(Vv. 1043-1206.) When they had risen from the table, the damsel said to the knight: "Sire, if you do not object, go outside and amuse yourself; but, if you please, do not stay after you think I must be in bed. Feel no concern or embarrassment; for then you may come to me at once, if you will keep the promise you have made." And he replies: "I will keep my word, and will return when I think the time has come." Then he went out, and stayed in the courtyard until he thought it was time to return and keep the promise he had made. Going back into the hall, he sees nothing of her who would be his mistress; for she was not there. Not finding or seeing her, he said: "Wherever she may be, I shall look for her until I find her." He makes no delay in his search, being bound by the promise he had made her. Entering one of the rooms, he hears a damsel cry aloud, and it was the very one with whom he was about to lie. At the same time, he sees the door of another room standing open, and stepping toward it, he sees right before his eyes a knight who had thrown her down, and was holding her naked and prostrate upon the bed. She, thinking that he had come of course to help her, cried aloud: "Help, help, thou knight, who art my guest. If thou dost not take this man away from me, I shall find no one to do so; if thou dost not succour me speedily, he will wrong me before thy eyes. Thou art the one to lie with me, in accordance with thy promise; and shall this man by force accomplish his wish before thy eyes? Gentle knight, exert thyself, and make haste to bear me aid." He sees that the other man held the damsel brutally uncovered to the waist, and he is ashamed and angered to see him assault her so; yet it is not jealousy he feels, nor will he be made a cuckold by him. At the door there stood as guards two knights completely armed and with swords drawn. Behind them there stood four men-at-arms, each armed with an axe the sort with which you could split a cow down the back as easily as a root of juniper or broom. The knight hesitated at the door, and thought: "God, what can I do? I am engaged in no less an affair than the quest of Queen Guinevere. I ought not to have the heart of a hare, when for her sake I have engaged in such a quest. If cowardice puts its heart in me, and if I follow its dictates, I shall never attain what I seek. I am disgraced, if I stand here; indeed, I am ashamed even to have thought of holding back. My heart is very sad and oppressed: now I am so ashamed and distressed that I would gladly die for having hesitated here so long. I say it not in pride: but may God have mercy on me if I do not prefer to die honourably rather than live a life of shame! If my path were unobstructed, and if these men gave me leave to pass through without restraint, what honour would I gain? Truly, in that case the greatest coward alive would pass through; and all the while I hear this poor creature calling for help constantly, and reminding me of my promise, and reproaching me with bitter taunts." Then he steps to the door, thrusting in his head and shoulders; glancing up, he sees two swords descending. He draws back, and the knights could not check their strokes: they had wielded them with such force that the swords struck the floor, and both were broken in pieces. When he sees that the swords are broken, he pays less attention to the axes, fearing and dreading them much less. Rushing in among them, he strikes first one guard in the side and then another. The two who are nearest him he jostles and thrusts aside, throwing them both down flat; the third missed his stroke at him, but the fourth, who attacked him, strikes him so that he cuts his mantle and shirt, and slices the white flesh on his shoulder so that the blood trickles down from the wound. But he, without delay, and without complaining of his wound, presses on more rapidly, until he strikes between the temples him who was assaulting his hostess. Before he departs, he will try to keep his pledge to her. He makes him stand up reluctantly. Meanwhile, he who had missed striking him comes at him as fast as he can and, raising his arm again, expects to split his head to the teeth with the axe. But the other, alert to defend himself, thrusts the knight toward him in such a way that he receives the axe just where the shoulder joins the neck, so that they are cleaved apart. Then the knight seizes the axe, wresting it quickly from him who holds it; then he lets go the knight whom he still held, and looks to his own defence; for the knights from the door, and the three men with axes are all attacking him fiercely. So he leaped quickly between the bed and the wall, and called to them: "Come on now, all of you. If there were thirty- seven of you, you would have all the fight you wish, with me so favourably placed; I shall never be overcome by you." And the damsel watching him, exclaimed: "By my eyes, you need have no thought of that henceforth where I am." Then at once she dismisses the knights and the men-at-arms, who retire from there at once, without delay or objection. And the damsel continues: "Sire you have well defended me against the men of my household. Come now, and I'll lead you on." Hand in hand they enter the hall, but he was not at all pleased, and would have willingly dispensed with her.
