Wolfram von Eschenbach
Book X: Gawain and Orgeluse
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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- Gawain, cleared of guilt, pursues his quest for the Grail.
- Having saved the life of Urjans of Punturteis, he reaches Logroys.
- Gawain encounters the lovely Orgeluse de Logroys.
- He continues his travels, in company with Lady Orgeluse.
- Her squire Malcreatiure, brother to Cundrie La Surziere, rides after them.
- Gawain finds the wounded Urjans once more.
- He tells Lady Orgeluse the tale of Urjan’s crime.
- Wolfram’s comments on True Love.
- Orgeluse departs on the ferry.
- Gawain encounters and defeats Duke Lischois Gwelljus.
- He pays the master of the ferry, Plippalinot, his due.
- Gawain is a guest of Plippalinot, and meets his daughter Lady Bene.
Gawain, cleared of guilt, pursues his quest for the Grail
NOW we approach the strangest tale,
That may o’er happiness prevail,
And yet in turn may bring us joy,
Both powers this story doth employ.
The set term, of one year, had passed;
The quarrel was resolved at last,
That duel, sought at the Plimizoel,
And then transferred to Barbigoel
From Schanpfanzun, was now set by,
Kingrisin unavenged thereby.
Though Vergulaht accused Gawain,
Yet their kinship was made plain;
Moreover, twas Count Ehkunat,
Had slain Kingrisin, and yet that
It was they’d laid at Gawain’s door;
The Landgrave, Kingrimursel, saw
Gawain cleared of the accusation,
And thus was ended their division.
Now King Vergulaht and Gawain
Both sought the Grail to obtain,
And at the same hour, on a day,
Each man went his separate way.
It was a quest that would demand
Many a conflict, sword in hand,
For whate’er man desires the Grail
Must don his armour without fail,
Only thus is glory striven for.
How the guiltless Gawain now bore
Himself, and all that then was done
When he set out from Schanpfanzun,
And whether he was forced to fight
Let those relate who saw the knight;
Yet he will meet with battle here.
One morn, Gawain did thus appear
On a green meadow where a shield,
Which had been pierced in the field,
Hung from a bough; and a palfrey,
Harnessed there for a noble lady,
All equipped with a costly saddle,
Was tethered to it, by the bridle.
‘Who can this woman be,’ he thought,
‘That a warlike shield has brought?
Should she choose to launch an attack,
How shall a poor knight answer back?
Tis better now if I dismount,
Then of myself give true account.
Though she, if foot to foot we fight,
And we both go the distance, might
Topple me, yet may I win favour
From this affair, or find disfavour.
Though Camilla herself were come,
Who earned her fame at Laurentum
By deeds of arms, and Camilla
Were to challenge me with vigour,
I’d try her mettle nonetheless.’
The shield had known much distress,
Twas badly gashed Gawain now saw;
A window, wide as any door,
A broad spear-head had opened there;
The battlefield had laid it bare.
Now, who would pay the blazoner,
If such proved his only colour?
The body of the tree was wide,
Behind it, on the farther side,
Sat a lady, on the clover,
Grieving as if joy were over,
So deep it seemed was her woe.
As round the tree Gawain did go,
And, thus, the lady came in sight,
He saw, laid on her lap, a knight,
The cause indeed of all her pain.
As he greeted her, Lord Gawain
She acknowledged, with a bow;
Her voice was hoarse, suffering now
From her cries of pure distress.
He dismounted, and did assess
The wounded knight who, pierced right through,
Bled within, and outwardly too.
Gawain asked the knight’s lady
Whether he lived, for, so badly
Was he wounded, he could not know.
‘He lives yet, sir,’ she said, ‘although
It cannot be for long, I deem.
God has sent you, it would seem,
Sustain me then with your counsel;
You must know such matters well,
Grant me your aid and comfort, then.’
‘Madame I shall,’ he answered, ‘when
Blood presses on the heart, then one
Employs a hollow tube; if done,
Then I would guarantee his life,
Twould cure him such that, free of strife,
You might see and hear him, oh,
Full many a day; no fatal blow
Was this.’ Gawain then took a stem,
Slit and peeled its sheath, and then
He took the hollow tube it made,
(Skill was his, in bringing such aid)
And sank it in the knight’s body,
Through the wound, yet delicately,
Then told the lady to suck until
The blood the hollow tube did fill,
Whereon the warrior regained
Consciousness, and strength obtained
To speak, and thank Gawain, seeing
The knight across his body leaning,
And praised him that he had brought
Him from out his swoon, and sought
To know if to Logroys he came
Pursing chivalry, and fame.
Having saved the life of Urjans of Punturteis, he reaches Logroys
‘I myself sought adventure here,
Roving from Punturteis; too near
I did ride, to my deep regret;
If you’re a man of sense forget
This place; for truly I dreamt not
That Lischois Gwelljus, nigh this spot,
Would wound me, and set me down,
Behind my horse, upon the ground,
With a great blow, piercing sorely,
Wounding thus my shield and body.
Twas after that this noble lady
Helped me here, on her palfrey.’
He begged Gawain then to stay,
But the knight would make his way
To the place where it was done.
‘If Logroys lies so near, then one
May overtake the man outside
Its walls,’ my Lord Gawain replied,
‘And he will answer there to me,
And justify his enmity.’
‘Do nothing of the sort’, the knight
Answered, ‘I can explain, outright.
Tis no child’s play to travel there,
Towards mortal danger you’ll fare.’
The knight’s wound, then, Gawain bound,
With a kerchief the lady found;
He spoke a charm, and left them there
Commending both to God’s good care.
He found the trail they’d left behind
All bloody, as if from stag or hind,
And thus it served to point the way.
Full soon, Logroys before him lay;
Both praised, and honoured, everywhere.
The castle was both strong and fair,
A path about it, spiralling round;
A child’s top was that castle mound!
When simple people saw that sight,
They thought it spinning in the light.
Folk claim of that place even now,
None could attack it, and I’ll allow
Men there had little fear of aught
Malice could do, or anger sought.
