Cligès/Part III

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by Chrétien de Troyes, translated by William Wistar Comfort
Part III — Vv. 4575–6784
57653Cligès — Part III — Vv. 4575–6784William Wistar ComfortChrétien de Troyes

(Vv. 4575–4628.) Thus love harrows Fenice. But this torment is her delight, of which she can never grow weary. And Cliges now has crossed the sea and come to Wallingford. There he took expensive quarters in great state. But his thoughts are always of Fenice, not forgetting her for a single hour. While he delays and tarries there, his men, acting under his instructions, made diligent inquiries. They were informed that King Arthur's barons and the King in person had appointed a tourney to be held in the plain before Oxford, which lies close to Wallingford.[1] There the struggle was arranged, and it was to last four days. But Cliges will have abundant time to prepare himself if in the meantime he needs anything, for more than a fortnight must elapse before the tournament begins. He orders three of his squires to go quickly to London and there buy three different sets of arms, one black, another red, the third green, and that on the way back each shall be kept covered with new cloth, so that if any one should meet them on the road he may not know the colour of the arms they carry. The squires start at once and come to London, where they find available everything they need. Having finished this errand, they return at once without losing any time. When the arms they had brought were shown to Cliges he was well pleased with them. He ordered them to be set away and concealed, together with those which the emperor had given him by the Danube, when he knighted him. I do not choose to tell you now why he had them stored away; but it will be explained to you when all the high barons of the land are mounted on their steeds and assemble in search of fame.

(Vv. 4629–4726.) On the day which had been agreed upon, the nobles of renown came together. King Arthur, with all his men whom he had selected from among the best, took up his position at Oxford, while most of the knights ranged themselves near Wallingford. Do not expect me to delay the story and tell you that such and such kings and counts were there, and that this, that, and the other were of the number.[2] When the time came for the knights to gather, in accordance with the custom of those days, there came forth alone between two lines one of King Arthur's most valiant knights to announce that the tourney should begin. But in this case no one dares to advance and confront him for the joust. There is none who does not hold back. And there are some who ask: "Why do these knights of ours delay, without stepping forward from the ranks? Some one will surely soon begin." And the others make reply: "Don't you see, then, what an adversary yonder party has sent against us? Any one who does not know should learn that he is a pillar,[3] able to stand beside the best three in the world." "Who is he, then?" "Why, don't you see? It is Sagremor the Wild." "Is it he?" "It surely is." Cliges listens and hears what they say, as he sits on his horse Morel, clad in armour blacker than a mulberry: for all his armour was black. As he emerges from the ranks and spurs Morel free of the crowd, there is not one, upon seeing him, but exclaims to his neighbour: "That fellow rides well lance in rest; he is a very, skilful knight and carries his arms right handily; his shield fits well about his neck. But he must be a fool to undertake of his own free will to joust with one of the most valiant knights to be found in all the land. Who can he be? Where was he born? Who knows him here?" "Not I." "Nor I." "There is not a flake of snow on him; but all his armour is blacker far than the cloak of any monk or prior." While thus they talk, the two contestants give their horses rein without delay, for they are very eager and keen to come together in the fight. Cliges strikes him so that he crushes the shield against his arm, and the arm against his body, whereupon Sagremor falls full length. Cliges goes unerringly and bids him declare himself his prisoner, which Sagremor does at once. Now the tourney is fairly begun, and adversaries meet in rivalry. Cliges rushes about the field, seeking adversaries with whom to joust, but not a knight presents himself whom he does not cast down or take prisoner. He excels in glory, all the knights on either side, for wherever he goes to battle, there the fight is quickly ended. That man may be considered brave who holds his ground to joust with him, for it is more credit to dare face him than it is to defeat another knight. And if Cliges leads him away prisoner, for this at least he gains renown that he dared to wait and fight with him. Cliges wins the fame and glory of all the tournament. When evening came, he secretly repaired to his lodging-place in order that none might have any words with him. And lest any one should seek the house where the black arms are displayed, he puts them away in a room in order that no one may find them or see them, and he hangs up his green arms at the street-door, where they will be in evidence, and where passers-by will see them. And if any one asks and inquires where his lodging is, he cannot learn when he sees no sign of the black shield for which he seeks.

(Vv. 4727–4758.) By this ruse Cliges remains hidden in the town. And those who were his prisoners went from one end of the town to the other asking for the black knight, but none could give them any information. Even King Arthur himself has search made up and down for him; but there is only one answer: "We have not seen him since we left the lists, and do not know what became of him." More than twenty young men seek him, whom the King sent out; but Cliges so successfully concealed himself that they cannot find a trace of him. King Arthur is filled with astonishment when he is informed that no one of high or low degree can point out his lodging-place, any more than if he were in Caesarea, Toledo, or Crete. "Upon my word," he says, "I know not what they may say, but to me this seems a marvellous thing. Perchance it was a phantom that appeared in our midst. Many a knight has been unhorsed, and noble men have pledged faith to one whose house they cannot find, or even his country or locality; each of these men perforce must fail to keep his pledge." Thus the King spoke his mind, but he might as well have held his peace.

(Vv. 4759–4950.) That evening among all the barons there was much talk of the black knight, for indeed they spoke of nothing else. The next day they armed themselves again without summons and without request. Lancelot of the Lake, in whom there is no lack of courage, rides forth with lance upright to await a contestant in the first joust. Here comes Cliges tiding fast, greener than the grass of the field, and mounted on a fallow red steed, carrying its mane on the right-hand side. Wherever Cliges spurs the horse, there is no one, either with hair or without, who does not look at him amazed and exclaim to his neighbour on either side: "This knight is in all respects more graceful and skilful than the one who yesterday wore the black arms, just as a pine is more beautiful than a white beech, and the laurel than the elder-bush. As yet we know not who yesterday's victor was; but we shall know to-night who this man is." Each one makes reply: "I don't know him, nor did I ever see him, that I am aware. But he is fairer than he who fought yesterday, and fairer than Lancelot of the Lake. If this man rode armed in a bag and Lancelot in silver and gold, this man would still be fairer than he." Thus they all take Cliges' part. And the two champions drive their steeds together with all the force of spur. Cliges gives him such a blow upon the golden shield with the lion portrayed thereon that he knocks him down from his saddle and stands over him to receive his surrender. For Lancelot there was no help; so he admitted himself his prisoner. Then the noise began afresh with the shock of breaking lances. Those who are on Cliges' side place all their confidence in him. For of those whom he challenges and strikes, there is none so strong but must fall from his horse to earth. That day Cliges did so well, and unhorsed and took captive so many knights, that he gave double the satisfaction to his side, and won for himself twice the glory that he had gained on the preceding day. When evening came, he betook himself as fast as he could to his lodging-place, and quickly ordered out the vermilion shield and his other arms, while he ordered the arms which he had worn that day to be laid away: the host carefully put them aside. Again that evening the knights whom he had captured sought for him, but without hearing any news of him. In their lodging-places, most of those who speak of him do so with praise and admiration. The next day the gay and doughty knights return to the contest. From the Oxford side comes forth a vassal of great renown—his name was Perceval of Wales. As soon as Cliges saw him start, and learned certainly who it was, when he had heard the name of Perceval he was very anxious to contest with him. He issued straightway from the ranks upon a Spanish sorrel steed, and completely clad in vermilion armour. Then all gaze at him, wondering more than ever before, and saying that they had never seen so perfect a knight. And the contestants without delay spur forward until their mighty blows land upon their shields. The lances, though they were short and stout, bend until they look like hoops. In the sight of all who were looking on, Cliges struck Perceval so hard that he knocked him from his horse and made him surrender without a long struggle or much ado. When Perceval had pledged his word then the joust began again, and the engagement became general. Every knight whom Cliges meets he forces to earth. He did not quit the lists that day even for a single hour, while all the others struck at him as at a tower—individually, of course, and not in groups of two or three, for such was not the custom then. Upon his shield, as upon an anvil, the others strike and pound, splitting and hewing it to bits. But every one who strikes him there, he pays back by casting him from his stirrups and saddle; and no one, unless he wished to lie, could fail to say when the jousting ceased that the knight with the red shield had won all the glory on that day. And all the best and most courtly knights would fain have made his acquaintance. But their desire was not felt before he had departed secretly, seeing the sun already set; and he had his vermilion shield and all his other harness removed, and ordered his white arms to be brought out, in which he had first been dubbed a knight, while the other arms and the steeds were fastened outside by the door. Those who notice this realise and exclaim that they have all been defeated and undone by one single man; for each day he has disguised himself with a different horse and set of armour, thus seeming to change his identity; for the first time now they noticed this. And my lord Gawain proclaimed that he never saw such a champion, and therefore he wished to make his acquaintance and learn his name, announcing that on the morrow he himself will be the first at the rally of the knights. Yet, withal, he makes no boast; on the other hand, he says that he fully expects the stranger knight will have all the advantage with the lance; but it may be that with the sword he will not be his superior (for with the sword Gawain had no master). Now it is Gawain's desire to measure his strength on the morrow with this strange knight who changes every day his arms, as well as his horse and harness. His moultings will soon be numerous if he continues thus each day, as is his custom, to discard his old and assume new plumage. Thus, when he thought of the sword and the lance respectively. Gawain disparaged and esteemed highly the prowess of his foe. The next day he sees Cliges come back whiter than the fleur-delis, his shield grasped tight by the inside straps and seated on his white Arab steed, as he had planned the night before. Gawain, brave and illustrious, seeks no repose on the battleground, but spurs and rides forward, endeavouring as best he may to win honour in the fray, if he can find an opponent. In a moment they will both be on the field. For Cliges had no desire to hold back when he overheard the words of the men who said: "There goes Gawain, who is no weakling either on foot or ahorse. He is a man whom no one will attack." When Cliges hears these words, he rushes toward him in mid-field; they both advance and come together with a swifter leap than that of the stag who hears the sound of the dogs as they come baying after him. The lances are thrust at the shields, and the blows produce such havoc that the lances split, crack and break clear down to the butt-end, and the saddle-bows behind give away, and the girths and breast-straps snap. Both come to earth at once and draw their naked swords, while the others gather round to watch the battle. Then King Arthur stepped forward to separate them and establish peace. But before the truce was sworn, the white hauberks were badly torn and rent apart, the shields were cracked and hewed to bits, and the helmets crushed.

