Chrétien de Troyes

Perceval (Or The Story of the Grail)

Part II

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved.

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Lines 1697-1771 The Castle of Beaurepaire

THE new-made knight now departed

The castle, eager to be started

On his return to his good mother,

Alive and well, he hoped to find her.

Passing through the forest again,

Which, better than the level plain,

He’d known since a child was he,

He rode along till he did see

A castle, strong and well-sited.

Before the walls naught he sighted

But ocean, water, and wasteland.

Towards the castle there at hand

He rode, till he reached the gate,

Towards the castle there at hand He rode

Towards the castle there at hand He rode
Le Morte d'Arthur (1893)
Sir Thomas Malory (15th cent) and Ernest Rhys (1859-1946)
Internet Archive Book Images

But feared then to trust his weight,

To a bridge that might not bear

Him, such that ill he might fare.

Yet our knight the bridge he mounted,

Without encumbrance, accounted

For his passage and, free of shame,

To the portal our knight then came,

Which he found under key and lock,

And twas not gently he did knock,

Nor did he call out soft and low.

He knocked so loud, down below,

That to the window there did sail,

Of the hall, a maiden, thin and pale.

She cried: ‘Who are you that call?’

The youth on looking up, saw all,

And said: ‘Fair friend, a knight and true,

Who doth humbly beg of you

That I might enter, and as a knight,

Find lodging here for the night.’

‘Tis well,’ she said, ‘sire, if tis your

Wish; you’ll thank us not, I’m sure.

Yet nonetheless we’ll treat our guest

As well as we can; and do our best.’

And then the fair maid withdrew.

While he, who waited there anew,

Fearing he would be left outside,

Knocked again, and loudly cried.

Four men-at-arms swiftly came,

Who held great axes, and the same

Had each a fine sword at his side,

And they the portal opened wide,

And beckoned: ‘Sire, enter then!’

They’d all have proved fine men,

Handsome indeed, except that they

Were suffering, and in sorry way,

(Twas enough to make one weep)

From hunger and from lack of sleep.

And if, outside, the youth had found

The earth a wasteland, barren ground,

The inside did naught to amend it;

For every place there he did visit,

He found the streets all desolate,

And saw the houses ruined straight,

Scarce man or woman to be seen.

There were two churches, that had been

Abbeys once, within the town,

In one, frightened nuns he found,

In the other, monks most wary.

He found that neither sanctuary,

Was handsome or in good repair,

The walls, indeed, were cracked and bare

And roofless too were the towers;

The buildings naked at all hours

To the elements, night and day.

No mill there ground its corn, I say,

None baked bread for house or hall,

Naught there was found, no food at all,

Nor was there aught a man might buy

You’d give a denier for, nor I.

Thus he found the town laid waste;

And not a crust of bread to taste,

Or wine to drink, no cider or ale.

Lines 1772-1942 The maiden Blancheflor

THEY led him, the soldiers weak and pale,

To a slate-roofed palace, without harm,

Then helped him dismount, and disarm.

And soon a squire came down the stair

And met him, as he was waiting there,

Who bore in his arms a cloak, all grey;

He placed it round his neck, and away,

To stable his horse, then ran another,

Though his steed he would discover

Had naught to eat, nor oats nor hay,

Nor any wheat; they’d none that day.

The squires went before him there,

And thus the knight mounted the stair,

To enter the hall; twas fine and grand.

There stood a maid; on either hand

Two gentlemen, their hair not quite

Turned from grey to snowy white,

Of sound health, for all their years;

Had they not borne woes and fears,

They’d have been most handsome men.

The maid approached the young man then,

Finer she than a young goshawk,

The maid approached the young man then, Finer she than a young goshawk

The maid approached the young man then, Finer she than a young goshawk
Le Morte d'Arthur (1893)
Sir Thomas Malory (15th cent) and Ernest Rhys (1859-1946)
Internet Archive Book Images

A falcon or a sparrow-hawk,

In elegance and gracefulness.

Her mantle and her black silk dress

Were starred with gold; no wear

Showed on the ermine border there;

And her cloak’s collar did display

A wealth of sable, black and grey,

Cut not too long, nor yet too wide;

To expose the neck, or yet to hide.

And if I have e’er homage paid

To some beauty God has made,

To a woman’s body or her face,

I’m pleased my words to retrace,

Once more; and yet I tell no lie.

Head unadorned, her hair, say I,

Was such that any there to see

Might have thought, if such could be,

That it was spun from finest gold,

It shone so bright and fair, all told.

Her forehead, pale, smooth, set high,

Seemed as if it twas sculpted by

An artist, by some master’s hand,

In marble, wood or ivory planned.

With fine eyebrows widely spaced,

The eyes, well-set within her face,

Glinted blue-grey, smiling, clear.

Her nose straight, neat, did appear;

And the pure crimson over white

Of her cheeks was lovelier quite

Than scarlet blazoned upon silver.

The Lord created her a wonder,

To steal away the heart of man;

Nor had He e’er, since time began,

Made her equal, nor has He later.

As soon as the knight beheld her,

He greeted her, and she replied,

As did the knights at either side.

And as the maid demurely led

Him by the hand, she sweetly said:

‘Dear brother, you tonight will find

Your lodgings here are of a kind

Unfit for any gentleman.

