Wolfram von Eschenbach

Parzival

Book IV: Parzival and Condwiramurs

Parzival - Book IV

Helen's Tears
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.


Contents


Parzival reaches the city of Belrepeire

PARZIVAL journeyed on his way,

While showing every sign that day

Of the noble and well-bred knight,

Though, sadly, he was forced to fight

The many pangs of those who part.

His eyes were subject to his heart;

The fields seemed to confine him,

Narrow spaces to define him,

All that was green seemed dry and sere,

Blank his red armour did appear.

Now he’d lost his early rawness,

Gahmuret’s traits he did possess;

His feelings gave him no respite

His thoughts on Liaze did alight,

Who’d offered friendship, short of love,

To one of whom she did approve.

Whichever path his mount would take,

Whatever speed it chose to make,

He was powerless to alter there,

Involved in thought, filled with care.

His passage through the wooded waste

Far from neat hedges interlaced,

Wayside crosses, ruts cut by carts,

Saw him riding midst distant parts

Where such travellers seldom go,

By hills and dales he did not know.

A proverb folk oft quote today

Is pertinent to this, they say

That any knight who goes awry,

Receives a hammering by and by,

And stones and logs lay all around,

So many a hammer there he found.

And yet he went not far astray,

For while as yet it still was day

He rode directly from Graharz

Into the kingdom of Brobarz,

Passing midst peaks jagged and high.

And there, as evening drew nigh,

He came to a torrent whose sound

Could be heard from miles around,

Its waters flowing down with force.

He rode beside its widening course,

And reached the city of Belrepeire,

Bequeathed by its king, Tampenteire,

To his daughter; he’d lately died,

And many grieved with her, and sighed.

The waters of the torrent flew down

Like feathered darts, below the town,

Bright bolts, hurled from a tense crossbow,

Humming above the endless flow.

And all was spanned by a rope bridge,

With a wattle floor, from ridge to ridge,

Where the torrent entered the sea;

And the town it defended readily.

You must know how a child will go

When a swing is swung to and fro;

So that bridge went, though, truly,

Twas not youth made it so lively.

Now sixty knights and more beside

Were stationed on the other side;

Helmets laced, naught did they lack,

And they all cried: ‘Go back! Go back!

Though each one was weak from hunger,

They raised their swords, ever eager

For the fight, for he who rode there

Over the meadow, with kingly air,

Towards the bridge, appeared to be

Clamide; they knew it must be he.

Their loud cries had caused the steed

To shy from the bridgehead, no heed

Would it give to his sharp spurs at all.

But, fearless as ever, Parzival,

Dismounted, and led the horse across

As the frail bridge did pitch and toss.

No coward would have dared to ride

Against such force as there he spied;

And then great care he had to show

Lest they fall to the depths below.

Meanwhile there, on the farther side,

The shouting ceased, the clamour died,

The knights withdrew; helm and shield

And bright sword the way did yield,

While the defenders closed their gate,

Fearing that others followed straight.

And, thus, Parzival crossed over,

And rode onto a field, moreover,

Where many a man death did suffer

On the path to knightly honour,

There at the gate of Belrepeire,

Below the lofty palace there.

A knocker in the shape of a ring

Was on the gate, he struck the thing,

But none seemed to heed his call

Except for one fair maid withal,

Who through a window saw the knight

Waiting there and, all polite,

Said: ‘If you come here as a foe,

You waste your time there, you below.

We’ve suffered enough by land and sea

From a fierce and hardy enemy,

Without you joining in the fight!’

‘Madam, he cried, here stands a knight

Who’ll aid you all, if he but can.

Your sweet smile would reward a man;

I am your most devoted servant.’

At this, the girl took thought, and went,

As fast as she could, to see the Queen,

(Condwiramurs, tis she I mean),

Then helped him within the wall.

This was destined to ease them all

Of great hardship. Her he did greet;

Folk lined both sides of the street;

Marching down it,, in full array

Long ranks of soldiers stretched away,

Men with slings, and archers bold,

And lines of men-at-arms untold,

With long sharp lances unbroken,

And there was more than a token

Force of merchants standing there,

With battle-axes, and then a share

Of them held javelins, so they say,

As the guilds demanded that day;

All their bellies were empty too!

The Queen’s Marshal had much ado

To lead our hero through the crowd,

To a courtyard, one well endowed

With every means of close defence.

Turret above chamber immense,

Barbican, donjon, angle-tower,

On every side there did glower,

More than he’d e’er seen before.

From every place around did pour

A host of knights to welcome him,

On foot or horseback, all looked grim,

Ashen the face of each man there.

Our Count of Wertheim, I declare,

Would have loathed the very place,

Lacking the means to feed his face.

Famine starved them in this fashion;

Of bread or meat denied their ration,

They needed no toothpicks; no wine

Soaked greasy lips, none there did dine.

Lean bellies, eyes gaunt and sunken;

The skin upon their ribs shrunken,

So dry and shrivelled altogether

It showed like Hungarian leather;

Famine had chased the flesh away,

Scant fat dripped on the fire I say.

Now, twas the King of Brandigan,

Who was a proud and noble man,

He to this state, did them bring,

Twas the cost of Clamide’s wooing.

No mead now was spilled there ever,

No pan saw a Trüdinger fritter,

All such sizzling was cut short.

