The Legend of Theseus of Cologne – Variations, Origins, and Influence

VERSIONS OF THE LEGEND

The Queens of France had paintings of the story (now lost) in their apartment in the Hotel Saint Pol in Paris. Various other tapestries and murals of the legend are known from registers, but all are now destroyed.

The four main exemplars of the original story are as follows:

MS P. BnF. Nouv. Acq. Fr. 10060. Missing beginning and end. Includes the long version of Part II.

MS L. BM. Add. 16955. Various pages missing. Includes the short version of Part II.

MS Ph. Phillipps 3636. Complete. Includes the short version of Part II.

1534 edition, prose. Unlike the verse MSS, which runt the two together without a break, this edition distinguished Parts I and II as separate books. Uses the long version of Part II.

The Miracle of King Thierry

A miracle play written for the goldsmiths of Paris, probably in 1374. The scene is moved to Aragon, and all connection with the Kings of France removed, wherefore we will not describe it in detail. It tells the story of Queen Osanne and her husband King Thierry. The queen-mother is unnamed. Her maidservant is named Bethis. The charcoal burner is still named Renier. Saint Michael guides Osanne safely to Jerusalem.

Gestes et Croniques de la Maison de Savoye

Written by Jehan Servion, a vassal of Phillipe II Lackland, Duke of Savoy. As the name implies, a history of the deeds of the house of Savoy all the way back to the Trojan War, though Jehan modestly disclaims knowledge of the exact descent of the Trojans from Adam and Eve. In the prologue is included the story of Theseus of Cologne, here the son of King Eseus and Queen Elaine. He wins the hand of Princess Ysobie, daughter of Emperor Giordain (sometimes called Vallerien. That is, Emperors Valerian (251-260) and Gordian II (238-244)). The date is changed to 242. The Pope is St. Fabian (236-250), not Boniface. We quote Elizabeth Rosenthal’s summary of the changes made by Servion:

“There are additions to the story:
The episode of queen Helayne and the poor woman, which replaces that of Queen Alidoyne mocking a deformed child.
The episode of the squires discussing Ysobie.
The person of the tutor who looks after Thezeus, thus making him seem younger and. less independant.
The person of the goldsmith’s wife.
The episode in which Thezeus disguises himself as a jewel merchant.
The tournament in which Thezeus obeys Yzobie’s commands exactly.

Important omissions include:
The accusation of adultery with a dwarf because of Fernagus’rejected love, consequently the single combat between Lucas-Cornicant and Fernagus.
The assassination ordered by Floridas of his own son, and the transformation before imminent death.
Separation and. further adventures after the wedding.
All pain and violence.
Realism within the happenings of the romance (although there are charming realistic descriptions of everyday life at court).” (pp. 1252-1253)

Elizabeth Rosenthal is disinclined to believe this version had any other source than the chanson de geste, which Jehan altered to suit his purposes.

Roman de l’Assaillant

Claims, almost certainly falsely, to be based on Latin chronicles. A very brief summary of the Theseus-legend, with the exploits of Assaillant told at length. The Danmartins are glorified at every turn. The only addition to the plot comes when Gerard, son of Assailant, weds Colombe, and the wedding, lasting a fortnight, is described. They will have five childen. Whenever the heroes are fighting in the East, the author takes the point of view of Ludovis and emphasises the French contributions to the wars.

Antoine de Chabannes was accused of treason against the French crown in 1461 and again in 1478. Likely one of these instances was the spur for some loyal subject of his to write this story in defense of his lord and native land.

Short Prose: Bib. Nat. Fr. 1473. and the Trepperel Fragment

A manuscript agreeing with the Trepperel fragment of 1504. 55 miniatures. A shortening of the long prose that was printed in 1534, with a few minor changes (though none of importance) and some bits of actual history interpolated from the Grands Chroniques de France. The author supports King Ludovis [here Loys] in his decision to tax the clergy and confiscate the wealth of the Church for his wars, and glorifies Assaillant, Gerard, and the Danmartins.

Gestes de Courtenay – Phillips 8161 and BnF 4962

A yet further abridgement by Nicolle Houssemayne, based on the Short Prose. Written between 1498 and 1503. The venerable and grave physician Houssemayne is a realist, and ignores all the marvellous and romantic elements of the story, focusing even more than the Short Prose on the military exploits of Ludovis and Assaillant. The most interesting thing in his work is his admission that he had to borrow the books he used without asking, since their owners would not lend them out.

Contant d’Orville

Contant d’Orville, an 18th century man of letters, worked with the Marquis of Paulmy (founder of the Arsenal library) to produce the 70-volume Mélanges tirés d’une grande bibliothèque. The edition of Theseus of Cologne from which he worked is lost. D’Orville writes very much in the style of the Bibliothèque des Romans, altering freely. Most notably, he reduces the roles of lower and middle-class characters and plays up the sacredness of nobility and royalty.

ORIGINS AND INFLUENCE

The author of the first part actually understands the point of a laisse, and uses anticipation and snappy endings. The author of the second is much inferior to he of the first, and is content to reduplicate incidents with no sense of proportion or overall structure. The complete poem features no fewer than “six accused queens, four rejected lovers, five champions, three pardoned traitors who relapse, two unwelcome weddings, two wicked uncles, two rescues (from prison and from the stake), one hero against all several times,” as Ms. Rosenthal puts it.

The motif of Christian captives being set to plow fields like beasts is also found in the English ballad of Young Beichan [Lord Bateman], Child 53, the Scandanavian ballads of Henry of Brunswick, the German songs of Alexander von Metz and the Graf von Rom. I do not know if there are any historic instances, but it would not surprise me.

The poem is certainly older than Ciperis of Vignevaux, but it is unclear which of Theseus or Baudoin de Sebourc borrowed from the other.

Christine de Pizan mentions the story in her Debate of Two Lovers (1400-1402).

Let this much suffice for Theseus of Cologne, for King Dagobert, and for the ancestors of the Carolingians, and let us now speak of the grandfather of Charlemagne, that is Charles the Hammer, or, as some books have it, King Rother.

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The Legend of Theseus of Cologne

The legend of Theseus of Cologne exists in several versions, all of which are ultimately derived from a chanson de geste in rhymed Alexandrines. That chanson, however, exists in three very different MSS. Besides various expansions and abridgments in the first part of the poem, the second part is very much longer and completely different in P than in L and Ph. Elizabeth Rosenthal, in her magisterial study, professed herself unable to determine whether the long or short version was original. The following categorization is based on what she considers the most probable, though far from certain, family tree.

A now-lost archetype, including only Part I

MSS L. and Ph. Theseus de Cologne, a chanson de geste in rhymed alexandrines. c. 1360-1400.

Jehan Servion’s Preface to Gestes et Croniques de la Mayson de Savoye tells the story of Tezeus’ wooing of Princess Yzobie whilst hiding in a golden eagle.

A now-lost archetype that added Part II

Miracle du Roy Thierry, c. 1374.

MS P. The chanson de geste with an added Part II.

Contant d’Orville, 1700’s. A classicized prose retelling.

1534 edition, by Jehan Longis and Vincent Certenas. Mise en prose of a manuscript similar to, though not identical with, P.

A 1550 edition by Jehan Bonfons, which was the last printing of the full work for a century and a half.

A shorter prose version, B.N. Fr. 1472. Also represented by a chapbook by Jehan Trepperel, 1503, which survives only in a transcript of a few fragments.

