Wolfram von Eschenbach
Book VI: Vengeance on Sir Kay
From The Flower Book, Sir Edward Burne-Jones (English, 1833 – 1898)
Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved
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- Blood on the snow.
- Arthur’s company is made aware of the knight’s presence.
- Parzival defeats King Segramors.
- He is approached by Sir Kay.
- Parzival defeats Kay, the Seneschal.
- Kay taunts the ever-courteous Gawain into approaching Parzival.
- Parzival is greeted by Cunneware, and joins the company of the Round Table.
- The members of the Round Table dine together.
- Cundrie La Surziere, messenger of the Grail, appears.
- Cundrie berates King Arthur and Parzival.
- Cundrie names an adventure and departs, as Kingrimursel of Ascalun appears.
- Arthur responds to Kingrimursel’s charge levied against Gawain.
- Gawain accepts the challenge.
- Clamide wins Cunneware.
- Parzival expresses commitment to his quest for the Grail.
- Parzival takes leave of Arthur’s court.
- Gawain departs for Ascalun, and the gathering disperses.
- Wolfram defends his treatment of women.
Blood on the snow
WOULD you care to hear how Arthur
Left Karidoel castle and, later,
Departed his realm completely?
On his council’s advice did he
Ride out, for a good eight days,
Closely accompanied always
By noblemen, from far and near,
Seeking that man, he held dear,
Who’d styled himself the Red Knight,
Since he’d slain Ither in the fight,
With his javelin, his firm intent
Solving the king’s predicament,
And dispatched to his fair kingdom,
King Clamide, and Lord Kingrun,
Demanding that they seek his court.
The Red Knight, King Arthur sought
To enrol in his fair company,
Of the Round Table; thus, did he
Ride out in quest of him, and set
The terms that, whoe’er they met,
All of these knights of the shield,
Rich or poor, must shun the field
And refrain from jousting, unless
He granted them leave, nothing less;
And this they’d sworn to on oath,
With hand-clasps, however loth.
‘We must ride through many a land
That warlike action doth command,
And we may well see lances raised
And at the ready, but if, like crazed
Hounds the huntsman lets run free,
You race ahead, you’ll trouble me.
I’ll have no such wild commotion!
Yet once the enemy’s in motion,
I’ll command you, have no fear,
Have faith in my true valour here.’
Since you’ve heard about their vow,
Perchance you’d have me tell you now
How Parzival the Welshman fared?
Deep snow had fallen everywhere,
That night, and twas a wonder,
For all I’ve ever heard of Arthur,
Happened in the spring, or rather
At its height, and a while thereafter,
Blossom time, round Whitsuntide;
That man of May did e’er abide
Where’er the gentle breezes blew!
This tale appears of different hue,
White the colour that here doth show,
Green fields all hidden by the snow.
His falconers, from Karidoel,
Out hunting near the Plimizoel,
Had met with ill luck to their cost;
Their finest falcon there was lost;
She’d flown beyond the forest’s door,
For, overfed, she’d shunned the lure,
And that night lodged near Parzival,
Where heavy snow had covered all,
Both of them cold enough to freeze,
The place unknown, amidst the trees.
When Parzival woke, at pains to go,
His path was lost beneath the snow.
He rode across that wild country,
Past many a rock, and fallen tree,
While the gleaming sun on high,
Rose higher in the morning sky.
Soon sparser trees let in the light;
To open country rode the knight,
With Arthur’s falcon following;
There a lone tree-trunk was lying,
A crowd of geese all settled nearby;
The falcon dropped from out the sky,
Setting them calling, and struck one;
Under the fallen tree twas gone,
Too badly hurt to seek the air,
While, on the untrodden snow there,
Fell, from its wound, three drops of blood,
Bringing Parzival little good.
True affection brought him distress,
Twas loyalty to his fair mistress;
Seeing the red infuse the white,
The blood drops on the snow alight,
He asked himself: ‘Who sets his hand
To these fresh hues, as if tis planned,
For, my Condwiramurs, these colours
May be likened to your favours,
Your complexion! Tis God’s will
To bring me joy and beauty still
Finding your counterpart set here,
In red and white, the colours clear.
God’s hand be praised for your features,
And then for all His fair creatures.
Condwiramurs, your likeness this;
The white with the red doth mix,
The blood reddening the snow,
Condwiramurs, and so doth show
Your fair person imaged thus;
For the comparison proves just!’
And he imagined two drops set
Against her cheeks, another yet
Beneath her lip, just as they fell;
Upon his mind they cast a spell.
The love he held for her was true;
The love that wavers not he knew.
And he gazed there as if in trance,
Not seeking retreat or advance.
Mighty Love held him enthralled,
So sweetly his wife he recalled,
So deep the longing; he had seen,
Mirrored, Belrepeire’s fair queen,
In the hues there, and her presence,
Robbed him of all wit and sense.
He sat unmoving in the saddle,
As though asleep, still astraddle,
And who do you think found him there?
Cunneware’s servant forth did fare,
Dispatched on an errand to Lalant,
And the lad glimpsed in an instant
The scarred helm, the dented shield,
That honoured his lady in the field;
An armed knight with upraised lance
Sat there, as if poised to advance.
Arthur’s company is made aware of the knight’s presence
THE lad returned whence he had come.
Had he his wits, he’d ne’er have done
What he did, roused the hue and cry;
He should have known the knight thereby,
Seeing his armour; as it turned out,
He ran to the tents and loud did shout
To Arthur’s company and more,
As if the knight were some outlaw.
He’d lost all claim to courtliness;
And yet, once, so had his mistress.
‘For shame, for shame!’ the lad cried,
‘Shame on you! Where is’t you hide?
Are not Gawain, and this company,
And Arthur the Briton, held to be
Men of honour and high renown?’
Such is how he dressed them down,
‘The Round Table admits disgrace,
The enemy’s here now, in this place!’
At this, the knights rose in uproar,
And sought to know (all were unsure)
If arms and armour were in play.
They learned that a knight did stay
Alone, beyond the camp, all set
To joust, with any knights he met,
Regretting, for none there was loth,
That they had sworn King Arthur’s oath.
Parzival defeats King Segramors
LUSTING for battle, Segramors
Ran forward, a knight ever more
Prepared to fight than all the rest,
One seeking ever some new contest.
He ran forth with many a bound,
His feet they barely touched the ground,
A man who where’er battle arose,
Had to be shackled from his foes,
Or he’d dive in; the Rhine in truth
Is not so wide, that if he, forsooth,
Saw fighting on the farther bank,
He’d refrain, e’en though he sank
In the freezing water, there within,
From furiously plunging in.
He came hot foot to Arthur’s tent,
Where the king lay, quite content;
Yet Segramors burst through the door,
Beneath the guy-ropes, there before,
And snatched the sable coverlet
From those two who were dozing yet,
Such that they must wake indeed,
Jesting at his uncourtly deed.
‘My Lady Queen,’ (she was his kin)
He cried, as he came bursting in,
‘Being close relations as we are,
All folk do know, both near and far,
That I look to yourself for favour.
Help me now with my Lord Arthur,
In a new venture, I’d advance,
And be the first to break a lance.’
‘You swore on oath to obey me!’
Cried Arthur, ‘not to fragrantly
Flout my wishes, an if you do
Many another brave knight too
Will take it as a precedent,
Urge that I alter my intent
And let them all quit their station
So as to grow their reputation;
Thus, my strength would ebb away.
Anfortas’ realm lies close this day,
At Munsalvaesche they are based,
To defend the forest; not graced
With knowledge of their number,
We should do ourselves no favour.’
