Lancelot

,
The Knight of the Cart
by Chrétien de Troyes
Translated by W. W. Comfort
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Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
Table of Contents
#c$no"led%ments......................................................................................................................................&
P'(P#'(')* +OT( ...............................................................................................................................,
*(-(CT(D ./.-/O0'#P12 ...............................................................................................................,
The Translation..........................................................................................................................................3
Part / 4v. 5 - 4v. 56,7..........................................................................................................................3
Part // 4v. 56,5 - 4v. &86,................................................................................................................93
Part /// 4v. &863 - 4v. 33:,...............................................................................................................,3
Part /4 4v. 33:3 - 4v. ;5&,...............................................................................................................8;
(ndnotes...................................................................................................................................................6,
9
Chrétien de Troyes
Acknowledgments
“Lancelot” or “The Knight of the Cart” was written by the French poet Chrétien de Troyes in
the twelfth century. Chrétien is a well-nown poet a!ong !edie"alists, and is particularly noted for his
poe!s in"ol"ing King #rthur and his nights.
The original, $ld French te%t of the poe! is in the public do!ain because its author died at least
&'' years ago. This (nglish translation was co!pleted by ). ). Co!fort in &*&+. ,t is also in the
public do!ain in the -nited .tates and !any other countries because it was published before /anuary
&
st
, &*01. ). ). Co!fort died in &*22, which also places this wor in the public do!ain in any country
which sets its copyright ter! at the life of the author plus 2' years. ,t !ay also be in the public do!ain
in countries which apply the 3ule of .horter Ter! to foreign wors.
This electronic "ersion of the translation has been prepared by 4ouglas 5. Killings and indly
!ade a"ailable to the public by the $nline 6edie"al and Classical Library. #ll of the te%t which
follows, including the 7reparer8s 9ote and .elected 5ibliography, ha"e been taen fro! the!, and
reprinted here with their ind per!ission. 7lease "isit the! on-line at: http:;;www.o!acl.org;
Their notes on this wor:
“$riginally written in $ld French, so!eti!e in the second half of the &0th Century #.4., by the
court poet Chretien 4eTroyes. Translation by ). ). Co!fort, &*&+.
The te%t of this edition is based on that published as C<3(T,(9 4(T3$=(.: #3T<-3,#9
3$6#9C(., >Trans: ). ). Co!fort? ("ery!an8s Library, London, &*&+@. This te%t is in the 7-5L,C
4$6#,9 in the -nited .tates.
This electronic edition was edited, proofed, and prepared by 4ouglas 5. Killings
>4eTroyesA(nter#ct.C$6@, 4ece!ber &**B.”
For your con"enience, the te%t of this translation has been co!piled into this 74F docu!ent for
easy reading by Ca!elot $n-line. =ou !ay use and redistribute it freely. 7lease "isit us on-line at
http:;;www.heroofca!elot.co!;
&
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
PREPARER'S NOTE:
For bacground infor!ation and a discussion of Chretien 4eTroyes8 wor, see ).). Co!fort8s
,ntroduction to his translations, released in $6#CL te%t C0&: D(rec et (nideD.
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY:
O'/0/+#- T(<T -- =ibler, William W. >(d.? @Chretien DeTroyes -ancelot, or The =ni%ht of
the Cart >0arland -ibrary of Aedieval -iterature 5#, +e" 2or$ B -ondon, 5:65?. Ori%inal text
"ith (n%lish translation >*ee Pen%uin Classics edition belo"?.
OT1(' T'#+*-#T/O+* --
Cline, 'uth 1ar"ood >Trans.? @Chretien DeTroyes -ancelot, or the =ni%ht of the Cart@
>Cniversity of 0eor%ia Press, #thens 0#, 5::7?.
=ibler, William W. B Carleton W. Carroll >Trans.? @Chretien DeTroyes #rthurian 'omances@
>Pen%uin Classics, -ondon, 5::5?. Contains translations of @(rec et (nide@ >by Carroll?, @Cli%es@,
@2vain@, @-ancelot@, and DeTroyes) incomplete @Perceval@ >by =ibler?. 1i%hly recommended.
O"en, D.D.' >Trans.? @Chretien DeTroyes #rthurian 'omances@ >(veryman -ibrary, -ondon,
5:6;?. Contains translations of @(rec et (nide@, @Cli%es@, @2vain@, @-ancelot@, and DeTroyes)
incomplete @Perceval@. +OT( This edition replaced W.W. Comfort)s in the (veryman -ibrary
catalo%ue. 1i%hly recommended.
'(COAA(+D(D '(#D/+0 --
#nonymous @-ancelot of the -a$e@ >Trans Corin CorelyD Oxford Cniversity Press, Oxford,
5:6:?. (n%lish translation of one of the earliest prose romances concernin% -ancelot.
Aalory, *ir Thomas @-e Aorte D)#rthur@ >(d Eanet Co"enD Pen%uin Classics, -ondon, 5:8:?.
,
Chrétien de Troyes
The Translation
Part I: Vv. 1 - Vv. 1840
>E". &-1'.@ .ince !y lady of Cha!pagne wishes !e to undertae to write a ro!ance,
i
, shall "ery
gladly do so, being so de"oted to her ser"ice as to do anything in the world for her, without any
intention of flattery. 5ut if one were to introduce any flattery upon such an occasion, he !ight say, and
, would subscribe to it, that this lady surpasses all others who are ali"e, Fust as the south wind which
blows in 6ay or #pril is !ore lo"ely than any other wind. 5ut upon !y word, , a! not one to wish to
flatter !y lady. , will si!ply say: DThe Countess is worth as !any Gueens as a ge! is worth of pearls
and sards.D 9ay , shall !ae no co!parison, and yet it is true in spite of !e? , will say, howe"er, that
her co!!and has !ore to do with this wor than any thought or pains that , !ay e%pend upon it. <ere
Chretien begins his boo about the Knight of the Cart. The !aterial and the treat!ent of it are gi"en
and furnished to hi! by the Countess, and he is si!ply trying to carry out her concern and intention.
<ere he begins the story.
>E". 1&-&H0.@ -pon a certain #scension 4ay King #rthur had co!e fro! Caerleon, and had held a
"ery !agnificent court at Ca!elot as was fitting on such a day.
ii
#fter the feast the King did not Guit
his noble co!panions, of who! there were !any in the hall. The Iueen was present, too, and with her
!any a courteous lady able to con"erse in French. #nd Kay, who had furnished the !eal, was eating
with the others who had ser"ed the food. )hile Kay was sitting there at !eat, behold there ca!e to
court a night, well eGuipped and fully ar!ed, and thus the night appeared before the King as he sat
a!ong his lords. <e ga"e hi! no greeting, but spoe out thus: DKing #rthur, , hold in capti"ity nights,
ladies, and da!sels who belong to thy do!inion and household? but it is not because of any intention to
restore the! to thee that , !ae reference to the! here? rather do , wish to proclai! and ser"e thee
notice that thou hast not the strength or the resources to enable thee to secure the! again. #nd be
3
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
assured that thou shalt die before thou canst e"er succour the!.D The King replies that he !ust needs
endure what he has not the power to change? ne"ertheless, he is filled with grief. Then the night !aes
as if to go away, and turns about, without tarrying longer before the King? but after reaching the door of
the hall, he does not go down the stairs, but stops and speas fro! there these words: DKing, if in thy
court there is a single night in who! thou hast such confidence that thou wouldst dare to entrust to
hi! the Iueen that he !ight escort her after !e out into the woods whither , a! going, , will pro!ise
to await hi! there, and will surrender to thee all the prisoners who! , hold in e%ile in !y country if he
is able to defend the Iueen and if he succeeds in bringing her bac again.D 6any who were in the
palace heard this challenge, and the whole court was in an uproar. Kay, too, heard the news as he sat at
!eat with those who ser"ed. Lea"ing the table, he ca!e straight to the King, and as if greatly enraged,
he began to say: D$ King, , ha"e ser"ed thee long, faithfully, and loyally? now , tae !y lea"e, and
shall go away, ha"ing no desire to ser"e thee !ore.D The King was grie"ed at what he heard, and as
soon as he could, he thus replied to hi!: D,s this serious, or a FoeJD #nd Kay replied: D$ King, fair
sire, , ha"e no desire to Fest, and , tae !y lea"e Guite seriously. 9o other reward or wages do , wish in
return for the ser"ice , ha"e gi"en you. 6y !ind is Guite !ade up to go away i!!ediately.D D,s it in
anger or in spite that you wish to goJD the King inGuired? Dseneschal, re!ain at court, as you ha"e done
hitherto, and be assured that , ha"e nothing in the world which , would not gi"e you at once in return
for your consent to stay.D D.ire,D says Kay, Dno need of that. , would not accept for each day8s pay a
!easure of fine pure gold.D Thereupon, the King in great dis!ay went off to see the Iueen. D6y
lady,D he says, Dyou do not now the de!and that the seneschal !aes of !e. <e ass !e for lea"e to
go away, and says he will no longer stay at court? the reason of this , do not now. 5ut he will do at
your reGuest what he will not do for !e. Ko to hi! now, !y lady dear. .ince he will not consent to stay
for !y sae, pray hi! to re!ain on your account, and if need be, fall at his feet, for , should ne"er
again be happy if , should lose his co!pany.D
iii
The King sends the Iueen to the seneschal, and she
goes to hi!. Finding hi! with the rest, she went up to hi!, and said: DKay, you !ay be "ery sure that ,
a! greatly troubled by the news , ha"e heard of you. , a! grie"ed to say that , ha"e been told it is your
intention to lea"e the King. <ow does this co!e aboutJ )hat !oti"e ha"e you in your !indJ , cannot
thin that you are so sensible or courteous as usual. , want to as you to re!ain: stay with us here, and
grant !y prayer.D DLady,D he says, D, gi"e you thans? ne"ertheless, , shall not re!ain.D The Iueen
again !aes her reGuest, and is Foined by all the other nights. #nd Kay infor!s her that he is growing
8
Chrétien de Troyes
tired of a ser"ice which is unprofitable. Then the Iueen prostrates herself at full length before his feet.
Kay beseeches her to rise, but she says that she will ne"er do so until he grants her reGuest. Then Kay
pro!ises her to re!ain, pro"ided the King and she will grant in ad"ance a fa"our he is about to as.
DKay,D she says, Dhe will grant it, whate"er it !ay be. Co!e now, and we shall tell hi! that upon this
condition you will re!ain.D .o Kay goes away with the Iueen to the King8s presence. The Iueen says:
D, ha"e had hard wor to detain Kay? but , ha"e brought hi! here to you with the understanding that
you will do what he is going to as.D The King sighed with satisfaction, and said that he would perfor!
whate"er reGuest he !ight !ae.
>E". &H1-0+B.@ D.ire,D says Kay, Dhear now what , desire, and what is the gift you ha"e pro!ised
!e. , estee! !yself "ery fortunate to gain such a boon with your consent. .ire, you ha"e pledged your
word that you would entrust to !e !y lady here, and that we should go after the night who awaits us
in the forest.D Though the King is grie"ed, he trusts hi! with the charge, for he ne"er went bac upon
his word. 5ut it !ade hi! so ill-hu!oured and displeased that it plainly showed in his countenance.
The Iueen, for her part, was sorry too, and all those of the household say that Kay had !ade a proud,
outrageous, and !ad reGuest. Then the King too the Iueen by the hand, and said: D6y lady, you !ust
acco!pany Kay without !aing obFection.D #nd Kay said: D<and her o"er to !e now, and ha"e no
fear, for , shall bring her bac perfectly happy and safe.D The King gi"es her into his charge, and he
taes her off. #fter the! all the rest go out, and there is not one who is not sad. =ou !ust now that the
seneschal was fully ar!ed, and his horse was led into the !iddle of the courtyard, together with a
palfrey, as is fitting, for the Iueen. The Iueen waled up to the palfrey, which was neither resti"e nor
hard-!outhed. Krie"ing and sad, with a sigh the Iueen !ounts, saying to herself in a low "oice, so that
no one could hear: D#las, alas, if you only new it, , a! sure you would ne"er allow !e without
interference to be led away a step.D
i"
.he thought she had spoen in a "ery low tone? but Count
Kuinable heard her, who was standing by when she !ounted. )hen they started away, as great a
la!ent was !ade by all the !en and wo!en present as if she already lay dead upon a bier. They do not
belie"e that she will e"er in her life co!e bac. The seneschal in his i!pudence taes her where that
other night is awaiting her. 5ut no one was so !uch concerned as to undertae to follow hi!? until at
last !y lord Kawain thus addressed the King his uncle: D.ire,D he says, Dyou ha"e done a "ery foolish
thing, which causes !e great surprise? but if you will tae !y ad"ice, while they are still near by, , and
you will ride after the!, and all those who wish to acco!pany us. For !y part, , cannot restrain !yself
;
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
fro! going in pursuit of the! at once. ,t would not be proper for us not to go after the!, at least far
enough to learn what is to beco!e of the Iueen, and how Kay is going to co!port hi!self.D D#h, fair
nephew,D the King replied, Dyou ha"e spoen courteously. #nd since you ha"e undertaen the affair,
order our horses to be led out bridled and saddled that there !ay be no delay in setting out.D
>E". 0+H-1*L.@ The horses are at once brought out, all ready and with the saddles on. First the King
!ounts, then !y lord Kawain, and all the others rapidly. (ach one, wishing to be of the party, follows
his own will and starts away. .o!e were ar!ed, but there were not a few without their ar!s. 6y lord
Kawain was ar!ed, and he bade two sGuires lead by the bridle two e%tra steeds. #nd as they thus
approached the forest, they saw Kay8s horse running out? and they recognised hi!, and saw that both
reins of the bridle were broen. The horse was running wild, the stirrup-straps all stained with blood,
and the saddle-bow was broen and da!aged. ("ery one was chagrined at this, and they nudged each
other and shoo their heads. 6y lord Kawain was riding far in ad"ance of the rest of the party, and it
was not long before he saw co!ing slowly a night on a horse that was sore, painfully tired, and
co"ered with sweat. The night first saluted !y lord Kawain, and his greeting !y lord Kawain
returned. Then the night, recognising !y lord Kawain, stopped and thus spoe to hi!: D=ou see, sir,
!y horse is in a sweat and in such case as to be no longer ser"iceable. , suppose that those two horses
belong to you now, with the understanding that , shall return the ser"ice and the fa"our, , beg you to let
!e ha"e one or the other of the!, either as a loan or outright as a gift.D #nd he answers hi!: DChoose
whiche"er you prefer.D Then he who was in dire distress did not try to select the better or the fairer or
the larger of the horses, but leaped Guicly upon the one which was nearer to hi!, and rode hi! off.
Then the one he had Fust left fell dead, for he had ridden hi! hard that day, so that he was used up and
o"erwored. The night without delay goes pricing through the forest, and !y lord Kawain follows in
pursuit of hi! with all speed, until he reaches the botto! of a hill. #nd when he had gone so!e
distance, he found the horse dead which he had gi"en to the night, and noticed that the ground had
been tra!pled by horses, and that broen shields and lances lay strewn about, so that it see!ed that
there had been a great co!bat between se"eral nights, and he was "ery sorry and grie"ed not to ha"e
been there. <owe"er, he did not stay there long, but rapidly passed on until he saw again by chance the
night all alone on foot, co!pletely ar!ed, with hel!et laced, shield hanging fro! his nec, and with
his sword girt on. <e had o"ertaen a cart. ,n those days such a cart ser"ed the sa!e purpose as does a
pillory now? and in each good town where there are !ore than three thousand such carts nowadays, in
6
Chrétien de Troyes
those ti!es there was only one, and this, lie our pillories, had to do ser"ice for all those who co!!it
!urder or treason, and those who are guilty of any delinGuency, and for thie"es who ha"e stolen others8
property or ha"e forcibly seiMed it on the roads. )hoe"er was con"icted of any cri!e was placed upon
a cart and dragged through all the streets, and he lost henceforth all his legal rights, and was ne"er
afterward heard, honoured, or welco!ed in any court. The carts were so dreadful in those days that the
saying was then first used: D)hen thou dost see and !eet a cart, cross thyself and call upon Kod, that
no e"il !ay befall thee.D The night on foot, and without a lance, waled behind the cart, and saw a
dwarf sitting on the shafts, who held, as a dri"er does, a long goad in his hand. Then he cries out:
D4warf, for Kod8s sae, tell !e now if thou hast seen !y lady, the Iueen, pass by here.D The !iserable,
low-born dwarf would not gi"e hi! any news of her, but replied: D,f thou wilt get up into the cart , a!
dri"ing thou shalt hear to-!orrow what has happened to the Iueen.D Then he ept on his way without
gi"ing further heed. The night hesitated only for a couple of steps before getting in. =et, it was
unlucy for hi! that he shran fro! the disgrace, and did not Fu!p in at once? for he will later rue his
delay. 5ut co!!on sense, which is inconsistent with lo"e8s dictates, bids hi! refrain fro! getting in,
warning hi! and counselling hi! to do and undertae nothing for which he !ay reap sha!e and
disgrace. 3eason, which dares thus spea to hi!, reaches only his lips, but not his heart? but lo"e is
enclosed within his heart, bidding hi! and urging hi! to !ount at once upon the cart. .o he Fu!ps in,
since lo"e will ha"e it so, feeling no concern about the sha!e, since he is pro!pted by lo"e8s
co!!ands. #nd !y lord Kawain presses on in haste after the cart, and when he finds the night sitting
in it, his surprise is great. DTell !e,D he shouted to the dwarf, Dif thou nowest anything of the Iueen.D
#nd he replied: D,f thou art so !uch thy own ene!y as is this night who is sitting here, get in with
hi!, if it be thy pleasure, and , will dri"e thee along with hi!.D )hen !y lord Kawain heard that, he
considered it great foolishness, and said that he would not get in, for it would be dishonourable to
e%change a horse for a cart: DKo on, and where"er thy Fourney lies, , will follow after thee.D
>E". 1**-+B0.@ Thereupon they start ahead, one !ounted on his horse, the other two riding in the
cart, and thus they proceed in co!pany. Late in the afternoon they arri"e at a town, which, you !ust
now, was "ery rich and beautiful. #ll three entered through the gate? the people are greatly a!aMed to
see the night borne upon the cart, and they tae no pains to conceal their feelings, but s!all and great
and old and young shout taunts at hi! in the streets, so that the night hears !any "ile and scornful
words at his e%pense.
"
They all inGuire: DTo what punish!ent is this night to be consignedJ ,s he to
:
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
be rayed, or hanged, or drowned, or burned upon a fire of thornsJ Tell us, thou dwarf, who art dri"ing
hi!, in what cri!e was he caughtJ ,s he con"icted of robberyJ ,s he a !urderer, or a cri!inalJD #nd to
all this the dwarf !ade no response, "ouchsafing to the! no reply. <e conducts the night to a lodging-
place? and Kawain follows the dwarf closely to a tower, which stood on the sa!e le"el o"er against the
town. 5eyond there stretched a !eadow, and the tower was built close by, up on a lofty e!inence of
roc, whose face for!ed a sharp precipice. Following the horse and cart, Kawain entered the tower. ,n
the hall they !et a da!sel elegantly attired, than who! there was none fairer in the land, and with her
they saw co!ing two fair and char!ing !aidens. #s soon as they saw !y lord Kawain, they recei"ed
hi! Foyously and saluted hi!, and then ased news about the other night: D4warf, of what cri!e is
this night guilty, who! thou dost dri"e lie a la!e !anJD <e would not answer her Guestion, but he
!ade the night get out of the cart, and then he withdrew, without their nowing whither he went. Then
!y lord Kawain dis!ounts, and "alets co!e forward to relie"e the two nights of their ar!our. The
da!sel ordered two green !antles to be brought, which they put on. )hen the hour for supper ca!e, a
su!ptuous repast was set. The da!sel sat at table beside !y lord Kawain. They would not ha"e
changed their lodging-place to see any other, for all that e"ening the da!sel showed the! gear
honour, and pro"ided the! with fair and pleasant co!pany.
>E". +B1-21L.@ )hen they had sat up long enough, two long, high beds were prepared in the
!iddle of the hall? and there was another bed alongside, fairer and !ore splendid than the rest? for, as
the story testifies, it possessed all the e%cellence that one could thin of in a bed. )hen the ti!e ca!e
to retire, the da!sel too both the guests to who! she had offered her hospitality? she shows the! the
two fine, long, wide beds, and says: DThese two beds are set up here for the acco!!odation of your
bodies? but in that one yonder no one e"er lay who did not !erit it: it was not set up to be used by you.D
The night who ca!e riding on the cart replies at once: DTell !e, he says, Dfor what cause this bed is
inaccessible.D 5eing thoroughly infor!ed of this, she answers unhesitatingly: D,t is not your place to
as or !ae such an inGuiry. #ny night is disgraced in the land after being in a cart, and it is not fitting
that he should concern hi!self with the !atter upon which you ha"e Guestioned !e? and !ost of all it
is not right that he should lie upon the bed, for he would soon pay dearly for his act. .o rich a couch
has not been prepared for you, and you would pay dearly for e"er harbouring such a thought.D <e
replies: D=ou will see about that presently.D .... D#! , to see itJD .... D=es.D .... D,t will soon appear.D ....
D5y !y head,D the night replies, D, now not who is to pay the penalty. 5ut whoe"er !ay obFect or
57
Chrétien de Troyes
disappro"e, , intend to lie upon this bed and repose there at !y ease.D Then he at once disrobed in the
bed, which was long and raised half an ell abo"e the other two, and was co"ered with a yellow cloth of
sil and a co"erlet with gilded stars. The furs were not of sinned "air but of sable? the co"ering he had
on hi! would ha"e been fitting for a ing. The !attress was not !ade of straw or rushes or of old !ats.
#t !idnight there descended fro! the rafters suddenly a lance, as with the intention of pinning the
night through the flans to the co"erlet and the white sheets where he lay.
"i
To the lance there was
attached a pennon all ablaMe. The co"erlet, the bedclothes, and the bed itself all caught fire at once. #nd
the tip of the lance passed so close to the night8s side that it cut the sin a little, without seriously
wounding hi!. Then the night got up, put out the fire and, taing the lance, swung it in the !iddle of
the hall, all this without lea"ing his bed? rather did he lie down again and slept as securely as at first.
>E". 21*-*L0.@ ,n the !orning, at daybrea, the da!sel of the tower had 6ass celebrated on their
account, and had the! rise and dress. )hen 6ass had been celebrated for the!, the night who had
ridden in the cart sat down pensi"ely at a window, which looed out upon the !eadow, and he gaMed
upon the fields below. The da!sel ca!e to another window close by, and there !y lord Kawain
con"ersed with her pri"ately for a while about so!ething, , now not what. , do not now what words
were uttered, but while they were leaning on the window-sill they saw carried along the ri"er through
the fields a bier, upon which there lay a night,
"ii
and alongside three da!sels waled, !ourning
bitterly. 5ehind the bier they saw a crowd approaching, with a tall night in front, leading a fair lady by
the horse8s rein. The night at the window new that it was the Iueen. <e continued to gaMe at her
attenti"ely and with delight as long as she was "isible. #nd when he could no longer see her, he was
!inded to throw hi!self out and brea his body down below. #nd he would ha"e let hi!self fall out
had not !y lord Kawain seen hi!, and drawn hi! bac, saying: D, beg you, sire, be Guiet now. For
Kod8s sae, ne"er thin again of co!!itting such a !ad deed. ,t is wrong for you to despise your life.D
D<e is perfectly right,D the da!sel says? Dfor will not the news of his disgrace be nown e"erywhereJ
.ince he has been upon the cart, he has good reason to wish to die, for he would be better dead than
ali"e. <is life henceforth is sure to be one of sha!e, "e%ation, and unhappiness.D Then the nights
ased for their ar!our, and ar!ed the!sel"es, the da!sel treating the! courteously, with distinction
and generosity? for when she had Foed with the night and ridiculed hi! enough, she presented hi!
with a horse and lance as a toen of her goodwill. The nights then courteously and politely too lea"e
of the da!sel, first saluting her, and then going off in the direction taen by the crowd they had seen.
55
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
Thus they rode out fro! the town without addressing the!. They proceeded Guicly in the direction
they had seen taen by the Iueen, but they did not o"ertae the procession, which had ad"anced
rapidly. #fter lea"ing the fields, the nights enter an enclosed place, and find a beaten road. They
ad"anced through the woods until it !ight be si% o8cloc,
"iii
and then at a crossroads they !et a da!sel,
who! they both saluted, each asing and reGuesting her to tell the!, if she nows, whither the Iueen
has been taen. 3eplying intelligently, she said to the!: D,f you would pledge !e your word, , could
set you on the right road and path, and , would tell you the na!e of the country and of the night who
is conducting her? but whoe"er would essay to enter that country !ust endure sore trials, for before he
could reach there he !ust suffer !uch.D Then !y lord Kawain replies: D4a!sel, so help !e Kod, ,
pro!ise to place all !y strength at your disposal and ser"ice, whene"er you please, if you will tell !e
now the truth.D #nd he who had been on the cart did not say that he would pledge her all his strength?
but he proclai!s, lie one who! lo"e !aes rich, powerful and bold for any enterprise, that at once
and without hesitation he will pro!ise her anything she desires, and he puts hi!self altogether at her
disposal. DThen , will tell you the truth,D says she. Then the da!sel relates to the! the following story:
D,n truth, !y lords, 6eleagant, a tall and powerful night, son of the King of Korre, has taen her off
into the ingdo! whence no foreigner returns, but where he !ust perforce re!ain in ser"itude and
banish!ent.D Then they as her: D4a!sel, where is this countryJ )here can we find the way thitherJD
.he replies: DThat you shall Guicly learn? but you !ay be sure that you will !eet with !any obstacles
and difficult passages, for it is not easy to enter there e%cept with the per!ission of the ing, whose
na!e is 5ade!agu? howe"er, it is possible to enter by two "ery perilous paths and by two "ery difficult
passage-ways. $ne is called the water-bridge, because the bridge is under water, and there is the sa!e
a!ount of water beneath it as abo"e it, so that the bridge is e%actly in the !iddle? and it is only a foot
and a half in width and in thicness. This choice is certainly to be a"oided. and yet it is the less
dangerous of the two. ,n addition there are a nu!ber of other obstacles of which , will say nothing. The
other bridge is still !ore i!practicable and !uch !ore perilous, ne"er ha"ing been crossed by !an. ,t
is Fust lie a sharp sword, and therefore all the people call it Nthe sword-bridge8. 9ow , ha"e told you all
the truth , now.D 5ut they as of her once again: D4a!sel, deign to show us these two passages.D To
which the da!sel !aes reply: DThis road here is the !ost direct to the water-bridge, and that one
yonder leads straight to the sword- bridge.D Then the night, who had been on the cart, says: D.ire, , a!
ready to share with you without preFudice: tae one of these two routes, and lea"e the other one to !e?
59
Chrétien de Troyes
tae whiche"er you prefer.D D,n truth,D !y lord Kawain replies, Dboth of the! are hard and dangerous: ,
a! not silled in !aing such a choice, and hardly now which of the! to tae? but it is not right for
!e to hesitate when you ha"e left the choice to !e: , will choose the water-bridge.D The other answers:
DThen , !ust go unco!plainingly to the sword-bridge, which , agree to do.D Thereupon, they all three
part, each one co!!ending the others "ery courteously to Kod. #nd when she sees the! departing, she
says: D(ach one of you owes !e a fa"our of !y choosing, whene"er , !ay choose to as it. Tae care
not to forget that.D D)e shall surely not forget it, sweet friend,D both the nights call out. Then each one
goes his own way, and he of the cart is occupied with deep reflections, lie one who has no strength or
defence against lo"e which holds hi! in its sway. <is thoughts are such that he totally forgets hi!self,
and he nows not whether he is ali"e or dead, forgetting e"en his own na!e, not nowing whether he is
ar!ed or not, or whither he is going or whence he ca!e. $nly one creature he has in !ind, and for her
his thought is so occupied that he neither sees nor hears aught else.
i%
#nd his horse bears hi! along
rapidly, following no crooed road, but the best and the !ost direct? and thus proceeding unguided, he
brings hi! into an open plain. ,n this plain there was a ford, on the other side of which a night stood
ar!ed, who guarded it, and in his co!pany there was a da!sel who had co!e on a palfrey. 5y this
ti!e the afternoon was well ad"anced, and yet the night, unchanged and unwearied, pursued his
thoughts. The horse, being "ery thirsty, sees clearly the ford, and as soon as he sees it, hastens toward
it. Then he on the other side cries out: DKnight, , a! guarding the ford, and forbid you to cross.D <e
neither gi"es hi! heed, nor hears his words, being still deep in thought. ,n the !eanti!e, his horse
ad"anced rapidly toward the water. The night calls out to hi! that he will do wisely to eep at a
distance fro! the ford, for there is no passage that way? and he swears by the heart within his breast
that he will s!ite hi! if he enters the water. 5ut his threats are not heard, and he calls out to hi! a third
ti!e: DKnight, do not enter the ford against !y will and prohibition? for, by !y head, , shall strie you
as soon as , see you in the ford.D 5ut he is so deep in thought that he does not hear hi!. #nd the horse,
Guicly lea"ing the ban, leaps into the ford and greedily begins to drin. #nd the night says he shall
pay for this, that his shield and the hauber he wears upon his bac shall afford hi! no protection.