I’d be a fool though if I thought

To shame them for it, for when I

Dismount at home, and they all cry

‘Master’, no mouse cheers at that.

Slight is its chance of growing fat;

It steals the scraps none should hide,

And little do I find there beside.

For I, Wolfram von Eschenbach,

Often must sit there, in the dark,

And the same hunger do I earn.

Enough of my woes, the tale must turn

To Belrepeire, and its folk’s travails,

And the misery their plight entails.

These loyal warriors suffered greatly

Thanks to their courage, and your pity

They deserve, for Death’s upon them,

If God cares not to aid their freedom.

Hear more of men, wrought of the best,

Who with shame received their guest,

Thinking him of such a nature

He should not have sought their shelter,

Given their hopeless state indeed,

Yet he knew naught of their dire need.

They spread a carpet on the grass,

Where a linden tree’s leafy mass,

All walled about, cast pleasant shade,

And then honour to him they paid;

Retainers removed his armour,

And when he’d washed in the water

Of a stream, and removed the dust,

His appearance was other I trust

Than theirs; he might have dimmed the sun

In all its glory; they thought him one

To be esteemed, and offered their guest

A cloak that went well with the rest

Of his fine clothes, its sable trim

From a fresh pelt, it seemed to him.

‘Do you wish to meet our fair Queen?’

They asked, and he said he would deem

That an honour, so our true knight

Climbed to the palace, to which a flight

Of stairs led, and soon reached the place.

He has audience with Queen Condwiramurs

THE lovely radiance of her face,

And the sweet glow of her bright eyes,

Preceded the Queen, in such wise,

That a blaze of light around him

Shone, ere her presence found him.

Katelangen’s Duke Kyot,

And his brother Manpfilyot,

Played escort to their niece the Queen,

Grey-haired, yet handsome I ween,

Each duke had renounced the sword,

Out of profound love of the Lord.

Those noble princes led the lady,

With a fair show of ceremony,

To the centre of the long stair;

The Queen kissed Parzival there,

The one’s lips red as the other’s,

Then, between the two brothers,

Gave him her hand, and he was led

To where they might all sit instead.

The ladies there and the gentlemen,

Stood or sat, greatly weakened then

By their ordeal; their Mistress bright

And her Household, in such a plight,

Had taken leave of happiness.

But Condwiramurs loveliness

Set her apart from those I’ll name,

Whose beauty so deserved its fame:

Jeschute, Enide, she did supplant

And Cunneware, her of Lalant,

And those whose fair charms ever new

Were most praised, both Iseults too.

Condwiramurs outdid the rest;

Beyond all others she possessed

Le bêâ curs’, the lovely form.

Fine the mothers who did adorn

The Earth with this fair couple.

For, all about them, her people

Did naught but gaze with growing pride,

As there those two sat, side by side;

Parzival found admirers there;

Yet I’ll tell his thoughts, if I dare:

‘Liaze is there, Liaze is here,

To ease my sadness; sweet and dear,

Liaze I see, and not this other;

Noble Gurnemanz’ fair daughter.’

Yet Liaze’s beauty was as naught

Compared with her his eyes now sought,

Whom God had granted true perfection.

She was the flower of this nation,

For she was like the fair hedge-rose;

From out the dew-wet bud it glows,

Revealing, from that pristine bed,

Its fresh glory of white and red.

This troubled her new guest indeed;

Yet his self-command, that decreed

By Gurnemanz, was so entire,

Curbing whate’er mere fools desire,

Forbidding him to question aught

Except when common sense had sought

An answer, that in silence he

Sat beside her, that splendid she,

And not a word fell from his lips.

(Near to her though; close their hips);

And many a brave man who doth pay

Women compliments, might today

Be as tongue-tied, or so I find.

A thought was in the fair Queen’s mind:

‘I deem the man speaks not to me,

Because my spare form he doth see.

No! Rather tis for this reason,

That I should start the conversation,

For I’m the hostess, and he the guest.

Since we sat down, to take our rest,

He has looked upon me kindly,

And shown respect and courtesy.

We have been silent for too long,

I must speak, or be in the wrong.’

Her uncles Kyot and Manpfilyot provide food for all

‘MY lord, the Queen said to her guest,

It is incumbent on your hostess

To speak; I won your kiss of greeting,

With my fair welcome, on meeting,

And then you seek to serve us here,

Or so from my maid, it doth appear.

Alas, we’re unused to overmuch

Kindness from strangers, and such.

I’ll ask you, sir, whence come you?’

‘Why, from a lord, flawless and true;

This morning, madam, I rode away

Leaving him to his sorrows this day;

Gurnemanz of Graharz his name,

And I come to you from that same.’

‘If another man had told me this,’

Replied the noble maid, ‘I’d insist

He could not be here in but a day,

For whene’er my messenger, I say,

Has ridden it, I’ll confess to you

He has not reached that place in two.

Your host’s sister was my mother,

And if my uncle’s fair daughter,

Is not much the worse for mourning,

That’s no wonder. Both lamenting,

We have wept with eyes ne’er dry,

Many a day, Liaze and I.

If you bear affection for him now,

Accept what our state doth allow

Of meagre nourishment this night,

Much as we must do in our plight.

If you do you will serve him too.

Now I’ll tell of our ills anew,

Famine it is that brings us low.

