The bearer of this message was a courteous and prudent knight whom men called Acorionde, a man of wealth and eloquence; and he was much esteemed in the land, for he was a native of Athens.
From of old his forbears had always had very high lordship in the city. When he had heard told that the emperor was in the city he goes to contend with him for the crown on behalf of Alexander, his brother; and he cannot pardon him for that he has kept it unjustly. Straight into the palace has he come; and finds many a one who greets him fair; but he gives no answer nor does he say a word to any man who greets him; rather he waits until he may hear what will and what mind they have toward their true lord. He does not stop till he reaches the emperor; he greets him not, nor bows to him, nor calls him emperor. "Alis," quoth he, "I bear thee a message from Alexander who is out yonder in this harbour. Hear what word thy brother sends to thee: He asks of thee what is his and seeks nought that is contrary to justice. Constantinople which thou holdest ought to be his; and will be his. Neither reasonable nor right would it be that there should be discord 'twixt you twain. Take my counsel, and come to terms with him, and give him the Crown in peace; for it is right meet that thou yield it to him."
Alis replies: "Fair sweet friend, thou hast taken on thyself a foolish errand in that thou hast brought this message. No comfort hast thou brought to me, for I know well that my brother is dead. It would be a great consolation to me if he were alive and I knew it. Never will I believe it till I see him. He is dead a while ago; and that is a grief to me. Not a word that thou sayest do I believe. And if he is alive wherefore comes he not? Never need he fear that I will not give him land in plenty. He is mad if he keeps aloof from me; and if he serve me he will never be the worse for it. Never will there be any man that will hold the crown and the empire against me." Acorionde hears that the emperor's reply is not favourable; but by no fear is he withheld from speaking his mind. "Alis," quoth he, "may God confound me if the matter is left thus. On thy brother's behalf I defy thee, and on his behalf, as is meet, I exhort all those that I see here to leave thee and come over to his side. It is meet that they cleave to him; him ought they to make their lord. He who is loyal, let now his loyalty appear."
With this word he leaves the court; and the emperor, on his side, summons those in whom he most trusts. From them he seeks counsel as to his brother who thus challenges him, and seeks to know if he can fully trust them not to give support or aid to him in this attack. Thus he hopes to prove each one; but he finds not even one to cleave to him with regard to the war; rather do they bid him remember the war that Eteocles waged against Polynices, who was his own brother, in which the one killed the other with his own hands. "A like thing may chance with regard to you if you are bent on pursuing war; and the land will be ruined by reason thereof." Therefore they counsel him to seek such a peace as may be reasonable and honourable; and that the one make no unreasonable demands on the other. Now Alis hears that if he does not make a fair covenant with his brother, all the barons will desert him; and he said they will never desire an arrangement which he cannot equitably make; but he establishes in the covenant that whate'er the outcome of the matter the crown remain to him.
In order to make firm and lasting peace Alis sends one of his masters-at-arms and bids Alexander come to him and rule all the land; but that he do Alis so much honour as to allow him to keep the name of emperor and let him have the crown; thus, if he will, can this covenant be made 'twixt the twain of them. When this thing was related and told to Alexander, his folk have mounted with him and have come to Athens. With joy were they received; but it does not please Alexander that his brother should have the lordship of the empire and of the crown if he give him not his promise that never will he wed woman; but that after him, Cliges shall be emperor of Constantinople. Thus are the brothers reconciled. Alexander makes him swear; and Alis grants and warrants him that never as long as he shall live will he take wife. They are reconciled and remain friends. The barons manifest great joy; they take Alis for emperor; but before Alexander come affairs great and small. Whatever he commands and says is done; and little is done except through him. Alis has no longer anything but the name—for he is called emperor—but Alexander is served and loved; and he who does not serve him through love, must needs do so through fear. By means of love and fear he rules all the land according to his will. But he whose name is Death spares no man, weak or strong, but slays and kills them all. Alexander was destined to die; for a sickness for which there was no remedy took him in its grip; but before death came upon him he sent for his son and said: "Fair son, Cliges, never canst thou know how much prowess and valour thou shalt have if thou go not first to prove thyself at King Arthur's court on both the Britons and the French. If fate lead thee thither, so bear and demean thyself that thou remain unknown till thou hast proved thyself on the flower of the knighthood at the court. I counsel thee that thou believe me in this matter; and that if opportunity comes thou fear not to put thy fortune to the test with thy uncle, my Lord Gawain. Prithee forget not this."
After this exhortation he lived not long. Soredamors had such grief thereat that she could not live after him. For sheer grief she died when he died. Alis and Cliges both mourned for them as they were bound; but in time they ceased to mourn. For all mourning must come to an end; all things needs must cease. Ill is it to prolong mourning, for no good can come of it. The mourning has ceased; and for a long time after the emperor has refrained from taking wife, for he would fain strive after loyalty. But there is no court in all the world that is pure from evil counsel. Nobles often leave the right way through the evil counsels to which they give credence, so that they do not keep loyalty. Often do his men come to the emperor, and they give him counsel, and exhort him to take a wife. So much do they exhort and urge him, and each day do they so much beset him, that through their great importunity, they have turned him from his loyalty, and he promises to do their will. But he says that she who is to be lady of Constantinople must needs be very graceful and fair and wise, rich and of high degree. Then his counsellors say to him that they will make ready and will hie them into the German land to sue for the daughter of the emperor. They counsel him to take her; for the emperor of Germany is very mighty and very powerful and his daughter is so fair that never in Christendom was there a damsel of such beauty. The emperor grants them all their suit; and they set out on the way like folk well equipped. They have ridden in their days' journeys until they found the emperor at Ratisbon, and asked him to give his elder daughter for their lord's behalf.
The emperor was full blithe at this embassy and gladly has he promised them his daughter; for he in no wise abases himself by so doing and abates not one jot of his dignity. But he says that he had promised to give her to the Duke of Saxony; and that the Greeks could not take her away unless the emperor came and brought a mighty force, so that the duke could not do him hurt or injury on the way back to Greece.
When the messengers had heard the emperor's reply they take their leave and set out once more for home. They have returned to their lord and have told him the reply. And the emperor has taken chosen men, knights proven in arms, the best that he has found, and he takes with him his nephew, for whose sake he had vowed that he would never take wife as long as he lived. But in no wise will he keep this vow if he can win to reach Cologne. On a day appointed he departs from Greece and shapes his course towards Germany; for he will not fail for blame nor for reproach to take a wife. But his honour will wane thereby. He does not stop till he reaches Cologne where the emperor had established his court for a festival held for all Germany. When the company of the Greeks had come to Cologne there were so many Greeks and so many Germans from the north, that more than sixty thousand had to find quarters outside the town.
Great was the gathering of folk, and very great was the joy that the two emperors showed, for they were right glad to meet face to face. In the palace which was very long was the assembly of the barons; and now the emperor sent for his beautiful daughter. The maiden did not tarry. Straightway she came into the palace; and she was fair, and so well shaped, just as God Himself had made her; for it pleased Him greatly to show such workmanship as to make people marvel. Never did God who fashioned her give to man a word that could express so much beauty, that there was not in her still more beauty.
Fenice was the maiden named, and not without reason; for just as the bird Phoenix is fairest above all others and there cannot be more than one phoenix at a time, so Fenice, I deem, had no peer for beauty. It was a wonder and a marvel, for never again could Nature attain to framing her like. Inasmuch as I should say less than the truth, I will not in words describe arms nor body nor head nor hands; for if I had a thousand years to live and each day had doubled my wisdom I should still waste all my time, and yet never express the truth of it. I know well that if I meddled with it I should exhaust all my wisdom upon it and should squander all my pains; for it would be wasted pains. The maiden has hastened and has come into the palace with head uncovered and face bare; and the sheen of her beauty sheds greater light in the palace than four carbuncles would have done. Now Cliges had doffed his cloak in presence of his uncle, the emperor. The day was somewhat cloudy but so beauteous were the twain, both the maid and he, that there shot forth from their beauty a ray with which the palace glowed again, just as the sun shines bright and ruddy in the morning.
To describe the beauty of Cliges I will limn you a portrait, the traits of which shall be very briefly told. He was in the flower of his youth, for he was about fifteen years old. He was fairer and more comely than Narcissus' who saw his own reflection in the fountain beneath the elm, and loved it so much when he saw it that he died—so folk say—because he could not have it. Much beauty had he, and little wit, but Cliges had greater store of both, just as fine gold surpasses copper, and yet more than I can say. His hair seemed like fine gold and his face a fresh-blown rose. His nose was well shaped, and his mouth beautiful, and he was of great stature as Nature best knew how to frame him; for in him alone she put all at once what she is wont to dole out to each in portions. In framing him Nature was so lavish that she put everything into him all at once and gave him whatsoever she could. Such was Cliges who had in him wisdom and beauty, generosity and strength. He had the timber together with the bark, and knew more of fencing and of archery, of birds and of hounds, than Tristram, King Mark's nephew; not one grace was lacking to Cliges.
