René d'Anjou

The Book of the Heart Seized by Love
(Le Livre du Coeur d’Amour Épris)

Part III: Coeur's Rescue

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2023 All Rights Reserved.

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Chapter XLVI: Melancholy visits Coeur in his prison cell

Now the tale relates that when Coeur had fallen into Lady Sadness’ dungeon in the castle named Devoid-of-Joy, as has been described previously, he was extremely surprised and annoyed. One thing above all grieved him sorely: that he might never be freed, since the castle where he was imprisoned lay in a distant and most inhospitable country, and far from the sight of benign folk; and he feared his companion, Desire, might be dead or at least a prisoner, for it seemed to him that Desire had not the strength to fight Trouble and his people, not thinking that Desire would be able to escape as he had done.

He remained without food or drink that night, having only partaken of that which he and his companion, Desire, had already received, the morsel of bread and the sour wine that is, which, as you have heard, Sadness had provided; and he could not prevent the tears welling from his eyes.  After lying awake, for most of a night that felt most painful to him, reflecting on his plight, he slept till dawn, though he knew not if it was night or day, for no light penetrated his prison.

That morning, about the hour of Tierce, Sadness sent a messenger to Melancholy, her close relative, asking Melancholy to re-join her at the castle named Devoid-of-Joy, and to bring a loaf of bread made from harsh pain, and a flask of water from the River of Tears, of both of which the two companions, Coeur and Desire, had already partaken, and informed her also that she wished her to guard Coeur, the Heart seized by love, who was now her prisoner. And once Melancholy had received and read the message from her cousin Lady Sadness, she was pleased though scarcely joyous, for it was not in her nature to feel joy.

She departed swiftly, her shoulders bearing the bread and water Sadness had demanded, and took herself to the castle named Devoid-of-Joy, for it was but a short journey from her dwelling to that place. Her cousin Sadness came to meet her, welcomed her warmly, and told her in detail how she had come to capture and imprison Coeur. She conferred on Melancholy the task of guarding him, which was accepted willingly; the latter asking if Coeur had eaten that day; Sadness replied that he had not, so Melancholy took up the bread and water she had brought, and asked to be conducted to where Coeur was being held. Trouble, who was present, led her immediately to the trapdoor that gave entry to Coeur’s cell. She bent down, and called out to Coeur:

Chapter XLVI: She addresses the imprisoned Coeur

‘O wretched Coeur, are you there?

What devil dropped you through the air?

You and Desire, your companion,

Set forth on a wretched mission,

To attain and win Sweet Mercy,

(Such you willed, incontinently)

By force, not foreseeing trouble;

So much for that foolish counsel!

A most presumptuous pair are you:

You’re a rascal, and he makes two!’

Chapter XLVII: Coeur’s dream

Then she threw down the bread of harsh pain to him, and poured out the water from the River of Tears that she had brought, and when Coeur tasted them, he knew, by the savour, that he had partaken of them before, and understood that the old hypocrite Melancholy had come merely to view him, not because she wished him well. He therefore fell into thoughts so gloomy that he nigh-on died of sadness; he could not bring himself to eat, and was left in dark despair, such that he could scarce recall a single memory of his mistress Hope.

Yet it was at that very moment he felt wholly comforted, and ate and drank a little to restore himself, though the nourishment offered him did him scant good. And once he was moderately refreshed by that unappetising meal,

he slept awhile, for he had found but an ill rest the previous night.

He dreamed that a white turtle dove led the way for a flight of three nightingales accompanied by a host of other birds, that followed singing, who came to visit him: beating their wings, they struck the keep in which he was imprisoned so forcefully that they levelled it more effectively than blows from a cannonade, shattering it to pieces entirely. Then he emerged from his dungeon, safe and sound. But now the tale ceases to tell of Coeur, and returns to speak of Renown and his companions, so as to relate how Renown came to Coeur’s rescue. 