(Vv. 4951–5040.) The King viewed them with pleasure for a while, as did many others who said that they esteemed the white knight's deeds of arms no less than those of my lord Gawain, and they were not ready yet to say which was the better and which the worse, nor which was likely to win, if they had been allowed to fight to a finish; but it did not please the King to let them do more than they had done. So he stepped forward to separate them, saying: "Stop now! Woe if another blow be struck! Make peace now, and be good friends. Fair nephew Gawain, I make this request of you; for without resentment and hate it is not becoming for a gentleman to continue to fight and defy his foe. But if this knight would consent to come to my court and join our sport it would not be to his sorrow or hurt. Nephew, make this request of him." "Gladly, my lord." Cliges has no desire to refuse, and gladly consents to go when the tourney is concluded. For now he has more than sufficiently carried out the injunction of his father. And the King says he has no desire that the tournament shall last too long, and that they can afford to stop at once. So the knights drew off, according to the wish and order of the King. Now that he is to follow in the royal suite, Cliges sends for all his armour. As soon as he can, he comes to court; but first, he completely changed his gear, and came dressed in the style of the French. As soon as he arrived at court, all ran to meet him without delay, making such joy and festival that never was there greater seen, and all those call him lord whom he had captured in the joust; but he would hear none of this, and said they might all go free, if they were quite sure and satisfied that it was he who had captured them. And there was not one who did not cry: "You were the man; we are sure of that! We value highly your acquaintance, and we ought to love and esteem you and call you our lord, for none of us can equal you. Just as the sun outshines the little stars, so that their light cannot be seen in the sky when the sun's rays appear, so is our prowess extinguished and abased in the presence of yours, though ours too was once famous in the world." Cliges knows not what to reply, for in his opinion they all praise him more than he deserves; it pleases him, but he feels ashamed, and the blood rises in his face, revealing to all his modesty. Escorting him into the middle of the hall, they led him to the King, where all ceased their words of compliment and praise. The time for the meal had come, and those whose duty it was hastened to set the tables. The tables in the hall were quickly spread, then while some took the towels, and others held the basins, they offered water to all who came. When all had washed, they took their seats. And the King, taking Cliges by the hand, made him sit down in front of him, for he wished to learn this very day, if possible, who he was. Of the meal I need not further speak, for the courses were as well supplied as if beef were selling at a penny.

(Vv. 5041–5114.) When all the courses had been served, the King no longer held his peace. "My friend," he says, "I wish to learn if it was from pride that you did not deign to come to court as soon as you arrived in this country, and why you kept aloof from people, and why you changed your arms; and tell me what your name is, too, and from what race you spring." Cliges replies: "It shall not be hid." He told and related to the King everything he wished to know. And when the King had heard it all, he embraced him, and made much of him, while all joined in greeting him. And when my lord Gawain learned the truth, he, more than the others, cordially welcomed him. Thus, all unite in saluting him, saying that he is very fair and brave. The King loves and honours him above all his nephews. Cliges tarries with the King until the summer comes around, in the meantime visiting all Brittany, France, and Normandy, where he did so many knightly deeds that he thoroughly proved his worth. But the love whose wound he bears gives him no peace or relief. The inclination of his heart keeps him fixed upon a single thought. To Fenice his thought harks back, who from afar afflicts his heart. The desire takes him to go back; for he has been deprived too long of the sight of the most desired lady who was ever desired by any one. He will not prolong this privation, but prepares to return to Greece, and sets out, after taking leave. The King and my lord Gawain were grieved, I can well believe, when they could no longer detain him. But he is anxious to return to her whom he loves and so covets that the way seems long to him as he passes over land and sea: so ardently he longs for the sight of her who has stolen and filched Iris heart away. But she makes him recompense in full; for she pays him, as it were rent, the coin of her own heart, which is no less dear to her. But he is by no means sure of that, having no contract or agreement to show; wherefore his anxiety is great. And she is in just as great distress, harried and tormented by love, taking no pleasure in aught she sees since that moment when she saw him last. The fact that she does not even know whether he be alive or not fills her heart with anguish. But Cliges draws nearer day by day, being fortunate in having favourable winds, until he joyfully comes to port before Constantinople. When the news reached the city, none need ask if the emperor was glad; but a hundred times greater was the empress's joy.

(Vv. 5115–5156.) Cliges, with his company, having landed at Constantinople, has now returned to Greece. The richest and most noble men all come to meet him at the port. And when the emperor encounters him, who before all others had gone to meet him with the empress by his side, he runs to embrace and greet him in the presence of them all. And when Fenice welcomes him, each changes colour in the other's presence, and it is indeed a marvel, when they are so close together, how they keep from embracing each other and bestowing such kisses as love would have; but that would have been folly and madness. The people come together from all sides with the desire to see him, and conduct him through the city, some on foot and some on horseback, until they bring him to the imperial palace. No words can ever tell the joy and honour and courteous service that were there displayed. But each one strove as best he might to do everything which he thought would please and gratify Cliges. And his uncle hands over to him all his possessions, except the crown: he wishes him to gratify his pleasure fully, and to take all he desires of his wealth, either in the form of land or treasure. But he has no care for silver or gold, so long as he dares not reveal his thoughts to her because of whom he can find no repose; and yet he has plenty of time and opportunity to speak, if he were not afraid of being repelled; for now he can see her every day, and sit beside her "tete-a-tete" without opposition or hindrance, for no one sees any harm in that.