Cliges in all his beauty was standing before his uncle; and those who did not know him were in a fever to see him; and also those who do not know the maiden are eagerly straining to see her; all look at her with wonder; but Cliges, in love, directs his eyes to her secretly, and withdraws them so prudently that neither in the going or the coming of the gaze can one consider him a fool for his action. Right lovingly he regards her; but he does not pay heed to the fact that the maiden pays him back in kind. In true love not in flattery he gives his eyes into her keeping, and receives hers. Right good seems this exchange to her; and it would have seemed to her far better if she had known somewhat of his worth. But she knows no more than that she sees him fair; and if she were ever destined to love aught because of the beauty that she might see in it, it is not meet that she should set her heart elsewhere. She has set her eyes and her heart there; and he in his turn has promised her his. Promised? Nay, but given for good and all. Given? Nay, in faith, I lie; he has not, for no one can give his heart. Needs must I say it in a different fashion. I will not speak as they speak who join two hearts in one body; for it is not true, and has not even the semblance of truth to say that one body can have two hearts at once. And even if they could come together such a thing could not be believed. But, and it please you to hearken to me, I shall be able well to render you the reason why two hearts blend in one without coming together. In so far as only they blend in one, the will of each passes from one to the other, and the twain have the same desire, and because they have the same desire, there are folk who are wont to say that each of them possesses both the hearts. But one heart is not in two places. Well may their desire be the same, and yet each, always, his own heart, just as many different men can sing in harmony one song or verse; and I prove to you by this parable that one body cannot have two hearts because one knows the other's will, or because the second knows what the first loves and what he hates. A body cannot have more than one heart any more than the voices which sing in harmony, so that they seem to be but a single voice, can be the voice of one person alone. But it profits me not to dwell on this; for another task demands my care. Henceforth I must speak of the maiden and of Cliges; and ye shall hear of the Duke of Saxony who has sent to Cologne a nephew of his, a mere stripling, who discloses to the emperor what his uncle, the duke, bids him deliver—that the emperor expect not from him truce or peace if he send not to him his daughter; and let not that man feel confident on the way who thinks to take her thence with him; for he will not find the way void of foes; rather will it be right well defended against him if she is not given up to the duke.
Well did the stripling deliver his message, all without pride and without presumption; but he finds none, nor knight nor emperor, to reply to him. When he saw that they were all silent and that they did it from contempt, he is for quitting the court defiantly. But youth and audacity made him challenge Cliges to joust against him ere he departed. They mount to horse in order to tilt; on both sides they count three hundred so were equal in number. The whole palace is empty and deserted; for there remains there neither man nor woman, nor knight nor damsel, who does not go and mount on the palace roof, on to the battlements, and to the windows, to see and behold those who were to tilt. Even the princess has mounted thither, she whom Love had conquered and won to his will. She is seated at a window where she greatly delights to sit because from thence she can see him whom she has hidden in her heart, nor hath she desire to take him away from that hiding-place; for never will she love any save him. But she knows not what is his name nor who he is or of what race nor does it become her to ask; and yet she longs to hear aught whereat her heart may rejoice. Through the window she looks out on the shields where the gold shines, and on those who carry them slung round their necks, and who take delight in the jousting; but her thought and her glance she has wholly set in one direction, for she gives no thought to aught else. She is eager to gaze on Cliges and follows him with her eyes wherever he goes. And he, on his part, tilts strenuously for her before the eyes of all, only that she may hear that he is valiant and very skilful; for in any case it would be meet that she should esteem him for his prowess. He turns himself toward the nephew of the duke who rode apace, breaking many lances and discomfiting the Greeks; but Cliges, who is mightily vexed thereat, presses with all his weight on his stirrups, and rides to strike him so rapidly that the Saxon, in spite of himself, has voided his saddle-bows. There was a great stir as he rose again. The stripling rises and mounts, and thinks to avenge thoroughly his shame; but many a man thinks to avenge his shame if he is permitted, who increases it. The youth rushes towards Cliges; and Cliges lowers his lance to meet him; and attacks him with such violence that he bears him once more to the ground. Now has the youth redoubled his shame, and all his folk are dismayed thereat; for well they see that never will they leave the fray with honour; for none of them is there so valiant, that if Cliges comes attacking him he can remain in his saddle-bow to meet him. Right glad thereof are they of Germany and they of Greece when they see that their side are sending the Saxons about their business; for the Saxons depart as though discomfited, while the others pursue them with contumely until they catch them up at a stream. Many of the foe do they plunge and immerse therein. Cliges, in the deepest part of the ford, has thrown the duke's nephew, and so many others with him, that to their shame and their vexation, they flee, mournful and sad. But Cliges returns with joy, bearing off the prize for valour on both sides; and he came straight to a door which was close to the place where Fenice was standing who exacts the toll of a sweet look as he enters the door, a toll which he pays her, for their eyes have met. Thus has one conquered the other.
But there is no German whether of the north or of the south so much as able to speak who does not say: "God! who is this in whom so great beauty blooms? God! whence has the power come to him so early that he has won so great distinction?" Thus asks this man and that, "Who is this youth, who is he?" till throughout the city they soon know the truth of it, both his name and his father's, and the promise which the emperor had made and granted to him. It is already so much told and noised abroad that even the maiden hears tell of it, who had great joy in her heart thereat because now she can never say that Love has scorned her, nor can she complain of aught; for he makes her love the fairest, the most courteous, and the most valiant man that one could ever find anywhere; but she must needs have as her husband one who cannot please her; and she is full of anguish and distress thereat; for she does not know with whom to take counsel concerning him whom she desires save only with her own thoughts as she lies awake. And thought and wakefulness so deal with her that they blanch her and altogether change her complexion, so that one can see quite clearly by her loss of colour that she has not what she desires; for she plays less than her wont, and laughs less, and disports herself less; but she hides it well and denies it stoutly if any ask what ails her. Her nurse, who had brought her up from infancy, was named Thessala, and was versed in the black art. She was called Thessala because she was born in Thessaly where sorceries are made, taught, and practised; for the women who are of that country make charms and enchantments.
Thessala sees that she whom Love has in his power is wan and pale, and she has addressed her secretly. "God!" quoth she, "are you enchanted, my sweet lady dear, that you have so wan a countenance? Much do I wonder what ails you. Tell me, if you know, in what part this sickness possesses you most; for if any one can cure you of it you can rely on me, for well can I give you back your health. Well know I how to cure a man of dropsy, and I know how to cure of gout, of quinsy, and of asthma; I know so much about the water and so much about the pulse that evil would be the hour in which you would take another leech. And I know, if I dared say it, of enchantments and of charms, well proven and true, more than ever Medea knew. Never spake I a word of it to you; and yet I have brought you up till now; but never reproach yourself at all for it, for never would I have said aught to you if I had not seen for a surety that such a malady has attacked you, that you have need of my aid. Lady, tell me your malady, and you will act wisely in doing so before it gets further hold of you. The emperor has set me in charge of you that I may take care of you; and I have given such diligence that I have kept you in sound health. Now shall I have lost my pains if I heal you not of this ill. Beware that you hide it not from me, be it illness or aught else." The maiden dares not openly disclose her whole desire because she is greatly afeard that Thessala may blame and dissuade her. And yet because she hears her greatly vaunt and extol herself, and say that she is learned in enchantment, in charms and potions, she will tell her what is her case, why her face is pale and wan; but beforehand she will make her promise that she will hide it for ever and will never dissuade her.
