Book I, Canto XII, Part 3

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto XII, Stanzas 41-60

41
The path led up a narrow, dang’rous slope,
Nor without clamor was the gate unbarred.
Few were the times that saw that gateway ope,
Sometimes by Toil, but more oft by Fraud.
Many are they who towards the portal grope,
But few to find it open are well-starred.
Prasildo found it open on that day,
Because one-half the branch he’d had to pay.

42
Leaving that place, he rides on swift and steady,
Now judge, Sir Knight, if happy he him deemd,
Who longed to be in Babylon already,
And each day to him like a hundred seemed.
Through Nubia, for quicker travel, sped he,
His boat soon through Arabian waters streamed.
By night and day he sped so far and fast,
That into Babylon he came at last.

43
He sends his squire to the lady how
Her will is done, her knight is faithful still,
And, when she wishes to behold the bough,
She need but name what place and time she will,
And to remind her that the time is now
When likewise she her promise must fulfill,
And if her plighted word she altereth,
She may be certain she will cause his death.

44
What pain at heart, and how much cause to mourn
This woeful message brings Tisbina bright!
She throws herself upon her bed, forlorn.
To her there comes no rest by day or night.
“Alas for me!” she says, “Why was I born?
Or in the cradle could I not have died?
Death is the remedy for ev’ry ill,
But not for mine; my word I must fulfill.

45
“For if I slay myself with my own hand,
My oath is broken and I am a coward.
How foolish was I not to understand
That there is nothing that’s beyond Love’s power.
Beneath his sway are sky and sea and land,
With rule o’er mind and body he’s endowered.
Prasild came back alive, and sore I rue it;
Who would have ever thought that he could do it?

46
“Luckless Iroldo, ah, what wilt thou do,
When thy Tisbina is forever lost
And thine own fault it is that thou must rue,
Thy plan the cause that by distress I’m tossed.
Ah, luckless wretch, why wilt thou speak words new?
Thy words already had so great a cost.
Such woe has come from what my mouth said then,
I swear I’ll never make an oath again!”

47
Iroldo came, and heard his love lament,
And saw her lying face-down on her bed,
Because she had a message to him sent,
To come at once, where all her woes she said.
Without a word, across the bed he leant,
And took her in his arms; she laid her head
Upon his breast, and neither one could speak,
Nor any other thing could do but weep.

48
They seemed two blocks of ice beneath the sun,
For down their faces ran such woeful tears.
They tried to speak, but only sobs would come,
But finally, Iroldo’s voice appears:
“What grieves me most is that what I have done
Has brought such pain to thee, my love, my dear.
For nothing hath the power to be a spite
To me, which is to thee a sweet delight.

49
“But thou art well aware, my love, my all,
For thou such wisdom hast and such discretion,
That if once Love to Jealousy should fall,
The world knows not a more intensive passion.
This misadventure grieves me more than gall,
For our unhappiness myself have fashioned.
‘Twas I and I alone who made thee swear;
‘Tis I alone deserve the pain to bear.

50
“’Tis I alone who ought to be in pain,
Who did induce thee to thy woeful plight.
But still, I beg thee, as thou bliss wouldst gain,
And by the love which gave me once delight,
That thou wilt keep thine honor without stain,
And let Prasildo with reward be dight
For his great enterprise and perils vast,
Which at thy bidding he has overpassed.

51
“But please, oh, grant it not till I am dead,
For I am sure I shall not last the day.
Let Fortune heap up wrongs upon my head
But never living shall I see thee stray
And down in Hell I shall be comfortéd,
Knowing I made thee happy for a day;
But when I know thou art no longer mine,
Though I be dead, I’ll die a second time.”

52
He would have ‘plained his sorrow even more,
But his voice broke, he was so much distressed;
He stands insensible, and stunned, so sore
His grief; his heart beat high within his chest.
And fair Tisbina no less sorrow bore.
Woe of all color did her face divest.
But, turning now to look upon her love,
She spoke, as soft and gentle as a dove:

53
“Thinkest thou, such a fickle heart is mine,
That I could live without thee anywhere?
And what hath happened to that love of thine,
Of which so often thou wast wont to swear,
That if you hadst a heaven, or all nine,
Thou couldst not stand to live without me there?
And now thou thinkest thou wilt live in Hell,
And leave me wretched upon Earth to dwell?

54
“I am and have been thine since first we met,
And shall be thine beyond the gates of death,
If after dying, Love surviveth yet,
And mem’ry in the soul still lingereth.
It never shall of me be writ or said,
‘Another man Tisbina comforteth.’
‘Tis true that at thy death I shall not cry,
For at the news, immediately I’ll die.

55
“But hearken now, for I have found a way
That I may keep my promise to Prasild.
That curséd promise, which shall soon me slay;
Once it’s fulfilled, myself to death I’ll yield.
Together in the afterlife we’ll stay
While in one tomb our bodies lie concealed.
I beg thee, by the love thou bearest me,
To let me die the self-same time as thee.

56
“This shall be finished through a pleasant poison,
The which in such a manner hath been brewed,
That slowly from our bodies leaves the foison,
And in five hours with life they’re not imbued.
Time for Prasild to see the face he joys in,
And I shall keep my honor whitely hued,
And soon thereafter, with my death shall cease
All of the evils that disturb our peace.

57
And thus, and thus, they do their death ordain,
Two hapless lovers, to each other dear.
They stand, their faces by their grieving stained,
Now more then ever are they choked with tears.
Nor wish they ought, but only to remain
Together. Oft they clasp each other near.
At last Tisbina for the poison sent,
And to an agéd doctor’s shop she went.

58
The doctor gave to her a little vial,
And would not take of her a thing in fee.
Iroldo, when he stared at it a while,
Began, “No other path is offered me,
To change my darling’s sorrows to a smile.
Ah, Fortune, safely may I mock at thee,
For Death has power greater far than thine,
And thy dominion soon I’ll leave behind.”