‘I’ll send you a dozen loaves, oh,

And three fine shoulders of ham,’ cried

Her uncle Kyot, ‘and then beside

The ham, eight great round cheeses,

And two wine kegs, for it pleases

Me so to do, and my good brother

Will aid you this night, moreover.’

‘I shall send the like, dear lady’

Manpfilyot said, ‘depend on me.’

The Queen was overjoyed, and she

Thanked both her uncles effusively.

They took their leave, away they rode

To a hunting lodge, their true abode,

Not far from there, in a mountain gorge;

A truce of some kind they did forge

With the besiegers, so went unarmed,

Careless as if their lives were charmed.

Their men returned at the double,

And were rewarded for their trouble.

The famished folk did soon revive;

That hoard must keep them all alive,

Though many must die of starvation

Before it reached its destination.

The Queen insisted all must share

The bread, and likewise all the fare,

Meat, cheese and wine, without question;

All this at Parzival’s suggestion.

Thus, little was left to feed these two,

Yet, without quarrelling, they ate too.

Parzival comforts Condwiramurs in his bed

THE provender was soon consumed,

Saving those who’d seemed but doomed.

Though they’d gorged like raptors there,

None grew fat; the plates scraped bare,

All bore the marks of famine still,

But Parzival; naught could them fill.

A room they readied for their guest,

A bed e’en softer than the rest,

And he begged leave then to retreat.

A couch fit for a king did meet

His eyes, lit by candles and they

Not such as you find every day;

A carpet stretched before this bed.

He asked the band of knights who’d led

Him to the chamber to depart;

The pages placed his clothes apart,

And soon he slept, until he heard

A sorrowful cry and thus disturbed

Awoke, to find a world of sighs,

And heart’s rain falling from bright eyes.

I’ll tell you why the thing was so,

Twas no female indiscretion, no,

The girl whom I describe to you,

Was chaste and ever-faithful too.

War’s distress, the death of those

Who served had stolen her repose,

And pained her heart thus, cruelly,

Her eyes forced open constantly.

No, not for such love had she come

As makes a sweet maid a woman,

This Queen she sought a friend’s kind aid;

Then, she in armour was arrayed,

A silken shift of purest white.

What better challenge to a knight

Than a woman advancing so,

And in a shift as white as snow,

Beneath a mantle of brocade?

Her wandering steps now betrayed

The weight of care upon her heart.

She’d left her ladies there, apart,

All her chamberlains fast asleep,

As to that far room she did creep,

Where Parzival lay; night part gone,

The candles at his side still shone.

Her path towards his chamber led,

She knelt on the carpet by his bed,

But as far as lovers’ embraces went

He and the Queen, both innocent,

Were dunces; the matter went so:

The maid, ashamed, was full of woe;

Did he draw her into bed with him?

Why, he knew naught of such a thing!

He lacked experience, yet sought

To solace her, and so he brought

Her within, yet in such a way

That neither’s limbs did seek to stray,

Though neither asked them to, you see;

The Queen was wretched, and when he,

Roused by the sound of her weeping,

Loud in his ears as he was sleeping,

Woke, and saw, with some surprise,

The sad tears pouring from her eyes,

He felt sorrowful, and yet glad too.

He sat now, and gently as he knew,

Said: ‘Madam, to God you should kneel,

Mock me not!’ then made his appeal

To her, to sit down beside him,

Or lie down, where he was lying,

While he sought to rest elsewhere.

Queen Condwiramurs tells her tale of woe

‘IF you’ll honour me with your care,

Respect my presence, and not try

To embrace me, then I may lie

By your side.’ He nodded his head,

And so she joined him there in bed.

Twas dead of night, no cockerel crowed,

(Though not one at roost now showed,

For hunger’s needs had seen to that)

The sorrowful lady asked him pat

If he would hear her tale of woe.

‘I fear that it may pain you though

And so may rob you of your sleep.

My lands and forts, but for this keep

Of Belrepeire, Iserterre’s king,

(Clamide that is, tis all his doing)

Has, with his Seneschal, laid waste.

King Tampenteire’s death had placed

A vast, brave army at my command;

Though an orphan, my father’s land

Sent forth kinsmen, princes, vassals,

High and low, to defend my castles;

Yet half were slain in their defence.

None could but weep at such offence.

I would rather slay myself, indeed,

Than yield my person to the greed

Of this Clamide, and be his wife;

He with his own hand took the life

Of Schenteflurs, whose faithful heart,

One born for every chivalrous art,

Harboured many a manly virtue;

That flower of beauty, sprung anew,

Liaze’s brother, quelled all baseness.’

Liaze’s name brought fresh distress

To Parzival; he, her servitor,

Recalled his longing from before;

His spirits sank, filled with the love

He bore that girl, he was moved

To say: ‘Could aught then solace you

Madam, aught that a man might do?’

‘Yes, save us from the Seneschal;

Kingrun has conquered one and all,

Many a fine knight in combat here,

He’ll come tomorrow, such my fear;

His vision is that he will see

His master’s arms embracing me.

Were my palace never so high,

I would leap from its crest, say I,

Headlong, greet my father, dead,

Ere Clamide has my maidenhead.

Thus would I rob him of his boast.’

‘From whichever fair country’s coast

He hails, a Frenchman or a Briton,

You shall be defended by one

Whose sword he will wield that hour

To the utmost of his true power.’

Parzival fights Kingrun the Seneschal

THE night ended, and morning broke,

The lady rose, and donned her cloak,

Bowing her head to him, gratefully.