Le Roman de l’Assaillant. B.N. Fr. 15096, retells an episode from the story in prose.

Gestes de Courtenay by Nicolle Houssemayne, prose. Also glorifying Assaillant. Found in two MSS: Phil. 8161 and B.N. Fr. 4962.

The most interesting parts of the poem have been edited, and all versions analyzed, by Elizabeth Rosenthal, whose thesis can be downloaded for free from the British Library’s Ethos (requires an account).

The two parts of the poem appear to be by different authors. It should surprise no one that the first is superior. Part One as we have it appears to predate 1364 and to have been based on a somewhat earlier version. Part Two was likely added after 1376.

THESEUS OF COLOGNE

It is the year 632. King Floridas of Cologne marries Princess Alidoyne, daughter of King Florent, who has been fostered at the court of King Dagobert. Alidoyne says that an ugly child must have been God’s punishment of its mother, and soon after gives birth to a deformed child herself, named Theseus. He grows up wise and strong. The king’s friend Fernagus falls in love with the queen, who rejects him, so he tells Florent that the queen loves Cornicant, a certain dwarf who is her servant, and Theseus is their son together. Florent plans to burn her, but a faithful knight warns her and she flees. The king orders his henchmen to take Theseus, aged 10, to the woods and kill him instead. The boy at first resists, then accepts his father’s will, only askingback to be beheaded like a nobleman. As the henchmen hesitate, Jesus cures Theseus’ hunchback and turns him beautiful. The henchmen take the boy back to court, where King Floridas is busily searching for Alidoyne to kill her. Cornicant challenges Fernagus to combat to clear his name, at which juncture Theseus returns. Alidoyne, hearing the news, leaves the house where she was hiding, the duel is fought, and Cornicant wins.

Theseus is dubbed at fifteen. Come May, he rides out errant. He comes to Venice, which he flees when Princess Yolent falls in love with him. Going on to Rome, he falls in love by report and by seeing her statue with Flore, Emperor Esmere’s daughter, who is being wooed by some sixty Christian and Pagan princes. He impersonates a herald to enter the palace, and gazes at Flore all though dinner. He then asks her hand of the Emperor on behalf of his “master,” prince Theseus, and addresses her directly when the Emperor refuses.

Theseus pays a goldsmith to make a hollow gold eagle, to give to the princess, in which he (Theseus) will hide. Astonishingly, this works. He overhears Flore and her ladies gossiping, then exits the eagle once all are asleep. He awakens Flore, who screams. The ladies see Theseus leap back into the eagle, and think he is a ghost. The Emperor comes, but fails to find Theseus. When all are asleep again, Theseus tries again, bringing a lamp this time. After some hesitation, Flore agrees to conceal him and to love him. They take her lady-in-waiting into confidence, and send word of Theseus’ success to his squires and the goldsmith. Theseus and Flore are married in private, and he begets a son, later to be named Gadifer, who will become Emperor of East and West and save King Ludovis [Clovis II] of France, son of Dagobert. For now, though, the Emperor of Constantinople is the Saracen Abillant, who, furious at being rejected by Flore, is invading. Theseus arranges for his men to sail a ship to the foot of Flore’s tower, and then the lovers escape thereon. Unfortunately, they are caught by the fleet of Abillant, whose herald recognizes Flore. Abillant praises Mahound and returns home, giving his ally King Aceres of Antioch all the captives except Flore. Abillant prepares to wed Flore onboard the ship, but her sorrow touches the heart of his enchanter Drumas, who magically preserves her chastity and prepares for her to escape. At this very moment, however, Aceres arrives, betrays Abillant, and attacks his fleet to conquer Flore. Drumas and Abillant drown, but Flore is saved – by Greek knights. In Constantinople, Flore is welcomed as queen, while Abillant’s brother Griffon of Saternie is regent for her and her possible son. Flore gives birth to a boy with a cross-shaped birthmark on his shoulder, whom Griffon orders his men to slay in the woods. Instead, they give him to a passing knight and take a deer’s heart to Griffon. The knight names his foundling Gadifer, after himself. All this time, Theseus is in prison in Antioch, and Aceres is nervously preparing for Griffon to attack him in vengeance for his brother.

Meanwhile, Emperor Esmere declares war on Cologne, much to the surprise of King Floridas (who has in the meantime had a daughter, Baudour [Saint Bathilde]). Floridas informs him, via messenger, that Theseus is not at home, that Esmere is overreacting, and that Esmere is being quite hypocritical, considering his own young love for Florence of Rome. Esmere prosecutes the war anyway, and besieges Cologne for seven years. At Queen Alidoyne’s advice, Floridas goes to the elderly King Dagobert of France, (under attack by the Normans) to offer him homage in exchange for relief. Dagobert sends his son, Prince Ludovis, whose standard-bearer is Count Assaillant of Dammartin. Ludovis and Baudour fall in love. King Esmere pretends to retreat in order to lure his enemies into an ambush. It is a success, and Floridas is captured. Ludovis’ men drag him away from the battle, but Ludovis, in anguish and shame, decides not to go home to France. Alidoyne surrenders Cologne to save her husband’s life, Esmere leaves the wicked Flohars in command of the city, and leads Floridas, Alidoyne and Baudour captive to Rome. Griffon sends Flore home to her father, who pardons her.

Meanwhile, Ludovis and Assaillant are wandering errant, and believed dead. Dagobert declares war on Rome, and allies with Ludovis’ cousin Desirams of Pavia. Ludovis hears of the war and joins the army. Ludovis and Esmere are both taken captive in battle. Ludovis falls in love with Flore and proposes to her, since her husband has been gone for seven years. Against her wishes, everyone begins planning the wedding, peace is made, and Flore is sent to Cologne with Ludovis.

Theseus has, meanwhile, been freed by Aceres of Antioch, for whom he has fought loyally for eight years. Aceres reluctantly agrees to let Theseus, who has had troubling dreams, go reclaim his wife, who, last he heard, was in Rome with her father. For some reason, however, he sails for Flanders instead, where he learns of the recent war, the tyranny of Flohars, and the impending wedding. As he heads to Cologne, robbers kill his squire and steal everything but his shirt. He arrives at the town as a beggar, reveals himself to a faithful innkeeper, Gaultier, and sends word by the innkeeper’s wife to Flore. Gaultier rallies the burghers, who accompany Theseus as he enters the palace, kills Flohar, and drives out the Romans. He sets a golden eagle on every tower and banner to mock the Emperor. Ludovis is out hunting at the time, and returns to hear the shocking news. He decides to go to Rome, where Esmere welcomes him as his honorary son-in-law, and makes him his heir, if he will help him attack Cologne. So it is done, but the Romans are defeated in a battle. Ludovis abandons his hatred of Theseus, and rides away, but Theseus overtakes him and challeenges him to single combat. Thesues’ sword was forged by the same man as Durendal, and he is about to kill Louis when Jesus sents Saint Denis to stop the fight and reconcile the two. Ludovis agrees to marry Baudour. Theseus and Ludovis head for Rome, the former disguised as a monk, and meet the goldsmith.

Alternate version, MS P only: Theseus and Ludovis go to a fortress-town, where the goldsmith meets them.