59
He swallows half the contents of the flask,
Nor hesitates to drunk the poison sweet.
But not yet to Tisbina’s hand it passed.
He had no fear himself his death to meet,
But did not wish to make hers come more fast;
But when he saw the tears run down her cheek,
He stared down at the ground, and passed the drink,
And seemed to be already on death’s brink,

60
Not from the toxin, but alone from woe,
That she whom he so dearly loved must die.
Tisbin, with icy heart and motion slow,
And trembling hand, lifts up the vial high.
She blasphemes Fate and Love that forced her so
Unto this cruel end. She brings it nigh
Her ruby lips, and swallows ev’ry drop,
Then on the floor she lets the vial drop.

Notes

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The Legend of Auberi le Bourguignon

The legend of Auberi le Bourguignon survives in only one version: a 12th century chanson de geste of over 20,000 lines. There is no English translation, and no full edition. A summary of this absurdly long romance follows, based on the description by Paulin Paris, Histoire littéraire de la France, volume XXII:

AUBERI LE BOURGUIGNON

Auberi is the son of Basin of Geneva and Erembor. Basin has received the duchy of Bourgogne from Charles Martel after the death of Girart of Roussillon. Basin has a brother, Henri d’Autun, and a brother-in-law, Eude of Langres. Henri and Eude hate Auberi, desiring his inheritance. After Erembor dies, they ally with Basin’s second wife, Hermesend of Turin to betray Basin, and invite the Lombards to invade Bourgogne. Basin is captured and thrown into a dungeon in Pavia.

Henri becomes young Auberi’s guardian, but the boy murders Henri’s two sons in revenge. He then steals Henri’s best horse and flees to Count Eude, whose two sons he also kills. Auberi next flees to the Ermenal-Ville, fief of Raoul, who has wed a bastard daughter of Basin’s. Raoul dubs Auberi a knight, gives him his son Gascelin as squire, and then sends him on his way, for he cannot protect him from Eude. Auderi and Gascelin take refuge with King Orri of Bavaria. Unfortunately, Queen Guiborc (sister of Charles Martel) and Princess Seneheut both fall in love with Auberi. The princes Congre and Malassis decide to resolve this situation by killing Auberi, but are slain by him for their pains. Auberi and Gascelin flee to Flanders, where the Count is in need of soldiers. This time, the Countess falls in love with Auberi. The author was either from Flanders or knew it very well, and he fills this passage with details about the local cities. Auberi accepts the Countess’ favors, considers killing the Count before Gascelin talks him out of it, and instead saves Flanders from the Frisians. A string of ruses to dupe the Count follow, bearing much resemblance to Renart the Fox’s affair with Hersent the she-wolf. Nonetheless, Auberi grows weary of this life, and returns to Bavaria, where King Orri pardons him everything in order to obtain his help in a war against the Frisians and the Russians. Orri is captured in battle, and paraded in front of the castle, with a demand that the city surrender, or he will be executed. Orri shouts to Guiborc not to abandon the castle, but to let him die. Orri is executed, but nonetheless the Saracens storm the city, imprisoning the Queen and the Princess.

Auberi, meanwhile, has gone home to plan his revenge on his uncles, but when he hears the news from Bavaria, he hurries to rescue the women. Seneheut has by now fallen in love with Gascelin instead, so there is no objection to Queen Guiborc marrying Auberi and crowning him King of Bavaria. Auberi has lost his horse, Blanchart, however, in the rescue attempt, and is not quite sure that the reward is worth it.

One morning, Guiborc gets up early to go to church and pray for King Orri’s soul. Auberi, waking up sometime later, thinks she must have left his bed to have an affair, and goes out to the garden to curse and lament. Guiborc returns, sees the bed empty, and thinks he must be out having an affair. Luckily, they run into each other, and all is explained.

Auberi goes hunting, and chases a wild boar out of his domains, whereupon he is ambushed by Anseis, vassal of Count Eude. An long, long series of battles follows, in the course of which Auberi captures Anseis and is about to hang him, when his son Gauteron offers to die in his father’s stead. Auberi is so touched that he spares both their lives. Auberi also captures Eude, and pardons him. Basin dies in prison, and Gascelin is given the Duchy of Bourgogne in fee. Thus we come to the end of the introduction, by Paris’ reckoning.

Gascelin and Seneheut, though in love, are not yet married, as King Auberi wishes for the squire to prove himself by helping him conquer Bourgogne. Tidings of Princess Seneheut’s beauty reach the ears of Lambert d’Oridon, a bandit chief living in the Forest of Arden. He mounts his good horse Papillon, packs up some of his magnificent treasury, and travels to Auberi’s court, pretending to be his long-lost cousin. He says he is bound for the Holy Land, and wishes to leave his goods in the charge of his “cousin.” Despite Guiborc’s misgivings, Auberi agrees to travel to Oridon to see the castle he will be safeguarding. Lambert entertains him lavishly, and Auberi drifts to sleep as a minstrel sings the song of Floovent. Lambert hustles him into bed and lays a beautiful damsel (his nieces) on either side of him. In the morning, Lambert bursts into Auberi’s room and is shocked, shocked, at what he sees, and threatens most dire threats. Auberi pleads for his life, which Lambert grants on condition that he be given Seneheut’s hand in marriage. Auberi swears to bring Seneheut to a certain abbey for the wedding.

Auberi returns home and announces to Seneheut that Gascelin is waiting to marry her in the abbey. Not until they are nearly there does she learn the truth. Auberi apologizes, but must keep his word. Luckily, the armies of Bavaria and Burgundy arrive with him, Seneheut is rescued from the abbey promptly upon entering it, and she returns home to marry Gascelin.

The army lays siege to Oridon, and after a long war, King Pepin the Short intervenes. Auberi is glad to make peace, Lambert is eager to feign peace, but Gascelin still wishes revenge. Lambert gets wind of this, as the three of them are in Paris with King Pepin. As a sign of reconciliation, Lambert trades mantels with Auberi. Gascelin, ignorant of the transaction, stabs his uncle from behind as he prays at Saint-Denis, mortally wounding him. Auberi dies and is buried in Bourguignon with much pomp and honour.