She stole away, while none did see,

None there to witness her departure

But Parzival, who slept no longer.

The sun in haste to scale the height,

Pierced the morning cloud with light;

He heard the clamour of many a bell.

Those for whom Clamide did spell

An end to happiness, rose and went

To the church where his path was bent.

There the Queen’s chaplain sang the Mass,

In honour of God, and his lady, alas.

Her guest gazed, till, the blessing over,

He turned from her, and sought his armour.

His courage he’d prove, for, indeed,

Fighting bravely, he must succeed.

Now Clamide’s forces came in sight,

With many a pennant, in full might,

Kingrun spurring far in advance;

On his Iserterre steed he did prance.

They say that Parzival did await

His coming there, beyond the gate,

And with him went the prayers of all.

For this sword-fight, outside the wall,

He took a wide sweep for the charge,

So that the shock falling full large

Snapped the girths on both their horses,

Each recoiling on its quarters;

Neither man had forgot his sword,

Unsheathed, the weapons sent abroad

Sharp blows; each man gave of his best.

Kingrun, wounded in arms and chest,

Felt them as blows to his prestige,

His pride quenched, and under siege.

His reputation had gone before,

Strength and courage, skill and more,

Unhorsed the half a dozen knights

Or so, he conquered in his fights.

Yet Parzival’s strong arm replied

To his blows so readily, he sighed,

This man was like some mangonel

That hurled its missiles all too well.

No such assault though was it here

That cleft his helmet, falling shear.

Parzival knocked him to the ground,

Kneed his chest, and then he found

Kingrun, as ne’er before, did render

Himself to a knight, in surrender.

Yet his foe scorned it, in advance,

Bade him submit to Gurnemanz.

‘No, my lord, I would rather die,

I slew his son, for it was I

Who stole from Schenteflurs his life.

God has aided you in this strife,

And grants you honour for, where’er

Brave knights are told how you did fare

Against me, now at your mercy,

They can but praise your victory.’

‘Another choice then I’ll grant you,’

Said young Parzival, ‘in full view,

Make your submission to the Queen,

Whom your lordship would demean.

She’s long endured your enmity.’

‘Why that would put an end to me!

They’d scatter me those swords, I deem,

Like motes that dance in a sunbeam!

I have angered many in that place.’

‘Then I grant you parole, go trace

The road from this plain to Britain;

At Arthur’s court seek the maiden,

Who had to suffer, for my sake,

That which (for it was no mistake)

Was not her due; nor was it right;

And say that I, who am her knight,

Will soon avenge her, and that she

Will ne’er behold true joy in me

Till I have pierced that knight’s bright shield,

Somewhere, and the man doth yield.

Greet Arthur and his queen from me,

And all his household, courteously,

And say I’ll not return to court

Till that dishonour I have sought

To wipe away, that which I share

With the lady who suffered there

For but greeting me with laughter,

Who met with such violence after.

Say I remain her humble servant.’

Kingrun agreed and, in a moment

The foes parted, and our brave knight

Strode to his waiting mount outright;

All set to save it, in due course,

The city’s champion gained his horse.

Parzival and Queen Condwiramurs are wed

THE foe without were astounded

At Kingrun’s fate, while, surrounded

By a throng, Parzival was brought

Into the Queen’s presence, at court.

She embraced the knight most warmly,

And held him close, admiringly.

‘To none but him I clasp’, she said,

‘Shall I in this whole world be wed.’

And she helped them unarm him then,

And honoured him once and again.

After his labours, he was served

With a meal worse than he deserved,

Then the men from all the city

Hastened to swear him fealty,

Claiming that he should be their king.

The Queen confirmed it, agreeing

That he must be her husband now,

He who had forced Kingrun to bow.

At this moment two gleaming sails

Were spied from the walls, fierce gales

Had driven them towards the harbour.

The holds were filled with provender,

To their joy, food enough to save

Them all, and thanks to God they gave.

A famished crowd now hastened there,

To board the ships and strip them bare;

They flew like leaves blown in the breeze,

Lean and sere. Yet, ere they could seize

The ships’ supplies, the Queen’s Marshal

Mounted a strict guard thus to all,

On pain of death, they were forbidden;

While the merchants now were bidden

To go with him to their new lord.

Parzival, buying the stores aboard,

Would have offered to pay double,

In bringing an end to their trouble,

But the merchants would but take

Their due. A veritable lake

Of fat dripped now to the hot coals.

Good food and wine filled their bowls.

Oh, I’d be a mercenary there,

And trade small beer for royal fare!

A wise course Parzival pursued:

He first portioned out the food,

Then asked all there to take a seat,

He wished them all to feel replete,

But not to gorge, having fasted so.

They his every wish did follow,

Eating sufficient, and no more.

Yet, having thus laid down the law,

That kindly, yet temperate man,

Gave more at eve, such was his plan.

‘Would they wed, and the city bless?’

He and the Queen both answered ‘yes’.

Now Parzival lay beside his bride,

And yet to her his body denied,

With such restraint as would not please

Many a woman, in days like these,

Were they so treated. Consider

How they do make a man suffer,

By feigning to act modestly,

Yet dressing most outrageously,

Demure indeed, yet their desire

Accords more with their scant attire;

Their caresses pain a lover.

