Wolfram von Eschenbach
Book II: Gahmuret and Herzeloyde
‘Venus' Looking Glass’
From The Flower Book, Sir Edward Burne-Jones (English, 1833 – 1898)
Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved
This work may be freely reproduced, stored, and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.
- The Tournament at Kanvoleis in Wales.
- Gahmuret raises his Pavilion.
- Gahmuret is visited by Kaylet, Gaschier and Killirjacac.
- The preliminary or ‘Vesper’ tournament begins.
- The finest knights topple their foes.
- Gahmuret and ‘his lady’ Queen Ampflise.
- He fights at his lady’s request.
- Gahmuret learns of his brother Galoes’ death at Muntori.
- The Queen of Wales, Herzeloyde, visits Gahmuret’s tent.
- Herzeloyde asserts her claim.
- The Queen of France’s chaplain asserts the counter-claim.
- Gahmuret mourns his brother King Galoes.
- Queen Herzeloyde’s claim on Gahmuret is upheld.
- Gahmuret and Herzeloyde consummate their love.
- Gahmuret leaves to fight for the Caliph of Baghdad.
- Herzeloyde’s dream.
- Herzeloyde learns of Gahmuret’s death in battle.
- Herzeloyde’s lament For Gahmuret.
- The birth of Parzival.
- Wolfram’s apology.
The Tournament at Kanvoleis in Wales
GAHMURET wished to greet, again,
His cousin Kaylet, King of Spain.
Towards Toledo he made his way,
But Kaylet, gone now many a day,
Had left to seek some fair tourney
Where shields met with little mercy.
Gahmuret, so says my author,
Told his men to go and gather
His lances, each of which displayed
Its pennant, of green sendal made,
With three anchors in ‘ermine’ white,
That proudly signified the knight,
All acclaimed for their splendour.
He owned a hundred in number
Of such pennants, long and wide,
Which, starting from where they were tied
A span below the lance-tip, ran,
Well-nigh down to the wielder’s hand.
All these were carried in his train,
By his cousin’s folk, who made plain
The deep respect they’d there afford
This brave knight, to please their lord.
Now, I know not how long he sought
For Kaylet, and where Kaylet fought,
Quite as far as the land of Wales.
But there, at last, so run the tales,
Before Kanvoleis he found,
Pitched en masse, on open ground,
A host of tents of foreign knights;
I spin no tales, fair truth delights.
He told his men to rein in there,
While his own squire ahead did fare,
To find some site within the town;
Such by his squire was swiftly found.
There followed on his baggage train.
Not one house did the town contain
That did not many a shield display,
Like penthouse roofs, in fine array,
And hangings draped from every wall.
Fenced with lances was every hall.
The Queen of Wales a tournament
At Kanvoleis did thus present,
Its terms such as would scare today
Any who heard them, I may say,
If he were not known for bravery.
She was a maid as yet, you see,
Not yet come to woman’s estate,
And offered to who tried their fate
Two broad lands and her own person,
As the prize, on this occasion.
And it was this news which brought
Many, who that brave honour sought,
To bite the dust, or at least the grass,
As they with horse and lance did pass
Along the lists, and did there advance,
Yet were toppled, and lost their chance.
Many a brave knight played his part,
Proved his skill, yet did then depart.
Many a steed sped onwards there,
And many a sword rang in the air.
A bridge led over a pool of water
To a meadow, in a quiet quarter,
Barred by a gate that his young squire
Had oped, to see the Palace entire
Towering above; there at a window
The Queen and her ladies saw below
This squire and others work to raise
A Pavilion that, in other days,
A young prince lost, for a love
That no benefit to him did prove,
A vain love, for Queen Belacane.
A rare Pavilion it was, tis plain,
Burdening thirty mules indeed
To carry it; the ladies agreed,
That it cost much labour that affair,
Before twas raised high in the air;
Yet the meadow was long and wide,
With room for its ropes on every side.
Gahmuret raises his Pavilion
NOW Gahmuret that noble man
Breakfasted, such was his plan,
Outside the town while this was done,
And when they’d raised the Pavilion,
He thought of how he might, with flair,
Approach, in sight of those ladies fair.
He took no time at all to decide.
Each of his squires there did ride
With five lances tied together,
And a sixth lance in their other
Hand, with pennant flying above;
Such the style pride doth approve!
Now the Queen was told, you understand,
That a stranger, from a distant land,
Would soon be seen, so said the page,
Who brought the news, and set the stage:
‘His men, Frenchmen and infidel,
Are richly clad, and they may well
By their speech be men of Anjou.
They bear themselves right proudly too,
Their clothes are fine, none can deny.
I went amongst his squires, and I
Found nothing there not of the best.
They say if any of them attest
To their need of aught at all,
And do upon their master call,
That he will soon dispel their care.
I asked: who is the master there?
They said the King of Zazamanc;
He it is that they have to thank
For their contentment,’ said the page,
‘See his Pavilion, why I would gage
Its worth at twice that of your crown
And all your lands with this fair town.’
‘I would not rate its worth so high,
Cried the Queen, ‘and yet, say I,
Its lord knows naught of poverty.
There is his lodging, where is he?’
And she sent the page to enquire
For to know of him was her desire.
Gahmuret rode through the town,
In great state, rousing all around.
The glitter of shields met his eye.
The trumpets played as he went by,
Their shrill sound startling the air,
And timbrels shaken, a tinkling pair,
Till from the walls they did resound:
The noise was heard all over town,
Mingled with the sound of flutes,
Playing a march, along their route,
While flanked by fiddlers on horseback,
Their master went who naught did lack.
Clad in high-boots made for summer,
One leg cocked on his mount’s shoulder,
He rode along, lips red as a ruby,
Their colour shining bright and fiery.
Radiant, handsome in every way,
Lord Gahmuret rode out that day;
Bright, softly curling, was his hair,
Flowing from his rich cap there;
His cloak, as ever, of green samite,
Against a tunic of gleaming white,
Its trimmings glowed a sable black.
A crowd of folk went at his back,
Or pressed around to watch the sight,
All asking who might be this knight
Parading past, so splendidly?
His folk told them, right willingly.
Towards the bridge all made their way;
The Queen’s bright radiance that day,
Made him straighten his slack posture,
And gaze alertly, when he saw her,
Like a hawk that beholds its prey;
In such lodgings he’d seek to stay,
And as for his hostess, the Queen,
She seemed content, her face serene.
Gahmuret is visited by Kaylet, Gaschier and Killirjacac
A knight told Kaylet, King of Spain,
That there, upon the Leoplane,
They had erected the Pavilion,
That Gahmuret had been given,
Through Razalic, at Patelamunt.
Kaylet rejoiced, as was his wont.
‘I saw your cousin, in his pride,’
Said the knight, ‘for there I spied,
A hundred banners raised on high,
Before his tent; his shield did I
Behold, all green; his emblem there
On every pennant, that same affair
Of three anchors on a green field,
All ermine, like that on his shield.’
‘Is it so? Is my cousin here?
Then you shall see how he’ll appear
Effortlessly to deflect the lance,
And trouble all with his advance.
King Hardiz, for some time now,
Has sought to topple me, I avow,
And, indeed, he has pressed me sore.
But Gahmuret he’ll not dare ignore,
And Gahmuret will unhorse him too.
