Chrétien de Troyes
Yvain (Or The Knight of the Lion)
Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved.
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- Lines 1943-2036 Yvain declares his love for the Lady of Landuc
- Lines 2037-2048 The lady consents to take Yvain as her lord
- Lines 2049-2328 King Arthur is invited to the lady’s court
- Lines 2329-2414 King Arthur and his company enter the fortified town
- Lines 2415-2538 Gawain urges Yvain to attend the tournament
- Lines 2539-2578 Yvain seeks leave of his lady to accompany Gawain
- Lines 2579-2638 The lady gives a magic ring to Yvain
- Lines 2639-2773 Yvain breaks the promise to his lady
- Lines 2774-3130 Yvain loses his mind but is restored to health
- Lines 3131-3254 Yvain defends the Lady of Noroison’s castle
- Lines 3255-3340 Yvain defeats Count Alier
- Lines 3341-3484 Yvain encounters the lion
- Lines 3485-3562 Yvain laments breaking his promise to his lady
Lines 1943-2036 Yvain declares his love for the Lady of Landuc
TAKING him by the hand again,
The maiden leads my Lord Yvain
To where he will be dearly loved,
Yet thinks he will be disapproved,
And that he thinks so is no wonder.
They came upon the lady yonder
Seated upon a crimson cushion.
Great fear was his first emotion,
When our Yvain made his entry
To the room, and saw the lady,
While she to him said not a word.
Thus he felt more deeply stirred,
And by fear was much dismayed,
Thinking he had been betrayed.
He stood mute so long before her
That the maiden cried, in anger:
‘A thousand curses on this woman
Who leads a knight here, by the hand,
To a lovely lady’s room, one who
Is motionless, and speechless too,
Without the sense to say his name!’
Then by the arm she seized the same,
Saying: ‘Step forward now, sir knight,
Forget your fear that she may bite,
Though tis you that killed her lord,
And seek for peace now and accord.
And I will join with you in prayer
That she pardons you for that affair,
In which you slew Esclados the Red,
Who was her lord.’ Yvain now said,
Like a true lover clasping his hands
While on his knees you understand:
‘Lady, I will not ask for mercy,
But rather I must thank you humbly
For aught you would inflict on me.
Naught you do can me displease.’
‘Truly? And if I have you killed?
‘Lady, my thanks, if tis your will,
For from me you’ll hear naught else.’
‘Never,’ said she, ‘have I heard tell
Of aught like this; this very hour
You place yourself in my power,
Without my exercising force.’
‘Lady, there doth exist no force,
In truth, as strong as that, I say,
Which commands me to obey
All your pleasure, and wholly.
I’ll not hesitate to apply me
To aught you are pleased to order.
And if there were any way to alter
The fact of your lord’s death, I vow,
Though not to blame, I’d do so now.’
‘What,’ said she, ‘do you address
Me, thinking now to win forgiveness,
And feign you were not in any way
To blame for my lord’s death that day!’
‘Lady’ he said, ‘pray you mercy,
When your fair lord attacked me
Was I wrong to offer stout defence?
How does he commit an offence
Who is at risk of capture or death,
Should he deny the other breath?
‘He doth not, if we judge aright,
What good would be served, sir knight,
If your death were my sole concern?
Yet now I would, willingly, learn
From whence that great force may
Arise, that compels you to obey
My every wish, unquestioningly.
Of all accusations you are free;
But sit, so you may now explain
What force renders you so tame.’
‘Lady,’ he said, the force doth rise
From my heart; for you it sighs,
And the heart prompts my desire.’
‘And what prompts the heart, fair sire?’
‘The eyes, lady.’ ‘And the eyes?’
‘The beauty that in you they spy.’
‘And that beauty, how doth it err?’
‘Lady, it leads love to despair.’
‘Love? Of whom?’ ‘Of you, my dear.’
‘I?’ ‘Truly.’ ‘Of what character?’
‘A love that could ne’er be deeper,
One that seeks joy of you forever,
Joy it could never find elsewhere;
Such that no other thought I share;
Such that I wholly yield myself;
Such that I love you more than self;
Such that for your protection, I
As it please you, will live or die.’
‘And would you dare to undertake
To defend the fountain for my sake?’
‘Yes, truly, lady, ’gainst any lord.’
‘Well then, we are truly in accord.’
Lines 2037-2048 The lady consents to take Yvain as her lord
THUS they are fully reconciled,
And the lady, who hath beguiled
Her barons already, as we know,
Says: ‘From here, now we will go,
And seek my people in the hall,
Who do advise, and counsel, all,
Because of the need that they see,
That I take a husband to me,
And, because of that need, so I do,
For here I give myself to you.
Nor should I refuse such a one,
A valiant knight and a king’s son.’
Lines 2049-2328 King Arthur is invited to the lady’s court
NOW has the maiden achieved
All that she’d wished, I believe,
And my Lord Yvain’s mastery’s
More than he’d dared hope to see;
For the lady, taking his hand,
Leads him to the hall, where stand
All her knights and all her people,
And my Lord Yvain seems so noble
That all gaze on him with wonder,
And rising to their feet they render
A bow, and thus all welcome, now,
My Lord Yvain, and all avow:
‘This is he whom my lady fair
Would wed, cursed be those who dare
Object to such rare nobility.
The Empress of Rome would be
Nobly wed to this best of men.
Well, if he has already spoken,
And she him, with naked hand,
Tomorrow takes and weds the man.’
Thus they all murmured together.
There, where they could see her;
At the very top of the hall,
She was seated before them all.
And my Lord Yvain made as if
To sit at her feet, against her wish,
For she raised him, and did call,
At once, upon her Seneschal
To speak out, both loud and clear,
So that all her folk might hear.
No slow or ineloquent man,
Thus, the Seneschal began:
‘My lords,’ he said, ‘war is coming.
Not a day goes past but the king
Prepares fresh forces to gather,
With all the speed he can muster.
Before this fortnight is over
All to ruin he will deliver,
Unless some champion appears.
When my lady, not seven years
Ago was wed, she did so freely
On your advice, and now that he
Her lord is dead, doth weep and moan.
Six feet of earth is all he owns,
Who was the lord of this country,
And glory of our nobility.
Tis a pity he his life did yield;
A woman cannot bear a shield,
Nor can she battle with a lance.
Marriage her role would enhance,
Marriage with some worthy lord.
Never was greater need or more
Pressing; advise that she wed again,
So that the custom might remain,
That which this castle has seen
For more than sixty years, I mean.’
At this the gathering proclaimed
That it was right she wed again.
And bowed to her accordingly,
Strengthening her desire indeed.
