Wolfram von Eschenbach


Book XIII: King Arthur’s Expedition

Parzival - Book XIII

False Mercury
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 frees Duke Lischois and the Turkoyt

ARNIVE found this fellow annoying;

And sought to know where he was going.

‘See, when that squire returns,’ said she

To the guard, ‘that he waits on me;

I’ll question him; deploy your skill.’

Vexed that the squire thwarted her will,

From the duchess she sought the same,

Who yet made sure that Gawain’s name

Ne’er passed her lips, as he had sought.

Of him, and his lineage, she said naught.

Now the sound of trumpets rang out

Within the palace, and all about,

And other instruments were played,

And many tapestries, finely made,

Were hung as seat-backs on the walls;

Fine carpets too now floored the halls.

A miser might have been dismayed.

Throughout, the couches were o’er laid

With soft cushions, and all be-spread

With rich quilts, like some royal bed.

After his labours, Gawain lay

Still fast asleep beyond midday.

His wounds had been so expertly

Bandaged, indeed, that if he

Had lain beside a loving friend

It might well have helped him mend,

Though he was more disposed to rest

Than dream again of the Duchess.

He woke as evensong drew near,

And yet in sleep, once more, I fear,

In the lists of Love, had he fought

With Orgeluse, whom he yet sought.

Now, so I’m told, a chamberlain

Brought fine clothes to Lord Gawain,

Gleaming brocades, in greens and reds,

Weighted down with golden threads.

‘Let me have more of these!’ he cried

‘And as fine as these, and provide

The same to the Duke of Gowerzin

And fair Florant who doth ever win

Great renown in many a land.’

He sent a message, in his hand,

By his page, to Plippalinot,

Begging that Lischois be not forgot,

But led to him; and thereafter,

Came with him the lovely daughter,

Bene, because good will she bore

Gawain, and also, what is more,

When Gawain had left that day,

(She did weep, as he rode away),

He had, then, promised her father,

A handsome gift, and his favour.

Next, the Turkoyt arrived, and lo,

He was welcomed warmly also,

After which all gathered near,

Waiting for the clothes to appear.

These were of wondrous quality,

Richly tailored to suit all three.

A master-weaver named Sarant,

(Whose origin was far Triande)

From whom Seres took its name,

A man most eager to win fame,

Fine cloth of gold, ‘saranthasme’,

Had devised there, in fair Thasme,

(A place in Secundille’s fair land,

Larger than Nineveh, and planned

On a vaster scale than Acraton)

With great skill he worked thereon.

Now, ask me not if it looked fine,

For twas far costlier than mine!

Gawain and the others then dressed,

And went forth to join the rest,

The crowd of knights thronging the hall,

And the ladies; among them all,

A good judge might have said,

The Duchess seemed far ahead

Of the other ladies there. The host

And his male guests, dazzled almost,

Stood before Orgeluse, and he,

Gawain, set those two princes free,

Florant the Turkoyt, and also

The fair Lischois, and did show

His favour to them; for her sake,

This noble gesture he did make,

For which she, as free of deceit

As wise in all that doth complete

A woman’s glory, thanked Gawain.

He speaks with his sister Itonje and offers his aid

MEANWHILE, close by, he was fain

To notice beauty; there he had seen

The lovely trio, with the aged Queen

Arnive, and asked the princes then

To step forward, and then, again,

The three younger queens, to show

Them welcome, and a kiss bestow.

Bene was in his company,

And she too was greeted warmly.

Much disinclined to standing there,

He asked the two princes to share

Themselves among the ladies who

Were seated, as they chose to do,

For the men seemed quite content

To pursue his most courtly intent.

‘Where is Itonje?’ my Lord Gawain

Whispered to Bene, ‘I must gain

Her leave to sit down beside her,

If I may.’ The lovely daughter

Pointed her out, since twas his wish.

‘There! The lady with crimson lips,

And dark hair, and shining eyes.

If you’d speak with her, be wise,

Private, discreet, in that affair,’

Said decorous Bene, well aware

Of Itonje’s love and languishing;

For Gramoflanz, the noble king,

Was paying homage to her heart

With all of fond devotion’s art.

Gawain sat done beside the maid,

(According to the tale relayed)

Addressing her with that discretion,

That he had e’er in his possession.

For her part too, the fair Itonje

Owned to decorous ways, fully

In accord with her youthful years.

The question Gawain, it appears,

Would ask the girl, was whether she

Was in the throes of love, already.

‘Whom should I love?’ was her reply,

‘My lord, for since the day that I

Oped my eyes I ne’er said a word

To any knight, but this you’ve heard.’

‘Nonetheless,’ said my lord Gawain,

‘From fair report, you yet might gain

Knowledge of great honour achieved,

Bravely, through some chivalrous deed,

And of some knight, of valiant heart,

Ready to serve love, on his part.’

‘No word of serving me for love,’

Said the fair maid, ‘did any move;

Only, I know, brave knights desire

To serve the Duchess for their hire,

No doubt from love; no few such men

Have jousted here, yet none of them

Came so near, as you have, to us,

Your venture proving glorious.’

‘Against whom do her company

Of chosen men campaign?’ said he,

‘Who is he that’s lost her favour?’

‘King Gramoflanz, to whom honour

All accord, for he wears the very

Garland of worth and chivalry.

That is the most that I have heard.’

‘Then you shall have, in a word,

Better acquaintance of that same;

He is hard on the tracks of fame,

And pursues the matter manfully.

I have heard (this he said to me),

That driven by a passion of his,

He seeks to offer you his service,

If you’d deign to accept the same.

I seek your help, now, in his name,

To solace him, through love of you.

That love’s sweet pain should stir anew

In a king, through a king’s daughter,

Is as it should be. If your father,

Madame, was indeed King Lot,

Then it is to you he doth allot

A place in his heart; it is for you

That his sad heart goes weeping, too.