(Vv. 5157–5280.) Some time after his return, he came alone one day to the room of her who was not his enemy, and you may be sure that the door was not barred at his approach. By her side he took his seat, while the others moved away, so that no one might be seated near them and hear their words. First, Fenice spoke of Britain, and asked him about the character and appearance of my lord Gawain, until her words finally hit upon the subject which filled her with dread. She asked him if he had given his love to any dame or damsel in that land. Cliges was not obstinate or slow to respond to this demand, but he knew at once what reply to make as soon as she had put the question. "Lady," he says, "I was in love while there, but not with any one of that land. In Britain my body was without my heart, as a piece of bark without the wood. Since leaving Germany I have not known what became of my heart, except that it came here after you. My heart was here, and my body was there. I was not really away from Greece; for hither my heart had come, for which I now have come back again; yet, it does not return to its lodging-place, nor can I draw it back to me, nor do I wish to do so, if I could. And you—how has it fared with you, since you came to this country? What joy have you had here? Do you like the people, do you like the land? I ought not to ask you any other question than whether the country pleases you." "It has not pleased me until now; but at present I feel a certain joy and satisfaction, which, you may be sure, I would not lose for Pavia or Piacenza. From this joy I cannot wrest my heart, nor shall I ever use force in the attempt. Nothing but the bark is left in me, for I live and exist without a heart. I have never been in Britain, and yet without me my heart has been engaged in business there I know not what." "Lady, when was it that your heart was there? Tell me when it went thither—the time and season—if it be a thing that you can fairly tell me or any one else. Was it there while I was there?" "Yes, but you were not aware of it. It was there as long as you were, and came away again with you." "God! I never saw it, nor knew it was there. God! why did I not know it? If I had been informed of this, surely, my lady, I would have borne it pleasant company." "You would have repaid me with the consolation which you really owed to me, for I should have been very gracious to your heart if it had been pleased to come where it might have known I was." "Lady, surely it came to you." "To me? Then it came to no strange place, for mine also went to you." "Then, lady, according to what you say, our hearts are here with us now, for my heart is altogether in your hands." "You in turn have mine, my friend; so we are in perfect accord. And you may be sure, so help me God, that your uncle has never shared in me, for it was not my pleasure, and he could not. Never has he yet known me as Adam knew his wife. In error I am called a wife; but I am sure that whoever calls me wife does not know that I am still a maid. Even your uncle is not aware of it, for, having drunk of the sleeping potion, he thinks he is awake when he is asleep, and he fancies he has his sport with me while I lie in his embrace. But his exclusion has been complete. My heart is yours, and my body too, and from me no one shall ever learn how to practise villainy. For when my heart went over to you it presented you with the body too, and it made a pledge that none other should ever share in it. Love for you has wounded me so deep that I should never recover from it, any more than the sea can dry up. If I love you, and you love me, you shall never be called Tristan, nor I Iseut;[4] for then our love would not be honourable. But I make you this promise, that you shall never have other joy of me than that you now have, unless you can devise some means whereby I can be removed from your uncle and his society without his finding me again, or being able to blame either you or me, or having any ground for accusation. And to-morrow you shall tell me of the best plan you have devised, and I, too, will think of it. To-morrow, as soon as I arise, come and speak with me; then each of us will speak his mind, and we shall proceed to execute whatever seems best.

(Vv. 5281–5400.) As soon as Cliges heard her will he fully agreed with her, and said that would be the best thing to do. He leaves her happy, and goes off with a light heart himself. That night each one lies awake thinking over, with great delight, what the best plan will be. The next morning, as soon as they had arisen, they meet again to take counsel privately, as indeed they must. Cliges speaks first and says what he had thought of in the night: "My lady," says he, "I think, and am of the opinion, that we could not do better than go to Britain; I thought I might take you there; now do not refuse, for never was Helen so joyfully received at Troy when Paris took her thither but that still greater joy would be felt over you and me in the land of the King, my uncle. And if this plan does not meet with your favour, tell me what you think, for I am ready, whatever may happen, to abide by your decision." And she replies: "This is my answer: I will never go off with you thus; for after we had gone away, every one would speak of us as they do of Iseut the Blond and of Tristan. And everywhere all men and women would speak evil of our love. No one would believe, nor is it natural that they should do so, the truth of the matter. Who would believe that I have thus, all to no purpose, evaded and escaped from your uncle still a maid? I should be regarded simply as wanton and dissolute, and you would be thought mad. It is well to remember and observe the injunction of St. Paul: if any one is unwilling to live chaste, St. Paul counsels him to act so that he shall receive no criticism, or blame, or reproach.[5] It is well to stop evil mouths, and therefore, if you agree, I have a proposal to make: it seems best to me to consent to feign that I am dead. I shall fall sick in a little while. And you in the meantime may plan some preparations for a place of burial. Put all your wits to work to the end that a sepulchre and bier be so constructed that I shall not die in it, or be stifled, and that no one shall mount guard over it at night when you come to take me out. So now seek such a retreat for me, where no one may see me excepting you; and let no one provide for any need of mine except you, to whom I surrender and give myself. Never, my whole life long, do I wish to be served by other man than you. My lord and my servant you shall be; whatever you do shall seem good to me; and never shall I be mistress of any empire unless you are its master. Any wretched place, however dark and foul, will seem brighter to me than all these halls if you are with me. If I have you where I can see you, I shall be mistress of boundless treasure, and the world will belong to me. And if the business is carefully managed, no harm will come of it, and no one will ever be able to speak ill of it, for it will be believed throughout the empire that I am mouldering in the ground. My maid, Thessala, who has been my nurse, and in whom I have great confidence, will give me faithful aid, for she is very clever, and I trust her fully." And Cliges, when he heard his sweetheart, replies: "My lady, if this is feasible, and if you think your nurse's advice reliable, we have nothing to do but make our preparations without delay; but if we commit any imprudence, we are lost without escape. In this city there is an artisan who cuts and carves wonderful images: there is no land where he is not known for the figures which he has shapen and carved and made. John is his name, and he is a serf oú mine. No one could cope with John's best efforts in any art, however varied it might be. For, compared with him, they are all novices, and like a child with nurse. By imitating his handiwork the artisans of Antioch and Rome have learned all they know how to do—and besides there is no more loyal man. Now I want to make a test, and if I can put trust in him I will set him and all his descendants free; and I shall not fail to tell him of all our plan if he will swear and give his word to me that he will aid me loyally, and will never divulge my secret."

(Vv. 5401–5466.) And she replies: "So let it be." With her permission Cliges left the room and went away. And she sends for Thessala, her maid, whom she brought with her from her native land. Thessala came at once without delay, yet not knowing why she was summoned. When she asked Fenice privately what was her desire and pleasure, she concealed none of her intentions from her. "Nurse," she said, "I know full well that anything I tell you will go no further, for I have tried you thoroughly and have found you very prudent. I love you for all you have done for me. In all my troubles I appeal to you without seeking counsel elsewhere. You know why I lie awake, and what my thoughts and wishes are. My eyes behold only one object which pleases me, but I can have no pleasure or joy in it if I do not first buy it with a heavy price. For I have now found my peer; and if I love him he loves me in return, and if I grieve he grieves too for my pain and sorrow. Now I must acquaint you with a plan and project upon which we two have privately agreed." Then she told and explained to her how she was willing to feign illness, and would complain so bitterly that at last she would pretend to be dead, and how Cliges would steal her away at night, and then they would be together all their days. She thinks that in no other way she could longer bear to live. But if she was sure that she would consent to lend her aid, the matter would be arranged in accordance with their wishes. "But I am tired of waiting for my joy and luck." Then her nurse assured her that she would help her in every way, telling her to have no further fear. She said that as soon as she set to work she would bring it about that there would be no man, upon seeing her, who would not certainly believe that the soul had left the body after she had drunk of a potion which would leave her cold, colourless, pale, and stiff, without power of speech and deprived of health; yet she would be alive and well, and would have no sensations of any kind, and would be none the worse for a day and a night entire spent in the sepulchre and bier.[6]