My fortunes then must rise anew.’
Kaylet sent the knight on his way,
To where the Norman, Gaschier,
And fair Killirjacac lay, at rest.
They had come at Kaylet’s request,
And camped with a large following.
Now they accompanied the king
To the Pavilion, there to greet
The King of Zazamanc, and meet
Again, their friendship as before.
Too long had it been since they saw
His face once more, they all said so.
Gahmuret then was keen to know
What knights in arms were there at hand?
‘Knights there are from many a land,
Whom Love of some fair lady brings,
A host of warriors, lords, and kings.
King Uther Pendragon for one,
And his Britons, yet he is none
Too happy, his flesh feels a thorn,
Since she to whom Arthur was born,
His wife, Igraine, Uther has lost;
For she departed, to his cost,
With a priest versed in magic lore,
And Arthur after them, what’s more,
And we are in the third year now,
Since he did lose them both, I vow.
Yet Lot of Norway, his son-in-law,
Is here, one chivalrous to the core,
A skilful, wise, and noble knight,
Who is as quick to act aright,
As slow to dream of treachery;
And Lot’s own son, Gawain, we see,
Not old enough to joust, tis clear,
And yet the lad was with me here,
And said if he could break a lance,
Were strong enough in his advance,
A knight’s work he would seek to do.
Ambition works in him, tis true.
And then the King of Patrigalt,
Has brought a forest to the assault,
For thick with lances is his force,
And yet his deeds count not, of course,
For here are knights of Portugal
“Mad wretches” we named them all,
Intent on piercing many a shield.
The Provençals, too, take the field,
Their shields are striped all bright
With red and yellow, every knight.
And then the Welsh, of this fair land,
Who such numbers can command
That they can drive at will right through
The others’ forces, and then pursue.
And there are those unknown to me,
Who come in service to some lady,
But as for those that I have named,
We are encamped within this same
Town of Kanvoleis, each fair nation
Is there at the Queen’s invitation.
Now let me name those camped outside,
That our brave fighting skills deride.
The noble King of Ascalon,
And the proud King of Aragon;
Also Cidegast of Logroys,
And the King of Punturtois,
Who is named Brandelidelin;
And there too is bold Lahelin,
And Morholt of Ireland, as well,
Who’s ransomed many men that fell.
The Alemans lodge in the plain;
And the Duke of Brabant I name,
Who has appeared in this country
For love of the King of Gascony,
He’s that very same King Hardiz,
Who weds him to his sister, Alize;
Thus he’s rewarded in advance.
All these oppose me with the lance;
Yet now I may rely on you.
Recall your kith and kin; be true
To the love that you bear me, now,
For your assistance you must vow.’
‘If my aid’, replied Gahmuret,
‘Brings you gain, you need feel no debt.
Let our two causes be as one.
Does not your ostrich take the sun
And scorn its nest? Your serpent’s head
Bear against Hardiz; you were bred
To strike against his demi-griffin.
So shall your emblems fight and win.
And I will cast my anchor there
Into the wave that he doth prepare,
And so hold firm while he doth land
Head over heels upon the sand;
If we move against each other
And he and I attack together,
I must down him, or he down me,
That I will swear, and guarantee.’
The preliminary or ‘Vesper’ tournament begins
KAYLET returned to his fine tent,
More than usually content.
In an instant, the heralds cried
A fine warrior from either side;
He of Poitou was Schiolarz,
His foe Gurnemanz of Graharz.
They made to joust there in the plain.
But six knights from this side came,
And three from that and, as swiftly,
Knights began the Vesper tourney,
Commencing their chivalric deeds.
What indeed could make them cease?
The time was round about midday,
And Gahmuret in his tent still lay,
When he heard the growing fight
Was drawing to it every knight,
As is the way of such chivalry,
And so he made his own entry
To the field, where long and wide
Grew the squadrons on either side.
He flew his pennant but refrained
From the attack, his post maintained
Before his tent, wishing to see
How both sides fought, and did he
Have his carpet set upon the ground,
Near where the battle-cries did sound,
Where charge upon charge was made
While the wounded horses neighed
Mournfully, and sharp swords clashed
Bent on glory, where armour crashed,
And lances shattered – why ask where?
Amidst the squires, watched the affair,
As the knights their patterns wrought
Like woven tapestry, as they fought.
They were, those deeds of chivalry,
So close by the ladies could see
And review the warriors’ labours,
As brave knights attacked their neighbours,
And thus the Queen was sad at heart
To find that Gahmuret sat apart,
Out of the thick of that rare fight.
‘Ah, where is that wondrous knight
Whom I have heard so much about?’
Great things were done midst the rout,
By many a knight of slender means
Who yet aspired not to the Queen’s
Royal person nor her broad lands,
Nor sought, by the work of hands,
The prize declared there, in her name;
Some lesser chess-piece was their aim.
Gahmuret had donned that armour
Vridebrant the Scot had proffered
As amends to Queen Belacane
For all the warfare and the pain
With which he’d burdened her land.
He’d gazed on the Helm of adamant,
A peerless work which he now wore.
They had set his emblem, as before,
The anchor, high upon its crest,
With precious gems the helm was blessed,
A rare and heavy weight indeed;
The Angevin called for his steed.
Yet what, you ask, adorned his shield?
A boss of gold Araby did yield,
Was riveted there, a golden burden
For the man who sought the guerdon,
All shining with a reddish glow;
There you could see your face; below
The gold was set a sable anchor.
I’d have longed for what he wore,
Many a pound in weight and worth.
His tabard was of ample girth,
I doubt if any has worn its peer,
Its hem the floor did barely clear,
It shone, like living coals at night,
Nothing worn, but all new and bright;
One’s gaze could not evade its glare,
The weak-sighted were blinded there.
And it was all patterned with gold
Such as the griffins’ claws do hold,
Won from a rock in the Caucasus,
They who as yet still guard it thus.
Folk travel there from Araby,
Gain its possession, guilefully,
(There is none so fine elsewhere)
And then return to Araby, where
They weave the green silk Achmardi,
For rich brocades and such finery.
His tabard then was rich and rare,
As he went to join in this affair.
He slung his shield about his neck.
There stood his fine charger decked
With iron plates, to its hooves nigh;
His pages gave forth his battle-cry.
And Gahmuret leapt to the saddle,
His eager mount he did bestraddle;
Many a lance, full tilt, he broke,
Cleaving through the other folk
Charging out on the farther side.
Kaylet’s ostrich was there beside
The anchor, as Lord Gahmuret,
Poytwin de Prienlascors now met,
Thrust him down and he did render
Like many another his surrender.
All those knights who bore the cross
Of poverty, gained from their loss,
Since he gave each a captured mount,
A fine addition to their account.
Four banners now against him came,
On each the emblem was the same,
(Brave men they were that carried these,
Their lord well-versed in chivalry)
The emblem was a griffin’s tail,
Its latter end, but sharp as hail.
It was the King of Gascony
Who bore the front half there, you see,
Upon his shield, and his attire
Was such all ladies did admire.
Seeing the ostrich on a helm,
He spurred at it to overwhelm
The knight beneath, yet the anchor
Reached him first, quelled his rancour,
Gahmuret toppling him unaware,
Making the king his captive there.