"Nurse," quoth she, "of a truth I thought that I felt no ill; but I shall speedily think that I am sick. The mere fact of my thinking of it causes me much ill and eke alarms me. But how does one know unless he put it to the test what may be good and what ill? My ill differs from all other ills; for—and I be willing to tell you the truth of it—much it joys me, and much it grieves me, and I delight in my discomfort; and if there can be a disease which gives pleasure, my sorrow is my desire, and my grief is my health. I know not then whereof I should complain; for I know nought whence evil may come to me if it come not from my desire. Possibly my desire is a malady; but I take so much pleasure in that desire that it causes me a pleasant grief; and I have so much joy in my sorrow that my malady is a pleasant one. Thessala, nurse! tell me now, is not this sorrow which seems sweet to me, and yet which tortures me, a deceitful one? I know not how I may recognise whether it be an infirmity or no. Nurse! tell me now the name, and the manner, and the nature, of it. But be well assured that I have no care to recover in any wise, for I cherish the anguish of it exceedingly." Thessala, who was right wise as regards Love and all his ways, knows and understands by her speech that that which distracts her proceeds from Love—because she calls and names it sweet—it is certain that she loves; for all other ills are bitter save that alone which comes from loving; but Love transmutes its own bitterness into pleasure, and sweetness often turns to its opposite. But Thessala, who well knew the matter, replies to her: "Fear nought, I will tell you well both the nature and the name of your disease. You have told me, methinks, that the pain which you feel seems to you to be joy and health: of such a nature is love-sickness; for there is in it joy and sweetness. Therefore I prove to you that you love; for I find pleasure in no sickness save only in love-sickness. All other ills as a rule are always grievous and horrible; but Love is pleasant and tranquil. You love; I am fully certain of it. I regard it not as base in you; but I will hold it baseness if through childishness or folly you conceal your heart from me." "Nurse, truly you are talking to no purpose; for first I mean to be certain and sure that never by any chance will you speak thereof to any living creature." "Lady, certainly the winds will speak of it sooner than I unless you give me permission; and of this I will make you sure—that I will help you with regard to this matter, so that you may know of a surety, that by me you will have your joy." "Nurse, in that case you would have cured me; but the emperor is giving me in marriage whereat I am grievously afflicted and sad because he who pleases me is nephew of him whom I am to wed. And if this man have his joy of me, then have I lost mine; and there is no more joy to be looked for. Rather would I be torn limb from limb than that the love of Iseult and of Tristram should be renewed in the case of us twain; for of them are such mad actions told that I am ashamed to recount them. I could not reconcile myself to the life that Iseult led. Love in her became exceeding base; for her body belonged to two masters and her heart entirely to one. Thus she spent her whole life; for she never refused the two. Reason was there none in this love; but mine is ever constant; and at no cost will a partition ever be made of my body or of my heart. Never of a truth shall my body be debased; never shall there be two partners of it. Let him who owns the heart have the body also; he excludes all others from it. But this I cannot know—how he to whom my heart yields itself can have my body since my father is giving me to another; and I dare not gainsay him. And when he shall be lord of my body if he do aught with it that I do not wish, it is not meet that it welcome another. Moreover, this man cannot wed wife without breaking faith; but if he wrong not his nephew, Cliges will have the empire after his death. But if you can contrive by your arts, that this man to whom I am given and pledged might never have part or lot in me, you would have done me good service according to my will. Nurse, prithee strive that this man break not his faith; for he gave his pledge to the father of Cliges, promising just as Alexander had made him swear, that never would he take wedded wife. His pledge is about to be broken, for straightway he intends to wed me. But I cherish Cliges so dearly that I would rather be buried than that he should lose through me a farthing of the inheritance which ought to be his. May never child be born of me by whom he may be disinherited! Nurse, now bestir yourself in the matter that I may be yours for ever." Then her nurse tells her and assures her that she will weave such spells and potions and enchantments that she would be ill-advised to have concern or fear for this emperor; so soon as he shall have drunk of the potion that she will give him to drink, and they will both lie together; but however close she will be to him, she can be as secure as if there were a wall between the two of them. "But let not this and this only vex you if he has his pleasure of you in dreams; for, when he shall be sound asleep, he will have joy of you in dreaming; and will quite surely think that he has his joy of you waking, nor will he imagine that it is a dream, or vision, or falsehood. He will delight in you so that he will think he is awake while he is sleeping."
The maiden loves and approves and esteems this boon and this service. Her nurse, who promises her this, and vows to keep faith with her, puts her in good hope; for by this means she will think to come to her joy however long she have to wait. For never will Cliges be so ill-disposed to her—if he knows that she loves him; and for his sake lives so as to guard her maidenhead in order to shield for him his inheritance—as not to have some pity on her if he prove himself of a noble stock, and if he is such as he ought to be. The maiden believes her nurse, and trusts and confides in her greatly. The one vows and swears to the other that this plan will be kept so secret that never will it be known in the future. Thus the parley is ended; and when it came to the morning the emperor of Germany sends for his daughter. She comes at his command—but why should I spin out my story? The two emperors together have so arranged matters that the marriage takes place and joy begins in the palace. But I will not delay to speak of each thing severally. I will turn my tale of Thessala, who does not cease to make and mix potions.
Thessala crushes her potion; she puts therein spices in plenty for sweetening and blending. Well does she pound and mix it, and strains it till the whole is clear, and there is nought acid nor bitter there; for the spices which are in it make it sweet and of pleasant odour. When the potion was prepared, then had the day run its course, and the tables were placed for supper, and the tablecloths laid; but she delays the supper. It is Thessala's task to spy out by what device, by what messenger, she will send her potion. They were all seated at the banquet; they had had more than six courses and Cliges was serving his uncle. Thessala, who sees him serve, reflects that he is wasting his Service; for he is serving to his own disinheritance, and this is a great sorrow and anxiety to her. Then like the courteous dame that she is, she bethinks herself that she will make him to whom it will be joy and profit serve the potion. Thessala sends for Cliges, and he went straightway to her, and has inquired, and asked of her why she had sent for him. "Friend," quoth she, "at this banquet I wish to pay the emperor the flattering meed of a potion that he will greatly esteem. I will not that he drink to-night, either at supper or at bedtime, of any other drink. I think that it will give him much pleasure; for never did he taste of aught so good nor did any beverage ever cost so much; and take good care—I warn you of this—that no other drink of it because there is too little of it for that. And, moreover, I give you this advice, that he never know whence it came; but let him think it came by accident, that you found it among the presents, and that because you tested it, and perceived by the scent of its bouquet the fragrance of good spices, and because you saw that it sparkled, you poured the wine into his cup. If by chance he inquire of it, that will doubtless be the end of the matter. But have no evil suspicion anent aught that I have said; for the beverage is pure and wholesome, and full of good spices, and it may be, as I think, that at some future time it will make you blithe." When he hears that good will come of it he takes the potion and goes away; for he knows not that there is aught wrong. In a cup of crystal he has set it before the emperor. The emperor has taken the cup, for he has great trust in his nephew. He drinks a mighty draught of the potion; and now he feels the virtue of it; for it penetrates from the head to the heart, and from the heart it returns to his head, and it permeates him again and again. It saturates his whole body without hurting him. And by the time the tables were removed, the emperor had drunk so much of the beverage which had pleased him, that never will he get free of it. Each night while asleep he will be intoxicated; and yet it will excite him so much that though asleep, he will dream that he is awake.
Now is the emperor mocked. Many bishops and abbots there were at the benediction and consecration of the bed. When it was bedtime the emperor, as it behoved him, lay with his wife that night. "As it behoved him"—therein have I lied, for he never embraced or touched her though they lay together in one bed. At first the maiden trembles; for greatly does she fear and feel alarm lest the potion take no effect. But it has so bewitched him that never will he have his will of her or of another save when asleep. But then he will have such ecstasy as one can have in dreaming; and yet he will hold the dream for true. In one word I have told you all: never had he other delight of her than in dreams. Thus must he needs fare evermore if he can lead his bride away; but before he can hold her in safety a great disaster, I ween, may befall him. For when he will return home, the duke, to whom she was first given, will be no laggard. The duke has gathered a great force, and has occupied all the marches, and his spies are at the court, and inform him each day of all he wants to know, and tell him all the measures he must take, and how long they will tarry, and when they will return, through what places, and by what passes. The emperor did not long tarry after the wedding. Blithely he departs from Cologne; and the emperor of Germany escorts him with a very great company because he greatly fears and dreads the might of the Duke of Saxony.
The two emperors proceed and stop not till they reach Ratisbon; and on one evening they were lodged by the Danube in the meadow. The Greeks were in their tents in the meadows beside the Black Forest. The Saxons who were observing them were encamped opposite them. The duke's nephew was left all alone on a hill to keep a look-out, and see whether, peradventure, he might gain any advantage over those yonder or wreak any mischief upon them.
From his post of vantage he saw Cliges riding with three other striplings who were taking their pleasure, carrying lances and shields in order to tilt and to disport themselves. Now is the duke's nephew bent on attacking and injuring them if ever he can. With five comrades he sets out; and the six have posted themselves secretly beside the wood in a valley, so that the Greeks never saw them till they issued from the valley, and till the duke's nephew rushes upon Cliges and strikes him, so that he wounds him a little in the region of the spine. Cliges stoops and bows his head, so that the lance glances off him; nevertheless, it wounds him a little.
When Cliges perceives that he is wounded he has rushed upon the stripling, and strikes him straightway with such violence that he thrusts his lance right through his heart and fells him dead. Then the Saxons, who fear him mightily, all take to flight and scatter through the heart of the forest while Cliges, who knows not of the ambush, commits a reckless and foolish act; for he separates himself from his comrades, and pursues in that direction in which the duke's force was. And now all the host were preparing to make an attack on the Greeks. Cliges, all alone, without aid, pursues them; and the youths all dismayed because of their lord whom they have lost, come running into the duke's presence; and, weeping, recount to him the evil hap of his nephew. The duke thinks it no light matter; by God and all his saints, he swears that never in all his life will he have joy or good luck as long as he shall know that the slayer of his nephew is alive. He says that he who will bring him Cliges' head shall verily be deemed his friend, and will give him great comfort. Then a knight has boasted that the head of Cliges will be offered to the duke by him; let the duke but rely on him.