Guinevere pleaded with the King,
Such that he conceded the thing,
Much to young Segramors’ delight.
When she won leave for him, the knight
Near died of joy; it would have proved
A blow to him, if twas approved
For any man to share the glory.
Then the youth, so runs the story,
Beardless yet proud, sought his armour,
Clad head to foot, found his charger,
And Segramors (who was a king)
Sallied forth from King Arthur’s ring,
Over saplings and bushes leapt,
Gold bells tinkling, as he swept
Along; they did adorn his steed,
And himself; you could at need
Have flown the youth at a pheasant!
Would any learn if he were present?
They need but seek the music out!
Forth he rode to the encounter
With the knight, a man however
Sold now into Love’s slavery.
Segramors challenged him swiftly,
Ere any blow of sword or lance,
Yet Parzival did not advance
But sat there still lost in thought,
Due to the drops of red blood caught
By the snow, and mighty Love.
(She to my heart a lance doth prove,
And of my senses ever robs me.
Alas, a lady doth assault me!
If she’ll cease not from doing so,
Nor ever seek to ease my woe,
I shall hold her as in the wrong
And quit my hopes of her ere long!)
So, listen now to how they spoke,
And parted, not without a stroke
From the lance. King Segramors
Said: ‘You sit astride your horse,
Sir, as though you were content;
A king lies there, within his tent;
Encamped in force our company;
Howe’er indifferent you may be,
You must grant him satisfaction,
Or I, who champion his faction,
Must die. You are come too near
In search of combat and, I fear,
You must surrender now to me,
And do so with due courtesy,
Or but receive what you deserve,
The snow for a soft bed may serve!
Although you might do far better,
For you may yet yield with honour.’
Now Parzival said not a word,
Despite the threats he had heard;
Love had assigned him other cares,
Absorbed thus in his own affairs.
Bold Segramors wheeled his mount,
Seeking to bring him to account,
And aimed his lance at Parzival
Whose Castilian, it did befall,
On which he sat oblivious,
Turned aside and Parzival, thus,
Lost sight of the three drops of blood.
His gaze troubled (twas to the good
As regards his knightly renown),
Seeing them not upon the ground,
Reason restored his awareness.
Segramors toward him did press.
Parzival lowered the painted lance
Of Troyes and with it did advance,
(Twas taken from the hermit’s cell)
Segramors’ thrust he answered well,
Receiving it through his stout shield,
While Segramors was forced to yield,
And quit the saddle, whilst, in fact,
The lance that downed him stayed intact.
Then Parzival, seeking not his name,
Returned to those blood drops again.
No sooner did they meet his sight
Than Love in her net wound him tight.
As if bereft of sense, once more
He sat and gazed there, as before.
The knights were near enough to see
Him sitting there, as equally
Motionless as before he’d been.
Though a victory they had seen,
Twas Love the victory had won,
Who’d even vanquished Solomon.
Segramors’ mount sought its manger.
After his battle with the stranger;
Had its rider now sought to rest
He would have had to lean at best
(Although most people seek to lie,
As you have heard, and so have I).
What ease did he find in the snow?
How I would hate to lie there so!
For losers are but mockery’s bait,
Heaven sides with the fortunate.
He soon returned to the company;
Received well, or with mockery
He doled abuse out, on every side,
Without fear or favour, anent his ride.
‘Know, chivalry’s a game of chance,
And many have fallen to the lance,
Even tall ships at sea may founder;
Yet he’d not have dared, this stranger,
To face me had he known my shield.
I resent it that he will not yield,
But remains there to joust again.
Else much praise from me he’d gain.’
He is approached by Sir Kay
SO spoke King Segramors, while Kay
Went to King Arthur and straightway
Told him the youth had been unseated,
And that the fellow he had greeted
Was waiting there, as keen as ever.
‘My lord, I would bemoan it ever,
Were he to leave us now, unscathed,
Boasting that Arthur he has braved.
If you would value me hereafter,
Let me discover what he’s after,
This man who waits there, lance erect
In sight of your wife, since I elect
To end this fellow’s provocation,
Or quit your court, and my vocation.
The Round Table has met with shame.
Now give me to leave to fight this same,
His courage feeds on ours, I find.
Even if we were deaf and blind
You should forbid him so to do.
It is high time he fought anew.’
Arthur granted Kay leave to fight.
The Seneschal then armed aright;
A forest of lances he would break
With this stranger for Arthur’s sake.
The knight though bore Love’s guerdon,
Snow and blood the man did burden,
Twould be a sin to swell his pain,
While Love would little credit gain
From wielding her sceptre that day,
Merely in token of her sway.
Love, why then such short-lived joy,
To cheer a sorrowful man, employ?
Is it seemly you should overthrow
Manly thoughts, and ambition, so?
How swift you win your victory,
Slay a man with scant courtesy,
Conquering both noble and base,
And all you war with, in this place;
Truly, we must concede your might.
Yet, one merit is yours of right:
Affection keeps you company,
Or deficient your rule would be.
Love, you foster faithlessness,
In ancient ways win new success,
Robbing women of their good name;
Near kin or distant, prove the same;
Many a lord has wronged his man,
At your urging, and many a man
Has wronged his lord, many a friend
His companion, loyal to the end;
Thus, do your ways to hellfire lead.
Love you should be ashamed indeed,
That you instil such deep longing
In the flesh, as brings souls, weeping,
To such torment. Love, since you age
The young; a sad squire of the page
Do fashion though youth be but brief,
You work great ill, tis my belief.
This discourse suits no man other
Than one you have solaced never.
Had you helped me in other days
I’d not prove laggard in my praise.
You’ve cheated me many a day,
Diced my loving glances away,
Such that I’ve lost all faith in you.
My sufferings, you scorn those too.
And yet you are too noble ever
For me to deal with you in anger.
The sharp goad you wield proves bitter;
The burden on my heart no better.
(Heinrich von Veldeke; how he,
In his Eneide, most skilfully
Revealed, neath that tree, your nature,
Where Eneas so wooed his lover.
If he’d but taught us to retain you!
For in showing how to win you,
He slit mere slivers from the whole)
The prize that’s won by some young soul,
Is oft marred by sheer ignorance.
Whate’er I learned of true romance,
Or may learn, I shall reproach you,
Love, who doth chain our reason too,
In that neither sword nor shield
Nor swift steed, nor fortress sealed
Adorned with many a lofty tower,
Avails us, for you overpower
All resistance. On sea or land,
What can elude your certain hand,
Evade your assault or even try,
Whether it run, or swim, or fly?
Love, it was violence on your part
When Parzival sat there apart,
In that trance of deep affection,
All through your pure misdirection.
She dispatched you through the air,
To be to him her messenger,
That lovely Queen of Belrepeire;
And Kardeiz son of Tampenteire,
Her dear brother, you took his life.
If you shield me not from such strife,
If this be the tribute you exact,
Then happy am I, who have, in fact,
Won not a thing from you. I speak
For all of us. Now, you who seek
More of our knight, I shall not fail;
Come, hear how things went, in the tale.
Parzival defeats Kay, the Seneschal
VALIANT Kay rode forth to fight,
Equipped as a well-trained knight,
Eager for battle, and such he won
In meeting King Gahmuret’s son.
You ladies with knights in thrall
Must wish him luck, one and all,
For tis a woman has now brought
Him to this sad state, lost in thought.
Kay chose not to lower his lance,
Till he had hailed him in advance.