The goldsmith informs Theseus that if he does not return at once, Aceres will kill his prisoners, for Emperor Griffon has invaded. Theseus heads for Antioch, but sends Calidas the goldsmith to Cologne to tell them what has become of him. In Cologne, Theseus is though dead, so a rich young burgher, Melchior, begins wooing Flore, who rejects him. He then forges letters framing the Queen for treason, and she is on trial when Calidas arrives and reveals all. There is to be a trial by combat, but the Emperor’s resumption of the siege necessitates its postponement. Assaillant and Lambert think Prince Ludovis is dead, but continue to fight for Esmere.

Meanwhile, Ludovis and Theseus (disguised as a monk) gain admittance to the Imperial Palace, where Floridas, Alidoyne, and Baudour are. The two pretend to be messengers sent from Esmere to put the royals of Cologne to death, and thus they escape with them and return to Cologne. Theseus learns of the Melchior affair, and orders the trial by combat to be held. Ludovis returns to the Emperor’s camp, gathers his faithful men, renounces and defies the Emperor, and enters Cologne in peace. Though Calidas is a goldsmith and not used to fighting, he wins. The next day, Archbishop Guy of Cologne weds Ludovis to Baudour.

Esmere’s brother, King Estandart of Hungary, urges him to abandon the war. Reluctantly, he agrees, on condition that Theseus make it seem that he (Theseus) was the one seeking peace, that Theseus take down the golden eagles from the towers of his city, and that the arms of Rome remain a sable eagle. Theseus agrees. After fifteen years of war, peace is made, and the festivities last fifteen days. The soldiers, newly unemployed, disperse, and many become bandits. Flore and Baudour go to Rome, while Theseus, Ludovis, Assaillant, and Lambert go to Antioch to succor King Aceres and slay Emperor Griffon. As they fight there, however, Lambert is captured, and agrees to betray the Christians for wealth. After being ransomed by Theseus, Lambert opens the east gate and lets the heathen in. Aceres escapes but, disgusted by this treachery, abandons the idea he had been entertaining of becoming Christian. The Christians are all captured. Griffon, owing to an oath, cannot execute Lambert as he would love to do, but sends him on his way. Lambert comes to Rome, where he pretends that everyone else is dead. Esmere actually is dead, and Empress Flore is horrified to hear the news, as is Baudour. Both women reject Lambert’s offer to protect them, so he returns to Paris alone, where Dagobert is dead. He tells the barons that Ludovis is dead, and they decide not to elect a new king, but to split France between them. Estandart of Hungary decides to usurp the Empire from his niece Flore, and Emperor Griffon is widely disliked in Greece.

Gadifer, son of Theseus and Flore, believed dead, is in fact being raised by Gadifer senior and his wife, who have a daughter of their own. Gadifer senior plots to make his daughter queen. He tells Gadifer junior, aged 18, that he is really a foundling, and urges him to wed his foster-sister, Osanne. (But he does not tell Gadifer junior that he is really the heir to the throne). So it is done. At this time, Aceres gathers fifteen kings, all kinsmen of his, and lays siege to Antioch, which Griffon goes to relieve, leaving his wife Clodas in charge of Constantinople. With Gadifer junior wed to Osanne, and Griffon out of the picture, Gadifer senior tells his son his true identity. They go to Constantinople, reveal all, and the barons crown Gadifer junior, expelling Clodas. Griffon at the news makes peace and alliance with Aceres, and they, Theseus, and Ludovis make war on Constantinople. In the ensuing battle, Gadifer junior cuts off Griffon’s arm and takes Theseus prisoner (he would have killed him, but since his battle cty was “Rome,” he hopes to hear news of his mother Flore). Griffon dies of his wound, Gadifer junior is left as undisputed Emperor, and Clodas is imprisoned. Theseus and Gadifer junior tell their stories, and Theseus realizes this is his son. Emperor Gadifer, wanting proof, sails to Rome disguised as a merchant. Rome is under attack  from King Estandart of Hungary, so he asks Flore for an army to lead against her foe. The Romans, however, are cowards, so Gadifer rides to Estandart’s tent alone, reveals his identity, and kills him. He then rides madly for Rome, while the Hungarians are too stunned to pursue. All is reveales, and the Pope baptizes Gadifer under the name “Gadifer Theseus.” Gadifer Theseus now goes to Cologne to meet his grandparents, then to Paris, to take the side of Baudour against the traitor Lambert in an inheritance dispute. Gadifer defeats Lambert in single combat. Lambert’s kinsmen treasonously interrupt the duel to rescue him, and flee with him over the Seine. Sanson of Brittany is elected regent until Ludovis’ return, and Gadifer heads for Rome, gathers missionaries, and heads for Constantinople, where they convert many. They build Hagia Sophia. Ex-Queen Clodas also converts.

Theseus and Gadifer conquer Antioch by a ruse, and convert it, crowning Calidas the goldsmith king. They return to Constantiople, where Gadifer begets triplets by his wife. The men sail for Rome, where the Pope crowns Theseus Emperor. They go to Cologne, where Floridas has died, and Theseus is crowned king. They go to France, where they pardon Lambert has regained power by wedding his sister Beatrice to Sanson. Lambert attempts to wed Baudour, but Theseus and the others crash the wedding feast and save her, killing Lambert. Ludovis is crowned king. Assaillant is given Brittany and Anjou. Theseus goes home to Rome with Flore, and Gadifer to Constantiople.

BOOK II OF THESEUS OF COLOGNE

Part II now begins, which seems to have been added by a later author and is, Rosenthal says, inferior in every way.

Gadifer heads home for Greece. There, Osane has given birth to triplet boys, who were substituted for puppies by Clodas. Clodas’ maid takes the boys to the woods, but doesn’t have the heart to drown them, and so simply abandons them. They are found by Regnier a charcoal  burner, who adopts them, to his wife’s annoyance, who makes him swear sobriety, so that they can afford to raise them. They are baptized Renechon, Regnault, and Regnier. Meanwhile, Gadifer curses his wife, insults her low birth, and locks her and the three dogs in the dungeon while he goes to save King Calidas of Antioch from Aceres. Osane languishes for four years, until Gadifer returns, when he releases and banishes her. She winds up in Jerusalem running a hostel for pilgrims. Clodas becomes Gadifer’s mistress. When the triplets are old enough to go into town on business, they buy weapons and armor instead of necessities, to their foster-father’s delight and their foster- mother’s fury. (They know they were adopted). When they are around thirteen or fourteen, Aceres again invades with fifteen kings. Theseus and Ludovis arrive to help Gadifer, but are captured. The triplets sell their wares in Constantionple’s market, receive mockery for their pretensions to arms and armor, and finally attack the Saracens, rescuing Theseus and Ludovis. Theseus dubs them knights, and Gadifer makes them his chamberlains. Clodas notices a family resemblance, and trembles with fear of discovey. She arranges for the food-taster to be poisoned and frames the triplets for it. To top it off, she accuses Regnault of attempting to seduce her. The charcoalburner offers to fight in his sons’ defense against Clodas’ champion. So it is done, and all the truth comes out. Clodas and her maid are burnt, and her champion (who colluded in the poisoning) is hanged.