Cliges pursues the youths till he swooped down on the Saxons, and is seen by the knight who has engaged to carry off his head. Straightway, that knight departs and stays no longer. But Cliges has retreated in order to elude his enemies; and he returned at full gallop thither where he had left his comrades. But he has found none of them there; for they had returned to the tents to relate their adventure. And the emperor summoned Greeks and Germans alike to horse. Through all the host the barons speedily arm themselves and mount. But the Saxon knight, all armed, his visor laced, has continued to pursue Cliges at a gallop. Cliges, who never wished to have aught in common with a recreant or coward, sees him come alone. First of all the knight has assailed him with words: he stoutly calls him baseborn fellow, for he could not conceal the mind he had of him. "Fellow," quoth he, "here wilt thou leave the forfeit for my lord, whom thou hast slain. If I bear not off thy head with me, then esteem me not worth a bad Byzantine coin. I will to make the duke a present of it, for I will not accept any other forfeit in its stead. So much will I render to him for his nephew; and he will have had a good exchange for him." Cliges hears that the Saxon is abusing him as a madman and low-bred fellow. "Man," quoth he, "now defend yourself; for I defy you to take my head, and you shall not have it without my leave." Forthwith the one seeks the other. The Saxon has missed his stroke; and Cliges thrusts so hard that he made man and steed fall all in a heap. The steed falls backwards on his rider with such violence that it completely breaks one of his legs. Cliges dismounts on the green grass and disarms him. When he had disarmed him, then he dons the arms himself, and has cut off his head with the victim's own sword. When he had cut off his head, he has fixed it on to the point of his lance; and says that he will present it to the duke to whom his enemy had vowed to present Cliges' own head if he could meet him in the fight. No sooner had Cliges placed the helmet on his head, taken the shield, (not his own, but the shield of him who had fought with him), and no sooner had he mounted on the foeman's horse, leaving his own rider-less in order to dismay the Greeks, than he saw more than a hundred banners and battalions, great and fully equipped, of Greeks and Germans mingled. Now will begin a very fierce and cruel melee between the Saxons and the Greeks. As soon as Cliges sees them come, he goes straight towards the Saxons; and the Greeks exert themselves to pursue him; for on account of his arms they do not know him; and his uncle, who sees the head that he is bringing, is marvellously discomforted thereat. No wonder is it if he fears for his nephew. The whole host musters in his wake; and Cliges lets them pursue him in order to begin the melee till the Saxons perceive him coming; but the arms with which he is clad and furnished mislead them all. He has mocked at them and scorned them; for the duke and all the others as he advanced with hoisted lance, say: "Our knight is coming! On the point of the lance that he holds he is bringing the head of Cliges; and the Greeks follow after him. Now to horse to succour him!" Then they all give the rein to their horses; and Cliges spurs towards the Saxons, covering himself behind his shield and doubling himself up, his lance upright, the head on its point. Not one whit less courage than a lion had he, though he was no stronger than another. On both sides they believe that he is dead—Saxons, and Greeks and Germans—and the one side are blithe thereat; and the other side, grieved; but soon will the truth be known. For now has Cliges no longer held his peace: shouting, he gallops towards a Saxon, and strikes him with his ashen lance with the head on it, full in the breast, so that he has lost his stirrups; and he calls out, "Barons, strike! I am Cliges whom you seek. On now, bold freeborn knights! Let there be no coward, for ours is the first shock. Let no craven taste of such a dainty dish."
The emperor greatly rejoiced when he heard his nephew, Cliges, who thus addresses and exhorts them; right glad and comforted is he thereof. And the duke is utterly dumfounded, for now he knows well that he is betrayed unless his force is the greater; he bids his men close their ranks and keep together. And the Greeks, in close array, have not gone far from them, for now they are spurring and pricking. On both sides they couch their lances and meet and receive each other as it behoved them to do in such a fight. At the first encounter, they pierce shields and shatter lances, cut girths, break stirrups; the steeds stand bereft of those who fall upon the field. But no matter what the others do, Cliges and the duke meet; they hold their lances couched; and each strikes the other on his shield with so great valour that the lances, which were strong and well wrought, break into splinters. Cliges was a skilful horseman: he remained upright in his saddle, never stumbling nor wavering. The duke has lost his saddle, and in spite of himself has voided the saddle-bows. Cliges thinks to take him and lead him away captive, and mightily toils and strains; but the strength he needed was not his. For the Saxons were all around, and they rescue their duke by force. Nevertheless, Cliges leaves the field without injury; with a prize; for he leads away the duke's steed which was whiter than wool and which, for the use of a man of valour, was worth all the possessions of Octavian of Rome: the steed was an Arab one. Great joy manifest Greeks and Germans when they see Cliges mounted on it; for they had seen the worth and the perfection of the Arab; but they did not suspect an ambush nor will they ever perceive it till they receive great loss therefrom.
A spy has come to the duke with news at which he has waxed full joyous. "Duke," quoth the spy, "no man has been left in all the tents of the Greeks who can defend himself. Now can thy men take the daughter of the emperor, if thou wilt trust my words, while thou seest the Greeks desperately bent on the fight and on the battle. Give me a hundred of thy knights and I will give them thy lady-love. By an old and lonely path, I will lead them so prudently that they shall not be seen or met by Saxon or German till they will be able to take the maiden in her tent, and lead her away so unhindered that never will she be denied them." The duke is blithe at this thing. He has sent a hundred and more wise knights with the spy; and the spy has led them in such wise that they take the maiden as a prize, nor have they spent great force thereon, for easily were they able to lead her away. When they had taken her some distance from the tents, they sent her away attended by twelve of them, nor did the rest accompany the twelve far. Twelve of them lead away the maiden; the others have told the duke the news of their success. Nought else was there that the duke had desired, and straightway he makes a truce with the Greeks till the morrow. They have given and accepted a truce. The duke's men have returned; and the Greeks without any delay return, each one to his tent. But Cliges remained alone on a hill so that no one noticed him till he saw the twelve coming, and the damsel whom they were taking away at full speed and at a gallop. Cliges, who longs to gain renown, forthwith dashes in their direction, for he thinks to himself, and his heart tells him that it is not for nothing they are fleeing. The very moment that he saw them, he dashes after them; and they see him; but they think and believe a foolish thing. "The duke is following us," each one says, "let us wait for him a little; for he has left the host unattended and is coming after us very swiftly." There is not a single one who does not believe this. They all desire to go to meet him; but each desires to go alone. Cliges must needs descend into a great valley between two mountains. Never would he have recognised their insignia if they had not come to meet him, or if they had not awaited him. Six of them advanced to meet him; but soon will they have had an ill meeting with him. The others stay with the maiden and lead her on, gently, at a walking pace. And the six go at full speed, spurring incessantly through the valley. He who had the swiftest horse outstripped all the rest, crying aloud: "Duke of Saxony! God preserve thee! Duke! We have regained thy lady. Now shall the Greeks never carry her off; for she will now be given and handed over to thee." When Cliges has heard these words that the other cries out, no smile had he in his heart; rather is it a marvel that frenzy does not seize him. Never was any wild beast: leopardess, or tigress, or lioness, who sees her young taken, so embittered, and furious, and lusting, for the fight as was Cliges who cares not to live if he fail his lady. Rather would he die than not have her. Very great wrath has he for this calamity and exceeding great courage does it give him. He spurs and pricks the Arab; and goes to deal the blazoned shield of the Saxon such a blow that—I lie not—he made him feel the lance at his heart. This has given Cliges confidence. More than a full acre's measure has he spurred and pricked the Arab before the second has drawn near, for they came, one by one. The one has no fear for the other; for he fights with each singly and meets them one by one, nor has the one aid of the other. He makes an attack on the second, who thought to tell the supposed duke news of Cliges' discomfiture, and to rejoice thereat as the first had done. But Cliges recks little of words or of listening to his discourse. He proceeds to thrust his lance in his body so that when he draws it out again the blood gushes out; and he bereaves his foe of life and speech. After the two, he joins issue with a third who thinks to find him overjoyed and to gladden him with news of his own discomfiture. He came spurring against him; but before he has the chance to say a word, Cliges has thrust his lance a fathom deep into his body. To the fourth he gives such a blow on the neck, that he leaves him in a swoon on the field. After the fourth, he gallops against the fifth, and then after the fifth, against the sixth. Of these, none stood his ground against him; rather does Cliges leave them all silent and dumb. Still less has he feared and more boldly sought the rest of them. After this has he no concern about these six.