There was a fine melee after that,
The furrows were all trampled flat
As smooth as is a threshing floor,
The knights’ steel swords, they combed the straw.
A forest of lances broke, and down
Went many a knight to the ground;
(I’m told twas to the rear they went
Where cowards lurk behind a tent).
The finest knights topple their foes
THE battle now had come so near
The ladies now could see, full clear,
Which knights in arms might gain the crown.
Now came sharp splinters showering down
Like blown snow, for it did win
The hour, that lance of Rivalin,
Who fought for a lady’s favour,
And so as ever sought for honour.
He was the King of Lyonesse,
And wherever he did press,
There was a sound of splitting wood,
And a cracking, as he made good.
Morholt cleverly stole a knight,
Hoisting him from his seat outright
And onto his own saddle there
(A fine journey through the air!)
That knight was Killirjacac,
Who had but now paid King Lac
With such as e’er a man has found
In treasure from such solid ground;
Killirjacac was fighting well,
But Morholt, the tale doth tell,
Wished to win without a sword,
And so that flight did him afford.
Out of his saddle, and onto land
Kaylet thrust the Duke of Brabant;
That lord’s name was Lambekin.
What was done by his kith and kin?
They all thirsted for battle, so
They shielded him as he sank below.
Then the brave King of Aragon
Toppled old Uther Pendragon
Over his horse’s tail, and there
Ended his part in that affair;
The King of Britain, reft of power,
Lay there, deep among the flowers.
How courteous, when all’s said and done,
Of me, to lodge the King of Britain,
Under the walls of Kanvoleis,
In a place not trampled by feet,
Nor likely to be in time to come.
For he found more ease there, in sum
Than on his horse, but not forgot
For long, for those quite near the spot,
Gave him fair cover from the sword,
While charging about the greensward.
Up came the King of Punturteis,
He fell there, before Kanvoleis,
And lay where his mount had gone,
While the horse itself sped on.
This was proud Gahmuret’s doing.
‘Charge my lord!’ men were crying,
And, charging, he found his cousin
Kaylet, by his foes hemmed in,
Those folk of Punturteis who sought
To take him captive, where he fought;
And all seemed now a hideous din,
As ransom for Brandelidelin,
They had taken this other fellow.
Now various noblemen did follow
Running or walking in their armour,
Their flesh bruised black from the honour
Done them by many a harsh blow;
Their sole prize for a manly show.
I say it not to adorn my tale,
But no thought of rest did there prevail,
For they were spurred on by Love,
As many a helm and shield did prove,
Once bright, now coated with the dust;
While many fell there, as many must,
On the short turf, midst the flowers,
That fate with such honour dowers.
Let my heart too to such wars aspire,
If I keep my seat, and finish higher.
His mount being somewhat weary,
Gahmuret left the melee briefly.
They unlaced the Helm of adamant,
But only to let him puff and pant,
Not from bravado; his face was red,
Yet proud the bearing of his head.
Gahmuret and ‘his lady’ Queen Ampflise
NOW, hear! The king of France had died,
For whose fair wife, Ampflise, he sighed;
And she impelled by her great longing,
Had sent to Kanvoleis, seeking
To know if Gahmuret had returned
From distant lands, and such she learned.
The lady’s chaplain had, by this stage,
Arrived, with many a little page,
Escorted by steadfast young squires
Leading pack-mules; for her desires
Had led Ampflise to send him there.
And soon to Gahmuret he did fare.
‘Bien sei venûz, bêâs sir.’ He
Spoke in French, most fluently,
‘Fair greeting, on my lady’s part,
And on mine; tis from the heart,
Of the Queen of France I mean;
For, pricked by passion’s lance, the Queen
Is occupied with thoughts of you.’
He handed him her letter too,
Which sent Gahmuret her greeting,
And in its folds a tiny ring,
A safe-conduct, and a token,
Which once to her he had given.
With emotion Gahmuret bowed
On seeing her writing which avowed,
(If you would hear what it did state),
‘I, who have been distressed of late
By the passion that you inspired,
Send you love and greetings, fired
By a love that has shut and barred,
With bands of steel, strong and hard,
My heart from its true happiness.
I am dying now, of Love’s excess.
If your love should elude me yet,
Then surely I’ll die of deep regret.
Return, and receive from my hand,
The crown and sceptre, and the land
That the king has bequeathed to me.
The love you stir earns this, you see,
And accept the rich gifts I send,
Four panniers full; be my friend,
And my own knight at Kanvoleis,
Their capital, and you shall please.
If their Welsh Queen, of this affair
Catches sight, why should you care?
It cannot harm me; far lovelier
Am I than her, and mightier;
And then my love it holds more charm.
If for such noble love you’d arm
In return, come, here’s my crown.’
All this her fair hand had set down.
And this he read, there was no more;
So he donned his Helm as before,
Without a care to mar his thought.
His squires, who had the helmet brought,
Laced him in, for he was eager
To fight again, but gave the order
For the chaplain, her messenger,
To be led to the tent, there enter,
And take his rest, and be refreshed.
Wherever knights were hard-pressed,
Gahmuret cleared a way, as he could,
Some found bad luck and others good,
But if any missed his chance, yet he
Had a wealth of opportunity,
To retrieve whatever time he’d lost;
He only needed to make riposte,
Or join a mass charge over there.
They laid on with scarce a care,
Scorned ‘friendly blows’ as they are known,
Such as are ever in friendship shown,
Such that close friendships were rent
Apart, so great the force they spent;
In such a matter ill deeds, unseen,
Are but rarely excused, I mean:
No judge was there to keep the law,
Or rule on what they should ignore.
Whate’er a man won he retained,
No matter the resentment gained.
For they had come from many a land,
To Kanvoleis to try their hand,
And they’d little fear of the cost,
Whether indeed they won or lost.
He fights at his lady’s request
HE obeyed the Queen’s request,
That in the letter she’d expressed,
To be her knight, so for Ampflise
He fought on, and sought to please.
Behold him, now restraint is gone!
Is it passion that drives him on,
With such courage? Affection dowers
A man with strength; renews his powers.
Now Gahmuret espied King Lot
Turning his shield to where a knot
Of men were struggling; the king
Was well-nigh turned around, seeking
An advantage, but Gahmuret
Charged, and broke the enemy wedge;
And with his hollow lance unhorsed
The king of Aragon, such its force;
And that king’s name was Schaffilor.
The lance that Gahmuret now bore,
Lacked a pennant, for he had brought
The lance there from the heathen court.
Schaffilor’s friends now rallied round,
But he was a prisoner still, he found.
Those lodged in town forced those outside
To make for the open country, and ride;
Their Vespers brought a goodly yield,
The broken lances about the field
Suggested a full-blown tournament,
Though that was scarcely their intent.
King Lahelin now grew furious:
‘Are we to be put to shame thus?
Tis the deed of him who bears the anchor
And one of us must lay the other
Where he shall have a harsher rest,
Ere the day’s over, and this contest.
They have come nigh conquering us!’
The power of their charge was wondrous,
And guaranteed them ample space.
No mere sport these two did face.
Gahmuret and King Lahelin
Both with a will did now begin
Threatening to clear a forest entire:
‘A lance, a lance, a lance, dear squire!’
But then at last King Lahelin
Was shamed; Gahmuret thrust at him
And toppled the king from his mount,
A lance-length gave him, on account;
And received the king’s surrender.
