Wolfram von Eschenbach
Book VIII: Gawain at Schanpfanzun
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.
- Gawain reaches Ascalun, and the castle of Schanpfanzun.
- Gawain encounters King Vergulaht, out hunting.
- Gawain meets with Princess Antikone.
- Gawain is again accused of slaying Kingrisin of Ascalun, Vergulaht’s father.
- A truce is brought about.
- Contention over Gawain’s fate.
- The King’s council, and his request of Gawain.
- Gawain goes to seek and gain the Grail.
Gawain reaches Ascalun, and the castle of Schanpfanzun
GAWAIN outshone all men at court,
Those who at Bearosche had fought,
Alone though he was; though one knight,
Among the besiegers, gleaming bright
In his red armour, near matched his fame,
Despite none knowing him by name.
Gawain had shared, in full measure,
Good fortune, renown, and honour,
Yet now the time came to present
Himself for the duel, though innocent.
Both wide and deep the forest there,
That he must pass, if that affair
Were to be performed; indeed
He now missed his faithful steed,
That Ingliart of the Short Ears,
Than which none better it appears
Was ridden by Moors of Tabronit,
The forest varied, for parts of it
Were woodland glade, but here and there
Lay rocky patches, sparse and bare,
That a tent would more than cover.
Eventually he came, however,
To the ploughed fields of Ascalun
And sought the way to Schanpfanzun
Of passers-by, to reach which place
Such high slopes he’d dared to face,
So many broad plains he’d traversed;
And on the route he now rehearsed,
He came to a castle, shining bright;
On, to its splendour, rode our knight.
Now, listen to a wondrous tale;
Let pity, as you do, prevail.
Aid me as I lament the pain
That here must visit Lord Gawain.
As I tell it, my listeners, slow
Or quick-witted, born to know,
Grant companionship to me;
Come, join me now in sympathy.
Oh, I should speak no more, alas!
But no, his fate must come to pass;
Let him plunge in, who had reason
To thank good fortune for a season,
But sinks towards great trouble now.
This castle, it displayed, I vow,
Such beauty that when Aeneas came
To where fair Dido, known to fame,
Once forfeited her life for love,
To Carthage I mean, the walls above
Seemed not more regal. What palaces,
What towers on high! A count of these?
More than the towers of Acraton,
The which, apart from Babylon,
Had the broadest limits (so they tell,
In old tales, among the infidel).
Those walls, around and next the sea,
Were so high, that no enemy,
No assault, was to be feared,
Howe’er vicious it appeared.
Below it lay a plain, miles wide,
Across this Lord Gawain did ride,
And met five hundred knights or more
Moving towards him, o’er its floor,
All in fine clothes of the very best;
Yet one was lord over the rest.
Gawain encounters King Vergulaht, out hunting
THEIR falcons were hunting heron,
Or whate’er took flight before them,
Such the tale. Vergulaht, the King,
On a Spanish steed came riding,
His aspect like some star at night,
Shining sun-like and as bright.
Now, twas the faery Mazadan
Sent forth from out Mount Famurgan
His scions; Vergulaht was one
Of that faery race; many a one
Seeing his beauty would have thought
It was the flowery May he brought,
Such lustre he shed; my Lord Gawain
Thought twas Parzival here again,
A second Parzival, and well-met,
Bearing the looks of Gahmuret,
His father when, as has been told,
He rode to Kanvoleis’ stronghold.
A heron, so as to ’scape pursuit,
Flew to a marsh; following suit
Went a rush of falcons, and the King
Missed his way, and found a wetting.
Freeing his falcons from that moat,
He lost his mount, and his surcoat.
The royal falconers, as forfeit
Took the steed. Had they right to it?
Yes, and were left the surcoat’s heirs,
For they were due what now was theirs.
Someone lent him a horse, and then,
He dressed himself in a coat again,
Leaving the falconers to their gain,
And set to traverse o’er the plain.
Gawain now came upon this scene,
Welcomed as warmly as had been
Erec, at Karidoel, when he sought
To return again to Arthur’s court,
After the fight, and Enide came there,
Accompanying him, that lady fair,
She who’d restored his happiness,
After his skin was scarred no less
By Maclisier the dwarf’s cruel whip,
All in plain sight of her ladyship,
Queen Guinevere. The hurt and pain
Led to the duel fought, at Tulmeyn,
For the sparrow-hawk, where Ider,
The son of Noyt, was forced to render
His pledge, to preserve his life.