Paulin Paris claims the poet would have done well to end the story here. He did not, however, and a long, long war follows. At some point during the siege of Oridon (Paris does not specify if it is this siege or the previous one) a necromancer named Roger summons a demon to rescue two of Lambert’s prisoners and bring them back to the Burgundians. At the end of the final siege Lambert flees Oridon, hotly pursued by Gascelin. Lambert passes through Paris, persuades the governor not to let Gascelin into the city, and takes the south road towards Corbeil, seeking King Pepin. Gascelin, furious at being locked out, fords the Seine on his horse, catches up with Lambert, and slays him in single combat, at a place ever after called Pré Lambert. Gascelin becomes king of Bavaria, and begets Naimes, the future counsellor of Charlemagne.

Origin of the Legend

Boson (c. 850 -887), Count of Bourgogne and Pavia, was made King of Arles by Charles the Bald. His second wife was Ermengard, daughter of Emperor Louis II. In the civil wars, Kings Louis and Carloman expelled him from Vienne. Boson had a son named Louis the Blind, and a daughter who was betrothed to Carloman, who died before the marriage could happen. Nothing else in the chanson bears any resemblance to reality.

Oridon is said to be not far from Bouillon, towards the jointure of the Semoie and the Meuse. Paris identifies it with Chateau-Regnaud, in the same region.

If Pré Lambert ever existed, its location is lost.

Auberi of Bourguignon also features in Jean de Flagi’s song of the Lorrainers. Here Auberi is the son of a daughter of Hervis de Metz, takes a part in the Lorrainers’ wars, and at last dies outside Bordeaux, slain by Guilllame de Monclin.

The chanson was probably written in the 1100’s, after Raoul of Cambrai. The death of Auberi in the church bears a resemblance to the death of Bevis of Hampton in the Italian versions of his story.

Let thus much suffice for the legend of Auberi le Bourguignon, and let us now speak of Orson of Beauvais.

Book I, Canto XII, Part 2

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto XII, Stanzas 21-40

21
“But let my death, O gracious God, be hid
Within these woods, and never let her know
How I and she at once of grief were rid.
Let none lament me, none feel any woe.
May sorrow never damp her gen’rous lids,
And make her wish that pity she had shown.
Although she pains me so, I love her yet,
Even in death, my love I’ll ne’er forget!”

22
The lamentations of that noble lord
With broken words and mixed with sighing came,
And from its scabbard he withdrew his sword,
As pale as if already he were slain,
And ever called on her whom he adored,
Hoping to die and speak Tisbina’s name,
For calling on that name he hoped to rise
Alongside that fair name to Paradise.

23
But she, with her beloved, stood nearby,
And all the baron’s burning woes she hears.
Iroldo’s breast with pity swelleth high,
And all his face was covered with his tears;
And with his lady he resolves to try
To fend of this catastrophe which nears.
Iroldo hidden in the thicket stays,
While Tisbin shows her to her lover’s gaze.

24
That she has heard his plaints she gives no clue,
Nor that she’s heard him call her cruel and cold.
But as the branches she is pushing through,
She feigns astonishment, him to behold,
And says, “Prasildo, if thy love is true,
Which oft before thou didst to me unfold,
Do not abandon me in my great need.
For if thou fail me, I am doomed indeed.

25
“And if I were not in a woeful plight,
About to lose my life and my good name,
To such a task I would not thee invite,
For all the world holds not a greater shame
Than asking help from him one’s held in spite.
Thou burnest for me with so great a frame,
And I have always been to thee so hard;
But henceforth shall I hold thee in regard.

26
Upon my honor now I swear to thee,
I’ll pledge my love to thee beyond recall
If thou wilt but fulfill this quest for me;
I trust thy fate no longer hard thou’lt call.
Beside a wood in far-off Barbary,
There lives a garden with an iron wall.
There are four gates which this fair garden hath.
One is the gate of Life, and one of Death.

27
One is of Riches, one of Poverty.
Who comes by one, must out the other go,
And in the midst of it there grows a tree,
Too tall to shoot its top branch with a bow.
All those who see it stand amazedly,
For pearls thereon instead of flowers grow.
The Treasure Tree ‘tis called, I have been told,
Its fruits are emeralds; its boughs are gold.

28
And I must have  a branch of this same tree,
For otherwise I am undone for aye,
And by thy services I shall well see
If thou hast love as much as thou dost say.
I’ll love thee even more than thou dost me,
If thou wilt start thy quest without delay,
My hand and heart together shall reward
Thy laboring; of this be well assured.

29
When Don Prasildo hears he has a chance
To win the love of her who hath no peer,
So much his ardor and desire advance,
He swears to seek the branch, devoid of fear.
He would have offered, for a kindly glance,
To fetch a star, the moon, the sun so dear.
All of the oceans, all the land and air
He would have offered to this lady fair.

30
Without delay upon his quest he goes
To fetch the branch, his lady’s love to claim.
He leaves the city, dressed in pilgrim’s clothes.
Now must thou know Iroldo and his dame
Had sent Prasildo to this garden-close
(The Bower of Medusa was its name)
So that the labor and the flow of time
Would drive Tisbina’s image from his mind.

31
The lovers knew another thing, besides,
That this Medusa was a damsel fair
Who ‘neath the shady Treasure Tree abides,
And whoso spies her lovely visage there
Forgets at once whatever cause him guides.
But he, with word or sign, who greets her there,
Or touches her, or who beside her sits,
Loses at once his mem’ry and his wits.

32
The ardent lover on his journey rides,
Alone with love to keep him company.
O’er the Red Sea within a boat he glides,
And soon Egyptian land behind leaves he.
The Barca mountains finally he nighed,
When an old palmer there he chanced to see;
The ancient man he courteously addressed,
And as they spoke, he told him all his quest.