I’d find gathering ripe pears harder,
So swiftly his foes went to ground.
Many, on seeing him bear down,
Cried: ‘Flee, beware, the anchor’s here!’
Gahmuret learns of his brother Galoes’ death at Muntori
BUT an Angevin prince did appear,
Galloping past with upturned shield,
One who to deepest grief did yield,
And he did its fair emblem display.
Why now did Gahmuret turn away
From the fight? I will tell you. Know,
That his dear brother, proud Galoes,
Fil li roy Gandin, as was he,
Gandin’s son, had previously
Granted it to that knight, ere Love
In single combat did him remove.
Gahmuret now unlaced his helm.
He sought no longer to overwhelm
The enemy; the dust and grass
He churned no more as he did pass,
As befitted his grief and sorrow.
Berating himself that he was slow
To question Kaylet as to why
His brother was absent (yet I
Deem Kaylet knew not the story
Of brave Galoes’ death at Muntori)
He had been too troubled in mind
Then; in truth, as we shall find,
Galoes was tormented by love
For Queen Annore, and did prove
Her bane, she suffering great sorrow
On his account, whence did follow
Her death, born of her loyal grief.
Now Gahmuret, to my belief,
Although in mourning, nonetheless
Had shattered lances to excess,
So many, in but half a day,
That he might well have cleared away
A whole forest, if the tourney
Proper had ensued, for nearly
A hundred ones, brightly coloured,
He had wielded there, and squandered.
His pennants were now owned outright
By the heralds, as was their right.
Back to his Pavilion, he did ride,
With the Welsh Queen’s page at his side,
Who relieved him of his tabard,
All pierced, and hacked, and scarred
In the conflict, and then the boy
Bore it for the ladies to enjoy;
And still that fine coat shone with gold,
As a bright furnace shines, and told
Of his wealth and magnificence;
The Queen said smiling: ‘You were sent,
With this brave knight, to our fair land,
“Sir Tabard” and now lie in my hand.
And though,’ she said, ‘tis only right
That all who fought should feel no slight,
(And let them note my true good-will,
Through Adam’s rib my kindred still)
Yet when all things are said and done,
Gahmuret’s deeds the prize have won.’
The chivalry continued still,
So fiercely, that twas not until
The twilight that the battle ceased.
Those from within the town were pleased
To drive those outside to their tents,
And would indeed have been content
To gallop on, through ropes and all,
Were it not for a loud recall
From the King of Ascalon and
The Lord Morholt of Ireland.
Some had won and others had lost,
Many were laid low to their cost,
Others earned honour and glory,
But at this moment in the story,
Tis time to part them; none can see!
He, who holds the stakes at tourney,
Grants no light here; who can play
After the candle’s borne away?
Who’d wish to gamble in the dark?
Not weary men who’ve made their mark.
The Queen of Wales, Herzeloyde, visits Gahmuret’s tent
AND yet the dark was quite forgot,
Where Gahmuret sat, for in that spot
It seemed broad day, though it was night,
For he was lit by candle-light;
Huge rings of tiny candles shone
Down on fair olive leaves; thereon
Was many a fine quilt and before
All these broad carpets made a floor.
The Welsh Queen to his tent came she,
With many a fair and noble lady,
To view this King of Zazamanc,
And a host of weary men of rank.
The space was cleared ere she entered,
Her host leapt to his feet, presented
All the four captive kings with their
Attendant princes, and met the fair
Queen with honour and ceremony.
She looked; she liked what she did see.
‘Here where I find you, you are host,’
Said the Queen, smiling, ‘here you boast
A great Pavilion, yet I command,
For I am mistress of this land;
It tis your pleasure that I should greet
You with a kiss, then twould prove meet.’
‘I would have your kiss,’ he replied,
‘If these lords are kissed, at my side,
For if kings and princes are forgot,
No kiss indeed should be my lot.’
‘So be it, they are unknown to me.’
She kissed them all, appropriately,
As their rank deserved, and Gahmuret
Had requested, and then he set
A seat for her, and she sat within,
And the Lord Brandelidelin
Sat beside her; the carpet wore
A coat of fresh green rushes, and bore
This host who delighted the Queen,
She longed for him indeed, I mean;
As he passed, to sit some way away,
The lady caused him some delay,
And had him sit at her other side.
She was a maid, and no one’s bride,
Who drew him down to sit so near.
Her name now you would seek to hear?
Well then, she was Queen Herzeloyde.
Her paternal aunt was Rischoyde,
Whom Gahmuret’s maternal cousin,
Kaylet, had wed; and there within
That Pavilion such light she shed
That lacking the candles overhead
She would still have lit that place
With her sweet and radiant face.
Gahmuret would have delighted
In granting the love she invited,
Had not his grief for his brother
Quenched his longing for a lover.
They both exchanged fair courtesies.
Then cup-bearers with graceful ease
Brought crystal cups, devoid of gold
Yet quite magnificent to behold,
Once gifted to Queen Belacane,
By Isenhart, to plead his pain,
Carved in Azagouc, of great worth;
These pages, all of noble birth,
Poured out for them the sweet wine,
From goblets made of crystalline
Cornelian, in pure colours seen
Of ruby red and emerald green.
Herzeloyde asserts her claim
TWO knights on parole now came
To the Pavilion, for these same
Had been captured, and only now
Had returned, having made a vow.
One was Kaylet, who on seeing
Gahmuret visibly grieving,
Said: ‘What’s this? Why, you are named
As the winner, and thus acclaimed
By those from every place, the men
Of Britain, and then the Irishmen,
The French, the warriors of Brabant,
Also the Welsh, of this fair land;
All these accept your victory,
And concede your supremacy
In every tourney of this kind;
And then the proof, to my mind,
Is that your courage did not fail
When these brave four you did assail,
Men who have never before now
Been made to ask parole, I vow:
My Lord Brandelidelin,
And then the noble Lahelin,
And Lord Hardiz and Schaffilor.
(Much like poor Razalic the Moor,
Whom you also taught to render,
At Patelamunt, his surrender!)
And this, your skill in battle, wins
The heights and greater fame begins.’
‘My lady will but think you foolish
To flatter me as you do in this,’
‘Do not,’ said Gahmuret, ‘over-praise me,
Lest others see the failings in me.
Too lavish are fair words unearned.
But tell me how you have returned?’
‘Brandelidelin’s men of Punturteis
Set me and this Champagnard free,
And if you’ll release him in turn,
My lord Morholt will then return
Killirjacac, my nephew, whom
He snatched from us, or our sad doom
Is to be ransomed. Favour us now,
For these Vespers were such, I vow,
There’ll be no tourney at Kanvoleis,
Or not unless you choose to release
The best of the foe, all seated here,
For how could they in force appear?
Like it or not you’ve won renown.’
Then the Queen, with nary a frown,
Made a request, dear to her heart:
‘Grant me satisfaction, on your part,
In the claim I now have on you,
I ask, who am your servant true.’
The Queen of France’s chaplain asserts the counter-claim
AT this the chaplain of that discreet
French queen, Ampflise, leapt to his feet.
‘I object!’ he cried, ‘for by every right
He is my lady’s own true knight,
She who sent me to woo him here.
She longs for him, it doth appear,
And so claims the title to his love.