(Vv. 5467–5554.) When Fenice heard these words, she thus spoke in reply: "Nurse, I commit myself to you, and, with full confidence in you, will take no steps in my own behalf. I am in your hands; so think of my interests, and tell all the people who are here to betake themselves away, for I am ill, and they bother me." So, like a prudent woman, she said to them: "My lords, my lady is not well, and desires you all to go away. You are talking loud and making a noise, and the noise is disagreeable to her. She can get no rest or repose so long as you are in the room. I never remember her to have complained of such a sickness as this so violent and serious does it seem. So go away, and don't feel hurt." As soon as she had issued this command, they all quickly go away. And Cliges sent for John to come quickly, and thus in private spoke to him: "John, dost thou know what I am about to say? Thou art my slave and I thy master, and I can give away or sell thy body like a thing which is my own. But if I could trust thee in an affair I meditate, thou wouldst go for ever free, as well as the heirs which may be born of thee." John, in his desire for freedom, replies at once: "My lord, there is nothing I would not gladly do to see myself, my wife, and children free. Tell me what your orders are, for nothing can be so hard as to cause me any work or pain or be hard for me to execute. For that matter, even were it against my will, I must needs obey your commands and give up my own affairs." "True, John; but this is a matter of which I hardly dare to speak, unless thou wilt assure me upon thy oath thou wilt faithfully give me aid and never betray me." "Willingly, sire," John makes reply: "have never a fear on that account! For I will swear and pledge my word that, so long as I live, I will never say a word which I think will grieve you or cause you harm." "Ah John, even were I to die for it, there is no man to whom I would dare mention the matter in which I desire thy counsel; I would rather have my eye plucked out; I would rather be put to death by thee than that thou shouldst speak of it to another man. But I hold thee to be so loyal and prudent that I will reveal to thee all my thought. I am sure thou wilt observe my wishes, both by aiding me and holding thy peace." "Truly, sire so, help me God!" Then Cliges speaks and explains to him openly the adventurous plan. And when he had revealed the project—as you have heard me set it forth—then John said that he would promise to construct the sepulchre in accordance with his best skill, and said that he would take him to see a certain house of his which no one yet had ever seen—not even his wife or any child of his. This house, which he had built, he would show him, if he cared to go with him to the place where in absolute privacy he works and paints and carves. He would show him the finest and prettiest place that he had ever seen. Cliges replies: "Let us go thither then."

(Vv. 5555–5662.) Below the city, in a remote spot, John had expended much labour in the construction of a tower. Thither he conducted Cliges, leading him through the different storeys, which were decorated with fine painted pictures. He shows him the rooms and the fire-places, taking him everywhere up and down. Cliges examines this lonely house where no one lives or has access. He passes from one room to another, until he thinks he has seen it all, and he is much pleased with the tower and says he thinks it is very fine. The lady will be comfortable there as long as she lives, for no one will know of her dwelling place. "No sire, you are right; she will never be discovered here. But do you think you have seen all of my tower and fair retreat? There still remain rooms so concealed that no man could ever find them out. And if you choose to test the truth of this by investigating as thoroughly as you can, you can never be so shrewd and clever in your search as to find another story here, unless I show you and point it out. You must know that baths are not lacking here, nor anything else which a lady needs, and which I can think of or recall. The lady will be here at her ease. Below the level of the ground the tower widens out, as you will see, and you cannot anywhere find any entrance-door. The door is made of hard stone with such skill and art that you cannot find the crack." Cliges says: "These are wonderful things I hear. Lead on and I will follow you, for I am anxious to see all this." Then John started on, taking Cliges by the hand, until he came to a smooth and polished door, all coloured and painted over. When John came to the wall, he stopped, holding Cliges by the right hand. "Sire," he says, "there is no one who could see a window or a door in this wall; and do you think that any one could pass through it without using violence and breaking it down?" And Cliges replies that he does not think so, and that he will never think so, unless he sees it first. Then John says that he shall see it at once, and that he will open a door in the wall for him. John, who constructed this piece of work, unfastens the door in the wall and opens it for him, so that he has to use no strength or violence to force it; then, one stepping before the other, they descend by a winding-stair to a vaulted apartment where John used to do his work, when it pleased him to labour at anything. "Sire," he says, "of all the men God ever made, no one but us two has ever been where we are now. And you shall see presently how convenient the place is. My advice is that you choose this as your retreat, and that your sweetheart be lodged here. These quarters are good enough for such a guest; for there are bedrooms, and bathrooms with hot water in the tubs, which comes through pipes under the ground. Whoever is looking for a comfortable place in which to establish and conceal his lady, would have to go a long way before he would find anything so charming. When you shall have explored it thoroughly you will find this place very suitable." Then John showed him everything, fine chambers and painted vaults, pointing out many examples of his work which pleased Cliges much. When they had examined the whole tower, Cliges said: "John, my friend, I set you free and all your descendants, and my life is absolutely in your hands. I desire that my sweetheart be here all alone, and that no one shall know of it excepting me and you and her." John makes answer: "I thank you, sire. Now we have been here long enough, and as we have nothing more to do, let us return." "That is right," says Cliges, "let us be gone." Then they go away, and leave the tower. Upon their return they hear every one in the city saying to his neighbour: "Don't you know the marvellous news about my lady, the empress? May the Holy Spirit give her health—the gentle and prudent lady; for she lies sick of a grievous malady."

(Vv. 5663–5698.) When Cliges heard this talk he went in haste to the court. But there was no joy or gladness there: for all the people were sad and prostrated because of the empress, who is only feigning to be ill; for the illness of which she complains causes her no grief or pain. But she has told them all that she wishes no one to enter her room so long as her sickness maintains its grip with its accompanying pains in her heart and head. She makes an exception, however, in favour of the emperor and his nephew, not wishing to place a ban upon them; but she will not care if the emperor, her lord, does not come. For Cliges' sake she is compelled to pass through great pain and peril. It distresses her that he does not come, for she has no desire to see any one but him. Cliges, however, will soon be there, to tell her of what he has seen and found. He came into the room and spoke to her, but stayed only a moment, for Fenice, in order that they might think she was annoyed by what pleased her so, cried out aloud: "Be gone, be gone! You disturb and bother me too much, for I am so seriously ill that I shall never rise up again." Cliges, though pleased with this, goes away with a sad face: you would never see so woeful a countenance. To judge from his appearance he is very sad; but within his heart is gay in anticipation of its joy.

(Vv. 5699–5718.) The empress, without being really ill, complains and pretends that she is sick. And the emperor, who has faith in her, ceases not to grieve, and summons a physician. But she will not allow any one to see her or touch her. The emperor may well feel chagrined when she says that she will never have but one doctor, who can easily restore her to health whenever it pleases him to do so. He can cause her to die or to live, and to him she trusts her health and life. They think that she refers to God; but her meaning is very different, for she is thinking of no one but Cliges. He is her god who can bring her health, or who can cause her death.

