Containing whatever I enthuse over

Le Chevalier au Lion

Posted by clissold345 on March 8, 2008

Yvain or “Le Chevalier au Lion” (The Knight of the Lion) is a romance written about 1175 by Chrétien de Troyes (of whom almost nothing is known). I give three extracts below. These extracts are passages that I find interesting and that I can understand fairly easily.

[Extract 1] After a fierce fight Yvain splits Esclados’s skull. Esclados is fatally injured. Yvain pursues him without mercy:

En la fin, son hiaume escartele
Au chevalier messire Yvains.
Del cop fu estonez et vains
Li chevaliers; mout s’esmaia,
Qu’ainz si felon cop n’essaia,
Qu’il li ot desoz le chapel
Le chief fandu jusqu’au cervel,
Tant que del cervel et del sanc
Taint la maille del hauberc blanc,
Don si tres grant dolor santi
Qu’a po li cuers ne li manti.
S’il s’an foï, n’a mie tort,
Qu’il se santi navrez a mort;
Car riens ne li valut desfansse.

(At last my lord Yvain crushed the helmet of the knight, whom the blow stunned and made so faint that he swooned away, never having received such a cruel blow before. Beneath his kerchief his head was split to the very brains, so that the meshes of his bright hauberk were stained with the brains and blood, from which he felt such intense pain that his courage nearly failed him. He had good reason then to flee, for he felt that he had a mortal wound, and that further resistance would not avail.)

Si tost s’an fuit, com il s’apansse,
Vers son chastel, toz esleissiez,
Et li ponz li fu abeissiez
Et la porte overte a bandon;
Et messire Yvains de randon
Quanqu’il puet aprés esperone.
Si con girfauz grue randone,
Qui de loing muet et tant l’aproche
Qu’il la cuide panre et n’i toche,
Ensi cil fuit, et cil le chace
Si pres qu’a po qu’il ne l’anbrace,
Et si ne le par puet ataindre;
Et s’est si pres que il l’ot plaindre
De la destrece que il sant.

(With this thought in mind he quickly made his escape toward his town, where the bridge was lowered and the gate quickly opened for him; meanwhile my lord Yvain at once spurs after him at topmost speed. As a gerfalcon pursues a crane when he sees him rising from afar, and then draws so near to him that he is about to seize him, yet misses him, so he [Esclados] flees, and he [Yvain] chases, so close that he can almost throw his arm about him, and yet is not able to reach him, and so close that he can hear him groan for the pain he feels.)

[Extract 2] Esclados dies of his wound. His followers are enraged and bewildered when they cannot catch Yvain (who is now invisible):

Et disoient: « Ce, que puet estre?
Que ceanz n’a huis ne fenestre
Par ou riens nule s’an alast,
Se ce n’ert oisiax qui volast
Ou escuriax ou cisemus
Ou beste ausi petite ou plus,
Que les fenestres sont ferrees,
Et les portes furent fermees
Lors que mes sire en issi fors;
Morz ou vis est ceanz li cors,
Que defors ne remest il mie.

(They said: “How can this be? For there is no door or window here through which anything could escape, unless it be a bird, a squirrel, or marmot, or some other even smaller animal; for the windows are barred, and the gates were closed as soon as my lord passed through. The body is in here, dead or alive, since there is no sign of it outside there. …)

La sele assez plus que demie
Est ça dedanz, ce veons bien,
Ne de lui ne trovomes rien
Fors que les esperons tranchiez
Qui li cheïrent de ses piez.
Or au cerchier par toz ces engles,
Si lessomes ester ces gengles,
Qu’ ancor est il ceanz, ce cuit,
Ou nos somes anchanté tuit,
Ou tolu le nos ont maufé. »

(… We can see more than half of the saddle in here, but of him we see nothing, except the spurs which fell down severed from his feet. Now let us cease this idle talk, and search in all these corners, for he is surely in here still, or else we are all enchanted, or the evil spirits have filched him away from us.”)

[Extract 3] Laudine, Esclados’s widow, is overcome by grief. Her attendant Lunete urges her to set aside her grief and find a new champion to defend her kingdom:

« Si feroiz, dame, s’il vos siet.
Mes or dites, si ne vos griet,
Vostre terre, qui desfandra
Quant 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!

(“Indeed you shall, my lady, if you will consent. Just tell me, if you will, who is going to defend your land when King Arthur comes next week to the margin of the spring? You have already been apprised of this by letters sent you by the Dameisele Sauvage. Alas, what a kind service she did for you! you ought to be considering how you will defend your spring, and yet you cease not to weep! …)

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. »

(… If it please you, my dear lady, you ought not to delay. For surely, all the knights you have are not worth, as you well know, so much as a single chamber-maid. Neither shield nor lance will ever be taken in hand by the best of them. You have plenty of craven servants, but there is not one of them brave enough to dare to mount a steed. And the King is coming with such a host that his victory will be inevitable.”)


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