Yet if those present now began

To speak here of our misery,

You might think that it might be

They spoke of it with ill-intent,

As if on your departure bent.

But, if it be your wish that is,

Find lodging here, such as it is;

God send you better, tomorrow.’

Hand in hand, he then did follow

Into a room, its ceiling vaulted,

Long and wide, where they halted,

Then sat them down upon a bed

With a samite cover o’er-spread.

They sat together, side by side;

Then there made their way inside,

In fours, fives and sixes, knights

Who also sat and, lips sealed tight,

Gazed at the youth who sat beside

The maid, as if he were tongue-tied;

For he held himself from speaking,

Within that lord’s advice repeating,

Who too much talking did deplore;

And thus twas not too long before

The knights began a conversation.

‘Lord,’ each said, in consternation,

‘Do you suppose this knight is mute?

Twould be a pity, for who’d refute

No fairer knight was born of woman.

He looks so well beside our maiden,

And she looks well beside the knight.

Would they were not so dumb a sight,

For she’s so lovely, and he so fair,

No knight or maiden would, I swear,

Be matched so beautifully together.

For it seems, of one and the other,

That God made each for the other,

So that the two might be together.’

And all those who sat around them

Their conversation was about them.

And the lady sat there hoping

That the youth might utter something,

Until to her it seemed quite clear

No word from him would appear,

If she were not first to speak to him.

So, graciously, she said to him:

‘Whence do you come, sir, this day?’

‘Fair maid,’ he said, ‘last night I lay

At the castle of a noble lord,

And goodly lodgings did he afford;

Five towers, all strong, it had got,

One was tall, and the others not.

I know how to describe the same,

Yet I know not that castle’s name.

Though the name of the lord I sought,

And twas Gournemant of Gohort.’

‘Ah! Dear friend,’ the maiden said,

‘You speak aright, upon that head,

And you speak most courteously.

May God who is our King bless thee,

Twas “noble lord” I think I heard.

You’ll never say a truer word,

By Saint Richier, noble he is;

And I can well attest to this.

For, know that I am that lord’s niece,

Though I have not seen him apiece;

And truly, since you left that place

You’ll not have come face to face

With a finer gentleman, I’ll swear.

He’ll have lodged you gladly there

As only he knows how to do,

For he is noble and gracious too,

Powerful, well-served, and rich,

While all I have is five crusts which

An uncle of mine, most glorious,

One most saintly and religious,

Has sent me for supper tonight,

And a flask of wine, a sour white.

Of food indeed I have no more

But for one fine roebuck I saw

My lad slay with a bow this day.’

Then she told her servants to lay

The tables, and they were thus laid,

And swiftly all the supper made.

They sat but little over their meal,

For with it swiftly they did deal,

And after eating left the keep,

Except for those who were to sleep

Who’d been awake the night before,

The rest departing, the youth saw,

Who were to form the guard that night.

Fifty, the men-at-arms and knights,

Who comprised this castle guard,

While the other men worked hard

To honour and to please their guest.

With white sheets and with the best

Of coverlets, they prepared his bed,

And set a pillow at its head.

Thus every ease, every delight

A bed might provide at night,

Had the youth; yes, everything,

Except the joy a maid might bring,

If to desire the lad had bowed,

Or a lady, if twas allowed.

But, of all that, the lad knew naught,

So I say there was scarcely aught

To keep him from falling asleep

Since he had no watch to keep.

Lines 1943-2072 Blancheflor seeks the youth’s help

BUT the maiden, most distressed,

Within her chamber could not rest.

He slept at ease, while she thought;

For her protection she had naught,

Against the siege set to assail her.

She tossed and turned there in fever,

Much troubled, and as pale as milk.

Then, a short cloak of scarlet silk,

She draped about her chemise,

And ventured forth, if you please,

All brave and resolute in action,

Yet not for any idle reason,

Rather she thought she would go

To her guest and speak, although

She’d tell but a part of her affairs.

She rose from her bed and dared

To issue forth from her chamber,

So fearful, that her every member

Trembled, body bathed in sweat.

Tearfully, from the room she set

Out for the chamber where he slept

And there she loudly sighed and wept;

Yet dared do little more than weep.

She knelt by him as he did sleep,

And her tears fell at such a pace

They wet the surface of his face.

She cried so hard that he awoke,

Wondering, as the drops did soak

The sheets and run from his face,

And felt himself in her embrace,

Who knelt before him, in the night,

Clasped his neck, and held him tight.

He showed enough plain courtesy

As to take her in his arms, for he

Drew her towards himself and cried:

‘Fair one, why are you at my side?

What is it then you desire of me?’

‘Ah! Gentle knight, have mercy!

By God, I pray you, and his Son,

Think me not the shameful one

For coming here to you like this.

Though I am almost naked, tis

Not that I intend some folly,

To work you some ill or villainy,

But there’s none other on this earth

So full of grief, devoid of mirth,

That I outdo them not in sorrow.

And I shall feel the same tomorrow,

For nothing now can bring me ease,

Each day proves ill, so sad to me,

That I’ll not see another night,

Except it seems for this one night,

Nor other day except the morrow,

But kill myself, and die in sorrow.

Of three hundred knights and ten,

There now remain but fifty men

By whom this castle is manned.