Yet let that be, with all its strife,
And listen once more to my tale.
I doubt not but that you might fail
To find a finer welcome, ever,
Than Gawain received; however
That son of Lot may harshly yet
Be quit of the burden of his debt.
If you wish, I shall say no more,
Lest I should add thus to your store
Of sorrows; but, if not, then hear
How a clear mind was, I fear,
Muddied by others’ treachery,
And follow and lament with me,
While I continue with my tale.
‘Come, my lord, may I prevail
Upon you to ride in; though now
I will hunt on, if you’ll allow,’
Said King Vergulaht, ‘yet, if not,
Then let the hunt be here forgot.’
‘If it doth please you, sir, remain,
Tis only right,’ replied Gawain,
‘Do so with all my heart, go hence,
Be sure I shall not take offence.’
‘Behold before you Schanpfanzun,’
Declared the King of Ascalun,
‘And my young sister she is there
Who of beauty has her full share,
If you care to view it perchance,
She shall be asked, in advance,
To entertain you till I am there.
I shall return soon, though I dare
To say, once you’ve met my sister,
You’ll be happy if it be later.’
‘I’ll look forward to seeing you,
And her indeed, for, it is true,
Great ladies ever make time fly,
Whene’er they deal with such as I,’
Said Gawain proudly, so the King,
Sent a message onwards, telling
The young lady to take such care
Of Gawain, that ere he came there
The hours should like minutes fly.
Gawain rode in. Now, with a sigh,
I’ll end the tale, a troubling one,
Should you wish it. No? I’ll say on.
The road and his horse took Gawain
To where the gate he might attain,
To this fortress. An architect
Could speak far better, I expect,
Than I about the strength of it,
Yet, not just for the size of it,
I’d say it was the finest place
Of any that this world doth grace.
Gawain meets with Princess Antikone
Now let me leave its praise, I pray
Since I have much indeed to say
About the lady, this King’s sister,
Who was, instead, a work of nature,
Though, here too, size was to the fore;
Seemly comment shall be my law,
If she had beauty, it became her;
If her heart was good, it rather
Tended towards nobility;
Thus she, in manner and majesty,
Was like that Margravine, of whom
The ample form would often loom,
O’er the Marches, from Heitstein.
Happy, he to whom she’d resign
Her charms in private conversation.
Believe me, in that pleasant station,
He’d find more pleasure than elsewhere.
Now, I may comment on ladies, fair,
As I see them, with no ill-intent,
Relying ever on your discernment,
And good breeding. Let honest folk
Hear my tale! For to those I spoke,
Not those who’d ever seek offence
And then, with meagre penitence,
Forfeit salvation; thus, their soul
Is doomed to suffer wrath untold.
Gawain entered the courtyard there,
While his appointment in this affair,
The King sought to arrange for him,
Who yet would soon dishonour him.
A knight now led him to the court;
To Princess Antikone he brought
Lord Gawain, where she was sitting.
If good repute is for the buying
In the market, then she had bought
A goodly store, nor ever sought
Deceit, and ever thus won praise
For her kind and courteous ways.
(Heinrich von Veldeke, alas,
That you so wise, so soon did pass
From this world! You had ever
The means to have praised her better).
Now, as Gawain considered her,
Came hastening in a messenger,
To give the king’s message entire;
At which, the Princess did require
Gawain to approach: ‘Come, my lord,
You shall instruction now afford
To me, in courtesy and decorum,
Command me now, for if I am
To entertain you well, all must
Be as you say, for tis only just;
As my brother doth commend you
So favourably, then I will do
As courtesy allows, and receive
You with a kiss; I give you leave
To say yes or no, as you see fit.’
And then she rose, to allow of it.
‘Madam, your lips, so apt for this,
Demand you greet me with a kiss,’
Replied Gawain; her mouth was not
Reluctant, twas full red, and hot.
Gawain his own lips presented,
And a kiss, nigh unprecedented
Twixt two total strangers given,
Was delivered, and was taken.
