lord Gawain promises his service to him, as to his
lord and friend, and then Kay does likewise, and all the rest.
Then the king commends them to God as they start upon their way.
After these three, he bids the rest farewell, and then turns his
face toward home. The Queen and her company do not tarry a
single day until news of them reaches the court. King Arthur was
delighted at the news of the Queen's approach, and he is happy
and pleased at the thought that his nephew had brought about the
Queen's return, as well as that of Kay and of the lesser folk.
But the truth is quite different from what he thinks. All the
town is cleared as they go to meet them, and knights and vassals
join in shouting as they approach: "Welcome to my lord Gawain,
who has brought back the Queen and many another captive lady, and
has freed for us many prisoners!" Then Gawain answered them:
"Gentlemen, I do not deserve your praise. Do not trouble ever to
say this again, for the compliment does not apply to me. This
honour causes me only shame, for I did not reach the Queen in
time; my detention made me late. But Lancelot reached there in
time, and won such honour as was never won by any other knight."
"Where is he, then, fair dear sire, for we do not see him here?"
"Where?" echoes my lord Gawain; "at the court of my lord the
King, to be sure. Is he not?" "No, he is not here, or anywhere
else in this country. Since my lady was taken away, we have had
no news of him." Then for the first time my lord Gawain realised
that the letter had been forged, and that they had been betrayed
and deceived: by the letter they had been misled. Then they all
begin to lament, and they come thus weeping to the court, where
the King at once asks for information about the affair. There
were plenty who could tell him how much Lancelot had done, how
the Queen and all the captives were delivered from durance by
him, and by what treachery the dwarf had stolen him and drawn him
away from them. This news is not pleasing to the King, and he is
very sorry and full of grief; but his heart is so lightened by
the pleasure he takes in the Queen's return, that his grief
concludes in joy. When he has what he most desires, he cares
little for the rest.

(Vv. 5379-5514.) While the Queen was out of the country, I
believe, the ladies and the damsels who were disconsolate,
decided among themselves that they would marry, soon, and they
organised a contest and a tournament. The lady of Noauz was
patroness of it, with the lady of Pomelegloi. They will have
nothing to do with those who fare ill, but they assert that they
will accept those who comport themselves well in the tournament.
And they had the date of the contest proclaimed s long while in
advance in all the countries near and far, in order that there
might be more participants. Now the Queen arrived before the
date they had set, and as soon as the ladies heard of the Queen's
return, most of them came at once to the King and besought him
to grant them a favour and boon, which he did. He promised to do
whatever they wished, before he knew what their desire might be.
Then they told him that they wished him to let the Queen come to
be present at their contest. And he who was not accustomed to
forbid, said he was willing, if she wished ir so. In happy mood
they go to the Queen and say to her: "Lady, do not deprive us of
the boon which the King has granted us." Then she asks them:
"What is that? Don't fail to tell!" Then they say to her: "If
you will come to our tournament, he will not gainsay you nor
stand in the way." Then she said that she would come, since he
was willing that she should. Promptly the dames send word
throughout the realm that they are going to bring the Queen on
the day set for the tournament. The news spread far and near,
here and there, until it reached the kingdom whence no one used
to return--but now whoever wished might enter or pass out
unopposed. The news travelled in this kingdom until it came to a
seneschal of the faithless Meleagant may an evil fire burn
him! This seneschal had Lancelot in his keeping, for to him he
had been entrusted by his enemy Meleagant, who hated him with
deadly hate. Lancelot learned the hour and date of the
tournament, and as soon as he heard of it, his eyes were not
tearless nor was his heart glad. The lady of the house, seeing
Lancelot sad and pensive, thus spoke to him: "Sire, for God's
sake and for your own soul's good, tell me truly," the lady said,
"why you are so changed. You won't eat or drink anything, and I
see that you do not make merry or laugh. You can tell me with
confidence why you are so sad and troubled." "Ah, lady, for
God's sake, do not be surprised that I am sad! Truly, I am very
much downcast, since I cannot be present where all that is good
in the world will be assembled: that is, at the tournament where
there will be a gathering of the people who make the earth
tremble. Nevertheless, if it pleased you, and if God should
incline your heart to let me go thither, you might rest assured
that I should be careful to return to my captivity here." "I
would gladly do it," she replied, "if I did not see that my death
and destruction would result. But I am in such terror of my
lord, the despicable Meleagant, that I would not dare to do it,
for he would kill my husband at once. It is not strange that I
am afraid of him, for, as you know, he is very bad." "Lady, if
you are afraid that I may not return to you at once after the
tournament, I will take an oath which I will never break, that
nothing will detain me from returning at once to my prison here
immediately after the tournament." Upon my word," said she, "I
will allow it upon one condition." "Lady, what condition is
that?" Then she replies: "Sire, upon condition that you wilt
swear to return to me, and promise that I shall have your love."