Chapter XLVIII: Renown and his troops take the castle

Now the tale tells that when Renown had forcefully admonished his companions, and exhorted them to do their best, as you have heard previously, they waited not a moment but rode forward, as swiftly as their steeds could carry them, as far as the brink of the ditches that defended the castle named Devoid-of-Joy, leapt to the ground, and, before the master of the castle, Trouble, and his folk were aware of it, reached the foot of the wall. Meanwhile Pleasure and Enjoyment, those valiant young men, rested not: alone, the pair headed for the castle-gate, and found it but ill-guarded, for at that moment Anxiety, the champion of the keep, had as yet scarcely woken from sleep, and had not yet risen. They therefore attained the first barrier, before Anxiety advanced towards them to defend the portal. But Pleasure, that noble youth, dealt him such a blow to the head that he promptly fled, abandoning the gateway, while Pleasure and Enjoyment promptly entered the castle and reached the keep.

As for Renown and his troops, who delivered their assault from another direction, they soon scaled the wall by means of ladders, so effectively that they were at once within the castle, crying loudly: ‘The keep is ours!’; so loudly that Trouble and his folk, who were yet asleep within, awoke and set themselves to defending it, though with little success, for Renown signalled the assault with trumpets and bugles, and they assailed the keep so furiously and skilfully that, in no time at all, it was captured.

When Trouble and Sadness realised that fortune was not on their side, they fled secretly with their troops, through a cunningly-placed postern, into the incredibly dense undergrowth, and from there, accompanied by Ill-Talk, to the place where, ever since, they have caused many an ill and annoyance to the god of Love and his followers. Meanwhile Renown and his companions, having taken the castle named Devoid-of-Joy, searched everywhere seeking Trouble, the lord of the place, and his friend Sadness, but all in vain, since they had fled. They searched, from the summit to the depths, so thoroughly and effectively that they found the dungeon where Coeur was imprisoned.

Desire, who was in the lead, and recognised the place where he had previously met with such fear, reached the entrance to the dungeon, and called out to his companion, Coeur, who had awoken from his dream, and listened with full attention as soon as he heard a voice. Nonetheless, he was not absolutely sure that it was his companion, Desire, astonished as he was to hear his name being called, and Desire, perceiving that Coeur might be unsure of his identity, spoke to him in these terms:

Chapter XLVIII: Desire calls to the imprisoned Coeur

‘Ah, Coeur, my friend, have no fear,

I beg you; nay, be of good cheer!

For you are of Love’s company

Who sends you succour, willingly.

Honour has sent Renown, for he

Will hear of naught till you are free.

And so, Renown, at his command,

Is here, with all his martial band.

He’s taken the castle by assault,

And all is won, from floor to vault.

Yet it seems to me a marvel

To find no trace of vile Trouble,

Or of Sadness his bosom friend,

He nor she do the keep defend:

It seems that neither can be found.

Would that they both were underground!

For I suspect they’ll work much ill,

Being so full of malice still.

Now, companion, climb above,

And from that evil place remove!

It is Desire who summons you,

To prove his love forever true.’

Chapter XLIX: Then rescues Coeur from the dungeon

On hearing these words, Coeur knew for certain that his companion, Desire, was there. He was filled with joy, and rose to his feet. Desire let down a rope to which a wooden bar was attached, and told Coeur to seat himself on the bar, and hold tightly, with both hands, to the rope, which Coeur did. Then Desire, with the aid of the two knights Pleasure and Enjoyment, drew him from the dungeon.

Once free of his prison, Coeur raised his eyes and saw Desire, his loyal companion, before him. He clasped him vigorously, and they embraced so warmly, that they nigh on fainted from the heights of joy they experienced on seeing one another again. After a while, once they had come to themselves, Coeur gazed at Desire, and when he was able to speak, addressed him in the following manner:

Chapter XLIX: Coeur expresses his relief

‘Desire, my faithful companion,

Loyal as ever, in all that’s done,

True love for me you show indeed,

Saving me, in my hour of need,

For I would surely have been slain;

Twas Sadness did my fate ordain,

Filled with deep anger against me.

Yet, the Lord be thanked, I am free!’

Chapter L: Coeur is introduced to Renown and his companions

Then Desire took Coeur by the hand and introduced him to the two knights Pleasure and Enjoyment, urging him to thank them for the welcome aid they had granted him, which he did most courteously. Then Desire led him to Renown and the other barons, who were taking refreshments in one of the chambers, and introduced him to Renown, counselling Coeur to thank him humbly for his assistance. Coeur did so willingly and, setting one knee to the ground, addressed the latter.