(Vv. 5719–5814.) Thus the empress takes care that no physician shall examine her; and more completely to deceive the emperor she refuses to eat or drink, until she grows all pale and blue. Meanwhile her nurse keeps busy about her, and with great shrewdness sought privily all through the city, without the knowledge of any one, until she found a woman who was hopelessly ill with a mortal disease. In order to perfect her ruse she used to go to see her often and promised to cure her of her illness; so each day she used to take a urinal in which to examine the urine, until she saw one day that no medicine could ever be of any help, and that she would die that very day. This urine Thessala carried off and kept until the emperor arose, when she went to him and said: "If now it be your will, my lord, send for all your physicians; for my mistress has passed some water; she is very ill with this disease, and she desires the doctors to see it, but she does not wish them to come where she is." The doctors came into the hall and found upon examination that the urine was very bad and colourless, and each one said what he thought about it. Finally, they all agreed that she would never recover, and that she would scarcely live till three o'clock, when, at the latest, God would take her soul to Himself. This conclusion they reached privately, when the emperor asked and conjured them to tell him the truth. They reply that they have no confidence in her recovery, and that she cannot live past three o'clock but will yield up her soul before that time. When the emperor heard this, he almost fell unconscious to the floor, as well as many others who heard the news. Never did any people make such moan as there was then throughout the palace. However, I will speak no further of their grief; but you shall hear of Thessala's activities—how she mixes and brews the potion. She mixed and stirred it up, for she had provided herself a long time in advance with everything which she would need for the potion. A little before three o'clock she gives her the potion to drink. At once her sight became dimmed, her face grew as pale and white as if she had lost her blood: she could not have moved a foot or hand, if they had flayed her alive, and she does not stir or say a word, although she perceives and hears the emperor's grief and the cries which fill the hall. The weeping crowds lament through all the city, saying: "God! what woe and misfortune has been brought upon us by wicked death! O covetous and voracious death! Death is worse than a she-wolf which always remains insatiable. Such a cruel bite thou hast never inflicted upon the world! Death, what hast thou done? May God confound thee for having put out the light of perfect beauty! Thou hast done to death the fairest and most lovely creature, had she but lived, whom God has ever sought to form. God's patience surely is too great when He suffers thee to have the power to break in pieces what belongs to Him. Now God ought to be wroth with thee, and cast thee out of thy bailiwick; for thy impudence has been too great, as well as thy pride and disrespect." Thus the people storm about and wring their arms and beat their hands; while the priests read their psalms, making prayers for the good lady, that God may have mercy on her soul.

(Vv. 5815–5904.)[7] In the midst of the tears and cries, as the story runs, there arrived aged physicians from Salerno, where they had long sojourned. At the sight of the great mourning they stopped to ask and inquire the cause of the cries and tears—why all the people are in such sorrow and distress. And this is the answer they receive: "God! gentlemen, don't you know? The whole world would be beside itself as we are, if it but knew of the great sorrow and grief and woe and loss which has come to us this day. God! where have you come from, then, that you do not know what has happened just now in this city? We will tell you the truth, for we wish you to join with us in the grief we feel. Do you not know about grim Death, who desires and covets all things, and everywhere lies in wait for what is best, do you not know what mad act she has committed to-day, as it is her wont to do? God has illuminated the world with one great radiance, with one bright light. But Death cannot restrain herself from acting as her custom is. Every day, to the extent of her power, she blots out the best creature she can find. So she wishes to try her power, and in one body she has carried off more excellence than she has left behind. She would have done better to take the whole world, and leave alive and sound this prey which now she has carried off. Beauty, courtesy, and knowledge, and all that a lady can possess of goodness has been taken and filched from us by Death, who has destroyed all goodness in the person of our lady, the empress. Thus Death has deprived us all of life." "Ah, God!" the doctors say, "we know that Thou art wroth with this city because we did not reach here sooner. If we had arrived here yesterday, Death might have boasted of her strength if she could wrest her prey from us." "Gentlemen, madame would not have allowed you at any price to see her or to exercise your skill. Of good physicians there was no lack, but madame would not permit any one of them to see her or to investigate her malady." "No?" "Truly, sirs, that she would not." Then they recalled the case of Solomon, who was so hated by his wife that she deceived him by feigning death.[8] They think this woman has done the same. But if they could in any way bring about her cure, no one could make them lie or keep them from exposing the truth, if they discovered any trickery. So to the court they take their way, where there was such a noise and cry that you could not have heard God's thunder crash. The chief of these three doctors, who knew the most, drew near the bier. No one says to him "Keep hands off," and no one tries to hold him back. He places his hand on her breast and side, and surely feels that life is still in the body: he perceives and knows that well enough. He sees the emperor standing by, mad and tormented by his grief. Seeing him, he calls aloud: "Emperor, console thyself! I am sure and plainly see that this lady is not dead. Leave off thy grief, and be comforted! If I do not restore her alive to thee, thou mayst kill me or string me up."

(Vv. 5995–5988.) At once throughout the palace the noise is quieted and hushed. And the emperor bade the doctor tell him fully his orders and wishes, whatever they might be. If he can restore life in the empress he will be sire and lord over the emperor himself; but if he has in any respect lied to him he will be hanged like a common thief. And the doctor said: "I consent to that, and may you never have mercy upon me if I do not cause her to speak to you here! Without tarrying and without delay have the palace cleared at once, and let not a single soul remain. I must examine in private the illness which afflicts the lady. These two doctors, who are my friends, will remain with me alone in the room, and let every one else go out." This order would have been opposed by Cliges, John, and Thessala; but all the others who were there might have turned against them if they had tried to oppose his order. So they hold their peace and approve what they hear approved by the others, and leave the palace. After the three doctors had forcibly tipped apart the lady's winding-sheer, without using any knife or scissors, they said to her: "Lady, don't be frightened, have no fear, but speak to us with confidence! We know well enough that you are perfectly sound and in good state. Be sensible and obliging now, and do not despair of anything, for if you have any need of us we will all three assure you of our aid, whether for good or ill. We shall be very loyal to you, both in keeping our counsel and in helping you. Do not keep us talking here! Since we put at your disposal our skill and service, you should surely not refuse." Thus they think to hoodwink and deceive her, but they have no success; for she has no need or care for the service which they promise her; so they are wasting their time in a vain effort. When the three physicians see that they will make nothing out of her either by prayer or flattery, then they take her from her bier, and begin to beat and belabour her. But their efforts are foolish, for not a word can they extract from her. Then they threaten and try to terrify her by saying that if she does not speak she will soon have reason to repent of her folly, for they are going to do such a wonderful thing to her that such a thing was never done to the body of any wretched woman. "We know that you are alive, and will not deign to speak to us. We know that you are feigning death, and would thus deceive the emperor. Have no fear of us! If any of us has angered you, before we do you further harm, cease your mad behaviour now, for you are acting wickedly; and we will lend you our aid in any enterprise—wise or mad." But it cannot be; they have no success. Then they renew their attack, striking her with thongs upon the back, so that the welts are plainly seen, and they combine to tear her tender flesh until they cause the blood to flow.

(Vv. 5989–6050.) When they had beaten her with the thongs until they had slashed her flesh, and when the blood is dropping down, as it trickles from among the wounds, even then their efforts are of no avail to extract from her a sigh or word, nor to make her stir or move. Then they say that they must procure fire and lead, which they will melt and lay upon her hands, rather than fail in their efforts to make her speak. After securing a light and some lead they kindle a fire and melt the lead. Thus the miserable villains torment and afflict the lady, by taking the lead all boiling hot from the fire and pouring it into the palms of her hands. Not satisfied with pouring the lead clean through her palms, the cowardly rascals say that, if she does not speak at once they will straightway stretch her on the grate until she is completely grilled. Yet, she holds her peace, and does not refuse to have her body beaten and maltreated by them. Now they were on the point of placing her upon the fire to be roasted and grilled when more than a thousand ladies, who were stationed before the palace, come to the door and through a little crack catch sight of the torture and anguish which they were inflicting upon the lady, as with coal and flame they accomplished her martyrdom. They bring clubs and hammers to smash and break down the door. Great was the noise and uproar as they battered and broke in the door. If now they can lay hands on the doctors, the latter will not have long to wait before they receive their full deserts. With a single rush the ladies enter the palace, and in the press is Thessala, who has no other aim than to reach her mistress. Beside the fire she finds her stripped, severely wounded and injured. She puts her back in the bier again, and over her she spreads a cloth, while the ladies go to give their reward to the three doctors, without wishing to wait for the emperor or his seneschal. Out of the windows they threw them down into the court-yard, breaking the necks, ribs, arms, and legs of all: no better piece of work was ever done by any ladies.