Ten score and sixty he unmanned,

The cruel knight, who seized all,

Engygeron, who is Seneschal

To Clamadeu of the Isles, he

Killed them, or forced captivity

On them. I grieve for those he led

To prison, as I do for the dead,

For I know he’ll kill them too,

None can escape his purview.

For me, so many men must die,

Tis right that I should grieve and cry.

Besieged have we been here

A winter and a summer clear,

By Engygeron; he moves not,

But adds to the force he’s got,

While ours has dwindled away;

Our supplies, as you see today,

Such that what remains on hand

Will scarce feed one single man.

And we are brought to such a pass,

That tomorrow, if God, alas,

Does naught for us, tis at an end;

The town we can no more defend.

And I must be surrendered too.

Rather than that alive he mew

Me, I will kill myself and, dead,

Will care not if my corpse is wed

To Clamadeu, who would possess

Me, yet shall have me not unless

I am emptied of soul and life.

For in my casket I keep a knife,

A weapon made of finest steel;

Its point my poor heart shall feel.

And now indeed I’ve told you all,

And I’ll return, ere aught befall,

And leave you here to take your rest.’

Honour might accrue to her guest

If he but dared, the new-made knight;

She had not come to him that night,

And with her tears thus wet his face,

Except with sole intent to place

Him under some deep obligation,

To defend the town, take station

Before their ranks, if he dare stand,

And fight for her, and for her land.

And he answered her: ‘Dear friend,

Be of good cheer, till night’s end.

Comfort yourself, do not weep

Come closer to me, and so keep;

Brush those tears from your eyes.

If God wills it, He shall devise

A better morrow than you say.

Beside me in this bed now lay

Your head, tis wide enough for two.

Don’t leave me till the day is new.’

She said: ‘If you wish it so.’ At this,

He turned and gave the maid a kiss,

And held the maid in his embrace.

Over their bodies he did place,

Gently, and tenderly, the cover;

And she suffered him to kiss her,

I think it caused her no annoy.

And there they lay, girl and boy,

Beside each other, all that night,

Lip to lip, till the morning light.

So the night brought her solace,

For lip to lip, arms interlaced,

The two both slept till it was day.

At dawn the maiden slipped away

And thus returned to her room;

Without help, we must assume,

She found her clothes and dressed,

While all slept, as did her guest.

Lines 2073-2157 The youth goes to fight Engygeron

YET those who’d watched all night

Once they caught the morning light,

Roused all those who were asleep,

Stirred all who their beds did keep,

And thus they all rose with the day.

And then the maid, without delay,

To her young knight did repair,

And said to him, quite debonair:

‘Sire, may God give you good day!

I know you must no longer stay,

Nor must you linger in this place,

And to no end our presence grace;

You must go, but I’ll grieve not,

Twould be discourteous, our lot

Is not to sorrow at such a thing,

For we have not done anything

In point of comfort or of ease.

And now I pray that, if God please,

He’ll help you on, to lodgings fine,

With more bread, and salt, and wine,

Than you have found here this day.’

He said: ‘Fair maid, and yet today,

I shall no other lodgings seek,

Until this land, of yours I speak,

I have restored to you, if I can.

If I should find that evil man

Twill weigh on me if he remain,

For I’ll not have you grieve again.

But if I death upon him wreak,

Then your affection I will seek

As my reward, it shall be mine;

All other prizes I’ll decline.’

And she replied, with courtesy:

‘Sire, the prize you ask of me

Is a poor thing and despised.

Yet if I refused, I am apprised

That you might think it pride;

Thus you shall not be denied.

Yet tell me not, by God above,

That I am to become your love,

Through such an act of loyalty

That you go forth to die for me;

For that would be too great a shame’

Your age, you strength, your fame,

Are not yet such, you may be sure,

That you could e’er contend in war

With one so hardened in the fight,

Nor meet and conquer such a knight.’

‘Well that will soon be seen,’ said he,

For I go to fight him, he’ll meet me;

I’ll not forgo this, nor brook delay.’

She pleaded with him in such a way

As to deter him, though twas her wish.

It often happens we serve the dish

Yet mask the contents carefully,

When someone suitable we see,

Whom we’d send upon a mission,

To better rouse the man’s ambition.

This did she, and most skilfully,

Reproaching him so forcefully,

While rousing it within his heart.

He said to bring his arms, and start

To arm him, and they did so straight.

And went and oped the outer gate,

And once armed they set him high

Upon a steed they had, twas nigh

Him, saddled, amidst the square.

And there was not a person there

Who was not troubled, all did say:

‘Sire, God bring you aid, this day,

And may misfortune now befall

Engygeron, the Seneschal,

Who has laid this country waste,’

As down their cheeks the tears raced.

To the gate they led him and, when

They saw him leave the castle, then

Called out, as one, to ward off loss:

‘Fair sire, now may the True Cross,

On which God gave his Son to suffer,

From mortal peril guard you ever,

From every mishap and from prison,

And bring you to, in calmer season,

A place where you may rest at ease,

That delights you, and doth please.’

Thus for him the people prayed.

Lines 2158-2329 Engygeron is defeated and sent to Arthur’s court

THE soldiers saw him, there arrayed,

And pointed out Engygeron,

Before his tent, his chain-mail on,

His hose of chain-mail, laced ready,

His men rejoicing already,

Who thought that they must easily

Seize the castle and the country,

Thinking too all would be done,

The castle rendered, ere the sun

Set, or there appeared someone

To fight their lord, one to one.

