Shameless Plug: Aucassin and Nicolette

My latest Kelmscott-style reprint from Rossignol Books is now available! Aucassin and Nicolette, as translated by Andrew Lang. Aucassin and Nicolette is from Old French, where it was written sometime in the 1100’s or 1200’s. No one knows who wrote it, or for whom, but it is one of the most, if not the most, beautiful story in all of medieval literature. It was written in alternating prose and poetry, and tells the story of Aucassin, son of Count Garin of Beaucaire, and Nicolette, a slave girl bought from Carthage, whose families try to drive them apart. Mingled with this story are some of the most realistic glimpses of peasant life we have, a trip to the strange land of Torelore, warfare, pirates, and more. Will true love triumph? Will Aucassin stop moping and become a great knight? Will Nicolette ever be reunited with her birth family? Why is the King of Torelore tending his baby while his wife leads his army? Find out the answers to these and more questions, in Aucassin and Nicolette.

The Rossignol Books edition includes the original music for the poetry, and fifteen illustrations from a classic Romantic-era edition. For a mere US$7.50, plus shipping and handling, this beautiful reprint of a beautiful story can be yours!

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The Legend of Girfaus

The legend of Girfaus survives in only one fragment: the top portion of one manuscript leaf which was used as part of the binding for a later book. The fragment is from between 1200 and 1250, and is written in monorhymed decasyllabic laisses. The only edition is “A Fragment of an Unknown ‘Roland’ Epic”, by Roger Middleton and Karen Pratt, in King’s College London Medieval Studies XII: Roland and Charlemagne in Europe. There is no English translation, and to my knowledge this is the first English summary.

…Karles tells Milon the Bearded that he intends to burn towers, castles and cities to the ground. A Saracen spy overhears this, and begins making his way back to his own camp. He passes by the tents where Roland and Oliver are sleeping, and returns to Orbloise, where he tells Girfaus all. Girfaus splits his army in two, and advances…

…Oliver kills someone…

…Guifar mentions his father Fouré, apparently after killing Druin…

…Roland has Durandal, and kills Jonafin. Oliver kills Brut. Girfaus sees this…

…Antone does something [probably gets killed by Girfaus]…

Girfaus sees the ruin of his men. He kills the young Guion d’Orleans. Roland pursues many, no one can escape him. The younger son of Fourez [probably Guifar] kills Folcart and Focerez, with the sword with which Marsiles the Amirez [Emir] had dubbed him. Oliver sees this, and kills him with Hauteclere. He says that he [the son] will never avenge his father. He then shouts aloud to Girfaus, taunting him with the death of his brother* and of his father Fourez.

[*The MS actually reads “Thy father is dead, and thy father Fourez.” The correction is the editors’, and makes much more sense.]

THE SOURCES OF THE LEGEND

We have so little information that anything would be mere speculation. If Guifar was dubbed by Marsile, then perhaps this is from some lost version of the Entrée en Espagne? Or perhaps it is a completely different war. We will probably never know. It is anyone’s guess if “Milon le Barbé” is the father of Roland or not. The only other Milon le Barbé listed in Langlois has a walk-on role as one of Ganelon’s family in Aye d’Avignon.

The Romance of Morien

My latest Kelmscott-style reprint from Rossignol Books is now available! The Romance of Morien, as translated by Jessie Weston. Morien is from Middle Dutch, written in verse around the 1200’s, as part of the massive Lancelot Compilation, a sprawling four-volume work which as it stands includes nine complete romances and the end of a tenth, and possibly used to have more in the now-lost first volume. Most of these are translations into Dutch from French, but some of them have no known source, and one of these is Morien. Chronologically, this romance is set between the end of the Prose Lancelot, and the beginning of the Quest for the Holy Grail. No one knows who wrote it, or when, or in what language it was originally. The prologue states that some versions exist in which Percival was Morien’s father, but no such versions survive.