(Vv. 1207-1292.) In the midst of the hall a bed had been set up, the sheets of which were by no means soiled, but were white and wide and well spread out. The bed was not of shredded straw or of coarse spreads. But a covering of two silk cloths had been laid upon the couch. The damsel lay down first, but without removing her chemise. He had great trouble in removing his hose and in untying the knots. He sweated with the trouble of it all; yet, in the midst of all the trouble, his promise impels and drives him on. Is this then an actual force? Yes, virtually so; for he feels that he is in duty bound to take his place by the damsel's side. It is his promise that urges him and dictates his act. So he lies down at once, but like her, he does not remove his shirt. He takes good care not to touch her; and when he is in bed, he turns away from her as far as possible, and speaks not a word to her, like a monk to whom speech is forbidden. Not once does he look at her, nor show her any courtesy. Why not? Because his heart does not go out to her. She was certainly very fair and winsome, but not every one is pleased and touched by what is fair and winsome. The knight has only one heart, and this one is really no longer his, but has been entrusted to some one else, so that he cannot bestow it elsewhere. Love, which holds all hearts beneath its sway, requires it to be lodged in a single place. All hearts? No, only those which it esteems. And he whom love deigns to control ought to prize himself the more. Love prized his heart so highly that it constrained it in a special manner, and made him so proud of this distinction that I am not inclined to find fault with him, if he lets alone what love forbids, and remains fixed where it desires. The maiden clearly sees and knows that he dislikes her company and would gladly dispense with it, and that, having no desire to win her love, he would not attempt to woo her. So she said: "My lord, if you will not feel hurt, I will leave and return to bed in my own room, and you will be more comfortable. I do not believe that you are pleased with my company and society. Do not esteem me less if I tell you what I think. Now take your rest all night, for you have so well kept your promise that I have no right to make further request of you. So I commend you to God; and shall go away." Thereupon she arises: the knight does not object, but rather gladly lets her go, like one who is the devoted lover of some one else; the damsel clearly perceived this, and went to her room, where she undressed completely and retired, saying to herself: "Of all the knights I have ever known, I never knew a single knight whom I would value the third part of an angevin in comparison with this one. As I understand the case, he has on hand a more perilous and grave affair than any ever undertaken by a knight; and may God grant that he succeed in it." Then she fell asleep, and remained in bed until the next day's dawn appeared.
(Vv. 1293-1368.) At daybreak she awakes and gets up. The knight awakes too, dressing, and putting on his arms, without waiting for any help. Then the damsel comes and sees that he is already dressed. Upon seeing him, she says: "May this day be a happy one for you." "And may it be the same to you, damsel," the knight replies, adding that he is waiting anxiously for some one to bring out his horse. The maiden has some one fetch the horse, and says: "Sire, I should like to accompany you for some distance along the road, if you would agree to escort and conduct me according to the customs and practices which were observed before we were made captive in the kingdom of Logres." In those days the customs and privileges were such that, if a knight found a damsel or lorn maid alone, and if he cared for his fair name, he would no more treat her with dishonour than he would cut his own throat. And if he assaulted her, he would be disgraced for ever in every court. But if, while she was under his escort, she should be won at arms by another who engaged him in battle, then this other knight might do with her what he pleased without receiving shame or blame. This is why the damsel said she would go with him, if he had the courage and willingness to safe guard her in his company, so that no one should do her any harm. And he says to her: "No one shall harm you, I promise you, unless he harm me first." "Then," she says, "I will go with you." She orders her palfrey to be saddled, and her command is obeyed at once. Her palfrey was brought together with the knight's horse. Without the aid of any squire, they both mount, and rapidly ride away. She talks to him, but not caring for her words, he pays no attention to what she says. He likes to think, but dislikes to talk. Love very often inflicts afresh the wound it has given him. Yet, he applied no poultice to the wound to cure it and make it comfortable, having no intention or desire to secure a poultice or to seek a physician, unless the wound becomes more painful. Yet, there is one whose remedy he would gladly seek .... (10) They follow the roads and paths in the right direction until they come to a spring, situated in the middle of a field, and bordered by a stone basin. Some one had forgotten upon the stone a comb of gilded ivory. Never since ancient times has wise man or fool seen such a comb. In its teeth there was almost a handful of hair belonging to her who had used the comb.