All round the hill a palisade
Of cultivated trees, a glade
Was planted, pomegranates, figs,
Olives; vines, close-pruned to sprigs,
And other fruiting things grew there.
Gawain had ridden near to where
The path ended, when glancing right
There came in view a pleasant sight.
Though twas destined to bring him pain,
It gladdened the heart of Lord Gawain.
Gawain encounters the lovely Orgeluse de Logroys
FROM the rock there flowed a spring,
Beside which there stood a pleasing
Lady. He gazed with true delight,
Despite himself, did our brave knight.
She was the fairest flower, the lovely
Pinnacle of female beauty.
But for Condwiramurs, no fairer
Woman was born in this world ever.
She was of radiant looks, refined
In courtly ways, her form defined
In shapely manner, and her name
Orgeluse de Logroys, that same
Of whom the story tells that she,
Being a fair and wondrous lady,
Was ever a lure to love’s desire,
Sweet balm to the male eye afire,
A means to pluck the least heartstring.
Gawain offered her fair greeting.
‘If I might descend, by your leave,
Madame, and should you conceive
A wish, indeed, for my company,
Then I declare, of a certainty,
Joy would replace my every woe,
No knight could prove happier so;
I’m fated to die without seeing
Any woman to me more pleasing.’
‘Tis well, but what is that to me?’
She said, inspecting him carefully,
And her sweet lips went on to say:
‘Praise me in not too fine a way,
Or from it you may reap disgrace.
Not every man may judge my face,
For if every fool were free to praise,
Not just those with discerning ways,
And the words were naught but flattery,
What credit would that bring to me?
How would my praises be worth more
Than others’? For I mean to ensure
That mine are those of the discerning.
Of who you are, sir, I know nothing,
Tis time you went, but you, in turn,
Shall now my own true judgement earn:
You are near my heart, but not in it.
If you’d have my love, must earn it.
Many a man who insists on gazing
At that which his heart finds wounding,
Hurls his glances about so wildly,
A sling in battle works more gently.
Bowl your desires, however fine,
At some other target than mine.
If you are a man who serves for love,
If need for adventure you doth move,
Deeds of arms for a lady’s favour,
Here, of me you’ll win no honour.
If I speak truly, dishonour here
Is all that you will earn, I fear.’
‘You speak truly, and no disguise,
Madame, at risk now from my eyes,
Is my heart indeed, for they dwell
On you so, that, as you may tell,
I am your prisoner; treat me then
As a true woman should do, when,
Though she wishes me to depart,
She’s prisoned me within her heart.
Loose or bind me, for you will find
Such is the tenor of my mind,
That if I had you where I wish
Then all were paradisal bliss.’
‘Take me away with you,’ said she,
‘And aught that you may win from me
With your wooing, will only end
In regret, to disgrace twill tend.
I would see if you would make
War on other men for my sake,
Yet, if honour’s dear to you, refrain.
Let me counsel you once again,
And labour to do as I shall say,
Go seek for love some other way.
For if with my love you would toy,
You will fail of both love and joy.
Take me away with you, and see
Trouble to you will come of me.’
‘Who then, without deserving it,
Is for a lady’s true love fit?’
Said Lord Gawain. ‘If I may speak,
A man that a lady’s love doth seek
Without deserving it, doth sin.
For any man that’s eager to win
A noble love, must serve before,
And after, he wins it; tis my law.’
‘If you’d serve me,’ said the lady,
‘You must lead a life of chivalry,
Yet all you’ll win is dishonour,
I need no coward’s service. Further
Along the path now you must go,
Follow the track (there is no road),
It reaches the orchard by and by,
Over a bridge, narrow and high;
Cross the bridge, and there’ll you see
My palfrey tethered to a tree,
And a crowd of people dancing,
And sweet love songs they’ll be singing,
Playing on flutes and tabors too.
Loose the mount; it will follow you.’
Gawain leapt down from his charger,
And sought to find a place to tether
His horse, so it might await him so;
Naught by the spring suited though,
And he wondered if it were seemly
To seek assistance from the lady,
And ask her to hold his mighty steed.
‘What troubles you, I too can read,’
She said: ‘Come leave your mount with me,
And go your way in security,
I’ll hold it till you’re here again,
Though in serving me there’s little gain.’
By the bridle the horse he led:
‘Hold this for me, my lady,’ he said,
‘Why, you’re a fool!’ she cried, ‘For see,
Your hand has touched it, as for me,
I’ll not lay hold of it.’ ‘Madame,
This end I touched, fool that I am,
But not the other,’ the hopeful said,
‘Well, I’ll take it; now, once you’ve sped
O’er the bridge and back, bringing me
My mount, as to keeping company
Then I shall grant you your wish.’
Gawain was well content with this.
He left her and o’er the bridge did go,
And in at the orchard gate, and so
Came where many a fair lady,
And bachelor knights a plenty,
Many more than one and twenty,
Sang, and danced about there, gaily.
Now at the sight of Lord Gawain,
Dressed so finely, they were fain
To grieve, in that orchard, for they
Were good-hearted; of all who lay
Or sat, in their pavilions, or stood,
Not one there, be it understood,
But voiced their woe. Many a knight,
And lady, grieved there at the sight:
‘With her deceitful ways, tis plain,’
They said, and said the thing again,
‘My Lady plans now to entice
This man (they repeated it twice)
To toil for her, and so he will,
And yet win sorrow for it still!’
Many a worthy man did take
His hand, and give it a friendly shake.
He then approached the olive tree
Where the palfrey, as he could see,
Was tethered, its harness and bridle
Worth many a mark. By it did idle,
A knight with a grey braided beard,
Who, as my Lord Gawain had neared,
Bewept him coming for the horse,
Yet spoke him kindly, in due course:
‘If you are open to sound advice,
Then I would bid you, sir, think twice,
And lead not the palfrey this day,
Though none will stand in your way.
For if you’ve ever done what’s wise,
You’ll leave the horse, as I advise.
Accursed indeed shall be My Lady
For causing the deaths of so many.’
Gawain said no, he’d not do so.