If you’re named Itonje, e’en so

Are you the cause of all his woe.

Let me now play the go-between.

Take up this ring, tis his; I mean,

The handsome lord; he sends it you.

I shall, in all, be good and true;

Take heart, and leave the thing to me.’

The girl changed colour, suddenly;

Red as her lips her cheeks did blush,

She turned quite pale, and in a rush

Spoke, as she stretched out her hand

To take the ring, at his command,

In fine confusion; she knew it well:

‘Tis clear, sir, if tis right to tell

Of such matters, that you are here

To speak for the man who is dear

To my heart. If with courtesy,

You’d act, be sworn to secrecy.

This gift was sent me once before;

For the noble king’s hand, it bore

This true token, you understand;

He received it from my own hand.

I am innocent of his suffering;

Whate’er he asked I’ve granted him

In my thoughts, and this he’d learn

If I could pass these walls in turn.

I kissed the Duchess Orgeluse,

Who seeks his death (it is not news

To you, I think) and so, that kiss

Was what they call a Judas kiss.

And twas faithless of me to grant

A kiss to the Turkoyt, Florant,

And to the Duke of Gowerzin!

Those who hate the noble king,

Gramoflanz, with unending hate,

I can scarce countenance of late.

Yet say naught to my dear mother,

Nor to Condrie, my sweet sister,’

Itonje pleaded with Lord Gawain.

‘My lord, you made me, once again,

Receive the Duchess’ kiss, and I

Was wounded to the heart, thereby.

If the King and I are e’er to be

Happy, to that you hold the key.

He loves me, above all the rest,

And I would see that he is blessed

With fair reward. He has my favour,

And that beyond any other.

May God inspire you with counsel

And aid, that, so, all may be well.’

Gawain said: ‘Tell me how, my lady.

You may possess him here, while he

Possesses you out there, and yet

You dwell apart. If such may be met

With any true service I were fain

To give, from which you both might gain,

I’d undertake it most faithfully.’

‘You shall dispose of us both’, said she,

‘May your help, and God’s blessing,

So aid our love, that I might bring

All the king’s sorrows to an end.

On me his happiness doth depend.

Since I a loyal woman would prove,

My heart would grant him my love.’

Feasting and entertainment at the palace

NOW the time had come to bring

The table-cloths and many a thing,

Into the ladies’ presence there.

The linen was both white and fair,

And, upon it, good bread was laid.

A simple decree had been made,

Whereby the knights had one side

All to themselves, the distance wide

Between them and the ladies there.

Gawain saw to the whole affair,

Seating the Turkoyt at his table.

Lischois shared a platter, as well,

With Gawain’s mother, fair Sangive;

The Duchess too with Queen Arnive;

And his two sisters did Lord Gawain

Ask to join him, if they would deign.

No student of the culinary art,

I lack the knowledge, for my part,

Of all the various dishes brought,

With due ceremony, for the court.

Fair maids served the host, and then

The guests and ladies, while the men

Served the knights, and each restrained

Himself from jostling, and retained

A proper distance from each maid,

As food, and wine, they each conveyed.

The meal might well be called a feast,

For such a sumptuous spread, at least,

Had not been theirs since Clinschor

Had bound them with his magic lore.

The knights and ladies seldom met

Despite their dwelling there; as yet

Many had not exchanged a word.

Now Gawain, by this feast, conferred

The power on all that company

To converse, each knight and lady,

And of his grace granted pleasure,

To them all, and in full measure.

He lacked no small contentment too,

For the fair Duchess he could view,

Glancing at her, amidst them all,

The one who held his heart in thrall.

Not the light had weakened so,

The sun’s radiance burnt so low,

That those clear harbingers of Night,

The twilight stars, gleaming bright,

Hastened, midst the clouds, to claim

Lodgement on earth, in her fair name.

Till, pursuing her banners, came

Night herself, to endorse that same.

Many a splendid chandelier

Hung midst the halls, far and near,

And soon their candles were all lit,

With others that were left to sit

Upon the tables, and burned away,

Although the tale goes on to say,

That Orgeluse shed such brightness

That even had the lights been less

In number, night would not have been

About her, for twas said her sheen

Was such that she shed daylight there.

From envy you should now forbear,

And grant that you ne’er saw a host

So pleasant; joy that feast did boast.

Glances fraught with longing passed

Both to and fro, and thick and fast,

Between the knights and ladies now,

And if any there did nod or bow

Who’d been less intimate before,

I’ll not cavil; I’ll say no more.

Gluttons excepted, they all ate

Till their appetites they did sate.

Gawain asked if there were to hand

Any fiddle-players; up did stand

Many a squire well-versed in such,

And yet, however skilled their touch,

Twas but old tunes they could play,

None that were new (as in our day

Come here to us, from Thuringia).

Now, thank the host, he was never

A one to thwart their enjoyment,

Fair ladies skipped past, their employment

Dancing in some woven pattern,

‘Knights amongst the ladies’ often;

Their aim to fend off pain and woe.

You could see the brave knights go,

With a lady there on either hand.

And you could see, amidst that band,

The joy won by knights who thought

To offer their service there, and sought,

(It being allowed to serve for love)

Poor in care rich in joy, to prove

The fact, by passing the time in talk

With sweet lips that did not balk

At such advances; and no small few;

Many the speech both good and true.

Gawain watched quietly, near Sangive,

Viewing the dance with Queen Arnive,

And there the lovely Duchess came,

And sat her down, by Lord Gawain.

He took her hand in his, moreover,

Speaking of one thing and another,

And he was glad that she was there.

He had forgot all sorrow and care,

For his happiness flowed, in full spate,

Gone, all that had plagued him of late.

Whatever joy might the dancers fill,

My Lord Gawain’s was greater still.

‘Have a thought to your comfort sire,’

Said Queen Arnive, ‘you may desire

To rest your wounds. If the Duchess

Has chosen now to be your mistress

Of healing, and bear you company,

This night, she owns many a remedy.’