"Lady, I give you all the love I have, and swear to come back."
Then the lady laughs and says: "I have no cause to boast of such
a gift, for I know you have bestowed upon some one else the love
for which I have just made request. However, I do not disdain to
take so much of it as I can get. I shall be satisfied with what
I can have, and will accept your oath that you will be so
considerate of me as to return hither a prisoner."

(Vv. 5515-5594.) In accordance with her wish, Lancelot swears by
Holy Church that he will return without fail. And the lady at
once gives him the vermilion arms of her lord, and his horse
which was marvellously good and strong and brave. He mounts and
leaves, armed with handsome, new arms, and proceeds until he
comes to Noauz. He espoused this side in the tournament, and
took his lodging outside the town. Never did such a noble man
choose such a small and lowly lodging-place; but he did not wish
to lodge where he might be recognised. There were many good and
excellent knights gathered within the town. But there were many
more outside, for so many had come on account of the presence of
the Queen that the fifth part could not be accommodated inside.
For every one who would have been there under ordinary
circumstances, there were seven who would not have come excepting
on the Queen's account. The barons were quartered in tents,
lodges, and pavilions for five leagues around. Moreover, it was
wonderful how many gentle ladies and damsels were there.
Lancelot placed his shield outside the door of his lodging-place,
and then, to make himself more comfortable, he took off his arms
and lay down upon a bed which he held in slight esteem; for it
was narrow and had a thin mattress, and was covered with a coarse
hempen cloth. Lancelot had thrown himself upon the bed all
disarmed, and as he lay there in such poor estate, behold! a
fellow came in in his shirt-sleeves; he was a herald-at-arms, and
had left his coat and shoes in the tavern as a pledge; so he came
running barefoot and exposed to the wind. He saw the shield
hanging outside the door, and looked at it: but naturally he did
not recognise it or know to whom it belonged, or who was the
bearer of it. He sees the door of the house standing open, and
upon entering, he sees Lancelot upon the bed, and as soon as he
saw him, he recognised him and crossed himself. And Lancelot
made a sign to him, and ordered him not to speak of him wherever
he might go, for if he should tell that he knew him, it would be
better for him to have his eyes put out or his neck broken.
"Sire," the herald says, "I have always held you in high esteem,
and so long as I live, I shall never do anything to cause you
displeasure." Then he runs from the house and cries aloud: "Now
there has come one who will take the measure! (23) Now there has
come one who will take the measure!" The fellow shouts this
everywhere, and the people come from every side and ask him what
is the meaning of his cry. He is not so rash as to answer them,
but goes on shouting the same words: "Now there has come one who
will take the measure!" This herald was the master of us all,
when he taught us to use the phrase, for he was the first to make
use of it.

(Vv. 5595-5640.) Now the crowd was assembled, including the
Queen and all the ladies, the knights and the other people, and
there were many men-at-arms everywhere, to the right and left.
At the place where the tournament was to be, there were some
large wooden stands for the use of the Queen with her ladies and
damsels. Such fine stands were never seen before they were so
long and well constructed. Thither the ladies betook themselves
with the Queen, wishing to see who would fare better or worse in
the combat. Knights arrive by tens, twenties, and thirties, here
eighty and there ninety, here a hundred, there still more, and
yonder twice as many yet; so that the press is so great in front
of the stands and all around that they decide to begin the joust.