First, he puts his horse at a gallop, and fro! a gallop he urges hi! to a run, and he stries the night so
hard that he nocs hi! down flat in the ford which he had forbidden hi! to cross. <is lance flew fro!
his hand and the shield fro! his nec. )hen he feels the water, he shi"ers, and though stunned, he
Fu!ps to his feet, lie one aroused fro! sleep, listening and looing about hi! with astonish!ent, to
5&
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
see who it can be who has struc hi!. Then face to face with the other night, he said: DEassal, tell !e
why you ha"e struc !e, when , was not aware of your presence, and when , had done you no har!.D
D-pon !y word, you had wronged !e,D the other says: Ddid you not treat !e disdainfully when ,
forbade you three ti!es to cross the ford, shouting at you as loudly as , couldJ =ou surely heard !e
challenge you at least two or three ti!es, and you entered in spite of !e, though , told you , should
strie you as soon as , saw you in the ford.D Then the night replies to hi!: D)hoe"er heard you or saw
you, let hi! be da!ned, so far as , a! concerned. , was probably deep in thought when you forbade !e
to cross the ford. 5ut be assured that , would !ae you reset it, if , could Fust lay one of !y hands on
your bridle.D #nd the other replies: D)hy, what of thatJ ,f you dare, you !ay seiMe !y bridle here and
now. , do not estee! your proud threats so !uch as a handful of ashes.D #nd he replies: DThat suits !e
perfectly. <owe"er the affair !ay turn out, , should lie to lay !y hands on you.D Then the other night
ad"ances to the !iddle of the ford, where the other lays his left hand upon his bridle, and his right hand
upon his leg, pulling, dragging, and pressing hi! so roughly that he re!onstrates, thining that he
would pull his leg out of his body. Then he begs hi! to let go, saying: DKnight, if it please thee to fight
!e on e"en ter!s, tae thy shield and horse and lance, and Foust with !e.D <e answers: DThat will , not
do, upon !y word? for , suppose thou wouldst run away as soon as thou hadst escaped !y grip.D
<earing this, he was !uch asha!ed, and said: DKnight, !ount thy horse, in confidence for , will pledge
thee loyally !y word that , shall not flinch or run away.D Then once again he answers hi!: DFirst, thou
wilt ha"e to swear to that, and , insist upon recei"ing thy oath that thou wilt neither run away nor
flinch, nor touch !e, nor co!e near !e until thou shalt see !e on !y horse? , shall be treating thee
"ery generously, if, when thou art in !y hands, , let thee go.D <e can do nothing but gi"e his oath? and
when the other hears hi! swear, he gathers up his shield and lance which were floating in the ford and
by this ti!e had drifted well down-strea!? then he returns and taes his horse. #fter catching and
!ounting hi!, he seiMes the shield by the shoulder-straps and lays his lance in rest. Then each spurs
toward the other as fast as their horses can carry the!. #nd he who had to defend the ford first attacs
the other, striing hi! so hard that his lance is co!pletely splintered. The other stries hi! in return so
that he throws hi! prostrate into the ford, and the water closes o"er hi!. <a"ing acco!plished that, he
draws bac and dis!ounts, thining he could dri"e and chase away a hundred such. )hile he draws
fro! the scabbard his sword of steel, the other Fu!ps up and draws his e%cellent flashing blade. Then
they clash again, ad"ancing and co"ering the!sel"es with the shields which glea! with gold.
5,
Chrétien de Troyes
Ceaselessly and without repose they wield their swords? they ha"e the courage to deal so !any blows
that the battle finally is so protracted that the Knight of the Cart is greatly asha!ed in his heart,
thining that he is !aing a sorry start in the way he has undertaen, when he has spent so !uch ti!e
in defeating a single night. ,f he had !et yesterday a hundred such, he does not thin or belie"e that
they could ha"e withstood hi!? so now he is !uch grie"ed and wroth to be in such an e%hausted state
that he is !issing his stroes and losing ti!e. Then he runs at hi! and presses hi! so hard that the
other night gi"es way and flees. <owe"er reluctant he !ay be, he lea"es the ford and crossing free.
5ut the other follows hi! in pursuit until he falls forward upon his hands? then he of the cart runs up to
hi!, swearing by all he sees that he shall rue the day when he upset hi! in the ford and disturbed his
re"ery. The da!sel, who! the night had with hi!, upon hearing the threats, is in great fear, and begs
hi! for her sae to forbear fro! illing hi!? but he tells her that he !ust do so, and can show hi! no
!ercy for her sae, in "iew of the sha!eful wrong that he has done hi!. Then, with sword drawn, he
approaches the night who cries in sore dis!ay: DFor Kod8s sae and for !y own, show !e the !ercy ,
as of you.D #nd he replies: D#s Kod !ay sa"e !e, no one e"er sinned so against !e that , would not
show hi! !ercy once, for Kod8s sae as is right, if he ased it of !e in Kod8s na!e. #nd so on thee ,
will ha"e !ercy? for , ought not to refuse thee when thou hast besought !e. 5ut first, thou shalt gi"e
!e thy word to constitute thyself !y prisoner whene"er , !ay wish to su!!on thee.D Though it was
hard to do so, he pro!ised hi!. #t once the da!sel said: D$ night, since thou hast granted the !ercy
he ased of thee, if e"er thou hast broen any bonds, for !y sae now be !erciful and release this
prisoner fro! his parole. .et hi! free at !y reGuest, upon condition that when the ti!e co!es, , shall
do !y ut!ost to repay thee in any way that thou shalt choose.D Then he declares hi!self satisfied with
the pro!ise she has !ade, and sets the night at liberty. Then she is asha!ed and an%ious, thining that
he will recognise her, which she did not wish. 5ut he goes away at once, the night and the da!sel
co!!ending hi! to Kod, and taing lea"e of hi!. <e grants the! lea"e to go, while he hi!self
pursues his way, until late in the afternoon he !et a da!sel co!ing, who was "ery fair and char!ing,
well attired and richly dressed. The da!sel greets hi! prudently and courteously, and he replies:
D4a!sel, Kod grant you health and happiness.D Then the da!sel said to hi!: D.ire, !y house is
prepared for you, if you will accept !y hospitality, but you shall find shelter there only on condition
that you will lie with !e? upon these ter!s , propose and !ae the offer.D 9ot a few there are who
would ha"e thaned her fi"e hundred ti!es for such a gift? but he is !uch displeased, and !ade a "ery
53
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
different answer: D4a!sel, , than you for the offer of your house, and estee! it highly, but, if you
please, , should be "ery sorry to lie with you.D D5y !y eyes,D the da!sel says, Dthen , retract !y offer.D
#nd he, since it is una"oidable, lets her ha"e her way, though his heart grie"es to gi"e consent. <e feels
only reluctance now? but greater distress will be his when it is ti!e to go to bed. The da!sel, too, who
leads hi! away, will pass through sorrow and hea"iness. For it is possible that she will lo"e hi! so that
she will not wish to part with hi!. #s soon as he had granted her wish and desire, she escorts hi! to a
fortified place, than which there was none fairer in Thessaly? for it was entirely enclosed by a high wall
and a deep !oat, and there was no !an within e%cept hi! who! she brought with her.
>E". *L1-&'+0.@ <ere she had constructed for her residence a Guantity of handso!e roo!s, and a
large and roo!y hall. 3iding along a ri"er ban, they approached their lodging-place, and a drawbridge
was lowered to allow the! to pass. Crossing the bridge, they entered in, and found the hall open with
its roof of tiles. Through the open door they pass, and see a table laid with a broad white cloth, upon
which the dishes were set, and the candles burning in their stands, and the gilded sil"er drining- cups,
and two pots of wine, one red and one white. .tanding beside the table, at the end of a bench, they
found two basins of war! water in which to wash their hands, with a richly e!broidered towel, all
white and clean, with which to dry their hands. 9o "alets, ser"ants, or sGuires were to be found or seen.
The night, re!o"ing his shield fro! about his nec, hangs it upon a hoo, and, taing his lance, lays it
abo"e upon a rac. Then he dis!ounts fro! his horse, as does the da!sel fro! hers. The night, for his
part, was pleased that she did not care to wait for hi! to help her to dis!ount. <a"ing dis!ounted, she
runs directly to a roo! and brings hi! a short !antle of scarlet cloth which she puts on hi!. The hall
was by no !eans dar? for beside the light fro! the stars, there were !any large twisted candles lighted
there, so that the illu!ination was "ery bright. )hen she had thrown the !antle about his shoulders,
she said to hi!: DFriend, here is the water and the towel? there is no one to present or offer it to you
e%cept !e who! you see. )ash your hands, and then sit down, when you feel lie doing so. The hour
and the !eal, as you can see, de!and that you should do so.D <e washes, and then gladly and readily
taes his seat, and she sits down beside hi!, and they eat and drin together, until the ti!e co!es to
lea"e the table.
>E". &'+1-&0'B.@ )hen they had risen fro! the table, the da!sel said to the night: D.ire, if you
do not obFect, go outside and a!use yourself? but, if you please, do not stay after you thin , !ust be in
58
Chrétien de Troyes
bed. Feel no concern or e!barrass!ent? for then you !ay co!e to !e at once, if you will eep the
pro!ise you ha"e !ade.D #nd he replies: D, will eep !y word, and will return when , thin the ti!e
has co!e.D Then he went out, and stayed in the courtyard until he thought it was ti!e to return and
eep the pro!ise he had !ade. Koing bac into the hall, he sees nothing of her who would be his
!istress? for she was not there. 9ot finding or seeing her, he said: D)here"er she !ay be, , shall loo
for her until , find her.D <e !aes no delay in his search, being bound by the pro!ise he had !ade her.
(ntering one of the roo!s, he hears a da!sel cry aloud, and it was the "ery one with who! he was
about to lie. #t the sa!e ti!e, he sees the door of another roo! standing open, and stepping toward it,
he sees right before his eyes a night who had thrown her down, and was holding her naed and
prostrate upon the bed. .he, thining that he had co!e of course to help her, cried aloud: D<elp, help,
thou night, who art !y guest. ,f thou dost not tae this !an away fro! !e, , shall find no one to do
so? if thou dost not succour !e speedily, he will wrong !e before thy eyes. Thou art the one to lie with
!e, in accordance with thy pro!ise? and shall this !an by force acco!plish his wish before thy eyesJ
Kentle night, e%ert thyself, and !ae haste to bear !e aid.D <e sees that the other !an held the
da!sel brutally unco"ered to the waist, and he is asha!ed and angered to see hi! assault her so? yet it
is not Fealousy he feels, nor will he be !ade a cucold by hi!. #t the door there stood as guards two
nights co!pletely ar!ed and with swords drawn. 5ehind the! there stood four !en-at-ar!s, each
ar!ed with an a%e the sort with which you could split a cow down the bac as easily as a root of
Funiper or broo!. The night hesitated at the door, and thought: DKod, what can , doJ , a! engaged in
no less an affair than the Guest of Iueen Kuine"ere. , ought not to ha"e the heart of a hare, when for
her sae , ha"e engaged in such a Guest. ,f cowardice puts its heart in !e, and if , follow its dictates, ,
shall ne"er attain what , see. , a! disgraced, if , stand here? indeed, , a! asha!ed e"en to ha"e
thought of holding bac. 6y heart is "ery sad and oppressed: now , a! so asha!ed and distressed that
, would gladly die for ha"ing hesitated here so long. , say it not in pride: but !ay Kod ha"e !ercy on
!e if , do not prefer to die honourably rather than li"e a life of sha!eO ,f !y path were unobstructed,
and if these !en ga"e !e lea"e to pass through without restraint, what honour would , gainJ Truly, in
that case the greatest coward ali"e would pass through? and all the while , hear this poor creature
calling for help constantly, and re!inding !e of !y pro!ise, and reproaching !e with bitter taunts.D
Then he steps to the door, thrusting in his head and shoulders? glancing up, he sees two swords
descending. <e draws bac, and the nights could not chec their stroes: they had wielded the! with
5;
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
such force that the swords struc the floor, and both were broen in pieces. )hen he sees that the
swords are broen, he pays less attention to the a%es, fearing and dreading the! !uch less. 3ushing in
a!ong the!, he stries first one guard in the side and then another. The two who are nearest hi! he
Fostles and thrusts aside, throwing the! both down flat? the third !issed his stroe at hi!, but the
fourth, who attaced hi!, stries hi! so that he cuts his !antle and shirt, and slices the white flesh on
his shoulder so that the blood tricles down fro! the wound. 5ut he, without delay, and without
co!plaining of his wound, presses on !ore rapidly, until he stries between the te!ples hi! who was
assaulting his hostess. 5efore he departs, he will try to eep his pledge to her. <e !aes hi! stand up
reluctantly. 6eanwhile, he who had !issed striing hi! co!es at hi! as fast as he can and, raising his
ar! again, e%pects to split his head to the teeth with the a%e. 5ut the other, alert to defend hi!self,
thrusts the night toward hi! in such a way that he recei"es the a%e Fust where the shoulder Foins the
nec, so that they are clea"ed apart. Then the night seiMes the a%e, wresting it Guicly fro! hi! who
holds it? then he lets go the night who! he still held, and loos to his own defence? for the nights
fro! the door, and the three !en with a%es are all attacing hi! fiercely. .o he leaped Guicly between
the bed and the wall, and called to the!: DCo!e on now, all of you. ,f there were thirty- se"en of you,
you would ha"e all the fight you wish, with !e so fa"ourably placed? , shall ne"er be o"erco!e by
you.D #nd the da!sel watching hi!, e%clai!ed: D5y !y eyes, you need ha"e no thought of that
henceforth where , a!.D Then at once she dis!isses the nights and the !en-at-ar!s, who retire fro!
there at once, without delay or obFection. #nd the da!sel continues: D.ire you ha"e well defended !e
against the !en of !y household. Co!e now, and ,8ll lead you on.D <and in hand they enter the hall,
but he was not at all pleased, and would ha"e willingly dispensed with her.
>E". &0'H-&0*0.@ ,n the !idst of the hall a bed had been set up, the sheets of which were by no
!eans soiled, but were white and wide and well spread out. The bed was not of shredded straw or of
coarse spreads. 5ut a co"ering of two sil cloths had been laid upon the couch. The da!sel lay down
first, but without re!o"ing her che!ise. <e had great trouble in re!o"ing his hose and in untying the
nots. <e sweated with the trouble of it all? yet, in the !idst of all the trouble, his pro!ise i!pels and
dri"es hi! on. ,s this then an actual forceJ =es, "irtually so? for he feels that he is in duty bound to tae
his place by the da!sel8s side. ,t is his pro!ise that urges hi! and dictates his act. .o he lies down at
once, but lie her, he does not re!o"e his shirt. <e taes good care not to touch her? and when he is in
bed, he turns away fro! her as far as possible, and speas not a word to her, lie a !on to who!
56
Chrétien de Troyes
speech is forbidden. 9ot once does he loo at her, nor show her any courtesy. )hy notJ 5ecause his
heart does not go out to her. .he was certainly "ery fair and winso!e, but not e"ery one is pleased and
touched by what is fair and winso!e. The night has only one heart, and this one is really no longer
his, but has been entrusted to so!e one else, so that he cannot bestow it elsewhere. Lo"e, which holds
all hearts beneath its sway, reGuires it to be lodged in a single place. #ll heartsJ 9o, only those which it
estee!s. #nd he who! lo"e deigns to control ought to priMe hi!self the !ore. Lo"e priMed his heart so
highly that it constrained it in a special !anner, and !ade hi! so proud of this distinction that , a! not
inclined to find fault with hi!, if he lets alone what lo"e forbids, and re!ains fi%ed where it desires.
The !aiden clearly sees and nows that he dislies her co!pany and would gladly dispense with it, and
that, ha"ing no desire to win her lo"e, he would not atte!pt to woo her. .o she said: D6y lord, if you
will not feel hurt, , will lea"e and return to bed in !y own roo!, and you will be !ore co!fortable. ,
do not belie"e that you are pleased with !y co!pany and society. 4o not estee! !e less if , tell you
what , thin. 9ow tae your rest all night, for you ha"e so well ept your pro!ise that , ha"e no right
to !ae further reGuest of you. .o , co!!end you to Kod? and shall go away.D Thereupon she arises:
the night does not obFect, but rather gladly lets her go, lie one who is the de"oted lo"er of so!e one
else? the da!sel clearly percei"ed this, and went to her roo!, where she undressed co!pletely and
retired, saying to herself: D$f all the nights , ha"e e"er nown, , ne"er new a single night who! ,
would "alue the third part of an ange"in in co!parison with this one. #s , understand the case, he has
on hand a !ore perilous and gra"e affair than any e"er undertaen by a night? and !ay Kod grant that
he succeed in it.D Then she fell asleep, and re!ained in bed until the ne%t day8s dawn appeared.
>E". &0*1-&1BL.@ #t daybrea she awaes and gets up. The night awaes too, dressing, and
putting on his ar!s, without waiting for any help. Then the da!sel co!es and sees that he is already
dressed. -pon seeing hi!, she says: D6ay this day be a happy one for you.D D#nd !ay it be the sa!e to
you, da!sel,D the night replies, adding that he is waiting an%iously for so!e one to bring out his
horse. The !aiden has so!e one fetch the horse, and says: D.ire, , should lie to acco!pany you for
so!e distance along the road, if you would agree to escort and conduct !e according to the custo!s
and practices which were obser"ed before we were !ade capti"e in the ingdo! of Logres.D ,n those
days the custo!s and pri"ileges were such that, if a night found a da!sel or lorn !aid alone, and if he
cared for his fair na!e, he would no !ore treat her with dishonour than he would cut his own throat.
#nd if he assaulted her, he would be disgraced for e"er in e"ery court. 5ut if, while she was under his
5:
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
escort, she should be won at ar!s by another who engaged hi! in battle, then this other night !ight
do with her what he pleased without recei"ing sha!e or bla!e. This is why the da!sel said she would
go with hi!, if he had the courage and willingness to safe guard her in his co!pany, so that no one
should do her any har!. #nd he says to her: D9o one shall har! you, , pro!ise you, unless he har! !e
first.D DThen,D she says, D, will go with you.D .he orders her palfrey to be saddled, and her co!!and is
obeyed at once. <er palfrey was brought together with the night8s horse. )ithout the aid of any sGuire,
they both !ount, and rapidly ride away. .he tals to hi!, but not caring for her words, he pays no
attention to what she says. <e lies to thin, but dislies to tal. Lo"e "ery often inflicts afresh the
wound it has gi"en hi!. =et, he applied no poultice to the wound to cure it and !ae it co!fortable,
ha"ing no intention or desire to secure a poultice or to see a physician, unless the wound beco!es
!ore painful. =et, there is one whose re!edy he would gladly see ....
%
They follow the roads and
paths in the right direction until they co!e to a spring, situated in the !iddle of a field, and bordered by
a stone basin. .o!e one had forgotten upon the stone a co!b of gilded i"ory. 9e"er since ancient ti!es
has wise !an or fool seen such a co!b. ,n its teeth there was al!ost a handful of hair belonging to her
who had used the co!b.
>E". &1B*-&220.@ )hen the da!sel notices the spring, and sees the stone, she does not wish her
co!panion to see it? so she turns off in another direction. #nd he, agreeably occupied with his own
thoughts, does not at once re!ar that she is leading hi! aside? but when at last he notices it, he is
afraid of being beguiled, thining that she is yielding and is going out of the way in order to a"oid
so!e danger. D.ee here, da!sel,D he cries, Dyou are not going right? co!e this wayO 9o one, , thin,
e"er went straight who left this road.D D.ire, this is a better way for us,D the da!sel says, D, a! sure of
it.D Then he replies to her: D, don8t now, da!sel, what you thin? but you can plainly see that the
beaten path lies this way? and since , ha"e started to follow it, , shall not turn aside. .o co!e now, if
you will, for , shall continue along this way.D Then they go forward until they co!e near the stone
basin and see the co!b. The night says: D, surely ne"er re!e!ber to ha"e seen so beautiful a co!b as
this.D DLet !e ha"e it,D the da!sel says. D)illingly, da!sel,D he replies. Then he stoops o"er and pics
it up. )hile holding it, he loos at it steadfastly, gaMing at the hair until the da!sel begins to laugh.
)hen he sees her doing so, he begs her to tell hi! why she laughs. #nd she says: D9e"er !ind, for ,
will ne"er tell you.D D)hy notJD he ass. D5ecause , don8t wish to do so.D #nd when he hears that, he
i!plores her lie one who holds that lo"ers ought to eep faith !utually: D4a!sel, if you lo"e anything
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Chrétien de Troyes
passionately, by that , i!plore and conFure and beg you not to conceal fro! !e the reason why you
laugh.D D=our appeal is so strong,D she says, Dthat , will tell you and eep nothing bac. , a! sure, as ,
a! of anything, that this co!b belonged to the Iueen. #nd you !ay tae !y word that those are
strands of the Iueen8s hair which you see to be so fair and light and radiant, and which are clinging in
the teeth of the co!b? they surely ne"er grew anywhere else.D Then the night replied: D-pon !y word,
there are plenty of Gueens and ings? what Gueen do you !eanJD #nd she answered: D,n truth, fair sire,
it is of King #rthur8s wife , spea.D )hen he hears that, he has not strength to eep fro! bowing his
head o"er his saddle-bow. #nd when the da!sel sees hi! thus, she is a!aMed and terrified, thining he
is about to fall. 4o not bla!e her for her fear, for she thought hi! in a faint. <e !ight as well ha"e
swooned, so near was he to doing so? for in his heart he felt such grief that for a long ti!e he lost his
colour and power of speech. #nd the da!sel dis!ounts, and runs as Guicly as possible to support and
succour hi!? for she would not ha"e wished for anything to see hi! fall. )hen he saw her, he felt
asha!ed, and said: D)hy do you need to bear !e aidJD =ou !ust not suppose that the da!sel told hi!
why? for he would ha"e been asha!ed and distressed, and it would ha"e annoyed and troubled hi!, if
she had confessed to hi! the truth. .o she too good care not to tell the truth, but tactfully answered
hi!: D.ire, , dis!ounted to get the co!b? for , was so an%ious to hold it in !y hand that , could not
longer wait.D )illing that she should ha"e the co!b, he gi"es it to her, first pulling out the hair so
carefully that he tears none of it. 9e"er will the eye of !an see anything recei"e such honour as when
he begins to adore these tresses. # hundred thousand ti!es he raises the! to his eyes and !outh, to his
forehead and face: he !anifests his Foy in e"ery way, considering hi!self rich and happy now. <e lays
the! in his boso! near his heart, between the shirt and the flesh. <e would not e%change the! for a
cartload of e!eralds and carbuncles, nor does he thin that any sore or illness can afflict hi! now? he
holds in conte!pt essence of pearl, treacle, and the cure for pleurisy?
%i
e"en for .t. 6artin and .t.
/a!es he has no need? for he has such confidence in this hair that he reGuires no other aid. 5ut what
was this hair lieJ ,f , tell the truth about it, you will thin , a! a !ad teller of lies. )hen the !art is
full at the yearly fair of .t. 4enis,
%ii
and when the goods are !ost abundantly displayed, e"en then the
night would not tae all this wealth, unless he had found these tresses too. #nd if you wish to now
the truth, gold a hundred thousand ti!es refined, and !elted down as !any ti!es, would be darer than
is night co!pared with the brightest su!!er day we ha"e had this year, if one were to see the gold and
set it beside this hair. 5ut why should , !ae a long story of itJ The da!sel !ounts again with the
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Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
co!b in her possession? while he re"els and delights in the tresses in his boso!. Lea"ing the plain, they
co!e to a forest and tae a short cut through it until they co!e to a narrow place, where they ha"e to
go in single file? for it would ha"e been i!possible to ride two horses abreast. /ust where the way was
narrowest, they see a night approach. #s soon as she saw hi!, the da!sel recognised hi!, and said:
D.ir night, do you see hi! who yonder co!es against us all ar!ed and ready for a battleJ , now what
his intention is: he thins now that he cannot fail to tae !e off defenceless with hi!. <e lo"es !e, but
he is "ery foolish to do so. ,n person, and by !essenger, he has been long wooing !e. 5ut !y lo"e is
not within his reach, for , would not lo"e hi! under any consideration, so help !e KodO , would ill
!yself rather than bestow !y lo"e on hi!. , do not doubt that he is delighted now, and is as satisfied as
if he had !e already in his power. 5ut now , shall see what you can do, and , shall see how bra"e you
are, and it will beco!e apparent whether your escort can protect !e. ,f you can protect !e now, , shall
not fail to proclai! that you are bra"e and "ery worthy.D #nd he answered her: DKo on, go onOD which
was as !uch as to say: D, a! not concerned? there is no need of your being worried about what you
ha"e said.D
>E". &221-&BB'.@ )hile they were proceeding, taling thus, the night, who was alone, rode
rapidly toward the! on the run. <e was the !ore eager to !ae haste, because he felt !ore sure of
success? he felt that he was lucy now to see her who! he !ost dearly lo"es. #s soon as he approaches
her, he greets her with words that co!e fro! his heart: D)elco!e to her, whence-soe"er she co!es,
who! , !ost desire, but who has hitherto caused !e least Foy and !ost distressOD ,t is not fitting that
she should be so stingy of her speech as not to return his greeting, at least by word of !outh. The
night is greatly elated when the da!sel greets hi!? though she does not tae the words seriously, and
the effort costs her nothing. =et, if he had at this !o!ent been "ictor in a tourna!ent, he would not
ha"e so highly estee!ed hi!self, nor thought he had won such honour and renown. 5eing now !ore
confident of his worth, he grasped the bridle rein, and said: D9ow , shall lead you away: , ha"e to-day
sailed well on !y course to ha"e arri"ed at last at so good a port. 9ow !y troubles are at an end: after
dangers, , ha"e reached a ha"en? after sorrow, , ha"e attained happiness? after pain, , ha"e perfect
health? now , ha"e acco!plished !y desire, when , find you in such case that , can without resistance
lead you away with !e at once.D Then she says: D=ou ha"e no ad"antage? for , a! under this night8s
escort.D D.urely, the escort is not worth !uch,D he says, Dand , a! going to lead you off at once. This
night would ha"e ti!e to eat a bushel of salt before he could defend you fro! !e? , thin , could
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Chrétien de Troyes
ne"er !eet a night fro! who! , should not win you. #nd since , find you here so opportunely, though
he too !ay do his best to pre"ent it, yet , will tae you before his "ery eyes, howe"er disgruntled he
!ay be.D The other is not angered by all the pride he hears e%pressed, but without any i!pudence or
boasting, he begins thus to challenge hi! for her: D.ire, don8t be in a hurry, and don8t waste your words,
but spea a little reasonably. =ou shall not be depri"ed of as !uch of her as rightly belongs to you. =ou
!ust now, howe"er, that the da!sel has co!e hither under !y protection. Let her alone now, for you
ha"e detained her long enoughOD The other gi"es the! lea"e to burn hi!, if he does not tae her away
in spite of hi!. Then the other says: D,t would not be right for !e to let you tae her away? , would
sooner fight with you. 5ut if we should wish to fight, we could not possibly do it in this narrow road.
Let us go to so!e le"el place -- a !eadow or an open field.D #nd he replies that that will suit hi!
perfectly: DCertainly, , agree to that: you are Guite right, this road is too narrow. 6y horse is so !uch
ha!pered here that , a! afraid he will crush his flan before , can turn hi! around.D Then with great
difficulty he turns, and his horse escapes without any wound or har!. Then he says: DTo be sure, , a!
!uch chagrined that we ha"e not !et in a fa"ourable spot and in the presence of other !en, for ,
should ha"e been glad to ha"e the! see which is the better of us two. Co!e on now, let us begin our
search: we shall find in the "icinity so!e large, broad, and open space.D Then they proceed to a
!eadow, where there were !aids, nights, and da!sels playing at di"ers ga!es in this pleasant place.
They were not all engaged in idle sport, but were playing bacga!!on and chess or dice, and were
e"idently agreeably e!ployed. 6ost were engaged in such ga!es as these? but the others there were
engaged in sports, dancing, singing, tu!bling, leaping, and wrestling with each other.
>E". &BB&-&L+'.@ # night so!ewhat ad"anced in years was on the other side of the !eadow,
seared upon a sorrel .panish steed. <is bridle and saddle were of gold, and his hair was turning grey.