The noble guest now sat beside
This ‘learned’ maid; on either side
There was no lack of conversation,
Of true and charming application.
They found many a means to duel,
On his side pleas, on hers denial,
Such that Gawain, in deep distress,
Begged her to show greater kindness,
And she replied as I will tell:
‘Why, I have treated you so well,
So that my brother I might please,
That Gahmuret by his Ampflise
Was ne’er treated better, short
Of granting him all that he sought.
Mine would weigh, my integrity,
Much greater, if twas me and she
One weighed. If you are otherwise
A gentleman, let that suffice,
For, sir, I know not who you are,
And yet you seek to travel far.’
‘My gift for such things, tells me plain,
And I shall tell you,’ said Gawain,
‘That I am the son of the brother
Of my dear father’s darling sister;
And, if you’re inclined to mercy,
Doubt not my true nobility,
For so my birth doth equal yours,
Making a perfect match perforce.’
A maid poured out the wine and went,
Then some ladies, also present,
Remembered things they had to do.
The knight who’d led him there left too.
Seeing that all had gone their way,
Gawain reflected that, on a day,
Even a little eagle may take
A great ostrich, and no mistake.
He thrust his hand beneath her cloak,
And then gave her soft thigh a stroke,
I fancy, which made his torment
Far worse, and thus both their intent
Had been fulfilled (for their desire
Rose like some ever-growing fire)
If eyes of malice had not spied
Them; from the place where he did hide,
An aged knight, did now appear;
He’d recognised Gawain, I fear,
And, naming him, gave the alarm.
Now approach both woe and harm!
Gawain is again accused of slaying Kingrisin of Ascalun, Vergulaht’s father
‘ALAS! Was it not enough for you
To kill the father? The daughter too
You now assault!’ Men forever
Heed the alarm, and as ever
Custom was well-honoured here.
‘Madam, what must we do? I fear,
Neither has a weapon to wield.
Oh, had I but my sword and shield!’
Said Gawain. ‘Let us yet retreat
To the tower above, we may meet
With better fortune,’ was her reply.
Soon they heard all the hue and cry,
Knights ran here, tradesmen there,
The town all stirred by this affair.
She led Gawain to the tower above
And further trouble as it would prove.
She called to the crowd to disperse,
But those below did shout and curse
Such that none heard her; set upon
Violence, they soon reached the door
That Lord Gawain now stood before.
He tore an iron bar from the wall,
That was used as a bolt, and all
Drew back at every pass he made
With that weapon and, thus delayed,
His ill neighbours fell back in fear.
The Princess, she ran here and here,
In search of aught to form a shield,
Until she found, but half-concealed,
A set of chessmen with a board,
Strong and large enough to afford
Ample cover, with an iron ring
By which Gawain could grip the thing.
This she brought; twas fine, inlaid,
Many a chess-game had been played
On its fair surface, and yet this day,
In a harsher game twas hacked away.
Now hear more of that fair lady.
Those great chess-pieces were heavy,
Yet king, rook, pawn she flung hard
At the foe and, though they did guard
Themselves as best they could, I’d say
She toppled more than a few that day.
The Princess fought like a true knight,
At Gawain’s side, her spirit bright
As the market-women at Dollnstein,
Of a Shrove Tuesday, though benign
Their fight, and all in harmless play.
If one were to judge of their array,
Women who arm themselves forget
Their nature, and modesty’s debt,
Unless tis true affection drives them.
Antikonie, there, in Schanpfanzun,
Felt sorrow, humbled in her pride,
Nor could her hot tears be denied,
Yet she gave proof of the loyalty
That between loving friends we see.
And what was Gawain thinking?
When he had the leisure to bring
Himself to consider the maiden,
Her face, her eyes, her lips, why then
The sight roused his courage anew,
For I doubt one would ever view
A spitted hare shapelier than she,
From hips to breast her entire
Form was made to rouse desire,
Nor an ant more neatly jointed
There, where her cincture rested.
She stood with him in their plight.
His life was surety, this brave knight,
And with no concession given,
But when he viewed the maiden
He thought little of their attack,
And many died there, or drew back.