When he was free from care as regards these, he goes to make a present of shame and of misfortune to the rest who are escorting the maiden. He has overtaken them, and attacks them like a wolf, who famished and fasting rushes on his prey. Now seems it to him that he was born in a good hour, since he can display his chivalry and courage before her who is all his life. Now is he dead if he free her not; and she, on the other hand, is likewise dead; for she is greatly discomforted for him, but does not know that he is so near her. Cliges, with feutred lance, has made a charge which pleased her; and he strikes one Saxon and then another so that with one single charge he has made them both bite the dust, and splinters his ashen lance. The foemen fall in such anguish that they have no power to rise again to hurt or molest him, for they were sore wounded in their bodies. The other four, in great wrath, go all together to strike Cliges; but he neither stumbles nor trembles nor have they unhorsed him. Swiftly he snatches from the scabbard his sword of sharpened Steel; and that she who awaits his love may be right grateful to him, he encounters with lightning swiftness a Saxon, and strikes him with his sharp sword, so that he has severed from his trunk, his head and half his neck: no tenderer pity had he for him. Fenice, who watches and beholds, knows not that it is Cliges. Fain would she that it were he; but because there is danger she says to herself that she would not wish it. For two reasons is she his good friend; for she fears his death and desires his honour. And Cliges receives at the sword's point the three who offer him fierce combat; they pierce and cleave his shield, but they cannot get him into their power or cleave the links of his shirt of mail. And nought that Cliges can reach stands firm before his blow; for he cleaves and breaks asunder all; he wheels round more quickly than the top which is urged on and driven by the whip. Prowess and love entwine him and make him bold and keen in fight. He has dealt so grievously with the Saxons that he has killed or conquered them all, wounded some, and killed others; but he let one of them escape because they were a match, one for the other, and so that, by him, the duke might know his loss and mourn. But before this man left him, he prevailed upon Cliges to tell him his name; and went for his part to tell it to the duke, who had great wrath thereat. Now the duke hears of his misfortune, and had great grief and great care thereat. And Cliges leads away Fenice, who thrills and tortures him with the pangs of love; but if now he does not hear her confession, long time will love be adverse to him; and also to her if she, on her side, is silent and say not her will; for now in the hearing, one of the other, can they reveal their inmost hearts. But so much do they fear refusal that they dare not betray their hearts. He fears that she might reject him; she, on her part, would have betrayed herself if she had not feared rejection. And, nevertheless, the one betrays his thoughts to the other with the eyes if they could only have known it. They speak by glances with their eyes; but they are so craven with their tongues that in no wise dare they speak of the love which masters them. If she dare not begin it, it is no marvel; for a maiden ought to be a simple and shy creature. But why does he wait; and why does he delay, who is thoroughly bold in her behalf, and has shown dread of none but her? God! Whence comes this fear to him that he fears a single maiden, weak and timid, simple and shy? At this, methinks, I see dogs fleeing before the hare, and the fish hunting the beaver, the lamb the wolf, the dove the eagle. So would it be if the villein were to flee before his hoe by which he gains his livelihood, and with which he toils. So would it be if the falcon were to flee from the duck, and the gerfalcon from the heron, and the great pike from the minnow, and if the stag were to chase the lion; so do things go topsy-turvy. But a desire comes upon me to give some reason why it happens to true lovers, that wit and courage fail them to express what they have in their thoughts when they have leisure and opportunity and time.
You who are being instructed in Love, who faithfully uphold the customs and rites of his court, and who never broke his law whatever might have befallen you for your obedience, tell me if one can see anything which affords Love's delight but that lovers shiver and grow pale thereat. Never shall there be a man opposed to me that I do not convince of this; for he who does not grow pale and shiver thereat, who does not lose wit and memory like a thief, pursues and seeks that which is not fittingly his. A servant who does not fear his lord, ought not to stay in his retinue or serve him. He who does not esteem his lord, does not fear him; and he who does not esteem him, does not hold him dear; but rather seeks to cheat him and to pilfer somewhat of his property. For fear ought a servant to tremble when his lord calls him or sends for him. And he who commends himself to Love makes Love his master and his lord; and it is meet that he have him in Reverence; and greatly fear and honour him if he wishes to stand well with his court. Love without fear and without dread is fire without flame and without heat; daylight without sun; honeycomb without honey; summer without flowers; winter without frost; sky without moon; a book without letters. Thus do I wish to refute such an opponent; for where fear is lacking there is no love worth mentioning. It behoves him who wishes to love to fear also; for if he does not he cannot love; but let him fear her only whom he loves; and in her behoof let him be thoroughly bold. Therefore, Cliges commits no fault or wrong if he fears his lady-love. But for this fear he would not have failed forthwith to have spoken to her of love and sought her love, however the matter had happed if she had not been his uncle's wife. For this cause his wound rankles in him; and it pains and grieves him the more because he dare not say what he yearns to say.
Thus they return towards their company; and if they talk of anything, there was in their talk nothing about which they cared. Each sat on a white horse; and they rode quickly towards the army where there was great lamentation. Throughout the host they are beside themselves with grief; but they hit upon an untrue saying when they say that Cliges is dead—thereat is the mourning very great and loud. And they fear for Fenice; they deem not that they will ever have her again; and both for her and for him the whole host is in very great sorrow. But these two will not delay much longer; and the whole state of matters will take a different appearance; for already they have returned to the host and have turned the sorrow into joy. Joy returns and sorrow flies. They all come to meet them so that the whole host assembles. The two emperors together, when they heard the news about Cliges and about the maiden, go to meet them with very great joy; but each one longs to hear how Cliges had found and rescued the lady. Cliges tells them the tale; and those who hear it marvel greatly Thereat; and much do they praise his prowess and valour. But on the other side the duke, who swears and protests, is furious; and declares that if Cliges dares there shall be a single combat between the two of them; and that he will order matters in such wise, that if Cliges wins the combat, the emperor shall go away in safety, and take the maiden unhindered; but that if he kills or conquers Cliges, who has done him many an injury, let there for this be neither truce nor peace till after each has done his utmost. This the duke essays; and through an interpreter of his, who knew Greek and German, gives the two emperors to know that thus he wishes to have the battle.
The messenger delivers his message in one and the other language so well that all understood. The whole host resounds and is in an uproar about it; and men say, that never may it please God, that Cliges fight the battle; and both the emperors are in a very great alarm thereat; but Cliges falls at their feet and prays them let it not grieve them; but that, if ever he has done aught that has pleased them, he may have this battle as a guerdon and as a reward. And if it is denied him never will he for a single day be a blessing and an honour to his uncle. The emperor, who held his nephew as dear as duty bade him, with his hand raises him up from his knees and says: "Fair nephew, greatly does it grieve me that I know you to be so wedded to fighting; for after joy I expect sorrow therefrom. You have made me glad; I cannot deny it; but much it grieves me to grant this boon and send you to the battle; for that I see you yet too young. And I know you to be of such proud courage that in no wise dare I deny anything that it please you to ask; for know well that it would be done but to please you; but if my prayer availed aught, never would you take on you this burden." "Sire, you are pleading in vain," quoth Cliges, "for may God confound me if I would accept the whole world on condition that I did not fight this battle. I know not why I should seek from you a long respite or a long delay." The emperor weeps with pity, and Cliges, on his side, weeps with joy when he grants him the battle. There had he wept many a joyful tear, nor had he secured delay, nor limit of time, before it was the hour of Prime; by his own messenger was the battle announced to the duke, just as he had demanded it.
The duke, who thinks and believes and imagines that Cliges will not be able to defend himself against him, but that he will soon have slain or conquered him, quickly has himself armed. Cliges, who is longing for the battle, thinks that he need have no care as to how to defend himself against the duke. He asks the emperor for arms, and prays him to dub him knight; and, of his grace, the emperor gives him arms and Cliges takes them; for his heart is enamoured of the battle and much does he desire and long for it. He hastens full swiftly to arm himself; when he was armed from head to foot, the emperor, who was full of anxiety, goes to gird the sword on his side. Cliges mounts on the white Arab, fully armed; from his neck he hangs by the straps a shield made of elephant's bone, such that it will neither break nor split nor had it blazon or device; the armour was all white, and the steed and the harness were all whiter than any snow.
Cliges and the duke are armed, and the one has announced to the other that they will meet half-way, and that, on both sides, their men shall all be without swords and without lances, bound by oaths and their word of honour that never, as long as the combat shall last, will there be any so bold as to dare to move for any reason, any more than he would dare to pluck out his own eye. Bound by this covenant they have met, and the delay has seemed very long to each champion; for each thinks to have the glory and the joy of victory. But before there was a blow struck, the maiden, who is much concerned for Cliges, has herself escorted thither; but on this is she quite resolved: that if he dies, she will die. Never will any hope of consolation avail to deter her from dying with him; for without him life has no charm for her.