Yet a faithful man who’s ever

Shown restraint knows how to spare

His mistress’ feelings; he may dare

To think, and it may well be true:

‘I’ve served this lady, and am due

My reward, while she offers me

Solace, and yet, assuredly,

It would once have proved enough

To be allowed to touch the stuff

Of her gown, with my bare hand,

While if I were to now demand

Possession of her I should seem

Untrue to myself; dare I dream

Of seeking such tribute from her,

Only to shame both, or rather

Is’t not kindness here should feature,

More-suited to a woman’s nature?’

With such thoughts, part-satisfied,

The Welshman lay beside his bride.

Though all called him the Red Knight,

Scant awe did he inspire at night:

He left the Queen a maiden yet.

Although not once did she forget

She was his wife; she dressed her hair

With love, a royal band did wear.

The virgin bride bestowed her land,

With all its strongholds, on the man;

He was the true love of her heart.

For two days they were ne’er apart,

Happy indeed; a third night came.

Oft Parzival thought, all the same,

He should behave as his mother

Had advised and clasp his lover;

Gurnemanz too, when all was done,

Had claimed man and woman were one.

(Their legs and arms entwine, you know,

If you’ll forgive me saying so.)

He found their closeness very sweet,

In the ancient way they did greet

Each other, and were truly glad,

And afterwards were not too sad.

An ancient tale yet ever-new.

King Clamide lays siege to Belrepeire

NOW King Clamide small pleasure knew

On hearing of Kingrun’s defeat,

That his surrender was complete.

A page it was, whose spurs had scarred

His horse’s flanks, came riding hard,

As the king approached in strength,

And told him all the tale, at length,

How before Belrepeire they’d met,

Kingrun’s fiercest encounter yet,

And how the Seneschal in that fight

Had been belittled by a knight:

‘And now our leader makes his way

To Arthur’s court this very day.

Our mercenaries we still deploy

In the position they did enjoy

Before he left, but, my lord, you,

And your armies, both these two,

Will find Belrepeire defended,

As no doubt the Queen intended,

And within lies this noble knight,

Who cares for nothing but the fight.

Your soldiers claim tis no other

Than the Red Knight, that Ither

Of the Round Table, whom the Queen,

Sent for; his colours we have seen,

And he has borne them with honour,

For he’s the flower of Cumberland.’

‘I shall claim her, and all her land,

And she must have me,’ Clamide cried.

‘My Seneschal declared, with pride,

That they’d be forced by starvation

To yield the city, and so the nation,

And that the Queen would offer me

Her royal love, and so twill be.’

The page won naught but ill-will there.

The King with his forces did fare

Onwards, and quite soon a knight

Hot from the army, came in sight;

He had not sought to spare his mount,

Yet rendered up the same account.

This dampened Clamide’s martial spirit,

A blow indeed, but close upon it

A certain prince, of his company

Declared: ‘My lord, it seems to me,

That Kingrun did not wage his fight

As our champion, but a lone knight.

Say that he had been killed, what then?

Must that drain courage from our men?

Two strong armies should not lose heart.

If they will fight, then on our part

We may show them a thing or two,

And put an end to their crowing too.’

He begged his lord not to despair.

‘Now, once more, further this affair,

Urge on your kin and vassals so,

Under two banners meet the foe.

Along the slope we’ll ride, and then,

On foot, attack the gate, again,

In numbers; when this foe we greet,

We’ll there avenge Kingrun’s defeat!’

This advice did Galogandres

Offer, brave Duke of Gippones;

Indeed, he brought those at the gate

To a most sad and sorry state.

And yet he found his death there too,

Amongst the ramparts, lost to view,

As did indeed the Count Narant,

He a famed prince of Ukerlant,

And many a lesser knight did yield,

Whose corpse was carried from the field.

Hear what defence the city made.

The citizens great logs conveyed

To the outworks, and sharp stakes

They drove into them, great rakes

Let down on ropes from high above

And turned on pulleys, to remove

Their assailants, and cripple them.

And this was all devised by them

After Kingrun’s defeat and ere

Clamide their efforts could impair.

Moreover, in the ships, Greek fire

Had been brought, and made a pyre

Of those siege engines, mangonels,

Scaling towers, and whatever else

Their foes had dragged towards the wall,

Spiked frames too, clawed ‘cats’ and all.

True to its nature, that clinging fire

Now burnt them to the ground entire.

Kingrun the Seneschal reaches Arthur’s court

MEANWHILE, Kingrun the Seneschal,

Reaching Britain, at Karminal,

A hunting-lodge in Brizljan,

Found King Arthur, and so began

To perform Parzival’s command.

To Lady Cunneware de Lalant,

He made submission, treating her

As ordered when taken prisoner.

And she was filled with pure delight

That him they’d named the Red Knight

Had championed her cause; and then

The news was spread of this event.

The lord had audience with the king,

To Arthur and the court conveying

The words that Parzival had spoken.

Sir Kay started, and turned crimson.

‘So you are Lord Kingrun, my friend?

How many Britons did you send

To the earth, how many did fall,

King Clamide’s brave Seneschal?

Though it seems that I may never

Win your conqueror’s good favour,

You shall profit from your office.

As Lord of the Kitchen, for that is

My role here, and yours in your land,

That is in Britain and Brandigan,

With pancakes and such, help me win

Cunneware’ good graces, for my sin.’

