The Book of the Duke of True Lovers Part 2

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The Book of the Duke of True Lovers is a Webnovel created by Christine de Pisan.
This lightnovel is currently completed.

Then my lady pondered awhile, and at length she said, “Certes, fair cousin, it would profit you more to have agreement with some other lady for whom to adventure knightly and brave deeds. There are here many ladies of high degree, but right certain it is that you cannot have a lady here without jeopardy of your life if you would have of her, to place on your helm, a token for the which it behoves you to go forth to do deeds of chivalry. This you should receive from your mistress and friend, and not from me, but I tell you that I am by no means willing to refuse you your request, for even more would I do for you, though I would not that any one should know of it.” Then she drew a knife from beneath her bed-hangings, and cut out the sleeve with the ermine from one of her bodices of cloth of gold, and gave it to me. And for this I gave her much thanks, and I likewise received from her the green chaplet, wherefore I was happy and joyous, and said that I would bear it on my helm, and would joust for love of her, but she must be willing to take all in good part, for I had still to learn how to do this.

Then my gracious lady was silent, without letting it be seen whether this was pleasing unto her, or whether it gave her displeasure, and more I dared not say. And I took my leave, for it was time to go.

And the dinner was made ready early on that summer’s day. We all dined hastily in our chambers, and then repaired to the meadow where the jousts were to be held, and dismounted before the gorgeous pavilions set up around. The armour was there already, and the lances were got ready, and the chargers were examined. And there you might see high saddles with stirrups, and covered with devices, white, and red, and green, and shields of many colours, and painted lances; and already there was a great a.s.semblage, in many rows, of the common folk, and much quarrelling and uproar.

And then I armed me, and made me ready, in my pavilion, but I tarried there awhile, for it fell not to me to sally forth to begin the joust.

And there were twenty of us, apparelled alike, and all akin, and we were knights prepared to joust with all comers.

[Ill.u.s.tration: _”My cousin, without long waiting, found his challenge taken up”_]

And my cousin, of whom I have before spoken, and who was very courageous, was the first in the field. To this he was well accustomed, and in such array did he enter the lists, that verily he looked like a kinsman of the king. And he had his helm laced for to tourney in proper manner; and painted lances, and banners, and much fair company were to be seen there, and, as was fitting, many a player on the pipes was to be heard, the which gave delight to all around. But of this we will say no more.

And I had caused many pavilions to be set up there for the service of strangers, where they could lodge and refresh them. And you may be a.s.sured that before the appointed hour there came thither many valiant knights who failed us not at the joust. Others, who came to look on, remained on their horses.

And my cousin, without long waiting, found his challenge taken up by a knight who touched his shield with the point of his lance, and he avoided it not, so that if it should chance unto him to be overthrown in the encounter, then must his blood be spilt.

And it was our part to be the first to take the field, and the heralds might be heard making proclamation in a loud voice of the name of this one, who was known in England and in many lands. And then five of our company sallied forth from the tents, and in nowise did they fail to joust with all comers, and of a truth each one did his duty there so exceeding well, that it is indeed right that the renown of their achievements should endure.

Then the general tourney began, and, in double file, and much increased in numbers, our company sallied forth, and, as it behoved them, tourneyed bravely. The trumpets sounded joyously, and the heralds made proclamation, and the knights on n.o.ble battle horses, and according to their several ranks, tourneyed l.u.s.tily. And my lady, and many other ladies, each one of whom was fair to look upon, twenty ladies with fair tresses, n.o.bly born, and adorned with chaplets, of whom the sovereign and mistress was her who was in my thoughts, were seated apart, in order of rank, on scaffolds richly bedecked. And, certes, they were all apparelled in gowns of white silk, broidered with gold of special design. They seemed like unto G.o.ddesses from heaven, or fairies fashioned as faultlessly as one could desire.

And you may know of a surety that many a glorious course was run that day, and, certes, it must have been not a little pleasing to those who watched such beings, since they made great endeavour to merit their regard, and to overcome each other, the better to win their favour. Thus you could here see many a thrust quickly parried, and how that one overthrew another in the shock, and another aimed at the opening of the visor, or else struck at shield or helm. One was unhelmed, or at once cast to the ground, and another came who carried him off. Lances were broken, and blows resounded, and the trumpets were sounded so loudly, that G.o.d’s thunder could not be heard. And hard blows were given on either side.

At length, with lance in rest, I sallied forth from my pavilion swifter than a merlin, well planted in the stirrup, and armed all in white on a charger, the which had a white caparison. Neither red, nor green, nor any other colour whatsoever was there, save fine gold. And there came forth with me all those of the place, and these meted out many a good blow, and all were armed in white, and the lances the which our folk bare were all of white. And I had caused the sleeve, the which my lady had given me, to be right well disposed, and fastened firmly to my helm, so that it could not be torn off. And I placed the green chaplet on my helm, and set me forth with a goodly company, for exceeding great desire had I to see my very sweet G.o.ddess.