(Vv. 6051–6162.) Now the three doctors have received their gruesome reward at the hands of the ladies. But Cliges is terror-stricken and filled with grief upon hearing of the pain and martyrdom which his sweetheart has endured for him. He is almost beside himself, fearing greatly, and with good reason, that she may be dead or badly injured by the torture inflicted upon her by the three physicians who now are dead. So he is in despair and despondency when Thessala comes, bringing with her a very precious ointment with which she has already gently rubbed the body and wounds of her mistress. When they laid her back in her bier the ladies wrapped her again in a cloth of Syrian stuff, leaving her face uncovered. All that night there is no abatement of the cries they raise unceasingly. Throughout the city. high and low, poor and rich, are beside themselves with grief, and it seems as if each one boasts that he will outdo all others in his woe, and would fain never be comforted. All that night the grief continues. The next morning John came to the court; and the emperor sends for him and issues to him this command: "John, if ever thou wroughtest a fine piece of work, now put forth and show all thy skill in constructing such a sepulchre as for beauty and workmanship shall have no match." And John, who had already performed the task, says that he has already completed one which is very fine and cleverly wrought; but when he began the work he had no thought that other than a holy body should be laid in it. "Now let the empress be laid in it and buried in some sacred place, for she, I think, is sanctified." "You have spoken well," says the emperor; "she shall be buried yonder in my lord Saint Peter's Church, where bodies are wont to be interred. For before her death she made this request of me, that I should have her buried there. Now go about your task, and place your sepulchre in the best position in the cemetery, where it ought rightfully to be." John replies: "Very well, my lord." John at once takes his leave, and prepares the sepulchre with great skill; a feather-bed he placed inside, because the stone was hard and cold; and in order that the odour may be sweet, he spreads flowers and leaves about. Another reason for doing this was that no one might perceive the mattress he had laid within the grave. Already Mass had been said for the dead in the churches and parishes, and the bells were tolling continuously as is proper for the dead. Orders are given to bring the body to be laid in the sepulchre, which John with all his skill has constructed so richly and handsomely. In all Constantinople none remains, whether small or great, who does not follow the body in tears, cursing and reproaching Death. Knights and youths alike grow faint, while the ladies and damsels beat their breasts as they thus find fault with Death: "O Death," cries each, "why didst thou not take ransom for my lady? Surely, thy gain was slight enough, whereas the loss to us is great." And in this grief Cliges surely bears his part, as he suffers and laments more than all the others do, and it is strange he does not kill himself. But still he decides to put this off until the hour and the time shall come for him to disinter her and get possession of her and see whether she be alive or not. Over the gave stand the men who let down the body into its place; but, with John there, they do not meddle with the adjustment of the sarcophagus, and since they were so prostrated that they could not see, John had plenty of time to perform his special task. When the coffin was in its place, and nothing else was in the grave, he sealed up tightly all the joints. When this was done, any one would have been skilful who, except by force or violence, could take away or loosen anything which John had put inside.

(Vv. 6163–6316.) Fenice lies in the sepulchre until the darkness of night came on. But thirty knights mount guard over her, and there are ten tapers burning there, which light up the place all about. The knights were weary and exhausted by the strain they had undergone; so they ate and drank that night until they all fell sound asleep. When night came on, Cliges steals away from the court and from all his followers, so that there was not a single knight or servant who knew what had become of him. He did not stop until he found John, who advises him as best he can. He furnishes him with arms, but he will never have any need of them. Once armed, they both spur to the cemetery. The cemetery was enclosed all about with a high wall, so that the knights, who had gone asleep after making the gate fast within, could rest assured that no one would enter there. Cliges does not see how he can get in, for there is no passing through the gate. And yet, somehow he must pass through, for love bids him and drives him on. He tries the wall and climbs up, being strong and agile. Inside was a garden planted with trees, one of which stood so near the wall that it touched it. Now Cliges had what he needed, and after letting himself down by the tree, the first thing he did was to go to open the gate for John. Seeing the knights asleep, they extinguished all the lights, so that the place remained in darkness. And John now uncovers the grave and opens the coffin, taking care to do it no harm. Cliges steps into the grave and lifts out his Sweetheart, all weak and prostrate, whom he fondles, kisses, and embraces. He does not know whether to rejoice or regret that she does not stir or move. And John, as quickly as he could, closed up the sepulchre again, so that it was not apparent that any one had tampered with it. Then they betook themselves as fast as they could to the tower. When they had set her in the tower, in the rooms which were beneath the level of the ground, they took off her grave clothes; and Cliges, who knew nothing of the potion which she had taken, which made her dumb and kept her motionless, thinks that she is dead, and is in despair with anxiety as he heavily sighs and weeps. But soon the time will come for the potion to lose its force. And Fenice, who hears his grief, struggles and strives for strength to comfort him by word or glance. Her heart almost bursts because of the sorrow which he shows. "Ah Death!" he says, "how mean thou art, to spare and reprieve all things despicable and vile—to let them live on and endure. Death! art thou beside thyself or drunk, who hast killed my lady without me? This is a marvellous thing I see: my lady is dead, and I still live on! Ah, precious one, why does your lover live to see you dead? One now could rightly say that you have died in my service, and that it is I who have killed and murdered you. Sweetheart, then I am the death that has smitten you. Is not that wrong? For it is my own life I have lost in you, and have preserved your life in me. For did not your health and life belong to me. sweet one? And did not mine belong to you? For I loved nothing excepting you, and our double existence was as one. So now I have done what was right in keeping your soul in my body while mine has escaped from your body, and one ought to go to seek the company of the other, wherever it may be, and nothing ought to separate them." At this she heaves a gentle sigh and whispers faintly: "Lover mine, I am not altogether dead, but very near it. I value my life but little now. I thought it a jest and a mere pretence; but now I am indeed to be pitied, for death has not treated this as a jest. It will be a marvel if I escape alive. For the doctors have seriously wounded me, and broken my flesh and disfigured me. And yet, if it was possible for my nurse to come here, and if efforts were of any avail, she would restore me to health again." "Do not worry, dear, about that," says Cliges, "for this very night I will bring her here." "Dear, let John go for her now." So John departed and looked for her until he found her, and told her how he wished her to come along and to let no other cause detain her; for Fenice and Cliges have sent for her to come to a tower where they are awaiting her; and that Fenice is in a grievous state, so that she must come provided with ointments and remedies, and to bear in mind that she will not live long, if she does not quickly come to bear her aid. Thessala runs at once and, taking ointments, plaster, and remedies which she has prepared, she meets John again. Secretly they go out from the city, until they come straight to the tower. When Fenice sees her nurse, she feels already cured, because of the loving faith and trust she places in her. And Cliges greets her affectionately, and says: "Welcome, nurse, whom I love and prize. Nurse, for God's sake, what do you think of this young lady's malady? What is your opinion? Will she recover?" "Yes, my lord, have no fear but that I shall restore her completely. A fortnight will not pass before I make her so well that she was never before so lively and strong."

(Vv. 6317–6346.) While Thessala is busy with her remedies, John goes to provide the tower with everything that is necessary. Cliges goes to the tower and comes away bravely and openly, for he has lodged a moulting falcon there, and he says that he goes to visit it; thus no one can guess that he goes there for any other reason than for the falcon. He makes long stays there night and day. He orders John to guard the tower, so that no one shall enter against his will. Fenice now has no further cause to complain, for Thessala has completely cured her. If Cliges were Duke of Almeria, Morocco, or Tudela, he would not consider it all worth a holly-berry compared with the joy which he now feels. Certainly Love did not debase itself when it joined these two, for it seems to them, when they embrace and kiss each other. that all the world must be better for their joy and happiness. Now ask me no more of this, for one can have no wish in which the other does not acquiesce. Thus they have but one desire, as if they two themselves were one.