Sir Aglovale, brother of Sir Perceval of Galles, fell in love with a Moorish woman beyond the sea, and left her, promising to return. He never kept his promise, and now his son, Sir Morien, has come to England in search of his father. Can Sir Gawain help the family reunite? Can Sir Lancelot slay a ferocious beast? Will the Saxons overrun the realm of Logris? Is Agloval Morien’s real father, or is it Perceval? Find out the answers to all of these in The Romance of Morien! For the light Morien sheds on the legend of the Holy Grail, and for its merits as a story in its own right, this romance is an excellent addition to the shelf of any lover of chivalry. For a mere US$7.50, plus shipping and handling, this beautiful reprint of a beautiful story can be yours!

Rossignol Books

Book I, Canto VI, Part 3

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

41
King Galifron, the father of the lady
Is ancient. Peace at any cost he prizes.
No quarrel with the Prince of Tartars made he,
Who’s strong and bold, and vast his army’s size is.
His lovely daughter ‘gainst all reason bade he
To wed this man whom she so much despises.
Unto her father’s will she’ll ne’er submit.
She’d rather die than even think of it.

42
Unto Albracca did the lady fly,
A day’s ride past the borders of Cathay,
Which is a castle strongly fortified
Which can withstand a siege for many a day.
The courtly lady now is trapped inside,
Angelica, who through the world is famed;
For Heaven’s star that shines most brilliantly
Has lost its light, and is less fair than she.

43
The herald takes his leave and disappears.
Orlando gallops off with all his power.
He seems already to behold his dear
Angelica, and tread within her bower.
As thus in rev’ry rides the cavalier,
He sees a  mighty wall around a tower.
A pair of mountains was this fort between.
To reach them was a bridge across a stream.

44
Upon the bridge there stood a fair young maid,
Who held a crystal chalice in her hands.
When she espied the cavalier, she bade
Him stop, and with a gladsome countenance
And sweet voice said, “O baron, thou art stayed.
Thou canst ride on no further, nor advance
On foot. Thy strength and cunning may not serve.
The custom of this place thou must observe.

45
The custom is that ev’ry knight must drink
Out of this goblet ere he passes us.”
Of guile Count Orlando does not think;
He drains the brimming glass, but as he does,
Before he has the time to even blink,
He’s changed entirely from what he was.
He knows not whence, or how, or when he came,
Or whither he is bound, or his own name.

46
Angelica the beautiful is fled
Out of his mind. Extinguished is the flame
By which across the world he has been led.
He has forgotten Emp’ror Charlemagne.
All other thoughts are banished from his head.
Over his heart, this newcome lady reigns.
He does not seek for pleasance, but he stands
Obedient to what she shall command.

47
He rides his Brigliadoro through the gate,
That Count of Brava, rapt out of his wits,
And dismounts in a palace finely made,
And for astonishment he gapes at it.
On amber columns with fine gold inlaid
A large and finely-furnished loggia sits.
The floor was made of marble green and white;
The ceiling was with gold and azure dight.

48
A garden spread beneath the gallery,
Shaded by palms and cedars fresh and green,
And many other pleasant kinds of tree,
Beneath whose branches was a rich sward seen,
Where springtime flowers bloomed eternally.
A marble wall enclosed this pleasant scene,
Where from each herb and bush and tree and flower
A sweet scent wafted, filling all the bower.

49
The count stands marv’lling at the loggia’s three
Arcades, which have been richly decorated
By paintings which were wrought so skillfully
That Nature’s self looked not so real as they did.
As the Count looks on them amazedly,
He sees a noble hist’ry there related.
Ladies and cavaliers from days of old
Were painted with their names below, in gold.

50
They showed a damsel standing on a beach.
She looked so lifelike that you would have swore
That as you looked at her, you heard her speech.
She beckoned passing sailors to her shore,
But as they came, she turned them into beasts.
Their human shape away from them she tore.
Some became lions, others wolves or bears.
Boars’ or gryphons’ shapes do others wear.

51
A ship, arriving, could you painted see,
And a knight who was stepping off her decks,
Who with his handsome face and his sweet speech
Kindled the flames of love within her breast.
And she was shown in giving him the key
With which she locked the potion in a chest,
The potion by whose means the mighty dame
Turned into beasts all men who thither came.

52
There could be seen how she so much did glow
For that bold cavalier with such emotion,
That by her own enchantments she’s brought low.
He tricked her into drinking her own potion,
And thus transformed her to a milk-white doe,
And then that knight for whom she’d such devotion
(Circella was this hapless lady’s name)
Mounted his horse and rode to hunt the dame.