33
The old man says to him, “Thy kindly fate
It was that guided thee to meet me now.
All of thy doubts and fears thou mayst abase,
For I shall show thee how to win the bough.
Thou only thinkest how to find the gate,
But thy true danger cometh once ‘tis found:
The gates of Life and Death thou must leave be.
Come to Medusa but by Poverty.

34
“Ignorant of this dame I think thou art,
Thou didst not name her, telling of thy quest.
This is the damsel who is joyed at heart
To guard the shining Tree withouten rest.
From him who sees her, memory departs,
And of all wit and sense she him divests.
But if she ever saw her face herself,
She’d flee the garden and forsake her wealth.

35
“No shield except a mirror shalt thou bear,
Wherein the dame her loveliness may see.
Carry no arms, let all thy limbs be bare,
For thou must enter in through Poverty.
More cruel appearances that gate doth wear
Than any worldly thing, believe thou me.
Not only are all evil things there hatched,
But he who passes by is sorely thrashed.

36
“But at the other gate when thou’lt attempt
To leave, thou’lt meet with Wealth upon her throne.
All of creation holds she in contempt,
Hated by all, she loves herself alone.
Part of thy branch thou must to her extend.
Without a gift, she will not let thee roam,
For Avarice beside her guards the door,
Who, though she owneth much,  yet longs for more.”

37
Prasildo listens with attention close,
And thanks the pilgrim old with all his power,
Then takes his leave and through the desert goes,
And after thirty days draws nigh the bower,
And since the secrets of the place he knows,
He heads for Poverty and does not cower
Although the gate is terrible and vile.
The garden’s treasure makes it all worthwhile.

38
The garden seemed to be a Paradise
Of flowers, bushes, all things lush and green.
The baron held a mirror before his eyes
So that Medusa’s face would go unseen.
Straight forward through the garden walks he hies,
Hoping to find the Tree of golden sheen.
The lady, when she hears him drawing nearer,
Lifts up her head and looks into the mirror.

39
She sees her face, and she is left astounded.
She’d thought her skin was snow, her lips a rose.
Her thoughts of her own beauty were unfounded.
A hideous dragon’s face the mirror shows.
In terror leapt she up; away she bounded.
Died in the distance her laments and woes.
Soon as the knight no longer hears her cries,
He brings the mirror-shield down from his eyes.

40
He goes towards the trunk, from which hath fled
Medusa, that deceitful, ribald witch.
At sight of her own face discomfortéd,
She had abandoned clean her treasure rich.
Prasild breaks off the branch above his head,
And joys that all has gone without a hitch.
He comes towards the gate which Richesse guards,
Who all noblesse and virtue disregards.

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No Notes to this Part

The Legend of Orson of Beauvais

The legend of Orson of Beauvais is found in only one version: a chanson de geste of about 3,700 rhymed alexandrines, written around 1180-1200, surviving in only one manuscript, written in Lorraine in the late 1200’s.

There are also allusions to the story in Valentine and Orson and in David Aubert’s History of Charles Martel.

ORSON OF BEAUVAIS

In the reign of Charles Martel, Duke Orson of Beauvais helps the king win a war against the rebellion Count Hugh of Berry. After the war, Orson and Hugh become companions. Orson marries Aceline, daughter of Count Huon of Auvergne, and has by her a son, Milon. Hugh stands godfather to the boy. Hugh, unfortunately, falls in love with Aceline. He sneaks into Orson’s chamber at night and pretends to be an angel, ordering him to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Hugh. Orson is suspicious and searches the chamber, but Hugh has gone out the window, and Orson, finding no one, concludes it must have been a real vision. Aceline, woeful, gives Orson a gold ring to send her as a token.

Hugh and Orson travel through France and Italy to Barlette, where Hugh sells Orson to Saracen slavers, subjects of King Isoré of Conibres. Hugh also steals Aceline’s ring. The Saracens offer Orson a chance to convert, which he refuses, and so they imprison him.

Hugh, meanwhile, has bought palm leaves from a Hungarian pilgrim, and now returns home with an elaborate false story: Orson had confessed to him that he had been part of a plot to assassinate King Charles, and to do penance therefore he had decided to become a monk at the Holy Sepulchre. He died shortly afterward, and he begged Hugh to marry his widow, take his fiefs, and raise his son. Charles Martel protests that since Hugh stood godfather to Aceline’s child, it would be incest to marry her. Milon also protests the wedding, as Aceline has no interest in marrying Hugh and neither son nor mother believes that Orson is really dead. Hugh administers a judicious mixture of flattery and bribery to Charles, and the wedding is held, but fortunately, Aceline’s chambermaid gives her a herb she bought from a Slavic merchant which leaves Hugh impotent.

Hugh tries to kill Milon, but a kitchen boy warns Aceline, who arranges for the boy to escape with his tutor Guinemand. (It is never stated how old Milon is at the time, but he is already a strong warrior, though still just a lad.). Hugh beats Aceline and throws her in prison, feeding her once every three days. Meanwhile, Milon refuses to take charity from his mother’s kinsmen, and instead heads for foreign lands. On the way, he and Guinemand pass through Berry, and unfortunately arrive at the castle of Baudri of Bourges, a kinsman of Hugh, who discovers their identity and seizes them, despite Milon’s resistance. He plans to hang them, but his castellan, whose life Orson once saved, persuades him to wait until Hugh can come and watch. Baudri foolishly agrees, and the castellan helps the prisoners escape. The guards sound the alarm, and Baudri pursues, but Guinemand kills him and the fugitives escape, passing through southern France, crossing Roncesvalles, and at last arriving at Compostela. There they take service with some Norman knights who go to succor King Basile of Bile against the Saracen Isoré of Conibres. One of the knights, Forcon, recognizes Milon by his resemblance to Orson, under whom he once served in a war against Floclart of Senlis. The Normans reach Bile, Basile dubs Milon a knight, and Milon and  Princess Oriente fall in love. Milon distinguishes himself in battle as Oriente looks on. He fights Isoré, and in the course of trading taunts he reveals that his father Orson was sold to the infidels. Isoré briefly wonders if it could be the Christian he’s holding in his dungeon. The Saracens are repelled.

