Pensively my lord Yvain proceeded through a deep wood, until he heard among the trees a very loud and dismal cry, and he turned in the direction whence it seemed to come. And when he had arrived upon the spot he saw in a cleared space a lion, and a serpent which held him by the tail, burning his hind-quarters with flames of fire. My lord Yvain did not gape at this strange spectacle, but took counsel with himself as to which of the two he should aid. Then he says that he will succour the lion, for a treacherous and venomous creature deserves to be harmed. Now the serpent is poisonous, and fire bursts forth from its mouth—so full of wickedness is the creature. So my lord Yvain decides that he will kill the serpent first. Drawing his sword he steps forward, holding the shield before his face in order not to be harmed by the flame emerging from the creature's throat, which was larger than a pot. If the lion attacks him next, he too shall have all the fight he wishes; but whatever may happen afterwards he makes up his mind to help him now. For pity urges him and makes request that he should bear succour and aid to the gentle and noble beast. With his sword, which cuts so clean, he attacks the wicked serpent, first cleaving him through to the earth and cutting him in two, then continuing his blows until he reduces him to tiny bits. But he had to cut off a piece of the lion's tail to get at the serpent's head, which held the lion by the tail. He cut off only so much as was necessary and unavoidable. When he had set the lion free, he supposed that he would have to fight with him, and that the lion would come at him; but the lion was not minded so. Just hear now what the lion did! He acted nobly and as one well-bred; for he began to make it evident that he yielded himself to him, by standing upon his two hind-feet and bowing his face to the earth, with his fore-feet joined and stretched out toward him. Then he fell on his knees again, and all his face was wet with the tears of humility. My lord Yvain knows for a truth that the lion is thanking him and doing him homage because of the serpent which he had killed, thereby delivering him from death. He was greatly pleased by this episode. He cleaned his sword of the serpent's poison and filth; then he replaced it in its scabbard, and resumed his way. And the lion walks close by his side, unwilling henceforth to part from him: he will always in future accompany him, eager to serve and protect him. He goes ahead until he scents in the wind upon his way some wild beasts feeding; then hunger and his nature prompt him to seek his prey and to secure his sustenance. It is his nature so to do. He started ahead a little on the trail, thus showing his master that he had come upon and detected the odour and scent of some wild game. Then he looks at him and halts, wishing to serve his every wish, and unwilling to proceed against his will. Yvain understands by his attitude that he is showing that he awaits his pleasure. He perceives this and understands that if he holds back he will hold back too, and that if he follows him he will seize the game which he has scented. Then he incites and cries to him, as he would do to hunting-dogs. At once the lion directed his nose to the scent which he had detected, and by which he was not deceived, for he had not gone a bow-shot when he saw in a valley a deer grazing all alone. This deer he will seize, if he has his way. And so he did, at the first spring, and then drank its blood still warm. When he had killed it he laid it upon his back and carried it back to his master, who thereupon conceived a greater affection for him, and chose him as a companion for all his life, because of the great devotion he found in him. It was near nightfall now, and it seemed good to him to spend the night there, and strip from the deer as much as he cared to eat. Beginning to carve it he splits the skin along the rib, and taking a steak from the loin he strikes from a flint a spark, which he catches in some dry brush-wood; then he quickly puts his steak upon a roasting spit to cook before the fire, and roasts it until it is quite cooked through. But there was no pleasure in the meal, for there was no bread, or wine, or salt, or cloth, or knife, or anything else. While he was eating, the lion lay at his feet; nor a movement did he make, but watched him steadily until he had eaten all that he could eat of the steak. What remained of the deer the lion devoured, even to the bones. And while all night his master laid his head upon his shield to gain such rest as that afforded, the lion showed such intelligence that he kept awake, and was careful to guard the horse as it fed upon the grass, which yielded some slight nourishment.