‘Then, alas, for what doth follow,’
Cried the old grey-bearded knight,
He then unloosed the halter quite’
‘There is no need to wait, allow
The palfrey to follow you now,
And may He whose hand divine
Made the seas with all their brine,
Grant you aid in your hour of need.
Beware, lest her beauty, indeed,
Makes mock of you, for her sweetness
Is bound up with a deal of sourness,
Like a hailstorm in bright sunlight.’
‘In God’s hand be it!’ said our knight.
He continues his travels, in company with Lady Orgeluse
HIS leave he took, and here and there
That of others, while grief and care
And mournful cries were now expressed.
The palfrey followed him, midst the rest,
Along the narrow path, to the gate,
And o’er the bridge to meet their fate,
For the Lady of the land was there,
His heart’s mistress in this affair.
Though his heart sought refuge with her,
Through her, twould be made to suffer.
The fastenings of her headdress she
Had pushed up on high, summarily,
And when one sees a woman so
She’s ready for conflict, although
She may have a mind to sport, also.
And what else was she wearing? Oh,
If I thought to say aught of her attire,
Her looks would absolve me entire.
As he approached, this was the way
Her sweet lips addressed him: ‘Hey,
Welcome back you goose, if you
Will serve me, you’ll find tis true,
None have ever borne such a load
Of folly as you’ll bear on the road,
Yet you’ve good cause to forebear.’
‘Though you’ve anger and to spare,
Now,’ Gawain said, ‘yet, in the end,
Sweet favour to me you’ll extend.
Though you may scorn me further,
You’ll grant me satisfaction later.
Meanwhile my service I’ll render
Till my reward you shall tender.
I’ll help you mount, if you desire.’
‘I asked you not, I’ll not require
Your unknown hand to work so,
Seek some baser forfeit, below!’
And from midst the flowers she leapt
On to her horse, twas most adept,
And had him mount and ride ahead.
‘What a pity it would be,’ she said,
Were I to lose my fine companion,
Yet God may bring you to confusion.’
Now he who would heed my advice
Will not malign her, but think twice.
And not exercise his tongue till he
Knows the full tale, and all that she
Might feel now, in her present state.
Though I, tis true, might remonstrate
With that lovely woman somewhat,
Yet whate’er the earful Gawain got
From her in her bouts of ill-humour,
Or the trouble she brought him later,
No matter the pain, or its amount,
I exonerate her on every count!
Orgeluse now started, not like one
Eager to prove a good companion,
For she came riding towards Gawain
In such a fury that, it was plain,
He needs have small hope of release
From care through her, or any peace.
They rode o’er a heath bright with flowers,
And here Gawain who knew the powers
Of many a herb spied one whose root,
He said, some grievous wound might suit.
The noble knight descended, then
Dug up the root, and mounted again,
While the lady did not forbear
To exclaim, as she watched him there:
‘If my companion works skilfully
In physic, and not mere chivalry,
And learns to hawk salves and things,
Why, a decent living such toil brings.’
‘I rode by a tree, and there had sight,’
Said Gawain, ‘of a wounded knight,
And, if he is there yet, the strength
Of it should restore him at length.’
‘I should like to see that,’ she said,
And learn physic to earn my bread?’
Her squire Malcreatiure, brother to Cundrie La Surziere, rides after them
A squire there came riding swiftly
With a message, and when, shortly,
Gawain halted, as he drew near,
He was struck by what did appear;
A monstrous proud squire was he,
Called Malcreatiure, and Cundrie
Was his fair sister, and like to her
Was he, but of a different gender.
His two fangs, on a similar plan,
Suited a wild boar, not a man,
Though his hair was not as long
As that which dangled down upon
Cundrie’s mule, but short and prickly,
Like a hedgehog’s coat exactly.
Such folk are found in Tribalibot,
Beside the Ganges, tis their lot
To suffer this mischance at birth.
Once God had seeded life on Earth,
Adam, our father, named each thing,
The wild and tame understanding
The nature of each, and the seven
Lights that circled him in heaven
With their innate powers, and he
Knew of each herb some property.
Now when his daughters reached
Child-bearing age then Adam preached
To them of intemperate excess,
And on them he would e’er impress,
When a child they were carrying,
That to ensure that their offspring
Was undeformed, and an honour
To their race, all in their power
They must do, to seek not to eat
(And, thus, with good fortune meet)
Any herb ‘but those God created
For us, when He sat, and mated
Flesh to bone, in achieving me.
‘My daughters, be not blind,’ he said,
‘To how true happiness is bred.’
Those girls (is it any wonder?)
Did according to their nature.
Some, led by frailty, to forget,
Ate that on which their hearts were set,
So that to Adam’s bitter sorrow,
Deformed progeny did follow.
Yet he was firm of purpose still.
Now a queen there was, Secundille,
Whom, with his deeds of chivalry,
Feirefiz won, queen, realm, and all,
And she had many such folk withal.
Since ancient days they’d appeared,
Bodies ill-formed, features weird.
Secundille was told of the Grail,
And how its splendours did avail,
The finest thing on earth it was,
And guarded by King Anfortas.
She found it strange for, to her land,
Many rivers brought gems not sand,
And she had mountains full of gold.
‘How shall I his secrets unfold,
This man who commands the Grail?’
She wondered, and, so runs the tale,
Sent him a gift, a human wonder,
Namely Cundrie, and sent with her
Malcreatiure her brother,
And, I swear, a deal of treasure
Such that you could never buy,
For none has it to sell, say I!
Anfortas, whose very nature
Was generous, gave this creature
To Orgeluse, to be her squire,
Though born of intemperate desire,
That set the man, body and mind,
Far from the mass of humankind.
Gawain waited for him; kindred
To herbs and stars, the man shouted,
As he approached, on a sorry horse
That limped and stumbled in its course.
(Lady Jeschute rode one far better
That day when Parzival saw her
Return once more to Orilus’ favour,
Which no fault of hers had lost her.)
‘Sir!’ cried Malcreatiure, angrily,
Fronting Gawain, ‘from decency,
You might have chosen to refrain.
A fool you are if you to seek to gain
Aught from absconding with my lady
In this manner. Praise would surely
Come to you, could you but evade
Punishment for the choice you’ve made.