(Vv. 1369-1552.) When the damsel notices the spring, and sees the stone, she does not wish her companion to see it; so she turns off in another direction. And he, agreeably occupied with his own thoughts, does not at once remark that she is leading him aside; but when at last he notices it, he is afraid of being beguiled, thinking that she is yielding and is going out of the way in order to avoid some danger. "See here, damsel," he cries, "you are not going right; come this way! No one, I think, ever went straight who left this road." "Sire, this is a better way for us," the damsel says, "I am sure of it." Then he replies to her: "I don't know, damsel, what you think; but you can plainly see that the beaten path lies this way; and since I have started to follow it, I shall not turn aside. So come now, if you will, for I shall continue along this way." Then they go forward until they come near the stone basin and see the comb. The knight says: "I surely never remember to have seen so beautiful a comb as this." "Let me have it," the damsel says. "Willingly, damsel," he replies. Then he stoops over and picks it up. While holding it, he looks at it steadfastly, gazing at the hair until the damsel begins to laugh. When he sees her doing so, he begs her to tell him why she laughs. And she says: "Never mind, for I will never tell you." "Why not?" he asks. "Because I don't wish to do so." And when he hears that, he implores her like one who holds that lovers ought to keep faith mutually: "Damsel, if you love anything passionately, by that I implore and conjure and beg you not to conceal from me the reason why you laugh." "Your appeal is so strong," she says, "that I will tell you and keep nothing back. I am sure, as I am of anything, that this comb belonged to the Queen. And you may take my word that those are strands of the Queen's hair which you see to be so fair and light and radiant, and which are clinging in the teeth of the comb; they surely never grew anywhere else." Then the knight replied: "Upon my word, there are plenty of queens and kings; what queen do you mean?" And she answered: "In truth, fair sire, it is of King Arthur's wife I speak." When he hears that, he has not strength to keep from bowing his head over his saddle-bow. And when the damsel sees him thus, she is amazed and terrified, thinking he is about to fall. Do not blame her for her fear, for she thought him in a faint. He might as well have swooned, so near was he to doing so; for in his heart he felt such grief that for a long time he lost his colour and power of speech. And the damsel dismounts, and runs as quickly as possible to support and succour him; for she would not have wished for anything to see him fall. When he saw her, he felt ashamed, and said: "Why do you need to bear me aid?" You must not suppose that the damsel told him why; for he would have been ashamed and distressed, and it would have annoyed and troubled him, if she had confessed to him the truth. So she took good care not to tell the truth, but tactfully answered him: "Sire, I dismounted to get the comb; for I was so anxious to hold it in my hand that I could not longer wait." Willing that she should have the comb, he gives it to her, first pulling out the hair so carefully that he tears none of it. Never will the eye of man see anything receive such honour as when he begins to adore these tresses. A hundred thousand times he raises them to his eyes and mouth, to his forehead and face: he manifests his joy in every way, considering himself rich and happy now. He lays them in his bosom near his heart, between the shirt and the flesh. He would not exchange them for a cartload of emeralds and carbuncles, nor does he think that any sore or illness can afflict him now; he holds in contempt essence of pearl, treacle, and the cure for pleurisy; (11) even for St. Martin and St. James he has no need; for he has such confidence in this hair that he requires no other aid. But what was this hair like? If I tell the truth about it, you will think I am a mad teller of lies. When the mart is full at the yearly fair of St. Denis, (12) and when the goods are most abundantly displayed, even then the knight would not take all this wealth, unless he had found these tresses too. And if you wish to know the truth, gold a hundred thousand times refined, and melted down as many times, would be darker than is night compared with the brightest summer day we have had this year, if one were to see the gold and set it beside this hair. But why should I make a long story of it? The damsel mounts again with the comb in her possession; while he revels and delights in the tresses in his bosom. Leaving the plain, they come to a forest and take a short cut through it until they come to a narrow place, where they have to go in single file; for it would have been impossible to ride two horses abreast. Just where the way was narrowest, they see a knight approach. As soon as she saw him, the damsel recognised him, and said: "Sir knight, do you see him who yonder comes against us all armed and ready for a battle? I know what his intention is: he thinks now that he cannot fail to take me off defenceless with him. He loves me, but he is very foolish to do so. In person, and by messenger, he has been long wooing me. But my love is not within his reach, for I would not love him under any consideration, so help me God! I would kill myself rather than bestow my love on him. I do not doubt that he is delighted now, and is as satisfied as if he had me already in his power. But now I shall see what you can do, and I shall see how brave you are, and it will become apparent whether your escort can protect me. If you can protect me now, I shall not fail to proclaim that you are brave and very worthy." And he answered her: "Go on, go on!" which was as much as to say: "I am not concerned; there is no need of your being worried about what you have said."
