Michelant: Part 6

He [Gawain] then sees a group of young men and young ladies arriving while singing, who, at his request, tell him that they are from the White Mountain, and that their lord, who has no equal, is going to Carlion to engage in single combat; he continues on his way and he meets a new group of maidens singing in chorus; upon questioning, they tell him that they belong to the most beautiful and lovable couple in the world; finally, further on, is a company of young ladies and richly dressed knights, who in their songs embellish even more the praises they give to their lord, whose splendour and arrogance annoy Gawain more and more. Gawain lets the group that precedes Escanor pass and following on his way with the firm purpose of killing him, he moves forward close to the young couple whose elegance and beauty the poet describes . . . (Omission of a quire and around 1200 lines, which recount the details and the result of the attack planned by Girfflet . . .) A maiden addresses the sharpest reproaches to the king over what has happened; during a period of amnesty and with the assurance that he had nothing to fear, Escanor has been assassinated in treason. Angered, the king vows to [xii] exact a terrible vengeance for this act; he sends knights to enquire about the murder and search for the perpetrator. They find Escanor in the hands of physicians; upon seeing them he raises a racket of simultaneous complaints and regrets, but they ignore the details of the event, except Girfflet, who understands that, if they knew him to be the perpetrator, his brother would be dishonoured; and also his accomplice keeps absolute silence for him, while Gawain feels the most intense anger at not having been able to fight his accuser. He returns to hear the mass with the king and his friends when two maidens appear, who accuse him of being the perpetrator of this murder; these new grievances plunge the court into a profound sorrow, which goes into mourning. However Kay, still preoccupied by his love, desires to return to Northumberland and takes leave of the king, who tries in vain to make him stay. On his way he passes in front of a tower built near to a deep and rapid river that he cannot cross, despite his desire to reach the other bank; he hears a horn being sounded by a hideous dwarf who lowers the drawbridge and orders him, according to established custom, to hand over his horse. Kay threatens to throw him in the water[1], but the dwarf responds by blows with his baton and Kay hesitates no longer in taking it away from him, when the master of the castle arrives, a perfidious and disloyal knight named Colivre the Proud, brother of Bruno Without Pity who challenges Kay; he struck this man dead at the first attempt and already he was regretting his impulsiveness when a young girl comes to throw herself at his feet, while thanking him for having delivered her from a villain, who had abducted her by force after having killed her father in order to avenge himself on the man for having refused his daughter . . . (short omission following which they find Kay, who is dismayed to learn that Ayglin wants to take Andrivete away to his home . . .) He arrives at Bamburgh where he finds, to his great satisfaction, his former host, called Yonnet, a very honourable knight, seneschal of the king’s daughter, detested by Ayglin because of the fondness he felt for her; since he [Ayglin] only wanted her to marry a man of lowly estate whom it would be easy to get rid of; he also had her watched and guarded closely, out of fear that she would not do homage to King Arthur, in her capacity as heiress of the regions of her father, recently dead, [xiii] and he wanted above all to prevent her from speaking to the newcomer. However, through Yonnet, the young lady had been able to warn his whole lineage, who have been eager to rush to her service. Yonnet warns Kay about Aiglin’s plans and keen to get him an interview with his beloved, he goes to find her and invites her to a meal, where after the first service, she will leave the table and go in the company of her lady to walk in the garden so as to meet Kay there. Everything being organised, the rendezvous takes place in a secluded spot: the damsel informs Kay of these goings-on and seeks his support; he confers with Yonnet who puts him on his guard against Ayglin’s underhand plans. It is agreed that Kay in returning to the court will take the most constructive measures in order to prevent the misappropriation of the inheritance that he will try hard to keep for the young lady. Indeed King Arthur is favourably disposed to his ideas, and all his friends promise him the support most efficient to realise them, with an eagerness that makes him have the highest hopes.

[1] I have translated fossé for ‘ditch’ here as water, as the space Kay is threatening to throw him in is the river he wishes to cross. It highlights an interesting link between Norse and the Norman languages, as the English ‘foss’ meaning ‘river’ comes from Old Norse, but also has a precedent in the Latin fossa.


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