At this, all at once proclaim that it seems to them the right thing to do, and they all throw themselves at her feet. They strengthen her desire by their consent; yet she hesitates to assert her wishes until, as if against her will, she finally speaks to the same intent as she would have done, indeed, if every one had opposed her wish: "My lords, since it is your wish, this knight who is seated beside me has wooed me and ardently sought my hand. He wishes to engage himself in the defence of my rights and in my service, for which I thank him heartily, as you do also. It is true I have never known him in person, but I have often heard his name. Know that he is no less a man than the son of King Urien. Beside his illustrious lineage, he is so brave, courteous, and wise that no one has cause to disparage him. You have all already heard, I suppose, of my lord Yvain, and it is he who seeks my hand. When the marriage is consummated, I shall have a more noble lord than I deserve.”
They all say: "If you are prudent, this very day shall not go by without the marriage being solemnised. For it is folly to postpone for a single hour an advantageous act.”
They beseech her so insistently that she consents to what she would have done in any case. For Love bids her do that for which she asks counsel and advice; but there is more honour for him in being accepted with the approval of her men. To her their prayers are not unwelcome; rather do they stir and incite her heart to have its way. The horse, already under speed, goes faster yet when it is spurred. In the presence of all her lords, the lady gives herself to my lord Yvain. From the hand of her chaplain he received the lady, Laudine de Landuc, daughter of Duke Laudunet, of whom they sing a lay. That very day without delay he married her, and the wedding was celebrated. There were plenty of mitres and croziers there, for the lady had summoned her bishops and abbots. Great was the joy and rejoicing, there were many people, and much wealth was displayed—more than I could tell you of, were I to devote much thought to it. It is better to keep silent than to be inadequate. So my lord Yvain is master now, and the dead man is quite forgot. He who killed him is now married to his wife, and they enjoy the marriage rights. The people love and esteem their living lord more than they ever did the dead. They served him well at his marriage-feast, until the eve before the day when the King came to visit the marvellous spring and its stone, bringing with him upon this expedition his companions and all those of his household; not one was left behind. And my lord Kay remarked: "Ah, what now has become of Yvain, who after his dinner made the boast that he would avenge his cousin's shame? Evidently he spoke in his cups. I believe that he has run away. He would not dare to come back for anything. He was very presumptuous to make such a boast. He is a bold man who dares to boast of what no one would praise him for, and who has no proof of his great feats except the words of some false flatterer. There is a great difference between a coward and a hero; for the coward seated beside the fire talks loudly about himself, holding all the rest as fools, and thinking that no one knows his real character. A hero would be distressed at hearing his prowess related by some one else. And yet I maintain that the coward is not wrong to praise and vaunt himself, for he will find no one else to lie for him. If he does not boast of his deeds, who will? All pass over him in silence, even the heralds, who proclaim the brave, but discard the cowards.”
When my lord Kay had spoken thus, my lord Gawain made this reply: "My lord Kay, have some mercy now! Since my lord Yvain is not here, you do not know what business occupies him. Indeed, he never so debased himself as to speak any ill of you compared with the gracious things he has said.”
"Sire," says Kay, "I'll hold my peace. I'll not say another word to-day, since I see you are offended by my speech.”
Then the King, in order to see the rain, poured a whole basin full of water upon the stone beneath the pine, and at once the rain began to pour. It was not long before my lord Yvain without delay entered the forest fully armed, tiding faster than a gallop on a large, sleek steed, strong, intrepid, and fleet of foot. And it was my lord Kay's desire to request the first encounter. For, whatever the outcome might be, he always wished to begin the fight and joust the first, or else he would be much incensed. Before all the rest, he requested the King to allow him to do battle first. The King says: "Kay, since it is your wish, and since you are the first to make the request, the favour ought not to be denied.”
Kay thanks him first, then mounts his steed. If now my lord Yvain can inflict a mild disgrace upon him, he will be very glad to do so; for he recognises him by his arms. Each grasping his shield by the straps, they rush together. Spurring their steeds, they lower the lances, which they hold tightly gripped. Then they thrust them forward a little, so that they grasped them by the leather-wrapped handles, and so that when they came together they were able to deal such cruel blows that both lances broke in splinters clear to the handle of the shaft. My lord Yvain gave him such a mighty blow that Kay took a summersault from out of his saddle and struck with his helmet on the ground. My lord Yvain has no desire to inflict upon him further harm, but simply dismounts and takes his horse. This pleased them all, and many said: "Ah, ah, see how you prostrate lie, who but now held others up to scorn! And yet it is only right to pardon you this time; for it never happened to you before.”