Naught else to her would he offer,

But let that mischief pass, however,

And turn to where we left the tale.

Clamide challenges Parzival to single combat

CLAMIDE did Belrepeire assail.

The besieged resisted for their part.

Bodies revived, and in good heart,

They showed that they were warlike men,

Soon masters of the field again.

Their king, Parzival, did advance,

Clearing the way with sword and lance,

The gates left open wide behind him.

His arm rose and fell, blade sinking

Through steel helms, and as men fell

The burghers behind him fought as well,

By causing the fallen much distress,

Stabbing them through their mail, no less,

Through slits and seams, till Parzival,

Forbade it; and so denied this, all

Took captives; twenty, in that way,

Were dragged, alive, from the fray.

Now Parzival could quickly see,

That Clamide and his company

Were either splendidly concealed

Or fighting elsewhere in the field.

And so the valiant youth rode out,

Crossed open country thereabout,

And spurred in a curving manner

Towards Clamide’s royal banner.

Clamide’s pay was now hard earned;

Those from the city soon learned

To deal with them in such a way

Their own shields were whittled away,

Parted from the hand-grips, withal,

Such that their leader Parzival’s

Was hacked to bits at each new blow.

Small joy had the attackers though,

Who deemed him the scourge of all.

They saw their standard-bearer fall,

Galogandres, the Duke outstanding

In support of his lord, the king,

Who was now himself in danger.

Faced by this imperious stranger,

King Clamide called the retreat;

The city’s victory was complete.

Thus their battle-seasoned army

Thwarting attack, won the glory.

Parzival ordered the captive men

To be well-looked after; he, then,

On the third day took their parole,

Offering freedom to every soul;

Though the foe had grown more anxious,

The proud young king proved generous:

‘Return here when I summon you,’

He cried, and forth they did issue

Without their armour, to return

To their friends, and wrongly earn

Pity for their sad famished state,

Though dining had but been their fate,

And all of them were flushed with wine.

‘Waste not your pity, we are fine,

And they have such a wealth of food

That if we camped here, and viewed

The walls for a year, they would be

Well-fed as us, and as happy.

Their Queen’s spouse is in the field,

The handsomest to sport a shield,

Of noble lineage certainly;

All the honour of chivalry

Is in safe keeping where he’s pleased

To ride.’ Clamide, at this, was seized

With regret for his wasted labour.

He sent then to the Queen, to tell her

That ‘if he who shares the Queen’s bed

Seeks single-combat here instead,

And is nominated by her,

As one who’s ready to defend her

And her wide lands, in duel with me,

Truce twixt the armies let there be.’

Now Parzival felt great delight

That he was challenged thus to fight,

Alone, and the valiant man replied:

‘I pledge my honour none inside

These walls will seek to take the field

E’en though I may seem to yield.’

A truce was struck thus, twixt the moat

And the enemy lines; his coat

Of armour each man then donned,

And each to each did correspond,

A pair of warrior smiths thus clad

To strike with everything they had.

And now the King of Brandigan

Mounted his fine Castilian,

An armoured steed called Guverjorz,

Bred by his kinsman King Grigorz

Of Ipotente, with gifts sent forth,

Over Lake Uker, from the north,

And brought to him by Count Narant,

With a thousand men from that land,

Armed but for their shields, their pay

All settled for two years and a day,

If the tale I read doth speak aright.

Grigorz sent not one valiant knight,

But five hundred, with helms laced,

Ready for action, who’d embraced

Many a battle, well-tried in war.

Then Clamide had sat down before

Belrepeire, laying siege by land,

And by sea and, on every hand,

Penning them so, they did suffer

Great distress ere they could recover.

Parzival defeats Clamide

PARZIVAL rode onto the field

Of combat where God would yield

A clear judgment as to whether

He must quit Tampenteire’s daughter.

And then rode proudly to the place

Of their contest, at furious pace.

His steed ready to meet the foe,

Red samite coverings did flow

Over its steel armour, while he

Was in red also, and, eagerly,

Mounted on that steed, did wield

A lance all red, and a red shield.

Clamide began the fight. He’d brought

An untouched lance, full strong yet short,

Aiming thus to unseat his foe,

And swept about ere charging so.

Guverjorz galloped to the attack,

And those fine youths, who there did lack

A beard between them, battled away,

Neither missing his mark that day.

No fiercer duel was ever fought

By man or beast, as each man sought

Advantage till their mounts did founder,

Their steeds steaming from their labour.

As one the two brave knights touched ground,

As one their naked swords they found,

No downing tools was there, as each

Towards the other’s helm did reach,

Intent on striking fire from steel,

Their shields did showers of splinters yield,

Like feathers in the wind, and yet

That steadfast son of Gahmuret

Seemed still unwearied; Clamide though

Felt the full weight of every blow,

As if the truce were broken now,

And some mangonel, he’d avow,

Fired stones at him from the city;

He cried out to his adversary

To save him from such ill-intent,

But Parzival would ne’er relent,

Saying he had pledged his word,

And this plaint that he now heard

Could not be true, while he alone

Could protect him, skin and bone,

Ribs, skull, thighs, and end his woe

If he’d but yield now to his foe.

Clamide was pale with weariness,

And liking it little, I confess;

A conflict won, a conflict lost,

Was decided there, and the cost.