If you’re a warrior, cudgels shall so
Scrape your hide that, at every blow,
You’ll think yourself far otherwise.’
Gawain looked him hard in the eyes.
‘My person has never suffered such;
Tis the shiftless mob, not overmuch
Given to manly deeds, who deserve
That such a lesson you should serve;
No man has punished me before.
Should you, and this lady, ignore
All courtesy, and insult me here,
Tis you shall have reason to fear,
What you may rightly call, my anger.
Howe’er dreadful the face you offer,
Your threats I’ll counter readily.’
Gawain seized his hair and, promptly,
Flung him from his horse to the ground,
Where the wise squire could be found
Gazing up at him timidly.
Yet his hedgehog bristles deeply
Pierced Gawain’s hand, and blood
Covered it; a revenge made good.
The lady laughed: ‘I love to see
Such fine folk quarrelling over me!’
Gawain finds the wounded Urjans once more
THEY set off again, the squire’s horse
Limping beside them till, in due course,
They arrived where the wounded knight
Was lying; kindly addressing his plight,
Gawain bound his wound with the herb.
‘What nest of troubles did you disturb,
On leaving here?’ said the wounded man.
‘You bring a lady whose sole plan
Is aimed at harming you. Through her,
Came my injury, for she led me, sir,
Into narrow straits, and fierce strife,
At the risk of my property and life.
If you would save your own, allow
That faithless woman to vanish now;
Have nothing more to do with her.
Judge from my sad state what further
Pain her counsel may bring to you.
Yet I might recover wholly too,
If I could but find a place to rest.
Help me to that, and so be blessed.’
‘Ask aught from me you might name,’
Said Gawain, ‘I’ll attempt that same.’
‘There’s a hospice, not far away,’
Said the wounded knight, ‘if this day
I might reach it I’d seek their care.
My companion’s mount stands there,
Set her upon it, place me behind.’
Gawain, with this intent in mind,
Untethered the palfrey from its tree,
And led it towards her, carefully,
But the wounded man cried: ‘Stay,
Would you trample me along the way?’
So Gawain slowly circled round.
A sign from the man on the ground
Sent the lady following Gawain,
At a gentle pace, till she might gain
The saddle, with his help; and now
The wounded knight, leapt, and how,
Onto Gawain’s Castilian steed.
If you ask me, twas a sinful deed.
They sought not to prolong their stay,
And, with the spoils, they rode away.
Gawain gave vent to anger, though
His lady found more in his woe
To laugh at than he found pleasure.
He’d lost his steed, thus she did utter
These words from her sweet lips: ‘I,
Thought you a knight yet, by and by,
You turned surgeon, and now I see
Tis as a footman that you’d serve me!
If any can make a living still
From his wits, a place you’ll fill.
But, do you still desire my love?’
‘Yes, my lady, could I but prove
I possessed it then it would be
Dearer than aught on earth to me.
If I were offered a choice between
The riches of every king and queen
Beneath the sky that wears a crown
And wins joy, honour, and renown,
And you, my lady, then my true heart
Would leave the riches, for my part,
To them. For tis your love I wish.
And if I may not win it in this
Manner, I’ll die a bitter death!
On me, your own, you waste your breath,
For if I was ever free before
I now am subject to your law;
And I judge it your given right.
Whether you name me as a knight,
A squire, peasant, footman, yet you,
By the jests you subject me to,
And your mockery of my service,
You win a burden of sin in this.
Were I to profit from some deed,
Then you will change your tune indeed.
Though your scorn ne’er vexes me,
It lowers your worth, assuredly.’
The wounded man rode back again,
And called to our knight: ‘Are you Gawain?
If you e’er borrowed aught from me,
Tis now repaid, of a certainty.
Lord Gawain, you should remember
That I was one you did overpower
And in that joust took my surrender,
And led me off to your King Arthur,
Who saw that with the hounds I ate,
And hungered a whole month straight.’
‘Are you Urjans?’ Gawain replied.
‘Why should I suffer for your pride?
I won the King’s pardon for you.
Ignoble thoughts you did pursue,
And were excluded from the Order
Of Knighthood, beyond the border
An exile, for denying a free
Maid her inviolability,
And due protection of the law.
King Arthur sought to ensure
You saw the gallows; had not I
Spoken for you, why then, say I,
You’d have hung high in the air.’
‘Whatever might have happened there,
Here we are. You will have heard
The saying, tis an ancient word,
That, if a man should save another
From death, he’ll be his foe thereafter.
I’ve my wits about me, tis known,
Babes do weep, not men full-grown,
And so, the charger I’ll keep this day.’
He spurred hard, and galloped away
Much to Gawain’s anger, indeed,
As he watched the departing steed.
Then he turned to his fine lady,
And began to tell her the story.
He tells Lady Orgeluse the tale of Urjan’s crime
‘HERE is the tale,’ said Lord Gawain,
‘It was when Arthur did maintain
His court at fair Dianazdrun,
Attended there by many a Briton.
Now to his land had come a lady,
As envoy from another country,
While Urjans, a mere outsider,
Had come there to seek adventure.
He was a guest there, so was she.
And yet his base thoughts, sinfully,
Led him to seek from her his pleasure,
Against her will, he had full measure.
Twas nigh a forest, and her cry
Was heard as we hunted, nearby.
The King, he called aloud, and there
We all hastened, and I did repair
To the place ahead of the rest,
This I found the villainous guest,
And led him back, my prisoner,
To the king but a short time later.
The maid rode back along with us,
Although her state was piteous;
No loving servitor was he
Who’d stolen her virginity,
Nor indeed had his knightly fame
Increased, in tarnishing his name,
By raping a defenceless maid.
Kind-hearted Arthur was dismayed,
Well-nigh beside himself with anger,
He could restrain himself no longer:
‘This outrage should stir our pity!
Perish the day this savagery
Was enacted, in this kingdom,
Where I seek justice! Young woman,
Bring a case now, don’t hesitate
And be your own best advocate,’
He said, while turning to the lady,
Who followed his counsel promptly.
