Posted by Sir Randal on January 27, 1998 at 06:01:13:
EREC ET ENIDE
Part I a
EREC ET ENIDE (1)
(Vv. 1-26.) The rustic's proverb says that many a thing is despised that is worth much more than is supposed.
Therefore he does well who makes the most of whatever intelligence he may possess. For he who neglects this
concern may likely omit to say something which would subsequently give great pleasure. So Chretien de Troyes
maintains that one ought always to study and strive to speak well and teach the right; and he derives from a story of
adventure a pleasing argument whereby it may be proved and known that he is not wise who does not make liberal
use of his knowledge so long as God may give him grace. The story is about Erec the son of Lac -- a story which
those who earn a living by telling stories are accustomed to mutilate and spoil in the presence of kings and counts. And
now I shall begin the tale which will be remembered so long as Christendom endures. This is Chretien's boast.
(Vv. 27-66.) One Easter Day in the Springtime, King Arthur held court in his town of Cardigan. Never was there
seen so rich a court; for many a good knight was there, hardy, bold, and brave, and rich ladies and damsels, gentle
and fair daughters of kings. But before the court was disbanded, the King told his knights that he wished to hunt the
White Stag, (2) in order to observe worthily the ancient custom. When my lord Gawain heard this, he was sore
displeased. and said: "Sire, you will derive neither thanks nor goodwill from this hunt. We all know long since what this
custom of the White Stag is: whoever can kill the White Stag must forsooth kiss the fairest maiden of your court, come
what may. But of this there might come great ill, for there are here five hundred damsels of high birth, gentle and
prudent daughters of kings, and there is none of them but has a bold and valiant knight for her lover who would be
ready to contend, whether fight or wrong, that she who is his lady is the fairest and gentlest of them all." The King
replies: "That I know well; yet will I not desist on that account; for a king's word ought never to be gainsaid.
To-morrow morning we shall all gaily go to hunt the White Stag in the forest of adventure. And very delightful this hunt
(Vv. 67-114.) And so the affair is arranged for the next morning at daybreak. The morrow, as soon as it is day, the
King gets up and dresses, and dons a short jacket for his forest ride. He commands the knights to be aroused and the
horses to be made ready. Already they are ahorse, and off they go, with bows and arrows. After them the Queen
mounts her horse, taking a damsel with her. A maid she was, the daughter of a king, and she rode a white palfrey.
After them there swiftly followed a knight, named Erec, who belonged to the Round Table, and had great fame at the
court. (3) Of all the knights that ever were there, never one received such praise; and he was so fair that nowhere in
the world need one seek a fairer knight than he. He was very fair, brave, and courteous, though not yet twenty-five
years old. Never was there a man of his age of greater knighthood. And what shall I say of his virtues? Mounted on
his horse, and clad in an ermine mantle, he came galloping down the road, wearing a coat of splendid flowered silk
which was made at Constantinople. He had put on hose of brocade, well made and cut, and when his golden spurs
were well attached, he sat securely in his stirrups. He carried no arm with him but his sword. As he galloped along, at
the corner of a street he came up with the Queen, and said: "My lady, if it please you, I should gladly accompany you
along this road, having come for no other purpose than to bear you company." And the Queen thanks him: "Fair
friend, I like your company well, in truth; for better I could not have."
(Vv. 115-124.) Then they ride along at full speed until they come into the forest, where the party who had gone
before them had already started the stag. Some wind the horns and others shout; the hounds plunge ahead after the
stag, running, attacking, and baying; the bowmen shoot amain. And before them all rode the King on a Spanish hunter.
(Vv. 125-154.) Queen Guinevere was in the wood listening for the dogs; beside her were Erec and the damsel, who
was very courteous and fair. But those who had pursued the stag were so far from them that, however intently they
might listen to catch the sound of horn or baying of hound, they no longer could hear either horse, huntsman, or hound.
So all three of them drew rein in a clearing beside the road. They had been there but a short time when they saw an
armed knight along on his steed, with shield slung about his neck, and his lance in hand. The Queen espied him from a
distance By his right side rode a damsel of noble bearing, and before them, on a hack, came a dwarf carrying in his
hand a knotted scourge. When Queen Guinevere saw the comely and graceful knight, she desired to know who he
and his damsel were. So she bid her damsel go quickly and speak to him,
(Vv. 155-274.) "Damsel," says the Queen, "go and bid yonder knight come to me and bring his damsel with him." The
maiden goes on amble straight toward the knight. But the spiteful dwarf sallies forth to meet her with his scourge in
hand, crying: "Halt, maiden, what do you want here? You shall advance no farther." "Dwarf," says she, "let me pass. I
wish to speak with yonder knight; for the Queen sends me hither." The dwarf, who was rude and mean, took his stand
in the middle of the road. and said: "You have no business here. Go back. It is not meet that vou should speak to so
excellent a knight." The damsel advanced and tried to pass him by force, holding the dwarf in slight esteem when she
saw that he was so small. Then the dwarf raised his whip, when he saw her coming toward him and tried to strike her
in the face. She raised her arm to protect herself, but he lifted his hand again and struck her all unprotected on her
bare hand: and so hard did he strike her on the back of her hand that it turned all black and blue. When the maiden
could do nothing else, in spite of herself she must needs return. So weeping she turned back. The tears came to her
eyes and ran down her cheeks. When the Queen sees her damsel wounded, she is sorely grieved and angered and
knows not what to do. "Ah, Erec, fair friend," she says, "I am in great sorrow for my damsel whom that dwarf has
wounded. The knight must be discourteous indeed, to allow such a monster to strike so beautiful a creature. Erec, fair
friend, do you go to the knight and bid him come to me without delay. I wish to know him and his lady." Erec starts
off thither, giving spurs to his steed, and rides straight toward the knight. The ignoble dwarf sees him coming and goes
to meet him. "Vassal," says he, "stand back! For I know not what business you have here. I advise you to withdraw."