A truce is brought about
NOW Vergulaht arrived, the King
Saw the warlike force contending
With Gawain; I cannot, tis true,
Without seeking to deceive you,
Hide the fact that he will shame
Himself now and disgrace his name
With regard to his noble guest,
Whose bold defence proved of the best.
Lord and host, though he was, the King
Did such that I grieve for King Gandin,
He of Anjou, whose noble daughter,
Flurdamurs, had borne no other
Than this son who led a company
Against a guest, as his enemy.
Gawain paused till the King had armed;
He advanced, but Gawain, unharmed,
Though forced to retreat did so
Without dishonour, even though
He drew back under the tower-door.
But, see! Here comes one who, before
Arthur, had challenged Lord Gawain;
Twas Kingrimursel, the very same.
The Landgrave tore his hair, for he
Had pledged his word Gawain would be
Safe from all there, except one man.
Young or old, he drove every man
From that tower the King was out
To demolish. He raised a shout,
Kingrimursel, to where Gawain
Stood tall. ‘Brave knight, let me gain
The stair, grant me passage to you,
And I will share your hardship too,
As a comrade in your hour of need!
If I’m not to save your life, indeed,
The King must needs kill me first!’
Gawain did so; the Landgrave cursed
Those below, and joined him there.
At this the crowd felt their due share
Of doubt, and old and young now fought
More circumspectly; into the court,
Gawain, followed by the Burgrave,
Leapt down, for both proved brave.
The King exhorted the crowd again:
‘How long must we suffer these men?
My cousin has now decided he
Will defend this man, my enemy,
On whom he should wreak revenge
For wrong, and my father avenge!’
Urged on by loyalty, certain there
Chose a spokesman, in this affair:
‘Sire, if we may, here many a brave
Man will not challenge his Landgrave.
May God lead you to seek a way
More peaceable; were you to slay
A guest then you’d suffer blame,
As would tarnish your good name;
And as to this other, he is your kin.
He gave his word; twould be a sin
For him to break it. You should refrain,
Naught can this bring on you but pain.
Strike a truce with the sun in sight,
And let it last throughout the night;
You may still do what you decide,
Let shame or honour be your guide.
Lady Antikone, you forget,
Stands there beside him, weeping yet;
And if that moves you not, although
One mother bore you both, come, know
Discretion, for twas you who sent
Him to the girl, who’s innocent.
Even if none his side should take,
Spare him now, for your sister’s sake.’
So, the King allowed a truce until
He’d taken counsel how he might still
Avenge his father, and yet Gawain
Was guiltless for, I should explain,
It was proud Ekhunat, whose advance
Has slain Kingrisin with his lance,
While leading Jofreit, son of Idoel,
Towards Meljanz’ city of Barbigoel;
Jofreit was captured nigh Gawain;
Twas Ekhunat who’d caused this pain.
Contention over Gawain’s fate
ONCE the truce had been agreed
All departed, and then indeed
Antikone clasped the Landgrave tight,
Kissing her cousin there, outright,
For saving Gawain, in doing so
Saving himself from wrong also.
‘You are a true cousin indeed,’
She cried,’ no friend to grave misdeed!’
If you would care to listen now,
I shall tell you of that, I avow,
I spoke of earlier, namely
How by others’ treachery,
A clear mind was muddied, I fear.
Such behaviour as we saw here,
In this assault Vergulaht had made
At Schanpfanzun, rightly weighed,
Was not inborn in him from either
His father, or his noble mother.
Indeed, the youth felt great shame
When the Princess spoke his name
To upbraid him, for this was how
She appealed to his true nature now:
‘Vergulaht, had God pleased that I
Should be a man, and should thereby
Wear a sword, and follow the shield,
You had now been forced to yield.
But I was an unarmed girl, although
A shield I bore had an emblem so
Fine, if you’ll deign to hear it,
I will equally deign to name it:
Fair seemliness and modesty,
Intertwined with true loyalty.
This I wielded to shield my knight,
Whom you sent to me; I did fight
With no other form of defence.
Though you repent of your offence,
You dealt a woman ill, for we
Should be treated respectfully.
And I have always heard it said
That if a man, one nobly bred,
Sought refuge with a woman, all
Gallant pursuers, as I recall,
All men of honour, cease to fight.