When Engygeron saw him there,

He armed himself for the affair,

Rode towards him at full speed,

On his strong and sturdy steed,

And cried: ‘Fellow, who sent you here?

Why? To what end do you appear?

Do you come seeking peace or war?’

‘And you, what is your presence for?

Tell me, first, why you seek this land?

Why do brave knights die at your hand?

Why do you lay these fields to waste?’

And now Engygeron proudly faced

The bold youth, saying, haughtily:

‘This very day the keep must be

Emptied, and the town surrendered,

Which has been too long defended.

And my master shall have the maid.’

‘Cursed be the day that thus conveyed

Such words, and he who speaks them now!

Soon, when I challenge you, I vow

You’ll swiftly renounce that claim.’

‘What idle talk you serve, and lame,

By Saint Peter,’ cried Engygeron,

‘Tis often that the simpleton,

Who’s free of guilt, must pay the price.’

The youth who’d stirred once or twice

Couched his lance, and without delay

To close contest each made his way;

Swiftly each man made his advance.

A trenchant blade and ashen lance

Had each, and sharpened at the tip;

The horses reared, with foaming lip;

Fuelling hatred, with every breath,

Each man sought the other’s death.

So furious now is their encounter,

The shields and the lances splinter,

Each forcing the other to bow low.

But once more to the fight they go,

Meeting together with clenched jaws,

More savagely than two wild boars,

Striking to pierce the other’s shield,

And force the fine chain-mail to yield,

Whene’er their steeds bear them close.

With the rage and speed each shows,

And their strength as each advances,

The bits and pieces of their lances

That remain fly through the air.

Engygeron was unseated there,

He alone, and wounded beside,

Such that his left arm and his side,

Caused to him most grievous pain.

But the youth dismounted again;

No use now for his steed he found,

From his horse, leapt to the ground,

Drew his sword, and then set to.

I know no more I can tell to you

Of what happened to each knight,

The blows each landed in the fight,

But long did they fierce battle wage,

And many a blow was dealt in rage.

Until Engygeron fell back.

So fierce then was the lad’s attack,

That the Seneschal cried mercy,

But the youth said he would see

No mercy now, not now or ever.

But then he recalled, however,

The gentleman who’d said, at will,

He should not, in conscience, kill

Any knight whom he’d conquered,

Who cried mercy, and surrendered.

‘Dear friend,’ the Seneschal did cry,

‘Be not so cruel, as to deny

Your mercy, have mercy on me!

I swear to you most willingly

That I am worsted in this fight

And you prove the better knight;

Not that it would be believed

By any man who had perceived

Us both, or knew of us, before

That you, with but the arms you bore

Could bring me so close to death.’

But if I bear, with my own breath,

Witness that you conquered me,

My men before my tent shall see

Me swear the very same to you,

And more honour will accrue

To you than any knight before.

And think, if there is some lord

Who’s shown his favour to you,

And had no guerdon for it too,

Well then, send me, and I shall go,

On your behalf and he shall know

How by arms you did conquer,

And render myself his prisoner,

To do with me as he sees fit.’

‘Cursed he who seeks greater forfeit!

Know you where I’ll send you then?’

Said the youth, ‘to the castle, and when

You find the maid who is my friend

Tell her, that till your life doth end,

You will ne’er seek to do her harm,

Nor cause her any other alarm,

But shall be wholly at her mercy.’

‘Kill me now, at once,’ said he,

‘For she will kill me then, dear sire,

And nothing more doth she desire

Than my death and sore disgrace.

For when her own father did face

Death, I was there, and I have so

Angered her, all her knights, my foe,

I have captured or killed this year.

You grant me ill prison, I fear,

If to her prison I am sent.

You could show no worse intent.

But if you have no other friend,

Nor mistress, then do you send

Me to some better place, where

They’ll hate me not for this affair,

For she indeed will have my head.’

The youth said he might go instead,

To the lord’s castle, the very same,

And there must tell that lord his name.

In all the world lived not a mason

Who could devise the fashion

Of that place, as that lord had done.

He praised the water that did run

Beside it, bridge, towers and keep,

The walls, the cliffs, high and steep,

Till the knight feared he was fated

To go to where he was most hated

And find himself imprisoned there.

‘At such a place, ill would I fare,

Dear sire, if there you’d send me.

God save me, on paths of misery

You’d set me, and in ill hands;

For in the wars upon these lands

I did slay there his own brother.

I would have you slay me rather,

If tis to him you would send me.

Better you kill me now, than he.’

‘I’faith,’ the youth said, ‘then go

As prisoner to King Arthur, so

Greet the king, as sent by me,

Speak, on my behalf, directly,

Say you would the maiden see,

Whom Kay the Seneschal, sourly,

Did strike; she did on me confer

A smile; render yourself to her.

And tell the maid that not for aught

Shall I return yet to that court

Where King Arthur reigns whate’er

May happen, so I promised her,

Until I have avenged the blow.’

And he replied that he would go,

And perform that service truly.

Then, to the town, the youth, whom he

Had been defeated by, did ride,

While Engygeron turned and, on his side,

Rode to the court; while his banner

Was struck; thus the siege was over,

And all departed, the dark and fair.