Meanwhile, Aceres’ ally the King of Syria has stormed Antioch and killed King Calidas the Goldsmith (most versions), and Aceres himself is still outside Constantinople. After a bloody battle, Aceres retreats, but takes Renechon prisoner. Unfortunately for Aceres, a kinsman of his has usurped Jerusalem from him, so he offers to set Renechon free if Renechon defeats the usurper in single combat. Aceres confirms the oath by tapping his tooth. As Renechon slips into Jerusalem disguised as a pilgrim, he stays at his mother’s hostel. He tells her the news of court, but does not reveal he is the prince. Nor does she reveal she is Osane. She is influential at court, and introduces him to the Emir, to whom he tells his message. The Emir is reluctant to fight, but his barons overrule him.

At this point MSS Ph and L abridge drastically. P and the prose give the long version. Ph and L:

Gadifer, Theseus, and Ludovis head for the Holy Land, but Renechon has beheaded the Emir in single combat. The melee becomes general, however, and the Christians arrive as the pagans are fighting each other. They chase the heathens into Jerusalem, sack that city, rescue Renechon, and capture Aceres, who is baptized. Osane and Renechon reveal their identities to each other. There is much rejoicing, Renechon marries Queen Florinde of Rohaix [Edessa], the niece (or sister in P) of Aceres. Aceres soon renounced his baptism, but the story does not tell of that. All return to their own kingdoms and live happily ever after.

The long version, of P and prose:

Florinde arrives to help her brother Aceres, and she and Renechon fall in love. During the melee that follows the single combat, the Emir lives, Aceres is captured by the Christians, and Renechon escorts Florinde home to Rohaix. Theseus, Ludovis, and Gadifer abandon the war to rescue Baudour and Flore from the king of Frisia, who is invading France to avenge his kinsman Lambert. Florinde offers to convert to Christianity if Renechon can reclaim Jerusalem for her. He challenges the emir to single combat, defeats him, but allows him to return home. Florinde and Renechon are wed and become king and queen of Jerusalem and Syria, but Florinde keeps her baptism secret, letting the people think Renechon has become a Saracen. The emir, meanwhile, goes to the Sultan of Damascus for aid, and they besiege Jeruslaem.

Regnier the collier’s wife dies of luxury, and he makes a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, killing pagans on the way with a tent pole. In the confusion of battle, however, he saves the Emir and nearly kills Renechon, forcing him to retreat. The Sultan, impressed, gives Regnier a horse and a mighty axe, so mighty that the blacksmith who made it was executed with it, lest he ever make its equal. In a subsequent battle, Regnier takes Renechon prisoner, recognizing him only when it is too late and the king is in the Sultan’s hands. He realizes he is on the wrong side.

Florinde appoints one Buciffaus as her general. Regnier kills the Emir and joins the men of Jerusalem. The Sultan retreats with Renechon. Buciffaus neglects to pursue him, hoping to marry Florinde. Regnier prevents him from raping her, but she insists on pardoning him, very foolishly, for he tells the army she is a traitor and has her arrested. As Osane comforts her, Florinde considers sending for aid from Gadifer, her father-in-law. Osane realizes Renechon might be her son, but he also might be Clodas’. Osane does not know either, and so they send two Knights Templar as messengers to Constantinople.

Meanwhil, in France, King Gauffroy of Frisia is besieging Paris. Thesues, Gadifer, Regnault and Regnier the Younger arrive to help. Assaillant’s son, Gerart of Dammartin, distinguishes himself, but Gauffroy captues Queen Baudour and Queen Flore, the latter of whom had been acting as general. Gerart obtains their release by defeating Gauffroy’s champion in single combat. He then kidnaps Queen Coulumbe of Frisia, intending to marry her once Gauffroy is dead. Gauffroy is expelled from France, but not killed. At this juncture, the Templars arrive. As the forces of Christendom are massing for a Crusade to rescue Renechon, Gauffroy arrives, fights Gerart in single combat, and loses his life. He then weds the widow.

Meanwhile, Aceres, to get Pope Boniface to set him free, pretends to convert and accepts baptism. He then leads the Pope and the crusaders to Antioch, where his men welcome him and help him capture or kill all the Christians in the night. The Pope and some others are spared, so they may be tortured. Aceres next heads to Jerusalem, leaving the Pope to draw a plough until he returns.

Arriving in Jerusalem, Aceres assumes control and oversees a duel between Regnier and Buciffaus, the latter of whom loses, is executed, and his body burnt. Regnier feigns indifference to the plight of the Pope, in order to gain Aceres’ confidence. He then escapes with Florine and Osane, having forged a letter from Aceres. In Antioch, the three gain admittance to the prisoners, free them, and massacre the Saracen population. Pope Boniface crowns Regnier king of Antioch, and plans are laid to rescue Renechon from Damascus.

In Damascus, the Sultan’s wife, Ydierne, has secretly converted to Christianity and wishes to marry Regnault. Suspecting something, the Sultan orders her burnt. As she is being led to the pyre, Regnier and his men arrive in disguise, fire the city, rescue Ydierne (who has baptized herself while being led to the stake), slaughter many Saracens, and free Renechon. They all retreat to Antioch, and the reunions are joyful. Pope Boniface baptizes Ydierne properly. Aceres and the Sultan arrive and lay siege to Antioch, while Gadifer, ignorant of recent events, attacks Damascus. Aceres and the Sultan return to Damascus and capture Gadifer, Regnault, and Regnier the Younger.

In Constantinople, Gadifer is thought dead, so Clodas’ four brothers claim the throne. Regnier the Elder challegnes all of them to a duel, killing one and wounding two. The brothers surrender and are hanged. Gadifer the Elder, father of Osane becomes regent, and prepares an army to rescue Renechon. [Here begins a long lacuna in the 1550 edition] Regnier, meanwhile, goes to Rome, where Flore is in peril from the bishop of Hungary, newly elected Pope, as Boniface is thought dead. He is the brother (in-law?) of King Estandard, whose son Eracle claims the Imperial throne. Theseus and Ludovis, meanwhile, are fighting yet more traitors in France. Regnier arrives, enters the council, kills Eracle with his great axe, and drives out the anti-pope. The Romans are mustered to leave for Crusade, while Regnier heads for France.

Gauffroy of Frisia’s kinsman Nabugor of Autefeulle (Hauteville) is attacking France, in alliance with King Arthur of Britian (yes, that King Arthur). Regnier again joins the wrong side by mistake, and takes Oton prisoner. Fortunately, in the enemy’s camp he learns of a treason they are planning, and is able to join Ludovis’ side and foil it. Theseus tells the rebles that the King of France is sacred, ever since God sent three fleurs-de-lys to Clovis. Then he and the others head for Antioch, where the Sultan and Aceres are laying siege to Renechon, Osane, Florinde, Ydierne, and Pope Boniface. Renechon is captured. The Sultan demands his wife in exchange, and the deal is made, much to Aceres’ fury, who thinks Renechon should be executed and that Ydierne cannot be trusted. So angry is he, that he declares war on the Sultan, and sends part of his army to besiege him in Damascus.

Aceres himself is still before Antioch, so Gadifer the Elder arrives to aid. The reunions are joyful, but soon after Gadifer is captured by the Sultan’s men, who were on a raid. He is thrown in a dungeon with Gadifer the Younger, Regnault, and Regnier the Younger. They recognize each other, but Gadifer the elder dies. The jailor accuses the other three of murder, and brings them before the Sultan and Ydierne, who offer to free them if they will fiht for them. Ydierne secretly confesses her love to Regnault, who accepts it, after some surprise and hesitation. One of the courtiers, Thaurus, who has loved her long, plans to betray Damascus to Aceres in exchange for her hand in marriage.