$ne hand hung at his side with easy grace. The weather being fine, he was in his shirt slee"es, with a
short !antle of scarlet cloth and fur slung o"er his shoulders, and thus he watched the ga!es and
dances. $n the other side of the field, close by a path, there were twenty-three nights !ounted on
good ,rish steeds. #s soon as the three new arri"als co!e into "iew, they all cease their play and shout
across the fields: D.ee, yonder co!es the night who was dri"en in the cartO Let no one continue his
sport while he is in our !idst. # curse upon hi! who cares or deigns to play so long as he is hereOD
6eanwhile he who lo"ed the da!sel and clai!ed her as his own, approached the old night, and said:
D.ire, , ha"e attained great happiness? let all who will now hear !e say that Kod has granted !e the
9&
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
thing that , ha"e always !ost desired? <is gift would not ha"e been so great had <e crowned !e as
ing, nor would , ha"e been so indebted to <i!, nor would , ha"e so profited? for what , ha"e gained is
fair and good.D D, now not yet if it be thine,D the night replies to his son. 5ut the latter answers hi!:
D4on8t you nowJ Can8t you see it, thenJ For Kod8s sae, sire, ha"e no further doubt, when you see that
, ha"e her in !y possession. ,n this forest, whence , co!e, , !et her as she was on her way. , thin Kod
had fetched her there for !e, and , ha"e taen her for !y own.D D, do not now whether this will be
allowed by hi! who! , see co!ing after thee? he loos as if he is co!ing to de!and her of thee.D
4uring this con"ersation the dancing had ceased because of the night who! they saw, nor were they
gaily playing any !ore because of the disgust and scorn they felt for hi!. 5ut the night without delay
ca!e up Guicly after the da!sel, and said: DLet the da!sel alone, night, for you ha"e no right to herO
,f you dare, , a! willing at once to fight with you in her defence.D Then the old night re!ared: D4id ,
not now itJ Fair son, detain the da!sel no longer, but let her go.D <e does not relish this ad"ice, and
swears that he will not gi"e her up: D6ay Kod ne"er grant !e Foy if , gi"e her up to hi!O , ha"e her,
and , shall hold on to her as so!ething that is !ine own. The shoulder-strap and all the ar!lets of !y
shield shall first be broen, and , shall ha"e lost all confidence in !y strength and ar!s, !y sword and
lance, before , will surrender !y !istress to hi!.D #nd his father says: D, shall not let thee fight for any
reason thou !ayest urge. Thou art too confident of thy bra"ery. .o obey !y co!!and.D 5ut he in his
pride replies: D)hatJ #! , a child to be terrifiedJ 3ather will , !ae !y boast that there is not within
the sea-girt land any night, wheresoe"er he !ay dwell, so e%cellent that , would let hi! ha"e her, and
who! , should not e%pect speedily to defeat.D The father answers: DFair son, , do not doubt that thou
dost really thin so, for thou art so confident of thy strength. 5ut , do not wish to see thee enter a
contest with this night.D Then he replies: D, shall be disgraced if , follow your ad"ice. Curse !e if ,
heed your counsel and turn recreant because of you, and do not do !y ut!ost in the fight. ,t is true that
a !an fares ill a!ong his relati"es: , could dri"e a better bargain so!ewhere else, for you are trying to
tae !e in. , a! sure that where , a! not nown, , could act with better grace. 9o one, who did not
now !e, would try to thwart !y will? whereas you are annoying and tor!enting !e. , a! "e%ed by
your finding fault with !e. =ou now well enough that when any one is bla!ed, he breas out still
!ore passionately. 5ut !ay Kod ne"er gi"e !e Foy if , renounce !y purpose because of you? rather
will , fight in spite of youOD D5y the faith , bear the #postle .t. 7eter,D his father says, Dnow , see that
!y reGuest is of no a"ail. , waste !y ti!e in rebuing thee? but , shall soon de"ise such !eans as shall
9,
Chrétien de Troyes
co!pel thee against thy will to obey !y co!!ands and sub!it to the!.D .traightway su!!oning all
the nights to approach, he bids the! lay hands upon his son who! he cannot correct, saying: D, will
ha"e hi! bound rather than let hi! fight. =ou here are all !y !en, and you owe !e your de"otion and
ser"ice: by all the fiefs you hold fro! !e, , hold you responsible, and , add !y prayer. ,t see!s to !e
that he !ust be !ad, and that he shows e%cessi"e pride, when he refuses to respect !y will.D Then they
pro!ise to tae care of hi!, and say that ne"er, while he is in their charge, shall he wish to fight, but
that he !ust renounce the da!sel in spite of hi!self. Then they all Foin and seiMe hi! by the ar!s and
nec. D4ost thou not thin thyself foolish nowJD his father ass? Dconfess the truth: thou hast not the
strength or power to fight or Foust, howe"er distasteful and hard it !ay be for thee to ad!it it. Thou
wilt be wise to consent to !y will and pleasure. 4ost thou now what !y intention isJ ,n order
so!ewhat to !itigate thy disappoint!ent, , a! willing to Foin thee, if thou wilt, in following the night
to-day and to-!orrow, through wood and plain, each one !ounted on his horse. 7erhaps we shall soon
find hi! to be of such a character and bearing that , !ight let thee ha"e thy way and fight with hi!.D
To this proposal the other !ust perforce consent. Lie the !an who has no alternati"e, he says that he
will gi"e in, pro"ided they both shall follow hi!. #nd when the people in the field see how this
ad"enture has turned out, they all e%clai!: D4id you seeJ <e who was !ounted on the cart has gained
such honour here that he is leading away the !istress of the son of !y lord, and he hi!self is allowing
it. )e !ay well suppose that he finds in hi! so!e !erit, when he lets hi! tae her off. 9ow cursed a
hundred ti!es be he who ceases longer his sport on his accountO Co!e, let us go bac to our ga!es
again.D Then they resu!e their ga!es and dances.
Part II: Vv. 1841 - Vv. 3684
>E". &L+&-&*BB.@ Thereupon the night turns away, without longer re!aining in the field, and the
da!sel acco!panies hi!. They lea"e in haste, while the father and his son ride after the! through the
!own fields until toward three o8cloc, when in a "ery pleasant spot they co!e upon a church? beside
the chancel there was a ce!etery enclosed by a wall. The night was both courteous and wise to enter
the church on foot and !ae his prayer to Kod, while the da!sel held his horse for hi! until he
returned. )hen he had !ade his prayer, and while he was co!ing bac, a "ery old !on suddenly
presented hi!self? whereupon the night politely reGuests hi! to tell hi! what this place is? for he does
not now. #nd he tells hi! it is a ce!etery. #nd the other says: DTae !e in, so help you KodOD
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Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
DKladly, sire,D and he taes hi! in. Following the !on8s lead, the night beholds the !ost beautiful
to!bs that one could find as far as 4o!bes
%iii
or 7a!pelune? and on each to!b there were letters cut,
telling the na!es of those who were destined to be buried there. #nd he began in order to read the
na!es, and ca!e upon so!e which said: D<ere Kawain is to lie, here Louis, and here ="ain.D #fter
these three, he read the na!es of !any others a!ong the !ost fa!ed and cherished nights of this or
any other land. #!ong the others, he finds one of !arble, which appears to be new, and is !ore rich
and handso!e than all the rest. Calling the !on, the night inGuired: D$f what use are these to!bs
hereJD #nd the !on replied: D=ou ha"e already read the inscriptions? if you ha"e understood, you
!ust now what they say, and what is the !eaning of the to!bs.D D9ow tell !e, what is this large one
forJD #nd the her!it answered: D, will tell you. That is a "ery large sarcophagus, larger than any that
e"er was !ade? one so rich and well-car"ed was ne"er seen. ,t is !agnificent without, and still !ore so
within. 5ut you need not be concerned with that, for it can ne"er do you any good? you will ne"er see
inside of it? for it would reGuire se"en strong !en to raise the lid of stone, if any one wished to open it.
#nd you !ay be sure that to raise it would reGuire se"en !en stronger than you and ,. There is an
inscription on it which says that any one who can lift this stone of his own unaided strength will set free
all the !en and wo!en who are capti"es in the land, whence no sla"e or noble can issue forth, unless
he is a nati"e of that land. 9o one has e"er co!e bac fro! there, but they are detained in foreign
prisons? whereas they of the country go and co!e in and out as they please.D #t once the night goes to
grasp the stone, and raises it without the slightest trouble, !ore easily than ten !en would do who
e%erted all their strength. #nd the !on was a!aMed, and nearly fell down at the sight of this
!ar"ellous thing? for he thought he would ne"er see the lie again, and said: D.ire, , a! "ery an%ious
to now your na!e. )ill you tell !e what it isJD D9ot ,,D says the night, Dupon !y word.D D, a!
certainly sorry, for that,D he says? Dbut if you would tell !e, you would do !e a great fa"our, and !ight
benefit yourself. )ho are you, and where do you co!e fro!JD D, a! a night, as you !ay see, and ,
was born in the ingdo! of Logre. #fter so !uch infor!ation, , should prefer to be e%cused. 9ow
please tell !e, for your part, who is to lie within this to!b.D D.ire, he who shall deli"er all those who
are held capti"e in the ingdo! whence none escapes.D #nd when he had told hi! all this, the night
co!!ended hi! to Kod and all <is saints. #nd then, for the first ti!e, he felt free to return to the
da!sel. The old white-haired !on escorts hi! out of the church, and they resu!e their way. )hile the
da!sel is !ounting, howe"er, the her!it relates to her all that the night had done inside, and then he
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Chrétien de Troyes
begged her to tell hi!. if she new, what his na!e was? but she assured hi! that she did not now, but
that there was one sure thing she could say, na!ely, that there was not such a night ali"e where the
four winds of hea"en blow.
>E". &*BH-0'00.@ Then the da!sel taes lea"e of hi!, and rides swiftly after the night. Then those
who were following the! co!e up and see the her!it standing alone before the church. The old night
in his shirt slee"es said: D.ire, tell us, ha"e you seen a night with a da!sel in his co!panyJD #nd he
replies: D, shall not be loath to tell you all , now, for they ha"e Fust passed on fro! here. The night
was inside yonder, and did a "ery !ar"ellous thing in raising the stone fro! the huge !arble to!b,
Guite unaided and without the least effort. <e is bent upon the rescue of the Iueen, and doubtless he
will rescue her, as well as all the other people. =ou now well that this !ust be so, for you ha"e often
read the inscription upon the stone. 9o night was e"er born of !an and wo!an, and no night e"er sat
in a saddle, who was the eGual of this !an.D Then the father turns to his son, and says: D.on, what dost
thou thin about hi! nowJ ,s he not a !an to be respected who has perfor!ed such a featJ 9ow thou
nowest who was wrong, and whether it was thou or ,. , would not ha"e thee fight with hi! for all the
town of #!iens? and yet thou didst struggle hard, before any one could dissuade thee fro! thy purpose.
9ow we !ay as well go bac, for we should be "ery foolish to follow hi! any farther.D #nd he replies:
D, agree to that. ,t would be useless to follow hi!. .ince it is your pleasure, let us return.D They were
"ery wise to retrace their steps. #nd all the ti!e the da!sel rides close beside the night, wishing to
co!pel hi! to gi"e heed to her. .he is an%ious to learn his na!e, and she begs and beseeches hi! again
and again to tell her, until in his annoyance he answers her: D<a"e , not already told you that , belong
in King #rthur8s real!J , swear by Kod and <is goodness that you shall not learn !y na!e.D Then she
bids hi! gi"e her lea"e to go, and she will turn bac, which reGuest he gladly grants.
>E". 0'01-0&*L.@ Thereupon the da!sel departs, and he rides on alone until it grew "ery late. #fter
"espers, about co!pline, as he pursued his way, he saw a night returning fro! the wood where he had
been hunting. )ith hel!et unlaced, he rode along upon his big grey hunter, to which he had tied the
ga!e which Kod had per!itted hi! to tae. This gentle!an ca!e Guicly to !eet the night, offering
hi! hospitality. D.ire,D he says, Dnight will soon be here. ,t is ti!e for you to be reasonable and see a
place to spend the night. , ha"e a house of !ine near at hand, whither , shall tae you. 9o one e"er
lodged you better than , shall do, to the e%tent of !y resources: , shall be "ery glad, if you consent.D
9;
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
DFor !y part, , gladly accept,D he says. The gentle!an at once sends his son ahead, to prepare the
house and start the preparations for supper. The lad willingly e%ecutes his co!!and forthwith, and
goes off at a rapid pace, while the others, who are in no haste, follow the road leisurely until they arri"e
at the house. The gentle!an8s wife was a "ery acco!plished lady? and he had fi"e sons, who! he
dearly lo"ed, three of the! !ere lads, and two already nights? and he had two fair and char!ing
daughters, who were still un!arried. They were not nati"es of the land, but were there in durance,
ha"ing been long ept there as prisoners away fro! their nati"e land of Logres. )hen the gentle!an
led the night into his yard, the lady with her sons and daughters Fu!ped up and ran to !eet the!,
"ying in their efforts to do hi! honour, as they greeted hi! and helped hi! to dis!ount. 9either the
sisters nor the fi"e brothers paid !uch attention to their father, for they new well enough that he
would ha"e it so. They honoured the night and welco!ed hi!? and when they had relie"ed hi! of his
ar!our, one of his host8s two daughters threw her own !antle about hi!, taing it fro! her own
shoulders and throwing it about his nec. , do not need to tell how well he was ser"ed at supper? but
when the !eal was finished, they felt no further hesitation in speaing of "arious !atters. First, the host
began to as hi! who he was, and fro! what land, but he did not inGuire about his na!e. The night
pro!ptly answered hi!: D, a! fro! the ingdo! of Logres, and ha"e ne"er been in this land before.D
#nd when the gentle!an heard that, he was greatly a!aMed, as were his wife and children too, and
each one of the! was sore distressed. Then they began to say to hi!: D)oe that you ha"e co!e here,
fair sire, for only trouble will co!e of itO For, lie us, you will be reduced to ser"itude and e%ile.D
D)here do you co!e fro!, thenJD he ased. D.ire, we belong in your country. 6any !en fro! your
country are held in ser"itude in this land. Cursed be the custo!, together with those who eep it upO 9o
stranger co!es here who is not co!pelled to stay here in the land where he is detained. For whoe"er
wishes !ay co!e in, but once in, he has to stay. #bout your own fate, you !ay be at rest, you will
doubtless ne"er escape fro! here.D <e replies: D,ndeed, , shall do so, if possible.D To this the gentle!an
replies: D<owJ 4o you thin you can escapeJD D=es, indeed, if it be Kod8s will? and , shall do all within
!y power.D D,n that case, doubtless all the rest would be set free? for, as soon as one succeeds in fairly
escaping fro! this durance, then all the rest !ay go forth unchallenged.D Then the gentle!an recalled
that he had been told and infor!ed that a night of great e%cellence was !aing his way into the
country to see for the Iueen, who was held by the ing8s son, 6eleagant? and he said to hi!self:
D-pon !y word, , belie"e it is he, and ,8ll tell hi! so.D .o he said to hi!: D.ire, do not conceal fro! !e
96
Chrétien de Troyes
your business, if , pro!ise to gi"e you the best ad"ice , now. , too shall profit by any success you !ay
attain. 3e"eal to !e the truth about your errand, that it !ay be to your ad"antage as well as !ine. , a!
persuaded that you ha"e co!e in search of the Iueen into this land and a!ong these heathen people,
who are worse than the .aracens.D #nd the night replies: DFor no other purpose ha"e , co!e. , now
not where !y lady is confined, but , a! stri"ing hard to rescue her, and a! in dire need of ad"ice. Ki"e
!e any counsel you can.D #nd he says: D.ire, you ha"e undertaen a "ery grie"ous tas. The road you
are tra"elling will lead you straight to the sword- bridge.
%i"
=ou surely need ad"ice. ,f you would heed
!y counsel, you would proceed to the sword-bridge by a surer way, and , would ha"e you escorted
thither.D Then he, whose !ind is fi%ed upon the !ost direct way, ass hi!: D,s the road of which you
spea as direct as the other wayJD D9o, it is not,D he says? Dit is longer, but !ore sure.D Then he says: D,
ha"e no use for it? tell !e about this road , a! followingOD D, a! ready to do so,D he replies? Dbut , a!
sure you will not fare well if you tae any other than the road , reco!!end. To-!orrow you will reach
a place where you will ha"e trouble: it is called Nthe stony passage8. .hall , tell you how bad a place it is
to passJ $nly one horse can go through at a ti!e? e"en two !en could not pass abreast, and the passage
is well guarded and defended. =ou will !eet with resistance as soon as you arri"e. =ou will sustain
!any a blow of sword and lance, and will ha"e to return full !easure before you succeed in passing
through.D #nd when he had co!pleted the account, one of the gentle!an8s sons, who was a night,
stepped forward, saying: D.ire, if you do not obFect, , will go with this gentle!an.D Then one of the lads
Fu!ps up, and says: D, too will go.D #nd the father gladly gi"es the! both consent. 9ow the night will
not ha"e to go alone, and he e%presses his gratitude, being !uch pleased with the co!pany.
>E". 0&**-00BB.@ Then the con"ersation ceases, and they tae the night to bed, where he was glad
to fall asleep. #s soon as daylight was "isible he got up, and those who were to acco!pany hi! got up
too. The two nights donned their ar!our and too their lea"e, while the young fellow started on
ahead. Together they pursued their way until they ca!e at the hour of pri!e to Dthe stony passage.D ,n
the !iddle of it they found a wooden tower, where there was always a !an on guard. 5efore they drew
near, he who was on the tower saw the! and cried twice aloud: D)oe to this !an who co!esOD #nd
then beholdO # night issued fro! the tower, !ounted and ar!ed with fresh ar!our, and escorted on
either side by ser"ants carrying sharp a%es. Then, when the other draws near the passage, he who
defends it begins to heap hi! with abuse about the cart, saying: DEassal, thou art bold and foolish,
indeed, to ha"e entered this country. 9o !an ought e"er to co!e here who had ridden upon a cart, and
9:
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
!ay Kod withhold fro! hi! <is blessingOD Then they spur toward each other at the top of their horses8
speed. #nd he who was to guard the passage- way at once breas his lance and lets the two pieces fall?
the other stries hi! in the nec, reaching hi! beneath the shield, and throws hi! o"er prostrate upon
the stones. Then the ser"ants co!e forward with the a%es, but they intentionally fail to strie hi!,
ha"ing no desire to har! or da!age hi!? so he does not deign to draw his sword, and Guicly passes on
with his co!panions. $ne of the! re!ars to the other: D9o one has e"er seen so good a night, nor
has he any eGual. ,s not this a !ar"ellous thing, that he has forced a passage hereJD #nd the night says
to his brother: DFair brother, for Kod8s sae, !ae haste to go and tell our father of this ad"enture.D 5ut
the lad asserts and swears that he will not go with the !essage, and will ne"er lea"e the night until he
has dubbed and nighted hi!? let his brother go with the !essage, if he is so !uch concerned.
>E". 00BH-0+2'.@ Then they go on together until about three o8cloc, when they co!e upon a !an,
who ass the! who they are. #nd they answer: D)e are nights, busy about our own affairs.D Then the
!an says to the night: D.ire, , should be glad to offer hospitality to you and your co!panions here.D
This in"itation he deli"ers to hi! who! he taes to be the lord and !aster of the others. #nd this one
replies to hi!: D, could not see shelter for the night at such an hour as this? for it is not well to tarry
and see one8s ease when one has undertaen so!e great tas. #nd , ha"e such business on hand that ,
shall not stop for the night for so!e ti!e yet.D Then the !an continues: D6y house is not near here, but
is so!e distance ahead. ,t will be late when you reach there, so you !ay proceed, assured that you will
find a place to lodge Fust when it suits you.D D,n that case,D he says, D, will go thither.D Thereupon the
!an starts ahead as guide, and the night follows along the path. #nd when they had proceeded so!e
distance, they !et a sGuire who was co!ing along at a gallop, !ounted upon a nag that was as fat and
round as an apple. #nd the sGuire calls our to the !an: D.ire, sire, !ae hasteO For the people of Logres
ha"e attaced in force the inhabitants of this land, and war and strife ha"e already broen out? and they
say that this country has been in"aded by a night who has been in !any battles, and that where"er he
wishes to go, no one, howe"er reluctantly, is able to deny hi! passage. #nd they further say that he will
deli"er those who are in this country, and will subdue our people. 9ow tae !y ad"ice and !ae
hasteOD Then the !an starts at a gallop, and the others are greatly delighted at the words they ha"e
heard, for they are eager to help their side. #nd the "a"asor8s son says: D<ear what this sGuire saysO
Co!e and let us aid our people who are fighting their ene!iesOD 6eanwhile the !an rides off, without
waiting for the!, and !aes his way rapidly toward a fortress which stood upon a fortified hill? thither
&7
Chrétien de Troyes
he hastens, till he co!es to the gate, while the others spur after hi!. The castle was surrounded by a
high wall and !oat. #s soon as they had got inside, a gate was lowered upon their heels, so that they
could not get out again. Then they say: DCo!e on, co!e onO Let us not stop hereOD and they rapidly
pursue the !an until they reach another gate which was not closed against the!. 5ut as soon as the
!an had passed through, a portcullis dropped behind hi!. Then the others were !uch dis!ayed to see
the!sel"es shut in, and they thin they !ust be bewitched. 5ut he, of who! , ha"e !ore to tell, wore
upon his finger a ring, whose stone was of such "irtue that any one who gaMed at it was freed fro! the
power of enchant!ent.
%"
<olding the ring before his eyes, he gaMed at it, and said: DLady, lady, so help
!e Kod, now , ha"e great need of your succourOD
%"i
This lady was a fairy, who had gi"en it to hi!, and
who had cared for hi! in his infancy. #nd he had great confidence that, where"er he !ight be, she
would aid and succour hi!. 5ut after appealing to her and gaMing upon the ring, he realises that there is
no enchant!ent here, but that they are actually shut in and confined. Then they co!e to the barred door
of a low and narrow postern gate. 4rawing their swords, they all strie it with such "iolence that they
cut the bar. #s soon as they were outside the tower, they see that a fierce strife was already begun down
in the !eadows, and that there are at least a thousand nights engaged, beside the low-bred infantry.
)hile they were descending to the plain, the wise and !oderate son of the "a"asor re!ared: D.ire,
before we arri"e upon the field, it would be wise for us, it see!s to !e, to find out and learn on which
side our people are. , do not now where they are placed, but , will go and find out, if you wish it so.D
D, wish you would do so,D he replies, Dgo Guicly, and do not fail to co!e bac again at once.D <e goes
and returns at once, saying: D,t has turned out well for us, for , ha"e plainly seen that these are our
troops on this side of the field.D Then the night at once rode into the fight and Fousted with a night
who was approaching hi!, striing hi! in the eye with such "iolence that he noced hi! lifeless to
the ground. Then the lad dis!ounts, and taing the dead night8s horse and ar!s, he ar!s hi!self with
sill and cle"erness. )hen he was ar!ed, he straightway !ounts, taing the shield and the lance,
which was hea"y, stiff, and decorated, and about his waist he girt a sharp, bright, and flashing sword.
Then he followed his brother and lord into the fight. The latter de!eaned hi!self bra"ely in the !elee
for so!e ti!e, breaing, splitting, and crushing shields, hel!ets and haubers. 9o wood or steel
protected the !an who! he struc? he either wounded hi! or noced hi! lifeless fro! the horse.
-nassisted, he did so well that he disco!fited all who! he !et, while his co!panions did their part as
well. The people of Logres, not nowing hi!, are a!aMed at what they see, and as the "a"asor8s sons
&5
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
about the stranger night. This reply is !ade to the!: DKentle!en, this is he who is to deli"er us all
fro! durance and !isery, in which we ha"e so long been confined, and we ought to do hi! great
honour when, to set us free, he has passed through so !any perils and is ready to face !any !ore. <e
has done !uch, and will do yet !ore.D ("ery one is o"erFoyed at hearing this welco!e news. The news
tra"elled fast, and was noised about, until it was nown by all. Their strength and courage rise, so that
they slay !any of those still ali"e, and apparently because of the e%a!ple of a single night they wor
greater ha"oc than because of all the rest co!bined. #nd if it had not been so near e"ening, all would
ha"e gone away defeated? but night ca!e on so dar that they had to separate.
>E". 0+2&-0B&+.@ )hen the battle was o"er, all the capti"es pressed about the night, grasping his
rein on either side, and thus addressing hi!: D)elco!e, fair sire,D and each one adds: D.ire, for the
na!e of Kod, do not fail to lodge with !eOD )hat one says they all repeat, for young and old alie
insist that he !ust lodge with the!, saying: D=ou will be !ore co!fortably lodged with !e than with
any one else.D Thus each one addresses hi! to his face, and in the desire to capture hi!, each one drags
hi! fro! the rest, until they al!ost co!e to blows. Then he tells the! that they are "ery foolish and
silly to struggle so. DCease this wrangling a!ong yoursel"es, for it does no good to !e or you. ,nstead
of Guarrelling a!ong oursel"es, we ought rather to lend one another aid. =ou !ust not dispute about the
pri"ilege of lodging !e, but rather consider how to lodge !e in such a place that it !ay be to your
general ad"antage, and that , !ay be ad"anced upon !y way.D Then each one e%clai!s at once: DThat
is !y house, or, 9o, it is !ine,D until the night replies: DFollow !y ad"ice and say nothing !ore? the
wisest of you is foolish to contend this way. =ou ought to be concerned to further !y affairs, and
instead you are seeing to turn !e aside. ,f you had each indi"idually done !e all the honour and
ser"ice it is possible to do, and , had accepted your indness, by all the saints of 3o!e , swear that ,
could not be !ore obliged to you than , a! now for your good-will. .o !ay Kod gi"e !e Foy and
health, your good intentions please !e as !uch as if each one of you had already shown !e great
honour and indness: so let the will stand for the deedOD Thus he persuades and appeases the! all. Then
they tae hi! Guicly along the road to a night8s residence, where they see to ser"e hi!: all reFoice to
honour and ser"e hi! throughout the e"ening until bedti!e, for they hold hi! "ery dear. 9e%t !orning,
when the ti!e ca!e to separate, each one offers and presents hi!self, with the desire to acco!pany
hi!? but it is not his will or pleasure that any one shall go with hi! e%cept the two who! he had
brought with hi!. #cco!panied by the! alone, he resu!ed his Fourney. That day they rode fro! !orn
&9
Chrétien de Troyes
till e"ening without encountering any ad"enture. )hen it was now "ery late, and while they were
riding rapidly out of a forest, they saw a house belonging to a night, and seated at the door they saw
his wife, who had the bearing of a gentle lady. #s soon as she espied the! co!ing, she rose to her feet
to !eet the!, and greeted the! Foyfully with a s!ile: D)elco!eO , wish you to accept !y house? this is
your lodging? pray dis!ountD DLady, since it is your will, we than you, and will dis!ount? we accept
your hospitality for the night.D )hen they had dis!ounted, the lady had the horses taen by !e!bers
of her well- ordered household. .he calls her sons and daughters who co!e at once: the youths were
courteous, handso!e, and well-beha"ed, and the daughters were fair. .he bids the lads re!o"e the
saddles and curry the horses well? no one refused to do this, but each carried out her instructions
willingly. )hen she ordered the nights to be disar!ed, her daughters step forward to perfor! this
ser"ice. They re!o"e their ar!our, and hand the! three short !antles to put on. Then at once they tae
the! into the house which was "ery handso!e. The !aster was not at ho!e, being out in the woods
with two of his sons. 5ut he presently returned, and his household, which was well-ordered, ran to !eet
hi! outside the door. Iuicly they untie and unpac the ga!e he brings, and tell hi! the news: D.ire,
sire, you do not now that you ha"e three nights for guests.D DKod be praised for that,D he says. Then
the night and his two sons e%tend a glad welco!e to their guests. The rest of the household were not
bacward, for e"en the least a!ong the! prepared to perfor! his special tas. )hile so!e run to
prepare the !eal, others light the candles in profusion? still others get a towel and basins, and offer
water for the hands: they are not niggardly in all this. )hen all had washed, they tae their seats.
9othing that was done there see!ed to be any trouble or burdenso!e. 5ut at the first course there ca!e
a surprise in the for! of a night outside the door. #s he sat on his charger, all ar!ed fro! head to feet,
he looed prouder than a bull, and a bull is a yew proud beast. $ne leg was fi%ed in the stirrup, but the
other he had thrown o"er the !ane of his horse8s nec, to gi"e hi!self a careless and Faunty air. 5ehold
hi! ad"ancing thus, though no one noticed hi! until he ca!e forward with the words: D, wish to now
which is the !an who is so foolish and proud a nu!sull that he has co!e to this country and intends
to cross the sword- bridge. #ll his pains will co!e to naught, and his e%pedition is in "ain.D Then he,
who felt no fear at all, thus replies with confidence: D, a! he who intends to cross the bridge.D DThouJ
ThouJ <ow didst thou dare to thin of such a thingJ 5efore undertaing such a course, thou oughtest to
ha"e thought of the end that is in store for thee, and thou oughtest to ha"e in !ind the !e!ory of the
cart on which thou didst ride. , now not whether thou feelest sha!e for the ride thou hadst on it, but
&&
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
no sensible !an would ha"e e!bared on such an enterprise as this if he had felt the reproach of his
action.D
>E". 0B&2-0B*'.@ 9ot a word does he deign to reply to what he hears the other say? but the !aster
of the house and all the others e%press their surprise openly: D#h, Kod, what a !isfortune this is,D each
one of the! says to hi!self? Dcursed be the hour when first a cart was concei"ed or !adeO For it is a
"ery "ile and hateful thing. #h, Kod, of what was he accusedJ )hy was he carried in a cartJ For what
sin, or for what cri!eJ <e will always suffer the reproach. ,f he were only clear of this disgrace, no
night could be found in all the world, howe"er his "alour !ight be pro"ed, who would eGual the !erit
of this night. ,f all good nights could be co!pared, and if the truth were to be nown, you could find
none so handso!e or so e%pert.D Thus they e%pressed their senti!ents. Then he began his speech of
i!pudence: DListen, thou night, who art bound for the sword- bridgeO ,f thou wishest, thou shalt cross
the water "ery easily and co!fortably. , will Guicly ha"e thee ferried o"er in a siff. 5ut once on the
other side, , will !ae thee pay !e toll, and , will tae thy head, if , please to do so, or if not, thou shalt
be held at !y discretion.D #nd he replies that he is not seeing trouble, and that he will ne"er ris his
head in such an ad"enture for any consideration. To which the other answers at once: D.ince thou wilt
not do this, whosesoe"er the sha!e and loss !ay be, thou !ust co!e outside with !e and there engage
!e hand to hand.D Then, to beguile hi!. the other says: D,f , could refuse, , would "ery gladly e%cuse
!yself? but in truth , would rather fight than be co!pelled to do what is wrong.D 5efore he arose fro!
the table where they were sitting, he told the youths who were ser"ing hi!, to saddle his horse at once,
and fetch his ar!s and gi"e the! to hi!. This order they pro!ptly e%ecute: so!e de"ote the!sel"es to
ar!ing hi!, while others go to fetch his horse. #s he slowly rode along co!pletely ar!ed, holding his
shield tight by the straps, you !ust now that he was e"idently to be included in the list of the bra"e
and fair. <is horse beca!e hi! so well that it is e"ident he !ust be his own, and as for the shield he
held by the straps and the hel!et laced upon his head, which fitted hi! so well, you would ne"er for a
!o!ent ha"e thought that he had borrowed it or recei"ed it as a loan? rather, you would be so pleased
with hi! that you would !aintain that he had been thus born and raised: for all this , should lie you to
tae !y word.