As they assemble, armed and unarmed, their lances suggest the
appearance of a wood, for those who have come to the sport
brought so many lances that there is nothing in sight but lances,
banners, and standards. Those who are going to take part begin
to joust, and they find plenty of their companions who had come
with similar intent. Still others prepare to perform other feats
of chivalry. The fields, meadows, and fallow lands are so full
of knights that it is impossible to estimate how many of them are
there. But there was no sign of Lancelot at this first gathering
of the knights; but later, when he entered the middle of the
field, the herald saw him and could not refrain from crying out:
"Behold him who will take the measure! Behold him who will take
the measure!" And the people ask him who he is, but he will not
tell them anything.

(Vv. 5641-6104.) When Lancelot entered the tournament, he was as
good as twenty of the best, and he began to fight so doughtily
that no one could take his eyes from him, wherever he was. On
the Pomelegloi side there was a brave and valorous knight, and
his horse was spirited and swifter than a wild stag. He was the
son of the Irish king, and fought well and handsomely. But the
unknown knight pleased them all more a hundred times. In wonder
they all make haste to ask: "Who is this knight who fights so
well?" And the Queen privily called a clever and wise damsel to
her and said: "Damsel, you must carry a message, and do it
quickly and with few words. Go down from the stand, and approach
yonder knight with the vermilion shield, and tell him privately
that I bid him do his `worst'." She goes quickly, and with
intelligence executes the Queen's command. She sought the knight
until she came up close to him; then she said to him prudently
and in a voice so low that no one standing by might hear: "Sire,
my lady the Queen sends you word by me that you shall do your
`worst'." When he heard this, he replied: "Very willingly," like
one who is altogether hers. Then he rides at another knight as
hard as his horse can carry him, and misses his thrust which
should have struck him. From that time till evening fell he
continued to do as badly as possible in accordance with the
Queen's desire. But the other, who fought with him, did not miss
his thrust, but struck him with such violence that he was roughly
handled. Thereupon he took to flight, and after that he never
turned his horse's head toward any knight, and were he to die for
it, he would never do anything unless he saw in it his shame,
disgrace, and dishonour; he even pretends to be afraid of all the
knights who pass to and fro. And the very knights who formerly
esteemed him now hurled jests and jibes at him. And the herald
who had been saying: "He will beat them all in turn!" is greatly
dejected and discomfited when he hears the scornful jokes of
those who shout: "Friend, say no more! This fellow will not take
any one's measure again. He has measured so much that his
yardstick is broken, of which thou hast boasted to us so much."
Many say: "What is he going to do? He was so brave just now; but
now he is so cowardly that there is not a knight whom he dares to
face. The cause of his first success must have been that he
never engaged at arms before, and he was so brave at his first
attack that the most skilled knight dared not withstand him, for
he fought like a wild man. But now he has learned so much of
arms that he will never wish to bear them again his whole life
long. His heart cannot longer endure the thought, for there is
nothing more cowardly than his heart." And the Queen, as she
watches him, is happy and well-pleased, for she knows full well,
though she does not say it, that this is surely Lancelot. Thus
all day long till evening he played his coward's part, and late
in the afternoon they separated. At parting there was a great
discussion as to who had done the best. The son of the Irish
king thinks that without doubt or contradiction he has all the
glory and renown. But he is grievously mistaken, for there were
plenty of others as good as he. Even the vermilion knight so
pleased the fairest and gentlest of the ladies and damsels that
they had gazed at him more than at any other knight, for they had
remarked how well he fought at first, and how excellent and brave
he was; then he had become so cowardly that he dared not face a
single knight, and even the worst of them could defeat and
capture him at will. But knights and ladies all agreed that on
the morrow they should return to the list, and the damsels should
choose as their lords those who should win honour in that day's
fight: on this arrangement they all agree. Then they turn toward
their lodgings, and when they had returned, here and there men
began to say: "What has become of the worst, the most craven and
despised of knights? Whither did he go? Where is he concealed?