‘Sir, since you thus insult the king,
If I may guide you in this thing,
For that will prove the best for you,
Let me lead you where he may view
Your person; you’ll not escape me,
And if I lead you there forcefully,
Why then, sir knight, be not deceived,
More harshly shall you be received.’
Love’s burden still constrained the knight
To silence. Kay advanced outright,
And with his lance he struck him, so
His helmet rang out, at the blow.
‘Wake now!’ he cried, ‘for since you lack
A good quilt here, my next attack
Will grant you a soft bed of snow.
If a pack animal proved as slow
At bearing sacks to the mill, then he’d
Be thrashed as hard as I’ll, indeed,
Thrash you; and rue his sluggishness.’
Love, do you hear? I would suggest
All this must be to your dishonour;
Here even a peasant would mutter:
‘Consider this as done to my lady!’
Parzival would, if he were only
Able to speak. Love, let the man
Seek your revenge, as well he can.
For I have no doubt that this guest,
Would prove himself of the best,
If your dominion would so allow,
Your rule, beneath which he doth bow.
Kaye charged at him with a shout,
And then so forced his steed about
That the Welshman lost all sight
Of his bitter-sweet pain, outright,
That fair semblance of his queen,
The patch of reddened snow I mean;
Whereupon reason, as before,
Brought him to his senses once more.
Kay to the gallop set his steed,
Ready to joust, and gaining speed;
And as the pair did thus advance
Each of them now lowered his lance.
Where he’d aimed the tip to strike
Kay delivered it, and something like
A window made in the knight’s shield;
To the counterstroke, forced to yield,
Sir Kay, King Arthur’s Seneschal,
Yet tumbled from his horse withal,
And sprawled across the fallen tree
Neath which the goose had sought to flee,
And, thus, his offence was well repaid,
The man and the steed both unmade,
The man was wounded, the horse dead;
And in the fall, to his saddle wed,
Meeting a rock, Kay’s right arm
And his left leg both came to harm,
Both were broken; saddle and girth,
Bell-harness too, all flung to earth.
Thus, the stranger obtained revenge,
A brace of assaults he did avenge,
First the one the maid did suffer,
While that from Kay was the other.
Parzival, up-rooter of all that’s ill,
Was prompted by affection still,
To seek those blood drops, on the snow,
That robbed him of his senses so,
Such that the semblance of his queen,
And his thoughts of the Grail, I ween,
Afflicted him, though Love, surely,
In the scales, weighed more heavily.
‘Love and sorrow do break brave hearts.’
Small wonder! From both, suffering starts.
Brave people should lament Kay’s plight,
For he’d shown pluck in many a fight;
And though twas said by many a man,
He’d the manners of a ruffian,
My tale acquits him of the charge.
I say his courage was writ large,
A knight born to true loyalty,
Whether or not you all agree.
And I’ll say more about him now,
King Arthur’s court, you will allow,
Was the goal of many a stranger;
Yet Kay ever scorned the manner
Of those, some of whom were noble,
And others equally, ignoble,
Who set their stall out to deceive,
And yet he would with grace receive
Those who showed themselves well-bred,
With friendly thoughts in their head,
For those he would serve and honour.
I own he was a keen observer,
A sharp critic, who would afford,
In seeking to protect his lord,
Little grace to the imposters,
Sifting base folk from the others,
Falling upon their ill-doing,
Like a hailstorm, with a sting
Like a bee’s but much sharper;
For was it not such folk ever
Sought to traduce his good name?
He knew the faithful, and yet blame
He reaped, and spite, from all the rest;
Scorning the worst, aiding the best.
(Prince Hermann of Thuringia,
I judge that certain of your inner
Court might better join the outer;
It strikes me that, altogether,
You could have done with a Kay,
Since your generosity doth pay
For so mixed a following; here
A rascal, there some noble peer.
Twas why Walther was forced to sing,
As he offered them his greeting,
‘Good day, the noble and the base!’
And yet, the villains gain in grace
From singing out in such a style,
Kay aimed his sarcasm and guile;
He would not have sought such, nor
Sir Henry of Reisbach I feel sure.)
Witness now fresh wonders though,
Beside the Plimizoel, in the snow.
Kay taunts the ever-courteous Gawain into approaching Parzival
SIR Kay was carried back, with haste,
And in King Arthur’s tent was placed.
And many a friend, knight or lady,
Came there to voice their sympathy.
My lord Gawain came to his side,
‘Alas, the day!’ his lordship cried,
‘Alas, the joust that wounds a friend;
Yet with God’s grace he shall mend.’
So, ran his passionate lament.
‘No doubt your pity is well meant,’
Said Kay, with signs of irritation,
‘But, my lord, such lamentation
Suits old women, not such as you.
You are my fair sovereign’s nephew,
Would I could serve you at leisure
Now, according to your pleasure.
For while God granted me the use
Of my limbs, then, scant excuse
I sought, but helped you in your cause,
And I would do so without pause.
Now stop your wailing, and be fain
To let me lie, and nurse my pain.
The brave king, your uncle, I say
Would ne’er again find such a Kay.
You are too noble to avenge me.
Yet, had you lost a finger, surely
I would have risked my own head now,
And gambled gainst fate, that I vow.
Yet take no heed of my taunting,
The knight there, who far from fleeing
At the gallop or e’en the trot,
Waits out there, knows how, God wot,
To settle a matter with a blow;
While there’s no lady’s hair that’s so
Fine and fragile it would not serve
To tie your hand and so preserve
Your lordship from a fight. One who
When he is faced with such ado,
Shows meekness, honours his mother,
Yet needs seek valour from his father.
Follow your mother, Lord Gawain,
Avoid the thought of toil and pain,
Grow pale at the sight of a sword,
You’ll be an unmanly sort of lord!’
So was that most renowned knight
Attacked with subtle words, outright,
Which he could not repay in kind,
As happens with such men, I find,
Well-bred, full of that modesty
Of which the shameless man is free.
‘Whenever aught was aimed at me,
None saw me grow pale, I fancy,
If they eyed my colour that day,’
Cried Lord Gawain, answering Kay,
‘You have no need for anger now,
I’ve e’er been yours at need, I vow.’
That noble knight, my Lord Gawain,
Departed the King’s tent again,
Mounted his steed, with firm intent,
And, lacking sword or spurs, he went
Forth, to find the Welshman who
Was enthralled by Love anew.
The shield Parzival bore was now
Holed in three places, I’ll avow,
By three champions, for Orilus
Had, earlier yet, pierced it thus.
Lord Gawain rode towards him,
Neither galloping, nor charging,
Wishing to search out, amicably,
Who this brave stranger might be.
Now, Gawain greeted Parzival,
But of it he heard naught at all,
Since Love exercised her power
Over Herzeloyde’s son that hour.
Susceptibility to love,
Born of his ancestry, did prove
Enough to bring oblivion;
Nothing of what King Lot’s son
Had said did this Parzival hear,
Though his speech was crisp and clear.
‘My lord,’ said Gawain, ‘since you
Shun my greeting, to fight anew
Must be your aim? And yet I must,
Being of firm heart, seek your trust,
Thence to persuade you otherwise.
You’ve put the king, you realise,
To shame, and have disgraced us all,
Yet if you’ll answer reason’s call,
And, as I counsel, accompany me
To his presence, I’ll guarantee
To win your pardon; the offence
Shall be forgot by men of sense.’
But threats and entreaties were, as one,
Lost on King Gahmuret’s fair son.