Yet as if despite herself, she lent
Her ear to them, and gave consent,
Speaking of her wishes, indeed,
As she would have if they’d not agreed:
‘My lords, since it is your wish,
Of the knight by me, I say this:
He has sought and won my hand,
He undertakes to defend the land,
In my service and for my honour,
For which I thank him, on your
Behalf. True, I did not know him,
Yet I had heard much talk of him.
Know, he is of high lineage then
The son of famed King Urien.
Besides his noble parentage,
He displays such great courage,
Such wisdom, and such courtesy,
That he is full worthy of me.
Of a certain Lord Yvain, I know,
You have heard all men speak so.
And this is he, who seeks my hand,
And I shall have, you understand,
A nobler husband than I deserve,
On the day this marriage occurs.’
‘Today,’ they reply, ‘if you are wise
Your marriage shall be solemnised,
For it would be folly to delay
So fair a thing for e’en a day.’
They so beg her she doth consent
To that which was ever her intent,
For Love himself doth her command,
To do as the council doth demand;
Yet more honour doth accrue
If her people request it too;
And their urging is no grief,
Rather it strengthens her belief
That her heart should win the day.
The horse that’s already on its way,
Goes faster still for being spurred.
Before them all she speaks the word,
And gives herself to my Lord Yvain.
And from the hand of her chaplain,
He received the Lady of Landuc,
(Laudine, heir to Laudunet, the Duke)
And thus, without the least delay
The two were wed, that very day;
And the marriage, then celebrated,
With mitres and croziers was sated,
For the lady had in no way forgot
To summon each bishop and abbot.
Many were there, and great richness,
And all folk full of happiness,
More so than I’d know how to tell
Though I thought long and well;
Better be silent than court disaster.
Now is my Lord Yvain the master,
And the dead man is quite forgot;
He who slew him his wife has got,
And they have commerce together;
And all men love their new master,
More than they ever loved the dead.
He is now their liege lord instead.
They feasted till the eve of the day
When King Arthur came to assay
The wondrous fountain and the stone,
And did not venture there alone,
But brought with him his company,
His whole household, to that country,
‘And did not venture there alone, but brought with him his company’
The Book of Romance (p160, 1902) - Andrew Lang (1844-1912)
Internet Archive Book Images
Such that not one remained behind.
And Lord Kay now spoke his mind:
‘Ay! What has become of Yvain
Who at our dinner did maintain
That he would avenge his cousin;
For with us now he should be seen?
Clearly twas the wine that spoke!
He has fled, like a puff of smoke,
Not daring to maintain it now.
He was foolish to boast, I trow.
He’s bold who boasts of his prowess
With none to praise, and no witness,
To testify to his great deeds
Except some flatterer, indeed.
Take the cowardly and the brave,
How differently the two behave;
For the coward before the fire
Boasts of himself, like any liar,
And thinks us fools who know him not.
While the brave are distressed by what
Some other man has said of them
Praising the courage seen in them.
And yet the coward, I maintain,
Is not so wrong if he proclaims
His own prowess himself always;
No other will lie and sing his praise.
If he doth sing it not, who will?
Even the heralds keep silence still,
Who yet proclaim the brave aloud,
But lose the coward in the crowd.’
Thus did my Lord Kay men deride,
But then my Lord Gawain replied:
‘Mercy, my Lord Kay, show mercy!
If Lord Yvain’s absent, as I see,
You know not what duties he has,
Never so low has he stooped as
To accuse you of villainy,
But speaks of you with courtesy.’
‘Sir,’ said Kay, I’ll hold my peace.
Today, I shall not dare to speak,
For I see that it gives you pain.’
And now the king, to view the rain,
That basin of water did assign
To the stone beneath the pine,
And rain poured down from the sky.
They waited there and, by and by,
Fully armed, my Lord Yvain
Entering the forest once again,
Came at a mighty gallop indeed,
Riding a fine and handsome steed,
Strong and bold, on battle intent.
And now my Lord Kay was bent
On demanding the first assay;
For he always, come what may,
Wished to begin every melee,
Every joust, or was out of temper.
To the king he made his prayer,
That this first battle might be his.
‘Kay,’ said the king, ‘if you so wish,
And since you ask before the rest,
Not to deny you, pleases me best.’
‘Kay thanks him, and takes the saddle.
If he can now shame Kay a little,
My Lord Yvain will be pleased,
And gladly Kay’s defeat he’d see.
He knows it is Kay from his shield.
Grasping his own, he takes the field
As does Kay, and they meet together,
Horses spur, and their lances lower,
Holding them gripped in their hand.
Then extend the lances a little and
Grasp the butt, wrapped in leather,
So that as they now clash together
They deal each other such a blow
That both the lances splinter so
They are split down to the handle.
Kay is knocked from the saddle
By the force of Lord Yvain’s blow,
Turns a somersault then, to follow,
And strikes the ground helmet first.
To harm him in some manner worse,
Is not my Lord Yvain’s intent.
From his steed he makes descent,
And takes Kay’s horse, pleasing many,
Who cannot help but say, gladly:
‘Behold, behold where he now lies
He who others doth so despise!
Nevertheless it behoves us all
Rightly to pardon his downfall
For such ne’er befell him before.’
And approaching now they saw,
Before the king, my Lord Yvain,
Leading the war-horse by the rein.
Which to Arthur he would render.
‘Sire, this steed I here surrender,
For I’d commit a wrong, I’m sure,
Should I withhold aught that’s yours.’
‘But who are you?’ the king replied,
‘I should not know you, except I
Heard your name freely uttered
Or saw you without your armour.’
‘Yvain, am I, the very same.’
Then was Kay filled with shame,
Mortified, and discomfited,
For saying that Yvain had fled;
But the rest shared their delight,
At Kay’s discomfort and the fight.
Even the king was quietly pleased,
And Lord Gawain, whole-heartedly,
Nay, a hundred times more than all,
That to Yvain doth the victory fall,
For he loved his company too,
More than any knight he knew.
And the king then asked Yvain,
If it so pleased him, to explain;
For Arthur had a great desire
To know all that had transpired,
What adventure Yvain was on,
And what honour he had won.
And so Yvain now tells the tale
Of how the maiden without fail
Hath done him loyal service;
Not passing over aught of this,
Nor forgetting a single thing.
And after that asks of the king
If he and all his band of knights
Would lodge with him that night,
For a joy and honour it would be
To offer him hospitality.
And Arthur says that he will stay
With Yvain for a week and a day,
And honour him with his company.
My Lord Yvain gave thanks, then he
Mounted, and without seeking rest
Led them along the very shortest
Road that ran towards the castle.