(Vv. 1553-1660.) While they were proceeding, talking thus, the knight, who was alone, rode rapidly toward them on the run. He was the more eager to make haste, because he felt more sure of success; he felt that he was lucky now to see her whom he most dearly loves. As soon as he approaches her, he greets her with words that come from his heart: "Welcome to her, whence-soever she comes, whom I most desire, but who has hitherto caused me least joy and most distress!" It is not fitting that she should be so stingy of her speech as not to return his greeting, at least by word of mouth. The knight is greatly elated when the damsel greets him; though she does not take the words seriously, and the effort costs her nothing. Yet, if he had at this moment been victor in a tournament, he would not have so highly esteemed himself, nor thought he had won such honour and renown. Being now more confident of his worth, he grasped the bridle rein, and said: "Now I shall lead you away: I have to-day sailed well on my course to have arrived at last at so good a port. Now my troubles are at an end: after dangers, I have reached a haven; after sorrow, I have attained happiness; after pain, I have perfect health; now I have accomplished my desire, when I find you in such case that I can without resistance lead you away with me at once." Then she says: "You have no advantage; for I am under this knight's escort." "Surely, the escort is not worth much," he says, "and I am going to lead you off at once. This knight would have time to eat a bushel of salt before he could defend you from me; I think I could never meet a knight from whom I should not win you. And since I find you here so opportunely, though he too may do his best to prevent it, yet I will take you before his very eyes, however disgruntled he may be." The other is not angered by all the pride he hears expressed, but without any impudence or boasting, he begins thus to challenge him for her: "Sire, don't be in a hurry, and don't waste your words, but speak a little reasonably. You shall not be deprived of as much of her as rightly belongs to you. You must know, however, that the damsel has come hither under my protection. Let her alone now, for you have detained her long enough!" The other gives them leave to burn him, if he does not take her away in spite of him. Then the other says: "It would not be right for me to let you take her away; I would sooner fight with you. But if we should wish to fight, we could not possibly do it in this narrow road. Let us go to some level place--a meadow or an open field." And he replies that that will suit him perfectly: "Certainly, I agree to that: you are quite right, this road is too narrow. My horse is so much hampered here that I am afraid he will crush his flank before I can turn him around." Then with great difficulty he turns, and his horse escapes without any wound or harm. Then he says: "To be sure, I am much chagrined that we have not met in a favourable spot and in the presence of other men, for I should have been glad to have them see which is the better of us two. Come on now, let us begin our search: we shall find in the vicinity some large, broad, and open space." Then they proceed to a meadow, where there were maids, knights, and damsels playing at divers games in this pleasant place. They were not all engaged in idle sport, but were playing backgammon and chess or dice, and were evidently agreeably employed. Most were engaged in such games as these; but the others there were engaged in sports, dancing, singing, tumbling, leaping, and wrestling with each other.