‘Pray ask her,’ he replied, ‘For here

I’m in your hands, so it would appear.’

‘I shall have him in my own care,

‘Said the Duchess, ‘so, let all there

Go to their beds, and I’ll attend

Him better than a lover. Now, send

Brave knights to the Turkoyt, and to

The brave Duke of Gowerzin, too,

To entertain them.’ And, presently,

The dancing ceased; many a lady

Was seated next a knight; if any

Of those knights sought and received

A sweet response, then they believed

Happiness had avenged their woe.

The host called for the wine-cup though,

Which was the signal for dismissal,

Much to their sorrow, yet, in all,

He was a suitor as much as they,

And stirred by love, in the same way.

They, he thought, sat there too long.

Noble love spurred his heart along.

Orgeluse tends to Gawain’s comfort

SQUIRES led the knights to their rests,

Lighting them on, while his guests,

Lischois and Florant, he commended

To all, and thus the feasting ended,

That pair retired, while the Duchess

Graciously wished them of the best.

And now the ladies, in company,

With courtly gestures, left quietly;

Sangive departed, with Itonje,

To seek repose, as did fair Condrie.

Bene and Arnive made sure Gawain

Was settled at ease, and there again

Was the Duchess, to assist him.

These three brought comfort to him.

Two couches stood in his chamber,

I shall tell you naught however

Of how they were adorned, the tale

With other matters shall you regale.

‘Look to his comfort,’ said Arnive,

‘Should he need help to stay alive,

All that you give will do you honour,

Duchess; now I’ll stay no longer,

Except to say that his bandages

Are so bound well that passages

Of action, bearing arms, would not

Harm him, and yet, such is his lot,

That you must show him sympathy.

If you can soothe his pain twould be

Beneficial. And were you to raise

His spirits, you would gain our praise.

Now all the help you may, afford.’

After taking leave of her lord

Arnive departed; Bene did light

Her going, with a candle bright.

Lord Gawain then barred the door.

Now, I’m equipped to tell you more,

For if they knew how to steal love,

And thus, a pair of thieves did prove,

I might soon tell how it was done,

Except tis deplored by everyone,

Such intrusion on other’s privacy.

There’s a charge of impropriety,

If secret matters are disclosed,

And whoe’er does so is disposed

To damn himself. Let decorum be,

As regards Love, the lock and key

To guard Love’s rites. Now, the woe

That is love, and Orgeluse, had so

Worked to erode past happiness,

That had it not been for that Duchess

He would yet have perished, withal.

If all the philosophers, and all

Who ever tried to comprehend

The abstruse arts, and did lend

Their minds to such; as wise Thabit

Ibn Qurra, and then that smith,

Trebuchet (he who engraved

The fine sword, King Frimutel’s blade,

That of itself worked a marvel)

And all the physicians as well,

Had sought to ease his distress

With potent herbs, nonetheless,

Death had cured all his misery,

But for this woman’s company.

In short, he found the true hart’s-eye,

The wild dittany, and that, say I,

Helped to heal him, such that all

That was baneful ebbed withal;

(That herb shows purple on white).

Gawain, Lot’s son, that noble knight,

(A Briton on his mother’s side,

Though Lot in Norway did abide),

Sought soothing balm for his pain,

With gracious help, and did attain

It, by a means which he sought

To keep hidden from the court.

And, once well, he set to rights

All the ladies and the knights,

And all their sadness did dispel.

Gawain’s squire hands his letter to Queen Guinevere

NOW of Gawain’s young squire hear tell.

To Bems, on the Korcha, he’d been sent,

In the land of Löver, and there he went,

And found King Arthur, and the Queen,

Who midst a great host might be seen,

Many a lady and courtier.

Now hark to what the squire did here.

At early morning, he made his way

To the chapel where she did pray,

And there the fair Queen he did see,

Reading her psalter on bended knee.

The squire he knelt there before her,

And then his joyful gift did offer.

She took the letter from his hand

And, by the writing, did understand

Who had penned it, ere the squire

Could name his lord and his sire.

‘A blessing on the hand that writ

You,’ said the Queen, addressing it.

‘For I have been so full of care

Since I last saw the hand that there

Has placed the letters,’ and her eyes

Showed bright tears, though I surmise

That she was glad to see it too.

‘My Lord Gawain’s squire, are you?’

‘Yes, Ma’am, he sends all that is his,

True loyalty, and yet with this

Small joy, unless you make it great;

His honour is in a wretched state.

Then, further, he would have me say,

If I should meet with you this day,

That he would feel naught but pleasure

Should you console him in full measure.

Within the letter you may see,

Far more than you may learn from me.’

‘The purpose of this,’ said the Queen,

‘Is more than clear. As you have been

Good and true, likewise good service

I’ll perform; I’ll gather to this

Encounter all my ladies, fair,

Of this age’s fairest, for there

Are few to equal them; but for

Orgeluse, and Condwiramurs,

Parzival’s wife, I know none

So lovely in all Christendom.

When Lord Gawain did up and go

From Arthur, I felt naught but woe,

Fearful of what might lie in store.

Meljanz of Liz told me he saw

Gawain later, at Barbigoel.

Alas, that upon the Plimizoel

My gaze did ever light; sorrow

Befell me there; since that morrow,

My companion I’ve ne’er seen;

Sweet Cunneware de Lalant, I mean.

Many a thing was spoken before

The King there, that breached the law

Of the Round Table. Tis now four

And a half years and six weeks (sure

Is my count!) since brave Parzival

Rode forth to seek the Grail, withal.

It was then that Gawain, Lot’s son,

Set out, to ride to Ascalun.

There too Jeschute, and Ekuba,

Said their farewells; full many are

The regrets I feel, all which I find

So troubling to my peace of mind.’

To many a woe did she confess.