There came a host of noble knights,
To hear the girl defend her rights,
Who gathered where, Urjans, the lord
From Punturteis, stood before
Arthur of Britain, both his honour
And his life at stake, while over
Against him, where rich and poor
Could hear her, she took the floor,
And bravely petitioned the King,
In the name of womankind, asking
Him to take her shame to heart,
For maidenly honour, on her part,
And the rules of the Round Table,
And as an envoy, and were he able
So to do, pronounce his judgement,
And said with this she’d rest content.
She begged the company of knights
To apprise themselves of her rights,
For she’d been robbed of what she
Could ne’er regain, her virginity,
And they should ask the King also
For judgement, and speak her woe.
The guilty man, devoid of honour
In my view, sought a defender,
An advocate who did his best
Though all in vain; for the rest,
Prince Urjans was condemned to die,
With loss of honour, for by and by,
Of willow they’d twist a garotte,
Strangulation was to be his lot,
Wherein no blood would be shed.
Then he appealed to me, and said
That it was I took his surrender,
Granting him life. I feared my honour
Would be lost, and asked the lady
Since she had witnessed the manly
Manner of vengeance I had wrought,
To quell the anger in her thought,
And accept that her beauty might
Have maddened the aforesaid knight.
‘If ever a lady has helped a man
Whose deep desire grew out of hand
In the sequel, honour it now,
And mercy on this wretch allow.’
I begged the king, and each follower,
If I had done him service ever,
To bear it in mind and, of his right,
Lighten the sentence on the knight,
And avert the shame I would incur.
I entreated the Queen (for with her
I had ever sought refuge at court,
Winning help of the King’s consort)
By the love born of ties of blood,
For he had reared me from childhood,
To help me, now, and she did so,
Spoke with the King and then also
Sought a further word privately,
With the girl, as the injured party,
And thanks to this he was saved,
Though his action was depraved.
Nonetheless he was made to suffer,
Was punished still with dishonour,
For with the hounds he must eat
Out of the trough, and complete
His atonement in four weeks, thus,
The lady proving magnanimous.
Yet though she did her wrong avenge,
This deed, madam, is his revenge!’
‘It shall not succeed,’ said Orgeluse,
‘All favours to you I might refuse,
But he shall have his reward before
He leaves my realm, and count it more
Of a disgrace than he found there;
For the King, in this whole affair,
Has quite failed to avenge the deed,
In his land, where the lady indeed
Suffered from that shameful action,
Yet, here, I have jurisdiction;
Though I knew not either’s name,
Before, you’re subject to the same
Law, my law; he must be brought
To battle and a lesson taught,
Though for that lady’s sake alone,
Not, lest you think it, for your own!
Great misdeeds should be repaid
With thrusts and blows, of lance and blade.’
Gawain went to Malcreatiure’s steed,
And caught its bridle, twas frail indeed.
The squire came to them, and the lady
Told him in heathen speech, swiftly,
All she wished done at the castle.
Now it is nearing, Gawain’s peril!
Malcreatiure went off on foot
While Gawain took a closer look
At the squire’s horse, but thought
It too poor a creature to be fought.
The squire had it from a peasant
Ere he mounted, yet, at present,
Gawain could do naught but suffer,
Doomed to employ it as his charger.
Maliciously, the lady said,
‘Why do you not ride on ahead?’
‘I shall do so when you grant leave.’
Answered Gawain: ‘Then, I believe,
You’ll wait forever!’ the lady cried,
‘Yet I’ll serve to gain it!’ he replied.
‘Then you are a fool so to do!
I tell you twill be the worse for you;
You’ll go not as the joyful go,
But ever find fresh trouble and woe.’
‘I must serve you, in sorrow or joy,
Riding or walking, tis my employ,
For love, it was, so instructed me.’
Standing now, beside the lady,
He inspected his poor charger,
Its lime-bark stirrups, moreover,
Were unfit for the mildest battle,
And oft he’d had a finer saddle;
He feared to ascend, lest his feet
Rendered its harness incomplete.
The creature had a hollow back,
Such that in mounting, to attack,
It might well cave in altogether,
A thing he must avoid; however,
Though in the past he well might
Have balked at it, as a proud knight,
A victim, now, of circumstance
He led it, carrying shield and lance.
The lady, source of so much pain,
Laughed joyfully at Lord Gawain.
As he tied his shield to the steed,
She asked: ‘Are you now turned indeed
To a merchant, with goods to sell?
Whom should I thank? For tis well
To possess a doctor and a trader;
Beware though of my tax-gatherer,
He’ll rob you of your good humour:
Beware the customs posts, your honour!’
But with her jests he was well-content,
Not minding what she said, intent
On that which drove the pain away:
To him she was the spirit of May,
The blossoming of all things bright,
Sweet to his eye, a shining sight;
And yet a bitterness to his heart.
Since a man could, in equal part,
Both lose and find his joy in her,
Then ease the pain he must incur,
It made him, at all times, he found
Both wholly free yet tightly bound.
Wolfram’s comments on True Love
MY authorities make the claim
That Cupid and Amor, those same
Whose mother is Venus, oft inspire
Love in folk, with their darts and fire.
Such love is suspect, yet if a true
Faithfulness lives there in you,
You will never be free of love.
Now joy, now woe, such love doth prove,
Yet true loyalty is love benign.
Cupid your arrows, oft fired blind,
Miss me, your target, and what’s more,
So does that lance-thrust from Amor;
If you o’er love possess the power,
With Venus’ torch from which we cower,
The pangs they bring I never feel.
If I the marks of love reveal,
Then they derive from faithfulness.
If I’d the knowledge, nonetheless,
To aid a man against Love’s pain,
Well, I’m so fond of Lord Gawain,
I’d help him, and forego the pay.
When all’s said, no shame this day
Is his that he is chained by Love,
Love, that all defence doth prove
In vain. He is so capable
Of strong defence, forever able
To prove himself a man of worth,
No woman, howe’er fair, on earth
Should harass his noble person,
Nor work her harm on such a one.
Ride near, Lord Tyranny of Love!
You savage Joy, as if you’d move
To pierce her full of holes, and Woe
To that same source of pain doth go.