Lines 2330-2431 Clamadeu plans to attack Beaurepaire

THOSE of the castle soon were there

To welcome those who now returned.

But were troubled when they learned

That he’d not killed the foe, instead

The conqueror had spared the head,

Nor had he rendered him to them.

Yet they still welcomed him again,

With joy, and helped him to disarm,

Sure now that he was free from harm;

Saying: ‘Why did you choose, Sire,

Though the man’s death we desire,

Not to take Engygeron’s head?

‘My lords,’ said he, ‘i’faith, I said

To myself that twould not be well;

And as he slew a host of your kin,

I could not guarantee him within;

You’d have slain him, despite me.

Little honour had it brought me

Had I denied mercy to a man

When his life was in my hand.

Know you the mercy I confer?

He’ll be King Arthur’s prisoner,

If he acts now as we did agree.’

Then the maid came, joyfully,

And greeted him, and then she led

Him to her room, where, she said,

He might rest and take his ease.

And she was happy not to cease

From hugging and kissing there;

Instead of eating, drinking, their

Fare was hugging, kissing, play;

Many a sweet word did they say.

But Clamadeu, who folly sought,

Launched an attack, for he thought

The castle was defenceless yet;

But then upon the road he met

A squire who was full of sorrow,

And the tale did quickly follow

Of Engygeron, his seneschal.

‘God help us, ill doth us befall,’

Cried the squire who, in despair,

Tore, with both hands, at his hair.

And Clamadeu answered: ‘How?

And the squire: ‘I’faith, but now

Your seneschal was beaten here,

And, is pledged, it doth appear,

To take himself to Arthur’s court.’

‘Who has done this? Come, report;

How has this mishap come to be?

Whence comes this knight, that he

Could force so fine a knight’s surrender,

The true and brave a prisoner render?’

‘Fair Sire, indeed,’ answered he,

‘I know not who the knight might be,

But I do know I saw one there,

Who issued forth from Beaurepaire

In crimson armour, with these eyes.’

‘Well then, what would you advise?’

Cried Clamadeu, half mad with rage.

‘What, sire? Return,’ replied the page,

‘For I perceive, if you advance,

You’ll soon be led a merry dance.’

At this, an old knight came in view

Who had trained young Clamadeu,

Whose hair indeed was almost white

‘Young man,’ he said, ‘it is not right,

Better, wiser counsel than yours

He needs if he’s to fight his wars.

If he heeded you, a fool he’d prove.

My advice is this: a forward move.’

The squire said: ‘Sire, would you know

How you might deceive them, so

As to take the castle and the knight?

I’ll tell you, and I’ll tell it right,

And tis but the simplest affair.

Within the walls of Beaurepaire,

They have naught to drink or eat,

Their garrison’s weak, incomplete,

While all our men are fit and strong,

No thirst or hunger’s here among,

And we could endure the longer

If they dared, we being stronger,

To issue forth and seek to fight.

We’ll send a troop of twenty knights,

To offer them such, before the gate.

The young knight who yet dallies late

With Blancheflor his fair lover,

Would prove his chivalry to her,

But he’ll be utterly mistaken,

For thus he’ll be killed or taken,

And little help to him will be

Their weak enfeebled infantry.

Our twenty will attempt naught there

But to draw them from their lair,

While we advance, by this dale,

And creep upon them, our detail

May then attack them from behind.’

‘I’faith, cried Clamadeu, ‘I find

Tis fine, all that you have to tell.

We have here our elite, as well

Five hundred knights fully armed,

A thousand soldiers all unharmed,

Our enemy are as good as dead.’

Lines 2432-2521 Clamadeu’s attack fails

SO Clamadeu, as the lad had said,

Sent twenty knights toward the gate,

Who, in the wind, deployed straight

Each his standard, his brave banner,

Blazoned in heraldic manner.

When they were seen from inside

Then the gates were opened wide

Because the youth wished it so,

Who issued forth, ahead did go,

To meet the advancing knights.

Bold and fierce now, in a fight,

The lad attacked the whole set,

Nor did he seem, to those he met,

Merely an apprentice still;

He managed his arms with skill,

Skewering many with his lance,

Piercing many, in his advance,

In neck or chest, breaking bone,

An arm here, there a collar-bone,

Crippled one, downed another,

Captured him, and to a brother

Knight, in need, he gave the mount;

Till they saw a host, made count

Of a good five hundred knights,

Ascending the dale, to the fight;

A thousand soldiers there beside,

Sweeping onwards, like the tide,

Towards the open gate; but then

The enemy see their fallen men,

The pile of injured, and the dead,

And thus unsettled, charge instead

In wild disorder, at the gate,

While those before the castle wait,

In serried ranks, all patiently,

And so receive them steadfastly.

Yet they were weak indeed and few,

While the enemy forces grew

As fresh men followed in the rear;

So, yielding, as they drew near,

Those at the gate made their retreat.

Archers above the gate did greet

The foe, shooting them en masse

As they fought ardently to pass,

Till a small group forced their way

Beyond the wall and sought to stay.

Then those above, within the town,

Dropped a great portcullis down

Upon the enemy, there below,

Crushing and slaughtering the foe,

With the mighty force of its fall.

And Clamadeu could scarce recall,

A sight that brought him greater woe,

Than witnessing that mortal blow.