Gawain, the Round Table’s glory,
Had love enough in his story,
He had come to know love’s harm,
Stabbing a knife through his palm
When ruled by love, for this man
Was the friend of a noble woman,
Who saved him from death, a queen,
Who, after a joust, when he had been
At Lahelin’s mercy, offered her head
As a pledge. Fair, and nobly bred,
Was she, sweet and loyal that same,
Inguse de Bahtarliez her name.
‘What if Love oppresses this man,
As she did me,’ was Gawain’s thought,
‘And his faithful heart, once caught,
Has had to yield to her?’ Noting,
Where the Welshman was gazing,
His eyes followed his line of sight,
And then he flung his cape outright
O’er the blood drops (twas Syrian silk,
Lined with yellow cendale of that ilk).
When they were hidden, when no more
Of those blood-drops Parzival saw,
The Queen of Belrepeire released
His senses to him, yet ne’er ceased
To keep his heart fixed upon her.
Be pleased to hear what he did utter:
‘Alas, my wife, and lady; who
Robs me of that fair sight of you?
Was it I who gained your noble love,
Through martial deeds a king did prove,
And won the crown of your country,
And, so, from Clamide set you free?
Many a knight of yours did groan,
Many a fair maid raised her moan,
There within your realm of sighs.
And yet a mist before my eyes
Has snatched you from me in broad day,
How I know not? Oh, where, I say,
Is the lance that I brought with me?’
The other sat listening, patiently:
‘You broke it in a joust.’ Gawain
Replied, ‘Against whom was I fain
To do so?’ asked the worthy knight,
‘You’ve nor sword nor shield in sight,
What honour could I have of you?
I suffer your mockery now, tis true,
Yet later you may show respect.
I’ve prevailed when men did expect
I would not, once or twice; though I
Clash not with you beneath the sky,
Yet the world is wide enough, I say,
To seek toil and fame many a day,
And suffer many a joy and woe.’
‘The speech that I granted you, though,
My lord Gawain replied, ‘was meant
In friendship, to show good intent,
Full clear, not dark as marsh-water.
I seek no more than I did utter
And I stand ready to deserve.
A host of knights, the king I serve,
Camp here, with many a fair lady.
If you’ll accept my company,
I’ll ride beside you on the way
And keep you from attack this day.’
‘Thank you, sir, and you speak fair,
I’ll seek to be worthy of your care.
Since you offer me your company,
Who is your lord; who may you be?
‘I name one as my lord from whom
I gain much, and shall now presume
To speak of him and myself outright.
He shows me honour, as a knight.
King Lot took his sister to wife,
And she did bear me; in this life,
Whate’er God has bestowed on me
I have sworn to this man, wholly.
He is King Arthur, and my name
Is scarcely hidden, I am Gawain,
So my friends call me; it, and I,
Are at your service, if, by and by,
You will do me that great honour.’
‘Are you Gawain?’ cried the other,
‘Small credit will I win from being
Welcomed by you with fair greeting,
For I have ever heard men say
You welcome all in such a way!
Your kindness I can but receive
With equal kindness, so believe.
Now tell me, if it you would please
Whose pavilions and tents are these?
For if King Arthur lodges here,
I cannot greet your King, I fear,
Nor the Queen, with any honour
Till I avenge a beating, that ever
Doth sadden me, and here’s the tale:
A noble maiden with a gale
Of laughter greeted me, and so
The Seneschal landed her a blow,
And more, indeed; because of me,
He struck her as one might a tree,
One that’s splintered in the felling.’
‘Tis now avenged, that very thing,’
Said Gawain, ‘twas you that shattered
His left leg and right arm; scattered
Fragments now doth the snow display
Of your lance, and but ride this way
And here’s his mount, and the boulder
That caught him, at thigh and shoulder.’
Seeing twas so, Parzival then
Pursued the matter, and spoke again:
‘Your word I’ll accept, friend Gawain,
That twas he who put me to shame,
And, on this understanding, shall I
Ride with you, nor your wish deny.’
‘I’ll not mislead you,’ answered Gawain,
‘Now Segramors also, as I maintain
A warrior whose deeds men praise
Most highly, he too fell lengthways
Before your lance thrust, twas done
Ere you downed Kay; you have won
Much honour here, with little pain.’
Parzival is greeted by Cunneware, and joins the company of the Round Table
THE Welshman and my Lord Gawain,
Rode in together; amidst a throng,
On foot and horseback, drawn along,
To greet Gawain and the Red Knight,
As they thought proper, and was right.
Gawain, at once, made for his tent.
Cunneware, meanwhile, was bent
On welcoming her knight, and she
Received her champion joyfully,
Who’d now avenged the wrong that Kay
Had done to her, and him, that day.
With her was Jeschute of Karnant,
And her brother, and hand in hand,
Parzival saw them all approaching,
Through the grime his face showing
Like a dew-wet rose blooming there.
No sooner had he shed his armour,
Than he sought to do them honour.
Cunneware spoke then graciously:
‘Be welcome to God, then to me,
Since you hold to the path of valour.
I had refrained from laughing ever,
Till my heart told me what you were,
Then Kay did beat me like a cur,
And robbed me of all happiness.
But you avenge me; a kiss no less
Would I give you, were it not too
High an honour so to do.’
‘I would have claimed it, if I’d dared,’
Said Parzival, ‘a kiss we’d shared,
For your greeting brings me pleasure.’
She bade him sit, at his leisure,
And sent for fresh clothes; then her maid,
Brought a cloak of Nineveh brocade,
Which King Clamide, her prisoner,
Was to have worn, and gave it her;
Though, the maid said, it lacked lace.
Then Cunneware drew, from a place
At her fair side, a ribbon, and straight
Threaded it through, while he did wait.
By her leave, he rinsed the dust
Away and, free of grime and rust,
Emerged, red-lipped and fair of skin,
Handsome, and clean as a new pin;
And when he was robed, all thought,
Those who saw him there at court,
And did proclaim, his graces such
As other men could scarcely touch,
Such praise did his appearance draw.
Parzival’s cloak looked well and more,
Cunneware fastened the neck close
With a fine green emerald brooch,
And gave him more, a rare and costly
Embroidered belt, with beasts richly
Formed of precious gems set there,
While a ruby clasped the whole affair.
How did the beardless youth appear,
The belt tied, in all his fine gear?
‘Quite well enough’, declares the tale!
None of all those present could fail
To wish him well, and all who then
Set eyes on him, women and men,
Held the knight in high esteem.
Arthur had heard Mass, and twould seem,
On finding he’d gone to Gawain’s tent,
Greeting the knight being his intent,
He made his way now to that place;
They saw him approaching, at a pace,
With knights of the Round Table who
Had e’er proved faithful and true.
He that Kay had bruised, Antanor,
Darted forth, and hastened before
The King, all the way to Parzival.
‘Tis you who have avenged us all,’
He cried, ‘and much glory they say
He has lost to you, our Sir Kay.
His threat to us seems at an end;
Scant need now for me to defend
Myself from him, so weak his arm;
Twill not mend soon, so great the harm!’
Young Parzival, but for the wings,
Seemed an angel midst earthly things.
Together with his nobles, Arthur
Greeted him in friendly manner,
And all who saw Parzival there
Felt good will towards him; where
Hearts appraised him, none said no,
All cried yes, he charmed them so.
‘You gave me joy and pain,’ said Arthur,
‘You have brought me greater honour
Than I’ve received from any man.
Had you achieved naught finer than
Restoring fair Jeschute to favour,
I’d still not deserve such honour.