Guinevere sends the squire to seek King Arthur

‘NOW go from me, with swift address,’

She told the squire, ‘go hide away,

Till the sun is high, and all is day,

And all the folk, knights and squires,

All the household, dames and sires,

Are moving in and about the court.

Then trot to the courtyard, in short,

And, leaving your mount, go further,

To where the noble knights gather.

They will ask what news you bring.

Elbow your way, then, to the King,

Who’ll not forbear to welcome you,

Finding your errand good and true.

Hand him the letter, and from it he

Will soon learn your news, and see

Your master’s wishes, which he’ll grant,

As will all the nobles in the land,

For all will consent, and I’ll say more:

Speak openly, where three or four

Of the noble ladies, and I, can see,

That we may be seen to agree,

If you would save your master pain.

Now tell me, where is Lord Gawain?’

‘That I may not say,’ the squire replied,

‘Yet joy and pleasure are at his side.’

He was content with her instructions,

And hid, according to her directions,

Appearing when he was told to do.

At mid-morn he rode, fresh and new,

To the court, as openly as he could.

The courtiers thought his clothes quite good,

And judged him to be some lord’s squire.

His mount, they saw, had earned its hire,

Twas scarred on both flanks by the spur.

He leapt from his horse and made a stir,

As he’d been told, amidst the crowd,

And if his cloak was lost, he vowed,

(Or sword, or spurs, or e’en his horse),

To leave it so, and take his course

To where the brave knights did stand,

And give his news, at their command.

They say twas a custom, at that court,

No guest could dine unless they brought,

Fresh news of some strange adventure,

And thus, the courtly rule did honour.

‘I may tell you naught, ‘said the squire,

‘My business presses, tis my desire

To see the King; of a courtesy,

Tell me, now, where your lord might be.

I would have spoken with him sooner,

For I must, now, my mission further;

And you shall learn what I may tell,

Then God may inspire you, as well,

To grant him your aid, and sympathy.’

Arthur agrees to attend the duel at Joflanze

THE squire’s mission was such that he

Cared not who jostled him, till he

Forging a way, persistently,

Reached the King, and was welcomed there.

He handed him the letter, with care,

Which, as Arthur read, brought no less

Sorrow than it did happiness.

‘A blessing on this day!’ he cried,

‘For its brave light doth here provide

News of my nephew. If it lies

Within my power, as I surmise,

To do him service; if loyalty

To our friendship, and equally

Our ties of blood, mean aught at all,

I’ll answer his plea, whate’er befall.

Tell me,’ he said, ‘doth he maintain

Good heart and spirit, my Lord Gawain?’

‘Yes, Sire, joy’s his true companion,’

Replied the squire,’ yet if you abandon

Him to his fate, he’ll lose all honour.

Who could be happy thus? However,

Your help will lift him to the height

Of happiness and, there, delight

Will chase the cares from his heart,

Beyond sorrow’s gate! For his part,

He sends his devotion to the queen,

And hopes the company, I mean

All the knights of the Round Table,

Recall his loyalty, and feel able

To seal his happiness, and advise

You to attend, and they likewise.’

His lords begged the King to agree.

‘Take this letter, now, faithfully,

To the Queen, let her read the same,

And see of what we must complain,

And what gives reason for delight.

To think that this arrogant knight,

King Gramoflanz, should work so,

Bringing my own blood such woe!

He thinks Gawain but a Cidegast

Whom he conquered, at the last,

Though it brought him trouble enow.

Well, I’ll add to his trouble, now,
And teach him better manners too!’

The squire obeyed, without more ado,

And went where he was well received.

He gave the Queen the letter, which grieved

Many a maid, who shed a tear,

As twas read aloud, or so I fear,

As her sweet lips told of the wrong

That circumstance did now prolong,

Of which my Lord Gawain complained,

And the plea that his words contained.

The squire spared no effort to woo

Them all to the cause he did pursue,

Nor were all his efforts in vain.

King Arthur, being kin to Gawain,

Sought the approval of his men,

For an expedition, the Queen again

Lost not a moment in persuading

All her ladies, as to their going.

‘Came there ever a man,’ said Kay,

Like this brave lad, from far Norway?

Seize him! After him! Yet he’ll be

Skipping somewhere else entirely!

Like a squirrel, gone round a tree,

You’ll but lose him, it seems to me!’

‘I must hasten back to my lord,’

Said the squire, ‘Madame, afford

Him aid, pursue his interest,

With all the powers you possess.’

‘For this squire’s comfort now, obtain,’

The Queen said to her chamberlain.

‘Whatever he may require in dress,

Or ready money, his wants address,

Inspect his mount, and if the steed

Is unfit for riding, meet his need

With the best the castle here sires,

And supply what else he requires.’

Then she spoke to the squire again.

‘Give my respects to Lord Gawain,

I’ll make your farewells to the King.

Relay to your master everything

Spoken here, and the King’s intent,

And pass on his every compliment.’

The squire returns to Schastel Marveile

THE King mounted his expedition,

Such that the formal constitution

Of the Round Table was honoured.

The news they had learnt, moreover,

That noble Gawain was living yet

Raised their spirits whene’er they met.

All the Round Table’s solemn rites

Were observed by the band of knights,

The King presiding, amidst those men

Who’d garnered fame, time and again,

As the prize for their endeavour;

And, to all, the news gave pleasure.

Now the squire who had conveyed

Gawain’s message, and had obeyed

Every instruction of the Queen,

Prepared to leave; and he had been

Supplied with money, and a mount,

And a change of clothes, on account.

He set out cheerfully since Arthur

Had sworn Gawain’s fears were over.

Though he went by the swiftest way,

How long he took, who can say.

At Schastel Marveile, Queen Arnive,

Was pleased to see him yet alive;

The guard had told her he’d returned

In good time, for his steed had earned

A goodly rest, he’d so spurred him.

Arnive went secretly to meet him,

When he entered, so she might ask

Where he had been, and of his task.

