Michelant: Part 4

Then a knight arrives who announces to the king that [the region of] Brittany is outraged and that they would like them to send a determined knight like Gawain promptly in order to re-establish order; this man accepts the mission; in no time he conquers the malcontents and forces them to promise by oath that in the future they will begin anything against their sovereign. But amongst the rebels are the parents of a damsel who is a very competent necromancer, who vows a mortal hatred of Gawain. She had the custom of drawing people she wanted to do away with in an ambush, by means of a goshawk trained to flutter about them and lead them little by little to the place of the ambush.

Gawain prepares to go in search of some adventure in the forest of Broceliande, when he sees the bird, which imperceptibly draws him into a forest where he is assailed by five knights lying in wait to kill him. He fights four of them, puts the fifth to flight, and arrives at a chapel where he finds a cottage that is not very comfortable at a hermit’s home. The next day, after having heard the mass, he goes on his way again, and meets the bird once more, who again tries to lead him astray like the day before; but he sees seven knights who are getting ready to attack him. One of them however who appears to be their leader, ashamed of attacking a man alone in such great numbers, remains a spectator until Gawain defeats his companions; then he starts a new fight where he is in turn vanquished by Gawain, who tells him to turn himself in as a prisoner at Arthur’s court. He learns that it is at the instigation of Brian of the Isles that he was attacked by this knight, who tells him he is called the Handsome Unknown, and (viii) seeks to dissuade him from following the goshawk, warning him that at the instigation of the damsel of Nantes, he will be assailed yet again by twenty knights. Without being frightened by the number, Gawain in following his orders anew, continues to hunt the goshawk that leads him to a new ambush where he would have run the risk of dying, if at his birth he hadn’t been endowed by a fairy with the gift of seeing his strength double after the hour of midday; this moment arriving at the end of the fight enables him to vanquish his adversaries. The damsel of Nantes amazed and charmed by such valour, offers him a gift of the enchanted bird whose qualities she reveals. Gawain proposes to give Girflet to his brother, settled in Karahez, and after having healed his wounds, he gets on the way to the Northumberland tournament, where Caradoz, the king of Ireland and the young wife of Escanor the Handsome, the leader of the White Mountain, nephew of Escanor the Great, have already gathered, who have come in all haste to fight against Gawain; but the most beautiful of the lovely ladies is Andrivete, with whom Kay falls in love. Brian of the Isles asks him which troop he wants to join, to which he responds that the party of assailants already comes to numerous champions, he gathers amongst the defenders, where wanting to seem like a new knight, he takes plain arms without marks according to custom. They both arm themselves and join the joust where Lucan has just attacked Kay who isn’t recognised by anyone. Both men fall off their horses and the fight continues with Brian of the Isles, Laiz the Bold, Hector de Maris, the son of the King of the Firth of Forth, the King of the Erses[1], Melian de Lis, the King of Scotland and Gorvain Cadruz who has just provoked Kay; at his turn this last man fights with Bisclaret who he wounds. In the lodges conversation starts up amongst the ladies, who contribute cutting observations on the subject of the champions who interest them; the conflict escalates and many knights are wounded, who will be unable to hold a lance for months at a time. Whilst withdrawing Kay is anxious to know if there will be any rivals who will take the prize away from him; a message to Brian (ix) reassures him and informs him that he will without doubt be proclaimed the victor according to all the other knights, who praise him to the envy of the knight in red armour, who is unaware that Kay wears them as well. On her part Andrivete feels seized by love for he whom until then she had little esteemed; while the knights who are outside, camped in a meadow beneath the walls of the town, rejoice for the prowess of the new knight who they regret not knowing, and they decide that the joust of the following day that should be [fought] by the sword will be begun by Yvain, according to his custom. He engages Kay in a fight who this day wears white armour; both fall from their horses, but Kay quickly remounts and goes in search of new adversaries, while Yvain is obliged to withdraw completely broken down by his fall; the melee recommences more strongly than before and people see there a great number of knights, whose arms are carefully described. The ladies at the lodges converse about the deeds of arms and one of them plagues Andrivete with mockery on the subject of her preference for Kay. The latter is downcast, but Brian has him get up and be taken care of by his healer who announces that the wound is not fatal. During this time, the knights of the Round Table push their adversaries so hard that Brian rushing to help them is obliged to give himself up as prisoner. Kay is upset then is fearful of having lost the one he loves; but Brian comes to console him and recommends on the advice of the doctor to not torment himself in order not to delay or prevent his recovery. The jousts over, the ladies and young men get together for dancing, while the mature men discuss the results of the day and the merit of the diverse winners: some gave the prize to Yvain, others to Bruno, or to Gaherit, others finally to Kay, still laid low by his wounds and fear of not having been victorious. Brian comes again to console him and tells him that he has won the heart of the lovely Andrivete, who herself comes to see him and tells him that her father is ready to give anything he could desire in his kingdom; her visits soften Kay’s shame and ills, but his timidity prevents him from expressing a love that the damsel returns without daring to declare. He takes pleasure even so in prolonging his stay (x) at Bamburgh, when he receives a message from King Arthur who commands him to come to Carlion where he has summoned all the nobility and knights of the realm; he dares not refuse and leaves without having declared a love which King Cador would have approved of. He would have willingly given his daughter to him; but he had a brother named Ayglin who rebelled against all of his forces in the hope of seizing the crown upon the death of the king and deprive him of his niece, which would be impossible if she married Kay, who would assure him the support of all the knights of the court of Arthur. But this departure causes Kay a mortal shame; also he does not dare to speak a word to his lover, who takes extreme exception to this. Arrived at court, he receives the best welcome from the king; this man nevertheless reproaches him for his conduct towards his nephew Mordrec, Dinadan and the dwarf and the damsel who accompanied them. Kay argues in his defence that he had been attacked without warning; the king replies that Mordrec accuses him of having wanted to take away his mistress, at which Kay protests; then people send him to Cardueil in order to prepare the festivities which were owed to him. However when all the court is assembled to run the quintain, a foreign knight arrives calling for Gawain who he proceeds to challenge in accusing him of having killed his first cousin in treason. The king informs him that Gawain has had to absent himself to go on an important mission, but he rejects without question the accusation of treason and disloyalty, and all the most renowned knights, Lancelot, Yvain, Gaherit, Agravain, Brandelis, and Melian join together against him to defend Gawain; they accuse the foreign knight of slander and defamation to whom the king proposes to assign a day when Gawain will appear in order to accept the sent challenge, and the limit is fixed at forty days; but instead of waiting for the time to elapse, the knight disappears without anyone being able to find his tracks.

[1] Thus far I have not found the modern equivalent of this medieval place name.

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2 Comments

Filed under introduction, language, Michelant, nineteenth-century French, summaries, translation

2 responses to “Michelant: Part 4

  1. I am already loving this story. Even the parts that sound more than a bit hazy in summary… My storytelling brain is trying to fill in the details 🙂 Thank you SO MUCH for doing this blog!!!

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    • Thanks! I think a lot of nuance is lost in Michelant’s introduction, but it does at least inform us of what’s going on in the romance. Trachsler’s edition is really helpful, so my next job is to translate his introduction and prefatory material.

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