The French and Romans arrive to aid Antioch, and the reunions are joyful. They raise the siege and march against Damascus, to fight Aceres and the Sultan at once. Regnier the Elder captures Aceres, who surrenders Jerusalem to the Christians, and Renechon is crowned King. But the Sultan, with Gadifer the Younger, Regnault, and Regnier the Younger, attack Jerusalem, so that these three are against the rest of their family. Regnier the Elder, however, captures all three of them, but four unscruplous Romans steal them away to Antioch, in order to hold them for ransom. Thaurus renews his offer to the Christians to betray Damascus, which they accept. Renechon, however, is unwilling to hand over Ydierne, so Regnier the Elder enters Damascus, accuses Thaurus of treason, and fights him in trial-by-combat. [MS P ends here]

Regnier defeats Thaurus, who is executed. He then slips away with Ydierne, and the Sultan is killed in an ensuing battle. Damascus is taken, Aceres sent on his way, and the family of Theseus goes to Jerusalem.

[Here 1550 edition lacuna ends.]

The Romans who stole the prisoners present them to Pope Boniface and company. All are recognized, and the whole family is united at long, long, long last. The Pope weds Regnault and Ydierne. Regnier marries one Clerombaude, sister of Gerart of Dammartin. Regnier the Elder reigns in Antioch. Renechon and Florinde rule Jerusalem. Regnault and Ydeirne reign in Damascus, capture Edessa, and kill Aceres, whoe lands they give to Regnier the Younger. The triplets hold the Holy Land their whole lives, but when they die the pagans claim it, not to be dislodged until the coming of Godfrey of Bouillion.

The Legend of Ciperis of Vignevaux

The legend of Ciperis de Vignevaux survives in the following versions:

A chanson de geste from the mid 1300’s in rhymed alexandrines, surviving only in one badly damaged manuscript, which also includes the Enfances Doon de Mayence.

Histoire du Noble Roy Silperic de Vinevaux qui fut Roy de France. A highly abridged mise en prose, from the court of Burgundy. The oldest surviving copy is from no later than 1467. It was printed in the 1500’s, made its way into the Bibliothèque Bleue, and was last printed in 1842. The Burgundian manuscript has been printed under by Laura Ramello under the title: Un mito alla corte di Borgogna: Ciperis de Vignevaux in prosa.

There are, of course, no English translations.

The following summary of the story is taken from William Woods’ edition and the account in Histoire Litteraire de la France XXVI, by Paulin Paris. Passages in italics represent lacunae in the verse, and are supplied from the prose.

Vignevaux is, or was, a forest in Normandy, apparently near Caux. In these woods Philippe, son of King Clotaire of France, makes love to Clarisse, daughter of Duke Marcus of Orleans, and produces an illegitimate son, Ciperis [Chilperic]. When their love is made known, Phillippe is banished and becomes King of Hungary. How he does so is unknown, but these adventures seem to have been based on those of Philippe in Dieudonne of Hungary. Ciperis is raised at the court of his uncle King Dagobert.

Clotaire was the thirteenth king of France, in the year 632. He was not the Clotaire who was son of Clovis. This Clotaire had three sons: Dagobert, Ludovis, and Philippe, in that order. Philippe was sent to the court of Duke Marcus of Orleans, where he fell in love with and seduced Marcus’ daughter Clarice. Since the punishment for adultery in those days was burning at the stake, they fled to the Forest of Vignevaux, now called the Forest of Eu. There they were separated by bandits. Philippe, under the impression the bandits had taken Clarice to Paris, hurried thither and left her in the woods, where she fell in with a hermit. In the meantime, Duke Marcus had put two and two together, gone to Paris, and obtained a sentence of exile for Philippe and Clarice. Philippe reaches Paris, hears of his banishment, and flees to Hungary before being recognized. There he serves the king so well that he wins his daughter’s hand in marriage.

Meanwhile, Clarice is nearing her time to give birth, so the hermit sends for Marguerite, wife of the local lord Foucaut. Unfortunately, Foucaut, though Christian, is a giant and a tyrant, and Marguerite has to slip out of the castle to serve as midwife. He tracks her to the hermit’s hut, arriving just after Clarice gives birth, while the hermit is out gathering food. He takes the women back to his castle, leaving the baby. The hermit returns, grieves, and baptizes the boy Ciperis of Vignevaux. Ciperis has a fleur-de-lis birthmark on his shoulder. A goat miraculously agrees to suckle him, for seven years, and the hermit teaches him to read and hunt.

King Clotaire dies, and Dagobert his son becomes king. When Ciperis is ten, he gets lost in the woods and is found by King Guillaume of England, who takes him back to Paris. King Dagobert wishes to adopt the foundling, but Guillaume refuses to give him up, and takes him to London, where he raises him alongside his daughter, princess Hermine. When Ciperis is still a squire, he overthrows King Henri of Norway in a tourney, incurring his undying hatred. The king masked it, however, and invited Ciperis to hunt with him, planning to kill him. He leaves him for dead, but Ciperis is only unconscious, recovers, and returns to court, angrily storming into King Guillaume’s palace just as the princess is getting suspicious of Henri. Ciperis tells all, King Henri denies all, and they agree to trial by combat. Dagobert arrives to support the foundling and dub him a knight. Ciperis wins the duel, but Henri is pardoned. He makes an alliance with certain English nobles, including the Duke of Lancaster, to whom he offers his sister Florence in marriage. These nobles take Ciperis hunting and try to kill him, but he foils them and kills many of their men. Unfortunately, he also kills King Guillaume in the confusion. Ciperis flees to France and returns to the woods of his birth, where he meets the hermit (who has thought him dead). Hermine enters a nunnery.

The hermit tells Ciperis the truth of his origins, and that his mother is still a captive of the giant Foucaut, who has openly relapsed into Islam. Ciperis, with the help of some charcoal burners (especially one named Hellie), kills the giant, frees Clarice and Marguerite, and becomes lord of the castle.

In Paris, meanwhile, Prince Stephen of Provence has fallen in love wih Dagobert’s daughter Orable, who despises him. He tries to kiss her by force, so she slaps him so hard that she knocks two of his teeth out. He swears revenge, and tells her father that she is sleeping with the king’s chamberlain. King Dagobert goes to his daughter’s chamber, sees her playing chess with the man with no one else in the room, and in his fury beheads the chamberlain at once. The witness is dead, no one dares challenge Stephen to trial by combat, and Stephen bribes the nurses to falsely report that Orable has lost her maidenhood. As Orable is led to the stake to be burnt, the people raise such an outcry that the king is forced to commute her sentence to banishment. As she wanders southward, Stephen ambushes her in the forest of Vignevaux. Fortunately, Ciperis is out hunting, hears her cry, and resuces her. She conceals her identity, but he takes her back to his castle and makes her his mistress. She conceives twins that very night: Theirry and Clovis. Over the next fourteen years they have seventeen sons:

1: Theirry, King of France. [Theoderic III]
2: Clovis, King of France. [Clovis IV]
3: Galehaut, King of Navarre.
4: Ferrant, King of Brittany.
5: Guillaume, King of England.
6: Bochiquaut, King of Norway.
7: Amaury, King of Ireland.
8: Gracien, Lord of Denmark, who was killed by a pagan maned Justmon and canonized by the Pope.
9: Paris, King of Frisia.
10: Gloriant, King of Cyprus
11: Louis, King of Germany.
12: Samson, King of Gascony
13: Amadas, a great lover and a famous.
14: Alart.
15: Morant.
16: Clariant.
17: Ciperis the Younger, King of Jerusalem and a Saint.