‘I must be silent,’ replied the squire,

‘I dare not tell, may not conspire

To say aught being bound by oath.

And to break that I am full loth,

For my lord would be displeased,

And think all loyalty had ceased.

Pray ask him yourself, my lady.’

She tried to corner him, but he

Replied, ‘No point detaining me,

My duty doth not leave me free;

Madame, I shall fulfil my oath.’

He found Gawain seated with both

His guests, and the ladies, within;

For, beside the Duke of Gowerzin,

Florant the Turkoyt sat with them,

The Duchess of Logroys, and then

That host of ladies. The squire came,

To present himself to Lord Gawain,

Who rose to his feet and took the lad

Aside and welcomed him, and bade

Him say what reply he had brought

To his message, from Arthur’s court.

‘Did you hand the letter to the King?

Is’t good news or bad that you bring?’

‘Yes, my Lord, both the King and Queen

I found there, and they both have seen

The missive, greet you, and consent,

To assisting you in your intent.

I said you were alive and well,

And of your loyalty I did tell,

And a noble gathering I did see;

The Round Table, and its company

Were there, and if ever a name

Had force among those men, if fame

And noble qualities were to count

Among them, your fame must mount

To the heights, and there preside

Over all others’ both far and wide.’

Then he said how he saw the Queen,

And heard her counsel, and had seen

The many knights and ladies who

He would see, when the time fell due,

At Joflanze. And so, Lord Gawain

Banished care and did thus attain

In his brave heart true happiness;

For joy had ended all his distress.

He forbade the squire to say a word,

And, silent regarding all he’d heard,

Sat down once more. Thus, he stayed,

At ease in his palace, till timely aid

Arrived. Now hear of joy and woe.

Arnive speaks of Clinschor and his magic arts

GAWAIN seemed quite contented, so.

One morning, when many a knight

And lady was there, out of sight,

Gawain and Arnive sat together,

In an alcove, above the river;

And she knew many a strange tale.

‘My dear lady, I must not fail

To ask about matters hidden

From me, if that may be forgiven.

Through your aid I’ve lived awhile

Amid rare pleasures, in fine style,

And benefited from your kindness

Such that my suffering grew less,

And was assuaged in due course;

For the Duchess captured, by force,

My manly heart, if twas ever such.

Had not your aid brought me much

Easement, and so delivered me

From my bandages, assuredly,

I should have died of my love,

And my wounds. Yet you did prove

My salvation, for now I thrive,

Tis thanks to you, I am alive.

Now, most blessed lady, I’d hear

About the magic that was here

And is here yet, and why Clinschor

Has wrought those spells and more;

Spells that nigh cost me my life.’

Now, no young woman, no fair wife

E’er grew old and brought such glory

To her sex as this wise lady:

‘My lord, the rare enchantment

He weaves here (tis ever-present)

Is naught beside the mighty spells

He casts elsewhere. He who tells

Tales of us, and casts the blame

Upon us, sin clings to that same.

Clinschor has vented his spleen

On many a land and race, I ween,

Now, sir (I’ll speak more openly)

Terre de Labur was his country;

From Virgil of Naples his descent,

Who, in his time, was ever intent

On devising enchantments rare.

Clinschor wrought as follows there.

His capital city was Capua.

The paths he trod seeking honour,

Were so high that honour he won.

Thus, this Duke Clinschor was one

To whom men and women did bow;

Till disaster struck, and this is how.

There was a King of Sicily,

Called Ibert, and his fair lady

Was Iblis, the loveliest wife

That ever graced this mortal life.

The Duke fought as her servitor,

And she rewarded Duke Clinschor

With her love. Twas for this the king

Wrought on him a shameful thing.

If I am to tell his secret now,

Your good leave must such allow,

For tis improper of me to name

The circumstance that brought him shame,

Through which he became a sorcerer.

A cut made a capon of Clinschor.’

He could not refrain from laughter,

But she continued, ‘He did suffer

This blow at Caltabellota,

Near Sciacca, known for its strength.

It seems the king had, at length,

Discovered Clinschor with his wife

Asleep in her embrace, his life

Was forfeit but, for that warm bed,

He left a down payment instead,

Clipped twixt his legs by a royal hand,

The sovereign’s due, you understand.

The king had trimmed his body so

That he was no longer fit to go

With any woman for her sport.

And many have suffered, in short,

For this. Twas in far Persida,

(The place, not the land of Persia)

That true magic was first derived.

Clinschor sought it, and contrived

The means, by rare enchantment,

Of mastering his every intent.

Because of all his bodily shame

He no longer, through that same,

Bears to man or woman goodwill.

Since it gratifies his heart, still,

To deny those who are worthy

All such happiness entirely.

Of Rosche Sabins there was a king,

Irot, who feared just such a thing.

So, he offered to grant Clinschor

All that he possessed and more,

And so escape his persecution,

Thus, Clinschor gained, by his action,

This place, famed for its great strength,

And land around, eight miles in length.

Upon the rock, as you can see,

Clinschor wrought ingeniously,

To found this castle, and did bring,

To it, many a precious thing.

Should any wish to besiege it,

Provisions are stored within it,

Sufficient to last thirty years,

Allaying the defenders’ fears.

Over all that haunts the aether,

Clinschor displays great power;

All of those beings, between

Earth’s boundary and the unseen

Firmament; all things malign;

And even those which are benign,

Except the ones God doth protect.

Yet since, failing of dire effect,

The danger to you was averted,

His gift from Irot has reverted,

To yourself, and never again,

Shall Clinschor, my Lord Gawain,

Concern himself with this place,

Nor this land will he now grace

With his presence. We had heard,

And Clinschor’s a man of his word,

That whoever strove with honour

And succeeded in that venture

Would be free of persecution,

And the gift rest with that person.

Your many subjects, here, have come

From every part of Christendom

Men and women, and maids too,

Whoe’er came within his view.

Here too dwells many an infidel

Constrained to live in this castle.