Then, all full of gladness, I arrived at the place of jousting. And I turned my eyes to where she was, and met with her tender glance, and thus I feared not any mischance. I pa.s.sed before her, and then quickly closed my helm and went to my place. And, in her presence, a n.o.ble count forthwith brought me my lance, at the same time saying unto me that much shame would it be to me if I jousted not worthily since I bare so n.o.ble a crest.

Then, with lance lowered, being desirous that it should be rightly placed, without ado I spurred my charger against another, and you could see him come towards me. And we faltered not in the encounter, but, since it is not seemly to relate one’s own deeds, I will not here tell aught with regard to my exploits on that occasion, save that the fair one held what I performed that day so well done, that, of her grace, she gave me very great praise for it, and, in the end, she awarded the prize for those who were of the place to me, and, right joyous, I took it with the ready a.s.sent of the ladies, and thus you may know of a truth that, according to my age, I did my duty there, all the day, as much as in me lay. If I did aught that was valiant, no praise do I deserve for it, for you may know of a surety that it was love, and not I myself, which was the cause of it all. Without doubt there were to be found in this company many proven knights more doughty than myself, for, of a truth, as was well known, there were come there, from all parts, both n.o.bles and those of lesser degree who were more worthy of the prize. But I trow that the ladies did this for that they saw how eager I was, and because of this favourable disposition, I believe that when they awarded me the prize, they were really desirous that I might be constrained to joust the more readily.

And the prize which was decreed for strangers, was given to a German, an able and skilful jouster amongst a thousand.

Thus did the tournament dure all the day, and, without ceasing, fresh jousters came to it, and our men maintained themselves against all comers. And how shall I sum it all up? Every one jousted well and fairly, but the blows which were given, and by whom, and in what manner, it concerns me not to recount, for that is not what I have in view, nor what I purpose to tell.

And night came, and the joust ended. Then every one departed quickly, and all returned to the castle, where the cooks made haste with the supper. And I sent my gentlemen to those who were lodged without, as to friends, with a message that, in the name of the n.o.ble ladies, and in my own name, I earnestly besought of all gentlefolk, both strangers and neighbours, that they would come and keep festival with us. Thus on all sides I caused a knightly entertainment to be proclaimed, and that whoso would, might come and keep the feast.

Then straightway there came those of both high and low degree. There were barons from many lands, and it needs not to ask if there was a great a.s.semblage, and, certes, there were received there, with ever increasing pleasure, so many folk, that the castle was filled. And I received them with glad countenance. And there was a great number of barons and of gentlefolk from many parts, and, with right goodwill, I did honour to each one according to his rank. And the supper was plenteous and choice.

And when that we were risen from the table, the minstrels sounded their horns, and those of n.o.ble rank apparelled them for the dance, and none were there amongst them who did not wear rich broidered doublets, all sewn over with lace of beaten gold and silver, and the ladies were arrayed in like manner; in suchwise did they make ready to dance gaily.

Then merrily commenced the glad festival, at the which many a gracious lady and fair damozel courteously besought the strangers to dance, and led them forth.

Then the dancing commenced throughout the hall, and every one strove to dance gaily. But I, whom love had filled with ardent pa.s.sion, thought only of my lady, and gave no heed to this. I essayed to dance a little, so that my longing might not be perceived or known. Then I joined the elder knights, until word was brought to me to go without tarrying into the hall, for that my lady, who eagerly made enquiry for me, sent for me. And truly did I rejoice at this. So with a goodly company of gentlefolk, I turned me to the hall, where all were merry for that they vied with one another in the dance.

And when I was come to my lady, she said to me, “Fair Sir Cousin, wherefore do you not dance?”

And I made answer, “Do _you_ dance, my Lady, and thus set me the example.”

And she said that I must dance first; and so, to make commencement, I led to the dance a fair lady with a merry countenance, and escorted her round once or twice, and then led her back to her seat. Then I took my lady by the hand, and with her a.s.sent, gaily led her forth to the dance.

Thus the dance dured the most part of the night, and at last it ended, and each one retired to rest, and laid him down on fair white sheets.

But I who had lady and mistress, and who in my heart felt the torment of the desire to be loved of her with the which I was consumed, spake thus under my breath:-

ROUNDEL

Laughing grey eyes, whose light in me I bear, Deep in my heart’s remembrance and delight, Remembrance is so infinite delight Of your brightness, O soft eyes that I fear.

Of love-sickness my life had perished here, But you raise up my strength in death’s respite, Laughing grey eyes, whose light in me I bear.

Certes, by you my heart, I see full clear, Shall of desire attain at last the height, Even that my lady, through your sovereign might, May me continue in her service dear, Laughing grey eyes, whose light in me I bear.

And the day dawned, and what shall I tell concerning it? Wherefore should I longer stray from my subject without good cause? On the morrow, throughout the whole day, the esquires, who bore them fairly and well in every way, likewise jousted. And there were also twenty, clad all in green, who maintained the combat, and the ladies a.s.sembled to watch them, and to bestow the prizes. And there were twenty damsels there, apparelled in green, and they wore golden chaplets on their tresses, and were all very n.o.ble ladies, comely, and fair to look on. And during the encounter, many high-saddled chargers were overthrown, and shields were struck, and lances broken. And many a blow deserving of praise was given and endured. But I will not stay me further to give a long account of this, for it pleases me better to rehea.r.s.e that for the sake of which I began this story, and that which I thought and did and said in this love affair, about the which at that time I made great dole.