The one that loves him most doth prove
The one that should his heart possess,
For she loves more than all the rest.
Here are her three princely envoys,
Pages above reproach, these boys:
The first lad is named Lanzidant,
Of noble birth, and from Greenland,
And he has come to France to learn
The tongue and a fair phrase can turn.
The second is called Liadarz,
Son of the brave Count Schiolarz
Of Poitou.’ Now, who was the third?
Strange is the tale, list to my word:
His mother was the fair Beaflurs,
And his father was Pansamurs,
Of the faery race, for their part,
And his name Liahturteltart.
All three stood before Gahmuret.
‘Sire,’ they said, ‘you may forget
All risk, for hazard you may play
And yet be bound to win the day.
(For the Queen of France doth move
To make the stake her noble love)
Of fair defence you have no need,
Happiness must be yours indeed.’
Now ere this embassy took place,
Kaylet seated himself with grace,
And was favoured with an angle
Of the Welsh Queen’s velvet mantle.
‘Tell me,’ she asked him, quietly,
‘Have you received some injury?
Are these the marks of blows I view?’
And then she touched the bruises too;
Her soft white hands did not shirk
To do so, they God’s handiwork.
She found his cheeks, and nose, and chin
Scarred, and battered, and beaten in.
Herzeloyde had done him the honour
Of granting him a place beside her,
By gently taking him by the hand,
Because his wife was the queen’s aunt,
Rischoyde. Now turning to Gahmuret,
While the lads were retreating yet,
She addressed him with courtesy:
‘The Queen of France, as I can see,
Urges her love; as she has sought,
Let me bring my own case to court,
Thereby honour all women in me.
Remain, my lord, in this country
Till judgement is given in this place,
Or you will bring on me disgrace.’
Gahmuret gave his word, and she
Took her leave, and parted swiftly;
No mounting-block did she need there,
For Kaylet lifted her in the air,
Onto her palfrey, then joined his brothers.
Gahmuret mourns his brother King Galoes
‘YOUR sister Alize, amongst others’
He said to King Hardiz of Gascony,
‘Once offered her own true love to me
Which I accepted, but now we see,
That such love was not meant to be,
And she is provided for elsewhere,
More nobly than were she in my care.
So I would beg that you, no longer,
Turn on me your righteous anger.
For she’s Prince Lambekin’s, and though
She wears no crown her rank is so
Illustrious Hainault and Brabant
Honour her, every noble man.
Befriend me, my fair lord, once more,
And your good graces now restore,
Be sure of my wish to serve you.’
Hardiz replied, a man full shrewd:
‘Ah, you were honey-tongued, always!
If a man you’d wronged all his days
Was set to summon you to answer
For it all, he would yet consider
It wise to forgive you still, if he
Was your cousin’s prisoner, like me.’
‘He would never wrong any man,
To set you free would be his plan,
And that is the first thing I’d request
For Lord Gahmuret is of the best,
And when you are set at liberty
You may be kinder then to me.
Surely enough time has gone by
To soothe your injured pride, say I.
And yet howe’er ill you treat me
Your sister will never scorn me.’
His words brought forth laughter,
And yet sadness soon thereafter;
Gahmuret’s love for Belacane
Was drawing him to her again,
While grief is a sharp goad pricking,
And they knew he was in mourning
And thus had little time for jests.
His cousin chided him: ‘Confess,
You treat our company as naught.’
‘Ah, I have many a rueful thought!
Though full of longing for the Queen,
Queen Herzeloyde the fair, I mean,
In Patelamunt, I left behind
One pure and sweet, of whom I find
The memory wounds me to the heart,
And now we are so far apart,
Her chaste and noble manners move
Me with sad longing for her love.
Queen Belacane gave me a land
And people, yet, you understand,
She robs me now of happiness;
We are shamed by our fickleness,
Yet tis manly to scorn constraint;
She bound me so, all my complaint
Was I was barred thus from fighting,
And so I fancied that this jousting
Here, might free me from my woe.
Now many a fool might well, I know,
Think that I fled from her blackness,
Yet she was as the sun in brightness.
Thought of her womanly excellence
Afflicts me, for if honour and sense
Were a shield, she’d be its centre.
That is one woe, but there’s another,
My brother’s shield, held in reverse,
I’ve seen borne here, his death rehearse
In mind.’ Alas, for that sad speech!
A sorry tale must this cousin teach;
Kaylet’s eyes now filled with tears,
For he had held that cousin dear;
‘O Queen of Averre, for your love
He gave his life; a fool you prove.
For King Galoes women should grieve
With true respect if they’d receive
Fair praise when they are spoken of,
And with due caution ever move.
Though it may little trouble you,
I mourn a kinsman brave and true
On your account, he wore your favours
And fought and died with knightly honours.
His kin and his companions here,
Bear heartfelt witness for their peer,
Sorrow bids them reverse their shields,
In the manner that true grief yields,
As if in attendance on his bier;
Such the chivalry they show here.
They bow now in grief, my cousin,
Galoes, will no more strive to win
His lady’s love.’ A second blow
Was this to Gahmuret, to know
The details of his brother’s death.
‘With such sorrow,’ he sighed a breath,
‘Have my anchor’s flukes found sand.’
And he held that blazon in his hand,
His sad gaze filled with his distress:
‘Galoes of Anjou, let all confess
There is no need to seek a knight
Who is as fine, or shines as bright,
And never yet was born, the man
That did ride forth with such élan.
Kindness blossomed in your heart,
And there bore fruit, where love doth start,
How the thought of your true goodness
Moves me, and grieves me to excess.’
And then he asked, of King Kaylet:
‘What of my poor mother, Schoette,
How does that unhappy woman now?’
‘As must move God’s pity, I avow;
For having lost Gandin, your father,
And now Galoes, your elder brother,
And being placed so far from you,
Death has broken her poor heart too.’
‘Yet be brave now,’ King Hardiz cried.
‘Though your brother it is has died,
Though his memory you treasure,
Yet grieve not beyond all measure.’
Gahmuret’s pain was still too great,
His flood of tears would scarce abate;
He saw to the ease of every knight,
Then to his tent of rich samite
He retired, and vented his grief,
All night, yet found there scant relief.
Queen Herzeloyde’s claim on Gahmuret is upheld
WHEN day dawned, the parties agreed,
All who bore arms whether indeed
Young or old, brave or cowardly,
That no fresh tourney could there be.
They were so raw still from the fight,
Even in the mid-morning light,
And with jaded mounts no less;
They could not move for weariness.
The Welsh Queen now rode the ground,
And led the knights back to the town,
Where she invited the lords to ride
To the Leoplane and, once inside,
They all complied with her request
And came to where Lord Gahmuret,
King of Zazamanc, mourned alas,
Listening to a requiem Mass.
After the blessing, the Welsh Queen,
The Lady Herzeloyde, I mean,
Stepped forward, and laid solemn claim
To Gahmuret, for voicing his name
She made her plea, to common assent.
‘Though from her side I am absent,
Yet, my lady, I have a wife,
Whom I love more dearly than life,
An even so, though I had none,
I could yet evade your person,
If I were now to assert my right.’
‘You must relinquish her outright,’
Said she, ‘there lies greater virtue
In one baptised, and so must you
Divorce yourself from heathenry,
And love me, as our rites decree,
For I love you, as all have seen;
Or shall she claim you, that French Queen,
For such sweet words were said indeed,
Perchance their message you did heed.’