Thereupon my lord Yvain approached the King, leading the horse in his hand by the bridle, and wishing to make it over to him .
“Sire," says he, "now take this steed, for I should do wrong to keep back anything of yours.”
"And who are you?" the King replies; "I should never know you, unless I heard your name, or saw you without your arms.”
Then my lord told him who he was, and Kay was overcome with shame, mortified, humbled, and discomfited, for having said that he had run away. But the others were greatly pleased, and made much of the honour he had won. Even the King was greatly gratified, and my lord Gawain a hundred times more than any one else. For he loved his company more than that of any other knight he knew. And the King requested him urgently to tell him, if it be his will, how he had fared; for he was very curious to learn all about his adventure; so the King begs him to tell the truth. And he soon told him all about the service and kindness of the damsel, not passing over a single word, not forgetting to mention anything. And after this he invited the King and all his knights to come to lodge with him, saying they would be doing him great honour in accepting his hospitality. And the King said that for an entire week he would gladly do him the honour and pleasure, and would bear him company. And when my lord Yvain had thanked him, they tarry no longer there, but mount and take the most direct road to the town. My lord Yvain sends in advance of the company a squire beating a crane-falcon, in order that they might not take the lady by surprise, and that her people might decorate the streets against the arrival of the King. When the lady heard the news of the King's visit she was greatly pleased; nor was there any one who, upon hearing the news, was not happy and elated. And the lady summons them all and requests them to go to meet him, to which they make no objection or remonstrance, all being anxious to do her will.
Mounted on great Spanish steeds, they all go to meet the King of Britain, saluting King Arthur first with great courtesy and then all his company .
“Welcome," they say, "to this company, so full of honourable men! Blessed be he who brings them hither and presents us with such fair guests!"
At the King's arrival the town resounds with the joyous welcome which they give. Silken stuffs are taken out and hung aloft as decorations, and they spread tapestries to walk upon and drape the streets with them, while they wait for the King's approach. And they make still another preparation, in covering the streets with awnings against the hot rays of the sun. Bells, horns, and trumpets cause the town to ring so that God's thunder could not have been heard. The maidens dance before him, flutes and pipes are played, kettle-drums, drums, and cymbals are beaten. On their part the nimble youths leap, and all strive to show their delight. With such evidence of their joy, they welcome the King fittingly. And the Lady came forth, dressed in imperial garb a robe of fresh ermine—and upon her head she wore a diadem all ornamented with rubies. No cloud was there upon her face, but it was so gay and full of joy that she was more beautiful, I think, than any goddess. Around her the crowd pressed close, as they cried with one accord: "Welcome to the King of kings and lord of lords!"
The King could not reply to all before he saw the lady coming toward him to hold his stirrup. However, he would not wait for this, but hastened to dismount himself as soon as he caught sight of her. Then she salutes him with these words: "Welcome a hundred thousand times to the King, my lord, and blessed be his nephew, my lord Gawain!"
The King replies: "I wish all happiness and good luck to your fair body and your face, lovely creature!"
Then clasping her around the waist, the King embraced her gaily and heartily as she did him, throwing her arms about him. I will say no more of how gladly she welcomed them, but no one ever heard of any people who were so honourably received and served. I might tell you much of the joy should I not be wasting words, but I wish to make brief mention of an acquaintance which was made in private between the moon and the sun. Do you know of whom I mean to speak? He who was lord of the knights, and who was renowned above them all, ought surely to be called the sun. I refer, of course, to my lord Gawain, for chivalry is enhanced by him just as when the morning sun sheds its rays abroad and lights all places where it shines. And I call her the moon, who cannot be otherwise because of her sense and courtesy. However, I call her so not only because of her good repute, but because her name is, in fact, Lunete.
The damsel's name was Lunete, and she was a charming brunette, prudent, clever, and polite. As her acquaintance grows with my lord Gawain, he values her highly and gives her his love as to his sweetheart, because she had saved from death his companion and friend; he places himself freely at her service. On her part she describes and relates to him with what difficulty she persuaded her mistress to take my lord Yvain as her husband, and how she protected him from the hands of those who were seeking him; how he was in their midst but they did not see him. My lord Gawain laughed aloud at this story of hers, and then he said: "Mademoiselle, when you need me and when you don't, such as I am, I place myself at your disposal. Never throw me off for some one else when you think you can improve your lot. I am yours, and do you be from now on my demoiselle!”