In the morning they go off together, and the same sort of existence, it seems, as they had led that night, they two continued to lead all the ensuing week, until chance brought them to the spring beneath the pine-tree. There my lord Yvain almost lost his wits a second time, as he approached the spring, with its stone and the chapel that stood close by. So great was his distress that a thousand times he sighed "alas!" and grieving fell in a swoon; and the point of his sharp sword, falling from its scabbard, pierced the meshes of his hauberk right in the neck beside the cheek. There is not a mesh that does not spread, and the sword cuts the flesh of his neck beneath the shining mail, so that it causes the blood to start. Then the lion thinks that he sees his master and companion dead. You never heard greater grief narrated or told about anything than he now began to show. He casts himself about, and scratches and cries, and has the wish to kill himself with the sword with which he thinks his master has killed himself. Taking the sword from him with his teeth he lays it on a fallen tree, and steadies it on a trunk behind, so that it will not slip or give way, when he hurls his breast against it, His intention was nearly accomplished when his master recovered from his swoon, and the lion restrained himself as he was blindly rushing upon death, like a wild boar heedless of where he wounds himself. Thus my lord Yvain lies in a swoon beside the stone, but, on recovering, he violently reproached himself for the year during which he had overstayed his leave, and for which he had incurred his lady's hate, and he said: "Why does this wretch not kill himself who has thus deprived himself of joy? Alas! why do I not take my life? How can I stay here and look upon what belongs to my lady? Why does the soul still tarry in my body? What is the soul doing in so miserable a frame? If it had already escaped away it would not be in such torment. It is fitting to hate and blame and despise myself, even as in fact I do. Whoever loses his bliss and contentment through fault or error of his own ought to hate himself mortally. He ought to hate and kill himself. And now, when no one is looking on, why do I thus spare myself? Why do I not take my life? Have I not seen this lion a prey to such grief on my behalf that he was on the point just now of thrusting my sword through his breast? And ought I to fear death who have changed happiness into grief? Joy is now a stranger to me. Joy? What joy is that? I shall say no more of that, for no one could speak of such a thing; and I have asked a foolish question. That was the greatest joy of all which was assured as my possession, but it endured for but a little while. Whoever loses such joy through his own misdeed is undeserving of happiness."
While he thus bemoaned his fate, a lorn damsel in sorry plight, who was in the chapel, saw him and heard his words through a crack in the wall. As soon as he was recovered from his swoon, she called to him: "God," said she, "who is that I hear? Who is it that thus complains?" And he replied: "And who are you?”
“I am a wretched one," she said, "the most miserable thing alive.”
And he replied: "Be silent, foolish one! Thy grief is joy and thy sorrow is bliss compared with that in which I am cast down. In proportion as a man becomes more accustomed to happiness and joy, so is he more distracted and stunned than any other man by sorrow when it comes. A man of little strength can carry, through custom and habit, a weight which another man of greater strength could not carry for anything.”
"Upon my word," she said, "I know the truth of that remark; but that is no reason to believe that your misfortune is worse than mine. Indeed, I do not believe it at all, for it seems to me that you can go anywhere you choose to go, whereas I am imprisoned here, and such a fate is my portion that to-morrow I shall be seized and delivered to mortal judgment.”
"Ah, God!" said he, "and for what crime?”
“Sir knight, may God never have mercy upon my soul, if I have merited such a fate! Nevertheless, I shall tell you truly, without deception, why I am here in prison: I am charged with treason, and I cannot find any one to defend me from being burned or hanged to-morrow.”
"In the first place," he replied, "I may say that my grief and woe are greater than yours, for you may yet be delivered by some one from the peril in which you are. Is that not true:”
“Yes, but I know not yet by whom. There are only two men in the world who would dare on my behalf to face three men in battle.”
"What? In God's name, are there three of them?”
“Yes, sire, upon my word. There are three who accuse me of treachery.”
"And who are they who are so devoted to you that either one of them would be bold enough to fight against three in your defence?”
“I will answer your question truthfully: one of them is my lord Gawain, and the other is my lord Yvain, because of whom I shall to-morrow be handed over unjustly to the martyrdom of death.”
"Because of whom?" he asked, "what did you say?”
“Sire, so help me God, because of the son of King Urien.”
"Now I understand your words, but you shall not die, without he dies too. I myself am that Yvain, because of whom you are in such distress. And you, I take it, are she who once guarded me safely in the hall, and saved my life and my body between the two portcullises, when I was troubled and distressed, and alarmed at being trapped. I should have been killed or seized, had it not been for your kind aid. Now tell me, my gentle friend, who are those who now accuse you of treachery, and have confined you in this lonely place?”