Let us return, all this company,

To the distant places where we

Are mourned. Exile chills my heart.

May He, who, with eternal art,

Framed the stars, guide you now

In aiding us; and may you allow

All here to find true happiness.

What mother is it bears no less

A child than its own grandmother?

From water ice, from ice forever

Comes pure water. Of happiness

I was born, and should I confess

To joy again, then, of this mother,

One progeny would bear another.

And you may bring all this about.

Tis long since happiness was out.

A ship moves swiftly under sail,

Walk aft to fore you cannot fail

To progress yet more swiftly still.

If you understand this parable,

Your fame will prosper. Now you

Have the power to move us too,

And make us shout for joy, and so

Take joy with us, whene’er we go,

To many friends who fear for us.

Once my life was full glorious

I wore a crown, my daughter too,

Regally crowned, princes did view,

As she passed with due solemnity

Before their eyes, both I and she

Enjoyed high station. Sir, I never

Have plotted harm to any man

Respect for all was e’er my plan.

Thanks to God, I was ever seen,

Rightfully as my country’s queen,

For I ne’er did wrong to anyone.

Let every decent woman be one

Who treats honest people kindly,

For she can be rendered, easily,

So wretched e’en a serving-lad

Might aid her escape from the sad

Circumstances that shut her in.

I have watched and waited herein

For many a day, and none, my lord,

Came to this place that knew me, or

Looked to free my heart from care,

Or my true counsel sought to share.’

‘If I live, madam,’ said Lord Gawain,

‘You shall know happiness again.’

King Arthur comes to Schastel Marveile

THAT very day, good King Arthur,

Of whom Arnive was the mother,

She who was lamenting but now,

Arrived there, to honour his vow,

And the bonds of kinship. Gawain

Saw banners moving o’er the plain,

While mounted squadrons did cover

The fields, from Logroys to the river,

Their pennants bright against the sky.

He was right joyful then, say I,

For when a man waits thus, delay

Makes him afraid that, on the day

That reinforcements come, he’ll find

Them far from enough. Yet his mind

Was clear now, all doubts were gone;

How bravely he saw them coming on!

He shrank from being gazed at then,

Lest he was seen by his own men

To shed a tear; his eyes shone bright,

Nor would they serve as watertight

Cisterns, for they shed drops of joy!

Arthur had reared him since a boy,

And such was their mutual loyalty

Twas never threatened by perfidy,

But ran strong and true evermore.

Nevertheless, Queen Arnive saw

His tears. ‘Come, raise a shout of joy,

My lord,’ she said, you must employ

Some means to cheer all who are here.

Guard against sorrow, for now appear

The Duchess’ men; twill console you.’

Pavilions and banners came in view,

Borne to the meadow, yet only one

Of their insignia did this Queen

Recognise, for there she had seen

That of Uther Pendragon’s Marshal,

Isajes, though twas borne withal

By Maurin of the Handsome Thighs,

The Queen’s Marshal, to her surprise,

For this Queen Arnive could not know

Uther, and Isajes, were dead, and so

Maurin now held a place, of right,

Like to his father, that true knight.

Towards the quay, o’er the meadow,

The Great Household now did flow.

The Queen’s men-at-arms set down

Tents and pavilions on the ground,

Beside a clear swift-running stream

Well-suited for the ladies, I’d deem.

Many a fine tent rose on high.

Arthur, and his knights, would lie,

Not far distant; they’d leave many

A wide track behind on this sortie.

Gawain sent Bene down to his host,

Plippalinot, to order the ferryboats,

And other vessels, to be made fast,

So that the army might not pass

The river, that day, and Bene won

A first gift from King Lot’s son,

For Gawain, from his goodly store,

To her, with his own hands, he bore

Swallow; that rare harp she’d play,

Famed yet, in England, in our day.

Bene went happily to her father

While Gawain gave out the order

That the outer gates be barred.

Now young and old he did regard,

And uttered a courteous plea:

‘Across the river, as you can see,

A mighty army seeks to gather,

Nor have I e’er seen a greater

Massing, whether on land or sea.

If they attack, I shall be ready

To offer them battle, with your aid.’

Signs of agreement they relayed,

Then asked the fair Duchess if she

Knew whose was this great army.

‘I recognise nor banners nor men,’

She replied, ‘perchance once again

King Gramoflanz invades my land

And seeks to harm me as he planned

Before; perchance beneath the wall

At Logroys, his men fight and fall,

For, I fancy, the defenders their

Will fight well in such an affair,

And match the foe there, man for man,

At each redoubt and barbican.

If King Gramoflanz there did stand

He seeks revenge for the fair garland.

Whoe’er it might be, he would face

Raised lances, poised, in that place.’

Her last words were true, indeed;

Arthur’s men worked many a deed

Of chivalry ere his army passed,

The high walls of Logroys, at last.

His knights had incurred much harm

And repaid it, many a strong arm

Had wielded weapons, in their reply,

And many were hard pressed thereby.

Now here there gathered those, tis said,

Who’ll fight for their shirts, if well led.

Weary from the fighting they came,

Tough warriors, their place to claim.

Some losses had both sides suffered,

Garel and Gaherjet were captured,

And King Meljanz of Barbigoel,

And brave Jofreit, son of Idoel,

All four were taken into that place,

And did the halls of Logroys grace.

The Britons had won from Logroys,

The Duke Friam of Vermendoys,

And Count Ritschart of Navers,

Who broke but one lance in such affairs,

For no matter whom he opposed

Those men fell to his skilful blows.

Arthur felled him with his own hand,

That warrior known in many a land.

Thereupon without thought of danger,

Such charges they’d sought to deliver

On each side that, were lances trees,

A forest had been cleared with ease.

Joust after joust made splinters fly,

As the Britons had sought thereby

To press and counter the Duchess’ men.

Arthur’s rear-guard had charged again

This foe, that harassed them all day,

To where the mass of their army lay.