Chapter L: Coeur thanks Renown for his aid

‘Renown, most noble lord, to you

Your servant offers what is due;

Here, I, Coeur, thank you most humbly,

In that you, so diligently,

Have rescued me, for, in a breath,

You saved me from a cruel death;

I’ll yet repay your aid to me,

For I will serve you, faithfully.’

Chapter LI: Renown praises Coeur

Then Renown took Coeur by the hand, made him rise, and spoke as follows:

‘Ah, Coeur, yet you deserved that same,

Already you had served my name.

Naught could have, you may depend,

Barred me from aiding you, my friend.’

Chapter LII: The company ride to Honour’s camp

Then Renown saw that Coeur was given food and drink, of which he had great need, and when he had eaten and drunk with the rest, Renown ordered that the castle be razed to the ground, and those who were given the task hastened to see it accomplished. Not long after, they sounded the trumpets, raised camp, and rode swiftly in the direction of Honour’s camp.

As they journeyed, Renown never ceased to address Coeur, questioning him as to his adventures and his captivity, while Coeur related what had occurred. They progressed so quickly that they soon reached the army; the barons dismounted before Honour’s pavilion, and Honour came forth to meet them.

On seeing him, Renown knelt, and Coeur did likewise, then Renown spoke to Honour, addressing him as follows:

Chapter LII: Renown addresses Honour

‘My lord, I have, as best I could,

And have, as best I know, made good

Upon the promise that I gave,

To rescue Coeur, and so did save

His life, and yet displeased am I

That Trouble was not slain thereby.

Behold the Heart, Coeur, seized by love,

Sadness to him a foe did prove.

Excuse my fault, and pardon me,

If I’ve acted displeasingly.’

Chapter LIII: Honour wishes to know Coeur’s intention

At this point the tale relates that, when Renown had finished justifying his actions, Coeur knelt and thanked Honour humbly. Then Honour took them both by the hand and led them into his pavilion. He began to converse with them and asked for details of Coeur’s captivity.

At that moment, Desire was passing before the pavilion; Honour perceived him instantly, summoned him, and extended his hand to him most affably. They all conversed awhile, and Honour asked Coeur and Desire what they wished to do, and if they would remain with the army to fight against the slanderers. Then Coeur knelt again and replied thus:

Chapter LIII: Coeur affirms his commitment to the quest

‘My lord, your true servant in this,

In naught would I defy your wish.

I am, indeed, obliged to you;

For saving me, my thanks are due.

And yet I ask of you this day,

In God’s name, seek not that I stay.

For you must go, as commanded,

To fight, as Love has demanded,

While I can remain no longer,

Despite aught the world might offer.

For, indeed, I would be forsworn,

A betrayal ne’er to be borne.

So, if it please you, let me go,

For I must search both high and low,

So that I may find Sweet Mercy,

Which is still the quest before me.

Yet if you’d have me here pursue

Aught in my power, that I will do.’

Chapter LIV: Honour grants Coeur leave to depart

Then Honour took Coeur by the hand and made him rise, and thanked him generously for offering to serve him, and benignly granting him leave, spoke thus to him:

‘Coeur, my dear friend, since it is plain

That you lack the wish to remain,

And you are set upon a quest

Pursuant to Desire’s behest,

I’ll not hold you against your will,

Rather you must your task fulfil.

And I ask of the god of Love

That he a guide to you shall prove

That you might achieve your goal,

And return both sound and whole.

Yet if you lack silver or gold,

Or any of my own household,

That might escort you wherever,

Or grant you aid in some manner,

Take, with pleasure, all you need;

That would gratify me indeed.

And recommend me humbly

To the god of Love; politely,

Say that my talents I employ

In that service he doth enjoy,

Most willingly, with lance and sword,

And salute each and every lord.

And may it please the Creator

That you return this way later,

For your success in all I’d see,

And know you’ve attained Sweet Mercy.

Such the good wishes I extend you,

And to God above commend you.’

