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King Arthur Aloud

Arthurian Audio Files

Chrétien de Troyes
from Le Chevalier au Lion
(Yvain, or The Knight with the Lion)

Read by Joan Grimbert, Catholic University

For an MP3 file of the reading, click here.

Chrétien de Troyes: Yvain
edited and translated by William Kibler
Garland Press, 1985
ll. 1593-1730

Chrétien de Troyes flourished in the 1170s and 1180s and is usually considered the earliest writer of Arthurian romances. He seems to be the first poet to make the Knights of the Round Table, rather than King Arthur himself, the center of his tales. He was a trouvère as well as a romancier, and his works include the earliest stories of the Grail and of the Lancelot-Guenevere affair. Le Chevalier au lion (Yvain), which includes three references to Le Chevalier de la charrete (Lancelot), may have been composed in tandem with that romance for Marie de Champagne, daughter of King Louis VII and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. .

In the following passage (ll. 1593-1730), Lunete, the confidante of Laudine, the woman with whom Yvain has fallen in love (after killing her husband), tries to persuade her lady to engage the services of the very knight who slew her husband.

La dameisele estoit si bien
de sa dame, que nule rien
a dire ne li redotast,
a que que la chose montast,
qu’ele estoit sa mestre et sa garde.
Et por coi fust ele coarde
de sa dame reconforter
et de son bien amonester?
La premiere foiz a consoil
li dist: “Dame, molt me mervoil
que folemant vos voi ovrer.
Dame, cuidiez vos recovrer
vostre seignor por vostre duel?”
“Nenil,” fet ele, “mes mon vuel
seroie je morte d’enui.”
“Por coi?” – “Por aler aprés lui.”
“Aprés lui? Dex vos an desfande
et ausi boen seignor vos rande
si com il an est posteïs.”
“Einz tel mançonge ne deïs,
qu’il ne me porroit si boen randre.”
“Meillor, se vos le volez prandre,
vos randra il, sel proverai.”
“Fui! Teis! Ja tel ne troverai.”
“Si feroiz, dame, s’il vos siet.
Mes or dites, si ne vos griet,
vostre terre, qui desfandra
qant li rois Artus i vendra
qui doit venir l’autre semainne
au perron et a la fontainne?
N’en avez vos eü message
de la Dameisele Sauvage
qui letres vos en anvea?
Ahi! con bien les anplea!
Vos deüssiez or consoil prendre,
de vostre fontainne desfandre,
et vos ne finez de plorer!
N’i eüssiez que demorer,
s’il vos pleüst, ma dame chiere;
que certes une chanberiere
ne valent tuit, bien le savez,
li chevalier que vos avez:
ja par celui qui mialz se prise
n’en iert escuz ne lance prise.
De gent malveise avez vos mout,
mes ja n’i avra si estout
qui sor cheval monter en ost,
et li rois vient a si grant ost
qu’il seisira tot sanz desfansse.”
La dame set molt bien et pansse
que cele la consoille an foi;
mes une folie a en soi
que les autres fames i ont:
trestotes, a bien pres, le font,
que de lor folie s’ancusent
et ce qu’eles voelent refusent.
“Fui!” fet ele, “lesse m’an pes.
Se je t’en oi parler jamés,
ja mar feras mes que t’an fuies:
tant paroles que trop m’enuies.”
“A beneör,” fet ele, “dame,
bien i pert que vos estes fame
qui se corroce qant elë ot
nelui qui bien feire li lot.”
Lors s’an parti, si la leissa.
Et la dame se repanssa
qu’ele avoit si grant tort eü;
molt volsist bien avoir seü
comant ele poïst prover
qu’an porroit chevalier trover
meillor c’onques ne fu ses sire:
molt li orroit volentiers dire,
mes ele li a desfandu.
An ce panser a atendu
jusque tant quë ele revint;
mes onques desfansse n’en tint,
einz li redit tot maintenant:
“Ha! dame, est cë ore avenant
que si de duel vos ocïez?
Por Deu, car vos en chastïez,
si le laissiez seviax de honte:
a si haute dame ne monte
que duel si longuemant mainteigne.
De vostre enor vos resoveigne
et de vostre grant gentillesce.
Cuidiez vos que tote proesce
soit morte avoec vostre seignor?
Cent autresi boen ou meillor
an sont remés parmi le monde.”
“Se tu ne manz, Dex me confonde!
Et neporqant . i . seul m’an nome
qui ait tesmoing de si preudome
com mes sire ot tot son ahé.”
“Et vos m’an savrïez mal gré,
si vos recorrocerïez
et m’en remenacerïez.”
“Nel ferai, je t’en asseür.”
“Or soit a vostre boen eür,
qui vos en est a avenir,
së il vos venoit a pleisir.
Et ce doint Dex quë il vos pleise!
Ne voi rien por coi je m’an teise,
que nus ne nos ot në escoute.
Vos me tanroiz ja por estoute,
mes bien puis dire, ce me sanble:
qant dui chevalier sont ansanble
venu a armes en bataille,
li quex cuidiez vos qui mialz vaille,
qant li uns a l’autre conquis?
Androit de moi doing je le pris
au veinqueor. Et vos, que feites?”
“Il m’est avis que tu m’ageites,
si me viax a parole prandre.”
“Par foi, vos pöez bien entandre
que je m’an vois parmi le voir,
et si vos pruef par estovoir
que mialz valut cil qui conquist
vostre seignor, quë il ne fist:
il le conquist et sel chaça
par hardemant anjusque ça,
et si l’enclost an sa meison.”
“Or ai ge oï desreison,
la plus grant c’onques mes fust dite.
Fui! plainne de mal esperite!
Fui! garce fole et anuieuse!
Ne dire jamés tel oiseuse,