‘She is my Lady, in chivalry,
Respect for her I brought with me,
With great gifts, when I returned
To Anjou, and such has she earned,
For I was raised with her, and she,
A woman of woman’s failings free,
Shared many a day of happiness
With me when childhood did bless
Us with its innocence. Ampflise,
Of your fair sex, doth ever please.
My sweet friend did, with her fair hand
Grant me gifts of her finest land
(I was much poorer then than now);
Yet you should pity me, I avow,
Though my poverty is of another
Kind, for I have lost my brother!
Urge this not, of your courtesy;
Let Love dwell where all are happy:
All my company is but sorrow.’
‘Let me not wait until the morrow.
What shall constitute your defence?’
‘I’ll answer you, in all innocence:
That you proclaimed a tournament,
A true one, for such was your intent,
Yet none took place; many a man
Will witness this that was on hand,
For the Vespers tourney so tamed
The fiercest here it must be blamed
For denying us your tournament.
I laboured in your town’s defence,
But many another fought as well,
Or better, as far as I can tell,
And so I think that from this claim
You must in truth remove my name.
For all your rights, your claim on me
Is naught, no more than a courtesy
You should indeed extend to all,
If such courtesy to me should fall.’
Now the story tells that the knight
And lady named, as was but right,
A judge to rule on the lady’s plea.
Noon approached, so right swiftly,
Lawful judgement was pronounced:
‘Lo, any knight who was announced
As present here, in this country
To work fair deeds of chivalry,
And donned his helm, and won the prize,
The Queen’s claim now must realise.’
And to all this the court assented,
Proving her claim, as presented.
‘Sire’, she said, ‘now you are mine,
And I shall seek, as you will find,
To bring you such joy this morrow
That you shall transcend all sorrow.’
His grief was lasting nonetheless,
He mourned his brother to excess.
And yet the April days were past,
And the fields of bright green grass
Were one unbroken stretch of green,
Which inspires faint hearts, I ween,
And lifts them to the heights again.
For the sweet May breeze was fain
To stir the blossom on the bough,
And all the world was waking now,
And Gahmuret had faery blood,
His destiny, for ill or good,
To love, and then to sue for love,
And here a friend his friend would prove.
On Herzeloyde he gazed, then he,
With a fair smile, said, courteously:
‘My lady, if we’d prove content,
You must not thwart my true intent;
For, if this sadness leaves my heart,
To seek the joust I shall depart.
If you deny me the tourney,
Then I shall be forced to journey.
Do not forget that once before
I left a wife I won in war,
For that she sought so to bind me,
I chose to leave her behind me,
And all that her land did afford.’
‘You shall strike your own terms, my lord,’
She replied, ‘and act as you wish.’
‘Breaking of lances, that I relish;
You must allow me to journey,
Once a month, to some tourney.’
She promised this, so I am told,
And her and her land he did hold.
Now Queen Ampflise’s four envoys,
That is, her chaplain and the boys,
Stood and waited while judgement
Was granted, and the court’s assent.
This the chaplain had seen and heard,
And to Gahmuret he spoke a word,
Softly, in his ear: ‘My lady,
And I say this in all courtesy,
Knows all the tale of how you won
The day there, at Patelamunt,
And are master of not one but two
Fair lands; she has a kingdom too,
And she is minded to endow
You with her goods and person now.’
‘She it was made a knight of me,
And as the laws of chivalry
Call me to act, so I must do,
And be a knight both firm and true.
Had I not had the shield from her,
This need not be, I do aver;
Yet, wish it or no, I must now
Be bound here by my knightly vow,
And accept the verdict given.
Return to her, as you were bidden,
Tell her, respectfully, I will be
Her knight forever and that she
It is for whom I’ll long the most,
Though of kingdoms I rule a host.’
He offered the envoys treasure,
But such proved not their pleasure,
And they returned to their mistress
Free of all blame yet, nonetheless,
They did not ask for leave to go,
As may occur in anger, we know,
And those princely pages, I fear,
Were all blinded by many a tear.
Those who had carried their shield
Point uppermost on that fair field,
Were told that Herzeloyde must win
Her claim to the brave Angevin.
‘Yet who is here from our Anjou?
Our lord is absent, gone to fight
In Saracen lands, such our plight,
That there he seeks to win great fame,
While we in sorrow here remain.’
‘He who bested all in the fight,
He who unhorsed many a knight,
Thrusting, hacking in that affair,
And wore the anchor emblem there
On his Helm all studded with stones,
Rare and precious, for such he owns;
He is your lord; for King Kaylet
Greets this Angevin as Gahmuret,
He who has won much honour here.’
They mounted swiftly, and did appear
Before their lord, their robes all wet
With their sad tears and, as they met,
They swift embraced him, and he them;
Both joy and grief were present then.
Gahmuret kissed each loyal knight:
‘To mourn my brother is but right,
Yet grieve not to excess for I
Will be your lord; and, by and by,
Hold the shield as it should be shown
And thus the path of happiness own.
I’ll now wear my father’s emblem,
Not the anchor, since tis given
Me now to plant it in his land.
While it marks fair fortune’s band,
We mercenary soldiers at large,
Let one of them take it in charge.
I have won both wealth and power,
And must live as befits my dower.
My sorrow indeed would but pain
My people too, with but little gain.
Lady Herzeloyde, help me win
Favour with these princes and kings,
That they delay their departure,
And remain here for a measure,
Till you have granted me what love
Doth require of us to seal our love.’
They urged their plea thus together,
And those lords, one and another,
Readily agreed, and so they went
Each noble to his separate tent.
Gahmuret and Herzeloyde consummate their love
THE Queen beside her lover stands:
‘Now place yourself in my fair hands,’
She says, and leads him gracefully
Through private ways, all secretly.
(Where’er they have gone hereafter,
Their guests are well looked-after).
Their retinues combined together,
He went with her, and no other
But his two pages and her maidens,
He following where he was bidden,
To where his pain he might allay,
And joy drive sorrows far away.
Grief was banished, life revived,
As must be at one’s lover’s side.
Queen Herzeloyde was no more
A maiden, and a goodly store
Of kisses did their lips consume,
Joy granting grief but little room.
Later, he courteously freed
The prisoners, as they’d agreed,
And those kings Hardiz and Kaylet
Were reconciled by Gahmuret.
Then they feasted, and if any
Has matched that rare feast since, then he
Was indeed a right wealthy man.
Gahmuret, with a generous hand,
Spared not his treasury, but doled
Out to the knights his Arab gold,
Most to the poorest of them all.
And then to the kings there did fall
Gifts of precious jewels, and he
Rewarded the princes equally;
While the wandering minstrels too
Were pleased to receive their due.
Now let the fair guests take their way,
The Angevin grants leave this day.
Gahmuret leaves to fight for the Caliph of Baghdad
NOW the emblem, borne in the field
By his father, onto his shield
They’d hammered, the sable Panther;
And a white silk shift would cover
His hauberk, it was the Queen’s
(She that was now his wife I mean)
As it came from her naked body;
And ere he parted from his lady,
Of silk shifts, no less than eighteen
Pierced by lances they had seen,
Or hacked about by his steel blade.