When the youngest is of an age to be dubbed, Ciperis takes the whole family to a tounament in Paris, which they win. They reveal their identites, Dagobert is thrilled to be reunited with his daughter and his nephew, and Ciperis and Orable are finally married. Dagobert rebukes Ciperis for killing Guillaume, and Ciperis decieds to make amends by reconquering England for Hermine. He does so, and offers her whichever of his sons she pleases as her husband. She chooses Guillaume, for that he has the same name as her father.

For various reasons, usually justifiable vengeance, Ciperis now sets out on a series of conquests, thereby winning a kingdom and a wife for each of his other eighteen sons. However, the poet does not develop all of the episodes. It is possible that he intended to include an episode for each son. If so, he must have seen that his work was becoming too long to hold his audience’s attention and cut his materials short. The last nine sons are disposed of in a rather hurried fashion.

The surviving poem opens with the crowning of Guillaume as king of England and his marriage to Hermine. Ciperis and his men return to France. Galadre, brother of the deceased king of Norway, swears vengeance on Ciperis and calls on all his friends to help. Ciperis’ sons distinguish themselves in a tourney at Paris…

Lacuna…Galadre conquers England.

Galadre has captured all of England while Guillaume is tourneying, and he sails for Vignevaux. Dagobert pledges to help Ciperis, who rides to the attack. Galadre is defeated and retreats…

Lacuna…Details of the war.

Another battle ends in England and Canterbury is captured. London is then recaptured by a strategem: having taken Galadre prisoner, Guillaume dons his armor and bids his men take the armor of Norwegians slain in the battle. They infiltrate the city and sieze it. The French prepare to leave for Denmark. They pass through Scotland, and Amaurris marries Princess Aeslis of Ireland. Paris marries Princess Symonne of Scotland. King Andrew of Scotland joins the expedition. Denmark is captured, and Gracien marries Salemonde and becomes king of Denmark. Dagobert defeats the Norwegians and marries Flourette, their queen, to Bouchiquaut. (Flourette had become queen when her father Fendu was slain by Ciperis in England). Frise is captured, and Enguerran becomes ruler thereof and husband of Avice. Emperor Oursaire of Germany decides to help his defeated friends, but is defeated by Dagobert and Ciperis and becomes their ally. Oursaire’s daughter Aragonde weds Louis. They will have a son, Guitequin, who will later feature in Theseus of Cologne.

Hellie, a former charcoal burner, is one of the most valiant French knights. The French army is divided; Oursaire goes to help Phillippe of Hungary and Dagobert goes to recapture France and Paris from the King of Navarre. Ciperis travels via Vignevaux to Paris, which he helps Dagobert recapture. Dagobert entrusts his son Louis to Ciperis, but the treacherous Robert d’Aumarle (whose father Isoré was slain by Hellie in England) poisons the prince. Dagobert thinks Ciperis is the culprit, and swears vengeance. Ciperis takes him prisoner, but he refuses to make peace. Oursaire learns that Phillippe is the father of Ciperis and sends for his aid. Hellie reveals the true murderer of Louis, and Ciperis, Dagobert, and his brother Ludovis join forces. Dagobert has to subdue Guy of Provence, who has treacherously seized Paris. Guy escapes to Hungary and renounces Christianity. The Christians successfully invade Hungary, and Phillippe marries Clarisse, mother of Ciperis. Ciperis then goes to Scotland. During this time Dagobert dies and Ludovis [Clovis II] ascends the throne. Ciperis is annoyed and makes war on Ludovis. In the course of this war, we are told that Thierri of Vignevaux will later found the Abbey of Saint-Vaast, and that a bear helped build the abbey.

Ludovis’ wife Baudour [Bathilde] ends the war by reconciling the foes. (Baudour is the sister of Theseus of Cologne). The pagan princess Salatrie (whose father Aquilant was slain in Hungary) conquers Cologne, slaying Emperor Orsaire. Ciperis goes to the rescue. Salatrie becomes Christian and marries Ciperis, the youngest son of Ciperis. The French return home. Ludovis dies. Cipereis conquers Spain. Bouchiqualt becomes King of Navarre. Sanson, king of Gascony. Ciperis, king of France. He is succeeded by his sons Thierri [III] and then Clovis [IV]. Allart gets Artois. Louys gets Vignevaux. Sanson gets Flanders. Amadas gets Noyon. Ferrans gets Brittany. Morant is left with nothing. Even Hellie becomes lord of Normandy.

HISTOIRE DU NOBLE ROY SILPERIC DE VINEVAUX QUI FUT ROY DE FRANCE
[THE STORY OF THE NOBLE KING CHILPERIC OF VIGNEVAUS WHO WAS KING OF FRANCE]

The prose highly abridges the original, and makes a few slight changes, but none of importance.

I can find no detailed information on the chapbooks, but I presume they followed the typical pattern of becoming shorter and more corrupt with every edition.

ORIGINS AND INFLUENCE

Most of what follows is taken from William Wood and Paulin Paris:

The author, or perhaps the scribe, was namd Brienchon. The rhymes and meter are generally smooth. The episodes are pure boilerplate with no originality, and are “lacking in the dignity and loftiness of the earlier epics.” The author criticizes the wealthy, which has led some to believe he himself was poor. He was probably not a clergyman, or at least not an educated one. The poem alludes to Theseus de Cologne, and draws material from Charles the Bald. The author’s knowledge of geography is limited to Picardy and Paris; all else is fanciful. His frequent mention of the abbeys of Saint-Denis, Saint-Pierre de Corbie, and Saint-Vaast of Arras suggests that he had some personal attachment to one or more of them. He knew that they were founded by Dagobert I, Saint Bathilde [wife of Clovis II], and Thierri III, respectively, though he freely changes the circumstances for his poem. According to Alcuin’s Life of Saint Vaast, the saint drove away a ferocious bear from the site where the abbey was being built.

“The author is at his best in depicting certain psychological elements. Robert d’Aumarle’s efforts to avoid fighting are well done. Likewise the anger and sulking of Dagobert after the death of Louis, Ciperis’ patient treatment of him and his righteous indignation refuses the offers of reconciliation, the blow to Ciperis’ pride when he is not consulted about the crown after the death of Dagobert, and the handling of the Salatrie incident when she wants to marry a son of Ciperis testify to an excellent recorder of human emotions. The author seems to be fond of moralizing and has scattered a number of proverbs and sentnetious statements throughout the work.” – Wood.

Krappe has suggested that the poem is from the early 1400’s, based on events that occurred between 1396 and 1410. Emperor Charles IV’s son Sigismund wed Mary, daughter of King Louis the Great of Hungary, in 1377. Through her inherited the Hungarian crown in 1387. The Turks soon after invaded Bulgaria and Serbia. In 1395 Sigismund marched against them and recovered Nicopolis. Queen Mary then died, obliging Sigismund to return home and secure his throne. King Charles VI of France, at the urging of the Pope, sent his cousin John the Fearless, son of the Duke of Burgudy, with 12,000 men to help Sigismund. Sultan Bazajet, however, annihilated the Christian coalition in Serbia. Morons, where much of the Hungarian war takes place, is perhaps Maronia, a region on the Adriatic, south of Spalato.