Lord Vergulaht, thus, the flight,
Of your guest to my side, I claim,
Will bring disgrace upon your name!’
Kingrimursel spoke too: ‘My Lord,
When to Gawain I did afford,
Safe passage for all of this affair,
At Plimizoel, in the meadow there,
I placed all my firm trust in you.
And your word was pledged thus too.
If he should come to this country,
On your behalf I did guarantee
One man alone he should fight.
My lord, before all here in sight,
I say your deed diminished me!
We reject such acts of infamy.
If you so treat men of renown,
Then we shall diminish the Crown!
If you possess aught of decency
You must own you are kin to me.
E’en though I were but your kinsman
Through some amour, still rash man
You would have gone too far this day!
I am a knight whom none can say
Was ever false, who was ever just,
And may I die so; in God I trust,
And so, from me, above doth rise
That plea, in hopes of Paradise.
Where’er tis said that Arthur’s kin
Schanpfanzun did enter within,
Under my escort, and any know,
Whether they be strangers or no,
Of France, Britain, or Burgundy,
Galicia, or Punturteis, that he
Was placed in danger, then any
Renown I have dies instantly.
His battle here will kill my fame;
It brings disgrace upon my name,
Uproots all happiness, and further
Puts to pawn all my past honour!’
At this, one of the King’s own men
Stepped forth to condemn Gawain,
Duke Liddamus, for you must know
That Kyot himself names him so.
Now, Kyot Laschantiure was one
Whose art ensured it was begun,
This story, that shall please anew
Joyful hearers, and no small few.
Kyot is the noted Provençal,
Who found this tale of Parzival
Inscribed in a heathen tongue;
And what in French he has sung
I may possess the wit to tell,
In the German tongue, as well.
‘What is this fellow, who has slain
My lord’s own father, this Gawain,
Who has nigh dishonoured my lord,
Doing here? Why should we afford
This fellow room?’ Liddamus cried.
‘If my lord will own to regal pride,
He’ll take revenge with his own hand,
Being a true-born nobleman,
And let one death requite the other.
That same fate the man should suffer.’
Now see what comes to Lord Gawain,
For now, indeed, the risk is plain!
‘Men so ready to state what’s right,
Should be more eager for the fight,’
Said Kingrimursel, ‘whether you
Attack from near or far, tis true,
That you are easy to fend away;
I fancy, Lord Liddamus, this day
I’ll save this noble man from you,
For even if he’d done wrong to you,
I deem you’d leave it unavenged.
Your tongue seeks to be revenged,
It runs away with you, I conceive;
Not at the front should we believe
Your place to be, nor do we see
You there, but, on the contrary,
You seem averse to battle and so,
It would appear, are the first to go;
And when all your friends engage,
Like some woman, you disengage.
The crown of a king who heeds you
Is guaranteed to sit askew.
I myself, in the duelling-ring,
Sought to champion the King,
Resolved that it should take place here,
If so wished, and the man appear.
But with the weight of this misdeed,
The King bears my anger, indeed,
Since, tis true, I’d hoped for better.
Lord Gawain, true thus to the letter,
Give me your hand that you will be
Full ready to account to me,
In single combat, a year from now,
If the King your freedom will allow,
And I will give you fair battle then;
Let us but choose the place again.
I challenged you by the Plimizoel,
Let our meeting be at Barbigoel,
Before King Meljanz; cares I’ll know
Enough to weave a wreath, e’en so,
Ere I shall meet you in the ring,
Where your right hand may bring
Care enough that it’s true nature
Will be apparent, in full measure.’
Gawain did courteously reply,
That with this plea he would comply.
Yet Duke Liddamus spoke again,
Shrewdly making his views plain.
He said, for speak he must: ‘If I
Do enter battle and fight, or fly
When things are adverse, my lord,
Just as circumstance doth afford,
Be the judge what cowardice
Or glory may pertain to this.
Though I’ll never win your pay,
I’m content with myself this day.
If you’d play Virgil’s Turnus now
In your arrogance, then I avow
I’ll play Dances, and censure you!
Come, keep humility, in view.