(Vv. 6347–6392.) Fenice was in the tower, I believe, all that year and full two months of the next, until summer came again. When the trees bring forth their flowers and leaves, and the little birds rejoice, singing gaily their litanies, it came about that Fenice one morning heard the song of the nightingale. Cliges was holding her tightly clasped with his arms about her waist and neck, and she held him in a like embrace, as she said: "Dear fair lover mine. A garden would do me good, in which I could disport myself. For more than fifteen months I have not seen the light of moon or sun. If possible, I would fain go out yonder into the daylight, for here in this tower I am confined. If there was a garden near, where I could go and amuse myself, it would often do me good." Then Cliges promises her to consult with John about it as soon as he can see him. At that very moment John came in, as he was often wont to do, and Cliges spoke to him of what Fenice desired. John replies: "All that she asks for is already provided and supplied. This tower is well equipped with what she wishes and requires." Then Fenice was very glad, and asked John to take her there, which he said he would very gladly do. Then John goes and opens a door, constructed in a fashion which I cannot properly describe. No one but John could have made it, and no one could have asserted that there was any door or window there—so perfectly was it concealed.

(Vv. 6393–6424.) When Fenice saw the door open, and the sun come streaming in, as she had not seen it for many a day, her heart beat high with joy; she said that now there was nothing lacking, since she could leave her dungeon-tower, and that she wished for no other lodging-place. She passed out through the door into the garden, with its pleasures and delights. In the middle of the garden stood a grafted tree loaded with blooming flowers and leaves, and with a wide-spreading top. The branches of it were so trained that they all hung downwards until they almost touched the ground; the main trunk, however, from which they sprang, rose straight into the air. Fenice desires no other place. Beneath the tree the turf is very pleasant and fine, and at noon, when it is hot, the sun will never be high enough for its rays to penetrate there. John had shown his skill in arranging and training the branches thus. There Fenice goes to enjoy herself, where they set up a bed for her by day. There they taste of joy and delight. And the garden is enclosed about with a high wall connected with the tower, so that nothing can enter there without first passing through the tower.

(Vv. 6425–6586.) Fenice now is very happy: there is nothing to cause her displeasure, and nothing is lacking which she desires, when her lover is at liberty to embrace her beneath the blossoms and the leaves.[9] At the season when people take the sparrow- hawk and setter and hunt the lark and brown-thrush or stalk the quail and partridge, it chanced that a knight of Thrace, who was young and alert and inclined to knightly sport, came one day close by the tower in his search for game. The hawk of Bertrand (for~such was his name) having missed a lark, had flown away, and Bertrand thought how great his loss would be if he should lose his hunting-bird. When he saw it come down and light in a garden beneath the tower he was glad, for he thought he could not lose it now. At once he goes and clambers up the wall until he succeeds in getting over it, when beneath the tree he sees Fenice and Cliges lying asleep and naked in close embrace. "God!" said he, "what has happened to me now? What marvel is this I see? Is that not Cliges? It surely is. Is not that the empress with him there? Nay, but it looks like her. Never did one thing so resemble another. Her nose, her mouth, and brow are like those of my lady the empress. Never did Nature make two creatures of such similitude. There is no feature in this woman here which I have not seen in my lady. If she were alive, I should say that it was certainly she herself." Just then a pear falls down and strikes close by Fenice's ear. She jumps and awakes and, seeing Bertrand, cries out aloud: "My dear, my dear, we are lost. Yonder is Bertrand. If he escapes you, we are caught in a bad trap, for he will tell that he has seen us." Then Bertrand realised that it was the empress beyond any doubt. He sees the necessity of leaving at once, for Cliges had brought with him his sword into the garden, and had laid it down beside the bed. He jumped up now and grasped his sword, while Bertrand hastily took his leave. As fast as he could he scaled the wall, and was almost safely over when Cliges coming after him raised his sword and struck him with such violence that he severed his leg below the knee, as if it had been a fennel stalk. In spite of this, Bertrand got away, though badly wounded and maimed. Beside themselves with grief and wrath at the sight of his sorry state, his men on the other side picked him up, and insistently inquired who it was who had used him thus. "Don't speak to me now," he says, "but help me to mount my horse. No mention shall be made of this excepting to the emperor. He who thus has treated me must be, and doubtless is, in great terror; for he is in great danger of his life." Then they set him upon his palfrey and lead him through the city, sorely grieved in their fright the while. After them more than twenty thousand others come, following them to the court. And all the people run together, each striving to be there first. Bertrand made his complaint aloud, in the hearing of all, to the emperor: but they took him for an idle chatterer when he said that he had seen the empress all exposed. The city is in a ferment of excitement: some regard the news they hear as simple nonsense, others advise and urge the emperor to visit the tower himself. Great is the noise and confusion of the people who prepare to accompany him. But they find nothing in the tower, for Fenice and Cliges make their escape, taking with them Thessala, who comforts them and declares to them that, if perchance they see people coming after them to arrest them, they need have no fear; that they would never approach to do them harm within the range of a strong cross-bow. And the emperor within the tower has John sought for and brought. He orders him to be bound and tied saying that he will have him hanged or burnt, and will have his ashes scattered wide. He shall receive his due reward for the shame he has caused the emperor; but this reward will not be agreeable, because John has hidden in the tower his nephew with his wife. "Upon my word, you tell the truth," says John; "I will not lie, but will go still further and declare the truth, and if I have done any wrong it is right that I should be seized. But I offer this as my excuse: that a servant ought to refuse nothing when his lawful lord commands. Now, every one knows forsooth that I am his, and this tower is too." "It is not, John. Rather is it thine." "Mine, sire? Yes, after him: but neither do I belong to myself, nor have I anything which is mine, except what he pleased to bestow on me. And if you should think to say that my lord is guilty of having done you wrong, I am ready to take up his defence without any command from him. But I feel emboldened to proclaim openly what is on my mind, just as I have thought it out, for I know full well that I must die. So I will speak regardless of results. For if I die for my lord's sake, I shall not die an ignoble death, for the facts are generally known about that oath and pledge which you gave to your brother, that after you Cliges should be emperor, who now is banished as a wanderer. But if God will, he shall yet be emperor! Hence you are open to reproach, for you ought not to have taken a wife; yet you married her and did Cliges a wrong, and he has done you no wrong at all. And if I am punished with death by you, and if I die wrongfully for his sake, and if he is still alive, he will avenge my death on you. Now go and do the best you can, for if I die you shall also die."

(Vv. 6587–6630.) The emperor trembles with wrath upon hearing the mocking words addressed to him by John. "John," he says. "thou shalt have so much respite, until we find thy lord, who has done such wrong to me, though I loved him dearly and had no thought of defrauding him. Meanwhile, thou shalt stay in prison. If thou knowest what has become of him, tell me at once, I order thee." "I tell you? How can I commit such treachery? Were the life to be drawn from my body I would not reveal my lord to you, even if I knew his whereabouts. As a matter of fact, I do not know any more than you where they have gone, so help me God! But there is no need for your jealousy. I do not so much fear your wrath that I should not say, so that all can hear, how you have been deceived, even my words are not believed. You were deceived and tricked by potion you drank on your wedding night. Unless it happened in dream, when you were asleep, you have never had your pleasure with her; but the night made you dream, and the dream gave you as much satisfaction as if it had happened in your waking hours that she had held you in her arms: that was the sum of your satisfaction. Her heart was so devoted to Cliges that she feigned death for his sake; and he had such confidence in me that he explained it all to me and established her in my house, which rightfully belongs to him. You ought not to find fault with me. I ought, indeed, to be burnt or hanged, were I to betray my lord or refuse to do his will."