Indeed, Woe’s tracks are so plain
That had her march swerved again
From Heart’s Deep, I’d have said
Joy’s was the advantage instead.
If Love should seek to misbehave,
She is too ancient, yet she’ll save
Her sharpest darts for lover’s fears,
And blame it on her tender years!
I could condone her wantonness
In youth more readily, I confess,
Than her misbehaviour in old age.
Yet she is trouble at every stage:
Which age of hers shall I condemn?
If youthful urges prompt, and then
She scorns the old and settled ways,
She’ll lose both renown, and praise.
She needs to comprehend more clearly:
That love is pure I prize more dearly,
All who are wise agree tis so.
For where such tender feelings flow
Towards their like, transparent, calm,
Neither demurring where Love’s balm
Burns true, Love sealing their two hearts,
(Free of mistrust and subtle arts),
With strong and lasting faithfulness,
High above all others, tis blessed.
Orgeluse departs on the ferry
PLEASED though I should be, I say,
To fetch my Lord Gawain away,
He cannot now escape love’s woe;
What aid then from me could flow,
Despite my words? A man of worth
Should not deny true love its birth,
If only because Love must save him,
Love’s embrace may yet redeem him.
Gawain must toil because of love:
She shall ride, he on foot must move.
Now Orgeluse, and our brave knight
Entered a forest, dark as night;
To a tree-stump his steed he led,
And took the shield that, as I said,
It carried, slung it round his neck,
Mounted, and resumed the trek.
The horse scarce managed to provide
A seat, till on the other side
Of the forest where ploughlands lay
He saw a castle, and, truth to say,
His heart and eyes both confessed
They’d ne’er known a castle blessed
With such magnificence, its towers
Its halls, more numerous than ours.
Nor could Gawain help noticing
Fair ladies, at the windows leaning,
Full four hundred of them, or more;
Of famous lineage, there were four.
A causeway the marsh led over,
Towards a navigable river,
Broad and swift; his lady and he
Now rode towards it, cautiously.
Beside the quay lay a meadow
Where courageous men did follow
The arts of war, and jousts deliver;
The fortress loomed above the river.
In the meadow he saw a knight,
One not known to shirk a fight.
Proud Orgeluse, said haughtily,
‘Bear me out, you now will see
I never break my word; I said
Be all this upon your own head;
I told you you’d reap dishonour,
Now if you would save your honour
Defend yourself as best you can.
He’ll topple you, that nobleman,
His strong right arm will achieve
Your downfall and, I do believe,
You run the grave risk you’ll tear
Your fine breeches, here and there,
And then you must bear the shame,
For the ladies may then proclaim
The fact, all those who sit and gaze,
And view whate’er the field displays!’
The master of the ferry now brought
The vessel over, as Orgeluse sought,
And, to Gawain’s sorrow, she cried
As she boarded: ‘Stay on your side!
You may not join me here on board,’
Her words scant courtesy did afford,
‘For fortune’s pledge you must be!’
‘Why so fast? he cried, woefully,
Must I then view you never again?’
‘That honour, if such you seek to gain,
You may win, but not soon, I deem.’
Her parting words flew off downstream.
Gawain encounters and defeats Duke Lischois Gwelljus
NOW Duke Lischois Gwelljus came.
If I were to say he flew, you’d blame
Me for it, yet his speed was such
His charger scarcely seemed to touch
The ground. ‘How then shall I receive
This knight?’ Gawain thought, ‘I believe,
If he comes at me full tilt, he’ll ride
O’er us, and down the other side;
His mount will stumble over mine,
Then if he offers to fight tis fine;
With both on foot, if that’s his wish
I’ll grant it, e’en though after this
The lady who would have me fight
Bestows not a smile on her knight.’
Naught could stop them now, for he
Who fast approached, in gallantry,
Was the match for he who waited;
To a long struggle they were fated.
Gawain prepared for his advance,
On the saddle he couched his lance,
And the two thrusts were so exact
The impact so great that, in the act,
Both lances shattered, and each man
Lay on his back; twas Gawain’s plan,
The man with the finer mount fell,
And he and Lord Gawain as well
Reclined a while amidst the flowers.
Yet soon both regained their powers.
What then? They leapt up sword in hand,
Both eager, and neither one unmanned.
There was no sparing of shields then,
Both were so carved by these men
That little above the grips remained,
(Shield are ever most sorely maimed)
And you could see the sparks rise
From their helms, to scorch their eyes.
Whichever God grants the victory
Must first cover himself in glory,
Yet count himself right fortunate.
They fought so long, in that state,
On that wide expanse of meadow,
And dealt so many a hefty blow,
Two strong blacksmiths would have tired.
Yet to renown they both aspired.
Though who shall praise the pair,
Fighting for no good reason there,
Other than that Fame might smile
Upon the winner, for a while?
Rash men, they had no great matter
To decide, no cause to flatter
Themselves for holding life so cheap;
Neither man had a grudge to keep,
Nor had committed any wrong.
Now Lord Gawain was skilled and strong
At pinning a man to the ground,
After throwing him, and had found
That if he blocked the other’s blade,
And grappled him, his foe was laid
Flat on his back, at Gawain’s will.
Forced to defend himself he still
Gave good account. Now he grasped
The brave young knight, and clasped
Him; though he too was fit and strong,
Turning, he threw the man headlong,
Then pinned him beneath his weight.
‘Surrender, knight, such is your fate
If you would live,’ Gawain now cried.
Lischois, lying beneath him, sighed,
Ill-prepared his pledge to render
Being unaccustomed to surrender.
Twas strange to him that any man
Should have the power to demand
What none had ever sought before,
Much like a badge the vanquished wore,
A sworn oath, such as he had wrung
From others before; his praises sung
For the many jousts that he had won.
Whate’er the outcome of this one,
Having forced many a surrender,
He was more than loth to render
His pledge, whatever fate might come,
He’d rather die than be the one
To swear an oath, under duress;
To treat with death would irk him less.
‘You are the victor now,’ he said,
And it were better I were dead
Than have my friends, by and by,
Learn that one, who flew so high,
Has been vanquished here. The lady
Was mine, and I had all the glory,
While God wished it so, your hand
Must my present death command.’