If I’d had speech with you, indeed,
Kay had atoned for his misdeed.’
Arthur then told him what he sought,
The request to him that had brought
The King to undertake this journey,
And travel, thus, into that country.
Then, as one, they begged Parzival
To pledge companionship to all
The Round Table, of chivalry,
And each knight there, separately.
Nor was that request unwelcome,
He was pleased, and with good reason,
For her was true company indeed.
And, thus, he courteously agreed.
Take counsel, hear, and judge whether
The Round Table, all met together,
Their strict decree did now maintain:
For Arthur their leader had been fain
To state that not a knight should dine
At court with him, at any time,
Unless Adventure there made one.
Since she was here, all now was done
To mark her favour, gladly gained.
The Table itself in Nantes remained,
Yet its ceremonies, transferred here,
In this snowy meadow did appear.
King Arthur did command the same,
So, to honour the Red Knight’s fame.
A fair brocade of Acraton,
Brought from far-off heathendom,
Cut round not square, had been laid,
On the ground, such that it played
The Table’s role, for courtesy
A simple rule did, there, decree,
That none should sit below the king,
All seats held equal in that ring.
The noble knights and ladies then,
Maidens, spouses, women and men,
Dined with Arthur, all those thought
Highly of at the King’s fair court.
The members of the Round Table dine together
QUEEN Guinevere appeared, most fair
Amidst the host of ladies there,
And her princesses, all beautiful,
The circle being not so full
As to prevent many a lady
Sitting beside her knight, where she
Might be at ease, with no jostling.
Then, taking Parzival’s hand, the king,
With Cunneware at his other side,
Who free of her woes did now abide,
Said, as he looked at the Welshman:
‘My wife here I shall now command,
To kiss you, who have little need
To seek a kiss from any indeed,
For from Belrepeire you came,
Where resides the goal and aim
Of all your kissing; yet I will ask,
If I should visit you, your task
Will be to repay there, the kiss.’
‘I shall do wholly as you wish,
There and elsewhere,’ he replied.
The Queen stepped forward; on his side,
He advanced, and the Queen, at this
Welcomed Parzival with a kiss.
‘I forgive you, and sincerely,
For all the woe that you caused me,
When you took King Ither’s life.’
And at the thought, that royal wife
Though reconciled, now shed a tear,
For Ither’s death brought pain, I fear,
To many a woman, and she was one.
King Clamide, when this was done,
Sat, with his back to the Plimizoel,
Beside him Jofreit, son of Idoel,
While the Red Knight they did name,
To sit twixt Clamide and Gawain.
My source gives judgement that no man
Born of woman sat, on either hand,
Round this circle, whose looks withal
Belied him less than did Parzival’s,
For, there, he brought the glow of youth,
But yet no lack of strength, in truth;
And then, if you viewed him closely,
You had to say that many a lady
Viewed herself in a looking glass
Far less shiny than his mouth was,
And the complexion of all his face.
And for any woman, in any place,
His looks were a snare that caught
Her; then her loyalty, if sought,
Was firm, she scorned all fickleness!
I speak of those who break, no less,
The ties of faithfulness and forsake
Their lovers, for his looks did wake
Such brightness they proved a bond,
One that might be reckoned upon,
Of feminine constancy; where he
Was concerned, all was loyalty!
Their fickleness all gone, their gaze
Received him in most faithful ways,
And he, without semblance of art,
Passed through the eyes to the heart.
Cundrie La Surziere, messenger of the Grail, appears
MEN and women, all wished him well,
He enjoyed their esteem, as well,
Yet groans and sighs did end it all.
For, now, came a maid, as I recall,
Praised for her truth-saying, yet who
Appeared part-crazed, and she, tis true,
Brought painful news to many a one.
Hear of the mount she rode upon!
A dun-coloured mule, such was it,
A Castilian’s height, its nostrils slit,
And marks of the iron, that we see,
On the branded steeds of Hungary.
Skilful hands had not proved idle
In making harness and bridle,
Both of these were rich indeed.
Fine the gait of her brave steed;
Yet she herself appeared no lady.
Why was she there? Whate’er might be
The reason, there she was, and naught
To be done. To King Arthur’s court,
And his company, she brought woe.
She was a woman of talent though,
All languages she spoke, fine Latin,
French, Arabic; and, well-versed in
Dialectic and geometry,
Mastery of all such had she;
Skilled as well in astronomy.
You’d know her name? It was Cundrie,
‘The Sorceress’ was her nickname,
Nor of speech was the woman lame,
For what she said, it did suffice,
To grieve the joyful in a trice.
Her appearance was not quite that
Of those called fine; astride she sat;
Her cloak, cut in the French fashion,
From bridal fabric in Ghent woven,
Was bluer than azure; good brocade,
Next to her body, clothed the maid;
And a hat from London, not so old,
Its inside lined with cloth of gold,
Its outside peacock-feathers, all new,
With a fresh ribbon, hung there too,
At her back. Her news bore grief,
Like a bridge, o’er the joy beneath,
For to banish all the merriment
Of that company was her intent.
A plait of hair fell from the hat,
And dangled on the mule, and that
Was long, and black, and coarse, not fair,
As soft as a boar’s bristles! A pair
Of tusks, in fact, rose from her jaw,
Several spans in length or more;
Her nose was like a dog’s, her brows
Hid her hairband, the tale avows,
And hung beneath, in long clumps, too.
I but speak to say what’s true.
Though I err against propriety,
In speaking thus of any lady,
None other needs complain of me,
For I treat the rest with courtesy.
Cundrie’s ears were like a bear’s,
Her face not such as fuels affairs,
A mask unlikely to inspire
Passion, or rouse a man’s desire.
In her left hand she held a knout,
Its lashes of silk, that wound about
The stock, which was of ruby stone,
Wrought of the finest ever known.
This darling’s hands were the colour
Of ape’s skin, and on each finger
The nail was none too lucent, more
Like to the hue of a lion’s claw.
None oft broke lances for her love,
Nor sought their valour thus to prove.
Cundrie berates King Arthur and Parzival
THUS, it was that this source of woe,
Joy’s oppressor, came riding slow,
Towards their circle and their lord,
Where they sat, in peaceful accord.
There, Cunneware shared a platter
With Arthur, while, beside the latter,
Queen Guinevere shared another
With Janfuse’s Queen Ekuba.
King Arthur sat there, in high state;
Cundrie rode up (though I’ll relate
What she said to him, in German,
While she spoke French to the man,
Yet it pleases me no better)
Here is her speech, to the letter:
‘Son of King Uther Pendragon,
You have shamed many a Briton,
And yourself, with a foolish deed.
Here would sit the elect indeed,
Of every land, in high honour,
Were there not, within, a canker
To mar the glory of their name.
The Round Table all its high fame
Shall fade, destroyed by falsity,
All end, through your perversity.
Once you stood so high in honour,
Without peer, yet now, King Arthur,
Your fame, from that sublime ascent,
Sinks downward thus in swift descent.
Your standard foremost did appear;
It stumbles along now, at the rear.
And praise of you, once at its height
Now doth decline to dark of night.
Your reputation, tis here forfeit,
Your name, revealed as counterfeit.
The Round Table is marred, withal,
By the presence of Lord Parzival,
Who bears the marks of chivalry;
As ‘The Red Knight’ you readily
Proclaim him, after him who fell
At Nantes, and yet tis less than well;
Their two lives were dissimilar,
Lips ne’er told, concerning Ither,
Of any so perfect in their virtue.’