Basile offers Oriente’s hand to Milon, who accepts it, but refuses to marry her until he has punished Hugh. Isoré returns with an even larger army, but Milon kills him, and the Christians conquer Conibres. They kill the men and baptized the women. Orson is freed from his seven-year’s imprisonment and reunited with his son.

Meanwhile, Hugh has decided to burn Aceline at the stake. Orson’s vassal Count Doon of Clermont, however, rescues her, and a war ensues. Hugh deceives Charles into taking his side, and they lay siege to Clermont, where Aceline and Doon are. The siege lasts six months. Charles at last tells Hugh that he must put Aceline away, and gives him his own niece for his new wife. On the wedding night, the besieged sneak into Charles’ camp and make off with the food.

Orson and company, having visited Jerusalem and bathed in the Jordan, make their way home via Acre, Venice and Rome to France, much to the surprise of the besieged and the besiegers. Hugh, stunned, invents a new story that Orson became a Templar as penance for his attempted assassination of Charles, and begged Hugh to pretend he was dead so as not to embarrass his family. Charles, bewildered, arranges a trial by combat. Milon obtains a dispensation of his godfilial duties from an archbishop in order to fight Hugh and wins. Hugh is hanged in full armor, Orson regains Beauvais, and Milon turns down the offer of Charles’ newly-widowed niece in order to return to Princess Oriante. The poem ends with the statement that he had to endure many hardships before he was wed to her.

VALENTINE AND ORSON

At one point in the story of Valentine and Orson, the titular Orson and his brother-in-law the Green Knight travel to Jerusalem with a knight named Hugh, who has them imprisoned by the Saracens and then forges letters from them saying they intend to stay in Jerusalem fighting the heathens. It is not quite clear whether this is a direct borrowing from Orson of Beauvais or just an odd coincidence.

DAVID AUBERT

There can be no doubt, however, that David Aubert’s brief mentions of Orson of Beauvais are owing to the poem. When Charles Martel is fighting Duke Hilaire of Aquitaine, Count (not Duke) Orson of Beauvais is his standard-bearer and distinguishes himself in battle. Hugh is fighting alongside Charles against Hilaire, even though later on he will sell Orson to the Saracens, which is a story David says he does not choose to tell.

SOURCES AND INFLUENCE

There is no historical basis for anything or anyone in the poem, except Charles Martel. Beauvais was never a duchy and never had a lord named Orson.

The lands of Bile and Conibres may be the Portuguese provinces of Beira and Coimbra, or they may be purely imaginary. Bile may also be the same as the Land of Bire, home to King Vivien at the end of the Oxford Roland.

The king in the poem is sometimes called Charles Martel, and sometimes Charlemagne. Since none of the Paladins or the other usual companions of Charlemagne appear, it is most likely that the original intent was Charles Martel.

The poem ends promising a sequel, but if any such was ever written, it is now lost. Perhaps it was never meant to be more than an exciting ending.

Some tapestries (now lost) were made in the 1400’s depicting scenes from the story.

There is a translation in modern French by Michel Lefèvre, which is available from the Beauvais tourist office. There are no English versions of the story.

Book I, Canto XII, Part 1

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto XII, Stanzas 1-20

ARGUMENT

Dame Fiordelisa tells Rinald a tale,
Their tedious journey somewhat to beguile,
Of how Prasild of Babylon was pale
With love for fair Tisbina, who by guile
Bade him within Medusa’s garden’s rail
Fetch her a branch. He traveled many a mile,
Ere he returned to please his lady fair,
Who tried to kill herself in her despair.

1
I sung already of the battle drear
Were all day long the noise of battle roared
‘Twixt Sacripante, he who knows not fear,
And Agrican, that free and lofty lord,
But no more bitterness will strike your eat,
And a sweet tale of love I shall record,
If it will please you, lords, to call to mind
Where Don Rinaldo we had left last time.

2
The damsel lightly off her palfrey came,
And offers to the cavalier her seat.
Rinaldo answers her, “Thou dost me shame
To think that I could do so ill a deed.”
With speedy words then answered him the dame
That she can’t let him travel on his feet.
At last (for too-long tales make listeners droop)
He swings to saddle, and she takes the croup.

3
At first, the lady felt a little fear
For virtue’s sake, whih she was cautious of,
But all day long she rode, and didn’t hear
Rinaldo speak a single word of love.
Till somewhat reassured, she makes good cheer
And says to him, “O knight all knights above,
Now through a mighty forest must we wend
A hundred leagues across from end to end.

4
“And so that not so long will seem the way,
Through this oppressive and deserted wood,
I’d like to tell a story, if I may,
Which I think thou wilt like. It’s very good.
If ever th’art in Babylon some day,
Ask anyone, they’ll tell thee how it stood.
For a true story, not a fable, I’ll tell,
And all folk in that city know it well.

5
“There was a cavalier, Iroldo hight,
And a fair lady who was called Tisbin.
Such love for him possessed this lady bright
As Tristan had from fair Isold the Queen.
And in return he loved her with such might,
That always, from the dusk to morn’s first beam,
And from dawn’s birth to when the daylight died,
He thinks of her alone and naught beside.

6
“There was a knight, who dwelt nearby these two,
Reckoned of Babylon the finest knight.
This was the common talk, and it was true,
For he was full of courtesy and might.
His many riches which he had, he’d strew
Lavishly, so to keep his honor bright.
Pleasant at feasts and dreadful in the fight,
A courtly lover and an honest knight.

7
This worthy knight, (Prasildo was his name)
Was once invited, to his sore mishap,
Into a garden, where the knights and dames,
Tisbin among them, played a game. One sat
Amidst them, as the mistress of the game,
And one knight hid his head within her lap,
Then she would point to one to tap his hand,
And he must guess who thus obeyed the command.