(Vv. 1661-1840.) A knight somewhat advanced in years was on the other side of the meadow, seared upon a sorrel Spanish steed. His bridle and saddle were of gold, and his hair was turning grey. One hand hung at his side with easy grace. The weather being fine, he was in his shirt sleeves, with a short mantle of scarlet cloth and fur slung over his shoulders, and thus he watched the games and dances. On the other side of the field, close by a path, there were twenty-three knights mounted on good Irish steeds. As soon as the three new arrivals come into view, they all cease their play and shout across the fields: "See, yonder comes the knight who was driven in the cart! Let no one continue his sport while he is in our midst. A curse upon him who cares or deigns to play so long as he is here!" Meanwhile he who loved the damsel and claimed her as his own, approached the old knight, and said: "Sire, I have attained great happiness; let all who will now hear me say that God has granted me the thing that I have always most desired; His gift would not have been so great had He crowned me as king, nor would I have been so indebted to Him, nor would I have so profited; for what I have gained is fair and good." "I know not yet if it be thine," the knight replies to his son. But the latter answers him: "Don't you know? Can't you see it, then? For God's sake, sire, have no further doubt, when you see that I have her in my possession. In this forest, whence I come, I met her as she was on her way. I think God had fetched her there for me, and I have taken her for my own." "I do not know whether this will be allowed by him whom I see coming after thee; he looks as if he is coming to demand her of thee." During this conversation the dancing had ceased because of the knight whom they saw, nor were they gaily playing any more because of the disgust and scorn they felt for him. But the knight without delay came up quickly after the damsel, and said: "Let the damsel alone, knight, for you have no right to her! If you dare, I am willing at once to fight with you in her defence." Then the old knight remarked: "Did I not know it? Fair son, detain the damsel no longer, but let her go." He does not relish this advice, and swears that he will not give her up: "May God never grant me joy if I give her up to him! I have her, and I shall hold on to her as something that is mine own. The shoulder-strap and all the armlets of my shield shall first be broken, and I shall have lost all confidence in my strength and arms, my sword and lance, before I will surrender my mistress to him." And his father says: "I shall not let thee fight for any reason thou mayest urge. Thou art too confident of thy bravery. So obey my command." But he in his pride replies: "What? Am I a child to be terrified? Rather will I make my boast that there is not within the sea-girt land any knight, wheresoever he may dwell, so excellent that I would let him have her, and whom I should not expect speedily to defeat." The father answers: "Fair son, I do not doubt that thou dost really think so, for thou art so confident of thy strength. But I do not wish to see thee enter a contest with this knight." Then he replies: "I shall be disgraced if I follow your advice. Curse me if I heed your counsel and turn recreant because of you, and do not do my utmost in the fight. It is true that a man fares ill among his relatives: I could drive a better bargain somewhere else, for you are trying to take me in. I am sure that where I am not known, I could act with better grace. No one, who did not know me, would try to thwart my will; whereas you are annoying and tormenting me. I am vexed by your finding fault with me. You know well enough that when any one is blamed, he breaks out still more passionately. But may God never give me joy if I renounce my purpose because of you; rather will I fight in spite of you!" "By the faith I bear the Apostle St. Peter," his father says, "now I see that my request is of no avail. I waste my time in rebuking thee; but I shall soon devise such means as shall compel thee against thy will to obey my commands and submit to them." Straightway summoning all the knights to approach, he bids them lay hands upon his son whom he cannot correct, saying: "I will have him bound rather than let him fight. You here are all my men, and you owe me your devotion and service: by all the fiefs you hold from me, I hold you responsible, and I add my prayer. It seems to me that he must be mad, and that he shows excessive pride, when he refuses to respect my will." Then they promise to take care of him, and say that never, while he is in their charge, shall he wish to fight, but that he must renounce the damsel in spite of himself. Then they all join and seize him by the arms and neck. "Dost thou not think thyself foolish now?" his father asks; "confess the truth: thou hast not the strength or power to fight or joust, however distasteful and hard it may be for thee to admit it. Thou wilt be wise to consent to my will and pleasure. Dost thou know what my intention is? In order somewhat to mitigate thy disappointment, I am willing to join thee, if thou wilt, in following the knight to-day and to-morrow, through wood and plain, each one mounted on his horse. Perhaps we shall soon find him to be of such a character and bearing that I might let thee have thy way and fight with him." To this proposal the other must perforce consent. Like the man who has no alternative, he says that he will give in, provided they both shall follow him. And when the people in the field see how this adventure has turned out, they all exclaim: "Did you see? He who was mounted on the cart has gained such honour here that he is leading away the mistress of the son of my lord, and he himself is allowing it. We may well suppose that he finds in him some merit, when he lets him take her off. Now cursed a hundred times be he who ceases longer his sport on his account! Come, let us go back to our games again." Then they resume their games and dances.