ne mes devant moi ne reveingnes,
por coi de lui parole teignes.”
“Certes, dame, bien le savoie
que ja de vos gré n’en avroie,
et jel vos dis molt bien avant.
Mes vos m’eüstes an covant
que ja ire n’en avrïez
ne mal gré ne m’an savrïez.
Mal m’avez mon covant tenu,
si m’est or ensi avenu
que dit m’avez vostre pleisir;
si ai perdu . i . boen teisir.”
The damsel was in such favor
with her lady, that there was nothing
she was afraid to tell her,
no matter what it might concern,
for she was her advisor and confidante.
And why should she be afraid
to console her lady
and instruct her for her own good?
At the first occasion, she told her
secretly: "My lady, I'm astonished
to see you behave so foolishly.
My lady, do you think your grief
will bring your husband back to you?"
--“Not at all," she said, "but I wish
I had died of sorrow."
--"Why?"—“In order to go after him."
--"After him? May God forbid,
and may He send you as good a husband
as it is in his power to do."
--"Don't tell such a lie,
for he could never send me such a good one."
--"He'll send you a better one,
if you'll take him; I'll prove it."
--"Go away! Hush! I'll not find another such.”
"Indeed you will, my lady, if you wish to.
But tell me now, if it's not too painful,
who will defend your lands
when King Arthur comes,
for he is due to arrive next week
at the stone and spring?
Have you not received word
from the Savage Damsel,
who sent you a message about this?
Alas, what a fine deed she did for you!
You should be seeking advice now
about how to defend your spring,
yet you cannot stop weeping!
There's no time to delay,
if you please, my dear lady;
for indeed all your knights,
as you are well aware,
are not worth a single serving girl
even the proudest among them
will never take up his shield and lance.
You have a lot of worthless men:
There’s not a one of them bold enough
to dare to mount his horse,
and the king is coming with such a large army
that he'll take everything without a fight."
The lady reflected and knew well
that she was giving her good advice;
but she had in her the same folly
that other women have:
nearly all of them
are obstinate in their folly
and refuse to accept what they really want.
"Go away!" she said, "leave me alone.
If I ever hear you speak of this again,
you’ll be sorry you didn't run away:
you talk so much you weary me."
--"Very well, my lady," she said,
"it’s obvious you’re the sort of woman
who becomes angry when she hears
anyone who gives her good advice."
Thereupon she departed and left her alone.
And the lady reflected
that she had been very much in the wrong;
she would have been glad to learn
how the damsel could prove
that one might find a knight
better than her husband had been:
she would gladly hear her tell it,
but she had forbidden her to speak.
She mulled over these thoughts
until the damsel returned,
who paid no heed to her injunction,
but spoke to her mistress at once:
"Ah! my lady is it fitting
that you kill yourself with so much grief?
For God's sake, compose yourself
and cease this sorrow, if only out of shame:
it’s not proper that such a highborn lady
persist in her mourning for so long.
Remember your rank
and your great gentility.
Do you think that all valor
died with your husband?
A hundred just as good or better
remain throughout the world."
--"May God confound me if you're not lying!
Just name me one man
who demonstrates as much valor
as my husband did throughout his life?"
--"You’ll not be happy with me;
instead, you’ll become angry again
and threaten me once more."
--I won’t, I promise you."
--"Then may it advance your happiness,
which will soon come to you,
if you are willing to accept it.
And may God grant that it please you!
I see no reason to remain silent,
for no one is listening or overhears us.
You will consider me presumptuous,
but I should speak my mind, I think:
when two armed knights come
together in battle,
which one do you think is worth more,
when the one has defeated the other?
As for me, I give the prize
to the winner. And what would you do?"
--"It seems to me you’re setting a trap
and want to catch me by my answer."
--"By my faith, you can clearly understand
that I'm following the line of truth,
and I am proving to you irrefutably
that the one who defeated your husband
is more worthy than he was:
he defeated him and pursued him
boldly as far as this place,
and imprisoned him within his own house."
--"Now I've just heard nonsense,
the greatest ever spoken.
Go away! you creature filled with evil!
Go away! you foolish and meddlesome hussy!
Don’t ever say such idle things again,
and never come into my presence again
if you’re going to speak of him."
--"Indeed, my lady, I was certain
that you wouldn't be happy with me,
and I told you so before I spoke.
But you promised me
that you would not get angry
and wouldn’t be displeased with me.
You’ve kept your promise to me poorly,
and now it’s come about
that you’ve spoken your mind to me;
I’d have done better to keep quiet."

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