And in advance he sent a vassal
Bearing only a moulted falcon,
To reassure the lady, so not one
Of her folk is caught by surprise,
But, in readiness, to please all eyes,
Deck their houses to greet the king.
And when she heard of his coming
Then was in her great joy created,
And all the townsfolk were elated,
Hearing the news of Arthur’s visit.
The lady asked her lords to submit
To her wish, and go and greet him,
And they as one agreed to meet him,
For they were all now anxious to do
Whatever their lady wished them to.
Lines 2329-2414 King Arthur and his company enter the fortified town
HER people ride, on mounts from Spain,
To greet King Arthur, in her name,
Saluting first, most courteously,
The King of Britain, and secondly
All those who ride in his company.
‘Welcome,’ they cry, ‘to all; for see
Here is a gathering of noble men.
Blessed be he who brings them then
And grants us such handsome guests.’
The town resounds, offering its best
For the arrival of the puissant king;
Silken drapes, now forthcoming,
All hung aloft, to deck the event;
Tapestries clothe the pavements;
And, in a further preparation,
Against the great heat of the sun,
They cover the streets with awnings.
Bells, horns, and trumpets blaring,
Make the castle walls to resound,
Louder than doth thunder sound.
And there, where girls are dancing,
Flutes and reed-pipes are playing,
Timbrel, kettle-drum, and tabor,
While the younger men do labour,
To leap about, as if in flight.
All strive to show their delight,
Showing their joy to the king,
As is their duty, in everything.
And now the lady doth appear,
She her imperial garb doth wear,
A robe of ermine, fresh and new,
And on her brow a diadem too,
That a wealth of rubies grace.
There is no cloud upon her face,
Smiling, she reveals her beauty,
More beautiful, as all may see,
Than was ever any goddess.
Around her now the crowd do press,
As they all cry, with one accord:
‘Welcome to the king and lord
Of kings, and all earthly lords!’
The king could not reply before
He saw the lady fast approaching
To hold his stirrup, so not waiting
For her to reach him, God defend,
He promptly hastened to descend,
The moment that she hailed in sight,
While she saluted him outright:
‘A hundred thousand greetings this day,
To my Lord the King, and, I do pray,
Blessed be his nephew, Lord Gawain,’
‘May joy and good fortune appertain
Ever to your noble form and features,
Is my wish for you, fair creature.’
Cried the king, then about her waist,
Gently and freely, his arm he placed,
And she embraced the king, equally.
You’ll win not another word from me,
About the honour she thus conferred;
But never has any spoken or heard
Of a crowd of guests so well received,
So honoured or so well-served indeed.
I might tell you more of their delight,
Were it not it would weary you quite.
Yet you deserve some brief mention
Of a meeting twixt the moon and sun,
Which in private counsel occurred,
And of which I’d gladly say a word.
Do you know of whom I now indite?
He who was lord among the knights,
And greater than them all, in fame,
Must here the sun’s position claim.
I speak of course of my Lord Gawain,
For chivalry does his form proclaim,
And he illumines it with his rays,
Just as the sun, at break of day,
Sheds his light, and illumines all
The places where his rays do fall.
And our damsel I call the moon,
For here there can be only one
Of such great aid and service.
I call her not so because of this
Merely, she so free from blame,
But because Lunete is her name.
Lines 2415-2538 Gawain urges Yvain to attend the tournament
THE damsel’s name then was Lunete,
A charming and most clever brunette,
With wisdom, kindness and courtesy.
As dearer to Lord Gawain grows she,
He prizes her and loves her dearly,
And claims her for himself wholly,
For from death did she not defend,
His good companion and his friend.
He grants her his service freely,
While she tells of her difficulty
In winning over her mistress
To take in marriage no man less
Than Lord Yvain as her new sire,
And how she’d rescued him entire,
From the hands of those who sought him,
Though, among them, failed to see him!
My Lord Gawain laughed profusely
At her tale, and said, most gladly:
‘Mademoiselle, I commit to you,
Whether needed or not, this true
Knight, such that is as I may be;
Do not, for another then, forsake me,
Thinking you might well do better;
For I am yours and so, forever,
My demoiselle shall you be.’
‘I thank you kindly, sir,’ said she.
While they were meeting thus,
Others there proved as flirtatious;
More than sixty ladies were present
And every one virtuous, prudent,
Fair and courteous, of high worth,
Each of them being of noble birth;
So the knights could spend their day
Embracing and kissing, all in play,
Talking and gazing, occupied
In sitting pleasantly by their side;
So much at least might they gain.
In festive mood is my Lord Yvain,
Now the king is lodged with them,
While the lady so honours them,
Each separately, and all together,
That a foolish man might gather
That out of love she acted thus,
And with him seemed amorous.
But rightly he a fool is proved
Who thinks that he is truly loved,
Because a lady is courteous
And addresses the least of us,
Gives delight and doth us embrace;
A fool is lost to a lovely face,
And to fair words, completely.
All spent the time thus pleasantly,
Throughout the whole week entire,
For all might hunt as they desired,
Among the woods, along the rivers;
Or view what the realm delivers
That my Lord Yvain has won,
By marrying with such a one,
As his lady, for they might seek
Within a few leagues, that week,
One of his several castles, nearby.
When the king had fully satisfied
His curiosity, nor wished to stay,
He made ready to wend his way.
But all that week his knights sought
By argument and subtle thought,
Requests, and prayers, and demands,
And all the wit at their command,
To urge Yvain to return with them.
‘Will you prove one of those men,’
He was asked by my Lord Gawain,
‘Who with his wife must remain?
For cursed be they, by Saint Mary,
Who lose all worth when they marry.
She should enhance a man’s life
A fair lady, as his lover or wife;
And tis not right that she love on,
If worth and reputation are gone.
Surely you would regret her love
If you a lesser man should prove.
A woman will soon cease to prize,
Rightly, a man she doth despise,
Who, though become the lord of all,
Through his love into sloth doth fall.
Now your fame should see increase.
Throw off the rein, break the leash,
Come to the tournament with me,
So none accuse you of jealousy.
Now you should not hold back,
But upon the tourney make attack,
And in the lists the brave accost,
Whatever to you may be the cost.
He’s lost in dream who will not stir.
You must come, indeed, dear sir,
And not another word from me.
Fair companion, think carefully,
Let not a friendship fail in you,
That in my heart is ever true.
A wonder it is how in nature
What is deferred sinks deeper.
Pleasure is sweeter through delay,
And a little goodness, any day,
Tastes richer if tis waited for,
Than lost in devouring more.