8
Prasildo stood awhile and watched the fun,
Until Tisbina signalled him to hit.
He tapped the palm of the blind, kneeling one,
Who quickly guessed him, and now he was It.
Face in her lap, he felt such fire run
Through all his veins, and felt his heart so lit,
His only thought is how to answer wrong,
For no time in her lap can seem too long.

9
After the game is over and the feast,
The flame that’s burning in his heart won’t quail.
But all that day its violence increased.
At night, more sharp and bitter pains assail.
He cannot fathom why his face has ceased
To bear its wonted glow and turned so pale,
And why he cannot find repose in sleep.
He finds no place where he his rest can keep.

10
His pillow seems to him to be so hard,
That he would gladly change it for a stone.
The lively sorrow grows within his heart,
From which all other thoughts away have flown.
Sighs without number from his lips depart.
What grief he had, is but to lovers known.
For I can not describe, and no one can,
What love is like to an unloving man.

11
His hunting horses and his hunting hounds
Which he once raised and raced devotedly,
No longer with them is he ever found.
Now he delights in jolly company.
To feasts and parties is he always bound.
Verses he writes and gives them melody.
He often jousts and enters tournaments,
With great destriers and rich apparellments.

12
And if he had some courtesy before,
Now by a hundred times ‘tis multiplied.
For ev’ry virtue always grows the more,
Which finds itself with faithful love allied.
I’ve never known a man who virtue bore,
Which didn’t blossom, having Love for guide.
But this Prasildo, he who loved so greatly,
Grew still more courtly, courteous, and stately.

13
He found himself a faithful advocate,
Who was among Tisbina’s dearest friends,
Who ev’ry evening of Prasildo prates.
Nor did she think the first rebuff the end,
But all for naught. Tisbina wasn’t swayed.
To oaths and prayers would she never bend.
But still the lady didn’t cease attempting;
She knew full well a change is always tempting.

14
She often wheedles her, “O lady fair,
Does not hear opportunity now knock.
When thou hast such a lover, past compare,
Who thinks none fairer under Heaven walks
Than thou? Although thou art of beauty rare,
Yet swift time at thy fading beauty mocks.
Take the delight, and while th’art young, be merry,
Or when th’art old, thou wilt forever tarry.

15
Youth with beauty and with pleasure glows,
The young with merriment and glee should go,
For in an instant all its fairness goes,
As when the morning sun dissolves the snow,
Or in one day the bright vermillion rose
Loses its scent and color, even so
Youth flies away, and none can him retain.
No one can hold him, for he has no rein.

16
Often these words and similar ones she wields
Against Tisbina, but she fights in vain.
But, when the violets sprouted in the fields,
And all the earth was gladdened by the rain,
And winter’s ice to solar radiance yields,
The lofty knight was sunk so deep in pain,
And had been brought to such a woeful state,
For death and death alone he hopes and waits.

17
No longer does he celebrate and feast.
He’s pained by pleasure and his eyes are bleary.
His chalky pallor ev’ry day increased.
He stayed away from happy men and cheery.
He knew of naught by which he would be pleased,
Except to swiftly leave this world so dreary.
He often went alone into the forest,
There to lament when agony was sorest.

18
He did this often, till one morning came
Iroldo riding out, on game intent.
Beside him was Tisbina, lovely dame.
They heard a voice that through the branches went,
With sighs and sobs the broken voice complained.
Prasild so sweetly did his love lament,
And with such gentle words he made his moan
He could wake pity in the very stones.

19
“Hear me, ye flowers and ye woods,” he said,
“For she, ah, cruel she! Her ears are closed.
Hear what misfortunes fall upon my head!
And thou, O sun, that only now arose,
And ye, bright stars, thou moon of gentle tread,
Hear only once the story of my woes;
For these my final words are. Soon will I,
A most cruel death for my belovéd die.

20
“With such extremities I am content,
Because my live contains nought else but bad,
Since heaven such a cruel soul hath sent
To one who such a gracious virtue had,
She would be joyous if my life were shent,
So I shall kill myself to make her glad.
There is no other thing I more delight in
Than to make her sweet face a little brighten.”

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Notes

The Battle of Tours

Today is the 1,285th anniversary of the Battle of Tours, also known as the Battle of Poitiers, October 10, 732, when Charles Martel and his “northern men of robust limbs and iron hands stood like an unmovable wall of ice and cut the Arabs to pieces,” as the Mozarabic Chronicle puts it.

The Mahometan hordes had overrun Spain in 711, and after consolidating their control, they turned their attentions to France. In 720, when Theuderic IV was King of the Franks and Charles Martel was his Mayor of the Palace, the Saracens conquered Narbonne and laid siege to Toulouse. Duke Eudes of Aquitaine saved Toulouse, but could not recover Narbonne, and there Islam began to take root, and thence tentative minor raids were made on France. In 732 the Emir of Spain, Abd-er-Rahman, decided that there had been enough pussy-footing around, raised an army, crossed the Pyrenees, burned every church in his path, sacked Bordeaux, expelled Duke Eudes, and continued north, until he came to Poitiers, a mere 200 miles from Paris. Duke Eudes, however, had fled to the north, and formed an alliance with Charles, Mayor of the Palace. Their combined army held the road between Poitiers and Tours, and thanks to Charles’ brilliant tactics, the Franks held their ground. Abd-el-Rahman was slain, and his army melted away. There would be many further raids, but never again would they come so far north. France was saved.