Where is he to be found? Where shall we search for him? We
shall probably never see him again. For he has been driven off
by cowardice, with which he is so filled that there is no greater
craven in the world than he. And he is not wrong, for a coward
is a hundred times more at ease than a valorous fighting man.
Cowardice is easy of entreaty, and that is the reason he has
given her the kiss of peace and has taken from her all she has to
give. Courage never so debased herself as to lodge in his breast
or take quarters near him. But cowardice is altogether lodged
with him, and she has found a host who will honour her and serve
her so faithfully that he is willing to resign his own fair name
for hers." Thus they wrangle all night, vying with each other in
slander. But often one man maligns another, and yet is much
worse himself than the object of his blame and scorn. Thus,
every one said what he pleased about him. And when the next day
dawned, all the people prepared and came again to the jousting
place. The Queen was in the stand again, accompanied by her
ladies and damsels and many knights without their arms, who had
been captured or defeated, and these explained to them the
armorial bearings of the knights whom they most esteem. Thus
they talk among themselves: (24) "Do you see that knight yonder
with a golden band across the middle of his red shield? That is
Governauz of Roberdic. And do you see that other one, who has an
eagle and a dragon painted side by side upon his shield? That is
the son of the King of Aragon, who has come to this land in
search of glory and renown. And do you see that one beside him,
who thrusts and jousts so well, bearing a shield with a leopard
painted on a green ground on one part, and the other half is
azure blue? That is Ignaures the well-beloved, a lover himself
and jovial. And he who bears the shield with the pheasants
portrayed beak to beak is Coguillanz of Mautirec. Do you see
those two side by side, with their dappled steeds, and golden
shields showing black lions? One is named Semiramis, and the
other is his companion; their shields are painted alike. And do
you see the one who has a shield with a gate painted on it,
through which a stag appears to be passing out? That is King
Ider, in truth." Thus they talk up in the stand. "That shield
was made at Limoges, whence it was brought by Pilades, who is
very ardent and keen to be always in the fight. That shield,
bridle, and breast-strap were made at Toulouse, and were brought
here by Kay of Estraus. The other came from Lyons on the Rhone,
and there is no better under heaven; for his great merit it was
presented to Taulas of the Desert, who bears it well and protects
himself with it skilfully. Yonder shield is of English
workmanship and was made at London; you see on it two swallows
which appear as if about to fly; yet they do not move, but
receive many blows from the Poitevin lances of steel; he who has
it is poor Thoas." Thus they point out and describe the arms of
those they know; but they see nothing of him whom they had held
in such contempt, and, not remarking him in the fray, they
suppose that he has slipped away. When the Queen sees that he is
not there, she feels inclined to send some one to search for him
in the crowd until he be found. She knows of no one better to
send in search of him than she who yesterday performed her
errand. So, straightway calling her, she said to her: "Damsel,
go and mount your palfrey! I send you to the same knight as I
sent you yesterday, and do you seek him until you find him. Do
not delay for any cause, and tell him again to do his `worst'.