The joy in honour slow to arrive
Is like green wood, better dried,
Burning then with greater force,
If to patience one has recourse,
And yielding greater heat within.
One may grow so used to things
Tis less painful to yield than not,
And wishing to alter, one cannot.
And lest you mistake me, true,
If I had as lovely a lady, as you,
My dear companion, do possess,
Let God and his saints bear witness,
I too would find it hard to leave,
I too to her, in truth, would cleave.
Yet a man may advise someone
To do what he himself would shun.
Just as we see with the preachers,
Who are such deceitful creatures,
They proclaim what tis right to do,
But naught of what they say pursue!’
Lines 2539-2578 Yvain seeks leave of his lady to accompany Gawain
LORD Gawain spoke at such length,
Indeed with such force and strength,
That Yvain promised he would speak
To his wife, and her leave would seek
To accompany him, in some wise,
And whether it be foolish or wise,
Would not fail to seek permission
To return with Gawain to Britain.
She knew naught of what he sought
When with her he shared his thought,
Saying: ‘My lady, my life’s goal,
You who are my heart and soul,
My health, my joy, my happiness,
A favour I ask of you, no less,
For your honour, and for mine.’
The lady did her head incline
Though she knew naught of his wish,
Saying: ‘Fair sir, command me in this,
Whatever your request might be.’
Then my Lord Yvain asks her leave
To follow the king, and her consent
To attend the royal tournament:
‘That none there may think me idle.’
She replied: ‘Your leave I will
So grant, until a certain date,
But then my love will turn to hate,
That I bear you, you may be sure
If you should remain on that shore
Beyond the time that I shall set,
And I will keep my word yet;
Though you break yours, I will not.
So if for my love you care a jot,
If, above all, you hold me dear,
Think you to be once more here
Within a year from this very day,
A week after Saint John’s, I say,
For this is the eighth day since then.
And if you are not back again,
Restored to me, then by all above,
You can offer a mass for our love!’
Lines 2579-2638 The lady gives a magic ring to Yvain
MY Lord Yvain now weeps and sighs
So bitterly that he scarce replies:
‘That, lady, is too long a wait.
If I could be with you, my fate,
Whene’er I wish your face to view,
Then I’d nigh always be with you.
And I pray God, if he so please
Not to detain me at his ease.
Yet we think to return often,
Ignorant of what will happen,
And I know not what may occur
That may act to keep me there,
Imprisonment perhaps or sickness.
You do me an injustice, no less,
In not granting exemption for
Some obstacle I cannot ignore.’
‘My lord’, she said, ‘I will so do.
Nevertheless, I now promise you,
That, if God spare you from death,
And you recall me at every breath,
No obstacle will block your way.
This my ring, I give you, pray,
Wear it always on your finger,
And I ask you now, remember
All regarding the gem there set,
For no prison will hold you yet
If you love loyally and are true,
Nor will any harm come to you,
No wounds, and no bloodshed,
If you’ve heard what I’ve said;
Wear it ever, and hold it dear,
And remember your lady here.
Then it will protect you like steel,
To you it will be mail and shield;
Nor have I trusted this ring ever
To any knight before, however,
I lend it you now, out of love.’
Now Yvain has leave to remove,
But he weeps greatly at parting.
The king would not, for anything,
Brook delay, rather he sought
To have all the palfreys brought,
And all saddled and equipped,
And would not stop for a quip;
For as he wished so it was done.
The steeds were led forth at once,
Thus it only remained to mount.
I know not if I should recount
My Lord Yvain’s leave-taking,
Or the kisses bestowed on him,
Which were mingled so with tears,
Bathed in sweetness it appears.
And what shall I say of the king,
How the lady took leave of him,
Accompanied by her ladies all,
And the knight, her Seneschal?
Far too long would we tarry here.
Seeing the lady bathed in tears,
He begged her to return amain,
And in her castle there remain,
And he begged her so urgently,
She returned with her company.
Lines 2639-2773 Yvain breaks the promise to his lady
MY Lord Yvain is now so greatly
Distressed at parting from his lady,
His heart it can do naught but stay.
The king may lead the body away,
But not the heart, for she so chains
And binds his heart, she who remains,
Not even the king has the power
To draw it away for even an hour.
And if the body lacks its heart
How shall it live when they’re apart?
Lacking its heart, a living body
Is a marvel no man e’er did see.
Yet this marvel has come about,
For he is still living, yet without
His heart, which once beat within,
And now no longer follows him.
In a fine place the heart doth dwell,
The body lives in hope, as well,
Of returning to the heart it left.
It fashions a heart, though bereft,
Out of hope, in a strange manner,
Hope that proves false traitor ever.
He will not be aware till later
Of the hour hope plays the traitor,
For if by a single day he exceed
The term of leave that he agreed,
It will be hard for him to win
His lady’s pardon ever again.
And yet I think he’ll not return,
For my Lord Gawain doth yearn
To retain him in his company,
And go together to the tourney
Wherever the joust holds sway.
And as the year now slipped away,
Such success had my Lord Yvain,
Everywhere, that my Lord Gawain
Greatly wished to do him honour,
And so caused him to malinger
That whole year was past and gone,
And sufficient part of another one
That the middle of August arrived
When the king at Chester did abide;
Having returned the previous eve,
From a tournament, I do believe,
At which my Lord Yvain made one,
And every single prize had won.
And, it seems, the tale tells how,
The two companions both did vow
Not to lodge there within the town,
But pitched their tents on level ground
Outside the walls, and there held court.
They went not to the king’s own court,
But the king, instead, he went to them,
For his best knights were with them,
And were there in greatest number.
Among them all, sat King Arthur,
And it was then Yvain remembered
That he’d exceeded the time stated
His lady had given permission for,
And no thought surprised him more
Than this awareness of his delay,
The breaking of the pledge he’d made,
Regarding the promised day and year.
He could scarcely forgo his tears,
But held them back, for very shame.
He was thinking on it, all the same,
When he saw a maid approaching,
Towards him at speed, and riding
A piebald palfrey; before his tent,
None ran to assist in her descent,
Though she dismounted, in due course,
Nor did they come take her horse.
Seeing the king among them all,
She then allowed her mantle to fall,
And thus attired, and thus arrayed,
Entered Yvain’s tent right away.
And came and stood before the king,
Saying her mistress gave greeting
To the king, and my Lord Gawain,
And all the others, except Yvain,
That disloyal knight, that traitor,
That foul liar, and oath-breaker,
Who’d deserted and deceived her.
Now she saw how he treated her,
Pretending that he loved her true,
Yet disloyal, through and through.