His people dead, himself denied,

It forced a halt there in mid-stride,

While fresh assault, begun in haste,

Would merely prove a futile waste.

That lord, again, did him advise,

Who had at first the plan revised.

Saying: ‘Tis no great wonder, sire,

Among noblemen, if plans misfire.

For good and ill fall, as we know,

On us as God wills; joy or woe.

You’ve lost some men, yet they say

Every saint has their feast day.

Upon you did the tempest fall,

Your men fought ill, while theirs stand tall,

But they will lose yet, to my mind.

Pluck out my eyes, leave me blind,

If they’re alive in three days’ time.

The castle and the tower are prime

For taking, at your mercy they

Must surely be, if you but stay

Here today, and then tomorrow.

Then victory will surely follow,

The castle will be in your hands;

She who scorned all your demands,

Will pray God you’ll deign to take her.’

His pavilion was raised, moreover,

And those the lords had brought,

While the others lodging sought,

As best they could, for the night.

Within the castle all those knights

Who were captive were disarmed,

But not imprisoned there or harmed.

Having pledged most solemnly,

As knights sworn to fidelity,

That each man was a prisoner still,

And he would seek to do no ill.

Thus the arrangements within.

Lines 2522-2622 Fresh supplies reach Beaurepaire

THAT same day a mighty wind

Drove a vessel ashore, complete

With a welcome load of wheat

And many other victuals too.

As God willed it, good as new

Came that cargo from the sea.

And when the vessel they did see

Those within sent to enquire

Whom it bore, and their desire.

And they said: Merchants are we,

Who seek out trade, upon the sea.

We’ve salted-bacon, bread and wine,

And cattle to sell you, and swine,

If such things might meet your need.

And they replied: ‘Blessed, indeed,

Is God, who made the gale to blow

That drove your ship to windward so,

For you are all most welcome here!’

Let all your cargo now appear,

Discharge your load, for we will buy;

You may sell all, the price as high

As you wish; and we’ll encumber

You with ingots, beyond number,

Bars of silver, and bars of gold,

Too many e’en to count, all told.

And as for all the meat and wine

A cart or two we’d have you line

With the like, more if you need.’

Both had what they sought indeed,

Those who bought and those who sold.

They started emptying the hold,

And had the cargo sent ahead,

That those within might now be fed.

When those in the castle did see

The cargo carried from the sea,

You may believe, all was delight,

And as soon as e’er they might

They hastened to prepare a meal.

A longer siege, for woe or weal,

Must Clamadeu, stalled outside,

Impose, for all the folk inside

Had beef and pork and salt bacon,

In plenty; bread, wine, venison.

No longer idle, the cooks toiled,

The lads lit fires, the cooks boiled,

Toasted, roasted, stewed and fried.

Our knight could linger long beside

His lover, wholly at his ease,

Hug and kiss her as he pleased.

Each one brought the other joy.

The hall once more did all employ,

Echoing with delight again,

Delight with all the load of grain,

And meat, and wine, they’d desired;

The cooks worked as if inspired;

Whose need was greatest there, a seat

Now took, at table, and did eat.

They rose, others took their place.

But Clamadeu did grieve apace,

At the news he now had heard

Of what fortune had conferred

On those within; some said retreat,

They’d not starve now they could eat;

There was no battle to be fought,

They’d besieged the town for naught.

But Clamadeu, incensed, irate,

Now sent a message to the gate,

Ignoring counsel or advice.

He sought the red knight to entice,

Saying that, till noon tomorrow,

He might find him, to his sorrow

If he sought him, and if he dared.

When the maiden heard, she flared

With anger, she was sore aggrieved

By this challenge he’d received;

Yet, in answer to his foe’s demand,

Word was sent, at his command,

That he would fight him, as he sought.

Deep her distress then, at the thought,

Yet he’d have fought on the morrow,

However great the maiden’s sorrow;

He would not have stayed, for aught.

Now one and all, within the court,

Begged him not to meet a knight

Who’d ne’er been conquered in a fight

By any he had met before.

‘My Lords, were you to say no more

That would be well,’ said the youth,

‘For I’ll be stayed by none, in truth

By no man who’s upon this earth.’

Of speech then there was a dearth,

For, of those present, none dared speak;

They retired, their rest to seek,

Till the dawn when the sun arose.

Yet they still grieved; Lord knows,

They’d failed to find an argument

That might have altered his intent.

Lines 2623-2717 Clamadeu is defeated and sent to Arthur’s court

HIS friend begged the youth that night

Not to go forth next day, and fight

Again, but stay with her, in peace,

For they cared not a penny-piece

For Clamadeu and all his men.

Yet all in vain her pleading then,

And that was wonderfully strange,

For wide her tenderness did range,

From kisses soft to kisses sweet,

And each word with a kiss did meet,

So sweet, so soft, she set Love’s key,

Consolingly, yet coaxingly,

Within the lock that is the heart.

And yet she failed, despite her art,

In persuading him to yield

And keep from the battlefield,

Rather his arms he did demand.

The squires under his command

Bringing arms and armour, quickly

As they could, armed him swiftly,

Though one and all there did grieve,

And he, one and all, as he did leave,

Did commend to the King of kings,

A fine Norwegian steed mounting,

Which a squire to him had brought,

For then the battlefield he sought,

Unhesitatingly, he went,

Leaving them there to their lament.