Now, truly, Gawain should have told

Orgeluse that her own stronghold

Might face his ally on her own land!

Then none had fought at her command.

But he had said naught of this affair,

Till he knew that Arthur was there;

For he acted, now, as it suited him.

His tents and baggage, he did begin

To prepare for his march to meet

King Arthur. Now he did greet

His knights and squires and men,

Handing out lavish gifts to them,

And the ladies, with such a will,

Their every need sought to fulfil,

On such a liberal scale that he

Seemed rid of this world; all did agree

True aid had come to them at last,

And they were free of sorrows past.

He ordered baggage-mules, armour

For the knights, and sought to honour

The ladies with palfreys. He took care

To encase the men-at-arms in steel;

He clad them, fully, head to heel.

And then he took four knights aside,

Made one his Marshal there to ride,

Another his faithful Chamberlain,

A third his Butler, a fourth, again,

His Steward, such that all these four

His coat of arms and emblems bore,

And would perform his every wish;

Thoughts of the duel he did relish.

Gawain’s troops ride to Joflanze

NOW, let Arthur unmoving lie;

Gawain all greeting did deny,

Though he found it hard to refrain;

So, trumpets blaring, once again

Arthur rode forth, at early morn,

To Joflanze, the rear-guard sworn

To defend the army from attack,

Yet they soon followed in his track

On seeing no sign of an enemy.

Gawain observed them, eagerly,

Then he drew his officers aside,

And ordered his Marshal to ride

To Joflanze and the meadow there,

Seeking to hasten the whole affair.

‘I seek my own camping-ground,

And there that army will be found;

Now I must name their lord to you,

Tis Arthur, my uncle, whom I view

As a second father, for at his court

I was raised; and his aid I’ve sought.

Equip our march to Joflanze field

With noble armour, lance and shield,

So that its splendour will be plain

To all eyes, and, for now, refrain

From letting the fact be known here

That tis for my sake, he doth appear.’

They did as he asked. Plippalinot

Gathered his vessels to the spot,

Every boat, and barge, and galley,

And with the Marshal he did ferry

All that brave company across,

Horse and foot; without a loss,

The Marshal marched them away,

Upon King Arthur’s tracks, I say.

A great pavilion too they bore,

(Which Iblis had sent to Clinschor,

As a love-gift, thus was it known

That they were lovers) and, I own,

Naught was spared in its creation,

Never a better, without question,

Was e’er wrought, with cunning art,

But for that owned by Isenhart.

Now the pavilion was raised high,

With many another pitched nearby

To form a wide and spacious ring,

This was to be Gawain’s lodging;

Arthur’s tent stood not far away.

All gleamed in magnificent array,

While the King, in his inner court,

Of the Marshal received report,

Of who was pitching camp beside

Them in the field, nor did he hide

That Lord Gawain was on his way,

And would arrive ere close of day.

This was the common talk of all.

Gawain had now set out, withal,

Marching with his grand company,

As fine as sight as one might see,

So noble that it seemed a wonder.

There went many a burdened sumpter,

Bearing field-chapels, and dress,

Piles of weapons, of shields no less,

And brave helmets topping the load,

While beside them, along their road,

Paced many a fine Castilian horse;

Knights and ladies held their course

Riding behind them; in full strength

The army stretched a league in length.

Gawain ensured each lovely lady

Had a brave knight for company,

And foolish they’d have been if no

Talk of love accompanied them so.

Florant the Turkoyt rode that day

With the fair Sangive of Norway,

Lischois rode beside sweet Condrie,

While Gawain’s sister Itonje

Was asked to ride next that lord,

As Arnive the Duchess did afford

Her companionship on the way.

He meets with Arthur

MATTERS transpired thus that day:

Gawain’s encampment was placed

Such that to reach it his steed paced

Through that of King Arthur’s army.

And all must gaze at this company

Passing there amidst them, slowly.

Gawain asked that the first lady

Halt at King Arthur’s ring, her ‘knight’

At her side, and yet not alight,

While the Marshal saw that another

Pair rode up, and halted beside her,

And on round in the same manner,

Young or old, lady and ‘lover’,

And so on till all of Arthur’s ring

Was circled by ladies’ glittering

In the light. Only now Gawain,

Thrice-fortunate, by Arthur was fain

To be received, and, if you ask me,

He greeted him most affectionately.

Arnive dismounted, and her daughter

With the fair children of the latter;

Gawain, and Orgeluse, and Florant,

Lischois too; as Arthur advanced

Towards these illustrious persons

Welcoming them in friendly fashion.

As did his Queen, who met Gawain

With affection, while now, and again,

The ladies exchanged many a kiss.

‘Who are your companions in this?’

Asked King Arthur of his nephew,

As they all passed before his view.

‘I must see my lady kiss each man

For their lineage urges such a plan.’

Florant was kissed by Guinevere,

As was Lischois who waited near.

They first retired to his pavilion,

Then Arthur mounted his Castilian

And rode around the splendid ring

Of ladies, and the knights attending

On them, and gave them welcome,

Every man, and every woman

For it seemed, where’er he did go,

That fair ladies filled the meadow,

Since it had been Gawain’s desire

That all should keep the ring entire

Till he himself has ridden away;

Such was courtliness in that day.

Arthur dismounted and went within,

Sat with his nephew, asking him

About the ladies, and his adventure,

So, Gawain these words did venture,

Courteously addressing the Briton:

‘You, sire, come of Uther Pendragon

Born of his wife here, Queen Arnive,

And here now is my mother Sangive,

And these two are my lovely sisters

Are they not fairer now than others?’

(Here was a new round of kissing,

Laughter and tears were in their meeting,

For great joy affected them so,

Lips conveyed laughter and woe,

With the presence, in equal measure,

Of past grief, and present pleasure)

‘Nephew,’ the king asked again,

‘Who is this lovely fifth?’ Gawain,

Said, courteously: ‘the fair Duchess

Of Logroys is she, and I no less

Than her liege lord. Now I am told

Against her your men made bold

Incursion; tell me then the cost

Of what you or she have lost.