“I thank you kindly, sire," she said. While the acquaintance of these two was ripening thus, the others, too, were engaged in flirting. For there were perhaps ninety ladies there, each of whom was fair and charming, noble and polite, virtuous and prudent, and a lady of exalted birth, so the men could agreeably employ themselves in caressing and kissing them, and in talking to them and in gazing at them while they were seated by their side; that much satisfaction they had at least. My lord Yvain is in high feather because the King is lodged with him. And the lady bestows such attention upon them all, as individuals and collectively, that some foolish person might suppose that the charming attentions which she showed them were dictated by love. But such persons may properly be rated as fools for thinking that a lady is in love with them just because she is courteous and speaks to some unfortunate fellow, and makes him happy and caresses him. A fool is made happy by fair words, and is very easily taken in. That entire week they spent in gaiety; forest and stream offered plenty of sport for any one who desired it. And whoever wished to see the land which had come into the hands of my lord Yvain with the lady whom he had married, could go to enjoy himself at one of the castles which stood within a radius of two, three, or four leagues. When the King had stayed as long as he chose, he made ready to depart. But during the week they had all begged urgently, and with all the insistence at their command, that they might take away my lord Yvain with them .
“What? Will you be one of those.”
said my lord Gawain to him, "who degenerate after marriage? Cursed be he by Saint Mary who marries and then degenerates! Whoever has a fair lady as his mistress or his wife should be the better for it, and it is not right that her affection should be bestowed on him after his worth and reputation are gone. Surely you, too, would have cause to regret her love if you grew soft, for a woman quickly withdraws her love, and rightly so, and despises him who degenerates in any way when he has become lord of the realm. Now ought your fame to be increased! Slip off the bridle and halter and come to the tournament with me, that no one may say that you are jealous. Now you must no longer hesitate to frequent the lists, to share in the onslaught, and to contend with force, whatever effort it may cost! Inaction produces indifference. But, really, you must come, for I shall be in your company. Have a care that our comradeship shall not fail through any fault of yours, fair companion; for my part, you may count on me. It is strange how a man sets store by the life of ease which has no end. Pleasures grow sweeter through postponement; and a little pleasure, when delayed, is much sweeter to the taste than great pleasure enjoyed at once. The sweets of a love which develops late are like a fire in a green bush; for the longer one delays in lighting it the greater will be the heat it yields, and the longer will its force endure. One may easily fall into habits which it is very difficult to shake off, for when one desires to do so, he finds he has lost the power. Don't misunderstand my words, my friend: if I had such a fair mistress as you have, I call God and His saints to witness, I should leave her most reluctantly; indeed, I should doubtless be infatuated. But a man may give another counsel, which he would not take himself, just as the preachers, who are deceitful rascals, and preach and proclaim the right but who do not follow it themselves."
My lord Gawain spoke at such length and so urgently that he promised him that he would go; but he said that he must consult his lady and ask for her consent. Whether it be a foolish or a prudent thing to do, he will not fail to ask her leave to return to Britain. Then he took counsel with his wife, who had no inkling of the permission he desired, as he addressed her with these words: "My beloved lady, my heart and soul, my treasure, joy, and happiness, grant me now a favour which will redound to your honour and to mine.”
The lady at once gives her consent, not knowing what his desire is, and says: "Fair lord, you may command me your pleasure, whatever it be.”
Then my lord Yvain at once asks her for permission to escort the King and to attend at tournaments, that no one may reproach his indolence. And she replies: "I grant you leave until a certain date; but be sure that my love will change to hate if you stay beyond the term that I shall fix. Remember that I shall keep my word; if you break your word I will keep mine. If you wish to possess my love, and if you have any regard for me, remember to come back again at the latest a year from the present date a week after St. John's day; for to-day is the eighth day since that feast. You will be checkmated of my love if you are not restored to me on that day."
My lord Yvain weeps and sighs so bitterly that he can hardly find words to say: "My lady, this date is indeed a long way off. If I could be a dove, whenever the fancy came to me, I should often rejoin you here. And I pray God that in His pleasure He may not detain me so long away. But sometimes a man intends speedily to return who knows not what the future has in store for him. And I know not what will be my fate—perhaps some urgency of sickness or imprisonment may keep me back: you are unjust in not making an exception at least of actual hindrance.”
"My lord," says she, "I will make that exception. And yet I dare to promise you that, if God deliver you from death, no hindrance will stand in your way so long as you remember me. So put on your finger now this ring of mine, which I lend to you. And I will tell you all about the stone: no true and loyal lover can be imprisoned or lose any blood, nor can any harm befall him, provided he carry it and hold it dear, and keep his sweetheart in mind. You will become as hard as iron, and it will serve you as shield and hauberk. I have never before been willing to lend or entrust it to any knight, but to you I give it because of my affection for you.”