And when you have given him this message, mark well what reply he
makes." The damsel makes no delay, for she had carefully noticed
the direction he took the night before, knowing well that she
would be sent to him again. She made her way through the ranks
until she saw the knight, whom she instructs at once to do his
"worst" again, if he desires the love and favour of the Queen
which she sends him. And he makes answer: "My thanks to her,
since such is her will." Then the damsel went away, and the
valets, sergeants, and squires begin to shout: "See this
marvellous thing! He of yesterday with the vermilion arms is
back again. What can he want? Never in the world was there such
a vile, despicable, and craven wretch! He is so in the power of
cowardice that resistance is useless on his part." And the
damsel returns to the Queen, who detained her and would not let
her go until she heard what his response had been; then she
heartily rejoiced, feeling no longer any doubt that this is he to
whom she altogether belongs, and he is hers in like manner. Then
she bids the damsel quickly return and tell him that it is her
command and prayer that he shall do his "best "; and she says she
will go at once without delay. She came down from the stand to
where her valet with the palfrey was awaiting her. She mounted
and rode until she found the knight, to whom she said at once:
"Sire, my lady now sends word that you shall do the `best' you
can!" And he replies: "Tell her now that it is never a hardship
to do her will, for whatever pleases her is my delight." The
maiden was not slow in bearing back this message, for she thinks
it will greatly please and delight the Queen. She made her way
as directly as possible to the stand, where the Queen rose and
started to meet her, however, she did not go down, but waited for
her at the top of the steps. And the damsel came happy in the
message she had to bear. When she had climbed the steps and
reached her side, she said: "Lady, I never saw so courteous g
knight, for he is more than ready to obey every command you send
to him, for, if the truth be known, he accepts good and evil with
the same countenance. "Indeed," says the Queen, "that may well
be so." Then she returns to the balcony to watch the knights.
And Lancelot without delay seizes his shield by the leather
straps, for he is kindled and consumed by the desire to show his
prowess. Guiding his horse's head, he lets him run between two
lines. All those mistaken and deluded men, who have spent a
large part of the day and night in heaping him with ridicule,
will soon be disconcerted. For a long time they have had their
sport and joke and fun. The son of the King of Ireland held his
shield closely gripped by the leather straps, as he spurs
fiercely to meet him from the opposite direction. They come
together with such violence that the son of the Irish king having
broken and splintered his lance, wishes no more of the
tournament; for it was not moss he struck, but hard, dry boards.
In this encounter Lancelot taught him one of his thrusts, when he
pinned his shield to his arm, and his arm to his side, and
brought him down from his horse to earth. Like arrows the
knights at once fly out, spurring and pricking from either side,
some to relieve this knight, others to add to his distress.
While some thus try to aid their lords, many a saddle is left
empty in the strife and fray. But all that day Gawain took no
hand at arms, though he was with the others there, for he took
such pleasure in watching the deeds of him with the red painted
arms that what the others did seemed to him pale in comparison.
And the herald cheered up again, as he shouted aloud so that all
could hear: "Here there has one come who will take the measure!
To-day you shall see what he can do. To-day his prowess shall
appear." Then the knight directs his steed and makes a very
skilful thrust against a certain knight, whom he strikes so hard
that he carries him a hundred feet or more from his horse. His
feats with sword and lance are so well performed that there is
none of the onlookers who does not find pleasure in watching him.
Many even of those who bear arms find pleasure and satisfaction
in what he does, for it is great sport to see how he makes horses
and knights tumble and fall. He encounters hardly a single
knight who is able to keep his seat, and he gives the horses he
wins to those who want them. Then those who had been making game
of him said: "Now we are disgraced and mortified. It was a great
mistake for us to deride and vilify this man, for he is surely
worth a thousand such as we are on this field; for he has
defeated and outdone all the knights in the world, so that there
is no one now that opposes him." And the damsels, who amazed
were watching him, all said that he might take them to wife; but
they did not dare to trust in their beauty or wealth, or power or
highness, for not for her beauty or wealth would this peerless
knight deign to choose any one of them. Yet, most of them are so
enamoured of him that they say that, unless they marry him, they
will not be bestowed upon any man this year. And the Queen, who
hears them boast, laughs to herself and enjoy the fun, for well
she knows that if all the gold of Arabia should be set before
him, yet he who is beloved by them all would not select the best,
the fairest, or the most charming of the group. One wish is
common to them all--each wishes to have him as her spouse. One
is jealous of another, as if she were already his wife; and all
this is because they see him so adroit that in their opinion no
mortal man could perform such deeds as he had done. He did so
well that when the time came to leave the list, they admitted
freely on both sides that no one had equalled the knight with the
vermilion shield. All said this, and it was true. But when he
left, he allowed his shield and lance and trappings to fall where
he saw the thickest press, then he rode off hastily with such
secrecy that no one of all the host noticed that he had
disappeared. But he went straight back to the place whence he
had come, to keep his oath. When the tournament broke up, they
all searched and asked for him, but without success, for he fled
away, having no desire to be recognised. The knights are
disappointed and distressed, for they would have rejoiced to have
him there. But if the knights were grieved to have been deserted
thus, still greater was the damsels' grief when they learned the
truth, and they asserted by St. John that they would not marry at
all that year. If they can't have him whom they truly love, then
all the others may be dismissed. Thus the tourney was adjourned
without any of them choosing a husband. Meanwhile Lancelot
without delay repairs to his prison. But the seneschal arrived
two or three days before Lancelot, and inquired where he was.