Modern scholars have attempted to downplay the importance of the battle, but their arguments are weak. One the one hand, they point out that Muslim raids on Christendom continued. On the other, they claim that even in Charles and Eudes had been defeated, the Muslims still would not have conquered France. As to the first, that the raids continued is true, but, as we said above, they never again went so far north. As to the second, the idea that the Muslims would not have conquered France if Charles Martel had been out of the picture is preposterous in the extreme. A victory at Tours, with Charles disgraced or dead, would have left the road open for Abd-el-Rahman to reach the Rhine. Theuderic IV, a true do-nothing heir of the Merovingians, would certainly not have stopped him, and all France would have had to choose between the Koran, the sword, or dhimmitude. France would have become a new center of Muslim power, and new converts would have been made, a few from the Franks, most likely, and certainly many from the still-pagan Saxons and other Germans beyond the border, who would have been among the next to be attacked, and who, being pagans, would not have had the option of dhimmitude. One shudders to think what would have become of Italy and Constantinople if they had been attacked from the north by Vikings filled with zeal for Islam on top of their lust for plunder.

Book I, Canto XI, Part 3

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto XI, Stanzas 41-53

41
Redoubted Sacripante leads the rest,
And doesn’t seem to hold his life too dear,
For he no armor had upon his chest.
You’d think the ending of his life was near,
But his agility is of the best,
As is his strength, and so he has no fear.
Nothing protects him but a copper shield,
But still, his sword with deadly skill he wields.

42
Sometimes a rock he throws, sometimes a dart,
And now he fights his foes with spear in hand,
Now he stands with his shield, a ways apart,
And strikes his enemies with his good brand.
So well he fights that Agricane starts
To think this battle may not go as planned.
His vigor and his prowess are in vain.
By now, three hundred of his men are slain.

43
Although his strength and efforts he redoubles,
And darts and arrows on his foe he rains,
King Sacripante gives him still more trouble,
And the Circassians new courage gain.
His plume is gone, his crest broke like a bubble.
Less than a quarter of his shield remains.
Rocks strike his head and make his helm resound;
All up and down his body wounds are found.

44
As when, force by an angry crowd of men,
A raging lion’s driven to the wood
But scorns to seem a coward even then,
He often turns his head, as if he would
Come back to fight, and swings his tail, and when
He roars, he stands like mighty kings have stood,
Even so Agricane, forced to flight,
Shows courage more than many do in fight.

45
At ev’ry thirty steps he turns around,
And breathes defiance, fronts his foes with scorn,
But far too many of them press him round,
All through the city, and his hope’s forlorn.
Rushing from ev’ry side new folk are found;
Behold a fresh battalion there is born.
With newfound heart and vigor they attack,
Pressing close up to Agricane’s back.

46
But even so, they can’t alarm the king,
Who strikes among them, dealing woe and ruin.
Footmen and cavaliers to earth he flings,
In desperation growling like a bruin.
Now shall I leave him, as his sword he swings,
I wish to sing about Rinaldo’s doings,
Who recently has left the Cruel Rock,
And now along the seashore takes a walk.

47
My lords, remember how I told before
How on a woeful damosel he came,
Who seemed to wish for death, such grief she bore.
The baron courteously hailed the dame,
And begged her, but whatever love she bore,
And by whatever can her love most claim,
And by the God of Heaven and by Mahound,
To tell him why she was in sorrow drowned.

48
With weeping answers him the dame forlorn,
“All thou art fain to know I will thee tell.
Oh, God! Why couldn’t I have ne’er been born,
Or died in bliss, before to woe I fell?
I’ve searched this land, and will search many more,
But have no even found a hope of help.
For I must find, to save me from this plight,
One who can fight alone against nine knights.”

49
“Rinaldo answers, “I care not to boast,
That I could fight with two, much less with nine,
But thy sad speech and plight me slay almost.
Such pity stir they in this heart of mine,
That I will fight for thee against a host
To prove what I can do for thee and thine.
Take heart, for I’ll be ever at thy side,
Till in thy cause I’ve conquered or I’ve died.”

50
She said, “God bless thee for thy fair design!
And for the noble goal thou hast in aim.
But half unknown to thee’s this task of thine.
When thou know’st all, thou’lt leave me as I came,
For Count Orland is among the nine.
Thou hast perhaps, heard somewhat of his fame.
The others also all are men of might.
Thou wilt not go with honor from this fight.

51
When Don Rinaldo hears the damosel
And hears his cousin Count Orlando’s name,
At once he gently asks if she will tell
All that she’s heard of Count Orlando’s fame.
The lady tells him all that her befell:
The stream that robs all mem’ry from the brain,
And all things else she tells of as they happed,
And how Orlando with the rest was trapped.

52
When he hears ev’rything the lady says,
And how she parted was from Brandimart,
Rinald immediately boldly prays
That with all speed she’ll guide him to those parts,
And swears and promises upon his faith
To use his utmost strength and utmost art,
Whether in fighting, or in feigning love,
To save them all from her they’re pris’ners of.

53
The lady sees the baron resolute,
And of his person ev’ry limb was strong,
As if all noble deeds were his pursuit,
And he who gave him knighthood did no wrong.
But though this canto’s short, here stops my lute,
Because the next one will be very long,
Wherein I’ll tell a pleasant tale in rhyme
The damsel told to him to pass the time.

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No notes to this part

The Legend of Girart of Roussillon – Origins and Influence

ORIGINS OF THE LEGEND

Girart of Roussillon, Girart of Vienne, and Girart of Euphrate are all inspired by the same historical figure: Girart II, Count of Paris, born 810, ascended 837, died c. 878.