Leaving the king, this Cundrie drew
Close to the Welshman, ‘You, now,
Thwart my fair custom, I avow,
By causing me to deny true greeting
To Arthur and his host, on meeting.
A curse on your face, and your form!
Did I grant peace amidst the storm,
You would go a-begging; a monster
You think me, but I am a lesser
Monster than you! Explain to me,
Lord Parzival, how it came to be
That when the Fisherman, in woe,
Leaned beside you, you failed, so
Completely, to disperse his sighs,
His grief apparent to your eyes,
That man of sorrows? Heartless guest,
No ounce of pity within your breast,
Your tongue as silent, for its part,
As void of feeling beats your heart.
Before the seat of Him on high,
You are assigned to Hell, say I,
As you would be, here, on this earth,
If clearly seen by men of worth;
You bar to salvation, curse on joy,
Scorner, who seeks but to destroy
Peerless fame! Where honour counts,
You are faint, your worth amounts
To naught, your illness so far gone
No leech can cure it. If someone
Will but administer the oath,
I’ll swear, on your good looks, no oaf
Ever so wicked a song ere sang;
You feathered barb, you viper’s fang!
Did not your host gift you a sword
You deserved not of that great lord?
By your silence you wrought great sin,
For you are the devil’s sport, within.
Void of honour, Lord Parzival,
And yet you saw the Grail withal,
Borne into your presence after
The bloody lance, the knives of silver.
Quencher of joy, bringer of woe!
Had you thought to ask, to know,
At Munsalvaesche, one question there
Had brought you wealth beyond compare,
More than far Tabronit doth hold,
In heathendom, of fabled gold.
Feirefiz Angevin whose courage
Never fails him, that same courage
Your father and his once possessed,
Won that country’s queen; success
Followed his valiant deeds of arms,
And he was graced by all her charms.
Your brother, who confounds the sight,
Bears a mottled skin, black and white,
The Queen of Zazamanc’s strange son;
And, with that, all my mind’s begun
To dwell on Gahmuret, whose heart
Was free of those ill weeds that start
Among the crops; he took his name
From Anjou, and left you those same
Qualities, lacking in your least deed;
For you prove dead to honour, indeed.
Had your mother e’er strayed, then I
Might think you not his son, thereby,
But no, her faithfulness proved ever
A virtue, and yet made her suffer.
You should believe but good of her,
And likewise know of your father
That he was well-versed in loyalty,
A net to catch fame, of chivalry
Born; one free of venom and ire,
He was a snare, nay, a weir entire,
To catch the gleaming fish of fame!
Yet your deeds but betray his name.
Woe, that tis I who must proclaim
That far from the true path this same
Child of Herzeloyde has strayed,
And I must see all honour fade!
Cundrie names an adventure and departs, as Kingrimursel of Ascalun appears
CUNDRIE now gave herself to grief.
She sighed and wept without relief,
Wringing her hands, while tears fell
As fast as sorrow renewed the well
Of her eyes; pure kindness of heart
Had taught this maiden the sad art
Of lament for true woe. Now she,
Turned to the king, and cried loudly:
‘Is there some knight of worth I see,
Whose valiant heart, out of chivalry,
Would seek renown and noble love,
His manly courage and valour prove?
For I know of four hundred ladies
With four queens, of high nobility;
At Schastel Marveile they reside.
What may be won there, set beside
All other ventures one might gain,
Of exalted love, renders them vain.
Though the journey galls me quite
I must be there this very night.’
And, without asking leave to go,
The woeful maid departed so;
Yet many a backward glance she gave,
Through the tears that her face did lave.
Hear the last words she uttered so:
‘Ah Munsalvaesche, deep well of woe!
Alas, that none doth solace you now!’
Cundrie La Surziere, you’ll allow,
Has mortified the man. What aid
Could a heart, as yet unafraid,
And nobility, yet deliver there?
And yet, regarding this affair,
He has not lost his sense of shame;
It may yet retrieve his good name,
And reigns supreme o’er all his way,
His deeds were free as yet, that day
Of all that deserves the name of ill,
And a sense of shame’s rewarded still
With esteem, when all’s said and done,
It is the soul’s glory, granted one
Who practises that virtue ever.
The first to weep that this creature
Had denounced Parzival her knight,
Was Cunneware, and at the sight
Many a noble maid wept too,
Many a tear was now on view.
Cundrie, the source of their lament,
Had departed but, as she went,
A bold knight came riding nigh,
Whose brave armour, to every eye,
Seemed of the finest quality,
His crest, his adornments, nobly
Wrought; his charger such a steed
As befitted a fair knight indeed.
He rode towards the royal ring;
Women, men, and maids, lamenting,
There he found. What was his state?
His heart was sad, his pride was great;
From courage sprang his manly pride,
Some mortal wrong his woe implied.
He rode to the confines of the ring.
A crowd of pages darting in,
To make welcome this noble knight,
One unknown to them at first sight;
Nor did he doff his helm, this man;
He bore his sword in his two hands,
Sheathed to say twas justice he sought.
He asked for but two men of that court.
‘Where now are Arthur and Gawain?’
When the pages showed them plain,
Through the ring his way he made,
In his fair surcoat of rich brocade,
Halting before the puissant king;
This the complaint that he did bring:
‘God preserve the good King Arthur,
His knights, ladies, all who gather
In this place; to but one man here
Do I deny goodwill; I fear
That indeed he shall never know;
For my enmity is such I’d show,
Whate’er enmity he can muster,
That many a blow I would conjure
And, thus, a wrong I would requite.
Let me therefore name the knight;
Alas, he has so pained my heart,
Too great the woe it doth impart;
Tis Lord Gawain here that I mean,
Who fame and renown doth glean,
From his glorious deeds, full many.
Yet his was an act of treachery,
When his ambition had him slay
My lord as he greeted him that day.
Twas Judas’ kiss inspired him then;
The deed did trouble a host of men,
That my lord should die by murder!
If Lord Gawain cries ‘Nay!’ however,
Denying the charge, let him take
The road to Schanpfanzun, and make
His answer forty days from now;
For single combat he doth allow,
The King of Ascalun, in his city.
I summon him there, of chivalry,
To do me battle, unless he’d yield
Loyalty to the code of the shield;
For I’d seek to remind him further,
Of what he owes to his helm ever,
And knighthood’s office. Chivalry,
Gains wealth for its rich treasury,
From two great streams of revenue,
A sense of shame, and loyalty true.
If Lord Gawain would truly share,
In the company, be seated there
At the Round Table, he should not
Act so shamelessly; has he forgot,
That were a traitor so seated,
Its purpose then would be defeated?
Yet I am not here to berate
The man, tis battle I await,
And demand, with its true reward;
A life of honour it shall afford
Or death, if fate should so decide.’
Arthur responds to Kingrimursel’s charge levied against Gawain
The king sat mute at the Queen’s side,
Ill at ease, filled with sore dismay,
Then answered the charge in this way:
‘Sir, Lord Gawain is my nephew,
Of my sister’s line, I say to you,
If he were dead, I myself would fight
Rather than his name bore this slight,
His bones unpurged of such a claim.
But if fortune pleases, Lord Gawain
Will with his own hand prove to you
That his conduct was fair and true,
Nor is he guilty of treachery.
If some other has wronged you, be
Not too eager to spread abroad
A shameful charge against this lord,
Without due cause; for if it should be
That, with his innocence proven, he
Is reconciled to you, your slander
E’en in this brief space will render
Harm to your own good name, I say,
In the eyes of all those here this day.’