And his wife, who had given to Lancelot his fair and well-
equipped vermilion arms, as well as his harness and his horse,
told the truth to the seneschal--how she had sent him where
there had been jousting at the tourney of Noauz. "Lady," the
seneschal replies, "you could truly have done nothing worse than
that. Doubtless, I shall smart for this, for my lord Meleagant
will treat me worse than the beach-combers' law would treat me
were I a mariner in distress. I shall be killed or banished the
moment he hears the news, and he will have no pity for me."
"Fair sire, be not now dismayed," the lady said; "there is no
occasion for the fear you feel. There is no possibility of his
detention, for he swore to me by the saints that he would return
as soon as possible."

(Vv. 6105-6166.) (25) Then the seneschal mounts, and coming to
his lord, tells him the whole story of the episode; but at the
same time, he emphatically reassures him, telling how his wife
had received his oath that he would return to his prison. "He
will not break his word, I know," says Meleagant: "and yet I am
very much displeased at what your wife has done. Not for any
consideration would I have had him present at that tournament.
But return now, and see to it that, when he comes back, he be so
strictly guarded that he shall not escape from his prison or have
any freedom of body: and send me word at once." "Your orders
shall be obeyed," says the seneschal. Then he goes away and
finds Lancelot returned as prisoner in his yard. A messenger,
sent by the seneschal, runs back at once to Meleagant, appraising
him of Lancelot's return. When he heard this news, he took
masons and carpenters who unwillingly or of their own free-will
executed his commands. He summoned the best artisans in the
land, and commanded them to build a tower, and exert themselves
to build it well. The stone was quarried by the seaside; for
near Gorre on this side there runs a big broad arm of the sea, in
the midst of which an island stood, as Meleagant well knew. He
ordered the stone to be carried thither and the material for the
construction of the tower. In less than fifty-seven days the
tower was completely built, high and thick and well-founded.
When it was completed, he had Lancelot brought thither by night,
and after putting him in the tower, he ordered the doors to be
walled up, and made all the masons swear that they would never
utter a word about this tower. It was his will that it should be
thus sealed up, and that no door or opening should remain, except
one small window. Here Lancelot was compelled to stay, and they
gave him poor and meagre fare through this little window at
certain hours, as the disloyal wretch had ordered and commanded

(Vv. 6167-6220.) Now Meleagant has carried out all his purpose,
and he betakes himself to King Arthur's court: behold him now
arrived! And when he was before the King, he thus spoke with
pride and arrogance: "King, I have scheduled a battle to take
place in thy presence and in thy court. But I see nothing of
Lancelot who agreed to be my antagonist. Nevertheless, as my
duty is, in the hearing of all who are present here, I offer
myself to fight this battle. And if he is here, let him now step
forth and agree to meet me in your court a year from now. I know
not if any one has told you how this battle was agreed upon. But
I see knights here who were present at our conference, and who,
if they would, could tell you the truth. If he should try to
deny the truth, I should employ no hireling to take my place, but
would prove it to him hand to hand." The Queen, who was seated
beside the King, draws him to her as she says: "Sire, do you know
who that knight is? It is Meleagant who carried me away while
escorted by Kay the seneschal; he caused him plenty of shame and
mischief too." And the King answered her: "Lady, I understand; I
know full well that it is he who held my people in distress."