In each one she would go arrayed
Slipping it on o’er her bare flesh,
When her lover, flushed with success,
Returned from jousting in the field,
And shattering many a brave shield.
A deep love was thereby expressed,
Their true feelings were of the best.
Gahmuret found further honour
When he went abroad, moreover,
Seeking war in a far kingdom.
Yet grieve I for what was to come.
He’d had word that his old master
The Caliph, countenanced disaster,
Against his foes out of Babylon,
One force led by Ipomidon;
And a second by Pompeius,
Not he who fled from Julius,
Rome’s Caesar, long ago, in fear,
For this Pompeius, it is clear,
Was a proud and noble warrior,
For King Nebuchadnezzar
Was, indeed, his mother’s brother,
Who’d read, in some book or other,
That he, the king, was a deity!
A claim to invite folk’s mockery
If said today of any man.
But so twas thought in his far land.
These brothers, of noble heritage,
(From Ninus came their lineage,
Indeed, who reigned long before
Baghdad was founded, and oversaw
Mighty Nineveh’s foundation)
They spared neither land nor nation.
The Caliph had declared these cities
As bound to him, his tributaries,
Yet their folk balked at the shame.
As a consequence of his claim,
Much was at stake on either side;
Many a knight fought there and died.
So Gahmuret sailed the seas again,
And found the Caliph with his men,
And with joy was welcomed there,
Whate’er the sorrow I must bear.
Of all that came to pass, of how
His fortunes stood, whether now
They had won or lost, the Queen,
Herzeloyde, knew naught, I ween.
SHE shone as does the pure sunlight,
Her beauty such as brings delight.
Blessed with youth, and then possessed
Of wealth, she’d tasted happiness;
She had all that one seeks and more,
Of kindness too had no small store;
Her people loved her virtuous ways,
And thus she won enduring praise,
For the pure way she lived her life,
For her modesty as a loving wife.
Of three lands was she the queen,
Of Anjou and of Wales, I ween,
And wore the crown of Norgals,
In its great city of Kingrivals.
Her husband was her own dear love;
If some other woman might prove
To have won the love of one so fair,
What harm then? Without despair,
Or hatred, all this she could endure.
When half a year had passed, no more,
She thought that he must soon be there;
This hope, indeed, had eased her care.
And yet contentment’s brittle blade
Snapped at the hilt, for joy must fade.
Alas, that virtue must bear in woe;
That pure devotion grief must know!
Yet so we find with earthly sorrow,
Tis joy today, and grief tomorrow.
A strange dream troubled her one day,
At noon, as in brief sleep she lay;
It seemed as though a shooting star
Swept her through the heights afar,
Where fierce lightning bolts did fly
Around her in the storm-filled sky,
Fiery sparks lit her flowing hair
All hissing, crackling everywhere.
Thunder pealed as she flew higher,
While showers fell, in tears of fire.
As she recovered, a griffin caught
At her right hand, and marvels wrought;
For she dreamed she bore a serpent,
That grew within her, and then rent
Her womb, and next a dragon lay
And suckled at her breast, its way
It took then, soaring high in flight,
And swiftly vanished from her sight.
Her heart it tore from out her flesh!
Never such terrors, such distress
Has any woman found in sleep.
She had been all a knight might seek,
Alas, all that would change, apace.
Thereafter she would wear grief’s face
For losses she would know, and sorrow,
On that day, and many a morrow.
Herzeloyde learns of Gahmuret’s death in battle
IN her sleep she twisted and writhed,
Wailed and moaned, kicked and scythed,
In a manner most strange to her.
Her ladies ran now, and woke her.
At that moment in rode Tampanis,
Her husband’s loyal squire, with his
Young pageboys, and all happiness
Was at an end; of their lord’s death
He told her, and she swooned outright.
‘How did he die, so great a knight?’
He was asked, and he answered true,
Though his dire grief broke forth anew.
‘Sadly, my lord’s life was cut short;
The heat was great, relief he sought;
Doffing the chain-mail from his head,
Beneath his helm went bare instead.
And then that perverse heathen land,
Must steal from us our finest man;
A knight had a flask of goat’s blood
And stumbling fell, and then what should
He do, but spill it o’er the Helmet
Of adamant grasped by Gahmuret,
And then the Helm grew soft within.
May He whom the artists still limn
As the Lamb of God, with the cross
Between the hooves, show, in our loss,
Pity for all that chanced that day!
When they rode out in fine display
You’d have seen how men can fight.
The Caliph’s cavalry, shining bright,
Defended themselves courageously,
Many a shield they pierced; fiercely
They rode to battle before Baghdad.
Many a wild encounter they had,
As they clashed against each other,
Tangled pennants mixed together,
And many a proud knight fell there,
With many a stout defence laid bare.
The deeds of others were as naught
Compared to those that my lord wrought.
But then appeared King Ipomidon,
Who repaid him for all he’d won
At Alexandria, where they all
Had seen this Ipomidon fall
To my lord, who had toppled him.
My lord he turned now to face him;
But the other’s lance brought death
(His own was shattered in a breath)
The tip tore clean through his Helm,
Such that its force did overwhelm
My lord, and pierced his head below,
From which the blood began to flow,
While yet the splinter there remained.
Still my brave lord his seat maintained,
And out of battle he swiftly rode,
Into the broad plain, where he slowed.
His chaplain was soon at his side,
And absolved of all his sins he died;
His brief confession he did advance,
And sent this shift, and this, the lance
That took him from us, to the Queen,
And we his squires, and pages I ween,
Commended to her, with his last breath.
They bore his body after his death
To Baghdad; since the Caliph cared
Naught for the cost the tomb prepared
For our lord was adorned with gold,
And rare gems, a fortune all told.
They embalmed that flawless hero,
Whose death brought many a sorrow;
And the lid of his tomb was made
Of bright crystal, of a ruby shade,
Through which my lord’s body doth shine.
And then at a request of mine
Which they respected, there a cross
Was set in memory of our loss,
(An emblem of the Crucifixion,
When Christ redeemed us at the Passion)
To comfort and to guard his soul.
And the Caliph defrayed the whole,
At the cost of a precious emerald.
All this, done without the infidel,
We ourselves there did undertake,
For my lord Gahmuret’s own sake,
Since the cross (whose true blessing
Christ conferred on us through dying)
Is not in keeping with their rite.
Those heathens, far from the light,
Do worship Gahmuret, freely,
As they do their own deity
(Yet not the glory of the cross,
Or Christian teaching that His loss
Will loose our bonds at the Last Day)
Because of his faith, true alway,
In confession and repentance,
Granting him a bright radiance
In Heaven, and for his loyalty
Devoid of lies, or treachery.
Then his adamantine helmet
Upon the cross above we set,
His epitaph engraved upon it;
For these words there were writ:
‘Through this sadly broken helmet,
‘A lance did strike Lord Gahmuret,
A brave knight and a noble man,
A mighty king who ruled three lands;
Each brought him a splendid crown,
And many a prince of high renown.
He was of Anjou, and met his death
At Baghdad; he served the Caliph,
His fame such that none hereafter
Shall exceed his mark wherever
Men know the value of a knight.
He ne’er surrendered in a fight
To any sworn to Chivalry;
He gave good counsel to many,
Nor did he ever fail to aid them;
He suffered for many a woman
Bitter pangs of love; baptised,
The Christian path he realised,
And yet tis said, by truthful men,
His death distressed the Saracen.