When all had come into the field, high and low, young and hoary, and the guards bad been set there, then have both champions taken their lances; and they meet in no half-hearted way, so that each breaks his lance, and both are unhorsed and fail to keep their saddles. But quickly have they risen to their feet, for they were not at all wounded, and again they encounter without delay. They play a merry tune with their swords on the resounding helms, so that their retinue are amazed; and it seems to those who watch them that the helmets are on fire and ablaze. And when the swords rebound, glowing sparks jet forth as from red-hot iron which the smith hammers on the anvil when he draws it from the furnace. Very lavish are both the warriors in dealing blows in great Store; and each has a good will to pay back quickly what he borrows; neither the one nor the other ceases from paying back capital and interest immediately, all without count and without stint. But the duke comes on in great anger, and right wroth and furious is he because he has not quelled and slain Cliges at the first encounter. He deals him a great blow, marvellous and strong, such that at his feet Cliges has fallen on one knee.
At the blow whereby Cliges fell was the emperor much amazed; he was no whit less bewildered than if he had been behind the shield himself. Then Fenice, so much was she amazed, can no longer restrain herself, whatever might come of it, from crying: "God! Aid!" as loud as ever she could. But she had called out but one word when, forthwith, her voice failed, and she fell swooning, and with arms outstretched so that her face was a little wounded. Two noble barons raised her, and have held her on her feet till she has returned to her senses. But never did any who saw her, whatever appearance she presented, know why she swooned. Never did any man blame her for it; rather they have all praised her; for there is not a single one who does not believe that she would have done the same for his sake if he had been in Cliges' place; but in all this there is no truth. Cliges, when Fenice cried, heard and marked her right well. The sound restored to him strength and courage, and be springs swiftly to his feet, and advanced furiously to meet the duke, and thrusts at him, and presses him so that the duke was amazed thereat; for he finds him more greedy for combat, more strong and agile than he had found him before, it seems to him, when they first encountered. And because he fears his onset he says to him: "Knight, so may God save me, I see thee right courageous and valiant. But if it had not been for my nephew, whom I shall never forget, willingly would I have made peace with thee, and would have released thee from the quarrel; for never would I have meddled any more in the matter." "Duke," says Cliges, "what may be your pleasure? Is it not meet that he who cannot make good his claim yield it, one of two evils; when one has to choose, one ought to choose the lesser. When your nephew picked a quarrel with me, he acted unwisely. I will serve you in the same way—be assured of it—if I ever can, if I do not receive submission from you." The duke, to whom it seems that Cliges was growing in strength every moment, thinks that it is much better for him to stop short half-way before he is altogether wearied out. Nevertheless, he does not confess to him the truth quite openly, but he says: "Knight, I see thee debonair and agile and of great courage. But exceeding young art thou: for this reason I reflect, and I know of a surety, that if I conquer and kill thee, never should I win praise or esteem thereby, nor should I ever see any man of valour in whose hearing I should dare to confess that I had fought with thee, for I should do honour to thee and shame to myself. But if those knowst what honour means, a great honour will it be to thee for ever that thou hast stood thy ground against me, even for two encounters only. Now a wish and desire has come to me, to release thee from the quarrel and not to fight with thee any longer." "Duke," quoth Cliges, "you talk idly. You shall say it aloud in the hearing of all, and never shall it be told or related that you have done me a kindness, or that you have had mercy on me. In the hearing of one and all of these who are here, you will have to declare it if you wish to make peace with me." The duke declares it in the hearing of all. Thus have they made peace and agreement; but whatever the issue of the matter, Cliges had the honour and the renown of it; and the Greeks had very great joy thereof. But the Saxons could not make light of the matter; for well had they all seen their lord exhausted and worsted; nor is there any question but that, if he had been able to do better for himself, this peace would never have been made; rather would he have rent the soul out of Cliges' body if he had been able to do it.
The duke returns to Saxony, grieved and downcast and Ashamed; for of his men—there are not two who do not hold him a conquered man, a craven, and a coward. The Saxons, with all their shame, have returned to Saxony. And the Greeks delay no longer; they return towards Constantinople with great joy and with great gladness; for well by his prowess has Cliges assured to them the way. Now the emperor of Germany no further follows or attends them. After taking leave of the Greek folk and of his daughter and of Cliges and of the emperor, he has remained in Germany; and the emperor of the Greeks goes away right glad and right joyful. Cliges, the valiant, the well-bred, thinks of his father's command. If his uncle the emperor will grant him leave, he will go to request and pray him to let him go to Britain to speak to his uncle the king; for he craves to know and see him. He sets out for the presence of the emperor, and begs him if it please him to let him go to Britain to see his uncle and his friends. Very gently has he made this request; but his uncle refuses it to him when he has heard and listened to the whole of his request and his story. "Fair nephew," quoth he, "it pleases me not that you should wish to leave me. Never will I give you this leave or this permission without great grief; for right pleasant and convenient is it that you should be my partner and co-ruler with me of all my empire."
Now there is nothing which pleases Cliges, since his uncle denies him what he asks and requests; and he says: "Fair Sire, it becomes me not, nor am I brave or wise enough to be given this partnership with you or with another so as to rule an empire; very young am I and know but little. For this reason is gold applied to the touchstone because one wishes to know if it is real gold. So wish I—that is the end and sum of it—to assay and prove myself where I think to find the touchstone. In Britain if I am valiant I shall be able to put myself to the touch with the Whetstone; and with the true and genuine assay by which I shall test my prowess. In Britain are those valiant men of whom honour and prowess boast. And he who wishes to gain honour, ought to join himself to their company; for there the honour resides and is won which appertains to the man of valour. Therefore, I ask you this leave; and know of a surety that if you do not send me thither and do not grant me the boon, then I shall go without your leave." "Fair nephew, rather do I give it you freely when I see you thus minded; for I would not have the heart to detain you by force or by prayer. Now may God give you heart and will to return soon since neither prayer nor prohibition nor force could prevail in the matter. I would have you take with you a talent of gold and of silver, and horses to delight you will I give you, all at your choice." No sooner had he said his word than Cliges has bowed to him. All whatsoever the emperor has devised and promised was at once set before him. Cliges took as much wealth and as many comrades as pleased and behoved him; but for his own private use he takes away four different steeds: one white, one sorrel, one dun, one black. But I was about to pass over one thing that must not be omitted. Cliges goes to take leave of Fenice, his lady-love, and to ask her leave to depart; for he would fain commend her to God. He comes before her and kneels down, weeping, so that he moistens with his tears all his tunic and his ermine, and he bends his eyes to the ground; for he dares not look straight in front of him, just as if he has committed some wrong and crime towards her, and now shows by his mien that he has shame for it. And Fenice, who beholds him timidly and shyly, knows not what matter brings him; and she has said to him in some distress: "Friend, fair sir, rise; sit by my side; weep no more and tell me your pleasure." "Lady! What shall I say? What conceal? I seek your permission to depart." "Depart? Why?"