For Clamide stumbled at a blow,

Blood from nose and ears did flow,

Dying the earth red; Parzival

Barged him down; as his foe did fall,

He tore the helm from Clamide’s head,

Baring it, such that, once twas shed,

The vanquished man, ready or no,

Sat waiting that last, mortal blow.

‘My wife is free of you now, say I,’

The victor cried, ‘prepare to die!’

‘No, no, valiant knight, your honour

Was proven here, thirty times over.

What greater glory could you win?

Condwiramurs has, with reason,

Declared me an ill-fated man,

While fortune but strengthens your hand.

Your fair country has been regained,

While, as when a vessel is drained

Of its cargo, unballasted quite,

It drifts about, its strength is slight,

My ship now is of shallower draught

Its force deemed less, before and aft.

Why kill me? Shame I must bequeath

To my scions; you wear the wreathe

Of advantage, and of true glory.

What need then to end the story

With my death? For I shall suffer

A living death, that may never

Know the woman who has, I find,

Imprisoned both my heart and mind

In her fair realm, all unrequited.

And so I must, by fate benighted,

Yield her, and all her lands, to you,

All without let or hindrance, too.’

Parzival thought of Gurnemanz

Who his wise counsel had advanced,

That a brave and gallant victor,

Feeling pity, should mercy offer,

So, he did as Gurnemanz said.

‘Then you must go, and stand instead

Before Liaze’s father, and render

To him your complete surrender,’

Said he to King Clamide: ‘No, no,

I have done him great wrong also!

For I slew Schenteflurs his son,

Who would if Kingrun had not come,

Have despatched me there, as he sought;

For Condwiramurs we two fought.

Sent by Gurnemanz de Graharz

With a mighty force to Brobarz,

Schenteflurs attacked me there;

Nine hundred knights, I declare,

On armoured steeds he possessed,

And they fought bravely, all attest.

Fifteen hundred foot he did field,

All fully clad, but for the shield,

A mighty force, yet, in the end,

Scarce enough did Graharz send

Since few enough returned to sire

Another army; none fled entire.

Since then I’ve lost many a knight

More than they and, in your sight,

Am beggared of honour and ease.

What else then might I do to please?’

Clamide is sent to King Arthur to join Kingrun

‘QUELL now your fears. Go to the land

Of Britain (where Kingrun, your man,

Has gone before) greet King Arthur

On my behalf, and say, moreover,

That I still seek his sympathy

For the insult, assumed by me,

Dealt a lady, for her laughter.

Naught has grieved me thereafter

As much as the beating she won.

Tell her it rankles yet; that done,

Offer the girl your submission.

Once you’ve fulfilled that mission

Then obey her every command;

Or choose to die now, by my hand!’

‘If that be the choice, I’ll not say no,’

Cried Brandigan’s king, ‘I will go.’

After swearing his oath, that man,

Of whose great pride the thing began,

This that had led to his downfall,

Now quit the field, while Parzival

Went to regain his weary steed.

He who had never found the need

To use the stirrup, leapt up now,

As lightly as ever and, I avow,

He set the shavings all a dancing

Upon his shield, with his prancing.

The citizens showed their delight,

While sorrow did their enemy blight,

For Clamide ached in flesh and bone.

He was released to join his own,

And saw his dead now laid to rest.

Then he set out upon his quest,

Riding cross country to Löver,

As his armies matched from there.

Clamide at King Arthur’s court

ALL the Round Table, bar none,

Were ensconced at Dianazdrun,

Where King Arthur held his court.

Without a lie, they must have brought

More tent-poles to the flat plain there,

Than Spessart’s hills tall trees do bear;

For Arthur had brought his retinue

To Whitsun feast, and no small few,

Had brought with them a lady fair.

Pennants, shields were on show there,

Their fields unquartered; in our day

Such would be thought a grand display.

Who’d care to stitch the travelling-wear

For the ladies riding to that affair?

And then each one was sure that she

Would lose worth if she failed to see

Some admirer there; I’d not bring

My wife to any such gathering,

Far too many young bloods around,

And jostling strangers to be found!

Some fellow would, in a whisper,

Tell her that she made him suffer;

Her charms brought pangs, lost was his joy;

And if only she could but employ

Her mercy, he would serve her ever,

Before, and after, and forever.

Rather should we hasten away.

Enough of my own affairs, I say!

Now hear how Arthur’s company

Can be found, amidst all we see.

Unmatched in their gaiety all there

Feasted with him, and many a fair

And gallant man proved not too slow

In doing deeds; the ladies also,

Took jousts as arrows, in their pride,

Their lovers fired at the other side;

While if the true knights, in their turn,

Fought hard, then perchance, in return,

Their ladies might grant recompense.

Clamide sought King Arthur’s tent;

An armoured steed, a steel-clad knight

Suddenly met Guinevere’s sight,

His helm and shield all hacked about,

And his dull armour scarred without.

All the ladies were soon aware

Of his sad state, and all did stare,

Though he had little choice indeed.

He now dismounted from his steed,

And, passing through the crowd, did stand

Before Cunneware of Lalant.

He said: ‘Perchance you are that lady,

Whom I must serve now, most humbly?

For I’m commanded so to do;

His compliments he sends to you,

The Red Knight, and his sympathy

You’ve won (these words he said to me)

For the wrong that was done to you;

By me, he asks King Arthur, too,

To make common cause with him.