>E". 0B*&-0H*0.@ $utside the gate, where the battle was to be fought, there was a stretch of le"el
ground well adapted for the encounter. )hen they catch sight of each other, they spur hotly to the
&,
Chrétien de Troyes
attac and co!e together with such a shoc, dealing such blows with their lances, that they first bend,
then bucle up, and finally fly into splinters. )ith their swords they then hew away at their shields,
hel!ets, and haubers. The wood is cut and the steel gi"es way, so that they wound each other in
se"eral places. They pay each other such angry blows that it see!s as if they had !ade a bargain. The
swords often descend upon the horses8 croups, where they drin and feast upon their blood? their riders
strie the! upon the flans until at last they ill the! both. #nd when both ha"e fallen to earth, they
attac each other afoot? and if they had cherished a !ortal hatred, they could not ha"e assailed each
other !ore fiercely with their swords. They deal their blows with greater freGuency than the !an who
staes his !oney at dice and ne"er fails to double the staes e"ery ti!e he loses? yet, this ga!e of
theirs was "ery different? for there were no losses here, but only fierce blows and cruel strife. #ll the
people ca!e out fro! the house: the !aster, his lady, his sons and daughters? no !an or wo!an, friend
or stranger, stayed behind, but all stood in line to see the fight in progress in the broad, le"el field. The
Knight of the Cart bla!es and reproaches hi!self for faintheartedness when he sees his host watching
hi! and notices all the others looing on. <is heart is stirred with anger, for it see!s to hi! that he
ought long since to ha"e beaten his ad"ersary. Then he stries hi!, rushing in lie a stor! and bringing
his sword down close by his head? he pushes and presses hi! so hard that he dri"es hi! fro! his
ground and reduces hi! to such a state of e%haustion that he has little strength to defend hi!self. Then
the night recalls how the other had basely reproached hi! about the cart? so he assails hi! and drubs
hi! so soundly that not a string or strap re!ains unbroen about the nec-band of his hauber, and he
nocs the hel!et and "entail fro! his head. <is wounds and distress are so great that he has to cry for
!ercy. /ust as the lar cannot withstand or protect itself against the haw which outflies it and attacs it
fro! abo"e, so he in his helplessness and sha!e, !ust in"oe hi! and sue for !ercy. #nd when he
hears hi! beg for !ercy, he ceases his attac and says: D4ost thou wish for !ercyJD <e replies: D=ou
ha"e ased a "ery cle"er Guestion? any fool could as that. , ne"er wished for anything so !uch as ,
now wish for !ercy.D Then he says to hi!: DThou !ust !ount, then, upon a cart. 9othing thou couldst
say would ha"e any influence with !e, unless thou !ountest the cart, to atone for the "ile reproaches
thou didst address to !e with thy silly !outh.D #nd the night thus answers hi!: D6ay it ne"er please
Kod that , !ount a cartOD D9oJD he ass? Dthen you shall die.D D.ire, you can easily put !e to death? but
, beg and beseech you for Kod8s sae to show !e !ercy and not co!pel !e to !ount a cart. , will
agree to anything, howe"er grie"ous, e%cepting that. , would rather die a hundred ti!es than undergo
&3
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
such a disgrace. ,n your goodness and !ercy you can tell !e nothing so distasteful that , will not do it.D
>E". 0H*1-0*HL.@ )hile he is thus beseeching hi!, behold across the field a !aiden riding on a
tawny !ule, her head unco"ered and her dress disarranged. ,n her hand she held a whip with which she
belaboured the !ule? and in truth no horse could ha"e galloped so fast as was the pace of the !ule. The
da!sel called out to the Knight of the Cart: D6ay Kod bless thy heart, .ir Knight, with whate"er
delights thee !ostOD #nd he, who heard her gladly, says: D6ay Kod bless you, da!sel, and gi"e you Foy
and healthOD Then she tells hi! of her desire. DKnight,D she says, Din urgent need , ha"e co!e fro! afar
to thee to as a fa"our, for which thou wilt deser"e the best guerdon , can !ae to thee? and , belie"e
that thou wilt yet ha"e need of !y assistance.D #nd he replies: DTell !e what it is you wish? and if ,
ha"e it, you shall ha"e it at once, pro"ided it be not so!ething e%tra"agant.D Then she says: D,t is the
head of the night who! thou hast Fust defeated? in truth, thou hast ne"er dealt with such a wiced and
faithless !an. Thou wilt be co!!itting no sin or wrong, but rather doing a deed of charity, for he is the
basest creature that e"er was or e"er shall be.D #nd when he who had been "anGuished hears that she
wishes hi! to be illed, he says to hi!: D4on8t belie"e her, for she hates !e? but by that Kod who was
at once Father and .on, and who chose for <is !other her who was <is daughter and hand!aiden, ,
beg you to ha"e !ercy upon !eOD D#h, nightOD the !aid e%clai!s, Dpay no attention to what this
traitor saysO 6ay Kod gi"e thee all the Foy and honour to which thou dost aspire, and !ay <e gi"e thee
good success in thy undertaing.D Then the night is in a predica!ent, as he thins and ponders o"er
the Guestion: whether to present to her the head she ass hi! to cut off, or whether he shall allow
hi!self to be touched by pity for hi!.
%"ii
<e wishes to respect the wishes of both her and hi!.
Kenerosity and pity each co!!and hi! to do their will? for he was both generous and tender- hearted.
5ut if she carries off the head, then will pity be defeated and put to death? whereas, if she does not carry
off the head, generosity will be disco!fited. Thus, pity and generosity hold hi! so confined and so
distressed that he is tor!ented and spurred on by each of the! in turn. The da!sel ass hi! to gi"e her
the head, and on the other hand the night !aes his reGuest, appealing to his pity and indness. #nd,
since he has i!plored hi!, shall he not recei"e !ercyJ =es, for it ne"er happened that, when he had put
down an ene!y and co!pelled hi! to sue for !ercy, he would refuse such an one his !ercy or longer
bear hi! any grudge. .ince this is his custo!, he will not refuse his !ercy to hi! who now begs and
sues for it. #nd shall she ha"e the head she co"etsJ =es, if it be possible. DKnight,D he says, Dit is
necessary for thee to fight !e again, and if thou dost care to defend thy head again, , will show thee
&8
Chrétien de Troyes
such !ercy as to allow thee to resu!e the hel!et? and , will gi"e thee ti!e to ar! thy body and thy
head as well as possible. 5ut, if , conGuer thee again, now that thou shalt surely die.D #nd he replies:
D, desire nothing better than that, and as for no further fa"our.D D#nd , will gi"e thee this ad"antage,D
he adds: D, will fight thee as , stand, without changing !y present position.D Then the other night
!aes ready, and they begin the fight again eagerly. 5ut this ti!e the night triu!phed !ore Guicly
than he had done at first. #nd the da!sel at once cries out: D4o not spare hi!, night, for anything he
!ay say to thee. .urely he would not ha"e spared thee, had he once defeated thee. ,f thou heedest what
he says, be sure that he will again beguile thee. Fair night, cut off the head of the !ost faithless !an in
the e!pire and ingdo!, and gi"e it to !eO Thou shouldst present it to !e, in "iew of the guerdon ,
intend for thee. For another day !ay well co!e when, if he can, he will beguile thee again with his
words.D <e, thining his end is near, cries aloud to hi! for !ercy? but his cry is of no a"ail, nor
anything that he can say. The other drags hi! by the hel!et, tearing all the fastening, and he stries
fro! his head the "entail and the glea!ing coif. Then he cries out !ore loudly still: D6ercy, for Kod8s
saeO 6ercy, sirOD 5ut the other answers: D.o help !e, , shall ne"er again show thee pity, after ha"ing
once let thee off.D D#h,D he says, Dthou wouldst do wrong to heed !y ene!y and ill !e thus.D )hile
she, intent upon his death, ad!onishes hi! to cut off his head, and not to belie"e a word he says. <e
stries: the head flies across the sward and the body fails. Then the da!sel is pleased and satisfied.
Krasping the head by the hair, the night presents it to the da!sel, who taes it Foyfully with the words:
D6ay thy heart recei"e such delight fro! whate"er it !ost desires as !y heart now recei"es fro! what
, !ost co"eted. , had only one grief in life, and that was that this !an was still ali"e. , ha"e a reward
laid up for thee which thou shalt recei"e at the proper ti!e. , pro!ise thee that thou shalt ha"e a worthy
reward for the ser"ice thou hast rendered !e. 9ow , will go away, with the prayer that Kod !ay guard
thee fro! har!.D Then the da!sel lea"es hi!, as each co!!ends the other to Kod. 5ut all those who
had seen the battle in the plain are o"erFoyed, and in their Foy they at once relie"e the night of his
ar!our, and honour hi! in e"ery way they can. Then they wash their hands again and tae their places
at the !eal, which they eat with better cheer than is their wont. )hen they had been eating for so!e
ti!e, the gentle!an turned to his guest at his side, and said: D.ire, a long while ago we ca!e hither
fro! the ingdo! of Logres. )e were born your country!en, and we should lie to see you win
honour and fortune and Foy in this country? for we should profit by it as well as you, and it would be to
the ad"antage of !any others, if you should gain honour and fortune in the enterprise you ha"e
&;
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
undertaen in this land.D #nd he !aes answer: D6ay Kod hear your desire.D
>E". 0*H*-1'0'.@ )hen the host had dropped his "oice and ceased speaing, one of his sons
followed hi! and said: D.ire, we ought to place all our resources at your ser"ice, and gi"e the!
outright rather than pro!ise the!? if you ha"e any need of our assistance, we ought not to wait until
you as for it. .ire, be not concerned o"er your horse which is dead. )e ha"e good strong horses here.
, want you to tae anything of ours which you need, and you shall choose the best of our horses in
place of yours.D #nd he replies: D, willingly accept.D Thereupon, they ha"e the beds prepared and retire
for the night. The ne%t !orning they rise early, and dress, after which they prepare to start. -pon
lea"ing, they fail in no act of courtesy, but tae lea"e of the lady, her lord, and all the rest. 5ut in order
to o!it nothing, , !ust re!ar that the night was unwilling to !ount the borrowed steed which was
standing ready at the door? rather, he caused hi! to be ridden by one of the two nights who had co!e
with hi!, while he too the latter8s horse instead, for thus it pleased hi! best to do. )hen each was
seated on his horse, they all ased for lea"e to depart fro! their host who had ser"ed the! so
honourably. Then they ride along the road until the day draws to a close, and late in the afternoon they
reach the sword-bridge.
>E". 1'0&-1&*+.@ #t the end of this "ery difficult bridge they dis!ount fro! their steeds and gaMe
at the wiced-looing strea!, which is as swift and raging, as blac and turgid, as fierce and terrible as
if it were the de"il8s strea!? and it is so dangerous and botto!less that anything failing into it would be
as co!pletely lost as if it fell into the salt sea. #nd the bridge, which spans it, is different fro! any
other bridge? for there ne"er was such a one as this. ,f any one ass of !e the truth, there ne"er was
such a bad bridge, nor one whose flooring was so bad. The bridge across the cold strea! consisted of a
polished, glea!ing sword? but the sword was stout and stiff, and was as long as two lances. #t each end
there was a tree-trun in which the sword was fir!ly fi%ed. 9o one need fear to fall because of its
breaing or bending, for its e%cellence was such that it could support a great weight. 5ut the two
nights who were with the third were !uch discouraged? for they sur!ised that two lions or two
leopards would be found tied to a great roc at the other end of the bridge. The water and the bridge
and the lions co!bine so to terrify the! that they both tre!ble with fear, and say: DFair sire, consider
well what confronts you? for it is necessary and needful to do so. This bridge is badly !ade and built,
and the construction of it is bad. ,f you do not change your !ind in ti!e, it will be too late to repent.
&6
Chrétien de Troyes
=ou !ust consider which of se"eral alternati"es you will choose. .uppose that you once get across >but
that cannot possibly co!e to pass, any !ore than one could hold in the winds and forbid the! to blow,
or eep the birds fro! singing, or re-enter one8s !other8s wo!b and be born again -- all of which is as
i!possible as to e!pty the sea of its water@? but e"en supposing that you got across, can you thin and
suppose that those two fierce lions that are chained on the other side will not ill you, and suc the
blood fro! your "eins, and eat your flesh and then gnaw your bonesJ For !y part, , a! bold enough,
when , e"en dare to loo and gaMe at the!. ,f you do not tae care, they will certainly de"our you. =our
body will soon be torn and rent apart, for they will show you no !ercy. .o tae pity on us now, and
stay here in our co!panyO ,t would be wrong for you to e%pose yourself intentionally to such !ortal
peril.D #nd he, laughing, replies to the!: DKentle!en, recei"e !y thans and gratitude for the concern
you feel for !e: it co!es fro! your lo"e and ind hearts. , now full well that you would not lie to
see any !ishap co!e to !e? but , ha"e faith and confidence in Kod, that <e will protect !e to the end.
, fear the bridge and strea! no !ore than , fear this dry land? so , intend to prepare and !ae the
dangerous atte!pt to cross. , would rather die than turn bac now.D The others ha"e nothing !ore to
say? but each weeps with pity and hea"es a sigh. 6eanwhile he prepares, as best he !ay, to cross the
strea!, and he does a "ery !ar"ellous thing in re!o"ing the ar!our fro! his feet and hands. <e will
be in a sorry state when he reaches the other side. <e is going to support hi!self with his bare hands
and feet upon the sword, which was sharper than a scythe, for he had not ept on his feet either sole or
upper or hose. 5ut he felt no fear of wounds upon his hands or feet? he preferred to !ai! hi!self rather
than to fall fro! the bridge and be plunged in the water fro! which he could ne"er escape. ,n
accordance with this deter!ination, he passes o"er with great pain and agony, being wounded in the
hands, nees, and feet. 5ut e"en this suffering is sweet to hi!: for Lo"e, who conducts and leads hi!
on, assuages and relie"es the pain. Creeping on his hands, feet, and nees, he proceeds until he reaches
the other side. Then he recalls and recollects the two lions which he thought he had seen fro! the other
side? but, on looing about, he does not see so !uch as a liMard or anything else to do hi! har!. <e
raises his hand before his face and loos at his ring, and by this test he pro"es that neither of the lions is
there which he thought he had seen, and that he had been enchanted and decei"ed? for there was not a
li"ing creature there. )hen those who had re!ained behind upon the ban saw that he had safely
crossed, their Foy was natural? but they do not now of his inFuries. <e, howe"er, considers hi!self
fortunate not to ha"e suffered anything worse. The blood fro! his wounds drips on his shirt on all
&:
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
sides. Then he sees before hi! a tower, which was so strong that ne"er had he seen such a strong one
before: indeed, it could not ha"e been a better tower. #t the window there sat King 5ade!agu, who
was "ery scrupulous and precise about !atters of honour and what was right, and who was careful to
obser"e and practise loyalty abo"e all else? and beside hi! stood his son, who always did precisely the
opposite so far as possible, for he found his pleasure in disloyalty, and ne"er wearied of "illainy,
treason, and felony. Fro! their point of "antage they had seen the night cross the bridge with trouble
and pain. 6eleagant8s colour changed with the rage and displeasure he felt? for he nows now that he
will be challenged for the Iueen? but his character was such that he feared no !an, howe"er strong or
for!idable. ,f he were not base and disloyal, there could no better night be found? but he had a heart
of wood, without gentleness and pity. )hat enraged his son and roused his ire, !ade the ing happy
and glad. The ing new of a truth that he who had crossed the bridge was !uch better than any one
else. For no one would dare to pass o"er it in who! there dwelt any of that e"il nature which brings
!ore sha!e upon those who possess it than prowess brings of honour to the "irtuous. For prowess
cannot acco!plish so !uch as wicedness and sloth can do: it is true beyond a doubt that it is possible
to do !ore e"il than good.
>E". 1&*2-11&L.@ , could say !ore on these two heads, if it did not cause !e to delay. 5ut , !ust
turn to so!ething else and resu!e !y subFect, and you shall hear how the ing speas profitably to his
son: D.on,D he says, Dit was fortunate that thou and , ca!e to loo out this window? our reward has
been to witness the boldest deed that e"er entered the !ind of !an. Tell !e now if thou art not well
disposed toward hi! who has perfor!ed such a !ar"ellous feat. 6ae peace and be reconciled with
hi!, and deli"er the Iueen into his hands. Thou shalt gain no glory in battle with hi!, but rather !ayst
thou incur great loss. .how thyself to be courteous and sensible, and send the Iueen to !eet hi!
before he sees thee. .how hi! honour in this land of thine, and before he ass it, present to hi! what
he has co!e to see. Thou nowest well enough that he has co!e for the Iueen Kuine"ere. 4o not act
so that people will tae thee to be obstinate, foolish, or proud. ,f this !an has entered thy land alone,
thou shouldst bear hi! co!pany, for one gentle!an ought not to a"oid another, but rather attract hi!
and honour hi! with courtesy. $ne recei"es honour by hi!self showing it? be sure that the honour will
be thine, if thou doest honour and ser"ice to hi! who is plainly the best night in the world.D #nd he
replies: D6ay Kod confound !e, if there is not as good a night, or e"en a better one than heOD ,t was
too bad that he did not !ention hi!self, of who! he entertains no !ean opinion. #nd he adds: D,
,7
Chrétien de Troyes
suppose you wish !e to clasp !y hands and neel before hi! as his liege!an, and to hold !y lands
fro! hi!J .o help !e Kod, , would rather beco!e his !an than surrender to hi! the IueenO Kod
forbid that in such a fashion , should deli"er her to hi!O .he shall ne"er be gi"en up by !e, but rather
contested and defended against all who are so foolish as to dare to co!e in Guest of her.D Then again
the ing says to hi!: D.on, thou wouldst act "ery courteously to renounce this pretension. , ad"ise thee
and beg thee to eep the peace. Thou nowest well that the honour will belong to the night, if he wins
the Iueen fro! thee in battle. <e would doubtless rather win her in battle than as a gift, for it will thus
enhance his fa!e. ,t is !y opinion that he is seeing her, not to recei"e her peaceably, but because he
wishes to win her by force of ar!s. .o it would be wise on thy part to depri"e hi! of the satisfaction of
fighting thee. , a! sorry to see thee so foolish? but if thou dost not heed !y ad"ice, e"il will co!e of it,
and the ensuing !isfortune will be worse for thee. For the night need fear no hostility fro! any one
here sa"e thee. $n behalf of !yself and all !y !en, , will grant hi! a truce and security. , ha"e ne"er
yet done a disloyal deed or practised treason and felony, and , shall not begin to do so now on thy
account any !ore than , would for any stranger. , do not wish to flatter thee, for , pro!ise that the
night shall not lac any ar!s, or horse or anything else he needs, in "iew of the boldness he has
displayed in co!ing thus far. <e shall be securely guarded and well defended against all !en here
e%cepting thee. , wish hi! clearly to understand that, if he can !aintain hi!self against thee, he need
ha"e no fear of any one else.D D, ha"e listened to you in silence long enough,D says 6eleagant, Dand
you !ay say what you please. 5ut little do , care for all you say. , a! not a her!it, nor so
co!passionate and charitable, and , ha"e no desire to be so honourable as to gi"e hi! what , !ost lo"e.
<is tas will not be perfor!ed so Guicly or so lightly? rather will it turn out otherwise than as you and
he e%pect. =ou and , need not Guarrel because you aid hi! against !e. ("en if he enFoys peace and a
truce with you and all your !en, what !atters that to !eJ 6y heart does not Guail on that account?
rather, so help !e Kod, , a! glad that he need not feel concern for any one here but !e? , do not wish
you to do on !y account anything which !ight be construed as disloyalty or treachery. 5e as
co!passionate as you please, but let !e be cruel.D D)hatJ )ilt thou not change thy !indJD D9o,D he
says. DThen , will say nothing !ore. , will lea"e thee alone to do thy best and will go now to spea
with the night. , wish to offer and present to hi! !y aid and counsel in all respects? for , a!
altogether on his side.D
>E". 11&*-1+*'.@ Then the ing goes down and orders the! to bring his horse. # large steed is
,5
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
brought to hi!, upon which he springs by the stirrup, and he rides off with so!e of his !en: three
nights and two sGuires he bade to go with hi!. They did not stop their ride downhill until they ca!e
to the bridge, where they see hi! stanching his wounds and wiping the blood fro! the!. The ing
e%pects to eep hi! as his guest for a long ti!e while his wounds are healing? but he !ight as well
e%pect to drain the sea. The ing hastens to dis!ount, and he who was grie"ously wounded, stood up at
once to !eet hi!, though he did not now hi!, and he ga"e no !ore e"idence of the pain he felt in his
feet and hands than if he had been actually sound. The ing sees that he is e%erting hi!self, and Guicly
runs to greet hi! with the words: D.ire, , a! greatly a!aMed that you ha"e fallen upon us in this land.
5ut be welco!e, for no one will e"er repeat the atte!pt: it ne"er happened in the past, and it will ne"er
happen in the future that any one should perfor! such a hardy feat or e%pose hi!self to such peril. #nd
now that , ad!ire you greatly for ha"ing e%ecuted what no one before e"er dared to concei"e. =ou
will find !e "ery indly disposed, and loyal and courteous toward you. , a! the ing of this land, and
offer you freely all !y counsel and ser"ice? and , thin , now pretty well what you ha"e co!e here to
see. =ou co!e, , a! sure, to see the Iueen.D D.ire,D he replies, Dyour sur!ise is correct? no other
cause brings !e here.D DFriend, you !ust suffer hardship to obtain her,D he replies? Dand you are sorely
wounded, as , see by the wounds and the flowing blood. =ou will not find hi! who brought her hither
so generous as to gi"e her up without a struggle? but you !ust tarry, and ha"e your wounds cared for
until they are co!pletely healed. , will gi"e you so!e of Nthe three 6arys8 oint!ent,
%"iii
and so!ething
still better, if it can be found, for , a! "ery solicitous about your co!fort and your reco"ery. #nd the
Iueen is so confined that no !ortal !an has access to her -- not e"en !y son, who brought her here
with hi! and who resents such treat!ent, for ne"er was a !an so beside hi!self and so desperate as
he. 5ut , a! well disposed toward you, and will gladly gi"e you, so help !e Kod, all of which you
stand in need. 6y son hi!self will not ha"e such good ar!s but that , will gi"e you so!e that are Fust
as good, and a horse, too, such as you will need, though !y son will be angry with !e. 4espite the
feelings of any one, , will protect you against all !en. =ou will ha"e no cause to fear any one e%cepting
hi! who brought the Iueen here. 9o !an e"er !enaced another as , ha"e !enaced hi!, and , ca!e
near dri"ing hi! fro! !y land, in !y displeasure because he will not surrender her to you. To be sure,
he is !y son? but feel no concern, for unless he defeats you in battle, he can ne"er do you the slightest
har! against !y will.D D.ire,D he says, D, than you. 5ut , a! losing ti!e here which , do not wish to
waste. , ha"e no cause to co!plain, and ha"e no wound which is paining !e. Tae !e where , can find
,9
Chrétien de Troyes
hi!? for with such ar!s as , ha"e, , a! ready to di"ert !yself by gi"ing and recei"ing blows.D DFriend,
you had better wait two or three wees until your wounds are healed, for it would be well for you to
tarry here at least two wees, and not on any account could , allow it, or loo on, while you fought in
!y presence with such ar!s and with such an outfit.D #nd he replies: D)ith your per!ission, no other
ar!s would be used than these, for , should prefer to fight with the!, and , should not as for the
slightest postpone!ent, adFourn!ent or delay. <owe"er, in deference to you, , will consent to wait until
to-!orrow? but despite what any one !ay say, longer , will not wait.D Then the ing assured hi! that
all would be done as he wished? then he has the lodging-place prepared, and insistently reGuests his
!en, who are in the co!pany, to ser"e hi!, which they do de"otedly. #nd the ing, who would gladly
ha"e !ade peace, had it been possible, went at once to his son and spoe to hi! lie one who desires
peace and har!ony, saying: DFair son, be reconciled now with this night without a fightO <e has not
co!e here to disport hi!self or to hunt or chase, but he co!es in search of honour and to increase his
fa!e and renown, and , ha"e seen that he stands in great need of rest. ,f he had taen !y ad"ice, he
would not ha"e rashly undertaen, either this !onth or the ne%t, the battle which he so greatly desires.
,f thou !aest o"er the Iueen to hi!, dost thou fear any dishonour in the deedJ <a"e no fear of that,
for no bla!e can attach to thee? rather is it wrong to eep that to which one has no rightful clai!. <e
would gladly ha"e entered the battle at once, though his hands and feet are not sound, but cut and
wounded.D 6eleagant answers his father thus: D=ou are foolish to be concerned. 5y the faith , owe .t.
7eter, , will not tae your ad"ice in this !atter. , should deser"e to be drawn apart with horses, if ,
heeded your ad"ice. ,f he is seeing his honour, so do , see !ine? if he is in search of glory, so a! ,? if
he is an%ious for the battle, so a! , a hundred ti!es !ore so than he.D D, see plainly,D says the ing,
Dthat thou art intent upon thy !ad enterprise, and thou shalt ha"e thy fill of it. .ince such is thy
pleasure, to-!orrow thou shalt try thy strength with the night.D D6ay no greater hardship e"er "isit !e
than thatOD 6eleagant replies? D, would !uch rather it were to-day than to-!orrow. /ust see how !uch
!ore downcast , a! than is usualO 6y eyes are wild, and !y face is paleO , shall ha"e no Foy or
satisfaction or any cause for happiness until , a! actually engaged with hi!.D
>E". 1+*&-1BL+.@ The ing understands that further ad"ice and prayers are of no a"ail, so
reluctantly he lea"es his son and, taing a good, strong horse and handso!e ar!s, he sends the! to hi!
who well deser"es the!, together with a surgeon who was a loyal and Christian !an. There was in the
world no !ore trusty !an, and he was !ore silled in the cure of wounds than all the doctors of
,&
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
6ontpeilier.