‘My lady doth give witness here,
That no mischief did she fear,
For it never occurred to her
That he would prove a robber.
Lovers may steal a lady’s heart,
But there are others, a race apart,
Thieves, that empty vessels prove,
Who, with deceit, go making love.
They are robbers and hypocrites,
Traitors who, caring not a whit,
Steal hearts that to them mean naught;
True lovers to hold them dear are taught,
And then restore them faithfully.
But Yvain has nigh killed my lady,
Telling her that he would guard her
Heart, and then would return it her
Before the promised year was out.
Forgetful of you, Yvain, to flout
Your pledge, clearly unconcerned
That you ought to have returned,
To my lady within that year gone.
For until the feast of Saint John
My mistress had granted you leave;
Yet you so lightly did conceive
Your pledge, you failed to remember.
While every night, within her chamber,
My lady counted the months and days;
For when one loves, one frets always,
And never a restful sleep did earn,
And all night long tossed and turned.
Through all the days that come and go
What doth the lover? Doth thou know?
Counts the months, tells the seasons,
I am not here without good reason,
Who disturb you making holiday,
Nor to complain from vain display,
But simply to say, we are betrayed,
By you whom my lady wed that day.
Yvain, my lady for you doth care
No longer, and her message I bear
Never return, and one further thing,
Do not seek to retain her ring.
I whom you now see before you
She demands you render it to;
Render it now, for so you must.’
Lines 2774-3130 Yvain loses his mind but is restored to health
YVAIN, his tongue as dry as dust,
Was stunned, and unable to reply,
While the maid approached him nigh,
And from his finger took the ring,
Then to God commended the king
And, but for Yvain, all the rest,
Leaving that lord in great distress.
And his sorrow is ever increasing,
And all that he sees torments him.
He would rather be exiled alone,
In deep seclusion, and all unknown,
Banished to some savage place,
Where none would ever see his face,
No man or woman of his country
Knowing more where he might be,
Than if he’d plunged in the abyss.
For he hates most the thing he is,
And knows not where to find relief
From himself who’s his own grief.
He’d be a madman not to take
Vengeance now, for his dire mistake,
Upon himself, who his joy hath lost.
He removes himself from the host,
Fearing madness, if he remain,
And they ignore him, for it is plain,
As they watch him go on his way,
That he cares naught for aught they say,
Nor hath need of their company;
While he goes wandering, till he
Is far from tents and pavilions.
Then such a made tempest rages on
Inside his head that all sense is lost,
He tears his flesh, and naked almost,
Flees through the fields and valleys,
And leaves his folk in perplexity,
As to where he might be found.
They search all the country round,
In among the knights’ lodgings,
Gardens, hedges, and surroundings,
Seeking where he is no longer.
While he flees, further and further,
Till he comes upon, beside a park,
A lad with a bow, and doth mark
His quiver, with many an arrow,
Broad, sharp, and barbed also.
Sense enough, as yet, he had
To seize the bow from the lad,
And the arrows in their quiver,
And yet he would not remember
A single thing that he had done;
And in this way he wandered on.
He killed the deer, and then he ate
The venison in its raw state.
So he dwelt among the trees,
As madmen do or savages;
Till he came upon, one day,
A hermit’s hut, beside the way,
And the hermit working near,
Who saw a naked man appear,
And thinking that perhaps he had
Thus to deal with a man run mad,
Soon ascertained that it was so;
Fearful and surprised, although
He entered his humble hut, he set
At the window, a little bread.
And there Yvain came in need
And on that morsel did feed.
He took the bread and of it ate,
And I doubt not that such bait,
So hard, he’d never had before,
The grain within not worth more
Than twenty sous, all bitter, sour
As yeast, made of a kind of flour,
Barley mixed with oaten straw,
So that the bread tasted more
Like bark, stale, dull with blight.
Yet hunger whets the appetite,
So the bread to him was sweet,
For hunger doth dress any meat,
Like to a sauce, mixed with art.
My Lord Yvain played his part,
Ate the bread, and found it good,
Drank cold water with his food,
Then was minded to disappear,
Into the woods, to seek the deer;
While the holy man, concerned,
Prayed to God, that if he returned,
His own self he’d protect alway,
And so preserve him on that day.
Nevertheless, whate’er may be,
A man will return, and willingly,
To a place where he’s treated well.
Not a day passed, but to his cell,
In his wild fit, the madman came,
Bringing the hermit wild game,
Thus to repay him for the bread.
This was the life that Yvain led.
And thus the holy man within
Would the wild creatures skin,
And cook the venison, and ever
He would set the bread and water
At the window, so the madman
Might eat a meal, as others can;
With cooked meat, cold drink,
Water from the stream’s brink,
Venison without salt or pepper;
And the hermit, so as the better
To provide bread, sold the hides,
And bought barley loaves besides,
So, Lord Yvain, from that time on,
Had bread aplenty and venison,
And this sufficed in every way.
Thus was he found asleep one day,
By two maidens in the forest,
Accompanying their mistress,
Whose servant they both were.
On finding a naked creature there,
One of them dismounted, and ran
And looked closely at the man,
But saw nothing by which to tell
Who he was, though she might well
Have recognised him, so carefully
Did she gaze at him, if only he
Had been dressed in rich attire,
As before, that she might admire.
Thus she was slow to know him
Yet nonetheless she stared at him,
Till her eyes rested, finally,
On his face, and a scar did see;
And such a scar she well knew
Had Lord Yvain on his face too,
She remembered to have seen,
And so, by the scar, did glean
That it was he, without a doubt,
And wondered how it came about
That she had found Yvain here,
Who poor and naked did appear.
She seeks not to touch or wake him,
Though struck by the state he’s in,
But takes the bridle and remounts,
Rides to the others, and recounts
Her adventure, in floods of tears.
I know not if I should pause here,
To tell of her sorrow and distress;
Weeping, she spoke to her mistress:
‘Lady, we have come upon Yvain,
He who has proved, time and again,
To be the truest knight in the world,
And yet I know not what has hurled
This nobleman from his great height,
For it seems he is now in evil plight,
From some misfortune, tis my belief.
For one may lose one’s wits through grief.
And one can readily see that he
Has lost all sense, for it seems to me,
He would never act so strangely,
If he’d not lost his mind wholly,
And his senses were not askew.
Now may God his wits renew,
To the sanity that they once had,
And Yvain then be pleased to add
His aid to the cause of your castle,
And lodge there with you as well!
Count Alier who makes war on you
Would see the war between you two
End by bringing you great honour
If God would but show his favour
And his full wits to Yvain restore,
His true sense, and, furthermore,
Aid you then in your hour of need.’