You were beaten because of him

Were you not? My lady, I offer

My submission, abject surrender,

As directed by him who fought

And conquered me, though I’d sought

To conquer him; if tis your wish

I shall honour it though, as it is,

Unhorsed and wounded on that day,

I was under threat of death, I say.’

The Lady Cunneware de Lalant,

Now grasped Clamide’s gauntleted hand,

In the presence of Queen Guinevere,

Who shared a table set not so near

The king’s own; and Kay stood there,

And of the matter was thus aware,

And he heard every word they said,

And was startled, and blushed red,

Delighting the much-injured lady.

‘Madam, what this man says, why he

Was ordered to speak thus,’ said Kay.

‘Yet he was imposed upon that day,

For what I did, I did for the sake

Of the courtly code, and I did take

Exception to your judgement indeed,

And wished to amend it, at need,

For which your ill-will I do suffer.

I would advise you now, however,

To have them unarm this captive, or

He may find standing here a bore!’

The proud lady had them remove

Helmet and coif, and they did prove,

The one unlaced, the other peeled,

That King Clamide they’d concealed.

Now, Kingrun knew him instantly;

Troubled at how this thing could be,

He wrung his hands in bitter woe.

The Seneschal rocked to and fro,

Then he thrust the table from him,

Begging his lord to inform him

Of those sad happenings, for he saw

His lord was sore wounded, and more.

‘I am ill-fated,’ Clamide cried,

‘My army lost, can it be denied?

No mother ever nourished any

Born to a darker destiny.

But that loss is naught beside

The anguish that I must abide,

Lacking the love that I forego,

That which pains my spirits so,

And allows me joy no longer,

Such that pleasure is a stranger.

For Condwiramurs I grow grey.

Whate’er, on that great Judgement Day,

His Maker may yet have in store,

For Pontius Pilate or, e’en more,

For Judas, who deceit displayed,

And Jesus, with a kiss, betrayed,

I would accept their torment now,

If Brobarz’ queen would but allow

Our marriage, and I kissed her after,

Whate’er might befall thereafter.

Her love, alas, Iserterre’s king

Cannot win, all my kith and kin,

All Brandigan must rue that ever.

(There Mabonagrin did suffer

Long, he my paternal cousin)

And now, Arthur, I have ridden

To your court, for so a knight

Commanded me; his the right;

Though in my country dishonour

Has been done to you, yet favour

Me with your mercy, noble man,

While I am captive in your land;

Keep your displeasure far from me.

Cunneware too who, graciously,

Accepted my submission, shall,

I trust, defend me from reprisal.’

King Arthur pardoned him for all

The wrongs Clamide did thus recall.

Now all the people were aware

The King of Brandigan was there,

The news had spread, ‘Come see, come see!’

Clamide requested, courteously,

The company of my Lord Gawain.

‘Please commend me to that same,

Madame, if you think me worthy.

I know for his part, he would be

A true companion; if that knight

Would do so, honour would alight

Upon the Red Knight, and on you.’

Then Arthur asked his dear nephew,

Gawain, to keep him company,

Though he would have done so freely.

And then they all did warmly greet

Clamide, so courteous in defeat.

Said Kingrun to Clamide: ‘Alas

That such a thing should come to pass,

That any Briton should behold

You prisoned in his royal fold.

More powerful than Arthur, you,

Both in troops and in revenue,

Were greater, and then youth is yours.

Is Arthur now to win applause

Because Sir Kay, in his anger,

Struck a fair princess whose laughter

Revealed that she divined and chose

The man whose present fame now shows

Him as the greatest knight of all?

They think, these Britons, to flatter

Themselves in this very matter,

Yet it was not their labours brought

Death to King Ither when he fought,

Nor my Lord Clamide’s surrender.

That same knight myself did render

Hors de combat, without deceit,

Or deception; his sword did beat

Sparks from many a helm there, and

Spun the sword in many a hand!’

High and low, all agreed that Kay

Had done wrong; be that as it may,

We must return to Parzival.

Parzival ventures forth again

THAT land, where he was king withal,

Recovered from its devastation,

As fresh joy renewed the nation.

Tampenteire had left great store

Of gems, and red gold, and more,

And these he granted generously,

Such that the folk were readily

Won to him; true hearts did field

Many a pennant and fresh shield;

They rode to many a tournament.

Fearless ever, he found content

In showing valour at the borders,

Repelling a host of invaders,

And proving his skills of the best.

And the Queen? All she possessed

Brought her happiness, and what more

Could she desire? You may be sure

That sweet young girl, for her part,

Had all that here delights the heart.

Her love was strong, therefore she

Knew naught of infidelity;

She knew her husband to be true,

Each found it in the other anew;

He was her love and she was his.

Yet now I must reflect on this,

Their parting, loss is here indeed;

I’m moved to pity that fate decreed

Such for her. He had saved the land,

Herself, her people, by his own hand,

From great distress, and thus did earn

The love she’d offered him in return.

Yet one morning, he spoke a word:

(Many a knight there saw and heard)

‘If it please you, madam, I ask leave

To visit my mother, for I receive

No news if she now be well or ill;

Thus I do seek to know your will;

And then, I’d find adventure too.

For all that I have done for you

Your true love can repay me so.’

In such terms, he asked leave to go.

She loved him, so the story says,

Nor did deny him aught always.

He rode away, twas his destiny,

With never a soul for company.

End of Book IV of Parzival