Chapter LV: Coeur requests that Largesse accompany them

At this, Coeur took his leave of Honour as did Desire, and Honour embraced them warmly. In saluting and taking leave of the barons who were gathered about Honour, Desire perceived Largesse among them. He drew Coeur aside urgently, insisting that, since Honour had offered one of his followers as a guide or companion, he was of the firm opinion that Largesse would be of great use to them on their quest, and that it would be a good idea to ask Honour that Largesse accompany them.

Coeur was of the same mind, and immediately made that same request of Honour, that he allow Largesse to go with them, to which he generously agreed, even though he had no wish to part with him, for he ever appreciated having Largesse at his side, and loved him greatly; but, since he had made the offer, he could not now refuse them. So, at once, he ordered Largesse to go with them wherever they pleased, which Largesse agreed to willingly.

With this, all three took their leave, left Honour’s tent, and headed for Fair Renown’s pavilion to take leave of one who had treated them with great courtesy, as you have previously heard. But ere they could enter the pavilion, behold Renown, who had perceived their approach, took them by the hand and led them into the pavilion.

The hour of Vespers was past, and it was time to eat; the tables were now laid, and Renown insisted on their dinging with him, while they sat down willingly enough, as they wished to extend their acquaintance with him. Thus, they ate and drank, at their ease and to their heart’s content.

After dining, they walked for a while, and Coeur, who wished to know more of Largesse, who was new to their company, approached the latter so courteously that they were soon well acquainted and good friends. As for Renown and Desire, they spoke together of their imminent departure and of the quest Coeur had undertaken. They all conversed thus, until night fell and it was time to rest. They then retired to the pavilion, and Renown had two beds made up; he and Desire lay down on one, while Coeur and Largesse took the other. They did so willingly enough, Coeur and Desire at least having no other place to lodge and, before they fell asleep, they spoke together awhile of their journey, and the enterprise. Largesse listened eagerly, and asked Coeur questions to better understand what he might be required to undertake.

Not long after this, all four were asleep, and slumbered soundly till the following dawn, when Desire was first to wake and called out to Coeur who was still sleeping. Coeur awoke and roused Largesse. Then they rose and, while they were dressing, Renown too awoke, astonished to see that they had risen so early. He rose himself, and dressed himself like the others, then, all together, they went to hear Mass. When the Mass had been said, the three companions, Coeur, Desire, and Largesse returned with Renown, and in taking leave of the latter, Coeur spoke for them all in saying:

Chapter LV: Coeur takes leave of Renown

‘Now, my most noble lord, Renown,

Desire, you see here, and the crown

Of wisdom, Largesse, whom you know,

(Many a time you’ve named him so);

Both they and I would take our leave,

And though there’s naught, I do believe,

That we can render you, at least

We can give thanks, ere we have ceased

To grace your presence; we are yours,

Though bound perchance for foreign shores.

If our going should please you not,

For God’s sake, let that be forgot,

For we pursue our quest again,

And must suffer many a pain,

Many a mischief must endure,

Ere we may find what we seek for.’

Chapter LVI: The three companions, Coeur, Desire, and Largesse prepare to depart

With these words, the three companions took leave of Renown, but before departing they ate and drank a little, which was wise on their part, for they would be glad of it later, as you shall hear. But, for the moment, the tale ceases to speak of them – though it will return to them at the proper time and place – and begins to tell of Honour and his army, in order to relate something of their actions.

Chapter LVII: Honour sends Humble-Request with a letter for Coeur to bear

Once the three companions, Coeur, Desire, and Largesse had taken leave of Honour and had departed as you have heard. Honour quickly summoned all his barons and captains to a council, to hear their advice as to what he should do, knowing that the slanderers, his mortal enemies, were campaigning against him. After each had given his opinion, they arrived at the conclusion that, since Coeur and Desire had gone, as you have heard, to win Sweet Mercy, they could not avoid passing by the dwelling-place of the god of Love; it would be wise for Honour to send him a letter, employing Coeur as his intermediary, asking the god of Love where he should deploy, and what he should effect, since he had remained long in the one place without receiving news, and ought to raise camp and go to meet their enemies.

Honour, indeed, made it known to all his barons and captains that, in two days from that time, he intended to do precisely that same; he summoned his secretary and dictated a letter to the god of Love, regarding their conclusions and intentions. Then he called for Humble-Request and asked him to bear the letter to Coeur, who on his part, if he would, should present it to the noble god of Love when he reached the latter’s dwelling-place. Humble-Request did as his master, Honour, commanded.