"Lady! I must go away to Britain." "Tell me, then, on what quest, before I give you permission." "Lady, my father, when he died and departed this life, prayed me on no account to fail to go to Britain as soon as I should be a knight. For nothing in the world would I neglect his command. It will behove me not to play the laggard as I go thither. It is a very long journey from here to Greece; and if I were to go thither the journey from Constantinople to Britain would be very long for me. But it is meet that I take leave of you as being the lady whose I am wholly." Many hidden and secret sighs and sobs had he made on setting out; but no one had eyes so wide open or such good hearing as to be able to perceive for a certainty from hearing or sight, that there was love between the twain. Cliges, grievous though it be to him, departs as soon as it is allowed him. He goes away lost in thought; lost in thought remains the emperor and many another; but Fenice is the most pensive of all: she discovers neither bottom nor bound to the thought with which she is filled, so greatly does it overflow and multiply in her. Full of thought she has come to Greece: there was she held in great honour as lady and empress; but her heart and spirit are with Cliges wherever he turns, nor ever seeks she that her heart may return to her unless he bring it back to her, he who is dying of the malady with which he has slain her. And if he recovers, she will recover; never will he pay dear for it unless she too pay dear. Her malady appears in her complexion; for much has she changed and pale has she grown. The fresh, clear, pure hue that Nature had bestowed has wholly deserted her face. Often she weeps, often sighs: little recks she of her empire and of the wealth she has. She has always in her memory the hour that Cliges departed, the farewell that he took of her, how he changed countenance, how he blanched, his tears and his mien, for he came to weep before her, humble, lowly, and on his knees, as if he must needs worship her. All this is pleasant and sweet for her to recall and to retrace. Then to provide herself with a luscious morsel, she takes on her tongue in lieu of spice a sweet word; and for all Greece she would not wish that he who said that word should, in the sense in which she took it, have intended deceit; for she lives on no other dainty nor does aught else please her. This word alone sustains and feeds her and soothes for her all her suffering. She seeks not to feed herself or quench her thirst with any other meat or drink; for when it came to the parting, Cliges said that he was "wholly hers". This word is so sweet and good to her, that from the tongue it goes to her heart; and she stores it in her heart as well as in her mouth, that she may be the surer of it. She dares not hide this treasure behind any other lock; and she would never be able to store it elsewhere so well as in her heart. In no wise will she ever take it thence so much she fears thieves and robbers; but it is without reason that this fear comes to her; and without reason that she fears birds of prey, for this possession is immovable; rather is it like a building which cannot be destroyed by flood or by fire, and which will never move from its place. But this she knows not, and hence she gives herself agony and pain to seek out and learn something on which she can lay hold; for in divers fashions does she explain it. She holds debate within herself; and makes such replies as these: "With what intention did Cliges say to me 'I am wholly yours' if love did not cause him to say it? With what power of mine can I sway him, that he should esteem me so highly as to make me his lady? Is he not fairer than I, of much nobler birth than I? I see nought but his love that can bestow on me this gift. From my own case, for I cannot evade the scrutiny, I will prove, that if he had not loved me he would never have called himself wholly mine; for just as I could not be wholly his, nor could in honour say so if love had not drawn me to him, so Cliges, on his side, could not in any wise have said that he was wholly mine if love has him not in his bonds. For if he loves me not, he fears me not. Love, which gives me wholly to him, perhaps, gives him wholly to me; but this thought quite dismays me, that the phrase is one in common use and I may easily be deceived; for many a man there is who in flattery says, even to strangers: 'I am quite at your service, I, and whatsoever I have.' And such men are more mocking than jays. So I know not what to think; for it might well be that thus he spake to flatter me. But I saw him change colour and weep right piteously. To my mind his tears, his shamefaced and cast-down countenance, did not come from deceit; no deceit or trickery was there. The eyes from which I saw the tears fall did not lie to me. Signs enow could I see there of love if I know aught of the matter. Yea! I grant that evil was the hour in which I thought it. Evil was the hour that I learnt it, and stored it in my heart; for a very great misfortune has happed to me from it. A misfortune? Truly, by my faith! I am dead, since I see not him who has flattered and cajoled me so much that he has robbed me of my heart. Through his deceit and smooth words, my heart is quitting its lodging and will not stay with me, so much it hates my dwelling and my manor. Faith! then, he who has my heart in his keeping has dealt ill with me. He who robs me and takes away what is mine, loves me not; I know it well. I know it? Why then did he weep? Why? It was not for nothing, for he had reason enow. I ought to apply nought of it to myself because a man's sorrow is very great at parting from those whom he loves and knows. I marvel not that he had grief and sorrow, and that he wept when he left his acquaintances. But he who gave him this counsel to go and stay in Britain could have found no better means of wounding me to the heart. One who loses his heart is wounded to the heart. He who deserves sorrow ought to have it; but I never deserved it. Alas! Unhappy that I am! Why, then, has Cliges slain me without any fault of mine? But in vain do I reproach him; for I have no grounds for this reproach. Cliges would never, never, have forsaken me—I know this well—if his heart had been in like case with mine. In like case I think it is not. And if my heart has joined itself to his heart, never will it leave it, never will his go whither without mine; for mine follows him in secret so close is the comradeship that they have formed. But to tell the truth the two hearts are very different and contrary. How are they different and contrary? His is lord, and mine is slave; and the slave, even against his own will, must do what is for his lord's good and leave out of sight all else. But what matters it to me? He cares nought for my heart or for my service. This division grieves me much; for thus the one heart is lord of the two. Why cannot mine, all alone, avail as much as his with him? Thus the two would have been of equal strength. My heart is a prisoner; for it cannot move unless his moves. And if his wanders or tarries, mine ever prepares to follow and go after him. God! Why are not our bodies so near that I could in some way have fetched my heart back? Have fetched it back? Poor fool! If I were to take it from where it is lodged so comfortably, I might kill it by so doing. Let it stay there. Never do I seek to remove it; rather do I will that it stay with its lord until pity for it come to him; for rather there than here will he be bound to have mercy on his servant because the two hearts are in a strange land. If my heart knows how to serve up flattery as one is bound to serve it up at court, it will be rich before it returns. He who wishes to be on good terms with his lord and to sit beside him on his right, as is now the use and custom, must feign to pluck the feather from his lord's head, even when there is no feather there. But here we see an evil trait: when he flatters him to his face, and yet his lord has in his heart either baseness or villainy, never will he be so courteous as to tell him the truth; rather he makes him think and believe that no one could be a match for him in prowess or in knowledge; and the lord thinks that the courtier is telling the truth. He who believes another anent some quality which he does not possess knows himself ill; for even if he is faithless and stubborn, base and as cowardly as a hare, niggardly and foolish and malformed, worthless in deeds and in words, yet many a man who mocks at him behind his back, extols and praises him to his face; thus then the courtier praises him in his hearing when he speaks of him to another; and yet he pretends that the lord does not hear what they are speaking about together, whereas if he really thought that the lord did not hear, he would never say aught whereat his master would rejoice. And if his lord wishes to lie, he is quite ready with his assent; and whatever his lord says, he asserts to be true; never will he who associates with courts and lords be tongue-tied; his tongue must serve them with falsehood. My heart must needs do likewise if it wishes to have grace of its lord; let it be a flatterer and cajoler. But Cliges is such a brave knight, so handsome, so noble, and so loyal, that never will my heart be lying or false, however much it may praise him; for in him is nothing that can be mended. Therefore, I will that my heart serve him; for the peasant says in his proverb: 'He who commends himself to a good man is base if he does not become better in his service'." Thus Love works on Fenice. But this torment is delight to her, for she cannot be wearied by it.
And Cliges has crossed the sea and has come to Wallingford. There he has demeaned himself in lordly fashion in a fine lodging at a great cost, but he thinks ever of Fenice; never does he forget her for an hour. In the place where he sojourns and tarries, his retinue, as he had commanded, have inquired and questioned persistently till they heard told and related that the barons of King Arthur and the king, himself, in person, had set on foot a tournament in the plains before Oxford which is near Wallingford. In such wise was the joust arranged that it was to last four days. But Cliges will be able to take time to arm his body if he lacks anything meanwhile; for there were more than fifteen whole days to the tournament. He speedily sends three of his squires to London, and bids them buy three different sets of armour: one black, another red, the third green; and as they return he bids that each set of arms be covered with new canvas, so that if anyone meets them on the way he may not know what will be the hue of the arms which they will bring. The squires now set out, 90 to London, and find ready all such equipment as they seek. Soon had they finished, soon did they return; they have come back as soon as they could. They show to Cliges the arms that they had brought; and he praises them much. With these that the emperor gave him on the Danube when he dubbed him knight, he has them stored away and hidden. If anyone now were to ask me why he had them stored away, I would not answer him; for in due time it will be told and related to you, when all the high barons of the land who will come there to gain fame will be mounted on their steeds. On the day that was devised and appointed, the barons of renown assemble. King Arthur, together with the lords whom he had chosen from out the good knights, lay before Oxford. Towards Wallingford went the greater part of his chivalry. Think not that I tell you in order to spin out my tale: such and such kings were there, such and such counts, and such and such others. When the barons were to meet, a knight of great prowess of King Arthur's peers rode out all alone between the two ranks to begin the tourney, as was the custom at that time. But none dares ride forward to come and joust against him. There is none who does not stay where he is; and yet there are some who ask: "Why do these knights wait? Why does none ride forth from the ranks? Surely someone will straightway begin." And on the other side they say: "See ye not what a champion our adversaries have sent us from their side? Let him who has not yet known it know that, of the four bravest known, this is a pillar equal to the rest." "Who is he, then?" "See ye him not? It is Sagremors the Lawless." "Is it he?" "Truly, without doubt." Cliges, who hears and hearkens to this, sat on Morel, and had armour blacker than a ripe mulberry: his whole armour was black. He separates himself from the others in the rank and spurs Morel who comes out of the row; not one is there who sees him but says to his neighbour: "This man rides well with feutred lance; here have we a very skilful knight; he bears his arms in the right fashion; well does the shield at his neck become him. But one cannot but hold him mad as regards the joust he has undertaken of his own accord against one of the bravest known in all this land. But who is he? Of what land is he a native? Who knows him?" "Not I!" "Nor I!" "But no snow has fallen on him! Rather is his armour blacker than monk's or priest's cape." Thus they engage in gossip; and the two champions let their horses go; for no longer do they delay because right eager and aflame are they for the encounter and the shock. Cliges strikes so that he presses Sagremors' shield to his arm, and his arm to his body. Sagremors falls at full length; Cliges acts irreproachably, and makes him declare himself prisoner: Sagremors gives his parole. Now the fight begins, and they charge in rivalry. Cliges has rushed to the combat, and goes seeking joust and encounter. He encounters no knight whom he does not take or lay low. On both sides he wins the highest distinction; for where he rides to joust, he brings the whole tourney to a standstill. Yet he who gallops up to joust with him is not without great prowess; but he wins more renown for standing his ground against Cliges than for taking prisoner another knight; and if Cliges leads him away captive, yet he enjoys great distinction for merely daring to withstand him in the joust. Cliges has the praise and distinction of the whole tournament. And even secretly he has returned to his lodging so that none of them might accost him about one thing or another. And in case any one should have search made for the lodging marked by the black arms, he locks them up in a room so that they may neither be found nor seen; and he has the green arms openly displayed at the door, fronting the road so that the passers by shall see them. And if any asks for him and seeks him, he will not know where his lodging will be, since he will see no sign of the black shield that he seeks. Thus Cliges is in the town and hides himself by such a device. And those who were his prisoners went from end to end of the town asking for the black knight; but none could tell them where he was. And even King Arthur sends up and down to seek him; but all say: "We did not see him after we left the tourney and know not what became of him." More than twenty youths whom the king has sent seek him; but Cliges has so utterly blotted out his tracks that they find no sign of him. King Arthur crosses himself when it was recounted and told him, that neither great nor small is found who can point out his dwelling any more than if he were at Qesarea, or at Toledo, or in Candia. "Faith!" quoth he, "I know not what to say in the matter, but I marvel greatly thereat. It was perhaps a ghost that has moved among us. Many a knight has he overthrown today; and he bears away the parole of the noblest men who will not this year see home or land or country; and each of whom will have broken his oath." Thus the king spake his pleasure though he might very well have kept silence in the matter.