53
All of her history the walls relate,
How he pursued her, and restored her shape.
The painting was so rich and so ornate,
The gold lit all the garden, without jape.
The count, whose mind is in a mazed state,
Can do nought else than simply stare and gape,
But as he’s standing there, his wits without,
He hears within the park a mighty shout.

54
But ere I tell you how he ran toward
That noise, and why that clamor was begun,
Somewhat of King Gradasso I’ll record,
Who was all armored like a champion,
Beside the sea, upon the sandy shore,
Where all day he awaited Aymon’s son.
He thought that leaving early would be wrong.
The seashore was two thousand good leagues long.

55
But as the starry heavens he perceived,
And of his foe Rinaldo not a sign,
Then was he certain he has been deceived.
He hurried back towards the battle lines.
I’ll sing of Ricciardetto, sorely grieved,
For when he saw the day to eve decline,
And that his brother dear was not yet come,
He thought he must be dead or overcome.

56
Think of how dreadful must have been his grief!
But sorrow did not so possess his heart
To stop his summoning the Christian chiefs,
And bidding them make ready to depart.
That very night, as silent as a thief,
The army left, nor did the Pagan guards
Perceive them, for, prepared for all events,
Rinald had camped three leagues from Marsil’s tents.

57
Without a rest they hurry on their path,
Until they see once more the land of France.
Now turn we to Gradasso. In his wrath,
He bids his men at daybreak to advance.
Poor King Marsilio now much terror hath.
His champions are gone, his army scant.
Pris’ners are Ferragu and Serpentin.
The Christians fled, Rinaldo nowhere seen.

58
He went himself to where Gradasso sate,
And knelt before him, bowing low his head.
The outrage of the Christians he relates,
And how the glutton Don Rinald has fled.
He offers to give up his kingship straight,
And hold his lands from King Gradass instead.
With few words more, the terms of fee are fixed,
And the two armies are together mixed.

59
Grandonio comes from Barcellona town,
And swears an oath at King Marsil’s command,
That he will follow King Gradasso’s crown
Against King Charlemagne and all his land.
The king in secret vows he will burn down
All Paris to the ground, if to his hand
They do not give Baiardo, and he yearned
To see each bit of France it such wise burned.

60
Don Ricciardetto all the army brought
Back to the palace of King Charlemagne,
But of Rinaldo he could tell them nought
And from his silence a great outcry sprang.
Those of Maganza villainously sought
To have Rinaldo instantly proclaimed
A traitor, but the villains he defied,
And wished to prove by combat that they lied.

Not to be Confused With…

NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH

Orlando, or Roland, the hero of our story, has no connection with:

Orlando, Florida, which is named after a pioneer named Orlando. Although California was named after an imaginary kingdom in one of the sequels to Amadis of Gaul, Spanish love of chivalry was not responsible for every place name in the New World.

Orlando in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, which is based on The Tale of Gamelyn¸ a story once wrongly attributed to Geoffrey Chaucer, and found in some of the old manuscripts of the Canterbury Tales.

Childe Roland who to the Dark Tower came, as explained in this post.

The hero of Grimm’s fairy tale, “Sweetheart Roland”.

RINALDO

Rinaldo, or Reynard, has no connection with Reynard the Fox, more information on whom can be found here.

Rinaldo of Montalban, the cousin of Orlando and hero of Torquato Tasso’s poem Rinaldo is NOT the same person as Rinaldo of Este, the hero of Torquato Tasso’s poem Jerusalem Delivered.

BAIARDO

Bayard, the steed of Rinaldo, has no connection to the Chevalier de Bayard, who was the flower of chivalry in the 15th century, held a bridge single-handedly against two hundred Spaniards, and was known as “The Good Knight”, or “The Knight without Fear and without Blame”. Some of his adventures can be found in the Red True Story Book, by Andrew Lang.

TURPIN

Turpin, Archbishop of Rheims and alleged chronicler of the history of the Paladins, is not to be confused with Dick Turpin, the notorious English highwayman.

SACRIPANTE

Sacripant the wizard in The Old Wives’ Tale, by George Peel, has nothing but the name in common with Boiardo’s King Sacripante of Circassia.