This hero strove for honour ever,
And died a knight, to live forever,
For he overcame all that is ill;
May God have mercy on him still.’
Such the tale the squire did bear;
Many a man of Wales wept there,
And had good reason for his woe.
Herzeloyde’s lament For Gahmuret
THE Queen was with child, but though
The babe quickened within her womb,
She lay unattended, in her room.
Near full term the child did thrive,
And yet the mother was scarce alive;
Queen Herzeloyde, with every breath,
Was wrestling with impending death.
Foolish not to help this woman,
For in her womb she carried one
Destined to be chivalry’s flower,
If death passed him by that hour.
But a wise old man who’d come
To mourn beside her, in her room,
Bent over her as death she fought,
Forced her teeth apart, and sought
To make her drink, and the water
To her senses swiftly brought her.
‘Ah me,’ she cried, ‘my lord is dead!’
As upon her sorrow she fed,
‘His fame indeed gave me great joy,
But a reckless spirit he did employ,
And that has taken him from me.
I was indeed far younger than he,
Yet I am now bride and mother,
Bearing as I do another
Lord Gahmuret, of his seed here,
Received in love, and thus so dear.
If God is steadfast in intent,
May he to its live birth consent,
And let the seed now come to fruit,
For love seems withered at its root
Now that my lord indeed is lost.
How cruel is death, severe the cost!
He might not feel a woman’s love,
But joyful at her joy did prove,
And ever saddened by her woe.
It was devotion moved him so,
A man devoid of cruelty.’
Now know this action of the lady:
She clasped her belly and the child,
And cried: ‘God send me, in a while,
The noble fruit of Gahmuret;
This is the prayer I cherish yet.
God keep me now from false despair,
For were I to fail in this affair
My lord must die a second death,
He who proved true with every breath.’
Careless of who saw her, she tore
The shift from her body, she wore,
And then in a womanly manner
She clasped the breasts before her,
Soft and white with their red tips,
And sought to kiss them with her lips.
‘You hold nourishment for the child,
And I have known this for a while,’
Cried the Queen, in womanly guise,
Now in the ways of childbirth wise,
‘Since have I felt his quickening.’
She wished to see that very thing,
That nourishment above her heart,
Her breast milk that there did start.
Queen though she was she did so,
Pressing her breasts till it did show.
‘How faithfully you come to me;
And were I not baptised already,
You might mark my own christening,
With the nourishment that you bring,
For I shall sprinkle myself with you,
As with my tears that fall like dew,
Oft, alone, or with others yet,
While I do mourn for Gahmuret.’
She had them bring the bloody shift,
In which he’d died to aid the Caliph,
Meeting a warrior’s death indeed,
With the spirit that marked his breed.
She also asked for the broken lance
That had slain him in its advance.
Ipomidon of Nineveh,
That proud Babylonian heir,
Had repaid him in such a manner
The shift was but a torn banner.
Though she made to wear it as before
When her spouse returned from war,
Now they took it from her hand.
The noblest men of that fair land
Placed the bloody lance on show,
The weapon that had dealt the blow,
In the church, as folk lodge the dead,
Grieving for their lord fate had led
Afar, to die at an infidel’s hand.
All mourned here, in Gahmuret’s land.
The birth of Parzival
NOW, twas scarce a fortnight later,
That the Queen became a mother,
Bearing a large-boned son, alive,
Though she herself did scarce survive.
And here the tale doth truly start
Marked by this son, dear to her heart,
For only now is he born, the one
For whom this story was begun.
You’ve heard something of his father,
His life and death, and hereafter
You shall learn of how our hero
Was kept from harm, sequestered so
That he knew naught of chivalry
Till he had reached maturity.
Once the Queen was herself again,
And took the babe, she saw plain
The thing between his legs, and she
Admired him, as did every lady,
On seeing him formed as a man.
In time he’d wield with his hand,
Like a blacksmith, many a blade,
(For his heart too was bravely made),
From many a helm the sparks flew.
The Queen would kiss him tenderly,
Saying, ‘bon fîz, cher fîz, bêâ fîz:
‘Dear, fine, lovely boy,’ and then
Would take one red nipple again
And into his little mouth place it;
She had borne him and twas most fit
That she herself should nurse him now,
Her sex’s failings she’d disavow,
And rear her child at the breast,
And this she did; as for the rest
It was as though her prayer was met
And in her arms lay her Gahmuret.
Though now she scorned vanity,
Bolstered by true humility.
‘The Queen of Heaven,’ this her thought,
‘Nursed Jesus, who in time was brought
To the cross and a bitter death
In human form, and his last breath
He breathed for us, thereby to prove
His true devotion, and His love.
Whoe’er treats His anger lightly,
Shall be judged for it, and rightly,
Though pure of heart they might be
Or may have been, I know truly.’
She sprinkled herself with the dew
Of a grieving heart, sorrowed anew,
As from her eyes the tears did fall,
And rained down upon her; withal
A woman’s affections she did enjoy,
Lending her lips to sighs, yet joy
Filled her with the birth of her son,
And then, ere pleasure was begun,
And breath her spirit did it afford,
Lo, it was drowned at sorrow’s ford.
IF any spoke with better intent
Of woman, I would ne’er resent
Their doing so, at their leisure;
I’d take pleasure in their pleasure.
From one alone do I withhold
Faithful service, for I, of old,
Have found her faithless; my anger
Towards her shall never alter.
I am Wolfram of Eschenbach,
A minnesinger of sorts and, hark,
I clench tight hold, like pincers,
Of my resentment, my anger’s
Towards her who mistreats me
Such that I’m now her enemy.
And women’s hatred too I know;
Why must they mistreat me so?
Yet though I feel their enmity,
Womanly anger against me
It is that drives them, for I said
A thing that I should ne’er have said.
And there I wronged myself, indeed,
For never such words must I breed.
But nor should they all charge ahead,
Attacking my wall and fence instead,
For they’ll meet stiff resistance there.
I can judge yet, in every affair,
Their manners and their behaviour.
Yet if she’s of modest character,
I will uphold a woman’s name
And take to heart the pain and blame
She may have suffered; for limp praise
A man doth give his lady always
Who scorns the rest, to whom its due,
Just to advance his one anew.
And then the following is true,
Whichever lady would wish to view
My right to do so, both see and hear,
I’d not deceive her my right is clear:
I am of the Order of the Shield,
Both pen and lance, the pair I wield,
For I should think her foolish who
Loved me for mere songs, for I too
Can back my art with a manly deed.
If I for a woman’s love do plead,
And fail to win love’s prize from her
With shield and lance, I shall defer
To her and her scorn accordingly.
Who aims at love through chivalry,
Plays for high stakes, tis ever true.
Now I’ll continue to offer you
Things unheard of yet in story,
Lest the ladies deem me merely
A flatterer; I’ll tell my tale.
But let who wishes me to regale
Their ears, not call it literature,
For that you must find some other;
I’ve never a letter to my name;
This tale rides forth, all the same,
Without the guidance of a page.
Rather than have some wise sage
Take this for literature, I would
Choose to sit naked in my tub,
If only I failed not in my quest –
For a bath-brush to scrub my chest.
End of Book II of Parzival