Much have all the barons spoken that night of the black knight, for they spoke of nought else. On the morrow they returned to arms, all without summons and without entreaty. Lancelot of the Lake has dashed forth to make the first joust; for no coward is he; with upright lance he awaits the joust. Lo! Cliges, greener than meadow grass, galloping on a dun, long-maned steed. Where Cliges pricks on the tawny steed, there is none, whether decked with youth's luxuriant locks or bald, who does not behold him with wonder; and they say on both sides: "This man is in all respects much nobler and more skilful than he of yesterday with the black arms, just as the pine is fairer than the beech, and the laurel than the elder. But not yet have we learned who he of yesterday was; but we will learn this very day who this one is. If anyone know it, let him tell us." Each said: "I know him not, never did I see him before to my thinking. But he is fairer than the knight of yesterday and fairer than Lancelot of the Lake. If he were arrayed in a sack and Lancelot in silver and gold, yet this man would still be fairer." Thus all side with Cliges; and the two prick their steeds as fast as they can spur and encounter one another. Cliges proceeds to deal such a blow on the golden shield with the painted lion, that he hurls its bearer from the saddle and fell on him in order to receive his submission. Lancelot could not defend himself and has given his parole. Then the noise and the din and the crash of lances has begun. Those who were on Cliges' side have all their trust in him; for he whom he strikes after due challenge given will never be so strong but that he must needs fall from his horse to the ground. Cliges, this day, wrought so bravely, and threw down and captured so many, that he has pleased those on his side twice as much, and has had twice as much praise from them as he had the day before. When evening has come he has repaired to his lodging as quickly as he could; and speedily bids the red shield and the other armour be brought forth. He orders that the arms which he bore that day be stowed away; the landlord has carefully done it. Long have the knights whom he had captured sought him that night Again; but no news do they hear of him. The greater part of those who speak of him at the inns laud and praise him.
Next day the knights return to arms, alert and strong. From the array before Oxford rides out a knight of great renown; Percival the Welshman, was he called. As soon as Cliges saw him ride forth and heard the truth as to his name—for he heard him called Percival—he greatly longs to encounter him. Forthwith has he ridden forth from the rank on a sorrel, Spanish steed; and his armour was red. Then they, one and all, regard him with great wonder, more than they ever did before and say that never before did they see so comely a knight. And the two prick forward at once; for there was no delay. And the one and the other spurs on so that they give and take mighty blows on their shields. The lances, which were short and thick, bend and curve. In the sight of all who were looking on, Cliges has struck Percival, so that he smites him down from his horse, and makes him give parole without much fighting, and without great ado. When Percival had submitted, then they have begun the tourney; and they all encounter together. Cliges encounters no knight but he fells him to the ground. On this day one could not see him a single hour absent from the fight. Each for himself strikes a blow at Cliges as though at a tower: not merely two or three strike, for then that was not the use or custom. Cliges has made an anvil of his shield; for all play the smith and hammer upon it and cleave and quarter it; but none strikes upon it but Cliges pays him back, and throws him from his stirrups and saddle; and no one, except a man who wished to lie, could have said on his departure that the knight with the red shield had not won that whole day. And the best and most courteous would fain have his acquaintances, but that cannot be so soon; for he has gone away, secretly, when he saw that the sun had set; and he has had his red shield and all his other armour taken away; and he has the white arms brought in which he had been newly knighted; and the arms and the steed were placed in front of the door. But now they begin to perceive (for the greater part who speak of it say so, and perceive it to be so), that they have all been discomfited, and put to flight by a single man, who each day changes his outward show, both horse and armour, and seems another than himself; they have now for the first time perceived it. And my lord Gawain has said that never before did he see such a jouster; and because he would fain have his acquaintance and know his name, he says that he will be first tomorrow at the encounter of the knights. But he makes no boast; rather he says that he thinks and believes that Cliges will have the best of it and will win the renown when they strike with lances; but with the sword, perhaps, Cliges will not be his master; for never could Gawain find his master. Now will he prove himself tomorrow on the strange knight, who every day dons different armour and changes horse and harness. Soon he will be a bird of many moltings if thus daily he makes a practice of taking off his old feathers and putting on new ones. And thus Gawain too doffed his armour, and put on other, and the morrow he sees Cliges return, whiter than lily-flower, his shield held by the straps behind it, on his trusty, white, Arab steed, as he had devised the night before. Gawain, the valiant, the renowned, has not gone to sleep on the field; but pricks, and spurs, and advances, and puts forth all his utmost efforts to joust well if he finds any with whom to joust. Soon both will be on the field for Cliges had no wish to delay; for he had heard the murmur of those who say: "It is Gawain who is no weakling, afoot or on horseback. It is he with whom none dares to measure himself." Cliges, who hears the words, charges into the middle of the field towards him; both advance and encounter with a spring more swift than that of a stag who hears the baying of dogs barking after him. The lances strike on the shields; and so mighty is the crash of the blows, that to their very ends they shatter into splinters, and split, and go to pieces; and the saddle-bows behind, break; moreover, the saddle-girth and breast harness burst. They both alike fall to the ground and have drawn their naked swords. The folk have pressed round to behold the battle. King Arthur came in front of all to separate and reconcile them; but they had broken and hewn in pieces the white hauberks, and had cleft through and cut up the shields, and had fractured the helmets before there was any talk of peace.
The king had gazed at them as long a time as it pleased him; and so did many of the others who said that they esteemed the white knight no whit less in arms than my lord Gawain; and up till now they could not say which was the better, which the worse, nor which would overcome the other if they were allowed to fight till the battle was fought out. But it does not please or suit the king that they do more than they have done. He advances to part them and says to them: "Withdraw! If another blow be struck, it will be to your harm. But make peace. Be friends. Fair nephew Gawain, I entreat you; for it does not become a valiant man to continue a battle or fight where he has no quarrel or hatred. But if this knight would come to my court to pass his time with us, it would be no grievance or hurt to him. Pray him to do so, nephew." "Willingly, Sire." Cliges seeks not to excuse himself from this; willingly he consents to go thither when the tourney shall end; for now he has carried out to the uttermost his father's command. And the king says that he cares not for a tournament which lasts long; well may they straightway leave it. The knights have dispersed, for the king wishes and commands it. Cliges sends for all his armour, for it behoves him to follow the king. With all speed he may have, he comes to the court; but he was attired well beforehand and garbed after the French fashion.
As soon as he came to court each hastens to meet him, for neither one nor the other remains behind; rather they manifest the greatest possible joy and festivity. And all those whom he had taken in the jousting acclaim him lord; but it is his wish to disclaim it to all of them; and he says, that if they think and believe that it was he who took them, they are all absolved of their pledge. There is not a single one who did not say: "It was you, well we know it. We prize highly your acquaintance, and much ought we to love you, and esteem you, and acclaim you, lord, for none of us is a match for you. Just as the sun puts out the little stars, so that their light is not visible in the clouds where the rays of the sun shine forth, so our deeds pale and wane before yours; and yet our deeds were wont to be greatly renowned throughout the world." Cliges knows not what reply to make to them; for it seems to him that one and all of them praise him more than they ought. Though it is very pleasant to him yet he is ashamed of it. The blood rises into his face, so that they see him all ashamed. They escort him through the hall, and have led him before the king; but they all cease to address to him the language of praise and flattery. Now was it the set hour for eating, and those whose business it was, hastened to set the tables. They have set the tables in the palace: some have taken napkins, and others hold basins and give water to those who come. All have washed; all are seated. The king has taken Cliges by the hand and set him before him; for fain will he know this very day who he is, if at all he may. No need is there to speak of the food, for the dishes were as plentiful as though one could have purchased an ox for a farthing.