Gawain demanded his surrender,
But Lischois would not so render
Seeking swift death; then Gawain
Asked himself: ‘Why seek again
To kill the man? Would he obey
In all else, I’d free him this day.’
And he tried to gain agreement
To such terms, but Lischois, intent
On dying thus, would not concede.
Gawain, averse to such a deed,
Let him alone, and that was that;
There amidst the flowers they sat.
Now Gawain, still discontented
With that steed he so resented,
Thought, wisely, he might mount
Lischois’ own charger, on account,
And spur the horse, and trial it so.
Warlike it stood, steel-clad below
A second covering of brocade
And samite, so his way he made
Towards the steed; having won it
In this venture why not ride it?
He’d not known the horse as yet,
But saw now it was Gringuljete;
Urjans had gained it, through deceit,
Rendering his dishonour complete.
‘Tis you then, Gringuljete!’ he cried,
All set for a noble knight to ride,
Thus, God, who often ends our woe,
Of His grace, has returned you so.’
Dismounting, he saw that the steed
Bore the true Grail device, indeed,
A dove, branded on its shoulder.
Riding it Lahelin, proving bolder
And more skilled, had slain a knight
Of Prienlascors, and twas his right
To seize the creature, then the horse
Had come to Orilus in due course,
Who gifted it to Gawain that day,
By the Plimizoel, where Arthur lay.
Now his spirits that had sunk so low,
Oppressed by a dire state of woe,
(For his loyal devotion to his lady,
Had yielded for him but scorn lately,
Though his thoughts still pursued her)
They rose; proud Lischois however,
Ran now to where, upon the grass
Lay the sword that slipped his grasp
When Gawain threw him, and then,
Those watching saw them fight again.
Their shields were both in such a state,
They let them lie, and battled straight,
Each a brave-hearted, fighting man
Now met together, blade in hand.
Many a maid sat, at her window,
Watching the fight unfold below.
And now their fury blazed anew,
Each was of such lineage, too,
It would have irked him to bow
To the other’s greater valour now.
Their swords and helms suffered badly,
Scant shields against death, as madly
They toiled, and those who saw the fight
Would have judged both in sore plight.
Lischois Gwelljus fought like this:
His noble heart inspired the wish
For boldness, courageous action,
Many a swift sword-stroke; often
He leapt away, but then attacked;
Gawain sought, by his every act,
To clasp him close: ‘If I can see
A way to grasp you, I shall surely
Repay the debt in full,’ he thought,
‘A lesson now you will be taught.’
Sparks of fire their sword-arms brought
From the other’s armour, they sought
To manoeuvre, and yet why fight
At all? For all their toil they might
More fittingly let the matter rest.
My lord Gawain, grasping the chest
Of Lischois, threw him to the ground,
Beneath him (may I not be found
In such a loving embrace as he,
For it would prove the death of me!)
Gawain demanded his surrender,
Once again, yet he would not render
Himself, refusing as before.
‘You but waste your time, my lord,
I offer my life this day, instead,
Let my renown, and I, lie dead;
God has cursed me, who cares not
For all the glory a man has got.
For love of the Duchess Orgeluse,
Many a knight renown did lose,
Many a worthy man did yield
His fame to me, upon the field,
So that, by slaying me, that same
Renown will gather to your name.’
‘Truly, I must not,’ thought Gawain,
‘Were I to slay the man, then Fame
Would never again smile on me.
From love of her, he fought, and he
Was driven by that same torment
That pains me. I should rest content,
And let him live for her dear sake.
Is she’s to be mine, he can make
No move that will avert what fate
Bestows on me, and, at any rate,
If she has seen the battle we fought
She’ll credit me, as one who sought
To, thus, deserve her love. God knows,
I’ll spare you for her sake!’ He rose,
So Lischois could stand; in distress,
Both aware of their weariness,
They sat down once more, well apart,
Yet neither man seeking to depart.
He pays the master of the ferry, Plippalinot, his due
THE ferry now came to the shore,
Returning to where it lay before,
And the master of the ferry strode
Towards them; a grey merlin rode
On his fist. Each loser must yield,
When knights jousted on that field,
Payment to him of their fine steed,
While he would offer praise indeed
And honour the knight that had won,
And noise his fame abroad. So, one
Raised revenue from that meadow,
And many a steed he had to show,
Equalled only when his fair hawk
Swooped upon some crested lark.
He had no other income, but he
Was well content with his fiefdom. He
Came of high and knightly descent
And his breeding proved excellent.
He went to Gawain and, courteously,
Asked of him the appointed fee.
‘I sell not in the market-place, so,
Good sir, you may spare me your toll.
Said Gawain: ‘My lord,’ he replied,
My lawful due shall not be denied,
For many a lady saw you conquer;
You must concede it, as the victor.
You won the steed, and great renown,
When you thrust him to the ground
Who ruled supreme till this fair day.
Your victory, sweeping him away,
Has robbed the man of happiness,
While your good fortune is no less;
It fell like a blow from on high,
On him; you benefit thereby.’
‘He unhorsed me,’ replied Gawain,
‘Though I exacted payment again.
If a jousting tax is paid to you,
Then let him pay whate’er is due.
The little steed he won in battle
Take that from the knight if you will;
But mine shall be the better horse,
Destined to bear me, in due course.
You speak of what’s owed; yet you
Owe it to me not to part from you
On foot. I’d be sorry and you also,
If, lacking a horse, you saw me go.
You’d regret it, if it were known,
For this morn, it was still my own,
Beyond all doubt. If you would ride,
Mount a hobby and strut with pride.
Twas Orilus of Burgundy
Who gifted this creature to me,
But Urjans of Punturteis,
Took the horse, and made it his
For a while. Take what he stole?
Sonner get you a she-mule’s foal!
But I can still grant you a favour,
Since you do the knight full honour,
Instead of the war-horse, feel free
To take the man who rode at me,
Whether he likes the fact or no.’
The ferryman true joy did show:
‘I’ve ne’er known so rich a gift,’
He cried, with laughter on his lips,
‘If it were proper to receive it.