The lady replied: ‘Now take heed,
Tis a certainly, if he doth not flee,
That we’ll rid him of his insanity,
Clear the madness from his head,
The sorrow and the storm it bred.
But we must be off, swift as ever,
For there’s a salve that I remember;
Margot the Wise gave it to me,
And said there was no malady
Of the mind it would not cure.’
So off to the castle they venture,
Which is near, being no more
Than a half a league away, for,
As leagues go in their country,
Compared with ours, you see,
Two make one, and four make two.
Yvain sleeps on, now lost to view;
They’re away to seek the ointment.
Now the lady to a chest she went,
Removed a box, and gave it to
The maid, telling her not to use
The ointment on him too freely,
Rubbing it into the temples only,
There being no need for it elsewhere.
She should anoint his brow with care,
But then keep all the rest by her;
For the only ill he had incurred
Was in his brain; there, the trouble.
A robe of vair, a coat and mantle
Of scarlet silk she finds for him;
The maid takes them, and to him
Leads a fine palfrey by the rein,
And from her own store adds again
A fresh shirt, with soft leggings
And new hose, well-cut and trim.
Taking all these, she rode away,
And finding Yvain, where he lay,
Still fast asleep, within the wood,
Tethered her horse where it stood,
Beside a clearing, among the trees.
Now, clothes and box she carries
To where the madman lies sleeping,
Then, slowly but with great daring,
Approaches Yvain, cautiously,
So she may tend him while asleep.
And thus the ointment she applies
Emptying the box despite its size,
So concerned for the man in her care,
She spreads the ointment everywhere.
With the salve she proves so reckless
She forgets the words of her mistress,
And uses more than is necessary,
Though, she thinks, most usefully:
She salves his brow and all his body,
So that from his brain, swiftly,
Will ebb all that raging madness;
Though using so much is foolishness,
For there is no need to anoint him so.
If she’d had five times more, though,
She’d have used it all, it seems to me.
She took the box, and thought to flee,
Reaching her steed, then hid behind,
But left the clothes for him to find,
Hoping that if God restored him
He would see the clothes around him,
And take them and swiftly dress.
Beside an oak tree she doth rest,
Till, after sleeping long, Yvain
Is cured and now himself again,
Regaining wits and memory;
Yet finds he’s naked as ivory.
Although his shame were more
If he’d known what went before,
Yet knows no more than he is bare.
He sees the new robe lying there,
And marvels, immeasurably,
As to how that has come to be
And how the other clothes appeared.
His nakedness makes him afeared,
Ashamed and troubled as he is,
Thinking himself undone by this;
If any who know him have been,
And found him, naked, and seen.
Meanwhile rapidly he dressed,
And looked about in the forest,
To mark if anyone was in sight.
He thought to rise and stand upright,
But lacked the strength so to do;
He needed help to stand anew,
To help him walk, and sustain him,
His illness had so troubled him,
He scarce could rise to his feet.
The maiden seeing his defeat,
Could wait no longer, and so she
Mounted, and passed by quietly,
As if not knowing he was there;
And he, being so in need of care,
Indifferent as to who might bring
Aid to help him to some lodging,
Where he might gather his strength,
Called out to the maiden, at length;
While the maiden, for her part,
Looked about her, and gave a start,
As if she knew naught of all this.
At his call, it not being her wish
To go straight to him, she delayed,
And he began to call: ‘This way!
This way, demoiselle!’ Thus she
Guided her palfrey to him slowly,
So he’d think by her manner there
Of proceeding, performed with care,
That she knew naught of the matter,
Nor had ever strayed any closer,
Being both wise and courteous.
When she arrived before him thus:
‘Sir knight what do you wish of me,
To call so loud and long?’ said she.
‘Oh,’ he replied, ‘fair maid so wise,
I find myself, in curious guise,
Among these woods by some mischance;
For God’s sake, would you, perchance,
Lend me, I pray, on word of honour,
Or give outright, if you may so offer,
That palfrey that you are leading.
‘Willingly, sir; yet where I’m going
You shall also, and accompany me.’
‘And where is that?’ ‘Beyond the trees,
To a castle that stands nearby.’
‘Demoiselle, tell me then if I
Am needed at the castle there?’
‘Yes’ said she, ‘and yet, I declare,
You are not in your full strength,
And must recuperate at length,
A fortnight at the least, I’d say.
Take this palfrey, and lead away,
And we will go find you lodging.’
And since that was all his longing,
He mounted and they went their way,
Until to a narrow bridge came they,
Over a swift and violent river.
Then the maid, into its waters,
The empty ointment box did toss,
Thinking to explain the loss
Of box, and all, to her mistress,
By pleading that in her distress
At crossing o’er that perilous river,
The box had fallen in the water;
For by some chance the palfrey
Had stumbled, and the box, sadly,
Had escaped her hands, and she
Had almost followed, willy-nilly;
So it might have been even worse!
This sad tale she would rehearse
When she came before her lady.
They continued on their journey,
Till they came to the castle wall,
Where the following did befall.
Within, the lady then detained
Most pleasantly, my Lord Yvain,
But her box, and her ointment,
Demanded of the maid she’d sent,
Privately. And then the maid
Told the tale that I’ve relayed,
Just as she had intended to,
Not daring to repeat the truth.
The lady was dismayed: ‘This is
A great loss, and certain it is
That it will not be found again;
Yet, since tis gone, I maintain,
There’s nothing more to be said.
Often the good desired, instead,
Turns to ill that no one wished.
So from our noble knight, in this,
I thought to have blessing and joy,
But now have lost, in its employ,
The possession I held most dear.
Nevertheless, pray you, appear
Ready to serve him in everything.’
‘Oh, my lady, tis wisdom speaking,
For it would be a sad game, true,
To make of one misfortune, two.’
Lines 3131-3254 Yvain defends the Lady of Noroison’s castle
ABOUT the box, they keep silent,
And thus to my Lord Yvain present
Their services; with every care,
They bathe him, and wash his hair,
Shave him close, and trim his beard,
For fistfuls of hair had now appeared
On his face; now he lacks nothing:
If he wants armour, arms they bring,
If he desires to ride a while
They bring a steed for him to trial,
Handsome, spirited, strong as ten.
Yvain is there, on a Tuesday, when
Against the town comes Count Alier,
With knights and foot in fine array,
Burning, plundering, laying waste.
The people arm themselves in haste,
Ready to defend their castle.
Whether armed or unarmed still,
They issue forth to the attack,
The enemy not turning back
But waiting in a narrow pass.