Now my lord Yvain is free to go, but he weeps bitterly on taking leave. The King, however, would not tarry longer for anything that might be said: rather was he anxious to have the palfreys brought all equipped and bridled. They acceded at once to his desire, bringing the palfreys forth, so that it remained only to mount. I do not know whether I ought to tell you how my lord Yvain took his leave, and of the kisses bestowed on him, mingled with tears and steeped in sweetness. And what shall I tell you about the King how the lady escorts him, accompanied by her damsels and seneschal? All this would require too much time. When he sees the lady's tears, the King implores her to come no farther, but to return to her abode. He begged her with such urgency that, heavy at heart, she turned about followed by her company.
My lord Yvain is so distressed to leave his lady that his heart remains behind. The King may take his body off, but he cannot lead his heart away. She who stays behind clings so tightly to his heart that the King has not the power to take it away with him. When the body is left without the heart it cannot possibly live on. For such a marvel was never seen as the body alive without the heart. Yet this marvel now came about: for he kept his body without the heart, which was wont to be enclosed in it, but which would not follow the body now. The heart has a good abiding-place, while the body, hoping for a safe return to its heart, in strange fashion takes a new heart of hope, which is so often deceitful and treacherous. He will never know in advance, I think, the hour when this hope will play him false, for if he overstays by single day the term which he has agreed upon, it will be hard for him to gain again his lady's pardon and goodwill. Yet I think he will overstay the term, for my lord Gawain will not allow him to part from him, as together they go to joust wherever tournaments are held. And as the year passes by my lord Yvain had such success that my lord Gawain strove to honour him, and caused him to delay so long that all the first year slipped by, and it came to the middle of August of the ensuing year, when the King held court at Chester, whither they had returned the day before from a tournament where my lord Yvain had been and where he had won the glory and the story tells how the two companions were unwilling to lodge in the town, but had their tents set up outside the city, and held court there. For they never went to the royal court, but the King came rather to join in theirs, for they had the best knights, and the greatest number, in their company. Now King Arthur was seated in their midst, when Yvain suddenly had a thought which surprised him more than any that had occurred to him since he had taken leave of his lady, for he realised that he had broken his word, and that the limit of his leave was already exceeded. He could hardly keep back his tears, but he succeeded in doing so from shame. He was still deep in thought when he saw a damsel approaching rapidly upon a black palfrey with white forefeet. As she got down before the tent no one helped her to dismount, and no one went to take her horse. As soon as she made out the King, she let her mantle fall, and thus displayed she entered the tent and came before the King, announcing that her mistress sent greetings to the King, and to my lord Gawain and all the other knights, except Yvain, that disloyal traitor, liar, hypocrite, who had deserted her deceitfully .
“She has seen clearly the treachery of him who pretended he was a faithful lover while he was a false and treacherous thief. This thief has traduced my lady, who was all unprepared for any evil, and to whom it never occurred that he would steal her heart away. Those who love truly do not steal hearts away; there are, however, some men, by whom these former are called thieves, who themselves go about deceitfully making love, but in whom there is no real knowledge of the matter. The lover takes his lady's heart, of course, but he does not run away with it; rather does he treasure it against those thieves who, in the guise of honourable men, would steal it from him. But those are deceitful and treacherous thieves who vie with one another in stealing hearts for which they care nothing. The true lover, wherever he may go, holds the heart dear and brings it back again. But Yvain has caused my lady's death, for she supposed that he would guard her heart for her, and would bring it back again before the year elapsed. Yvain, thou wast of short memory when thou couldst not remember to return to thy mistress within a year. She gave thee thy liberty until St. John's day, and thou settest so little store by her that never since has a thought of her crossed thy mind. My lady had marked every day in her chamber, as the seasons passed: for when one is in love, one is ill at ease and cannot get any restful sleep, but all night long must needs count and reckon up the days as they come and go. Dost thou know how lovers spend their time? They keep count of the time and the season. Her complaint is not presented prematurely or without cause, and I am not accusing him in any way, but I simply say that we have been betrayed by him who married my lady. Yvain, my mistress has no further care for thee, but sends thee word by me never to come back to her, and no longer to keep her ring. She bids thee send it back to her by me, whom thou seest present here. Surrender it now, as thou art bound to do."