"Avaunt," says Erec, "provoking dwarf! Thou art vile and troublesome. Let me pass." "You shall not." "That will I."
"You shall not." Erec thrusts the dwarf aside. The dwarf had no equal for villainy: he gave him a great blow with his
lash right on the neck, so that Erec's neck and face are scarred with the blow of the scourge; from top to bottom
appear the lines which the thongs have raised on him. He knew well that he could not have the satisfaction of striking
the dwarf; for he saw that the knight was armed, arrogant, and of evil intent, and he was afraid that he would soon kill
him, should he strike the dwarf in his presence. Rashness is not bravery. So Erec acted wisely in retreating without
more ado. "My lady," he says, "now matters stand worse; for the rascally dwarf has so wounded me that he has badly
cut my face. I did not dare to strike or touch him; but none ought to reproach me, for I was completely unarmed. I
mistrusted the armed knight, who, being an ugly fellow and violent, would take it as no jest, and would soon kill me in
his pride. But this much I will promise you; that if I can, I shall yet avenge my disgrace, or increase it. But my arms are
too far away to avail me in this time of need; for at Cardigan did I leave them this morning when I came away. And if I
should go to fetch them there, peradventure I should never again find the knight who is riding off apace. So I must
follow him at once, far or near, until I find some arms to hire or borrow. If I find some one who will lend me arms, the
knight will quickly find me ready for battle. And you may be sure without fail that we two shall fight until he defeat me,
or I him. And if possible, I shall be back by the third day, when you will see me home again either joyous or sad, I
know not which. Lady, I cannot delay longer, for I must follow after the knight. I go. To God I commend you." And
the Queen in like manner more than five hundred rimes commends him to God, that he may defend him from harm.
(Vv. 275-310.) Erec leaves the Queen and ceases not to pursue the knight. The Queen remains in the wood, where
now the King had come up with the Stag. The King himself outstripped the others at the death. Thus they killed and
took the White Stag, and all returned, carrying the Stag, till they came again to Cardigan. After supper, when the
knights were all in high spirits throughout the hall, the King, as the custom was, because he had taken the Stag, said
that he would bestow the kiss and thus observe the custom of the Stag. Throughout the court a great murmur is heard:
each one vows and swears to his neighbour that it shall not be done without the protest of sword or ashen lance. Each
one gallantly desires to contend that his lady is the fairest in the hall. Their conversation bodes no good, and when my
lord Gawain heard it, you must know that it was not to his liking. Thus he addressed the King: "Sire," he says, "your
knights here are greatly aroused, and all their talk is of this kiss. They say that it shall never be bestowed without
disturbance and a fight." And the King wisely replied to him: "Fair nephew Gawain, give me counsel now, sparing my
honour and my dignity, for I have no mind for any disturbance."
(Vv. 311-341.) To the council came a great part of the best knights of the court. King Yder (4) arrived, who was the
first to be summoned, and after him King Cadoalant, who was very wise and bold. Kay and Girflet came too, and
King Amauguin was there, and a great number of other knights were there with them. The discussion was in process
when the Queen arrived and told them of the adventure which she had met in the forest, of the armed knight whom
she saw, and of the malicious little dwarf who had struck her damsel on the bare hand with his whip, and who struck
Erec, too, in the same way an ugly blow on the face; but that Erec followed the knight to obtain vengeance, or
increase his shame, and how he said that if possible he would be back by the third day. "Sire," says the Queen to the
King, "listen to me a moment. If these knights approve what I say, postpone this kiss until the third day, when Erec
will be back." There is none who does not agree with her, and the King himself approves her words.
(Vv. 342-392.) Erec steadily follows the knight who was armed and the dwarf who had struck him until they come to
a well placed town, strong and fine (5). They enter straight through the gate. Within the town there was great joy of
knights and ladies, of whom there were many and fair. Some were feeding in the streets their sparrow-hawks and
moulting falcons; others were giving an airing to their tercels, (6) their mewed birds, and young yellow hawks; others
play at dice or other game of chance, some at chess, and some at backgammon. The grooms in front of the stables
are rubbing down and currying the horses. The ladies are bedecking themselves in their boudoirs. As soon as they see
the knight coming, whom they recognised with his dwarf and damsel, they go out three by three to meet him. The
knight they all greet and salute, but they give no heed to Erec, for they did not know him. Erec follows close upon the
knight through the town, until he saw him lodged. Then, very joyful, he passed on a little farther until he saw reclining
upon some steps a vavasor (7) well on in years. He was a comely man, with white locks, debonair, pleasing, and
frank. There he was seated all alone, seeming to be engaged in thought. Erec took him for an honest man who would
at once give him lodging. When he turned through the gate into the yard, the vavasor ran to meet him, and saluted him
before Erec had said a word. "Fair sir," says he, "be welcome. If you will deign to lodge with me, here is my house all
ready for you." Erec replies: "Thank you! For no other purpose have I come; I need a lodging place this night."
(Vv. 393-410.) Erec dismounts from his horse, which the host himself leads away by the bridle, and does great
honour to his guest. The vavasor summons his wife and his beautiful daughter, who were busy in a work-room --
doing I know not what. The lady came out with her daughter, who was dressed in a soft white under-robe with wide
skirts hanging loose in folds. Over it she wore a white linen garment, which completed her attire. And this garment was
so old that it was full of holes down the sides. Poor, indeed, was her garb without, but within her body was fair.
end first segment sent to the board. Would anyone like the rest of the tale?
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