Gawain accepts the challenge
HANDSOME Beacurs, Gawain’s brother,
Leapt his feet, ‘I, and no other,
Must stand surety for Lord Gawain.
Where’er this combat be, tis plain.
For it stirs me greatly he should be
Called a traitor. Come, speak to me,’
He addressed the stranger,’ if you
Yet accuse him, I’ll fight with you,
And wage this duel in his place.
Since high renown you would disgrace,
Such glory as Lord Gawain enjoys.
Arms must settle it, not mere noise!’
Beacurs knelt before his brother,
Pleadingly, he said: ‘Remember,
Honour you always helped me to,
Now let me do this thing for you;
To spare you trouble, let me be
Your champion; undying glory
You shall acquire if I succeed.
So come, let me attempt the deed.’
And he continued so to entreat
His brother, kneeling at his feet,
For the sake of his brother’s name.
‘Sense enough have I,’ said Gawain,
‘Not to grant your brotherly plea,
Though I know not why I should be
Required to fight, nor do I care
For duelling, and thus would wear
With your doing so, if it were not
That dishonour would be my lot.’
Beacurs still begged him, of his grace.
The stranger stayed rooted in place.
‘I know not the one who doth offer
Combat, wish naught in that quarter,’
He said: ‘though he be strong and brave,
Handsome, loyal, nor do I crave
A quarrel with him, tis naught to me;
Yet well that such stands surety.
The man for whose sake I did begin
This matter was my lord and kin,
Our fathers were brothers; never
Did one of that pair fail the other.
My birth entitles me to call
On crowned kings, amidst you all,
To meet in combat, and there avenge
The dead, and I thus seek revenge.
I am a prince of Ascalun,
The Landgrave of Schanpfanzun,
And Kingrimursel is my name.
If he cares for honour, Lord Gawain,
Will come, and duel with me there;
And none shall trouble him, I swear,
In all that land, but myself alone.
Outside the ring, he shall be shown
Naught but respect. May God preserve
All here, may they His grace deserve,
Except for one, who knows, say I,
Of this, the wherefore and the why.’
So saying, the great prince, rode on,
From Plimizoel’s stream he was gone,
And swiftly vanished from their sight.
Once Kingrimursel, that fair knight,
Had named himself, all there agreed,
Recognising his great fame indeed,
That with his far-flung reputation,
Lord Gawain had good occasion
To fear a duel with a man of skill
Of proven courage, and firm will.
Feelings of dread did there prevent
Them honouring him with due intent,
His news being such as might ever
Lead the host to neglect a stranger.
And then from Cundrie they knew
Parzival’s name and lineage too,
How that a queen gave birth to him,
Who’d been won by the Angevin.
Many a man said: ‘I recall,
How he charged, beneath the wall
Of Kanvoleiz, time after time,
And, with courage near sublime,
Earned that heavenly girl, of right;
He was e’er a chivalrous knight,
For fair Ampflise, France’s queen
His tutor in courtesy had been;
And so, all Britons should rejoice
That one whose skill we now voice,
Has come among us, his reputation
As Gahmuret’s, has firm foundation.
Nobility seems yoked with him;
And yet her speech afflicted him.’
Both joy and woe that day had come
To Arthur’s company; they, as one,
Rose to their feet, filled with sorrow,
Such the existence they did follow;
Of dark and light their seeming fate.
And once arisen, they went straight
To where Parzival and Gawain
Stood close together, and were fain
To console them as best they might.
Clamide wins Cunneware
YET to Clamide, that high-born knight,
It seemed that his fate was the worst,
His torment keen, his life accursed;
Feeling it deeply, he thus spoke all
He felt, to the generous Parzival.
‘Though you have met with the Grail,
Not all its splendours would avail
To requite me for my loss, there,
Beneath the walls of Belrepeire;
Not all the wealth of Tribalibot,
Its gold from out the Caucasus got,
Could recompense me for the pain.
Ill-fated, wretched, I complain,
For there you won a queen’s fair hand.
Here is Cunneware de Lalant,
This noble princess is so set
On doing as you wish, she’ll let
No man serve her, even though
She might gain much by doing so.
Perchance she tires of seeing me
Her prisoner, nigh her constantly.
Now, you must aid me to success,
If I’m to seek fresh happiness.
Let her honour herself, and me,
And thus make part-amends to me
For one you gained, and I did miss,
Who seemed the pinnacle of bliss.
But for you, I might have won her.
Help me to this girl, with honour.’
‘That I will,’ was Parzival’s reply.
‘If she would have it so, then I
Would gladly make amends to you,
Since the one whom you’d refer to
As the cause of your woe, is mine,
Condwiramurs, both fair and fine.’
She of Janfuse, the infidel,
Ekuba, Arthur, his Queen as well,
And Cunneware de Lalant,
With Lady Jeschute of Karnant,
Came to solace Clamide, then they
Made Cunneware his own (they say
He with love’s fires for her did burn)
While he granted her, in return,
His person, and her head a crown,
Bringing her honour and renown.
Parzival expresses commitment to his quest for the Grail
WITNESSING all, Janfuse’s lady,
Addressed Parzival: ‘This Cundrie
Named a man, to you a stranger,
Whom I approve of as your brother.
Far and wide doth his realm extend.
The rulers of two kingdoms send
To know his will, obediently,
Fearing his power, on land and sea;
Azagouc, Zazamanc, two lands,
Both mighty, lie in his strong hand,
With wealth that is beyond compare,
Apart from the Baruc’s, everywhere
Fabled, and Tribalibot’s gold.
His looks are wondrous to behold,
He is, in hue, both black and white,
And, thus, seems as no other knight.
That lord sought to thwart, indeed
My passage, yet did not succeed,
Though I am cousin to his mother,
Being her maternal aunt’s daughter.
He is a king though. Many a marvel
I may tell, none keeps his saddle
Jousting with him, such his valour.
None proves as generous. He is ever
The contrary to all things untrue.
In deeds, for ladies’ sake, he grew
Inured to pain, Feirefiz Angevin.
Strange though it is for me, I win,
Here, new experience, and I learn
Of knightly deeds. Now I discern,
In you, marks of heavenly favour,
Which, if you behave with honour,
May work to Christendom’s glory;
For in you one sees, and truthfully,
Handsome looks, and manly ways,
Strength, youth, all that wins praise.’
This rich and knowing infidel lady,
Had acquired a true facility
In speaking fluent French with ease.
He replied, in such words as these:
‘May God reward you for consoling
Me, of your kindness; sad feeling
Holds me prisoner, as I’ll explain.
I cannot show my wealth of pain,
Where many, ignorant of my woes
Treat me ill, and mock my throes.
I shall ne’er feel sound and hale,
Nor know joy, till I see the Grail,
Whether that sight be soon or late.
My thoughts directed there, by fate,
Naught shall keep me from it ever.
If I a woman’s scorn must suffer,
Well, I have done as I was taught,
Gurnemanz’ rules it seems have brought
Me to error, flawed they may be;
That noble man instructed me,
Not to question aught too freely,
And never to prove unmannerly.
Here stands many a worthy knight;
Gentlemen, come, teach me outright,
How I may now win your good will.
For I indeed am smarting still
From harsh words, nor do I shun
Any man whose reproach I’ve won,
Or favour I have lost, through them.
But if I should win esteem again
In days to come then deal with me
According to my deserts; you see
Me now poised to take leave of you.
While my deeds were fresh and new
You granted me your company.