For though among my peers you reign,
I too am a lord, and retain,
Throughout Galicia, many a town
Far as Pontevedra, up and down;
And if your Briton or you should dare
To seek harm to me or mine, there,
Then I’d not coop a single fowl
For fear of you, fair wind or foul.
With this knight from Britain, I see,
You seek a duel; tis not with me!
Avenge your lord and kinsman then,
But if someone among these men,
Has slain your dear uncle, to whom
You were a vassal, tis that man’s doom!
Settle it with him, I harmed him not,
Nor shall any claim tis my lot
To avenge him; while I concede
His loss, his heir is now indeed
Our king, fit to be my overlord.
Queen Flurdamurs did accord
Him birth, and that same Kingrisin,
His father, was son of King Gandin,
His maternal uncles thus Gahmuret
And Galoes; unless I were set
On harming him, then honourably
From him I’d take my lands in fee.
Let those fight who would do so,
As to the outcome, let me know.
Let proud ladies reward their knight
For winning honour in some fight,
For my part Love will ne’er fool me
Into seeking risk, needlessly.
Why should I play the mad Wolfhart?
Cautiously, I e’er play my part,
My path to battle moated alway,
Hooded my keenness for the prey.
Though you forgive me not for it,
I’d rather do as Lord Rumolt did,
Who advised King Gunther, as he
Left Worms for Hunland, riskily:
Twere better indeed to stay at home,
And eat and drink than to roam
At invitation; as well be done
To a turn, or boiled in a cauldron!’
The Landgrave said: ‘You speak here
As you have spoken many a year.
You’d have me do what must be done,
While you do as the cook did, one
Who watched the Nibelungs set out,
To where vengeance came about
For what they’d done to Siegfried.
I shall wreak vengeance indeed,
Or Gawain must strike me dead.’
‘Indeed, tis true,’ Liddamus said,
‘And even if I were offered
Without constraint, all the coffered
Riches his uncle, King Arthur,
Owns, and the wealth of India,
I’d forgo them to ’scape the fight.
You may have the glory outright.
I’m no Segramors who’s bound,
To keep him from the battleground.
Yet the King accepts me as I am.
Sibeche, he ne’er gave a damn
For battle, and e’er looked to flight,
Yet many men bowed to his might.
Though he ne’er set sword to helm,
He received fiefs, well-nigh a realm,
From King Ermenrich. My flesh
Will never be marred to impress
You, Lord Kingrimursel, such
Is my resolve; no, nary a touch.’
‘Enough of your wrangling, have done!’
Cried the King, ‘in neither one
Is such freedom of speech pleasing.
Raise not your voices nigh the king,
It is not fitting.’ To his sister
He turned, and issued an order:
‘Take the Landgrave, and your guest,
Along with you. Those of the rest
Who wish me well come now with me
And help me weigh this carefully.’
‘Add to the scales the pledge you gave,’
She said, ‘to him, and your Landgrave.’
The King’s council, and his request of Gawain
King Vergulaht to the council went,
While Antikonie, with their assent,
Led forth her cousin, and her guest,
Though anxiety, I would attest,
Made a fourth. Clasping Gawain’s hand,
She said: ‘Twere a loss to every land
If you had not escaped.’ Together,
All the three entered her chamber,
Where, thanks to her good chamberlain,
The room itself did but contain
Her bevy of young ladies. There,
She entertained Gawain, with care
And courtesy, for whom she felt
The tenderest feelings; and dealt
The Landgrave many a compliment,
With whose presence she was content,
For, indeed, she feared more strife,
I’m told, concerned for Gawain’s life.
Thus, Kingrimursel and the knight
Remained there till the fall of night,
When they dined. Wine, mixed with clary,
Her ladies served, and with mulberry,
Plates of pheasant, partridge, and fish,
With the finest white bread in a dish.
Gawain and the Landgrave had met
With great risk and now were set,
Since it was the Princess’ pleasure,
On food and drink, in full measure.
Antikonie herself carved the meat,
With a courtesy all too complete;
While those delightful cup-bearers,
Her young maids, like fresh flowers,
Knelt to pour the wine, who might
Have seemed ready now for flight,
Having changed their true condition
As doth, her plumes, a moulting falcon.
Nor, indeed, should I be surprised,
If that new state had been realised.