Yvain charged against the mass;
‘Waiting in a narrow pass Yvain charged against the mass’
The Book of Romance (p232, 1902) - Andrew Lang (1844-1912)
Internet Archive Book Images
For having rested for so long,
He was now both fit and strong.
On the shield he struck a knight,
Fiercely downing him outright,
Meeting him with mighty force
Toppling the rider and his horse,
Nor could the man arise again,
For his heart had burst amain,
And his very spine was broken.
My Lord Yvain drew back a token,
And took a moment to recover,
Then, with the brief respite over,
Spurred forward to clear the pass.
One could scarce the numbers cast,
One, and two, and three, and four;
Four brave knights he doth floor,
And to deliver more is ready,
Advancing fast and furiously;
While those fighting beside him
All take fresh courage from him;
As a man of faint and timid heart
When he sees the brave man dart
Towards the foe before his eyes,
Driven by shame, his fear defies,
Finds fresh heart, then doth flee
The former heart from his body;
So he brings them, for his part,
Each a noble and valiant heart.
Thus rendered brave and sound
In the melee, each stood his ground,
And in attack he found new power.
Now the lady, she was in her tower,
Watching from the castle height,
‘The lady, she was in her tower, watching from the castle height’
The Book of Romance (p78, 1902) - Andrew Lang (1844-1912)
Internet Archive Book Images
The whole battle, with the fight
To conquer and regain the pass;
And saw upon the ground, alas,
Dead and wounded full many,
Both her troops and the enemy,
But more of them than her own.
For my Lord Yvain, a man alone,
Courteous, brave, and excellent,
Stoops upon them, in his intent,
As doth the falcon on the teal.
And those within the walls feel
Heartened, man and maid alike,
And cry, as they see him strike:
‘Ah! How bravely he doth reap!
How he makes the enemy weep!
How fiercely he thus terrifies!
For he appears no otherwise
Than as a lion among the deer,
Driven by hunger, doth appear.
And then every other knight
Is braver, fiercer in the fight,
For were it not for his bravery,
No shattered lance would we see,
Not a sword drawn, on our part.
One must love with all one’s heart
A noble man when one is found.
See now how he holds his ground,
See how bravely he makes good,
See how he drenches in blood
His lance, and his naked sword,
See how he scatters them abroad,
See how boldly he doth attack,
Then wheels about, turning back!
See how he rests awhile, and then
Returns to the assault again,
The fresher for his brief sojourn;
See how lightly, on his return,
He holds the worth of his shield;
To piercing blows doth it yield.
How mercilessly he doth fight,
Returning blows left and right
In revenge for those undergone.
If all the forests of Argonne
Were felled, his lances to supply,
None would be left by night, say I,
For none they provide can endure,
He breaks them all, and asks for more;
And see what prowess is displayed
Whene’er he seeks to draw his blade.
Never with his sword, Durendal,
Did Roland once, at Roncesvalles,
Wreak more havoc, there in Spain
Against the Turks, and if Yvain
Had more good men in his company,
The villain who’s now our enemy
Would this day, discomfited, retreat,
Or stand his ground and meet defeat.’
Then, they pray the heavens above
Bless her to whom he gives his love,
For he so puissant in arms is found,
And above all others is renowned,
As a taper midst candles shines afar,
As the moon shines among the stars,
As the sun doth outshine the moon,
For he has all hearts there in a swoon,
This one’s here and that one’s there,
For all who regard him now declare
They wish he had their lady’s hand,
And was the lord of all their land.
Lines 3255-3340 Yvain defeats Count Alier
THUS was Yvain praised anew,
And all that they said proved true,
For so fierce an attack he led
That one and all the enemy fled;
But he presses hard on their heels,
With his companions, who feel
As safe there, as if they were all
Enclosed behind some castle wall,
High, and wrought of solid stone.
The pursuit is long and hard, I own,
Till those who flee, drained by fear,
Are struck as their pursuers near,
Their horses now disembowelled,
The living stumbling o’er the dead,
As they deal fresh wounds and slay,
Destroying all things in their way.
Meanwhile the Count doth flee,
Followed by Lord Yvain, as he,
Count Alier, now feigns a wound,
Until by Yvain he is found
At the foot of a high hill, caught
Near to the entrance of a fort,
Which belongs to this Count;
Where he reigns in his mount,
With none there to lend him aid.
Now, with but little to be said,
Yvain accepted his surrender.
For once he had the Count closer,
And they were alone face to face,
Without the chance of escape,
The Count had no way to turn,
Or resist, and must thus return
To face the Lady of Noroison;
And there be held as if in prison,
And make peace mayhap with her.
Once he has so pledged his word,
He must then his helmet yield,
And from his neck loose his shield,
And render up his naked sword.
Then he doth the honour accord
To Yvain of leading him where he
May be handed to his enemies,
Who delight in it, and not a little.
The news was carried to the castle
Before they had arrived, and there
All met them, their delight to share,
Led by the lady of the land.
My Lord Yvain takes the hand
Of his prisoner, and presents him.
Of her demands she now tells him,
The Count accedes most willingly,
Swears by his faith such shall be;
Thus she secures it upon oath,
He gives his word and pledge, both.
Pledges he gives to her and swears
That he will live in peace with her,
And all her losses will restore,
All that she can prove and more,
And rebuild where there is need.
Once these things were all agreed
As the lady wished, for his part,
My Lord Yvain sought to depart.
Nor would she have granted this
If as his wife, and his mistress,
He had taken her, thus to tarry
There with her before they marry.
But not one step would he allow
Any man there to escort him now,
But set himself to ride away,
For naught could make him stay;
Leaving the lady in sad plight,
To whom he had brought delight.
The greater the joy he brought her,
The greater was her pain and deeper,
When he no longer wished to stay.
She’d wished to honour him that day,
And make him, had it been his desire,
Lord of all she possessed, entire;
Or, if not that, to have granted him
Wealth for his services, asking him
To take as much as he might want.
But to linger there was not his wont,
He paid no heed to woman or man,
But from her knights now was gone,
And the lady; though all might grieve,
Despite their pleas, he chose to leave.
Lines 3341-3484 Yvain encounters the lion
PENSIVELY, he took his way,
Until he came to a deep glade.
Among the trees, as he drew nigh,
He heard a loud and dismal cry,
And turned then towards the same,
To seek the spot from which it came,
And when he reached the very place
He saw a lion, in that open space,
And a serpent gripped it by the tail,
Striking its rear, like a fiery flail,
Scorching the beast with hot flame.
He spent no time, my Lord Yvain,
Watching this marvel rather took
Counsel with himself, at a look,
As to which of the two to aid.