%i%
That night he treated the night as best he could, in accordance with the ing8s
co!!and. #lready the news was nown by the nights and da!sels, the ladies and barons of all the
country-side, and all through the night until daybrea strangers and friends were !aing long Fourneys
fro! all the country round. )hen !orning ca!e, there was such a press before the castle that there was
not roo! to !o"e one8s foot. #nd the ing, rising early in his distress about the battle, goes directly to
his son, who had already laced upon his head the hel!et which was of 7oitiers !ae. 9o delay or
peace is possible, for though the ing did his best, his efforts are of no effect. ,n the !iddle of the
castle-sGuare, where all the people are asse!bled, the battle will be fought in co!pliance with the
ing8s wish and co!!and. The ing sends at once for the stranger night, and he is conducted to the
grounds which were filled with people fro! the ingdo! of Logres. For Fust as people are accusto!ed
to go to church to hear the organ on the annual feast- days of 7entecost or Christ!as, so they had all
asse!bled now. #ll the foreign !aidens fro! King #rthur8s real! had fasted three days and gone
barefoot in their shifts, in order that Kod !ight endow with strength and courage the night who was to
fight his ad"ersary on behalf of the capti"es. Eery early, before pri!e had yet been sounded, both of the
nights fully ar!ed were led to the place, !ounted upon two horses eGually protected. 6eleagant was
"ery graceful, alert, and shapely? the hauber with its fine !eshes, the hel!et, and the shield hanging
fro! his nec -- all these beca!e hi! well. #ll the spectators. howe"er, fa"oured the other night, e"en
those who wished hi! ill, and they say that 6eleagant is worth nothing co!pared with hi!. #s soon as
they were both on the ground, the ing co!es and detains the! as long as possible in an effort to !ae
peace between the!, but he is unable to persuade his son. Then he says to the!: D<old in your horses
until , reach the top of the tower. ,t will be only a slight fa"our, if you will wait so long for !e.D Then
in sorrowful !ood he lea"es the! and goes directly to the place where he new he would find the
Iueen. .he had begged hi! the e"ening before to place her where she !ight ha"e an unobstructed
"iew of the battle? he had granted her the boon, and went now to see and fetch her, for he was "ery
an%ious to show her honour and courtesy. <e placed her at one window, and too his place at another
window on her right. 5eside the!, there were gathered there !any nights and prudent da!es and
da!sels, who were nati"es of that land? and there were !any others, who were capti"es, and who were
intent upon their orisons and prayers. Those who were prisoners were praying for their lord, for to Kod
and to hi! they entrusted their succour and deli"erance. Then the co!batants without delay !ae all
the people stand aside? then they clash the shields with their elbows, and thrust their ar!s into the
,,
Chrétien de Troyes
straps, and spur at each other so "iolently that each sends his lance two ar!s8 length through his
opponent8s shield, causing the lance to split and splinter lie a flying spar. #nd the horses !eet head
on, clashing breast to breast, and the shields and hel!ets crash with such a noise that it see!s lie a
!ighty thunder-clap? not a breast-strap, girth, rein or surcingle re!ains unbroen, and the saddle-bows,
though strong, are broen to pieces. The co!batants felt no sha!e in falling to earth, in "iew of their
!ishaps, but they Guicly spring to their feet, and without waste of threatening words rush at each other
!ore fiercely than two wild boars, and deal great blows with their swords of steel lie !en whose hate
is "iolent. 3epeatedly they tri! the hel!ets and shining haubers so fiercely that after the sword the
blood spurts out. They furnished an e%cellent battle, indeed, as they stunned and wounded each other
with their hea"y, wiced blows. 6any fierce, hard, long bouts they sustained with eGual honour, so that
the onlooers could discern no ad"antage on either side. 5ut it was ine"itable that he who had crossed
the bridge should be !uch weaened by his wounded hands. The people who sided with hi! were
!uch dis!ayed, for they notice that his stroes are growing weaer, and they fear he will get the worst
of it? it see!ed to the! that he was weaening, while 6eleagant was triu!phing, and they began to
!ur!ur all around. 5ut up at the window of the tower there was a wise !aiden who thought within
herself that the night had not undertaen the battle either on her account or for the sae of the
co!!on herd who had gathered about the list, but that his only incenti"e had been the Iueen? and she
thought that, if he new that she was at the window seeing and watching hi!, his strength and courage
would increase. #nd if she had nown his na!e, she would gladly ha"e called to hi! to loo about
hi!. Then she ca!e to the Iueen and said: DLady, for Kod8s sae and your own as well as ours, ,
beseech you to tell !e, if you now, the na!e of yonder night, to the end that it !ay be of so!e help
to hi!.D D4a!sel,D the Iueen replies, Dyou ha"e ased !e a Guestion in which , see no hate or e"il, but
rather good intent? the na!e of the night, , now, is Lancelot of the Lae.D
%%
DKod, how happy and
glad at heart , a!OD the da!sel says. Then she leans forward and calls to hi! by na!e so loudly that all
the people hear: DLancelot, turn about and see who is here taing note of theeOD
Part III: Vv. 3685 - Vv. 5594
>E". 1BL2-1*2+.@ )hen Lancelot heard his na!e, he was not slow to turn around: he turns and sees
seated up there at the window of the tower her who! he desired !ost in the world to see. Fro! the
!o!ent he caught sight of her, he did not turn or tae his eyes and face fro! her, defending hi!self
,3
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
with bachand blows. #nd 6eleagant !eanwhile attaced hi! as fiercely as he could, delighted to
thin that the other cannot withstand hi! now? and they of the country are well pleased too, while the
foreigners are so distressed that they can no longer support the!sel"es, and !any of the! fall to earth
either upon their nees or stretched out prone? thus so!e are glad, and so!e distressed. Then the
da!sel cried again fro! the window: D#h, Lancelot, how is it that thou dost now conduct thyself so
foolishlyJ $nce thou wert the e!bodi!ent of prowess and of all that is good, and , do not thin Kod
e"er !ade a night who could eGual thee in "alour and in worth. 5ut now we see thee so distressed that
thou dealest bac- hand blows and fightest thy ad"ersary, behind thy bac. Turn, so as to be on the
other side, and so that thou canst face toward this tower, for it will help thee to eep it in "iew.D Then
Lancelot is so asha!ed and !ortified that he hates hi!self, for he nows full well that all ha"e seen
how, for so!e ti!e past, he has had the worst of the fight. Thereupon he leaps bacward and so
!anoeu"res as to force 6eleagant into a position between hi! and the tower. 6eleagant !aes e"ery
effort to regain his for!er position. 5ut Lancelot rushes upon hi!, and stries hi! so "iolently upon
his body and shield whene"er he tries to get around hi!, that he co!pels hi! to whirl about two or
three ti!es in spite of hi!self. Lancelot8s strength and courage grow, partly because he has lo"e8s aid,
and partly because he ne"er hated any one so !uch as hi! with who! he is engaged. Lo"e and !ortal
hate, so fierce that ne"er before was such hate seen, !ae hi! so fiery and bold that 6eleagant ceases
to treat it as a Fest and begins to stand in awe of hi!, for he had ne"er !et or nown so doughty a
night, nor had any night e"er wounded or inFured hi! as this one does. <e is glad to get away fro!
hi!, and he winces and sidesteps, fearing his blows and a"oiding the!. #nd Lancelot does not idly
threaten hi!, but dri"es hi! rapidly toward the tower where the Iueen was stationed on the watch.
There upon the tower he did her the ho!age of his blows until he ca!e so close that, if he ad"anced
another step, he would lose sight of her. Thus Lancelot dro"e hi! bac and forth repeatedly in
whate"er direction he pleased, always stopping before the Iueen, his lady, who had indled the fla!e
which co!pels hi! to fi% his gaMe upon her. #nd this sa!e fla!e so stirred hi! against 6eleagant that
he was enabled to lead and dri"e hi! where"er he pleased. ,n spite of hi!self he dri"es hi! on lie a
blind !an or a !an with a wooden leg. The ing sees his son so hard pressed that he is sorry for hi!
and he pities hi!, and he will not deny hi! aid and assistance if possible? but if he wishes to proceed
courteously, he !ust first beg the Iueen8s per!ission. .o he began to say to her: DLady, since , ha"e
had you in !y power, , ha"e lo"ed you and faithfully ser"ed and honoured you. , ne"er consciously left
,8
Chrétien de Troyes
anything undone in which , saw your honour in"ol"ed? now repay !e for what , ha"e done. For , a!
about to as you a fa"our which you should not grant unless you do so willingly. , plainly see that !y
son is getting the worst of this battle? , do not spea so because of the chagrin , feel, but in order that
Lancelot, who has hi! in his power, !ay not ill hi!. 9or ought you to wish to see hi! illed? not
because he has not wronged both you and hi!, but because , !ae the reGuest of you: so tell hi!,
please, to stop beating hi!. ,f you will, you can thus repay !e for what , ha"e done for you.D DFair sire,
, a! willing to do so at your reGuest,D the Iueen replies? Dhad , !ortal hatred for your son, who! it is
true , do not lo"e, yet you ha"e ser"ed !e so well that, to please you, , a! Guite willing that he should
desist.D These words were not spoen pri"ately, but Lancelot and 6eleagrant heard what was said. The
!an who is a perfect lo"er is always obedient and Guicly and gladly does his !istress8 pleasure. .o
Lancelot was constrained to do his Lady8s will, for he lo"ed !ore than 7yra!us,
%%i
if that were possible
for any !an to do. Lancelot heard what was said, and as soon as the last word had issued fro! her
!outh, Dsince you wish hi! to desist, , a! willing that he should do so,D Lancelot would not ha"e
touched hi! or !ade a !o"e!ent for anything, e"en if the other had illed hi!. <e does not touch hi!
or raise his hand. 5ut 6eleagant, beside hi!self with rage and sha!e when he hears that it has been
necessary to intercede in his behalf, stries hi! with all the strength he can !uster. #nd the ing went
down fro! the tower to upbraid his son, and entering the list he addressed hi! thus: D<ow nowJ ,s this
beco!ing, to strie hi! when he is not touching theeJ Thou art too cruel and sa"age, and thy prowess
is now out of placeO For we all now beyond a doubt that he is thy superior.D Then 6eleagant, choing
with sha!e, says to the ing: D, thin you !ust be blindO , do not belie"e you see a thing. #ny one !ust
indeed be blind to thin , a! not better than he.D D.ee so!e one to belie"e thy wordsOD the ing
replies, Dfor all the people now whether thou speaest the truth or a lie. #ll of us now full well the
truth.D Then the ing bids his barons lead his son away, which they do at once in e%ecution of his
co!!and: they led away 6eleagant. 5ut it was not necessary to use force to induce Lancelot to
withdraw, for 6eleagant !ight ha"e har!ed hi! grie"ously, before he would ha"e sought to defend
hi!self. Then the ing says to his son: D.o help !e Kod, now thou !ust !ae peace and surrender the
Iueen. Thou !ust cease this Guarrel once for all and withdraw thy clai!.D DThat is great nonsense you
ha"e utteredO , hear you spea foolishly. .tand asideO Let us fight, and do not !i% in our affairsOD 5ut
the ing says he will tae a hand, for he nows well that, were the fight to continue, Lancelot would
ill his son. D<e ill !eO 3ather would , soon defeat and ill hi!, if you would lea"e us alone and let
,;
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
us fight.D Then the ing says: D.o help !e Kod, all that thou sayest is of no a"ail.D D)hy is thatJD he
ass. D5ecause , will not consent. , will not so trust in thy folly and pride as to allow thee to be illed.
# !an is a fool to court death, as thou dost in thy ignorance. , now well that thou hatest !e because ,
wish to sa"e thy life. Kod will not let !e see and witness thy death, if , can help it, for it would cause
!e too !uch grief.D <e tals to hi! and repro"es hi! until finally peace and good-will are restored.
The ter!s of the peace are these: he will surrender the Iueen to Lancelot, pro"ided that the latter
without reluctance will fight the! again within a year of such ti!e as he shall choose to su!!on hi!:
this is no trial to Lancelot. )hen peace is !ade, all the people press about, and it is decided that the
battle shall be fought at the court of King #rthur, who holds 5ritain and Cornwall in his sway: there
they decide that it shall be. #nd the Iueen has to consent, and Lancelot has to pro!ise, that if
6eleagant can pro"e hi! recreant, she shall co!e bac with hi! again without the interference of any
one. )hen the Iueen and Lancelot had both agreed to this, the arrange!ent was concluded, and they
both retired and re!o"ed their ar!s. 9ow the custo! in the country was that when one issued forth, all
the others !ight do so too. #ll called down blessings upon Lancelot: and you !ay now that he !ust
ha"e felt great Foy, as in truth he did. #ll the strangers asse!ble and reFoice o"er Lancelot, speaing so
as to be heard by hi!: D.ire, in truth we were Foyful as soon as we heard your na!e, for we felt sure at
once that we should all be set free.D There was a great crowd present at this glad scene, as each one
stri"es and presses forward to touch hi! if possible. #ny one who succeeded in touching hi! was !ore
delighted than he could tell. There was plenty of Foy, and of sorrow too? those who were now set free
reFoiced unrestrainedly? but 6eleagant and his followers ha"e not anything they want, but are pensi"e,
gloo!y, and downcast. The ing turns away fro! the list, taing with hi! Lancelot, who begs hi! to
tae hi! to the Iueen. D, shall not fail to do so,D the ing replies? Dfor it see!s to !e the proper thing
to do. #nd if you lie, , will show you Kay the seneschal.D #t this Lancelot is so glad that he al!ost
falls at his feet. Then the ing too hi! at once into the hall, where the Iueen had co!e to wait for
hi!.
>E". 1*22-+'1'.@ )hen the Iueen saw the ing holding Lancelot by the hand, she rose before the
ing, but she looed displeased with clouded brow, and she spoe not a word. DLady, here is Lancelot
co!e to see you,D says the ing? Dyou ought to be pleased and satisfied.D D,, sireJ <e cannot please !e.
, care nothing about seeing hi!.D DCo!e now, lady,D says the ing who was "ery fran and courteous,
Dwhat induces you to act lie thisJ =ou are too scornful toward a !an who has ser"ed you so faithfully
,6
Chrétien de Troyes
that he has repeatedly e%posed his life to !ortal danger on this Fourney for your sae, and who has
defended and rescued you fro! !y son 6eleagant who had deeply wronged you.D D.ire, truly he has
!ade poor use of his ti!e. , shall ne"er deny that , feel no gratitude toward hi!.D 9ow Lancelot is
du!bfounded? but he replies "ery hu!bly lie a polished lo"er: DLady, certainly , a! grie"ed at this,
but , dare not as your reason.D The Iueen listened as Lancelot "oiced his disappoint!ent, but in order
to grie"e and confound hi!, she would not answer a single word, but returned to her roo!. #nd
Lancelot followed her with his eyes and heart until she reached the door? but she was not long in sight,
for the roo! was close by. <is eyes would gladly ha"e followed her, had that been possible? but the
heart, which is !ore lordly and !asterful in its strength, went through the door after her, while the eyes
re!ained behind weeping with the body. #nd the ing said pri"ily to hi!: DLancelot, , a! a!aMed at
what this !eans: and how it co!es about that the Iueen cannot endure the sight of you, and that she is
so unwilling to spea with you. ,f she is e"er accusto!ed to spea with you, she ought not to be
niggardly now or a"oid con"ersation with you, after what you ha"e done for her. 9ow tell !e, if you
now, why and for what !isdeed she has shown you such a countenance.D D.ire, , did not notice that
Fust now? but she will not loo at !e or hear !y words, and that distresses and grie"es !e !uch.D
D.urely,D says the ing, Dshe is in the wrong, for you ha"e rised your life for her. Co!e away now, fair
sweet friend, and we shall go to spea with the seneschal.D D, shall be glad to do so,D he replies. Then
they both go to the seneschal. #s soon as Lancelot ca!e where he was, the seneschal8s first e%cla!ation
was: D<ow thou hast sha!ed !eOD D,J <ow soJD Lancelot inGuires? Dtell !e what disgrace ha"e ,
brought upon youJD D# "ery great disgrace, for thou hast carried out what , could not acco!plish, and
thou hast done what , could not do.D
>E". +'1&-+&0+.@ Then the ing left the! together in the roo!, and went out alone. #nd Lancelot
inGuires of the seneschal if he has been badly off. D=es,D he answers, Dand , still a! so. , was ne"er
!ore wretched than , a! now. #nd , should ha"e died a long ti!e ago, had it not been for the ing,
who in his co!passion has shown !e so !uch gentleness and indness that he willingly let !e lac
nothing of which , stood in need? but , was furnished at once with e"er@thing that , desired. 5ut
opposed to the indness which he showed !e, was 6eleagant his son, who is full of wicedness, and
who su!!oned the physicians to hi! and bade the! apply such oint!ents as would ill !e. .uch a
father and stepfather ha"e , hadO For when the ing had a good plaster applied to !y wounds in his
desire that , should soon be cured, his treacherous son, wishing to put !e to death, had it pro!ptly
,:
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
taen off and so!e har!ful sal"e applied. 5ut , a! "ery sure that the ing was ignorant of this? he
would not tolerate such base and !urderous trics. 5ut you do not now how courteous he has been to
!y lady: no frontier tower since the ti!e that 9oah built the ar was e"er so carefully guarded, for he
has guarded her so "igilantly that, though his son chafed under the restraint, he would nor let hi! see
her e%cept in the presence of the ing hi!self. -p to the present ti!e the ing in his !ercy has shown
her all the !ars of consideration which she herself proposed. .he alone had the disposition of her
affairs. #nd the ing estee!ed her all the !ore for the loyalty she showed. 5ut is it true, as , a! told,
that she is so angry with you that she has publicly refused to spea with youJD D=ou ha"e been told the
e%act truth,D Lancelot replies, Dbut for Kod8s sae, can you tell !e why she is so displeased with !eJD
<e replies that he does not now, and that he is greatly surprised at it. D)ell, let it be as she pleases,D
says Lancelot, feeling his helplessness? D, !ust now tae !y lea"e, and , shall go to see !y lord
Kawain who has entered this land, and who arranged with !e that he would proceed directly to the
waterbridge.D Then, lea"ing the roo!, he appeared before the ing and ased for lea"e to proceed in
that direction. #nd the ing willingly grants hi! lea"e to go. Then those who! Lancelot had set free
and deli"ered fro! prison as hi! what they are to do. #nd he replies: D#ll those who desire !ay co!e
with !e, and those who wish to stay with the Iueen !ay do so: there is no reason why they should
acco!pany !e.D Then all those, who so desire, acco!pany hi!, !ore glad and Foyous than is their
wont. )ith the Iueen re!ain her da!sels who are light of heart, and !any nights and ladies too. 5ut
there is not one of those who stay behind, who would not ha"e preferred to return to his own country to
staying there. 5ut on !y lord Kawain8s account, whose arri"al is e%pected, the Iueen eeps the!,
saying that she will ne"er stir until she has news of hi!.
>E". +&02-+0B0.@ The news spreads e"erywhere that the Iueen is free to go, and that all the other
prisoners ha"e been set at liberty and are free to go whene"er it suits and pleases the!. )here"er the
people of the land gather together, they as each other about the truth of this report, and ne"er tal of
anything else. They are "ery !uch enraged that all the dangerous passes ha"e been o"erco!e, and that
any one !ay co!e and go as he pleases. 5ut when the nati"es of the country, who had not been present
at the battle, learned how Lancelot had been the "ictor, they all betoo the!sel"es to the place where
they new he !ust pass by, thining that the ing would be well pleased if they should seiMe Lancelot
and hale hi! bac to hi!. #ll of his own !en were without their ar!s, and therefore they were at a
disad"antage when they saw the nati"es of the country co!ing under ar!s. ,t was not strange that they
37
Chrétien de Troyes
seiMed Lancelot, who was without his ar!s. They lead hi! bac prisoner, his feet lashed together
beneath his horse. Then his own !en say: DKentle!en, this is an e"il deed? for the ing has gi"en us his
safe-conduct, and we are under his protection.D 5ut the others reply: D)e do not now how that !ay
be? but as we ha"e taen you, you !ust return with us to court.D The ru!our, which swiftly flies and
runs, reaches the ing, that his !en ha"e seiMed Lancelot and put hi! to death. )hen the ing hears it,
he is sorely grie"ed and swears angrily by his head that they who ha"e illed hi! shall surely die for
the deed? and that, if he can seiMe or catch the!, it shall be their fate to be hanged, burned, or drowned.
#nd if they atte!pt to deny their deed, he will not belie"e what they say, for they ha"e brought hi!
such grief and sha!e that he would be disgraced were "engeance not to be e%acted fro! the!? but he
will be a"enged without a doubt. The news of this spread until it reached the Iueen, who was sitting at
!eat. .he al!ost illed herself on hearing the false report about Lancelot, but she supposes it to be
true, and therefore she is in such dis!ay that she al!ost loses the power to spea? but, because of those
present, she forces herself to say: D,n truth, , a! sorry for his death, and it is no wonder that , grie"e,
for he ca!e into this country for !y sae, and therefore , should !ourn for hi!.D Then she says to
herself, so that the others should not hear, that no one need as her to drin or eat, if it is true that he is
dead, in whose life she found her own. Then grie"ing she rises fro! the table, and !aes her la!ent,
but so that no one hears or notices her. .he is so beside herself that she repeatedly grasps her throat
with the desire to ill herself? but first she confesses to herself, and repents with self-reproach, bla!ing
and censuring herself for the wrong she had done hi!, who, as she new, had always been hers, and
would still be hers, if he were ali"e. .he is so distressed at the thought of her cruelty, that her beauty is
seriously i!paired. <er cruelty and !eanness affected her and !arred her beauty !ore than all the
"igils and fastings with which she afflicted herself. )hen all her sins rise up before her, she gathers
the! together, and as she re"iews the!, she repeatedly e%clai!s: D#lasO of what was , thining when
!y lo"er stood before !e and , should ha"e welco!ed hi!, that , would not listen to his wordsJ )as ,
not a fool, when , refused to loo at or spea to hi!J Foolish indeedJ 3ather was , base and cruel, so
help !e Kod. , intended it as a Fest, but he did not tae it so, and has not pardoned !e. , a! sure it was
no one but !e who ga"e hi! his death-blow. )hen he ca!e before !e s!iling and e%pecting that ,
would be glad to see hi! and would welco!e hi!, and when , would not loo at hi!, was not that a
!ortal blowJ )hen , refused to spea with hi!, then doubtless at one blow , depri"ed hi! of his heart
and life. These two stroes ha"e illed hi!, , a! sure? no other bandits ha"e caused his death. KodO can
35
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
, e"er !ae a!ends for this !urder and this cri!eJ 9o, indeed? sooner will the ri"ers and the sea dry
up. #lasO how !uch better , should feel, and how !uch co!fort , should tae, if only once before he
died , had held hi! in !y ar!sO )hatJ =es, certainly, Guite unclad, in order the better to enFoy hi!. ,f
he is dead, , a! "ery wiced not to destroy !yself. )hyJ Can it har! !y lo"er for !e to li"e on after
he is dead, if , tae no pleasure in anything but in the woe , bear for hi!J ,n gi"ing !yself up to grief
after his death, the "ery woes , court would be sweet to !e, if he were only still ali"e. ,t is wrong for a
wo!an to wish to die rather than to suffer for her lo"er8s sae. ,t is certainly sweet for !e to !ourn hi!
long. , would rather be beaten ali"e than die and be at rest.D
>E". +0B1-++&+.@ For two days the Iueen thus !ourned for hi! without eating or drining, until
they thought she too would die. There are plenty of people ready to carry bad news rather than good.
The news reaches Lancelot that his lady and sweetheart is dead. =ou need ha"e no doubt of the grief he
felt? e"ery one !ay feel sure that he was afflicted and o"erco!e with grief. ,ndeed, if you would now
the truth, he was so downcast that he held his life in slight estee!. <e wished to ill hi!self at once,
but first he uttered a brief la!ent. <e !aes a running noose at one end of the belt he wore, and then
tearfully co!!unes thus with hi!self: D#h, death, how hast thou spied !e out and undone !e, when in
the bloo! of healthO , a! undone, and yet , feel no pain e%cept the grief within !y heart. This is a
terrible !ortal grief. , a! willing that it should be so, and if Kod will, , shall die of it. Then can , not
die so!e other way, without Kod8s consentJ =es, if he will let !e tie this noose around !y nec. , thin
, can co!pel death, e"en against her will, to tae !y life. 4eath, who co"ets only those who fear her,
will not co!e to !e? but !y belt will bring her within !y power, and as soon as she is !ine, she will
e%ecute !y desire. 5ut, in truth, she will co!e too tardily for !e, for , yearn to ha"e her nowOD Then he
delays and hesitates no longer, but adFusts his head within the noose until it rests about his nec? and in
order that he !ay not fail to har! hi!self, he fastens the end of the belt tightly about the saddle-bow,
without attracting the attention of any one. Then he let hi!self slide to earth, intending his horse to
drag hi! until he was lifeless, for he disdains to li"e another hour. )hen those who ride with hi! see
hi! fallen to earth, they suppose hi! to be in a faint, for no one sees the noose which he had attached
about his nec. #t once they caught hi! in their ar!s and, on raising hi!, they found the noose which
he had put around his nec and with which he sought to ill hi!self. They Guicly cut the noose? but
the noose had so hurt his throat that for so!e ti!e he could not spea? the "eins of his nec and throat
are al!ost broen. 9ow he could not har! hi!self, e"en had he wished to do so? howe"er, he is
39
Chrétien de Troyes
grie"ed that they ha"e laid hands on hi!, and he al!ost burns up with rage, for willingly would he
ha"e illed hi!self had no one chanced to notice hi!. #nd now when he cannot har! hi!self, he cries:
D#h, "ile and sha!eless deathO For Kod8s sae, why hadst thou not the power and !ight to ill !e
before !y lady diedJ , suppose it was because thou wouldst not deign to do what !ight be a indly
deed. ,f thou didst spare !e, it !ust be attributed to thy wicedness. #h, what ind of ser"ice and
indness is thatO <ow well hast thou e!ployed the! hereO # curse upon hi! who thans thee or feels
gratitude for such a ser"iceO , now not which is !ore !y ene!y: life, which detains !e, or death,
which will not slay !e. (ach one tor!ents !e !ortally? and it ser"es !e right, so help !e Kod, that in
spite of !yself , should still li"e on. For , ought to ha"e illed !yself as soon as !y lady the Iueen
showed her hate for !e? she did not do it without cause, but she had so!e good reason, though , now
not what it is. #nd if , had nown what it was before her soul went to Kod, , should ha"e !ade her
such rich a!ends as would ha"e pleased her and gained her !ercy. KodO what could !y cri!e ha"e
beenJ , thin she !ust ha"e nown that , !ounted upon the cart. , do not now what other cause she
can ha"e to bla!e !e. This has been !y undoing. ,f this is the reason of her hate, KodO what har!
could this cri!e doJ #ny one who would reproach !e for such an act ne"er new what lo"e is, for no
one could !ention anything which, if pro!pted by lo"e, ought to be turned into a reproach. 3ather,
e"erything that one can do for his lady-lo"e is to be regarded as a toen of his lo"e and courtesy. =et, ,
did not do it for !y Nlady-lo"e8. , now not by what na!e to call her, whether Nlady-lo"e8, or not. , do
not dare to call her by this na!e. 5ut , thin , now this !uch of lo"e: that if she lo"ed !e, she ought
not to estee! !e less for this cri!e, but rather call !e her true lo"er, inas!uch as , regarded it as an
honour to do all lo"e bade !e do, e"en to !ount upon a cart. .he ought to ascribe this to lo"e? and this
is a certain proof that lo"e thus tries his de"otees and thus learns who is really his. 5ut this ser"ice did
not please !y lady, as , disco"ered by her countenance. #nd yet her lo"er did for her that for which
!any ha"e sha!efully reproached and bla!ed hi!, though she was the cause of it? and !any bla!e !e
for the part , ha"e played, and ha"e turned !y sweetness into bitterness. ,n truth, such is the custo! of
those who now so little of lo"e, that e"en honour they wash in sha!e. 5ut whoe"er dips honour into
sha!e, does not wash it, but rather sullies it. 5ut they, who !altreat hi! so, are Guite ignorant of lo"e?
and he, who fears not his co!!ands, boasts hi!self "ery superior to hi!. For unGuestionably he fares
well who obeys the co!!ands of lo"e, and whate"er he does is pardonable, but he is the coward who
does not dare.D
3&
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
>E". ++&2-+++'.@ Thus Lancelot !aes his la!ent, and his !en stand grie"ing by his side, eeping
hold of hi! and guarding hi!. Then the news co!es that the Iueen is not dead. Thereupon Lancelot at
once taes co!fort, and if his grief for her death had before been intense and deep, now his Foy for her
life was a hundred thousand ti!es as great. #nd when they arri"ed within si% or se"en leagues of the
castle where King 5ade!agu was, grateful news of Lancelot was told hi!, how he was ali"e and was
co!ing hale and hearty, and this news the ing was glad to hear. <e did a "ery courteous thing in going
at once to appraise the Iueen. #nd she replies: DFair sire, since you say so, , belie"e it is true, but ,
assure you that, if he were dead, , should ne"er be happy again. #ll !y Foy would be cut off, if a night
had been illed in !y ser"ice.D
>E". +++&-+21'.@ Then the ing lea"es her, and the Iueen yearns ardently for the arri"al of her
lo"er and her Foy. .he has no desire this ti!e to bear hi! any grudge. 5ut ru!our, which ne"er rests
but runs always unceasingly, again reaches the Iueen to the effect that Lancelot would ha"e illed
hi!self for her sae, if he had had the chance. .he is happy at the thought that this is true, but she
would not ha"e had it happen so for anything, for her sorrow would ha"e been too great. Thereupon
Lancelot arri"ed in haste.
%%ii
#s soon as the ing sees hi!, he runs to iss and e!brace hi!. <e feels as
if he ought to fly, borne along by the buoyancy of his Foy. 5ut his satisfaction is cut short by those who
had taen and bound his guest, and the ing tells the! they ha"e co!e in an e"il hour, for they shall all
be illed and confounded. Then they !ade answer that they thought he would ha"e it so. D,t is , who!
you ha"e insulted in doing your pleasure. <e has no reason to co!plain,D the ing replies? Dyou ha"e
not sha!ed hi! at all, but only !e who was protecting hi!. <owe"er you loo at it, the sha!e is !ine.
5ut if you escape !e now, you will see no Foe in this.D )hen Lancelot hears his wrath, he puts forth
e"ery effort to !ae peace and adFust !atters? when his efforts ha"e !et with success, the ing taes
hi! away to see the Iueen. This ti!e the Iueen did not lower her eyes to the ground, but she went to
!eet hi! cheerfully, honouring hi! all she could, and !aing hi! sit down by her side. Then they
taled together at length of all that was upon their hearts, and lo"e furnished the! with so !uch to say
that topics did not lac. #nd when Lancelot sees how well he stands, and that all he says finds fa"our
with the Iueen, he says to her in confidence: DLady, , !ar"el greatly why you recei"ed !e with such a
countenance when you saw !e the day before yesterday, and why you would not spea a word to !e: ,
al!ost died of the blow you ga"e !e, and , had not the courage to dare to Guestion you about it, as ,
now "enture to do. , a! ready now, lady, to !ae a!ends, when you ha"e told !e what has been the
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cri!e which has caused !e such distress.D Then the Iueen replies: D)hatJ 4id you not hesitate for
sha!e to !ount the cartJ =ou showed you were loath to get in, when you hesitated for two whole steps.