Before the council ends, hear now
What advice was given, and how,
By his wise counsellors to the King.
Each man voiced his understanding,
And closely examined the matter,
While the King spoke thereafter:
‘Not a week past, midst the Forest
Of Laehtamris,’ the King confessed,
‘Riding in search of adventure,
I met a knight in fierce encounter.
Too much honour he had of me,
Unseating me, most valiantly.
He made me promise without fail,
To seek, and gain for him, the Grail.
Though I die, that promise indeed
Must be kept. I have urgent need
Of your advice; I clasped his hand,
To fend off death, you understand.
The knight is brave and spirited!
And, furthermore, he demanded
That if I failed to gain the Grail
Within the year, o’er hill and dale,
I must ride, and no evasion,
To that fair lady who, with reason,
Wears the crown in Belrepeire,
She the daughter of Tampenteire,
Rendering myself her prisoner,
As soon as I’ve set eyes on her.
To her, a message he doth send,
That, should her thoughts his way tend,
The greater were his happiness;
For it was he who had, no less,
From King Clamide saved her there.’
On hearing news of this fresh affair,
Liddamus held forth once more:
‘Sire, give me leave to take the floor.
By all means, now debate again,
But I suggest that Lord Gawain
Take on what this other has wrung
From you, who, in the air, is hung,
Glued to your fowling-stick, there!
Request that Lord Gawain doth swear
In our presence, that, without fail,
He’ll seek and gain, for you, the Grail.
Then let him ride forth, Lord Gawain,
Unharmed, that very thing to gain.
Were he to be slain, neath your roof,
Twould bring shame on us all, in truth.
Pardon his misdeeds, let this prove
A way to regain your sister’s love.
He suffered here; with every breath
He now draws closer to his death;
So well-defended no place may be
As Munsalvaesche, in any country!
The path which to that place doth lead
Is filled with a world of strife indeed.
Leave him at ease until the dawn,
Tell him our verdict in the morn.’
The councillors agreement shared,
And so, Gawain’s life was spared.
That night the warrior lay at ease
In fair lodgings that did him please.
Then, after Mass, there did gather
Nobles and commoners together
In the Palace, and to the King
My Lord Gawain they did bring,
As counselled, the intent, perforce,
To urge him to no other course
Than you yourselves heard but now.
There the Princess, who I allow
Was very fine, came with Gawain,
And her cousin, and then again
No few others of the King’s men.
Into Vergulaht’s presence then
She led the knight, hand in hand,
And on her head, a fresh garland;
Yet her lips stole the splendour
Of the chaplet, since no flower
Was e’er as red as they, and when
She kissed the knight once again
He was fired, by her advances,
To break a forest-worth of lances!
We should welcome her with praise,
Antikone, sweet in all her ways,
True-hearted, full of modesty,
And of base slander ever free.
All who learned of her high repute
Would have all evil tongues be mute.
Her constancy, like burning balm,
Was as unwavering as her charm;
And her clear, her far-sighted eye,
Like a falcon’s, keen, neath the sky.
‘Brother,’ cried the sweet young lady,
Ever mindful of true courtesy,
‘I bring you a brave knight whose care
You charged me with; all are aware.
Treat him with kindness for my sake;
Let this not vex you; a moment take
To think of a brother’s love, and then
Without regret, work your will again;
For a firm integrity sits with you
Better than hatred e’er could do,
Others’ I mean, and mine as well,
If I could hate you; all anger quell.’
‘I shall do so, sister, if I but can,’
In answer, the young nobleman
Replied, ‘and you must counsel me.
You fear twixt me and Nobility
Misconduct did sweep down low,
And drove me from Eminence so.
Were that the case how could I be
Your brother? If all bowed to me,
Every realm, I’d yield them all,
At your wish; no worse could befall
Me than to be despised by you.
I’ll act but as you instruct me to,
I care naught for fame or happiness.
Lord Gawain, hear now my request.
You came to us for honour’s sake,
Now, for honour, help me to make
Peace with my sister, and so win
Her kind forgiveness for my sin.
Rather than lose her affection,
I will overlook the action
You performed, the wrong you wrought
Against myself, and all this court,
If you will give your word that you
This fresh adventure will pursue,
That you, out of your courtesy,
Will seek, and gain, the Grail for me!’