Yet sir, if you will guarantee it,
It far exceeds my own request.
Now, for a warrior of the best,
Five hundred steeds were fair trade,
If in such coin one might be paid.
If you’d have me rich, indeed,
I’d call it a right handsome deed,
If, like a true knight, you would,
Into my boat, upon the flood,
Deliver the man. ‘I shall do so,’
Said Gawain, ‘and he shall go,
As your prisoner now, on board,
And off again, be thus assured,
Until he stands before your door.’
‘You’ll be welcome all the more,’
Cried the ferryman, bowing low,
In gratitude, ‘and let me show
You honour, come spend the night
In my humble house, sir knight,
Find comfort there, no greater
Honour befell my peers ever,
Those that ply the ferry I mean;
It would be well if I were seen
To entertain such a nobleman.’
‘I would welcome so kind a plan,
Being overcome by weariness,
The which dictates that I should rest.
She who commands me, tis her manner
To turn whate’er is sweet to bitter,
To make the heart poor in delight,
But rich in cares; such is her right,
Yet tis no fair reward. Alas,
Loss, that at first sight came to pass,
You weigh upon the breast, I fear,
That rises free when joys appear,
While the heart that lay beneath
Has vanished. I endure this grief
Without her aid, where shall I find
That which might relieve my mind?
If she were a true-hearted woman,
Would not she, whose powers can
Wound me so, bring happiness?’
Hearing that love did so oppress
Gawain, seeing him struggle so
With love’s cares: ‘Such here below
Is e’er the rule, amidst the meadow
And the woods, concerning sorrow:
Sad today, and glad tomorrow,’
Said the ferryman, ‘everywhere
Where Clinschor’s lord. Your weight of care,
Not cowardice nor bravery
Can alter one iota, you see.
You may not be aware, but all
That in this country doth befall
Is marvellous, you understand,
Tis a great wonder this whole land,
And its magic holds night and day.
If a man is brave, then fortune may
Aid him here. But the sun is low,
And on board you both should go.’
The ferryman urged them so to do.
Gawain led Lischois, and the two
Boarded the ferry, the prisoner
Patiently, and without demur,
While the ferryman led the steed,
And once it was secured, indeed
The ferryman delayed no more.
Thus, they crossed to the other shore.
Gawain is a guest of Plippalinot, and meets his daughter Lady Bene
‘NOW in my house come play the host,’
The master said. Arthur could boast
No finer dwelling at Nantes indeed
Where he oft stayed. Gawain did lead
Lischois within, while the master
And his household did him honour.
‘See to the needs of this great lord,
And every comfort do him afford,’
The master said to his daughter,
‘He grants us much; go together.’
While she saw that this was done,
Gringuljete was housed by his son.
She did as bidden, most courteously,
And Gawain followed her as she
Led him to an upper chamber
Whose floor was strewn all over
With fresh rushes and bright flowers,
Companions of our happier hours.
The sweet girl unarmed him there.
‘May God reward you, for your care,
Said Gawain, ‘I am shamed, madam,
For were it not so decreed, I am
The object of too much attention.’
‘I wait on you for no other reason
Than your good favour, sir,’ she said.
The master’s son, a squire, well-bred,
With bolsters and cushions appeared.
Away from the door, a space he cleared,
Arranged them neatly, by the wall,
And laid a carpet before them all,
Where Gawain might sit, then spread
A red sendal coverlet o’er the bed,
And prepared a couch for his host.
Then a second squire who did boast
Fine table-linen, wine, and bread,
Entered the chamber in his stead,
And laid the table, as bidden him.
Next, the lady of the house came in,
Who warmly welcomed Lord Gawain:
‘We who were poor are rich again,
And Fortune smiles on us,’ she said.
His host entered; ere Gawain fed,
A squire a basin of water brought,
He washed his hands, as his host sought
To ensure all fitting for his guest.
And now Gawain made a request,
And asked his host for company:
‘Let this young lady dine with me.’
‘She never dined with lords before,
Or sat beside them, what is more,
For fear she’d run to pride’s excess,
Yet this is but one more kindness,
You have done us; daughter, I say,
Do as my lord doth wish, I pray.’
The girl, Bene, blushed, and again
Obeying, sat down beside Gawain.
The host’s two fine sons now brought
Crested larks his merlin had caught
On the wing; they served all three
To their guest, with a sauce, while she
Cut tasty morsels for Lord Gawain,
And on the good white bread was fain
To lay them, with her own fair hand,
For fine manners she did command.
‘Sir, of these birds, pray you, grant one
To my mother for she has none.’
He told her he would do her wish
In aught she might ask, as in this,
And so a lark was served promptly
To the lady of the house, and she
Acknowledged the gift with a bow,
While the host his thanks did avow.
Then one of the sons, to their guest,
Brought lettuce and purslane dressed
With vinegar (such a diet extended
For too long is scarce recommended
As the best way to give one strength
Or colour, yet what’s won at length
From what one eats e’er speaks true,
While, all too often, a lady’s hue
Is laid on o’er the skin these days;
Yet ne’er has won resounding praise.
I think the woman of constant heart
Bears a finer glow than that of art.)
Had Gawain fed on goodwill alone,
He’d have thriven well there, I own,
For no fond mother has ever wished
Her child more joy than his host wished
The guest who now did eat his bread.
And, once my Lord Gawain had fed,
And the host’s wife left the chamber
A bed of soft down, with a cover
Woven of green samite, was brought;
Though twas not one of the better sort.
A quilt then, of brocade, was spread
For Gawain’s comfort, o’er the bed,
Brocade without the thread of gold
Brought from heathen lands of old,
Quilted o’er ‘palmat’ silk, o’er this
Soft sheets of snowy linen, for his
Greater ease, were drawn; on them laid
Pillows, and a cloak, of ermine made,
Such as a young lady might wear.
The lord of the ferry left him there,
And went to his bed. Thus, tis said,
The girl was now host in his stead.
I think did he wish aught from her,
With his request she would concur,
But he needs to sleep, as best he can;
When daylight dawns, God aid the man!
End of Book X of Parzival