For three whole days-this is no fable-the pleasing festival dured, at the which all were made welcome and at their ease. Then the revel ended, but my lady departed not for the s.p.a.ce of a whole month. I besought of him who was her lord to grant this, and he granted it, and if that I had dared, right willingly would I have made a recompense unto him for this.

And you may know right well what joy I must needs have had from this pleasing sojourn. Each hour my only care was to devise perfectly how I could best give her diversion.

And on a day I caused baths to be made ready, and the stoves to be heated, and the tubs to be placed in white pavilions in a fitting spot.

And it chanced that I went thither when my lady was in the bath, and she received me not with pleasure, but I had perfect joy when I looked upon her fair flesh as white as a lily. Greatly did this delight me, as you who hear tell of it can well believe. On another day we went to the chase, and on another we descended down to the river to fish. In suchwise did we pa.s.s the whole month, following many gladsome pursuits.

But know that in the midst of this my happiness, love bound my heart in its toils more firmly than ever, and laid so violent hold on it, that a great desire to be loved was so kindled within me, that, ere the festival was ended, never did any other miserable being endure such stress of mind. No happiness had I if I could not see her and gaze constantly upon her, of the which I never wearied, for, as it seemed to me, never could I be enough in her presence, and moreover this mood made me so to crave after her kindly goodwill, that dolour laid grievous hold on me, and you may well believe that I was not skilled enough to know how wholly to hide the grievous sorrow I endured. And albeit I would not discover my thoughts to either man or woman, ne’ertheless so troubled was I in mind, and in such great tumult, that, in spite of myself, my face revealed my state.

I was now pensive, now merry. And like unto one forsaken, I ofttimes wept so bitterly, that I seemed to myself like to die in grievous sorrow from despair and from loss of the hope of ever gaining her love; wherefore I paled, and trembled, and reddened, and oft changed colour, and sweated from fear, and became disquieted, so that at times my courage altogether failed me, and then it oft happened that in bed I became quite calm. I neither drank nor ate meat with relish, nor could I in anywise sleep, the which threw me into such state, that I grew worse and worse. And no one knew what ailed me, for in nowise would I speak to any one of my condition, nor for my life would I confess it even to her whom I loved. Ne’ertheless she ofttimes enquired of me what ailed me, and bade me tell unto her my condition, and hide it not from her, and that I should speak to her without fear, for I must not doubt me that she would do all that in her lay to ease me.

Thus longwhiles my lady comforted me, but ne’ertheless I dared not, for all the gold in the world, make known or confess unto her the load which my heart bare, and thus, in deep thought, I wept and sighed.

And at that time I became so filled with love, that I know not what more to say concerning it, save that I had troublous and painful acquaintance with it, and from that time lacked the quiet and pleasurable peace of mind which aforetime I enjoyed, and plunged my heart into another peril, for I came to reject all solace, and to make of sorrow my very pitiless guest. Longwhiles did I remain in this state, without daring to pray for mercy, for fear of refusal. And thus, bewailing my ill-fortune, I made complaint in these words:-

BALLAD

Love, I had not ever thought Thou would’st bid thy servant share Grief to which all else is naught, Grief whereunder I despair: Thus unfaltering I declare That in death I pa.s.s away If thy saving grace delay.

In a burning pa.s.sion caught I grow faint, and may not bear All the torment it hath wrought: Thine the fault, be thine the care!

Loose me from this evil snare!

Other help is none to pray, If thy saving grace delay.

Rather had I death besought, (So without deceit I swear), Since my heart is all distraught With thy flame enkindled there.

Murmuring is not mine to dare: I must perish as I may, If thy saving grace delay.

Love, with gladness meet my prayer, Cleanse my soul and make it fair, Since in sorrow I must stay If thy saving grace delay.

[Ill.u.s.tration: _And at the end of the month it behoved my mistress …

to quit the castle_]

And at the end of the month it behoved my mistress, by reason of whom I lived in anguish, to quit the castle afore-named, for no longer could she remain there, and so she departed. Then was I truly in grievous plight, since I lost from sight the very perfect fair one without whom I could not live. Now was all my happiness ended, for longwhiles had I been used to look on her, and to be with her, at all times. But now it befell that perchance three months or four would pa.s.s ere I should hear of her, or see her, the which was very grievous unto me to endure. And I so grieved over the past, and felt such dolour at her departure, that I lost my colour, my judgment, my demeanour, and my self-command. Thus I believe that, as it might well be, many folk perceived my yearning, about which they made gossip, the which caused her disquiet. And so much did this weigh upon me, that I thought to die of grief. And when I heard it noised abroad that I loved my fair lady, my grief was the more increased, for, because of this, I had suspicion that this great friendship made discord between me and her friends, and this grief caused me very dire distress, for I much feared me that she was constrained to leave because of this, and so much did this disquiet me, that I know not how to tell of it. Howsoever, as far as in me lay, I hid my sorrowful anger better than was my wont, and, enduring great grief, sighing, I uttered these words:-

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