Gawain goes to seek and gain the Grail
Once all were reconciled, Gawain
Was sent forth on the road again,
To find and then to gain the Grail.
On Kingrimursel he did prevail
To forgive the King who had so
Lost his loyalty, through treating so
Lightly a pledge of safe-passage.
This was done. Now, little damage
Had occurred to Gawain’s men;
Not one lad was wounded, for when
The fight was on, all weapon-less,
They had been held, in slight duress,
Their lives, under truce, being saved
By a man of worth, who had behaved
With kindness towards them, and all
Their swords still hung there in the hall.
Now Frenchmen, Britons, or whate’er
They were, his squires and pages there,
Were freed and led to Lord Gawain,
And when they saw their lord again,
The pages clasped him, all in tears;
For, there, wept Count Liaz, the son
Of Tinas of Cornwall, he was one,
And Duke Gandiluz, Gurzgri’s lad,
Whose valiant father sadly had
Lost his life at Schoydelakurt;
That place brought many a lady hurt,
Liaze then was this page-boy’s aunt.
His mouth and eyes Love doth plant
On those who seem to represent her.
Gazing at him, gave all folk pleasure.
With these two there came six others.
In birth all eight, like noble brothers,
Came of high and faultless lineage.
They loved him as kin, and each page
Earned but true honour, as his reward,
And the kind treatment he did afford.
‘Bless you dear kinsmen,’ cried Gawain,
You had grieved for me were I slain,
I do believe!’ That was more than clear
As each lad brushed away a tear.
‘And I was anxious on your account,
Where were you when they did mount
That fight? They told him, and spoke true.
‘A falcon, a moulted merlin, flew
While you sat with the Princess there,
And we ran to see that whole affair.’
Those who stood or sat in the hall,
Took close stock of him, princes all,
Judging him as well-bred and brave.
He asked leave of the King who gave
Him his permission to now depart.
With the Landgrave he went apart,
And then the Princess led these two,
And Gawain’s young gentlemen too,
To where they were waited upon
By young ladies who insisted on
Seeing, at once, to their every need.
When they had breakfasted (indeed,
I tell the tale, as Kyot told it)
Sentiment turned to woe, to whit
‘Madam,’ he said to the Princess,
‘I cannot help, should the Lord bless
Me with life, devoting my deeds
Of knight-errantry, and the needs
Of chivalry, to the service of your
Womanly virtues for evermore.
A blessed fate has led you I see
To eschew all need for falsity,
Such that on truth you ever call,
And so, your honour exceeds all!
My lady, I ask leave to depart.
Grant it me, with a loving heart.
May nobility preserve your fame.’
His departure must give her pain,
And many a lovely girl wept too.
‘Could I but have done more for you,
My happiness would now exceed
My grief,’ she said, twas meant indeed,
‘As it is, the terms are as they are,
No better, but, where’er you are,
When hard-pressed, whenever care
Weighs on your knightly calling there,
In victory or defeat, tis true,
My Lord, my heart will be with you,’
The noble Princess kissed Gawain,
On the mouth, and this fact was plain,
He was more than a little distressed
To part so abruptly, and, for the rest,
It distressed them both, if you ask me.
Gawain’s pages had swiftly brought
His horses there, to the Palace court.
Beneath the shade of the linden tree,
He mounted his charger, gallantly.
The Landgrave had been joined there,
By his men, I hear, and all did fare,
Beyond the town, and there Gawain
Asked him, courteously, to maintain
Himself as a guide to his retinue,
Until Bearosche came in view:
‘There Scherules resides,’ he said,
And they may ask then to be led
To Dianazdrun, where some Briton,
Or another, will escort them on
To my lord, or Queen Guinevere.’
Kingrimursel quelled his every fear,
And promised so to do, and then
Gawain took leave of all his men.
His charger Gringuljete was clad
In steel, and then the warrior bade
The pages arm himself the same.
His kissed them all, did Lord Gawain,
Pages and noble squires as well.
The vow he’d made did now impel
Him onwards to pursue the Grail,
And all that journey might entail,
And so, as he was, one man alone,
He rode forth to perils unknown.
End of Book VIII of Parzival