That is the reason why , would neither address nor loo at you.D D6ay Kod sa"e !e fro! such a cri!e
again,D Lancelot replies, Dand !ay Kod show !e no !ercy, if you were not Guite rightO For Kod8s sae,
lady, recei"e !y a!ends at once, and tell !e, for Kod8s sae, if you can e"er pardon !e.D DFriend, you
are Guite forgi"en,D the Iueen replies? D, pardon you willingly.D DThan you for that, lady,D he then
says? Dbut , cannot tell you here all that , should lie to say? , should lie to tal with you !ore at
leisure, if possible.D Then the Iueen indicates a window by her glance rather than with her finger, and
says: DCo!e through the garden to-night and spea with !e at yonder window, when e"ery one inside
has gone to sleep. =ou will not be able to get in: , shall be inside and you outside: to gain entrance will
be i!possible. , shall be able to touch you only with !y lips or hand, but, if you please, , will stay there
until !orning for lo"e of you. $ur bodies cannot be Foined, for close beside !e in !y roo! lies Kay
the seneschal, who is still suffering fro! his wounds. #nd the door is not open, but is tightly closed and
guarded well. )hen you co!e, tae care to let no spy catch sight of you.D DLady,D says he, Dif , can
help it, no spy shall see !e who !ight thin or spea e"il of us.D Then, ha"ing agreed upon this plan,
they separate "ery Foyfully.
>E". +22&-+B2'.@ Lancelot lea"es the roo! in such a happy fra!e that all his past troubles are
forgotten. 5ut he was so i!patient for the night to co!e that his restlessness !ade the day see! longer
than a hundred ordinary days or than an entire year. ,f night had only co!e, he would gladly ha"e gone
to the trysting place. 4ar and so!bre night at last won its struggle with the day, and wrapped it up in
its co"ering, and laid it away beneath its cloa. )hen he saw the light of day obscured, he pretended to
be tired and worn, and said that, in "iew of his protracted "igils, he needed rest. =ou, who ha"e e"er
done the sa!e, !ay well understand and guess that he pretends to be tired and goes to bed in order to
decei"e the people of the house? but he cared nothing about his bed, nor would he ha"e sought rest
there for anything, for he could not ha"e done so and would not ha"e dared, and further!ore he would
not ha"e cared to possess the courage or the power to do so. .oon he softly rose, and was pleased to
find that no !oon or star was shining, and that in the house there was no candle, la!p, or lantern
burning. Thus he went out and looed about, but there was no one on the watch for hi!, for all thought
that he would sleep in his bed all night. )ithout escort or co!pany he Guicly went out into the garden,
!eeting no one on the way, and he was so fortunate as to find that a part of the garden-wall had
33
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
recently fallen down. Through this brea he passes Guicly and proceeds to the window, where he
stands, taing good care not to cough or sneeMe, until the Iueen arri"es clad in a "ery white che!ise.
.he wore no cloa or coat, but had thrown o"er her a short cape of scarlet cloth and shrew-!ouse fur.
#s soon as Lancelot saw the Iueen leaning on the window-sill behind the great iron bars, he honoured
her with a gentle salute. .he pro!ptly returned his greeting, for he was desirous of her, and she of hi!.
Their tal and con"ersation are not of "ulgar, tireso!e affairs. They draw close to one another, until
each holds the other8s hand. 5ut they are so distressed at not being able to co!e together !ore
co!pletely, that they curse the iron bars. Then Lancelot asserts that, with the Iueen8s consent, he will
co!e inside to be with her, and that the bars cannot eep hi! out. #nd the Iueen replies: D4o you not
see how the bars are stiff to bend and hard to breaJ =ou could ne"er so twist, pull or drag at the! as to
dislodge one of the!.D DLady,D says he, Dha"e no fear of that. ,t would tae !ore than these bars to
eep !e out. 9othing but your co!!and could thwart !y power to co!e to you. ,f you will but grant
!e your per!ission, the way will open before !e. 5ut if it is not your pleasure, then the way is so
obstructed that , could not possibly pass through.D DCertainly,D she says, D, consent. 6y will need not
stand in your way? but you !ust wait until , retire to !y bed again, so that no har! !ay co!e to you,
for it would be no Foe or Fest if the seneschal, who is sleeping here, should wae up on hearing you. .o
it is best for !e to withdraw, for no good could co!e of it, if he should see !e standing here.D DKo
then, lady,D he replies? Dbut ha"e no fear that , shall !ae any noise. , thin , can draw out the bars so
softly and with so little effort that no one shall be aroused.D
>E". +B2&-+H2+.@ Then the Iueen retires, and he prepares to loosen the window. .eiMing the bars,
he pulls and wrenches the! until he !aes the! bend and drags the! fro! their places. 5ut the iron
was so sharp that the end of his little finger was cut to the ner"e, and the first Foint of the ne%t finger
was torn? but he who is intent upon so!ething else paid no heed to any of his wounds or to the blood
which tricled down. Though the window is not low, Lancelot gets through it Guicly and easily. First
he finds Kay asleep in his bed, then he co!es to the bed of the Iueen, who! he adores and before
who! he neels, holding her !ore dear than the relic of any saint. #nd the Iueen e%tends her ar!s to
hi! and, e!bracing hi!, presses hi! tightly against her boso!, drawing hi! into the bed beside her
and showing hi! e"ery possible satisfaction? her lo"e and her heart go out to hi!. ,t is lo"e that
pro!pts her to treat hi! so? and if she feels great lo"e for hi!, he feels a hundred thousand ti!es as
!uch for her. For there is no lo"e at all in other hearts co!pared with what there is in his? in his heart
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Chrétien de Troyes
lo"e was so co!pletely e!bodied that it was niggardly toward all other hearts. 9ow Lancelot possesses
all he wants, when the Iueen "oluntarily sees his co!pany and lo"e, and when he holds her in his
ar!s, and she holds hi! in hers. Their sport is so agreeable and sweet, as they iss and fondle each
other, that in truth such a !ar"ellous Foy co!es o"er the! as was ne"er heard or nown. 5ut their Foy
will not be re"ealed by !e, for in a story, it has no place. =et, the !ost choice and delightful
satisfaction was precisely that of which our story !ust not spea. That night Lancelot8s Foy and
pleasure were "ery great. 5ut, to his sorrow, day co!es when he !ust lea"e his !istress8 side. ,t cost
hi! such pain to lea"e her that he suffered a real !artyr8s agony. <is heart now stays where the Iueen
re!ains? he has not the power to lead it away, for it finds such pleasure in the Iueen that it has no
desire to lea"e her: so his body goes, and his heart re!ains. 5ut enough of his body stays behind to spot
and stain the sheets with the blood which has fallen fro! his fingers. Full of sighs and tears, Lancelot
lea"es in great distress. <e grie"es that no ti!e is fi%ed for another !eeting, but it cannot be.
3egretfully he lea"es by the window through which he had entered so happily. <e was so badly
wounded in the fingers that they were in sorry, state? yet he straightened the bars and set the! in their
place again, so that fro! neither side, either before or behind, was it e"ident that any one had drawn out
or bent any of the bars. )hen he lea"es the roo!, he bows and acts precisely as if he were before a
shrine? then he goes with a hea"y heart, and reaches his lodgings without being recognised by any one.
<e throws hi!self naed upon his bed without awaing any one, and then for the first ti!e he is
surprised to notice the cuts in his fingers? but he is not at all concerned, for he is "ery sure that the
wound was caused by dragging the window bars fro! the wall. Therefore he was not at all worried, for
he would rather ha"e had both ar!s dragged fro! his body than not enter through the window. 5ut he
would ha"e been "ery angry and distressed, if he had thus inFured and wounded hi!self under any
other circu!stances.
>E". +H22-2''B.@ ,n the !orning, within her curtained roo!, the Iueen had fallen into a gentle
sleep? she had not noticed that her sheets were spotted with blood, but she supposed the! to be
perfectly white and clean and presentable. 9ow 6eleagant, as soon as he was dressed and ready, went
to the roo! where the Iueen lay. <e finds her awae, and he sees the sheets spotted with fresh drops of
blood, whereupon he nudges his co!panions and, suspicious of so!e !ischief, loos at the bed of Kay
the seneschal, and sees that his sheets are blood-stained too, for you !ust now that in the night his
wounds had begun to bleed afresh. Then he said: DLady, now , ha"e found the e"idence that , desired. ,t
3;
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
is "ery true that any !an is a fool to try to confine a wo!an: he wastes his efforts and his pains. <e
who tries to eep her under guard loses her sooner than the !an who taes no thought of her. # fine
watch, indeed, has been ept by !y father, who is guarding you on !y behalfO <e has succeeded in
eeping you fro! !e, but, in spite of hi!, Kay the seneschal has looed upon you last night, and has
done what he pleased with you, as can readily be pro"ed.D D)hat is thatJD she ass. D.ince , !ust
spea, , find blood on your sheets, which pro"es the fact. , now it and can pro"e it, because , find on
both your sheets and his the blood which issued fro! his wounds: the e"idence is "ery strong.D Then
the Iueen saw on both beds the bloody sheets, and !ar"elling, she blushed with sha!e and said: D.o
help !e Kod, this blood which , see upon !y sheets was ne"er brought here by Kay, but !y nose bled
during the night, and , suppose it !ust be fro! !y nose.D ,n saying so, she thins she tells the truth.
D5y !y head,D says 6eleagant, Dthere is nothing in what you say. .wearing is of no a"ail, for you are
taen in your guilt, and the truth will soon be pro"ed.D Then he said to the guards who were present:
DKentle!en, do not !o"e, and see to it that the sheets are not taen fro! the bed until , return. , wish
the ing to do !e Fustice, as soon as he has seen the truth.D Then he searched until he found hi!, and
failing at his feet, he said: D.ire, co!e to see what you ha"e failed to guard. Co!e to see the Iueen,
and you shall see the certain !ar"els which , ha"e already seen and tested. 5ut, before you go, , beg
you not to fail to be Fust and upright toward !e. =ou now well to what danger , ha"e e%posed !yself
for the Iueen? yet, you are no friend of !ine and eep her fro! !e under guard. This !orning , went
to see her in her bed, and , re!ared that Kay lies with her e"ery night. .ire, for Kod8s sae, be not
angry, if , a! disgruntled and if , co!plain. For it is "ery hu!iliating for !e to be hated and despised
by one with who! Kay is allowed to lie.D D.ilenceOD says the ing? D, don8t belie"e it.D DThen co!e, !y
lord, and see the sheets and the state in which Kay has left the!. .ince you will not belie"e !y words,
and since you thin , a! lying, , will show you the sheets and the Guilt co"ered with blood fro! Kay8s
wounds.D DCo!e now,D says the ing, D, wish to see for !yself, and !y eyes will Fudge of the truth.D
Then the ing goes directly to the roo!, where the Iueen got up at his approach. <e sees that the
sheets are blood-stained on her bed and on Kay8s alie and he says: DLady, it is going badly now, if
what !y son has said is true.D Then she replies: D.o help !e Kod, ne"er e"en in a drea! was uttered
such a !onstrous lie. , thin Kay the seneschal is courteous and loyal enough not to co!!it such a
deed, and besides, , do not e%pose !y body in the !aret-place, nor offer it of !y own free will.
.urely, Kay is not the !an to !ae an insulting proposal to !e, and , ha"e ne"er desired and shall
36
Chrétien de Troyes
ne"er desire to do such a thing !yself.D D.ire, , shall be !uch obliged to you,D says 6eleagant to his
father, Dif Kay shall be !ade to atone for this outrage, and the Iueen8s sha!e thus be e%posed. ,t
de"ol"es upon you to see that Fustice is done, and this Fustice , now reGuest and clai!. Kay has
betrayed King #rthur, his lord, who had such confidence in hi! that he entrusted to hi! what he lo"ed
!ost in the world.D DLet !e answer, sire,D says Kay, Dand , shall e%onerate !yself. 6ay Kod ha"e no
!ercy upon !y soul when , lea"e this world, if , e"er lay with !y ladyO ,ndeed, , should rather be dead
than e"er do !y lord such an ugly wrong, and !ay Kod ne"er grant !e better health than , ha"e now
but rather ill !e on the spot, if such a thought e"er entered !y !indO 5ut , now that !y wounds bled
profusely last night, and that is the reason why !y sheets are stained with blood. That is why your son
suspects !e, but surely he has no right to do so.D #nd 6eleagant answers hi!: D.o help !e Kod, the
de"ils and de!ons ha"e betrayed you. =ou grew too heated last night and, as a result of your e%ertions,
your wounds ha"e doubtless bled afresh. There is no use in your denying it? we can see it, and it is
perfectly e"ident. ,t is right that he should atone for his cri!e, who is so plainly taen in his guilt.
9e"er did a night with so fair a na!e co!!it such iniGuities as this, and yours is the sha!e for it.D
D.ire, sire,D says Kay to the ing, D, will defend the Iueen and !yself against the accusation of your
son. <e harasses and distresses !e, though he has no ground to treat !e so.D D=ou cannot fight,D the
ing replies, Dyou are too ill.D D.ire, if you will allow it, , will fight with hi!, ill as , a!, and will show
hi! that , a! not guilty of the cri!e which he i!putes to !e.D 5ut the Iueen, ha"ing secretly sent
word to Lancelot, tells the ing that she will present a night who will defend the seneschal, if
6eleagant dares to urge this charge. Then 6eleagant said at once: DThere is no night without
e%ception, e"en were he a giant, who! , will not fight until one of us is defeated.D Then Lancelot ca!e
in, and with hi! such a rout of nights that the whole hall was filled with the!. #s soon as he had
entered, in the hearing of all, both young and old, the Iueen told what had happened, and said:
DLancelot, this insult has been done !e by 6eleagant. ,n the presence of all who hear his words he says
, ha"e lied, if you do not !ae hi! tae it bac. Last night, he asserted, Kay lay with !e, because he
found !y sheets, lie his, all stained with blood? and he says that he stands con"icted, unless he will
undertae his own defence, or unless so!e one else will fight the battle on his behalf.D Lancelot says:
D=ou need ne"er use argu!ents with !e. 6ay it not please Kod that either you or he should be thus
discreditedO , a! ready to fight and to pro"e to the e%tent of !y power that he ne"er was guilty of such
a thought. , a! ready to e!ploy !y strength in his behalf, and to defend hi! against this charge.D Then
3:
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
6eleagant Fu!ped up and said: D.o help !e Kod, , a! pleased and well satisfied with that: no one
need thin that , obFect.D #nd Lancelot said: D6y lord ing, , a! well acGuainted with suits and laws,
with trials and "erdicts: in a Guestion of "eracity an oath should be taen before the fight.D 6eleagant at
once replies: D, agree to tae an oath? so let the relics be brought at once, for , now well that , a!
right.D #nd Lancelot answers hi!: D.o help !e Kod, no one who e"er new Kay the seneschal would
doubt his word on such a point.D Then they call for their horses, and as that their ar!s be brought.
This is pro!ptly done, and when the "alets had ar!ed the!, they were ready for the fight. Then the
holy relics are brought forth: 6eleagant steps forward, with Lancelot by his side, and both fall on their
nees. Then 6eleagant, laying his hands upon the relics, swears unreser"edly: D.o help !e Kod and
this holy relic, Kay the seneschal lay with the Iueen in her bed last night and, had his pleasure with
her.D D#nd , swear that thou liest,D says Lancelot, Dand further!ore , swear that he neither lay with her
nor touched her. #nd !ay it please Kod to tae "engeance upon hi! who has lied, and !ay <e bring
the truth to lightO 6oreo"er, , will tae another oath and swear, whoe"er !ay dislie it or be displeased,
that if , a! per!itted to "anGuish 6eleagant to-day, , will show hi! no !ercy, so help !e Kod and
these relics hereOD The ing felt no Foy when he heard this oath.
>E". 2''H-2&*L.@ )hen the oaths had been taen, their horses were brought forward, which were
fair and good in e"ery way. (ach !an !ounts his own ho!e, and they ride at once at each other as fast
as the steeds can carry the!? and when the horses are in !id-career, the nights strie each other so
fiercely that there is nothing left of the lances in their hands. (ach brings the other to earth? howe"er,
they are not dis!ayed, but they rise at once and attac each other with their sharp drawn swords. The
burning spars fly in the air fro! their hel!ets. They assail each other so bitterly with the drawn
swords in their hands that, as they thrust and draw, they encounter each other with their blows and will
not pause e"en to catch their breath. The ing in his grief and an%iety called the Iueen, who had gone
up in the tower to loo out fro! the balcony: he begged her for Kod8s sae, the Creator, to let the! be
separated. D)hate"er is your pleasure is agreeable to !e,D the Iueen says honestly: D, shall not obFect
to anything you do.D Lancelot plainly heard what reply the Iueen !ade to the ing8s reGuest, and fro!
that ti!e he ceased to fight and renounced the struggle at once. 5ut 6eleagant does not wish to stop,
and continues to strie and hew at hi!. 5ut the ing rushes between the! and stops his son, who
declares with an oath that he has no desire for peace. <e wants to fight, and cares not for peace. Then
the ing says to hi!: D5e Guiet, and tae !y ad"ice, and be sensible. 9o sha!e or har! shall co!e to
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Chrétien de Troyes
thee, if thou wilt do what is right and heed !y words. 4ost thou not re!e!ber that thou hast agreed to
fight hi! at King #rthur8s courtJ #nd dost thou not suppose that it would be a !uch greater honour for
thee to defeat hi! there than anywhere elseJD The ing says this to see if he can so influence hi! as to
appease hi! and separate the!. #nd Lancelot, who was i!patient to go in search of !y lord Kawain,
reGuests lea"e of the ing and Iueen to depart. )ith their per!ission he goes away toward the water-
bridge, and after hi! there followed a great co!pany of nights. 5ut it would ha"e suited hi! "ery
well, if !any of those who went had stayed behind. They !ae long days8 Fourneys until they approach
the water-bridge, but are still about a league fro! it. 5efore they ca!e in sight of the bridge, a dwarf
ca!e to !eet the! on a !ighty hunter, holding a scourge with which to urge on and incite his steed. ,n
accordance with his instructions, he at once inGuired: D)hich of you is LancelotJ 4on8t conceal hi!
fro! !e? , a! of your party? tell !e confidently, for , as the Guestion for your good.D Lancelot replies
in his own behalf, and says: D, a! he who! thou seeest and asest for.D D#h,D says the dwarf, Dfran
night, lea"e these people, and trust in !e. Co!e along with !e alone, for , will tae thee to a goodly
place. Let no one follow thee for anything, but let the! wait here? for we shall return presently.D <e,
suspecting no har! in this, bids all his !en stay there, and follows the dwarf who has betrayed hi!.
6eanwhile his !en who wait for hi! !ay continue to e%pect hi! long in "ain, for they, who ha"e
taen and seiMed hi!, ha"e no desire to gi"e hi! up. #nd his !en are in such a state of grief at his
failure to return that they do not now what steps to tae. They all say sorrowfully that the dwarf has
betrayed the!. ,t would be useless to inGuire for hi!: with hea"y hearts they begin to search, but they
now not where to loo for hi! with any hope of finding hi!. .o they all tae counsel, and the !ost
reasonable and sensible agree on this, it see!s: to go to the passage of the water-bridge, which is close
by, to see if they can find !y lord Kawain in wood or plain, and then with his ad"ice search for
Lancelot. -pon this plan they all agree without dissension. Toward the water-bridge they go, and as
soon as they reach the bridge, they see !y lord Kawain o"erturned and fallen fro! the bridge into the
strea! which is "ery deep. $ne !o!ent he rises, and the ne%t he sins? one !o!ent they see hi!, and
the ne%t they lose hi! fro! sight. They !ae such efforts that they succeed in raising hi! with
branches, poles and hoos. <e had nothing but his hauber on his bac, and on his head was fi%ed his
hel!et, which was worth ten of the co!!on sort, and he wore his iron grea"es, which were all rusty
with his sweat, for he had endured great trials, and had passed "ictoriously through !any perils and
assaults. <is lance, his shield, and horse were all behind on the other ban. Those who ha"e rescued
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Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
hi! do not belie"e he is ali"e. For his body was full of water, and until he got rid of it, they did not hear
hi! spea a word. 5ut when his speech and "oice and the passageway to his heart are free, and as soon,
as what he said could be heard and understood, he tried to spea he inGuired at once for the Iueen,
whether those present had any news of her. #nd they replied that she is still with King 5ade!agu, who
ser"es her well and honourably. D<as no one co!e to see her in this landJD !y lord Kawain then
inGuires of the!. #nd they answer hi!: D=es, indeed.D D)hoJD DLancelot of the Lae,D they say, Dwho
crossed the sword-bridge, and rescued and deli"ered her as well as all the rest of us. 5ut we ha"e been
betrayed by a pot-bellied, hu!pbaced, and crabbed dwarf. <e has decei"ed us sha!efully in seducing
Lancelot fro! us, and we do not now what he has done with hi!.D D)hen was thatJD !y lord Kawain
inGuires. D.ire, near here this "ery day this tric was played on us, while he was co!ing with us to
!eet you.D D#nd how has Lancelot been occupied since he entered this landJD Then they begin to tell
hi! all about hi! in detail, and then they tell hi! about the Iueen, how she is waiting for hi! and
asserting that nothing could induce her to lea"e the country, until she sees hi! or hears so!e credible
news of hi!. To the! !y lord Kawain replies: D)hen we lea"e this bridge, we shall go to search for
Lancelot.D There is not one who does not ad"ise rather that they go to the Iueen at once, and ha"e the
ing see Lancelot, for it is their opinion that his son 6eleagant has shown his en!ity by ha"ing hi!
cast into prison. 5ut if the ing can learn where he is, he will certainly !ae hi! surrender hi!: they
can rely upon this with confidence.
>E". 2&**-202B.@ They all agreed upon this plan, and started at once upon their way until they
drew near the court where the Iueen and ing were. There, too, was Kay the seneschal, and that
disloyal !an, full to o"erflowing of treachery, who has aroused the greatest an%iety for Lancelot on the
part of the party which now arri"es. They feel they ha"e been disco!fited and betrayed, and they !ae
great la!ent in their !isery. ,t is not a gracious !essage which reports this !ourning to the Iueen.
9e"ertheless, she deports herself with as good a grace as possible. .he resol"es to endure it, as she
!ust, for the sae of !y lord Kawain. <owe"er, she does not so conceal her grief that it does not
so!ewhat appear. .he has to show both Foy and grief at once: her heart is e!pty for Lancelot, and to
!y lord Kawain she shows e%cessi"e Foy. ("ery one who hears of the loss of Lancelot is grief-stricen
and distracted. The ing would ha"e reFoiced at the co!ing of !y lord Kawain and would ha"e been
delighted with his acGuaintance? but he is so sorrowful and distressed o"er the betrayal of Lancelot that
he is prostrated and full of grief. #nd the Iueen beseeches hi! insistently to ha"e hi! searched for, up
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Chrétien de Troyes
and down throughout the land, without postpone!ent or delay. 6y lord Kawain and Kay and all the
others Foin in this prayer and reGuest. DLea"e this care to !e, and spea no !ore of it,D the ing replies,
Dfor , ha"e been ready to do so for so!e ti!e. )ithout need of reGuest or prayer this search shall be
!ade with thoroughness.D ("eryone bows in sign of gratitude, and the ing at once sends !essengers
through his real!, sagacious and prudent !en-at-ar!s, who inGuired for hi! throughout the land. They
!ade inGuiry for hi! e"erywhere, but gained no certain news of hi!. 9ot finding any, they co!e bac
to the place where the nights re!ain? then Kawain and Kay and all the others say that they will go in
search of hi!, fully ar!ed and lance in rest? they will not trust to sending so!e one else.
>E". 202H-21HL.@ $ne day after dinner they were all in the hall putting on their ar!s, and the point
had been reached where there was nothing to do but start, when a "alet entered and passed by the! all
until he ca!e before the Iueen, whose chees were by no !eans rosyO For she was in such !ourning
for Lancelot, of who! she had no news, that she had lost all her colour. The "alet greeted her as well as
the ing, who was by her side, and then all the others and Kay and !y lord Kawain. <e held a letter in
his hand which he ga"e to the ing, who too it. The ing had it read in the hearing of all by one who
!ade no !istae in reading it. The reader new full well how to co!!unicate to the! what was
written in the parch!ent: he says that Lancelot sends greetings to the ing as his ind lord, and thans
hi! for the honour and indness he has shown hi!, and that he now places hi!self at the ing8s orders.
#nd now that he is now hale and hearty at King #rthur8s court, and he bids hi! tell the Iueen to co!e
thither, if she will consent, in co!pany with !y lord Kawain and Kay. ,n proof of which, he affi%ed his
signature which they should recognise, as indeed they did. #t this they were "ery happy and glad? the
whole court resounds with their Fubilation, and they say they will start ne%t day as soon as it is light.
.o, when the day broe, they !ae ready and prepare: they rise and !ount and start. )ith great Foy and
Fubilee the ing escorts the! for a long distance on their way. )hen he has conducted the! to the
frontier and has seen the! safely across the border, he taes lea"e of the Iueen, and liewise of all the
rest. #nd when he co!es to tae his lea"e, the Iueen is careful to e%press her gratitude for all the
indness he has shown to her, and throwing her ar!s about his nec, she offers and pro!ises hi! her
own ser"ice and that of her lord: no greater pro!ise can she !ae. #nd !y lord Kawain pro!ises his
ser"ice to hi!, as to his lord and friend, and then Kay does liewise, and all the rest. Then the ing
co!!ends the! to Kod as they start upon their way. #fter these three, he bids the rest farewell, and
then turns his face toward ho!e. The Iueen and her co!pany do not tarry a single day until news of
8&
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
the! reaches the court. King #rthur was delighted at the news of the Iueen8s approach, and he is
happy and pleased at the thought that his nephew had brought about the Iueen8s return, as well as that
of Kay and of the lesser fol. 5ut the truth is Guite different fro! what he thins. #ll the town is
cleared as they go to !eet the!, and nights and "assals Foin in shouting as they approach: D)elco!e
to !y lord Kawain, who has brought bac the Iueen and !any another capti"e lady, and has freed for
us !any prisonersOD Then Kawain answered the!: DKentle!en, , do not deser"e your praise. 4o not
trouble e"er to say this again, for the co!pli!ent does not apply to !e. This honour causes !e only
sha!e, for , did not reach the Iueen in ti!e? !y detention !ade !e late. 5ut Lancelot reached there in
ti!e, and won such honour as was ne"er won by any other night.D D)here is he, then, fair dear sire,
for we do not see hi! hereJD D)hereJD echoes !y lord Kawain? Dat the court of !y lord the King, to be
sure. ,s he notJD D9o, he is not here, or anywhere else in this country. .ince !y lady was taen away,
we ha"e had no news of hi!.D Then for the first ti!e !y lord Kawain realised that the letter had been
forged, and that they had been betrayed and decei"ed: by the letter they had been !isled. Then they all
begin to la!ent, and they co!e thus weeping to the court, where the King at once ass for infor!ation
about the affair. There were plenty who could tell hi! how !uch Lancelot had done, how the Iueen
and all the capti"es were deli"ered fro! durance by hi!, and by what treachery the dwarf had stolen
hi! and drawn hi! away fro! the!. This news is not pleasing to the King, and he is "ery sorry and
full of grief? but his heart is so lightened by the pleasure he taes in the Iueen8s return, that his grief
concludes in Foy. )hen he has what he !ost desires, he cares little for the rest.
>E". 21H*-22&+.@ )hile the Iueen was out of the country, , belie"e, the ladies and the da!sels
who were disconsolate, decided a!ong the!sel"es that they would !arry, soon, and they organised a
contest and a tourna!ent. The lady of 9oauM was patroness of it, with the lady of 7o!elegloi. They
will ha"e nothing to do with those who fare ill, but they assert that they will accept those who co!port
the!sel"es well in the tourna!ent. #nd they had the date of the contest proclai!ed s long while in
ad"ance in all the countries near and far, in order that there !ight be !ore participants. 9ow the Iueen
arri"ed before the date they had set, and as soon as the ladies heard of the Iueen8s return, !ost of the!
ca!e at once to the King and besought hi! to grant the! a fa"our and boon, which he did. <e
pro!ised to do whate"er they wished, before he new what their desire !ight be. Then they told hi!
that they wished hi! to let the Iueen co!e to be present at their contest. #nd he who was not
accusto!ed to forbid, said he was willing, if she wished ir so. ,n happy !ood they go to the Iueen and
8,
Chrétien de Troyes
say to her: DLady, do not depri"e us of the boon which the King has granted us.D Then she ass the!:
D)hat is thatJ 4on8t fail to tellOD Then they say to her: D,f you will co!e to our tourna!ent, he will not
gainsay you nor stand in the way.D Then she said that she would co!e, since he was willing that she
should. 7ro!ptly the da!es send word throughout the real! that they are going to bring the Iueen on
the day set for the tourna!ent. The news spread far and near, here and there, until it reached the
ingdo! whence no one used to return -- but now whoe"er wished !ight enter or pass out unopposed.