Well, I declare you all, now, free,
Until I’ve gained the thing whose lack
Has seared my burgeoning joy; alack,
Great sorrow I must learn to know,
Such as fills eyes with tears of woe,
Since there, at Munsalvaesche, I left
That, which leaves me of joy bereft,
In the care of many a lovely maid.
Whatever wonders are e’er displayed
In mortal tales, the Grail holds more.
Its lord’s sad life all must deplore.
What help Anfortas, did I provide,
By sitting, mute there, at your side?’
Parzival takes leave of Arthur’s court
THEY could stand there no longer;
Forced to part from one another.
Of Arthur the Briton, Parzival,
And of his knights and ladies all,
Sought leave to go, though scant favour
It won; the judgement that I offer
Is that they grieved to see him ride
With woe following at his side.
Arthur promised him solemnly
That if trouble faced his country
Such as King Clamide had brought,
He’d call it war against his court,
And was angry still that Lahelin
Had wrested two whole realms from him.
Midst many a claim of devotion,
He left, and signs of true affection.
Cunneware did now command
The knight; she took him by the hand
And led him away; Lord Gawain
Now embraced him: ‘It is plain,
To me, you’ll not escape a fight,
Here or there,’ said that brave knight
To Parzival, ‘upon your journey;
May God give you then good tourney,
And help me serve you as I’d wish.
God in his power grant us this!’
‘What then is God? The knight replied.
‘Were He all-powerful, at our side
Working here, with His great might,
He’d not have brought us thus to shame.
Ever since I was taught His name,
I’ve sought to be a servant of His,
But as of now I’ll quit His service.
If He is angered, that will I bear.
My friend, when battle you prepare,
Let a woman work for you instead,
And by her guiding hand be led.
Let the love of one, whom you know
To be virtuous and modest, show
The way, and so watch over you.
I know not if we’ll meet, we two,
Yet good wishes go at your side;
May they all be fulfilled!’ he cried.
Parting to them true sorrow did give,
A harsh neighbour with whom to live.
Lady Cunneware led Parzival
To her pavilion, then did call,
For his armour, and armed the son
Of Gahmuret; twas gently done.
‘It is my privilege and my duty
Since, thanks to you, it is for me
The King of Brandigan has sought.
Care for your noble self has brought
Many a sad sigh, for when I see
You defenceless gainst misery,
Your woes prey on my happiness.’
His war-horse was for battle dressed,
Now greater troubles would begin.
The warrior too was penned within
Glittering steel and his surcoat, set
With gems; then with but his helmet
Requiring to be laced, he kissed
The young and lovely maid, for this
Is what the tale doth claim for her;
And those two, dear to one another,
Briefly, exchanged a sad farewell,
And, after that, the tale doth tell,
Gahmuret’s son rode on his way.
Whate’er the wonders, ere this day,
You have known, let none compare
Till they have heard how he doth fare,
Which path he chooses, and where he
Is led to, upon his journey.
Let those who shun a knightly deed,
Think not of him meanwhile, nor heed
What’s said of him, if, in their pride,
They’re so inclined; but let him ride.
Condwiramurs, how oft your same
Lovely person will this man name!
With what adventures he will meet,
What exploits lay there at your feet!
The office of the shield henceforth
Herzeloyde’s child pursued, his course
Such as might bring him to the Grail,
Where he was co-heir, in entail.
Now, many of Arthur’s men set out
Towards that place they’d heard about,
Schastel Marveile, and on did fare;
Four hundred damsels were there,
All prisoners, four queens also.
Yet what befell them there, no, no,
They may keep it; I bear no grudge;
Where’er the ladies are to judge
Of our reward, I lag far behind.
So Clias the Greek, did also find:
‘For I missed the mark there,’ he said,
‘The Turkoyt sent me heels o’er head,
Florant of Itolac, his true name;
He unhorsed me, to my deep shame;
Nonetheless, he named the ladies
Fit to wear a crown, and worthy
Of doing so; though two are old,
Yet two are young, all this he told:
The first’s Gawain’s sister, Itonje,
The next her elder sister Cundrie,
The third, their mother, is Sangive,
The fourth her mother, Queen Arnive.’
The knights wished to see the place,
With their own eyes, but tis the case
They found it not upon their journey.
And were discomfited entirely.
Yet why should we deplore the fact?
To some who painful deeds enact
For women it may bring happiness,
Yet woe weighs others down no less;
And such is oft the way of Love,
Who sparse with her rewards doth prove.
Gawain departs for Ascalun, and the gathering disperses
THEN Lord Gawain prepared, as one
Who his own cause would champion,
Before Ascalun’s king; though many
A Briton, many a knight and lady,
Many a wife, and many a maid,
Mourned the fact, and displayed
Their grief at this martial venture,
That drew him away, moreover
The Round Table would be bereft
Of all its glory. Yet, ere he left,
Gawain took good care to acquire
Sufficient gear, sound and entire.
Certain merchants, midst their wares,
Found some seasoned shields of theirs,
Not meant for sale, but, generously,
Of these they gave the warrior three.
He then acquired seven chargers
Trained to martial encounters,
And, from his good friends, a dozen
Keen lances, as wrought in Angram;
Each with a fine shaft of bamboo,
One chosen to be strong and true;
From the marshes of heathendom,
At Oraste Gentesin, they’d come.
Gawain now took his leave of all,
While Arthur gave him gifts withal
Rich and fine, fair gems, red gold,
Bright sterling silver, we are told.
Gawain was destined now for danger.
Ekuba, the infidel stranger,
Janfuse’s queen, in re-embarking
Put an end to that great gathering.
The lords and ladies rode away,
Each set upon their separate way,
While Arthur left the Plimizoel,
And swift returned to Karidoel;
Clamide took leave of the king,
He and his Cunneware choosing,
With Jeschute and Count Orilus,
To pass another three days thus,
In those meadows, to celebrate
Their nuptials, while at a date
To be arranged, they’d later hold
Their wedding feast; and, so I’m told,
In his own country, without fail,
It did take place, on a larger scale.
Many a knight, noble but poor,
Remained in his train and, more,
All the travelling entertainers,
Joined his crowd of retainers,
As his munificence did demand.
And these he took to his own land,
Where his goods and chattels went
To fund them, such his good intent.
No dealing them some lame excuse!
At his request, the Lady Jeschute
Rode to Brandigan, with Orilus
Her dear lord, to honour things thus;
Orilus’ sister, there, was crowned,
For Cunneware her place had found.
Wolfram defends his treatment of women
NOW any woman born, who’s wise
And reads all this, tis my surmise,
If she’s sincere, she must agree
That I have sung more pleasingly
Of women than I did once before
Of a certain lady; here’s the score:
Queen Belacane, of all faults free,
Proved devoid of all falsity
When Isenhart wooed her, that dead king;
While Herzeloyde’s dream did bring
A veil of sighs to cloud her heart;
And Guinevere with tears did part
On that sad day of Ither’s passing;
Then pity moved me that the King
Of Karnant’s daughter, well-renowned
For modesty, Jeschute, was gowned
So ill, and thereby put to shame,
Paraded through the wind and rain;
Think how Cunneware, who greeted
Parzival, was thrashed, ill-treated,
Gripped by her hair; yet those two
Have been avenged, and so, anew,
Have found true esteem, and suffer
From such scorn and blows no longer.
Next, let some fellow take in hand
This tale, one who doth understand
How to tell a story, and rhyme
Sound couplets so they sweetly chime,
Though I would gladly tell you more,
Did I command a tongue more sure,
And did my awkward stirrups bear
Other feet than are dangling there.
End of Book VI of Parzival