Most scholars (of those few who have given any attention to this poem) reject these identifications as fanciful. The disastrous battle of Nicopolis would never have been turned into a victory, and the only thing the author knows about the real Hungary is that it breeds fine horses. The language likewise indicates that the poem was written in the mid 1300’s.

In the poem, the sucession of kings is Dagobert, his brother Ludovis, Ciperis, and Ciperis’ sons Thierri and Clovis. The real Dagobert I was brother of King Charibert II of Aquitaine, and father of Clovis II of Neustria and Burgundy, and Sigibert III of Austrasia. Clovis II begot Childerich II of Austrasia, Chlothar III of Neustria and Burgundy, and Thierri III, who inherited the entire kingdom of the Franks by outliving his brothers. Thierri III begot Clovis IV.

Gracien, lord of Denmark, is perhaps Saint Gatianus, first Bishop of Tours. Saint Ciperis the Younger seems to be made of whole cloth; there is no Saint Chilperic.

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

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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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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The Legend of Charles Martel

The popular muse appears to have combined Charles the Hammer with his grandson Charles the Great. The Hammer has very few romances in which he even features and only one, to my knowledge, in which he is the protagonist. Though Pippin the Short is usually remembered as the father of Charlemagne, Pippin’s father is often forgotten, or replaced with such people as King Rother or Agnolo Michele. Even his great victory over the Muslim hordes at Tours left no trace in the oral tradition, although perhaps it lies beneath some of his grandson’s legendary victories.

There is, however, one romance in which the Hammer has a starring role: David Aubert’s Histoire de Charles Martel. Or at least, he stars in the first part. The bulk of the romance is devoted to the adventures of Girart of Roussillon, Orson of Beauvais, and the Lorrainers. The first part, however, features Charles as the protagonist. Some scholars think it is based on a lost chanson de geste. Be that as it may, the story is clearly very late, and is a typical late Carolingian cliché-fest. As David Aubert has never been printed, the following summary is based on the chapter titles as given in Paul Meyer’s introduction to Girart of Roussillon.

DAVID AUBERT’S LEGEND OF CHARLES MARTEL

Duke Gloriant of Berry lays siege to the city of Lusarne in Spain, which belongs to the Saracens. His eldest son, Huitasse [Eustace] de Berry captures Princess Ydorie of Lusarne from her guardian giant Orrible, and marries her. The Admiral [emir] is furious, takes Gloriant captive, and chases Huitasse away. He returns home to Bourges, whence his brother manages to expel him. As if this were not bad enough, King Theodorus of France [Theuderic IV] learns from his astrologers that the son of Huitasse, named Charles Martel, will be king after him, and plots to kill the lad. Fortunately, Gloriant escapes prison and returns home, where he manages to reconcile his sons. Little Charles is raised by Raimbaut the Marshall and his wife Hermentine, in Paris. He grows of an age to prove himself, and is a wonder. He participates in jousts at Paris, and wins the prize thereof and the love of King Theodorus’ daughter Marsibelle. The two are wed in Avignon. King Theodorus is furious, and imprisons the abbot of Saint-Denis and Count Galleran of Provence for allowing the wedding. He then sends Galleran to arrest his daughter and new son-in-law. Charles is gone, however. He has met Girart of Roussillon and they are adventuring together, en route to Constantinople, where they leave Marsibelle while they adventure. A long war ensues, involving King Agoulant of Jerusalem, king Menelaus of Dammarie, Emperor Belinas of Constantinople, a civil war in France between King Theodorus and Charles’ father Duke Huitasse of Berry, various minor knights and nobles, captivities, rescues, escapes, and all the usual paraphernalia, except, apparently, magic, which does not seem to feature until later in the romance. In the course of these wars, Charles impregnates Menelaus’ daughter Sagramoire. Fortunately for her, she soon marries Agoulant (who has killed Menelaus), and is able to pass off her son Archefer as Agoulant’s. Not till he is grown does she reveal the secret. Meanwhile, peace has been made in France, and King Theodorus has died, leaving the realm to his son Ydrich [Childerich III]. Archefer sees this as a sign that France is weak, and invades with a Saracen army. Charles conquers and converts him. The barons of France all agree to depose the incompetent Ydrich and make Charles king of France. After his coronation, Charles goes overseas with Archefer to convert Sagramoire. Unfortunately, they get caught up in another round of wars. Marsebille leads an army from France to Outremer, but Archefer and Sagramoire kill her. Charles captures his son, and sends him on a quest to Hell, from which, after many adventures, he returns alive, thanks to the enchanters Carniquant, whom he learned from, and Sorbrin, whom he killed and whose book he stole. Archefer presents his father with a great black horse, a gift from Lucifer himself.

Girart of Roussillon now travels to the Holy Sepulchre, and on his way home becomes engaged to Alexandrine, daughter of King Othon of Hungary.

Meanwhile, Duke Hillaire of Aquitaine, brother of Theodorus, wishes to be king of France, now that Ydrich has died. He invades, and very nearly succeeds in driving out Charles Martel, who is, however, saved by Girart. After Hillaire surrenders, Charles and Girart plan to marry the two daughters of King Othon, and the story segues into Girart of Roussillon, in a version which follows that of Wauquelin very closely.

ORIGINS OF THE LEGEND

In actual history, Charles Martel was the bastard son of Pepin II, Mayor of the Palace and de facto ruler of France. Charles was imprisoned by Pepin’s justly irritated wife Plectruda. When Pepin died in 715, Plectruda became the regent for her six-year-old grandson Theodebald. Charles, aged twenty-five, escaped from prison, a civil war broke out, the Saxons invaded, and King Dagobert III died, probably from assassination (715). The Franks opposed to Charles chose Chilperic II as their king, the son of Childeric I. Charles, while skirmishing with northern invaders, set up his own king: Clotair IV, whose exact relation to the Merovingians is unclear. Chilperic fled to Aquitaine, where Duke Eudes supported him – until Charles threatened to invade. Luckily for everyone, Clotair died, and Charles accepted Chilperic as king. Chilperic II died in 720, and the Franks elected Theuderic IV as king, the son of Dagobert III. The Moors crossed the Pyrenees that same year, and occupied the southern coast of France. Eudes recovered Toulouse in 721, but could not save Narbonne, and after several devastating raids thought it prudent to give his daughter Lampegia to the Muslim governor of Catalonia. Theuderic IV died in 727, and Charles never bothered replacing him. In 732, Abdelrahman, the Emir of Spain, attempted to conquer all of France, drove Eudes out of Aquitaine, but was defeated and slain by Eudes and Charles at the Battle of Tours [Poitiers]. In 735, Eudes died. Charles attempted to seize his territory, but was eventually obliged to leave Eudes’ son Hunauld in possession, though as his vassal. Charles next attempted conquering southwestern France, but failed to accomplish anything of value besides reclaiming Avignon for the Christians. Indeed, he often  seemed more interested in fighting Christians then the Saracens, and burned the Christian cities of Nîmes, Agde, and Beziers on his way back to the north to fight the Saxons. In 739, however he was recalled to the south by King Liutprand of Lombardy, in concert with whom he drove the Saracens (slightly) back to the west. Charles died in 741, and was succeeded as Mayor by his sons Carloman and Pepin III the Short. Faced with rebellions on every hand, including from their bastard brother Grifon, the joint Mayors raised Childeric III to the throne in 743, to help restore order. No one knows how Childeric was related to the Merovingian line, if he even really was. The rebellions were put down, Carloman retired to a monastery in 747, and Pepin, by permission of Pope Zacharias, sent Childeric to a monastery in 751 and crowned himself King. In 754 Pope Stephen II travelled to Paris to consecrate Pepin and his sons Carloman and Charles as patrici Romanorum, and forbade the people of France, under pain of excommunication, to ever take a king who was not of their family

As can be seen, there is only the vaguest resemblance between actual history and David Aubert’s romance.