The lion best deserved his aid,
For a venomous and treacherous
Creature should be slain by us,
And the serpent was venomous,
For from its throat fire burst,
So full it was of poisonous bane.
Thinking thus, my Lord Yvain
Chose to kill the serpent first,
‘Thinking thus, my Lord Yvain chose to kill the serpent first’
The Book of Romance (p106, 1902) - Andrew Lang (1844-1912)
Internet Archive Book Images
Drew his sword, and then he durst
Advance, his shield before his face,
So as to bar the flames’ embrace;
Foe from its throat the flames start,
A throat as wide as some great jar.
If the lion should then attack
It would ne’er an answer lack,
But, whatever might occur,
He would aid the lion first,
For pity urged him so to do,
To bring aid and succour to
A beast so grand and noble.
With a sharp and powerful
Blow of his blade, he first
Strikes the snake to the earth,
Then cuts it into separate parts,
Striking and slicing it apart,
Destroying it, piece by piece.
Yet, so that he might release
The lion, he is forced to cut
From its tail at least a foot,
Which the treacherous serpent’s head
Has engulfed and on it fed;
Yet he cuts only what he must.
When the lion was freed at last,
He thought he would need to fight
And that it would attack outright,
Yet found it was not minded to.
Hear what the lion chose to do:
It acted nobly, for it bowed low,
And now began to act as though
It wished to surrender itself to him,
Extending its front paws towards him,
And lowering its head to the ground,
Kneeling, and fawning like a hound,
Hind legs raised; Yvain drew near,
To find its mask all wet with tears,
Moistened so, in humility.
My Lord Yvain, of a verity,
Knew the lion was thanking him,
Humbling itself there before him,
Because of the snake he had slain,
Delivering it from death, and pain.
He was pleased with his adventure,
He cleaned his sword of the ordure
And venom the snake left, and then
Sheathed his sword, now bright again,
And set off, to continue his ride,
With the lion walking by his side,
Unwilling to part from him ever,
Wishing to be his friend forever,
Eager now to serve and protect.
The lion walks on till it detects,
On the wind, the scent of prey.
Somewhere ahead, along the way,
A herd of wild deer are feeding,
And its nature then and breeding
Prompt the lion to seek its kill,
And secure itself food, at will;
Such is the nature of the beast.
It runs ahead, some way at least,
To show its master it has found
Spoor and scent upon the ground,
And halting, on encountering this,
Looks to its master, for its wish
Is to serve him in every way,
And not to wittingly disobey
His will, in any way whatever.
And Yvain sees from its manner
The lion awaits his command.
Yvain perceives and understands
That if he withdraws, it will too,
And if he follows it will pursue
The deer that it scented ahead.
So he cried out, and onward sped,
As if he were urging on a hound,
And then the lion, at the sound,
Set its nose to the deer’s scent;
Nor did it err in its intent,
For within a bow-shot, in a vale,
It found its quarry without fail;
A deer was there feeding alone.
This the lion took, on its own,
Killing the deer at the first leap,
And of the hot blood drank deep.
Once it was dead, the lion laid
It on his back, and so conveyed
The warm carcase to his master,
Setting it down before him there.
Yvain now held him in deep affection,
For this display of true devotion.
Darkness fell, and it seemed good
To spend the night there in the wood,
And strip the deer of its venison,
Or of enough fine meat for one.
A cut along the rib he did make,
And from the loin carved a steak,
And striking a spark from his flint,
From dry brushwood flame did win,
Roasting his steak till it was done.
Yet the meal was a scanty one,
For he had neither salt nor bread
Nor knife nor cloth; yet he was fed.
While he was eating, the lion lay
By him, not stirring in any way,
But watched him steadily, as he
Took what he wished of the meat,
And ate till he could eat no more.
The lion the rest did then devour,
All the carcase down to the bone;
Then while Yvain slept all alone,
His head resting on his shield,
To win what rest that doth yield,
The lion showed his intelligence,
Lying awake, with every sense
Alert, guarding Yvain’s steed,
That on the scanty grass did feed.
Lines 3485-3562 Yvain laments breaking his promise to his lady
AT dawn they both left together,
And that life lived every other
Single day of the next fortnight,
Till chance led them to alight
Upon the fount beneath the pine.
There, nearing it a second time,
Remembering all, my Lord Yvain
Nigh on lost his wits again,
On seeing the chapel and the stone.
A thousand times he made moan,
Then, grieving, fell into a swoon,
And as he stumbled there, eftsoon
His sword tumbled from its sheath,
Striking the chain mail beneath
The jaw, then entering his neck.
The links split; naught could check
The point which pierced, like a nail,
The flesh beneath the shining mail,
So that it caused hot blood to flow.
The lion imagined that the blow
Had killed its dear friend and master.
You can ne’er have heard greater
Grief e’er written of or narrated,
Than that creature demonstrated.
He pawed the ground, and groaned,
Conceiving the wish, as he moaned,
Of pinning himself upon the sword
Which he thought had slain his lord.
Carrying the blade in his jaws, he
Lodged it against a fallen tree,
Pressed it against the trunk behind;
Thus it was firm and well-aligned,
To pierce him through the chest;
And so was nigh put to the test,
But Yvain emerged from his swoon,
And thus the lion escaped its doom,
When on the point of rushing upon
The blade as a wild boar has done,
Many a time, heedless of dying.
There my Lord Yvain was lying
Half in a swoon beside the stone.
Recovering, he made violent moan,
Blaming himself for returning late,
And thus incurring his lady’s hate,
Crying: ‘Why does he not choose
To die, who thus his joy doth lose?
Alas, for death should he not strive?
How then should I linger here, alive,
Viewing all this that my lady owns?
Why does a soul cling to these bones?
What does that soul do, dwelling here
In this sad flesh? Let it disappear,
And so be done with all its pain.
And so I should despise and blame
Myself, and tis true, for so I do.
Who loses all joy and comfort too
Through his own fault, he rightly
Should hate himself, and mortally.
He ought to hate himself and die.
Since none looks on, why should I
Spare myself, and not die today?
For, have I not seen this lion prey
To such grief, for me, that it tried
To kill itself, and well-nigh died
By hurling itself upon my sword?
Should I escape such death the more
Who have turned delight to sorrow?
Delight is far distant from me now.
But of that I say naught: for, nay,
There is, now, but naught to say.
And all is but a foolish question.
That joy I had in my possession
Proved the greatest joy of mine,
And yet endured such little time;
Who ends his joy by his own hand,
Good fortune should ne’er command.’
The End of Part II of Yvain