And be not silent, like a widow,

Come tell this lady all you know!’

‘The Duchess has your maternal

Kinsman Gaherjet, and Garel,

Tireless in attack, her prisoner;

Snatched from my side, was the latter,

As we drove close to their barbican.

And then the feats of that bold man

Meljanz of Liz, in sorry manner,

Captured beneath his white banner,

Where the black, sable-cut arrow,

Stained with heart’s blood, did show,

His emblem denoting suffering.

All the company round him riding

Shouted ‘Lirivoyn!’ right fiercely!

Yet all that they won, so gloriously,

They took with them to the keep.

Jofreit, my nephew, he doth sleep

A captive behind those four walls.

I led the rear-guard, thus it befalls,

While our attack met with disaster.’

He’d much to say about the matter.

‘There was no dishonour in the act,’

Said Orgeluse, with a woman’s tact,

‘You’ve never sought favour of me;

If you’ve harmed me in some degree,

For you, indeed, captured my friends,

May God help you to make amends.

You have ridden to assist Gawain

Who had he fought me, I maintain,

Had found me without all defence,

And thrust at me in like innocence.

If he would renew the contest so,

Never a sword need strike a blow.’

‘How then if we,’ said Lord Gawain,

‘With yet more knights did fill the plain,

For we may achieve that readily.

I am sure the Duchess will free

Her prisoners, and order her men

To join us, strengthening us again.’

‘Agreed!’ cried Arthur. The Duchess

Did both matters swiftly address,

And never, in all imagining,

Was there a more splendid gathering.

Gawain asked leave to go his way

To his pavilion, and would not stay.

The King so granted; the company,

My Lord Gawain’s, went cheerfully;

All, indeed, who’d ridden with him,

To his quarters now accompanied him.

His camp was luxurious, poverty

Marred not the splendour of chivalry.

Many knights came to greet him then,

Who had regretted his leaving them.

As to Kay, recovered of the pain

That he by the Plimizoel did gain,

In that painful joust, he gazed long

At the riches of this pavilion.

‘We feared no rivalry then,’ he cried,

When his father was at our side,

Brave Lot, the King’s brother-in-law;

No separate rings of tents we saw!’

Kay was still brooding on the fact

Gawain had seen fit not to act,

And avenge him, when he met harm

And Parzival shattered his right arm.

‘It seems God’s wonders never cease!

Who has granted Gawain all these

Ladies?’ said Kay, whose mockery

Of his friends was scarcely seemly.

A loyal friend should rest content,

And joy at a friend’s advancement.

Tis the disloyal one that cries woe

When his friend doth Fortune know,

And he’s there to witness her favour.

Gawain met with Fortune and honour.

Who is the man has need of more?

Though some will envy him, tis sure,

Yet it should gladden a man of spirit

If a friend’s actions do him credit,

And he scorns dishonour. Gawain

Who every treachery did disdain,

Was mindful of manly faithfulness,

And no man should have felt distress,

If he was granted Fortune’s favour,

Winning fame on the paths of honour.

You’ll ask how that man of Norway

Cared for all of his guests that day.

Arthur and all his retinue

Had the opportunity to view

All the wealth and hospitality

Of Lot’s noble son, and his courtesy.

But they are entitled to their sleep,

After that supper, nor would I keep

Those lovely ladies from their rest!

Thus, they departed, every guest.

Arthur sends envoys to King Gramoflanz

NEXT morn, ere the sun rose, came there

A force of the Duchess’ knights, and fair

Gleamed their crests by the moon’s light

As from the camp men viewed the sight;

All through that camp they went riding,

To the far side, and Gawain’s tent ring.

A man who such forces can command

Through the strength of his right hand,

He deserves full credit indeed.

Gawain asked his Marshal to proceed

With the task of leading them to where

They might pitch their tents, and there

The men of Logroys set many a ring

Of fine pavilions; by mid-morning,

They were all lodged. But now new

Cares approach, and more than a few.

Arthur sent envoys on their way

To Rosche Sabins, who were to say

To King Gramoflanz that since he

Would not waive the duel set to be

Fought with his nephew, that same

Would grant it him, if he but came

To meet them soon, for it appeared,

Or so King Arthur greatly feared,

He’d not forego it, where another

Would yet have foreseen dishonour.

Gawain rides forth and encounters Parzival

NOW Gawain asked Lischois and Florant

To show him the knights of many lands

Who were Love’s servitors, that army

Of Love, who had, devotedly,

Served Orgeluse, in hopes that they

Might garner high reward someday.

He rode to them and spoke so well

They acclaimed him; for all could tell,

The noble nature of the man.

This done, he carried out the plan

In his mind and, in secrecy,

He made his way, all privately,

To his great wardrobe chamber,

And cased his body in armour,

To find if his wounds had healed

Sufficiently to address the field,

Now wishing to test every limb,

As knights and ladies, watching him

In the duel, would seek to judge

Whether he suffered overmuch.

He asked, then, for Gringuljete,

And gave the steed rein, for, as yet,

He knew not if they both were fit

For battle, and would thus acquit

Themselves well in the coming fight.

No excursion of the gallant knight

Troubles me as much as does this.

For from the camp he did vanish

And rode far off over the plain.

May Fortune guard my Lord Gawain.

Beside the Sabins ran his course.

A knight, motionless on his horse,

He saw there, whom we might call

A touchstone of manliness, a fall

Of sharp hail descending fiercely

On many a brave knight. Perfidy

Was never an entrant to his heart,

Nor was he tainted in any part;

He bore no burden of dishonour.

Never a span, not half a finger

Of baseness touched the man. A word

Or two, of him, you may have heard

Already, for now the tale returns

To its true stem, and new glory earns.

End of Book XIII of Parzival