(Vv. 1841-1966.) Thereupon the knight turns away, without longer remaining in the field, and the damsel accompanies him. They leave in haste, while the father and his son ride after them through the mown fields until toward three o'clock, when in a very pleasant spot they come upon a church; beside the chancel there was a cemetery enclosed by a wall. The knight was both courteous and wise to enter the church on foot and make his prayer to God, while the damsel held his horse for him until he returned. When he had made his prayer, and while he was coming back, a very old monk suddenly presented himself; whereupon the knight politely requests him to tell him what this place is; for he does not know. And he tells him it is a cemetery. And the other says: "Take me in, so help you God!" "Gladly, sire," and he takes him in. Following the monk's lead, the knight beholds the most beautiful tombs that one could find as far as Dombes (13) or Pampelune; and on each tomb there were letters cut, telling the names of those who were destined to be buried there. And he began in order to read the names, and came upon some which said: "Here Gawain is to lie, here Louis, and here Yvain." After these three, he read the names of many others among the most famed and cherished knights of this or any other land. Among the others, he finds one of marble, which appears to be new, and is more rich and handsome than all the rest. Calling the monk, the knight inquired: "Of what use are these tombs here?" And the monk replied: "You have already read the inscriptions; if you have understood, you must know what they say, and what is the meaning of the tombs." "Now tell me, what is this large one for?" And the hermit answered: "I will tell you. That is a very large sarcophagus, larger than any that ever was made; one so rich and well-carved was never seen. It is magnificent without, and still more so within. But you need not be concerned with that, for it can never do you any good; you will never see inside of it; for it would require seven strong men to raise the lid of stone, if any one wished to open it. And you may be sure that to raise it would require seven men stronger than you and I. There is an inscription on it which says that any one who can lift this stone of his own unaided strength will set free all the men and women who are captives in the land, whence no slave or noble can issue forth, unless he is a native of that land. No one has ever come back from there, but they are detained in foreign prisons; whereas they of the country go and come in and out as they please." At once the knight goes to grasp the stone, and raises it without the slightest trouble, more easily than ten men would do who exerted all their strength. And the monk was amazed, and nearly fell down at the sight of this marvellous thing; for he thought he would never see the like again, and said: "Sire, I am very anxious to know your name. Will you tell me what it is?" "Not I," says the knight, "upon my word." "I am certainly sorry, for that," he says; "but if you would tell me, you would do me a great favour, and might benefit yourself. Who are you, and where do you come from?" "I am a knight, as you may see, and I was born in the kingdom of Logre. After so much information, I should prefer to be excused. Now please tell me, for your part, who is to lie within this tomb." "Sire, he who shall deliver all those who are held captive in the kingdom whence none escapes." And when he had told him all this, the knight commended him to God and all His saints. And then, for the first time, he felt free to return to the damsel. The old white-haired monk escorts him out of the church, and they resume their way. While the damsel is mounting, however, the hermit relates to her all that the knight had done inside, and then he begged her to tell him. if she knew, what his name was; but she assured him that she did not know, but that there was one sure thing she could say, namely, that there was not such a knight alive where the four winds of heaven blow.
(Vv. 1967-2022.) Then the damsel takes leave of him, and rides swiftly after the knight. Then those who were following them come up and see the hermit standing alone before the church. The old knight in his shirt sleeves said: "Sire, tell us, have you seen a knight with a damsel in his company?" And he replies: "I shall not be loath to tell you all I know, for they have just passed on from here. The knight was inside yonder, and did a very marvellous thing in raising the stone from the huge marble tomb, quite unaided and without the least effort. He is bent upon the rescue of the Queen, and doubtless he will rescue her, as well as all the other people. You know well that this must be so, for you have often read the inscription upon the stone. No knight was ever born of man and woman, and no knight ever sat in a saddle, who was the equal of this man." Then the father turns to his son, and says: "Son, what dost thou think about him now? Is he not a man to be respected who has performed such a feat? Now thou knowest who was wrong, and whether it was thou or I. I would not have thee fight with him for all the town of Amiens; and yet thou didst struggle hard, before any one could dissuade thee from thy purpose. Now we may as well go back, for we should be very foolish to follow him any farther." And he replies: "I agree to that. It would be useless to follow him. Since it is your pleasure, let us return." They were very wise to retrace their steps. And all the time the damsel rides close beside the knight, wishing to compel him to give heed to her. She is anxious to learn his name, and she begs and beseeches him again and again to tell her, until in his annoyance he answers her: "Have I not already told you that I belong in King Arthur's realm? I swear by God and His goodness that you shall not learn my name." Then she bids him give her leave to go, and she will turn back, which request he gladly grants.