(Vv. 6631–6784.) When the emperor's attention is recalled to the potion which he had been pleased to drink, and with which Thessala had deceived him, then he realised for the first time that he had never had pleasure with his wife, unless it had happened in a dream: thus it was but an illusory joy. And he says that if he does not take vengeance for the shame and disgrace inflicted upon him by the traitor who has seduced his wife, he will never again be happy. "Now quick!" he says, "as far as Pavia, and from here to Germany, let no castle, town, or city remain in which search is not made. I will hold that man above all others dear who will bring to me captive the two of them. Now up and down, near and far, go diligently and search!" Then they started out with zeal and spent all that day in the search. But in the number Cliges had some friends, who, if they found them, would have led them to some hiding-place rather than hale them back again. All that fortnight they exhausted themselves in a fruitless search. For Thessala, who is acting as their guide, conducts them by her arts and charms in such security that they feel no dread or fear of all the strength of the emperor. They seek repose in no town or city; yet they have all they wish or desire, even more so than is usually the case. For all they need is procured for them by Thessala, who searches and scours and purveys for them. Nor is there any who hunts them now, for all have returned to their homes again. Meanwhile Cliges is not idle, but starts to find his uncle, King Arthur. He continued his search until he found him, and to him he made his claim and protest about his uncle, the emperor, who, in order to disinherit him, had disloyally taken a wife, which it was not right for him to do; for he had sworn to his father that he would never marry in his life. And the King says that with a fleet he will proceed to Constantinople, and that he will fill a thousand ships with knights, and three thousand more with men-at-arms, until no city or burg, town or castle, however strong or however high, will be able to withstand their assault. Then Cliges did not forget to thank the King for the aid he offered him. The King sends out to seek and summon all the high barons of the land, and causes to be requisitioned and equipped ships, war vessels, boats, and barks. He has a hundred ships loaded and filled with shields, lances, bucklers, and armour fit for knights. The King makes such great preparations for the war that never did Caesar or Alexander make the like. He orders to assemble at his summons all England, and all Flanders, Normandy, France, and Brittany, and all the men as far as the Pyrenees.[10] Already they were about to set sail, when messengers arrived from Greece who delayed the embarkation and kept the King and his people back. Among the messengers who came was John, that trusty man, for he would never be a witness or messenger of any news which was not true, and which he did not know for a certainty. The messengers were high born men of Greece, who came in search for Cliges. They made inquiry and asked for him, until they found him at the King's court, when they said to him: "God save you, sire! Greece is made over to you. and Constantinople is given to you by all those of your empire, because of the right you have to them. Your uncle (but you know it not) is dead of the grief he felt because he could not discover you. His grief was such that he lost his mind; he would neither drink nor eat, but died like a man beside himself. Fair sire, now come back again! For all your lords have sent for you. Greatly they desire and long for you, wishing to make you their emperor." Some there were that rejoiced at this; and others there were who would have gladly seen their guests elsewhere, and the fleet make sail for Greece. But the expedition is given up, and the King dismisses his men, and the hosts depart to their homes again. And Cliges hurriedly makes haste in his desire to return to Greece. He has no wish to tarry. His preparations made, he took his leave of the King, and then of all his friends. and taking Fenice with him, he goes away. They travel until they arrive in Greece, where they receive him with the jubilation which they ought to show to their rightful lord, and they give him his sweetheart to be his wife. Both of them are crowned at once. His mistress he has made his wife, but he still calls her his mistress and sweetheart, and she can complain of no loss of affection, for he loves her still as his mistress, and she loves him, too, as a lady ought to love her lover. And each day saw their love grow stronger: he never doubted her, nor did she blame him for anything. She was never kept confined, as so many women have been who have lived since her time. For never since has there been an emperor who did not stand in fear of his wife, lest he should be deceived by her, upon his hearing the story of how Fenice deceived Alis, first with the potion which he drank, and then later by that other ruse. Therefore, every empress, however rich and noble she may be, is guarded in Constantinople as in a prison, for the emperor has no confidence in her when he remembers the story of Fenice. He keeps her constantly guarded in her room, nor is there ever allowed any man in her presence, unless he be a eunuch from his youth; in the case of such there is no fear or doubt that Love will ensnare them in his bonds. Here ends the work of Chretien.[11]

[End of "Cligès"]


NOTE: Endnotes supplied by Prof. Foerster are indicated by "(F.)"; all other endnotes are supplied by W.W. Comfort.

  1. For this tournament and its parallels in folk-lore, see Miss J.L. Weston, The Three Days' Tournament (London, 1902). She argues (p. 14 f. and p. 43 f.) against Foerster's unqualified opinion of the originality of Chrétien in his use of this current description of a tournament, an opinion set forth in his Einleitung to Lancelot, pp. 43, 126, 128, 138.
  2. Note that Chrétien here deliberately avoids such a list of knights as he introduces in Érec. (F.)
  3. It must be admitted that the text, which is offered by all but one MS., is here unintelligible. The reference, if any be intended, is not clear. (F.)
  4. Much has been made of this expression as intimating that Chrétien wrote Cligès as a sort of disavowal of the immorality of his lost Tristan. Cf. Foerster, Cligès (Ed. 1910), p. xxxix f., and Myrrha Borodine, La Femme et l'Amour au XIIe siècle d'après les poèmes de Chrétien de Troyes (Paris, 1909). G. Paris has ably defended another interpretation of the references in Cligès to the Tristan legend in Journal des Savants, 1902, p. 442 f.
  5. This curious moral teaching appears to be a perversion of three passages form St. Paul's Epistles: I Cor. vii. 9, I Cor. x. 32, Eph. v. 15. Cf. H. Emecke, Chrétien von Troyes als Personlichkeit und als Dichter (Wurzburg, 1892).
  6. "This feature of a woman who, thanks to some charm, preserves her virginity with a husband whom she does not love, is found not only in widespread stories, but in several French epic poems. In only one, Les Enfances Guillaume, does the husband, like Alis, remain ignorant of the fraud of which he is the victim, and think that he really possesses the woman… If Chrétien alone gave to the charm of the form of a potion, it is in imitation of the love potion in Tristan." (G. Paris in Journal des Savants, 1902, p. 446). For many other references to the effect of herb potions, cf. A. Hertel, Verzauberte Oerlichkeiten und Gegenstande in der altfranzösische erzahlende Dichtung, p. 41 ff. (Hanover, 1908).
  7. I have pointed out the curious parallel between the following passage and Dante's Vita Nova, 41 (Romantic Review, ii. 2). There is no certain evidence that Dante knew Chrétien's work (cf. A. Farinelli, Dante e la Francia, vol. i., p. 16 note), but it would be strange if he did not know such a distinguished predecessor.
  8. For the legend of Solomon deceived by his wife, see Foerster Cligès (ed. 1910), p. xxxii. f., and G. Paris in Romania, ix. 436-443, and in Journal des Savants, 1902, p. 645 f. For an additional reference, add Ipomedon, 9103.
  9. For an imitation of the following scene, see Hans Herzog in Germania, xxxi. 325.
  10. "Porz d'Espaingne" refers to the passes in the Pyrenees which formed the entrance-ways to Spain. Cf. The Cilician Gates in Xenophon's Anabasis.
  11. Chrétien here insists upon his divergence from the famous dictum attributed to the Countess Marie de Champagne by André le Chapelain: "Praeceptum tradit amoris, quod nulla etiam coniugata regis poterit amoris praemio coronari, nisi extra coniugii foedera ipsius amoris militae cernatur adiuneta". (Andreae Capellini, De Amore, p. 154; Ed. Trojel, Havniae, 1892).