The Queen says no more, but the King addresses Meleagant:
"Friend," he says, "so help me God, we are very sad because we
know nothing of Lancelot." "My lord King," says Meleagant,
"Lancelot told me that I should surely find him here. Nowhere
but in your court must I issue the call to this battle, and I
desire all your knights here to bear me witness that I summon him
to fight a year from to-day, as stipulated when we agreed to

(Vv. 6221-6458.) At this my lord Gawain gets up, much distressed
at what he hears: "Sire, there is nothing known of Lancelot in
all this land," he says; "but we shall send in search of him and,
if God will, we shall find him yet, before the end of the year is
reached, unless he be dead or in prison. And if he does not
appear, then grant me the battle, and I will fight for him: I
will arm myself in place of Lancelot, if he does not return
before that day." "Ah," says Meleagant, "for God's sake, my fair
lord King, grant him the boon. I join my request to his desire,
for I know no knight in all the world with whom I would more
gladly try my strength, excepting only Lancelot. But bear in
mind that, if I do not fight with one of them, I will accept no
exchange or substitution for either one." And the King says that
this is understood, if Lancelot does not return within the time.
Then Meleagant left the royal court and journeyed until he found
his father, King Bademagu. In order to appear brave and of
consideration in his presence, he began by making a great
pretence and by assuming an expression of marvellous cheer. That
day the king was holding a joyous court at his city of Bade; (26)
it was his birthday, which he celebrated with splendour and
generosity, and there were many people of divers sorts gathered
with him. All the palace was filled with knights and damsels,
and among them was the sister of Meleagant, of whom I shall tell
you, farther on, what is my thought and reason for mentioning her
here. But it is not fitting that I should explain it here, for I
do not wish to confuse or entangle my material, but rather to
treat it straight forwardly. Now I must tell you that Meleagant
in the hearing of all, both great and small, spoke thus to his
father boastingly: "Father," he says, "so help me God, please
tell me truly now whether he ought not to be well-content, and
whether he is not truly brave, who can cause his arms to be
feared at King Arthur's court?" To this question his father
replies at once: "Son," he says, "all good men ought to honour
and serve and seek the company of one whose deserts are such."
Then he flattered him with the request that he should not conceal
why he has alluded to this, what he wishes, and whence he comes.
"Sire, I know not whether you remember," Meleagant begins, "the
agreements and stipulations which were recorded when Lancelot and
I made peace. It was then agreed, I believe, and in the presence
of many we were told, that we should present ourselves at the end
of a year at Arthur's court. I went thither at the appointed
time, ready equipped for my business there. I did everything
that had been prescribed: I called and searched for Lancelot,
with whom I was to fight, but I could not gain a sight of him: he
had fled and run away. When I came away, Gawain pledged his word
that, if Lancelot is not alive and does not return within the
time agreed upon, no further postponement will be asked, but that
he himself will fight the battle against me in place of Lancelot.
Arthur has no knight, as is well known, whose fame equals his,
but before the flowers bloom again, I shall see, when we come to
blows, whether his fame and his deeds are in accord: I only wish
it could be settled now!" "Son," says his father, "thou art
acting exactly like a fool. Any one, who knew it not before, may
learn of thy madness from thy own lips. A good heart truly
humbles itself, but the fool and the boastful never lose their
folly. Son, to thee I direct my words, for the traits of thy
character are so hard and dry, that there is no place for
sweetness or friendship. Thy heart is altogether pitiless: thou
art altogether in folly's grasp. This accounts for my slight
respect for thee, and this is what will cast thee down. If thou
art brave, there will be plenty of men to say so in time of need.
A virtuous man need not praise his heart in order to enhance his
deed; the deed itself will speak in its own praise. Thy self-
praise does not aid thee a whit to increase in any one's esteem;
indeed, I hold thee in less esteem. Son, I chasten thee; but to
what end? It is of little use to advise a fool. He only wastes
his strength in vain who tries to cure the madness of a fool, and
the wisdom that one teaches and expounds is worthless, wasted and


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