Two days later, Honour had the trumpets sounded, raised camp in an orderly manner, and set out, the ranks arranged in splendid battalions, until they were a league or so from the enemy. There they established camp once more; but you should know that between the two armies flowed the River of Pleasure, a stream both dangerous and deep.

Now, however, the tale returns to Coeur and his two companions, and tells a part of their adventures pertinent to the matter we pursue.

Chapter LVIII: The travelling-companions find a place to rest for the night

The story now relates that, as the three companions departed Fair Renown’s pavilion, having partaken of a drink as has been said, they encountered Honour’s emissary, Humble-Request, who saluted them and handed Coeur the letter Honour had confided to him, asking him to present it on his behalf, if he would, to the god of Love when he reached the latter’s dwelling. Coeur replied that he would so most willingly.

The companions then rode on at a lively pace, for it was the freshest and brightest of mornings, until they entered thick undergrowth, and from thence travelled through a fine and lofty forest which extended two leagues about them. Their mounts laboured hard, such that they soon emerged and found themselves in open country, which seemed unending, for the tale states that it was a day and a half’s journey long, and a good day’s journey wide. They rode ever forward, on the trail before them, without meeting any adventure worth speaking of, full of gloomy thoughts, until mid-day.

At one point, Desire, who was in the lead, gazed about him, and, saw, at a goodly distance, a tall pine-tree, in the midst of the plain. There was not the least sign of a castle or township in the vicinity, while the plain as you have heard was both long and wide, and the pine-tree was far enough from them that the night would be pitch-black ere they reached it. At the hour of Vespers, when the sun sets, Desire was obliged to call to his two companions, Coeur and Largesse, who were plunged in deep reflection, begging them to rouse themselves from their thoughts in order to pay attention to where they might lodge, for they were like to spend the night in the open air.

They halted, and looked about them, and, viewing the emptiness of the extensive plain, saw neither house nor hut in which they might spend the night. They concluded, with one accord, that they should make for the pine-tree visible from the trail, since they could at least camp beneath it, though they found it most disagreeable that there was naught to eat, for they were famished, nothing having passed their lips since they had drunk a cup that morning in departing from Fair Renown’s pavilion, as you have heard.

They rode on, directing their course straight towards the pine-tree, as night was falling, without encountering any misadventure; they then rode in single file, Desire leading, Coeur behind him, and Largesse behind, for the night was exceedingly dark, since the weather was somewhat adverse and no moon shone. They laboured well enough and reached the pine-tree, about an hour before midnight. All three dismounted, by common accord, for they were weary and worn, and their horses had need of rest and pasture having been ridden all day. So, the riders removed their bridles and left them to graze the grass, while they themselves lay down beneath the pine as comfortably as they could, in order to repose.

Nonetheless, their great hunger prevented them from falling asleep quickly, and Desire, who was the most loquacious of the three, commenced to speak in order to distract them somewhat:

Chapter LVIII: Desire speaks light-heartedly to them

‘Now, between ourselves, gentlemen,

We are fortunate once again.

Since it gives me pleasure, let me say,

It’s clear that we’ve not gone astray,

For Hope told us, not long ago,

That ere good things to us may flow,

Plenty of ill things we must bear,

Much tedious labour, we must share.

Little of such has passed as yet,

For with a deal more we’ll be met,

At least Coeur will, and so will I.

As for Largesse, who here doth lie,

I would not wish to claim he’s one

That will, for he has just begun.

Now let us sleep on this damp ground,

It will do Coeur good I’ll be bound.’

Chapter LIX: Coeur responds to Desire’s mockery

As Desire finished speaking, Largesse began to smile, but Coeur was unamused since it seemed to him that Desire was mocking him in saying that the damp ground would benefit him greatly; and he could not help replying in these terms:

‘Desire, do you mock everyone,

Each and every companion,

As you do me? Good sir, tell me

Have I done aught, to you, to be

The butt of the jests you employ?

It causes much pain and annoy.

Yet you can say whate’er you will,

Then repent of it, I am still

Able to bear as much as you,

By Saint Helen, could ever do!