Now Girart I of Paris had married Rotrude (who may have been the daughter of Carloman, son of Charles Martel), and founded the Girardid dynasty of Counts of Paris. His three sons, Stephen, Begon, and Leuthard I, succeeded him in turn as Counts. Leuthard I had two sons: Girart and Adalard. Adalard served as King Louis the Pious’ seneschal, and Girart became Count of Paris. Meanwhile, Count Hugh of Tours had two daughters: Bertha and Ermengarde. Girart II married Bertha sometime before 819, and Ermengarde married Lothair I, son of Louis the Pious and king of Middle Francia, Bavaria, and Italy, and Emperor of the West. In 836, Girart was sent on official business to Italy. In 837, he was made Count of Paris. He lost the title in 841, when he took the side of Lothair I against King Charles the Bald and broke down the bridges across the Seine to inconvenience the latter. Girart was among Lothair’s soldiers at the Battle of Fontenoy in 841, when that king and his nephew Pepin II of Aquitaine were decisively defeated by Louis the German and Charles the Bald. Lothair nonetheless made Girart his count of the palace in 842. When Lothair I died in 855, his son Charles, still a child, inherited Provence as his kingdom, and Girart became his regent. In 860, Girart repelled a band of Vikings who had sailed up the Rhone. The following year, Charles the Bald attempted to disinherit his nephew, but he was repelled, possibly by Girart, and returned to France. Around this time, Girart and Bertha founded the monasteries of Vézelay and Pothièrs. In 863, Charles of Provence died young and childless, and his lands passed to his brother Lothair II, King of Lotharingia, for whom Girart continued to administer them until that king’s death in 869, whereupon his territories were divided by his uncles Louis the German and Charles the Bald. Charles went to occupy Provence, but met with resistance from Girart and Bertha. Charles laid siege to Vienne, which was ably defended by Bertha while Girart was holding another castle nearby. Charles, however, first burnt all the lands around Vienne and then promised the people mercy if they surrendered. The people told Bertha they wished to surrender, Bertha send word to Girart, and Girart formally surrendered to Charles on Christmas Eve, 870. The couple went into retirement in their fiefs near Avignon, where Girart died between 877 and 879. He was buried in the abbey of Pothièrs, in Langres, where once could be seen Girart’s tomb on the Gospel side of the chapel, Bertha’s on the Epistle, and, in front of the altar, an epitaph for their infant son Thierry.

Bedier would have it, as usual, that the legend was created in the 11th or 12th century by some minstrel who had heard or read the monks’ chronicles of their founder, Girart. He argues that the only similarities between Girart of Paris and Girart of Roussillon are that they fought a king named Charles, had a wife named Bertha, had a son who died young, and founded certain monasteries, all facts that a minstrel could have learned at the abbey. The minstrels did not, however, know about such striking facts as Girart of Paris’ defeat of the Vikings, his protection of the young prince Charles of Provence against his cruel uncle, Bertha’s protection of Vienne on her own, etc., all things we would expect them to know if the story of Girart had been passed down orally.

Although Saint Badilon is real, the cult of St. Mary Magdalene at Vézelay seems to have been an invention of the eleventh century. Although Girart and Bertha did obtain for their monasteries the relics of Ss. Pontien, Eusebius, Andéol and Ostien, there is no record of the relics of the Magdalen there prior to 1050. Unfortunately for Vézelay, in the mid 1200’s a tomb was discovered in Provence. This tomb was, in reality, a Gallo-Roman tomb of the 500’s with a carving of Pontius Pilate washing his hands and a servant holding the washbasin. The discoverer, however, thought the servant was Mary Magdalene preparing to wash the feet of Christ, and the word went out that St. Mary Magdalene’s tomb had been found. The monks of Vézelay now claimed that they had received their relics from the south, but their popularity declined, and the cult in Provence flourished. Had it not been for this discovery, there would have been no association of the Magdalen with Provence, no tradition of St. Lazarus as bishop, no legend of St. Martha taming the Tarrasque, no Holy Blood, Holy Grail, no Da Vinci Code, and Dan Brown would be an obscure third-rate hack writer, instead of a rich and famous third-rate hack writer.

The relics at Vézelay were destroyed the Protestants during the Wars of Religion, and the church turned into a stable. The relics currently venerated there are replacements sent from elsewhere. The shrine in Provence was destroyed during the Revolution, but the skull was saved and is now in a rebuilt shrine. The most likely candidate for the real relics are those brought to Constantinople in the ninth century, but I can find no information on what became of them afterwards, or if they are still preserved today.

Read more on St. Mary Magdalene here.

Val Pergunde is perhaps Valprionda, a suburb of Cahors.

INFLUENCE

Girart of Roussillon appears already in the Oxford Song of Roland as one of the Twelve Peers, and he dies at Roncesvalles. Later works incorporated him into the elaborate genealogies of the Paladins, and made him the brother of Aymon of Dordone, Doon de Nanteuil, and Bueve d’Aigremont. He plays hardly any role, however, in the poems of the Nanteuil cycle or those of the Aymonids. On occasion he fights alongside his kinsmen, but they seldom if ever, if I recall correctly, allude to the events of his life story as given in his own chansons. Later still, Girart was made into one of the twelve sons of Doon de Mayence. Besides the three mentioned above, the other eight were: Gaufrei (father of Ogier the Dane), Grifon d’Hautefeuile (of Altafoglia, one of the Maganzans), Othon, Ripeus, Seguin of Bordeaux (father of Huon), Pierre (father of the Swan Knight), Morant de Riveirs, and Hernaut de Girone.

Some MSS of Hervis de Metz insert an episode, between Hervis proper and the beginning of Garin le Loherain, wherein Girart is at war with Charles Martel. Charles asks the Pope for permission to tax the Church, reminding him that he has always given generously to her and now needs her help. The Pope agrees, but Girart is on the warpath and nearly at Paris. Charles has enough money now, but not yet enough men, and so, reluctantly, sends to Hervis for aid. Hervis makes ready to go to France, but before he gets there, Girart conveniently dies of illness. He is buried in an abbey he founded at Bar-sur-Aube.

There are other minor references to Girart. Auberi le Bourguignon conflates Girart of Roussillon and Girart of Eufrate in a prologue. Adenet le Roi alludes to the story in Bertha Broadfoot, as does the anonymous Italian who wrote the Entrée en Espagne. Girart is mentioned in some of the chronicles, more usually as the founder of abbeys than as the adversarial brother-in-law of Charles the Bald or Charles the Hammer, or as the real Girart II of Paris.

Let thus much suffice for the Legend of Girart of Roussillon, and let us now speak of Auberi of Bourguignon, to him his fiefs were given when he died without inheritors.