The news tra"elled in this ingdo! until it ca!e to a seneschal of the faithless 6eleagant !ay an e"il
fire burn hi!O This seneschal had Lancelot in his eeping, for to hi! he had been entrusted by his
ene!y 6eleagant, who hated hi! with deadly hate. Lancelot learned the hour and date of the
tourna!ent, and as soon as he heard of it, his eyes were not tearless nor was his heart glad. The lady of
the house, seeing Lancelot sad and pensi"e, thus spoe to hi!: D.ire, for Kod8s sae and for your own
soul8s good, tell !e truly,D the lady said, Dwhy you are so changed. =ou won8t eat or drin anything, and
, see that you do not !ae !erry or laugh. =ou can tell !e with confidence why you are so sad and
troubled.D D#h, lady, for Kod8s sae, do not be surprised that , a! sadO Truly, , a! "ery !uch
downcast, since , cannot be present where all that is good in the world will be asse!bled: that is, at the
tourna!ent where there will be a gathering of the people who !ae the earth tre!ble. 9e"ertheless, if
it pleased you, and if Kod should incline your heart to let !e go thither, you !ight rest assured that ,
should be careful to return to !y capti"ity here.D D, would gladly do it,D she replied, Dif , did not see
that !y death and destruction would result. 5ut , a! in such terror of !y lord, the despicable
6eleagant, that , would not dare to do it, for he would ill !y husband at once. ,t is not strange that ,
a! afraid of hi!, for, as you now, he is "ery bad.D DLady, if you are afraid that , !ay not return to you
at once after the tourna!ent, , will tae an oath which , will ne"er brea, that nothing will detain !e
fro! returning at once to !y prison here i!!ediately after the tourna!ent.D -pon !y word,D said she,
D, will allow it upon one condition.D DLady, what condition is thatJD Then she replies: D.ire, upon
condition that you wilt swear to return to !e, and pro!ise that , shall ha"e your lo"e.D DLady, , gi"e
you all the lo"e , ha"e, and swear to co!e bac.D Then the lady laughs and says: D, ha"e no cause to
boast of such a gift, for , now you ha"e bestowed upon so!e one else the lo"e for which , ha"e Fust
!ade reGuest. <owe"er, , do not disdain to tae so !uch of it as , can get. , shall be satisfied with what
, can ha"e, and will accept your oath that you will be so considerate of !e as to return hither a
prisoner.D
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Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
>E". 22&2-22*+.@ ,n accordance with her wish, Lancelot swears by <oly Church that he will return
without fail. #nd the lady at once gi"es hi! the "er!ilion ar!s of her lord, and his horse which was
!ar"ellously good and strong and bra"e. <e !ounts and lea"es, ar!ed with handso!e, new ar!s, and
proceeds until he co!es to 9oauM. <e espoused this side in the tourna!ent, and too his lodging
outside the town. 9e"er did such a noble !an choose such a s!all and lowly lodging-place? but he did
not wish to lodge where he !ight be recognised. There were !any good and e%cellent nights gathered
within the town. 5ut there were !any !ore outside, for so !any had co!e on account of the presence
of the Iueen that the fifth part could not be acco!!odated inside. For e"ery one who would ha"e been
there under ordinary circu!stances, there were se"en who would not ha"e co!e e%cepting on the
Iueen8s account. The barons were Guartered in tents, lodges, and pa"ilions for fi"e leagues around.
6oreo"er, it was wonderful how !any gentle ladies and da!sels were there. Lancelot placed his shield
outside the door of his lodging-place, and then, to !ae hi!self !ore co!fortable, he too off his ar!s
and lay down upon a bed which he held in slight estee!? for it was narrow and had a thin !attress, and
was co"ered with a coarse he!pen cloth. Lancelot had thrown hi!self upon the bed all disar!ed, and
as he lay there in such poor estate, beholdO a fellow ca!e in in his shirt-slee"es? he was a herald-at-
ar!s, and had left his coat and shoes in the ta"ern as a pledge? so he ca!e running barefoot and
e%posed to the wind. <e saw the shield hanging outside the door, and looed at it: but naturally he did
not recognise it or now to who! it belonged, or who was the bearer of it. <e sees the door of the
house standing open, and upon entering, he sees Lancelot upon the bed, and as soon as he saw hi!, he
recognised hi! and crossed hi!self. #nd Lancelot !ade a sign to hi!, and ordered hi! not to spea of
hi! where"er he !ight go, for if he should tell that he new hi!, it would be better for hi! to ha"e his
eyes put out or his nec broen. D.ire,D the herald says, D, ha"e always held you in high estee!, and so
long as , li"e, , shall ne"er do anything to cause you displeasure.D Then he runs fro! the house and
cries aloud: D9ow there has co!e one who will tae the !easureO
%%iii
9ow there has co!e one who will
tae the !easureOD The fellow shouts this e"erywhere, and the people co!e fro! e"ery side and as
hi! what is the !eaning of his cry. <e is not so rash as to answer the!, but goes on shouting the sa!e
words: D9ow there has co!e one who will tae the !easureOD This herald was the !aster of us all,
when he taught us to use the phrase, for he was the first to !ae use of it.
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Chrétien de Troyes
Part IV: Vv. 5595 - Vv. 7134
>E". 22*2-2B+'.@ 9ow the crowd was asse!bled, including the Iueen and all the ladies, the
nights and the other people, and there were !any !en-at-ar!s e"erywhere, to the right and left. #t the
place where the tourna!ent was to be, there were so!e large wooden stands for the use of the Iueen
with her ladies and da!sels. .uch fine stands were ne"er seen before they were so long and well
constructed. Thither the ladies betoo the!sel"es with the Iueen, wishing to see who would fare better
or worse in the co!bat. Knights arri"e by tens, twenties, and thirties, here eighty and there ninety, here
a hundred, there still !ore, and yonder twice as !any yet? so that the press is so great in front of the
stands and all around that they decide to begin the Foust. #s they asse!ble, ar!ed and unar!ed, their
lances suggest the appearance of a wood, for those who ha"e co!e to the sport brought so !any lances
that there is nothing in sight but lances, banners, and standards. Those who are going to tae part begin
to Foust, and they find plenty of their co!panions who had co!e with si!ilar intent. .till others prepare
to perfor! other feats of chi"alry. The fields, !eadows, and fallow lands are so full of nights that it is
i!possible to esti!ate how !any of the! are there. 5ut there was no sign of Lancelot at this first
gathering of the nights? but later, when he entered the !iddle of the field, the herald saw hi! and
could not refrain fro! crying out: D5ehold hi! who will tae the !easureO 5ehold hi! who will tae
the !easureOD #nd the people as hi! who he is, but he will not tell the! anything.
>E". 2B+&-B&'+.@ )hen Lancelot entered the tourna!ent, he was as good as twenty of the best, and
he began to fight so doughtily that no one could tae his eyes fro! hi!, where"er he was. $n the
7o!elegloi side there was a bra"e and "alorous night, and his horse was spirited and swifter than a
wild stag. <e was the son of the ,rish ing, and fought well and handso!ely. 5ut the unnown night
pleased the! all !ore a hundred ti!es. ,n wonder they all !ae haste to as: D)ho is this night who
fights so wellJD #nd the Iueen pri"ily called a cle"er and wise da!sel to her and said: D4a!sel, you
!ust carry a !essage, and do it Guicly and with few words. Ko down fro! the stand, and approach
yonder night with the "er!ilion shield, and tell hi! pri"ately that , bid hi! do his Nworst8.D .he goes
Guicly, and with intelligence e%ecutes the Iueen8s co!!and. .he sought the night until she ca!e up
close to hi!? then she said to hi! prudently and in a "oice so low that no one standing by !ight hear:
D.ire, !y lady the Iueen sends you word by !e that you shall do your Nworst8.D )hen he heard this, he
replied: DEery willingly,D lie one who is altogether hers. Then he rides at another night as hard as his
horse can carry hi!, and !isses his thrust which should ha"e struc hi!. Fro! that ti!e till e"ening
8;
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
fell he continued to do as badly as possible in accordance with the Iueen8s desire. 5ut the other, who
fought with hi!, did not !iss his thrust, but struc hi! with such "iolence that he was roughly
handled. Thereupon he too to flight, and after that he ne"er turned his horse8s head toward any night,
and were he to die for it, he would ne"er do anything unless he saw in it his sha!e, disgrace, and
dishonour? he e"en pretends to be afraid of all the nights who pass to and fro. #nd the "ery nights
who for!erly estee!ed hi! now hurled Fests and Fibes at hi!. #nd the herald who had been saying:
D<e will beat the! all in turnOD is greatly deFected and disco!fited when he hears the scornful Foes of
those who shout: DFriend, say no !oreO This fellow will not tae any one8s !easure again. <e has
!easured so !uch that his yardstic is broen, of which thou hast boasted to us so !uch.D 6any say:
D)hat is he going to doJ <e was so bra"e Fust now? but now he is so cowardly that there is not a night
who! he dares to face. The cause of his first success !ust ha"e been that he ne"er engaged at ar!s
before, and he was so bra"e at his first attac that the !ost silled night dared not withstand hi!, for
he fought lie a wild !an. 5ut now he has learned so !uch of ar!s that he will ne"er wish to bear
the! again his whole life long. <is heart cannot longer endure the thought, for there is nothing !ore
cowardly than his heart.D #nd the Iueen, as she watches hi!, is happy and well-pleased, for she nows
full well, though she does not say it, that this is surely Lancelot. Thus all day long till e"ening he
played his coward8s part, and late in the afternoon they separated. #t parting there was a great
discussion as to who had done the best. The son of the ,rish ing thins that without doubt or
contradiction he has all the glory and renown. 5ut he is grie"ously !istaen, for there were plenty of
others as good as he. ("en the "er!ilion night so pleased the fairest and gentlest of the ladies and
da!sels that they had gaMed at hi! !ore than at any other night, for they had re!ared how well he
fought at first, and how e%cellent and bra"e he was? then he had beco!e so cowardly that he dared not
face a single night, and e"en the worst of the! could defeat and capture hi! at will. 5ut nights and
ladies all agreed that on the !orrow they should return to the list, and the da!sels should choose as
their lords those who should win honour in that day8s fight: on this arrange!ent they all agree. Then
they turn toward their lodgings, and when they had returned, here and there !en began to say: D)hat
has beco!e of the worst, the !ost cra"en and despised of nightsJ )hither did he goJ )here is he
concealedJ )here is he to be foundJ )here shall we search for hi!J )e shall probably ne"er see hi!
again. For he has been dri"en off by cowardice, with which he is so filled that there is no greater cra"en
in the world than he. #nd he is not wrong, for a coward is a hundred ti!es !ore at ease than a "alorous
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Chrétien de Troyes
fighting !an. Cowardice is easy of entreaty, and that is the reason he has gi"en her the iss of peace
and has taen fro! her all she has to gi"e. Courage ne"er so debased herself as to lodge in his breast or
tae Guarters near hi!. 5ut cowardice is altogether lodged with hi!, and she has found a host who will
honour her and ser"e her so faithfully that he is willing to resign his own fair na!e for hers.D Thus they
wrangle all night, "ying with each other in slander. 5ut often one !an !aligns another, and yet is !uch
worse hi!self than the obFect of his bla!e and scorn. Thus, e"ery one said what he pleased about hi!.
#nd when the ne%t day dawned, all the people prepared and ca!e again to the Fousting place. The
Iueen was in the stand again, acco!panied by her ladies and da!sels and !any nights without their
ar!s, who had been captured or defeated, and these e%plained to the! the ar!orial bearings of the
nights who! they !ost estee!. Thus they tal a!ong the!sel"es:
%%i"
D4o you see that night yonder
with a golden band across the !iddle of his red shieldJ That is Ko"ernauM of 3oberdic. #nd do you see
that other one, who has an eagle and a dragon painted side by side upon his shieldJ That is the son of
the King of #ragon, who has co!e to this land in search of glory and renown. #nd do you see that one
beside hi!, who thrusts and Fousts so well, bearing a shield with a leopard painted on a green ground
on one part, and the other half is aMure blueJ That is ,gnaures the well-belo"ed, a lo"er hi!self and
Fo"ial. #nd he who bears the shield with the pheasants portrayed bea to bea is CoguillanM of
6autirec. 4o you see those two side by side, with their dappled steeds, and golden shields showing
blac lionsJ $ne is na!ed .e!ira!is, and the other is his co!panion? their shields are painted alie.
#nd do you see the one who has a shield with a gate painted on it, through which a stag appears to be
passing outJ That is King ,der, in truth.D Thus they tal up in the stand. DThat shield was !ade at
Li!oges, whence it was brought by 7ilades, who is "ery ardent and een to be always in the fight. That
shield, bridle, and breast-strap were !ade at Toulouse, and were brought here by Kay of (straus. The
other ca!e fro! Lyons on the 3hone, and there is no better under hea"en? for his great !erit it was
presented to Taulas of the 4esert, who bears it well and protects hi!self with it silfully. =onder shield
is of (nglish wor!anship and was !ade at London? you see on it two swallows which appear as if
about to fly? yet they do not !o"e, but recei"e !any blows fro! the 7oite"in lances of steel? he who
has it is poor Thoas.D Thus they point out and describe the ar!s of those they now? but they see
nothing of hi! who! they had held in such conte!pt, and, not re!aring hi! in the fray, they suppose
that he has slipped away. )hen the Iueen sees that he is not there, she feels inclined to send so!e one
to search for hi! in the crowd until he be found. .he nows of no one better to send in search of hi!
8:
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
than she who yesterday perfor!ed her errand. .o, straightway calling her, she said to her: D4a!sel, go
and !ount your palfreyO , send you to the sa!e night as , sent you yesterday, and do you see hi!
until you find hi!. 4o not delay for any cause, and tell hi! again to do his Nworst8. #nd when you ha"e
gi"en hi! this !essage, !ar well what reply he !aes.D The da!sel !aes no delay, for she had
carefully noticed the direction he too the night before, nowing well that she would be sent to hi!
again. .he !ade her way through the rans until she saw the night, who! she instructs at once to do
his DworstD again, if he desires the lo"e and fa"our of the Iueen which she sends hi!. #nd he !aes
answer: D6y thans to her, since such is her will.D Then the da!sel went away, and the "alets,
sergeants, and sGuires begin to shout: D.ee this !ar"ellous thingO <e of yesterday with the "er!ilion
ar!s is bac again. )hat can he wantJ 9e"er in the world was there such a "ile, despicable, and cra"en
wretchO <e is so in the power of cowardice that resistance is useless on his part.D #nd the da!sel
returns to the Iueen, who detained her and would not let her go until she heard what his response had
been? then she heartily reFoiced, feeling no longer any doubt that this is he to who! she altogether
belongs, and he is hers in lie !anner. Then she bids the da!sel Guicly return and tell hi! that it is
her co!!and and prayer that he shall do his Dbest D? and she says she will go at once without delay.
.he ca!e down fro! the stand to where her "alet with the palfrey was awaiting her. .he !ounted and
rode until she found the night, to who! she said at once: D.ire, !y lady now sends word that you
shall do the Nbest8 you canOD #nd he replies: DTell her now that it is ne"er a hardship to do her will, for
whate"er pleases her is !y delight.D The !aiden was not slow in bearing bac this !essage, for she
thins it will greatly please and delight the Iueen. .he !ade her way as directly as possible to the
stand, where the Iueen rose and started to !eet her, howe"er, she did not go down, but waited for her
at the top of the steps. #nd the da!sel ca!e happy in the !essage she had to bear. )hen she had
cli!bed the steps and reached her side, she said: DLady, , ne"er saw so courteous g night, for he is
!ore than ready to obey e"ery co!!and you send to hi!, for, if the truth be nown, he accepts good
and e"il with the sa!e countenance. D,ndeed,D says the Iueen, Dthat !ay well be so.D Then she returns
to the balcony to watch the nights. #nd Lancelot without delay seiMes his shield by the leather straps,
for he is indled and consu!ed by the desire to show his prowess. Kuiding his horse8s head, he lets hi!
run between two lines. #ll those !istaen and deluded !en, who ha"e spent a large part of the day and
night in heaping hi! with ridicule, will soon be disconcerted. For a long ti!e they ha"e had their sport
and Foe and fun. The son of the King of ,reland held his shield closely gripped by the leather straps, as
;7
Chrétien de Troyes
he spurs fiercely to !eet hi! fro! the opposite direction. They co!e together with such "iolence that
the son of the ,rish ing ha"ing broen and splintered his lance, wishes no !ore of the tourna!ent? for
it was not !oss he struc, but hard, dry boards. ,n this encounter Lancelot taught hi! one of his thrusts,
when he pinned his shield to his ar!, and his ar! to his side, and brought hi! down fro! his horse to
earth. Lie arrows the nights at once fly out, spurring and pricing fro! either side, so!e to relie"e
this night, others to add to his distress. )hile so!e thus try to aid their lords, !any a saddle is left
e!pty in the strife and fray. 5ut all that day Kawain too no hand at ar!s, though he was with the
others there, for he too such pleasure in watching the deeds of hi! with the red painted ar!s that what
the others did see!ed to hi! pale in co!parison. #nd the herald cheered up again, as he shouted aloud
so that all could hear: D<ere there has one co!e who will tae the !easureO To-day you shall see what
he can do. To-day his prowess shall appear.D Then the night directs his steed and !aes a "ery silful
thrust against a certain night, who! he stries so hard that he carries hi! a hundred feet or !ore fro!
his horse. <is feats with sword and lance are so well perfor!ed that there is none of the onlooers who
does not find pleasure in watching hi!. 6any e"en of those who bear ar!s find pleasure and
satisfaction in what he does, for it is great sport to see how he !aes horses and nights tu!ble and
fall. <e encounters hardly a single night who is able to eep his seat, and he gi"es the horses he wins
to those who want the!. Then those who had been !aing ga!e of hi! said: D9ow we are disgraced
and !ortified. ,t was a great !istae for us to deride and "ilify this !an, for he is surely worth a
thousand such as we are on this field? for he has defeated and outdone all the nights in the world, so
that there is no one now that opposes hi!.D #nd the da!sels, who a!aMed were watching hi!, all said
that he !ight tae the! to wife? but they did not dare to trust in their beauty or wealth, or power or
highness, for not for her beauty or wealth would this peerless night deign to choose any one of the!.
=et, !ost of the! are so ena!oured of hi! that they say that, unless they !arry hi!, they will not be
bestowed upon any !an this year. #nd the Iueen, who hears the! boast, laughs to herself and enFoy
the fun, for well she nows that if all the gold of #rabia should be set before hi!, yet he who is belo"ed
by the! all would not select the best, the fairest, or the !ost char!ing of the group. $ne wish is
co!!on to the! all -- each wishes to ha"e hi! as her spouse. $ne is Fealous of another, as if she were
already his wife? and all this is because they see hi! so adroit that in their opinion no !ortal !an could
perfor! such deeds as he had done. <e did so well that when the ti!e ca!e to lea"e the list, they
ad!itted freely on both sides that no one had eGualled the night with the "er!ilion shield. #ll said
;5
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
this, and it was true. 5ut when he left, he allowed his shield and lance and trappings to fall where he
saw the thicest press, then he rode off hastily with such secrecy that no one of all the host noticed that
he had disappeared. 5ut he went straight bac to the place whence he had co!e, to eep his oath. )hen
the tourna!ent broe up, they all searched and ased for hi!, but without success, for he fled away,
ha"ing no desire to be recognised. The nights are disappointed and distressed, for they would ha"e
reFoiced to ha"e hi! there. 5ut if the nights were grie"ed to ha"e been deserted thus, still greater was
the da!sels8 grief when they learned the truth, and they asserted by .t. /ohn that they would not !arry
at all that year. ,f they can8t ha"e hi! who! they truly lo"e, then all the others !ay be dis!issed. Thus
the tourney was adFourned without any of the! choosing a husband. 6eanwhile Lancelot without delay
repairs to his prison. 5ut the seneschal arri"ed two or three days before Lancelot, and inGuired where
he was. #nd his wife, who had gi"en to Lancelot his fair and well- eGuipped "er!ilion ar!s, as well as
his harness and his horse, told the truth to the seneschal -- how she had sent hi! where there had been
Fousting at the tourney of 9oauM. DLady,D the seneschal replies, Dyou could truly ha"e done nothing
worse than that. 4oubtless, , shall s!art for this, for !y lord 6eleagant will treat !e worse than the
beach-co!bers8 law would treat !e were , a !ariner in distress. , shall be illed or banished the
!o!ent he hears the news, and he will ha"e no pity for !e.D DFair sire, be not now dis!ayed,D the lady
said? Dthere is no occasion for the fear you feel. There is no possibility of his detention, for he swore to
!e by the saints that he would return as soon as possible.D
>E". B&'2-B&BB.@
%%"
Then the seneschal !ounts, and co!ing to his lord, tells hi! the whole story
of the episode? but at the sa!e ti!e, he e!phatically reassures hi!, telling how his wife had recei"ed
his oath that he would return to his prison. D<e will not brea his word, , now,D says 6eleagant: Dand
yet , a! "ery !uch displeased at what your wife has done. 9ot for any consideration would , ha"e had
hi! present at that tourna!ent. 5ut return now, and see to it that, when he co!es bac, he be so strictly
guarded that he shall not escape fro! his prison or ha"e any freedo! of body: and send !e word at
once.D D=our orders shall be obeyed,D says the seneschal. Then he goes away and finds Lancelot
returned as prisoner in his yard. # !essenger, sent by the seneschal, runs bac at once to 6eleagant,
appraising hi! of Lancelot8s return. )hen he heard this news, he too !asons and carpenters who
unwillingly or of their own free-will e%ecuted his co!!ands. <e su!!oned the best artisans in the
land, and co!!anded the! to build a tower, and e%ert the!sel"es to build it well. The stone was
Guarried by the seaside? for near Korre on this side there runs a big broad ar! of the sea, in the !idst of
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Chrétien de Troyes
which an island stood, as 6eleagant well new. <e ordered the stone to be carried thither and the
!aterial for the construction of the tower. ,n less than fifty-se"en days the tower was co!pletely built,
high and thic and well-founded. )hen it was co!pleted, he had Lancelot brought thither by night, and
after putting hi! in the tower, he ordered the doors to be walled up, and !ade all the !asons swear that
they would ne"er utter a word about this tower. ,t was his will that it should be thus sealed up, and that
no door or opening should re!ain, e%cept one s!all window. <ere Lancelot was co!pelled to stay, and
they ga"e hi! poor and !eagre fare through this little window at certain hours, as the disloyal wretch
had ordered and co!!anded the!.
>E". B&BH-B00'.@ 9ow 6eleagant has carried out all his purpose, and he betaes hi!self to King
#rthur8s court: behold hi! now arri"edO #nd when he was before the King, he thus spoe with pride
and arrogance: DKing, , ha"e scheduled a battle to tae place in thy presence and in thy court. 5ut , see
nothing of Lancelot who agreed to be !y antagonist. 9e"ertheless, as !y duty is, in the hearing of all
who are present here, , offer !yself to fight this battle. #nd if he is here, let hi! now step forth and
agree to !eet !e in your court a year fro! now. , now not if any one has told you how this battle was
agreed upon. 5ut , see nights here who were present at our conference, and who, if they would, could
tell you the truth. ,f he should try to deny the truth, , should e!ploy no hireling to tae !y place, but
would pro"e it to hi! hand to hand.D The Iueen, who was seated beside the King, draws hi! to her as
she says: D.ire, do you now who that night isJ ,t is 6eleagant who carried !e away while escorted
by Kay the seneschal? he caused hi! plenty of sha!e and !ischief too.D #nd the King answered her:
DLady, , understand? , now full well that it is he who held !y people in distress.D The Iueen says no
!ore, but the King addresses 6eleagant: DFriend,D he says, Dso help !e Kod, we are "ery sad because
we now nothing of Lancelot.D D6y lord King,D says 6eleagant, DLancelot told !e that , should surely
find hi! here. 9owhere but in your court !ust , issue the call to this battle, and , desire all your
nights here to bear !e witness that , su!!on hi! to fight a year fro! to-day, as stipulated when we
agreed to fight.D
>E". B00&-B+2L.@ #t this !y lord Kawain gets up, !uch distressed at what he hears: D.ire, there is
nothing nown of Lancelot in all this land,D he says? Dbut we shall send in search of hi! and, if Kod
will, we shall find hi! yet, before the end of the year is reached, unless he be dead or in prison. #nd if
he does not appear, then grant !e the battle, and , will fight for hi!: , will ar! !yself in place of
;&
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
Lancelot, if he does not return before that day.D D#h,D says 6eleagant, Dfor Kod8s sae, !y fair lord
King, grant hi! the boon. , Foin !y reGuest to his desire, for , now no night in all the world with
who! , would !ore gladly try !y strength, e%cepting only Lancelot. 5ut bear in !ind that, if , do not
fight with one of the!, , will accept no e%change or substitution for either one.D #nd the King says that
this is understood, if Lancelot does not return within the ti!e. Then 6eleagant left the royal court and
Fourneyed until he found his father, King 5ade!agu. ,n order to appear bra"e and of consideration in
his presence, he began by !aing a great pretence and by assu!ing an e%pression of !ar"ellous cheer.
That day the ing was holding a Foyous court at his city of 5ade?
%%"i
it was his birthday, which he
celebrated with splendour and generosity, and there were !any people of di"ers sorts gathered with
hi!. #ll the palace was filled with nights and da!sels, and a!ong the! was the sister of 6eleagant,
of who! , shall tell you, farther on, what is !y thought and reason for !entioning her here. 5ut it is
not fitting that , should e%plain it here, for , do not wish to confuse or entangle !y !aterial, but rather
to treat it straight forwardly. 9ow , !ust tell you that 6eleagant in the hearing of all, both great and
s!all, spoe thus to his father boastingly: DFather,D he says, Dso help !e Kod, please tell !e truly now
whether he ought not to be well-content, and whether he is not truly bra"e, who can cause his ar!s to
be feared at King #rthur8s courtJD To this Guestion his father replies at once: D.on,D he says, Dall good
!en ought to honour and ser"e and see the co!pany of one whose deserts are such.D Then he flattered
hi! with the reGuest that he should not conceal why he has alluded to this, what he wishes, and whence
he co!es. D.ire, , now not whether you re!e!ber,D 6eleagant begins, Dthe agree!ents and
stipulations which were recorded when Lancelot and , !ade peace. ,t was then agreed, , belie"e, and in
the presence of !any we were told, that we should present oursel"es at the end of a year at #rthur8s
court. , went thither at the appointed ti!e, ready eGuipped for !y business there. , did e"erything that
had been prescribed: , called and searched for Lancelot, with who! , was to fight, but , could not gain
a sight of hi!: he had fled and run away. )hen , ca!e away, Kawain pledged his word that, if Lancelot
is not ali"e and does not return within the ti!e agreed upon, no further postpone!ent will be ased, but
that he hi!self will fight the battle against !e in place of Lancelot. #rthur has no night, as is well
nown, whose fa!e eGuals his, but before the flowers bloo! again, , shall see, when we co!e to
blows, whether his fa!e and his deeds are in accord: , only wish it could be settled nowOD D.on,D says
his father, Dthou art acting e%actly lie a fool. #ny one, who new it not before, !ay learn of thy
!adness fro! thy own lips. # good heart truly hu!bles itself, but the fool and the boastful ne"er lose
;,
Chrétien de Troyes
their folly. .on, to thee , direct !y words, for the traits of thy character are so hard and dry, that there is
no place for sweetness or friendship. Thy heart is altogether pitiless: thou art altogether in folly8s grasp.
This accounts for !y slight respect for thee, and this is what will cast thee down. ,f thou art bra"e,
there will be plenty of !en to say so in ti!e of need. # "irtuous !an need not praise his heart in order
to enhance his deed? the deed itself will spea in its own praise. Thy self- praise does not aid thee a
whit to increase in any one8s estee!? indeed, , hold thee in less estee!. .on, , chasten thee? but to what
endJ ,t is of little use to ad"ise a fool. <e only wastes his strength in "ain who tries to cure the !adness
of a fool, and the wisdo! that one teaches and e%pounds is worthless, wasted and une!ployed, unless
it is e%pressed in wors.D Then 6eleagant was sorely enraged and furious. , !ay truly say that ne"er
could you see a !ortal !an so full of anger as he was? the last bond between the! was broen then, as
he spoe to his father these ungracious words: D#re you in a drea! or trance, when you say that , a!