When Clamadeu saw the man appear

Who must fight him, and draw near,

He thought, within, most foolishly

That he would very quickly free

The lad, before him, from his saddle.

The ground it was fine and level,

And there were only those two there,

Clamadeu’s men removed elsewhere,

He having sent his troops away.

Each man now his lance did lay,

Fronting the saddle, on its rest,

And, without challenge or arrest,

Each on the other did advance.

An iron tip to his ashen lance,

A pliant weapon, had each man,

Strong indeed, and the horses ran

Full tilt; the men, at every breath,

Showing their hatred unto death;

They met, and their bucklers cracked,

Their lances shattered in attack,

And both were borne to the ground;

Yet both leapt up and, with a bound,

Knight again encountered knight,

And each maintained an equal fight

For a long while, with his sword.

A full description I might afford

To you, should I seek so to do,

But, as for that, why trouble you,

When one word’s as good as twenty;

For Clamadeu, begged for mercy

Despite himself, when all was done.

He pledged all to him who’d won,

As his seneschal had, if only he

Might not (twas the Seneschal’s plea),

Be sent to those at Beaurepaire,

And, at best, imprisoned there;

Nor, for all the wealth of Rome,

Be sent to Gornemant’s home,

That fine keep; a place unfitting.

And yet, if it came to promising

To go and seek out King Arthur

As his prisoner, he would rather;

And give the girl his message, she

Whom Kay had struck at, viciously,

Causing her such great distress:

That he’d avenge Kay’s churlishness,

If God would aid him so to do.

The youth extracted this pledge too,

That on the morrow, at first light,

All those he held, each captive knight,

Clamadeu must straight set free;

And, while he was alive, that he

Must drive off any foe whatever

That might besiege the castle ever,

Nor must he, nor e’er his men,

Trouble the demoiselle again.

Thus Clamadeu departed and,

When he’d regained his own land,

Commanded all those imprisoned

Be now released from every prison,

And so the captives all went free;

According to the pledge, that he

Had made, so his will was done.

And then the prisoners, every one,

Carrying all they might possess,

Left at once, free from distress,

For none now detained them there.

Lines 2718-2879 Engygeron and Clamadeu arrive at Arthur’s court

UPON another path, did fare

Clamadeu, who went alone.

It was then a custom, known,

I find it in the text writ fair,

That a knight made prisoner

Must go where’er he was sent,

Attired as from the field he went,

The field in which he’d been undone;

For not one garment he had on

Could he remove, or don the new.

Thus, in such guise, did he pursue

His seneschal, Engygeron,

Straight toward Dinasdaron,

Where King Arthur held his court.

At Beaurepaire, I can report,

All was joy when those returned

Who had, as prisoners, they learned

Suffered long and grievously.

All the hall was filled with glee,

And the lodgings of the knights,

And the churches, with delight,

Rang out their bells, every one;

And nor was there a monk or nun

Failed to give their thanks to God.

Through the streets, gaily shod,

Danced the people, one and all,

Great the noise within the hall;

Ended was all siege and war.

But Engygeron, gone before,

And Clamadeu, journeyed on.

Three nights the latter resting on

Some bed where the first did sleep.

Thus at his heels doth closely keep,

Till near Dinasdaron in Wales,

Where Arthur at his court regales

A mighty gathering. Here, we see,

Clamadeu, enter presently,

Alone, in armour as is right;

Engygeron perceives the knight,

Who has arrived the day before,

Given his message, and said more,

Then retired, with more to tell;

And is retained at court, as well,

In Arthur’s entourage and council.

He saw his master’s armour still

Stained with blood, dyed all red,

But knew him yet and loudly said:

‘My lords, tis wondrous to see!

The lad with the red armour, he

Has sent him here, I think it true;

The one now approaching you,

I’m sure the lad has conquered;

And tis why he’s blood-covered.

Yet I, despite the blood, can tell

Tis he himself beneath, full well.

I am his man; and he my master;

Clamadeu of the Isles, no better

A knight in all of Rome’s Empire

A knight who all men doth inspire,

I thought drew breath; yet on a reef

The best of men may come to grief.’

Such words did speak Engygeron

While Clamadeu came striding on.

Each now ran the other to greet

And in the courtyard they did meet.

Twas Pentecost, and there the queen

Sat beside King Arthur, I ween,

At the head of the dais, among

Many a count and king, a throng

Indeed, of queens and countesses.

And this was after all the Masses

Being said, from church the men

And women had returned again.

And Kay strolled about the hall,

All uncloaked, as it did befall,

In his right hand was his baton,

His velvet cap he there had on,

Crowning his wealth of blond hair,

No finer knight alive was there,

The hair close-plaited in a braid;

Yet the handsomeness displayed,

Was offset by his wicked tongue.

His coat indeed was fit to be sung

In song, a deep rich crimson dyed.

With a handsome belt it was tied,

Its buckle and trim were of gold,

As I well recall, for thus tis told;

And the book I have bears witness.

All made a path for his progress,

As he strode, there, about the hall.

His wicked tongue twas, above all,

They feared, and so they all made way.

Not wise those folk, I would say,

Who fear not jibes, grave or in jest,

With malice openly expressed.