Yet tis just, Desire ne’er ceases

To mock all folk, as he pleases.’

Chapter LX: Largesse reproaches Coeur

Largesse, on hearing Coeur speak thus, understood that that the latter was at the end of his patience, and had failed to treat Desire’s comment as a mere jest. So, he addressed a few words to him, reproaching him for his show of annoyance, as follows:

‘Ah, Coeur, a man of wit and sense,

Why must you seek to take offence

At another’s mere pleasantry,

As though he was your enemy?

But little patience you show, now;

Tis not what Hope desired, I vow,

When she would have you note her well,

Or such the tale I’ve heard you tell.

As he does you, Desire mocks me,

And treats us both, thus, equally,

And yet I suffer his intent,

Without displaying discontent.’

Chapter LXI: Desire seeks Coeur’s pardon

Then Desire could not refrain from addressing Coeur once more, not with anger or malice towards him, for he loved him dearly, but wishing to apologise, saying:

‘Coeur, if we can no longer jest,

How shall our troubles e’er find rest?

By God, take not my words so ill:

But, of your grace, pardon me still.’

Chapter LXII: The tale turns to the subject of Ill-Talk

At his words, Coeur regained his calm, and the three companions fell asleep beneath the pine-tree. But here the tale ceases to speak of them and turns instead to Ill-Talk, the captain of the slanderers, in order to recount a few of his actions, inasmuch as they are relevant to our story; but it speaks of only a few, for to relate all his actions and the work of those slanderers would need a far larger volume than this.

Chapter LXIII: Of Ill-Talk and his followers

At this point, the story says that when Ill-Talk and the slanderers, who occupied and made camp on land within the realm of the god of Love, and of his subjects, allies, and sympathisers (although they did so covertly as one might say, rather than openly), learned by means of their spies (who ever accompanied them on their missions, since they believed nothing they had been told) that Honour, Fair Renown, and the followers of the noble god of Love had pitched camp near them, as was related previously, they were much surprised, and, sounding the trumpets, struck camp in confusion, and swiftly covered eight leagues at least, ravaging and devastating all the nearby realm of the god of Love and his folk, until they felt they were sufficiently far from Honour and his army.

They then established themselves on the bank of a little river, deep and dark, which was named Gloom, and once there two spies whom Ill-Talk had sent to reconnoitre returned to him. They had been posted for most of the day at the exit from the forest whence the three companions, Coeur, Desire, and Largesse had emerged as they entered the great plain, as the tale related previously. They told how they had seen them pass by, not daring to follow since the enemy were three strong, while they were but two. Nonetheless they were sure that the three were seeking to attend upon the god of Love, or were in search of Sweet Mercy, for they were pursuing that path, and they had heard talk moreover that Coeur was set on winning her, by which token they thought it must indeed be him.

When Ill-Talk heard this, his brow furrowed, his face grew pale with anger and malice, and he began to curse and vilify his spies, crying:

‘You foul, and wretched miscreants!

You whose ill presence scarce enchants,

You who have failed to challenge those

Three villains, and their path oppose,

As they pursued their quest this day!

God curse you! Be upon your way!

The gibbet may serve, in due time,

To punish you two for your crime!’

Chapter LXIV: Ill-Talk sends a summons to Refusal and Rejection

Then Ill-Talk summoned two or three of his slanderers, saw them suitably equipped, and sent them to Refusal and Rejection who were holding Sweet Mercy captive, to tell them to be on their guard since Coeur and his companions were set upon a campaign to free Sweet Mercy; and he commanded those slanderers to remain with Refusal, to assist in his defence if he was attacked in any manner. The slanderers took leave of their master Ill-Talk, and ceased not their efforts until they had arrived where Refusal was, and had communicated the news that their master had sent to him.

But now the tale falls silent for a time as regards Ill-Talk and his followers, it being a good thing not to speak of them, and begins to tell of Coeur and his two companions once more, in order to describe certain of their adventures.

Chapter LXV: The three companions reach the house of Grave-Sighs

Now, as the story relates, the three companions, Coeur, Desire, and Largesse, who, as you have heard previously, were sleeping beneath the pine-tree, slumbered deeply till dawn of the following day, being worn and weary. Coeur woke first, and gazed at his still-sleeping companions. He chose to rise quietly, but failed to do so sufficiently silently as not to wake them, for it appeared they had enjoyed an adequate amount of sleep. They looked about them and saw that it was broad daylight, so they rose and set off in quest of the horses.