!ad to tell you how !y !atters standJ , thought , had co!e to you as to !y lord and !y father? but
that does not see! to be the case, for you insult !e !ore outrageously than , thin you ha"e any right
to do? !oreo"er, you can gi"e no reason for ha"ing addressed !e thus.D D,ndeed, , can.D D)hat is it,
thenJD D5ecause , see nothing in thee but folly and wrath. , now "ery well what thy courage is lie,
and that it will cause thee great trouble yet. # curse upon hi! who supposes that the elegant Lancelot,
who is estee!ed by all but thee, has e"er fled fro! thee through fear. , a! sure that he is buried or
confined in so!e prison whose door is barred so tight that he cannot escape without lea"e. , should
surely be sorely grie"ed if he were dead or in distress. ,t would surely be too bad, were a creature so
splendidly eGuipped, so fair, so bold, yet so serene, to perish thus before his ti!e. 5ut, !ay it please
Kod, this is not true.D Then 5ade!agu said no !ore? but a daughter of his had listened attenti"ely to all
his words, and you !ust now that it was she who! , !entioned earlier in !y tale, and who is not
happy now to hear such news of Lancelot. ,t is Guite clear to her that he is shut up, since no one nows
any news of hi! or his wanderings. D6ay Kod ne"er loo upon !e, if , rest until , ha"e so!e sure and
certain news of hi!OD .traightway, without !aing any noise or disturbance, she runs and !ounts a fair
and easy-stepping !ule. 5ut , !ust say that when she lea"es the court, she nows not which way to
turn. <owe"er, she ass no ad"ice in her predica!ent, but taes the first road she finds, and rides along
at rando! rapidly, unacco!panied by night or sGuire. ,n her eagerness she !aes haste to attain the
obFect of her search. Keenly she presses forward in her Guest, but it will not soon ter!inate. .he !ay
not rest or delay long in any single place, if she wishes to carry out her plan, to release Lancelot fro!
;3
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
his prison, if she can find hi! and if it is possible. 5ut in !y opinion, before she finds hi! she will
ha"e searched in !any a land, after !any a Fourney and !any a Guest, before she has any news of hi!.
5ut what would be the use of !y telling you of her lodgings and her FourneyingsJ Finally, she tra"elled
so far through hill and dale, up and down, that !ore than a !onth had passed, and as yet she had
learned only so !uch as she new before -- that is, absolutely nothing. $ne day she was crossing a
field in a sad and pensi"e !ood, when she saw a tower in the distance standing by the shore of an ar!
of the sea. 9ot within a league around about was there any house, cottage, or dwelling- place.
6eleagant had had it built, and had confined Lancelot within. 5ut of all this she still was unaware. #s
soon as she espied the tower, she fi%ed her attention upon it to the e%clusion of all else. #nd her heart
gi"es her assurance that here is the obFect of her Guest? now at last she has reached her goal, to which
Fortune through !any trials has at last directed her.
>E". B+2*-BB2B.@ The da!sel draws so near to the tower that she can touch it with her hands. .he
wals about, listening attenti"ely, , suppose, if perchance she !ay hear so!e welco!e sound. .he
loos down and she gaMes up, and she sees that the tower is strong and high and thic. .he is a!aMed to
see no door or window, e%cept one little narrow opening. 6oreo"er, there was no ladder or steps about
this high, sheer tower. For this reason she sur!ises that it was !ade so intentionally, and that Lancelot
is confined inside. 5ut she resol"es that before she tastes of food, she will learn whether this is so or
not. .he thins she will call Lancelot by na!e, and is about to do so when she is deterred by hearing
fro! the tower a "oice which was !aing a !ar"ellously sad !oan as it called on death. ,t i!plores
death to co!e, and co!plains of !isery unbearable. ,n conte!pt of the body and life, it wealy piped
in a low, hoarse tone: D#h, fortune, how disastrously thy wheel has turned for !eO Thou hast !oced
!e sha!efully: a while ago , was up, but now , a! down? , was well off of late, but now , a! in a
sorry state? not long since thou didst s!ile on !e, but now thy eyes are filled with tears. #las, poor
wretch, why didst thou trust in her, when so soon she has deserted theeO 5ehold, in a "ery little while
she has cast thee down fro! thy high estateO Fortune, it was wrong of thee to !oc !e thus? but what
carest thouO Thou carest not how it !ay turn out. #h, sacred CrossO #ll, <oly KhostO <ow a! ,
wretched and undoneO <ow co!pletely has !y career been closedO #h, Kawain, you who possess such
worth, and whose goodness is unparalleled, surely , !ay well be a!aMed that you do not co!e to
succour !e. .urely you delay too long and are not showing courtesy. <e ought indeed to recei"e your
aid who! you used to lo"e so de"otedlyO For !y part , !ay truly say that there is no lodging place or
;8
Chrétien de Troyes
retreat on either side of the sea, where , would not ha"e searched for you at least se"en or ten years
before finding you, if , new you to be in prison. 5ut why do , thus tor!ent !yselfJ =ou do not care
for !e e"en enough to tae this trouble. The rustic is right when he says that it is hard nowadays to find
a friendO ,t is easy to rest the true friend in ti!e oP need. #lasO !ore than a year has passed since first ,
was put inside this tower. , feel hurt, Kawain, that you ha"e so long deserted !eO 5ut doubtless you
now nothing of all this, and , ha"e no ground for bla!ing you. =es, when , thin of it, this !ust be the
case, and , was "ery wrong to i!agine such a thing? for , a! confident that not for all the world
contains would you and your !en ha"e failed to co!e to release !e fro! this trouble and distress, if
you were aware of it. ,f for no other reason, you would be bound to do this out of lo"e for !e, your
co!panion. 5ut it is idle to tal about it -- it cannot be. #h, !ay the curse and the da!nation of Kod
and .t. .yl"ester rest upon hi! who has shut !e up so sha!efullyO <e is the "ilest !an ali"e, this
en"ious 6eleagant, to treat !e as e"illy as possibleOD Then he, who is wearing out his life in grief,
ceases speaing and holds his peace. 5ut when she, who was lingering at the base of the tower, heard
what he said, she did not delay, but acted wisely and called hi! thus: DLancelot,D as loudly as she
could? Dfriend, up there, spea to one who is your friendOD 5ut inside he did not hear her words. Then
she called out louder yet, until he in his weaness faintly heard her, and wondered who could be calling
hi!.
%%"ii
<e heard the "oice and heard his na!e pronounced, but he did not now who was calling hi!:
he thins it !ust be a spirit. <e loos all about hi! to see, , suppose, if he could espy any one? but
there is nothing to be seen but the tower and hi!self. DKod,D says he, Dwhat is that , heardJ , heard
so!e one spea, but see nothingO ,ndeed, this is passing !ar"ellous, for , a! not asleep, but wide
awae. $f course, if this happened in a drea!, , should consider it an illusion? but , a! awae, and
therefore , a! distressed.D Then with so!e trouble he gets up, and with slow and feeble steps he !o"es
toward the little opening. $nce there, he peers through it, up and down and to either side. )hen he had
looed out as best he !ight, he caught sight of her who had hailed hi!. <e did not recognise her by
sight. 5ut she new hi! at once and said: DLancelot, , ha"e co!e fro! afar in search of you. 9ow,
than Kod, at last , ha"e found you. , a! she who ased of you a boon as you were on your way to the
sword-bridge, and you "ery gladly granted it at !y reGuest? it was the head , bade you cut fro! the
conGuered night who! , hated so. 5ecause of this boon and this ser"ice you did !e, , ha"e gone to
this trouble. #s a guerdon , shall deli"er you fro! here.D D4a!sel, !any thans to you,D the prisoner
then replied? Dthe ser"ice , did you will be well repaid if , a! set at liberty. ,f you can get !e out of
;;
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
here, , pro!ise and engage to be henceforth always yours, so help !e the holy #postle 7aulO #nd as ,
!ay see Kod face to face, , shall ne"er fail to obey your co!!ands in accordance with your will. =ou
!ay as for anything , ha"e, and recei"e it without delay.D DFriend, ha"e no fear that you will not be
released fro! here. =ou shall be loosed and set free this "ery day. 9ot for a thousand pounds would ,
renounce the e%pectation of seeing you free before the datu! of another day. Then , shall tae you to a
pleasant place, where you !ay rest and tae your ease. There you shall ha"e e"erything you desire,
whate"er it be. .o ha"e no fear. 5ut first , !ust see if , can find so!e tool anywhere hereabouts with
which you !ight enlarge this hole, at least enough to let you pass.D DKod grant that you find
so!ething,D he said, agreeing to this plan? D, ha"e plenty of rope in here, which the rascals ga"e !e to
pull up !y food -- hard barley bread and dirty water, which sicen !y sto!ach and heart.D Then the
daughter of 5ade!agu sought and found a strong, stout, sharp pic, which she handed to hi!. <e
pounded, and ha!!ered and struc and dug, notwithstanding the pain it caused hi!, until he could get
out co!fortably. 9ow he is greatly relie"ed and glad, you !ay be sure, to be out $f prison and to get
away fro! the place where he has been so long confined. 9ow he is at large in the open air. =ou !ay
be sure that he would not go bac again, were so!e one to gather in a pile and gi"e to hi! all the gold
there is scattered in the world.
>E". BB2H-BH0L.@ 5ehold Lancelot now released, but so feeble that he staggered fro! his weaness
and disability. Kently, without hurting hi!, she sets hi! before her on her !ule, and then they ride off
rapidly. 5ut the da!sel purposely a"oids the beaten trac, that they !ay not be seen, and proceeds by a
hidden path? for if she had tra"elled openly, doubtless so!e one would ha"e recognised the! and done
the! har!, and she would not ha"e wished that to happen. .o she a"oided the dangerous places and
ca!e to a !ansion where she often !aes her soFourn because of its beauty and char!. The entire
estate and the people on it belonged to her, and the place was well furnished, safe, and pri"ate. There
Lancelot arri"ed. #nd as soon as he had co!e, and had laid aside his clothes, the da!sel gently laid
hi! on a lofty, handso!e couch, then bathed and rubbed hi! so carefully that , could not describe half
the care she too. .he handled and treated hi! as gently as if he had been her father. <er treat!ent
!aes a new !an of hi!, as she re"i"es hi! with her cares. 9ow he is no less fair than an angel and is
!ore ni!ble and !ore spry than anything you e"er saw. )hen he arose, he was no longer !angy and
haggard, but strong and handso!e. #nd the da!sel sought out for hi! the finest robe she could find,
with which she clothed hi! when he arose. #nd he was glad to put it on, Guicer than a bird in flight.
;6
Chrétien de Troyes
<e issed and e!braced the !aid, and then said to her graciously: D6y dear, , ha"e only Kod and you
to than for being restored to health again. .ince , owe !y liberty to you, you !ay tae and co!!and
at will !y heart and body, !y ser"ice and estate. , belong to you in return for what you ha"e done for
!e? but it is long since , ha"e been at the court of !y lord #rthur, who has shown !e great honour? and
there is plenty there for !e to do. 9ow, !y sweet gentle friend, , beg you affectionately for lea"e to go?
then, with your consent, , should feel free to go.D DLancelot, fair, sweet dear friend, , a! Guite willing,D
the da!sel says? D, desire your honour and welfare abo"e e"erything e"erywhere.D Then she gi"es hi!
a wonderful horse she has, the best horse that e"er was seen, and he leaps up without so !uch as saying
to the stirrups Dby your lea"eD: he was up without considering the!. Then to Kod, who ne"er lies, they
co!!end each other with good intent.
>E". BH0*-H''+.@ Lancelot was so glad to be on the road that, if , should tae an oath, , could not
possibly describe the Foy he felt at ha"ing escaped fro! his trap. 5ut he said to hi!self repeatedly that
woe was the traitor, the reprobate, who! now he has triced and ridiculed, Dfor in spite of hi! , ha"e
escaped.D Then he swears by the heart and body of <i! who !ade the world that not for all the riches
and wealth fro! 5abylon to Khent would he let 6eleagant escape, if he once got hi! in his power: for
he has hi! to than for too !uch har! and sha!eO 5ut e"ents will soon turn out so as to !ae this
possible? for this "ery 6eleagant, who! he threatens and presses hard, had already co!e to court that
day without being su!!oned by any one? and the first thing he did was to search until he found !y
lord Kawain. Then the rascally pro"en traitor ass hi! about Lancelot, whether he had been seen or
found, as if he hi!self did not now the truth. #s a !atter of fact, he did not now the truth, although
he thought he new it well enough. #nd Kawain told hi!, as was true, that he had not been seen, and
that he had not co!e. D)ell, since , don8t find hi!,D says 6eleagant, Ddo you co!e and eep the
pro!ise you !ade !e: , shall not longer wait for you.D Then Kawain !aes answer: D, will eep
presently !y word with you, if it please Kod in who! , place !y trust. , e%pect to discharge !y debt to
you. 5ut if it co!es to throwing dice for points, and , should throw a higher nu!ber than you, so help
!e Kod and the holy faith, ,8ll not withdraw, but will eep on until , pocet all the staes.D
%%"iii
Then
without delay Kawain orders a rug to be thrown down and spread before hi!. There was no sni"elling
or atte!pt to run away when the sGuires heard this co!!and, but without gru!bling or co!plaint they
e%ecute what he co!!ands. They bring the rug and spread it out in the place indicated? then he who
had sent for it taes his seat upon it and gi"es orders to be ar!ed by the young !en who were standing
;:
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
unar!ed before hi!. There were two of the!, his cousins or nephews, , now not which, but they were
acco!plished and new what to do. They ar! hi! so silfully and well that no one could find any fault
in the world with the! for any !istae in what they did. )hen they finished ar!ing hi!, one of the!
went to fetch a .panish steed able to cross the fields, woods, hills, and "alleys !ore swiftly than the
good 5ucephalus.
%%i%
-pon a horse such as you ha"e heard Kawain too his seat -- the ad!ired and
!ost acco!plished night upon who! the sign of the Cross was e"er !ade. #lready he was about to
seiMe his shield, when he saw Lancelot dis!ount before hi!, who! he was not e%pecting to see. <e
looed at hi! in a!aMe!ent, because he had co!e so une%pectedly? and, if , a! not wrong, he was as
!uch surprised as if he had fallen fro! the clouds. <owe"er, no business of his own can detain hi!, as
soon as he sees Lancelot, fro! dis!ounting and e%tending his ar!s to hi!, as he e!braces, salutes and
isses hi!. 9ow he is happy and at ease, when he has found his co!panion. 9ow , will tell you the
truth, and you !ust not thin , lie, that Kawain would not wish to be chosen ing, unless he had
Lancelot with hi!. The King and all the rest now learn that, in spite of all, Lancelot, for who! they so
long ha"e watched, has co!e bac Guite safe and sound. Therefore they all reFoice, and the court,
which so long has looed for hi!, co!es together to honour hi!. Their happiness dispels and dri"es
away the sorrow which for!erly was theirs. Krief taes flight and is replaced by an awaening Foy.
#nd how about the IueenJ 4oes she not share in the general FubileeJ =es, "erily, she first of all. <ow
soJ For Kod8s sae, where, then, could she be eeping herselfJ .he was ne"er so glad in her life as she
was for his return. #nd did she not e"en go to hi!J Certainly she did? she is so close to hi! that her
body ca!e near following her heart. )here is her heart, thenJ ,t was issing and welco!ing Lancelot.
#nd why did the body conceal itselfJ )hy is not her Foy co!pleteJ ,s it !ingled with anger or hateJ
9o, certainly, not at all? but it !ay be that the King or so!e of the others who are there, and who are
watching what taes place, would ha"e taen the whole situation in, if, while all were looing on, she
had followed the dictates of her heart. ,f co!!on-sense had not banished this !ad i!pulse and rash
desire, her heart would ha"e been re"ealed and her folly would ha"e been co!plete. Therefore reason
closes up and binds her fond heart and her rash intent, and !ade it !ore reasonable, postponing the
greeting until it shall see and espy a suitable and !ore pri"ate place where they would fare better than
here and now. The King highly honoured Lancelot, and after welco!ing hi!, thus spoe: D, ha"e not
heard for a long ti!e news of any !an which were so welco!e as news of you? yet , a! !uch
concerned to learn in what region and in what land you ha"e tarried so long a ti!e. , ha"e had search
67
Chrétien de Troyes
!ade for you up and down, all the winter and su!!er through, but no one could find a trace of you.D
D,ndeed, fair sire,D says Lancelot, D, can infor! you in a few words e%actly how it has fared with !e.
The !iserable traitor 6eleagant has ept !e in prison e"er since the hour of the deli"erance of the
prisoners in his land, and has conde!ned !e to a life of sha!e in a tower of his beside the sea. There
he put !e and shut !e in, and there , should still be dragging out !y weary life, if it were not for a
friend of !ine, a da!sel for who! , once perfor!ed a slight ser"ice. ,n return for the little fa"our , did
her, she has repaid !e liberally: she has bestowed upon !e great honour and blessing. 5ut , wish to
repay without delay hi! for who! , ha"e no lo"e, who has sought out and de"ised for !e this sha!e
and inFury. <e need not wait, for the su! is all ready, principal and interest? but Kod forbid that he find
in it cause to reFoiceOD Then Kawain said to Lancelot: DFriend, it will be only a slight fa"our for !e,
who a! in your debt, to !ae this pay!ent for you. 6oreo"er, , a! all ready and !ounted, as you see.
Fair, sweet friend, do not deny !e the boon , desire and reGuest.D 5ut Lancelot replies that he would
rather ha"e his eye pluced out, or e"en both of the!, than be persuaded to do this: he swears it shall
ne"er be so. <e owes the debt and he will pay it hi!self: for with his own hand he pro!ised it. Kawain
plainly sees that nothing he can say is of any a"ail, so he loosens and taes off his hauber fro! his
bac, and co!pletely disar!s hi!self. Lancelot at once ar!s hi!self without delay? for he is i!patient
to settle and discharge his debt. 6eleagant, who is a!aMed beyond !easure at what he sees, has
reached the end of his good fortunes, and is about to recei"e what is owing hi!. <e is al!ost beside
hi!self and co!es near fainting. D.urely , was a fool,D he says, Dnot to go, before co!ing here, to see if
, still held i!prisoned in !y tower hi! who now has played this tric on !e. 5ut, Kod, why should ,
ha"e goneJ )hat cause had , to thin that he could possibly escapeJ ,s not the wall built strong
enough, and is not the tower sufficiently strong and highJ There was no hole or cre"ice in it, through
which he could pass, unless he was aided fro! outside. , a! sure his hiding-place was re"ealed. ,f the
wall were worn away and had fallen into decay, would he not ha"e been caught and inFured or illed at
the sa!e ti!eJ =es, so help !e Kod, if it had fallen down, he would certainly ha"e been illed. 5ut ,
guess, before that wall gi"es away without being torn down, that all the water in the sea will dry up
without lea"ing a drop and the world will co!e to an end. 9o, that is not it: it happened otherwise: he
was helped to escape, and could not ha"e got out otherwise: , ha"e been outwitted through so!e
tricery. #t any rate, he has escaped? but if , had been on !y guard, all this would ne"er ha"e
happened, and he would ne"er ha"e co!e to court. 5ut it8s too late now to repent. The rustic, who
65
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
seldo! errs, pertinently re!ars that it is too late to close the stable when the horse is out. , now ,
shall now be e%posed to great sha!e and hu!iliation, if indeed , do not suffer and endure so!ething
worse. )hat shall , suffer and endureJ 3ather, so long as , li"e, , will gi"e hi! full !easure, if it please
Kod, in who! , trust.D Thus he consoles hi!self, and has no other desire than to !eet his antagonist on
the field. #nd he will not ha"e long to wait, , thin, for Lancelot goes in search of hi!, e%pecting soon
to conGuer hi!. 5ut before the assault begins, the King bids the! go down into the plain where the
tower stands, the prettiest place this side of ,reland for a fight. .o they did, and soon found the!sel"es
on the plain below. The King goes down too, and all the rest, !en and wo!en in crowds. 9o one stays
behind? but !any go up to the windows of the tower, a!ong the! the Iueen, her ladies and da!sels,
of who! she had !any with her who were fair.
>E". H''2-H&&*.@ ,n the field there stood a syca!ore as fair as any tree could be? it was wide-
spread and co"ered a large area, and around it grew a fine border of thic fresh grass which was green
at all seasons of the year. -nder this fair and stately syca!ore, which was planted bac in #bel8s ti!e,
there rises a clear spring of water which flows away hurriedly. The bed of the spring is beautiful and as
bright as sil"er, and the channel through which the water flows is for!ed, , thin, of refined and tested
gold, and it stretches away across the field down into a "alley between the woods. There it pleases the
King to tae his seat where nothing unpleasant is in sight. #fter the crowd has drawn bac at the King8s
co!!and, Lancelot rushes furiously at 6eleagant as at one who! he hates cordially, but before
striing hi!, he shouted with a loud and co!!anding "oice: DTae your stand, , defy youO #nd tae
!y word, this ti!e you shall not be spared.D Then he spurs his steed and draws bac the distance of a
bow-shot. Then they dri"e their horses toward each other at top speed, and strie each other so fiercely
upon their resisting shields that they pierced and punctured the!. 5ut neither one is wounded, nor is
the flesh touched in this first assault. They pass each other without delay, and co!e bac at the top of
their horses: speed to renew their blows on the strong, stout shields. 5oth of the nights are strong and
bra"e, and both of the horses are stout and fast. .o !ighty are the blows they deal on the shields about
their necs that the lances passed clean through, without breaing or splintering, until the cold steel
reached their flesh. (ach stries the other with such force that both are borne to earth, and no breast-
strap, girth, or stirrup could sa"e the! fro! falling bacward o"er their saddle-bow, lea"ing the saddle
without an occupant. The horses run riderless o"er hill and dale, but they ic and bite each other, thus
showing their !ortal hatred. #s for the nights who fell to earth, they leaped up as Guicly as possible
69
Chrétien de Troyes
and drew their swords, which were engra"ed with chiselled lettering. <olding their shields before the
face, they stri"e to wound each other with their swords of steel. Lancelot stands in no fear of hi!, for
he new half as !uch again about fencing as did his antagonist, ha"ing learned it in his youth. 5oth
dealt such blows on the shield slung fro! their necs, and upon their hel!ets barred with gold, that
they crushed and da!aged the!. 5ut Lancelot presses hi! hard and gi"es hi! a !ighty blow upon his
right ar! which, though encased in !ail, was unprotected by the shield, se"ering it with one clean
stroe. #nd when he felt the loss of his right ar!, he said that it should be dearly sold. ,f it is at all
possible, he will not fail to e%act the price? he is in such pain and wrath and rage that he is well-nigh
beside hi!self, and he has a poor opinion of hi!self, if he cannot score on his ri"al now. <e rushes at
hi! with the intent to seiMe hi!, but Lancelot forestalls his plan, for with his trenchant sword he deals
his body such a cut as he will not reco"er fro! until #pril and 6ay be passed. <e s!ashes his nose-
guard against his teeth, breaing three of the! in his !outh. #nd 6eleagant8s rage is such that he
cannot spea or say a word? nor does he deign to cry for !ercy, for his foolish heart holds tight in such
constraint that e"en now it deludes hi! still. Lancelot approaches and, unlacing his hel!et, cuts off his
head. 9e"er !ore will this !an trouble hi!? it is all o"er with hi! as he falls dead. 9ot a soul who was
present there felt any pity at the sight. The King and all the others there are Fubilant and e%press their
Foy. <appier than they e"er were before, they relie"e Lancelot of his ar!s, and lead hi! away
e%ultingly.
>E". H&0'-H&1+.@ 6y lords, if , should prolong !y tale, it would be beside the purpose, and so ,
will conclude. Kodefroi de Leigni, the cler, has written the conclusion of Dthe CartD? but let no one
find fault with hi! for ha"ing e!broidered on Chretien8s the!e, for it was done with the consent of
Chretien who started it. Kodefroi has finished it fro! the point where Lancelot was i!prisoned in the
tower. .o !uch he wrote? but he would fain add nothing !ore, for fear of disfiguring the tale.
6&
Endnotes
(ndnotes supplied by Prof. Foerster are indicated by @>F.?@D all other endnotes are supplied by W.W.
Comfort.
i Aarie, dau%hter of -ouis 4//. of France and (leanor of #Fuitaine, married in 558,, 1enri /., Count of Champa%ne. On
the poet)s o"n statement belo", she furnished him "ith the subGect matter >@maitere@? and the manner of treatment
>@san@? of this romance. >F.?
ii The situation of Camelot has not been certainly determined. Foerster places it in *omersetshire, "hile F. Paris
identified it "ith Colchester in (ssex. >F.?
iii The hi%h value here set upon =ay by $in% #rthur is "orth notin% in vie" of the unfavourable li%ht in "hich Chretien
usually portrays him.
iv This eni%matic exclamation is addressed to the absent -ancelot, "ho is the secret lover of 0uinevere, and "ho, thou%h
he lon% remains anonymous as @the =ni%ht of the Cart@, is really the hero of the poem.
v /t "as not uncommon in old French romances and epic poems for $ni%hts to be subGected to the moc$ery and raillery of
the vul%ar to"nspeople >cf. @#iol@, :55-:9&D id. 93;:-9;&&D and even Aoliere in @Aonsieur de Pourceau%nac@, f. &?.
vi For ma%ic beds "ith descendin% s"ords, see #. 1ertel, @4ersauberte Oertlich$eiten@, etc., p. 8: f. >1anover, 5:76?.
vii The "ounded $ni%ht is the defeated seneschal.
viii Aediaeval $ni%hts "ere such early risers as to cause us astonishmentH
ix -ancelot has constantly in mind the Iueen, for "hose sa$e he is endurin% all this pain and shame.
x i.e., the Iueen.
xi +othin% can here be added to the tentative conGectures of Foerster re%ardin% the nature of these un$no"n remedies.
xii # %reat annual fair at Paris mar$ed the festival, on Eune 55, of *t. Denis, the patron saint of the city. >F.?
xiii @Donbes@ >JDombes? is the readin% chosen by Foerster from a number of variants. +one of these variants has any
si%nificance, but a place-name rhymin% "ith @tonbes@ in the precedin% verse is reFuired. Aodern Dombes is the name
of a former principality in .ur%undy, bet"een the 'hone and the *aone, "hile Pampelune is, of course, a *panish city
near the French frontier. >F.?
xiv The topo%raphy of the $in%dom of 0orre, the land "here d"ell the captives held by =in% .adema%u, is much confused.
One "ould suppose at first that the stream traversed by the t"o perilous brid%es formed the frontier of the $in%dom.
.ut here >v.9579?, before reachin% such a frontier, the captives are already met. Foerster su%%ests that "e may be here
at a sort of fore%round or borderland "hich is defended by the $ni%ht at the ford >v. ;&3 f.?, and "hich, thou%h not
"ithin the limits of the $in%dom, is nevertheless beneath the s"ay of .adema%u. /n the seFuel the stream "ith the
perilous brid%es is placed immediately before the =in%)s palace >cf. Foerster)s note and 0. Paris in @'omania@, xxi. ,;5
note?.
xv For ma%ic rin%s, see #. 1ertel, op. cit., p. 89 f.
xvi This @dame@ "as the fairy 4ivian, @the lady of the la$e@. >F.?
xvii # %ood example of the moral dilemmas in "hich Chretien deli%hts to place his characters. Cnder the displeasin% shell
of alle%ory and mediaeval casuistry "e have here the %erm of psycholo%ical analysis of motive.
xviiiThe le%endary ori%in of this ointment, named after Aary Aa%delene, Aary the mother of Eames, and Aary *alome, is
mentioned in the epic poem @Aort #imeri de +arbonne@ >ed. @#nciens Textes@, p. 68?. >F.?
xix The universities of Aontpellier and of *alerno "ere the chief centres of medical study in the Aiddle #%es. *alerno is
referred to in @Cli%es@, v. 3656.
xx The hero of the poem is here first mentioned by name.
xxi The classic love-story of Pyramus and Thisbe, told by Ovid et al., "as a favourite in the Aiddle #%es.
xxii 1ere he have the explanation of 0uinevere)s cold reception of -ancelotD he had been faithless to the ri%id code of
courtesy "hen he had hesitated for even a moment to cover himself "ith shame for her sa$e.
xxiiiThe expression @or est venuK Fui aunera@, less literally means @"ho "ill defeat the entire field@. Thou%h Chretien refers
to the expression as a current proverb, only t"o other examples of its use have been found. >Cf. @'omania@, xvi. 575,
and @Ltsch. fur romanische Philolo%ie@, xi. ,&7.? From this passa%e 0. Paris surmised that Chretien himself "as a
herald-at-arms >@Eournal des *avants@, 5:79, p. 9:8?, but as Foerster says, the text hardly "arrants the supposition.
xxivThe evident satisfaction "ith "hich Chretien describes in detail the bearin%s of the $ni%hts in the follo"in% passa%e
lends colour to 0aston Paris) conGecture that he "as a herald as "ell as a poet.
xxv #ccordin% to the statement made at the end of the poem by the continuator of Chretien, 0odefroi de -ei%ni, it must
have been at about this point that the continuator too$ up the thread of the story. /t is not $no"n "hy Chretien dropped
the poem "here he did.
xxvi.ade J .ath. >F.?
Endnotes
(ndnotes supplied by Prof. Foerster are indicated by @>F.?@D all other endnotes are supplied by W.W.
Comfort.
xxviiThe situation recalls that in @#ucassin et +icolette@, "here #ucassin confined in the to"er hears his s"eetheart callin%
to him from outside.
xxviiiThe fi%ure is, of course, ta$en from the %ame of thro"in% dice for hi%h points. For an exhaustive account of dice-
playin% derived from old French texts, cf. FranK *emrau, @Wurfel und Wurfelspiel in alten Fran$reich@, @.eiheft@ 9& of
@Ltsch. fur romanische Philolo%ie >1alle, 5:57?.
xxix#lexander)s horse.

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