Those who stood about the hall,

So feared his taunts, one and all

Avoided any speech with him.

And now he chose to stir a limb,

Go to where Arthur sat, and say:

‘If you wish, fair Sire, you may

Dine now, or whene’er you please.’

‘Kay,’ said the king, ‘leave me in peace.

By these eyes set in my head,

I’d not eat at so grand a feast, I said,

Before the full court, in plenary,

Until some fresh news came to me.’

While he spoke of what he sought,

Clamadeu, approached the court;

Both holding himself a prisoner,

And in the armour he must wear,

And said: ‘May God save and bless,

The finest king, as all do confess,

The most noble and most generous

Here now, on this earth, among us,

As witnessed by each and every one,

Knowing the great deeds he has done!’

So hear me now, fair Sire,’ said he.

‘And listen to the message, that he

Who conquered me, bade me bring;

Yet it pains me to say the thing,

Even though I dare admit no less.

Like it or not, I must confess

Myself your prisoner, by his command.

Yet if any here were to demand

If I know that knight’s true name,

I must say: I know not that same,

But this much can to you be said,

That all his armour is crimson red,

And twas you that sent him, verily.’

‘Friend, then, so may God aid me,

Tell me, in truth,’ replied the king

If he is well, despite everything,

Healthy, sound in limb, and free.

‘Yes he is, and most certainly,’

Said Clamadeu, ‘fair Sire, I own

He’s the bravest knight I’ve known,

And proved the most skilful as well,

And he’s commanded me to tell

The maiden who smiled at him,

And was struck by Kay, on whim,

Landing a vile blow on her face,

That he’ll avenge that disgrace,

If God will but grant his consent.’

When the Fool heard his intent,

He leapt for joy, and cried aloud:

‘May God bless me, Sire, I vowed

She’d have payment for that blow,

Twill prove no lie, I told you so,

For Kay will bear a broken arm,

Against that he’ll find no charm,

Twixt neck and shoulder, I fear.’

Kay, who his prophecy did hear,

Took it all with a pinch of salt;

And that he mounted no assault

On the Fool, showed no cowardice;

But shame, and the king, did this.

For the king now shook his head,

‘Ah, Kay, it grieves me much!’ he said,

That the lad’s not here, with me.

That tongue of yours and its folly

Banished him, to my great regret.’

Lines 2880-2969 The youth sets out to return to his mother

AT this, there arose young Girflet,

Who did all, at the king’s command,

And Sir Yvain, who, when at hand,

Improved all those in his company.

The king told them to accompany

Clamadeu, and go hence from there,

And lead him to the chambers where

The queen’s maidens might be found;

And Clamadeu bowed to the ground.

Those whom the king had commanded

Led him to the rooms, as demanded,

Where he would find the chambermaid;

To her the message he relayed,

One which she so loved to hear,

Still troubled by that blow I fear

That, on the cheek, she’d thus received.

She had recovered, though much grieved,

But the shame that was her lot,

The maid had not, as yet, forgot.

Worthless those who cease to fret

At shame and hurt, and so forget.

The pain doth pass; shame doth abide,

In those who still retain their pride,

In whom true strength and vigour lies;

Shame in the worthless cools and dies.

Clamadeu fair words did grant her,

And remained, for life, a member

Of Arthur’s household and the court.

Meanwhile our youth who’d fought

Him, for the land and maid outright,

Right valiantly, found great delight,

And ease beside his maiden fair.

And all were his, in that affair,

If he had wished, and his mind

Had not been otherwise inclined.

His thoughts took another course,

Towards his mother, who, perforce

He last remembered in a swoon.

He wished to visit her, and soon.

The maid refused him leave to go,

Indeed, she told her people so,

That they might beg him to remain;

Yet all their prayers proved in vain,

Save that the youth pledged to her

That should he find his dear mother

Still alive, then he would bring her

To the castle, and so claim it ever,

Assuredly, and, moreover, he said,

He’d do the same if she were dead.

The journey was his main concern,

Though he’d promised he’d return,

His friend he was bent on leaving

She anguished, now, and grieving,

And all the other folk cast down.

When he issued from the town

So great was the sad procession,

Twas like the Day of Ascension.

Forth all the monks had poured,

As if twas the day of our Lord;

With them the silk cope prevailed;

And all the nuns, who were veiled.

Each man and woman cried: ‘Lord,

‘You, that the exiled have restored,

Returned us to our dwelling-place,

It is no wonder you see each face

Wet with tears, to see you leave.

So deeply now do we all grieve,

No deeper could our sorrow be.

But he replied: ‘Weep not for me;

Naught here should make you cry.

For think you not tis well that I

Go seek my mother as I should,

Whom I left there in the wild wood,

The one they call the Forest Waste?

Whether she lives or not, in haste

Shall I return, nor fail in aught.

If she lives, she shall be brought

To you and she shall take the veil,

Or, if she be dead, I shall prevail

On you to pray that she’ll reside

In Abraham’s bosom, there abide;

And so each year mark her death-day.

Good monks, and pious ladies, say

What is there to grieve you here?

I shall enrich you, have no fear,

If God so wills it that I return.’

Then the monks and nuns did turn

To their sanctuaries, and the rest

Departed, while, with lance in rest,

Armed, as he came, he went his way.

The End of Part II of Perceval