Senseless and deprived of speech, Yvain is unable to reply. And the damsel steps forth and takes the ring from his finger, commending to God the King and all the others except him, whom she leaves in deep distress. And his sorrow grows on him: he feels oppressed by what he hears, and is tormented by what he sees. He would rather be banished alone in some wild land, where no one would know where to seek for him, and where no man or woman would know of his whereabouts any more than if he were in some deep abyss. He hates nothing so much as he hates himself, nor does he know to whom to go for comfort in the death he has brought upon himself. But he would rather go insane than not take vengeance upon himself, deprived, as he is, of joy through his own fault. He rises from his place among the knights, fearing he will lose his mind if he stays longer in their midst. On their part, they pay no heed to him, but let him take his departure alone. They know well enough that he cares nothing for their talk or their society. And he goes away until he is far from the tents and pavilions. Then such a storm broke loose in his brain that he loses his senses; he tears his flesh and, stripping off his clothes, he flees across the meadows and fields, leaving his men quite at a loss, and wondering what has become of him. They go in search of him through all the country around—in the lodgings of the knights, by the hedgerows, and in the gardens—but they seek him where he is not to be found. Still fleeing, he rapidly pursued his way until he met close by a park a lad who had in his hand a bow and five barbed arrows, which were very sharp and broad. He had sense enough to go and take the bow and arrows which he held. However, he had no recollection of anything that he had done. He lies in wait for the beasts in the woods, killing them, and then eating the venison raw. Thus he dwelt in the forest like a madman or a savage, until he came upon a little, low-lying house belonging to a hermit, who was at work clearing his ground. When he saw him coming with nothing on, he could easily perceive that he was not in his right mind; and such was the case, as the hermit very well knew. So, in fear, he shut himself up in his little house, and taking some bread and fresh water, he charitably set it outside the house on a narrow window-ledge. And thither the other comes, hungry for the bread which he takes and eats. I do not believe that he ever before had tasted such hard and bitter bread. The measure of barley kneaded with the straw, of which the bread, sourer than yeast, was made, had not cost more than five sous; and the bread was musty and as dry as bark. But hunger torments and whets his appetite, so that the bread tasted to him like sauce. For hunger is itself a well mixed and concocted sauce for any food. My lord Yvain soon ate the hermit's bread, which tasted good to him, and drank the cool water from the jar. When he had eaten, he betook himself again to the woods in search of stags and does. And when he sees him going away, the good man beneath his roof prays God to defend him and guard him lest he ever pass that way again. But there is no creature, with howsoever little sense, that will not gladly return to a place where he is kindly treated. So, not a day passed while he was in this mad fit that he did not bring to his door some wild game. Such was the life he led; and the good man took it upon himself to remove the skin and set a good quantity of the venison to cook; and the bread and the water in the jug was always standing on the window-ledge for the madman to make a meal. Thus he had something to eat and drink: venison without salt or pepper, and good cool water from the spring. And the good man exerted himself to sell the hide and buy bread made of barley, or oats, or of some other grain; so, after that, Yvain had a plentiful supply of bread and venison, which sufficed him for a long time, until one day he was found asleep in the forest by two damsels and their mistress, in whose service they were. When they saw the naked man, one of the three ran and dismounted and examined him closely, before she saw anything about him which would serve to identify him. If he had only been richly attired, as he had been many a time, and if she could have seen him then she would have known him quickly enough. But she was slow to recognise him, and continued to look at him until at last she noticed a scar which he had on his face, and she recollected that my lord Yvain's face was scarred in this same way; she was sure of it, for she had often seen it. Because of the scar she saw that it was he beyond any doubt; but she marvelled greatly how it came about that she found him thus poor and stripped. Often she crosses herself in amazement, but she does not touch him or wake him up; rather does she mount her horse again, and going back to the others, tells them tearfully of her adventure. I do not know if I ought to delay to tell you of the grief she showed; but thus she spoke weeping to her mistress: "My lady, I have found Yvain, who has proved himself to be the best knight in the world, and the most virtuous. I cannot imagine what sin has reduced the gentleman to such a plight. I think he must have had some misfortune, which causes him thus to demean himself, for one may lose his wits through grief. And any one can see that he is not in his right mind, for it would surely never be like him to conduct himself thus indecently unless he had lost his mind. Would that God had restored to him the best sense he ever had, and would that he might then consent to render assistance to your cause! For Count Alier, who is at war with you, has made upon you a fierce attack. I should see the strife between you two quickly settled in your favour if God favoured your fortunes so that he should return to his senses and undertake to aid you in this stress.”