In doing so, they came upon a dwelling-place, badly constructed and in poor repair. Over the entrance to this little building, they perceived a panel carrying a clearly-readable inscription. All three headed towards the portal and began studying the lettering, which, as they discovered, read thus:

The three companions read the inscription over the doorway

‘The three companions read the inscription over the doorway’
Codex Vindobonensis 2597, fol. 46v: Le Livre du Coeur d’Amour Épris, (Barthélemy d'Eyck, 1460-1469)
Wikimedia Commons

‘The plain both long and wide you see,

The people call, in this country,

The Plain of Weary Thought, and here

Grave-Sighs lives out each weary year.

Choosing to end his life this way,

Within his house he e’er doth stay,

A poor one, as you now behold,

One hardly worth its weight in gold!

Yet its comfortlessness doth please

One who in sighing takes his ease;

God knows if it provides that same!

For others peace it oft doth maim:

Since those who make of him a friend,

Own but sad faces in the end.’

Chapter LXVI: Crossing the Plain of Weary Thought, they reach a hermitage by a wood

Once the three companions had finished reading the inscription on the panel, they fell into a profound reflection, gazing at each other in amazement. After a while, Coeur, who was bolder than the others, decided to enter the dwelling, his two companions following, and found the building to be poor and ill-decorated. He advanced to the hall, and found Grave-Sighs there, the master of the place.

The latter was old, thin, wrinkled, pale and haggard, with a long beard, and thick eyebrows hiding his eyes. He was seated on a stool, his hands clasped about a knee, meditating, while sighing so profoundly that neither their arrival nor their words when addressed to him could draw him from his thoughts.

They looked high and low for any trace of food to quell their hunger a little, for they were in great need of nourishment, but found nothing but a morsel of black bread, so hard as to be inedible. This plunged all three into a state of woe, which elicited the heaviest of sighs. But Desire, who had passed this way before, and knew it thoroughly, decided that if his companions were to remain in that state for long, they might well abandon their enterprise. So, he signed to them to quit the house, which they soon did.

As soon as they were outside, they commented to each other that never in their lives had they experienced so painful and heavy a state of mind as in that place; ill was it for those who chanced to find themselves there! They set to the task of finding the horses, and were not long in discovering all three of their mounts grazing the grass around. They saw to the bridles and reins, then mounted in the saddle and applied themselves to the road before them. But they had not gone far when, gazing ahead, they saw a wood in the remote distance, only just visible to them, which seemed to them to mark the extremity of the vast and wearying plain in which they found themselves.

They covered the distance without meeting with a soul to speak to nor any adventure worth the telling on their approach to the wood, nor could they reach it fast enough for the sun had already set when they arrived there. Once they had done so, they looked about them, and saw a little hermitage at the entrance to the wood. They rode in that direction, dismounted, and entered the hermitage’s chapel, where they found the hermit saying his prayers. They saluted him, and requested shelter for the night. The hermit, who seemed a noble gentleman, replied in the following manner:

Coeur, Largesse and Desire enter the hermit's cell

‘Coeur, Largesse and Desire enter the hermit's cell’
Codex Vindobonensis 2597, fol. 47v: Le Livre du Coeur d’Amour Épris, (Barthélemy d'Eyck, 1460-1469)
Wikimedia Commons

Chapter LXVI: The hermit replies to their request for shelter

‘My noble lords, and children, I

Your fair request shall not deny;

And you may share the place with me,

But within, in truth, you shall see

A lady I’m devoted to

Body and soul, to her I’m true,

For I have known that very same

Since childhood, Lady Hope her name.

Late yestereve she sought lodging;

I’d not refuse her anything.

She was wearied in the extreme,

Tired by her efforts it would seem.

If you’re content to lodge with her,

I’ll not object, nor make a stir,

My noble lords, if she agrees,

For I’d do nothing to displease.

Attend me here; to her I’ll go,

And soon return, that you may know.’

The end of Part III of ‘Le Livre du Coeur d’Amour Épris’