Thus Charles Martel became King of France, and now let us turn to various knights who lived during his reign and what befell them, to wit:

Girart of Roussillon

Orson of Beauvais

Auberi le Bourguignon

Book I, Canto XI, Part 1

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

CANTO XI

ARGUMENT

King Agrican and Sacripant agree
To fight in single combat, one on one.
But when the valiant King Torindo sees
Sacripant losing, to the duel he runs,
And war resumes. The Tartar valiantly
Enters the keep. Great deeds by him are done,
Ere Sacripant compels him to retreat.
Rinaldo and Don Fiordelisa meet.

1
You’ve heard already of the ruinous course
King Agricane ran, that spirit fierce.
As when a wave destroys a fleet by force,
Or when a cannon through an army sheers,
E’en thus that king attacks without remorse,
Chopping the standards, smiting cavaliers,
Slicing his foes and hacking his own men.
For wrath the king made no distinction then.

2
Circassians and Tartars all are one.
Of friend or enemy he takes no heed.
He cut down all who in his pathway came.
And now that worthy knight advanced with speed
To where he saw the high emprises done
Which Sacripant performed upon his steed.
He saw his men flee fast as legs could carry them,
And the Circassian monarch sorely harry them.

3
“You curst, degen’rate breed, out of my sight!”
King Agricane cries, “You worthless flock!
My vassals nevermore will you be hight.
I won’t be king of such a wretched stock.
Go where the hell you want, and let me fight,
For I can better stand the foeman’s shock
Alone, just as I am, in this fierce battle,
Than I can do with you, you useless rabble.”

4
These words once said, he seeks his foeman out,
And Sacripant to combat he invites.
My lords, believe me, ye need have no doubt
He instantly accepts, that ardent sprite.
He sends a squire through the battle rout
Up to Albracca, to the lady bright,
Praying her that upon the wall she’ll stand,
So that her sight will strengthen his right hand.

5
The damsel stands upon Albracca’s wall,
And to King Sacripant a sword she sends,
That will stay sharp, whatever may befall.
Now grief King Agricane’s bosom rends.
He mutters soft, “I do not care at all,
Because that sword will be mine in the end,
So will Albracca. Sacripant will grovel,
So will that dirty slut and all her brothel.

6
“Hast thou no shame at all, thou ugly witch?
To scorn my love, how is it that thou durst?
When I could make thee happy, make thee rich,
And make thee of all earthly queens the first?
Women, ’tis true, a thousand times will switch
Their minds, and always settle on the worst.
The King of Kings at thy feet doth abase him,
And thou art lusting for a vile Circassian!”

7
Having thus spoke, he turns around and glowers
As from his foe he spurs across the ground.
His mighty lance into its rest he lowers,
As on the other side now turns around
King Sacripant, who comes with strength and power.
The one and th’other clash. The noise resounds
With such a fracas and so great a din,
It seems the sky will fall, the world will end.

8
Each of them strikes the other’s helmet front
With their immeasurably enormous lances,
But neither can his foe from saddle shunt.
Each lance up to its hilt in splinters glances,
Though each was three palms wide, without affront
To truth. To swords the combat now advances.
They fall on one another, raging high,
For each of them desires to win or die.

9
If in a field you’ve ever seen two bulls
Who madly for a milk-white heifer fought,
And seen them locking horns and clashing skulls
And heard their bellowing, with dreadness fraught,
You know how seemed those knights of valor full,
Who for Love’s sake esteemed their lives as nought.
Their shields, in pieces hacked, they cast away,
And fight with more abandon in the fray.

10
Now Sacripant, with all his strength, brings down
A blow dispiteous, uncouth, two-handed,
On Agricane’s head. He splits his crown,
But not his helmet, for that is enchanted.
At the same time the Tartar of renown
A blow on Sacripante’s left flank planted.
Vengeance is all the thought within their heads,
To pay back cake where they were given bread.

11
So swiftly fall not rain, nor hail thus rattles,
Nor in such numbers fall the flakes of snow,
As in that bitter and imperiled battle
Fell the strokes of the broadswords, blow on blow.
Blood runs down from their helmets to their saddles.
No crueler fight can any his’try show.
Each one is wounded sore in places twenty,
And yet of fury they heap up more plenty.

12
But Sacripant fared worse, I have to say.
The blood ran down his leg whene’er he strove.
But little did he prize his life that day,
And thinking of Angelica above
All else, he said, “O King of Heaven, I pray
That all the deeds I do today for love,
Angelica will watch,  and grateful be.
Then care I not for death or injury.

13
“I’d be content to know my death is nigh
If that sweet creature held me in regard.
Oh, if I only once could hear her sigh,
‘I am too cruel and make my heart too hard,
To make this cavalier for Love’s sake die,
When for my love, his life he disregards!’
If but these gentle words mine ears caressed,
In life or death I’d be forever blest.”

14
And with these thoughts he is so much inflamed
That of all cowardice he was bereft.
With ev’ry blow, he shouts his lady’s name,
Striking great blows upon his right and left.
His only thought is how to please the dame.
He cares not for the wounds by which he’s cleft;
But as he loses blood, his spirits fail,
Although he still fights on, his face is pale.

15
The other kings look from afar and wait,
Watching the dreadful combat of their chiefs.
To each of them, it seems a damage great
To watch him die, and bring him no relief.
But, above all, his pity can’t abate
The Turk Torindo, and he’s filled with grief
To see King Sacripante in distress
And not be able to bring him redress.

16
And to the others he begins to say,
That certainly a grievous sin it were
To watch their king die and lend him no aid.
He bursts out: “Ingrates! How can ye endure
To look upon his death without dismay?
The worthiest king that ever vassal served.
We fled, all routed, overwhelmed by strife;
Sacripant saved our honor and our life.

17/18
Be not afraid of them, for all their might,
For with our swords we’ll cut them down to size!
Don’t think it treason to disrupt the fight.
But we’ll be traitors all if our king dies!
’Tis simple duty, ’tis not treason hight,
To save one’s king. If any blame here lies,
Be the blame mine and be the glory yours!”
And with these words he spurs his gallant horse.

18/19
His lance in rest, against the crowd he runs,
Flooring the first and second men he meets.
The third and fourth to him likewise succumb.
A mighty outcry his aggression greets,
As ev’ry Turk and each Circassian comes,
And Trebisond and Syria are fleet,
Following King Torindo down the line.
Russians, Mongolians, and Tartars join

19/20
With mighty Trufaldino of Baghdad.
The dust flew thick, and many men were flayed.
King Trufaldin a hundred thousand had
Who came behind him in a vast brigade.
When Agricane sees this mishap sad
And how his army sorely was dismayed,
To Sacripante thus he speaks: “Sir Knight,
Thy men have done a deed against all right.”

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