“Sire, I shall not conceal it from you, since you desire me to tell you all. It is a fact that I was not slow in honestly aiding you. Upon my advice my lady received you, after heeding my opinion and my counsel. And by the Holy Paternoster, more for her welfare than for your own I thought I was doing it, and I think so still. So much now I confess to you: it was her honour and your desire that I sought to serve, so help me God! But when it became evident that you had overstayed the year when you should return to my mistress, then she became enraged at me, and thought that she had been deceived by putting trust in my advice. And when this was discovered by the seneschal—a rascally, underhanded, disloyal wretch, who was jealous of me because in many matters my lady trusted me more than she trusted him, he saw that he could now stir up great enmity between me and her. In full court and in the presence of all he accused me of having betrayed her in your favour. And I had no counsel or aid except my own; but I knew that I had never done or conceived any treacherous act toward my lady, so I cried out, as one beside herself, and without the advice of any one, that I would present in my own defence one knight who should fight against three. The fellow was not courteous enough to scorn to accept such odds, nor was I at liberty to retreat or withdraw for anything that might happen. So he took me at my word, and I was compelled to furnish bail that I would present within forty days a knight to do battle against three knights. Since then I have visited many courts; I was at King Arthur's court, but found no help from any there, nor did I find any one who could tell me any good news of you, for they knew nothing of your affairs.”
"Pray tell me. Where then was my good and gentle lord Gawain? No damsel in distress ever needed his aid without its being extended to her.”
"If I had found him at court, I could not have asked him for anything which would have been refused me; but a certain knight has carried off the Queen, so they told me; surely the King was mad to send her off in his company. I believe it was Kay who escorted her to meet the knight who has taken her away; and my lord Gawain in great distress has gone in search for her. He will never have any rest until he finds her. Now I have told you the whole truth of my adventure. To-morrow I shall be put to a shameful death, and shall be burnt inevitably, a victim of your criminal neglect.”
And he replies: "May God forbid that you should be harmed because of me! So long as I live you shall not die! You may expect me tomorrow, prepared to the extent of my power to present my body in your cause, as it is proper that I should do. But have no concern to tell the people who I am! However the battle may turn out, take care that I be not recognised!”
“Surely, sire, no pressure could make me reveal your name. I would sooner suffer death, since you will have it so. Yet, after all, I beg you not to return for my sake. I would not have you undertake a battle which will be so desperate. I thank you for your promised word that you would gladly undertake it, but consider yourself now released, for it is better that I should die alone than that I should see them rejoice over your death as well as mine; they would not spare my life after they had put you to death. So it is better for you to remain alive than that we both should meet death.”
"That is very ungrateful remark, my dear," says my lord Yvain; "I suppose that either you do not wish to be delivered from death, or else that you scorn the comfort I bring you with my aid. I will not discuss the matter more, for you have surely done so much for me that I cannot fail you in any need. I know that you are in great distress; but, if it be God's will, in whom I trust, they shall all three be discomfited. So no more upon that score: I am going off now to find some shelter in this wood, for there is no dwelling near at hand.”
"Sire," she says, "may God give you both good shelter and good night, and protect you as I desire from everything that might do you harm!"
Then my lord Yvain departs, and the lion as usual after him. They journeyed until they came to a baron's fortified place, which was completely surrounded by a massive, strong, and high wall. The castle, being extraordinarily well protected, feared no assault of catapult or storming-machine; but outside the walls the ground was so completely cleared that not a single hut or dwelling remained standing. You will learn the cause of this a little later, when the time comes. My lord Yvain made his way directly toward the fortified place, and seven varlets came out who lowered the bridge and advanced to meet him. But they were terrified at sight of the lion, which they saw with him, and asked him kindly to leave the lion at the gate lest he should wound or kill them. And he replies: "Say no more of that! For I shall not enter without him. Either we shall both find shelter here or else I shall stay outside; he is as dear to me as I am myself. Yet you need have no fear of him! For I shall keep him so well in hand that you may be quite confident.”
They made answer: "Very well!"