The Legend of the Lorrainers – Dutch Version

The Roman der Lorreinen is a Middle Dutch poem, c. 1275, surviving only in fragments. At one time, it likely ran to over 150,000 octosyllables, of which only 10,000 survive.

There are three books of this romance. The first is a close translation of Garin and Gerbert. In the second and third, the author gives his fancy free rein, weaving a tale across three continents that brings Ganelon, Marsilius, Baligant, Yon of Gascony, Agolant, and more into the feud between the Lorrainers and the Bordelais, culminating in the battle of Roncesvalles (sadly lost).

A: Five fragments, printed by Jonckbloet, titled Roman van Karel den Groote en zijn twaalf Pairs.

B: Five fragments, printed by Matthes, under the title Roman der Lorreine, nieuw ontdekte gedeelten, book 17 of Bibliotheek van Middelnederlansche Letterkunde.

C: Four fragments, printed by De Vries, under the title Nieuwe fragmenten van den Roman der Lorreinen, in Tijdschrift voor Nederlandsche Taal- en Letterkunde III.

D: One fragment, often printed under the name of Laidoen, for example by Kalff in Middelnederlansche epische fragmenten, part of Bibliotheek van middeln. letterk.

Fragments B I-III and C I are from a translation of Garin. Gerbert is utterly lost. The other surviving fragments are from Books II and III.

As the surviving fragments open, Gerbert, having died, left behind two sons: Yon and Garin. Yon has married the daughter of Aspraien, a pagan king [perhaps of Scythia] who invaded France. Hernault le Poitevin and Ludie have a son: Ganelon [here called Gelloen]. Pepin is dead, and Charlemagne sits on the throne of France, and his son Louis the Pious is of nubile age. Ganelon has slain Gerbert, to avenge his uncle Fromondin.

A I: Ganelon takes refuge in Cologne, now ruled by Gerin’s son Otto and his wife Helen. Ganelon tells him, falsely, that the Lorrainers have been defeated in war, and, truly, that Helen and Yon are paramours. Otto, enraged, commits Yon’s daughter Judith, who is staying at his court, to a brothel, in order to break off her intended marriage with Prince Louis. Fortunately, the brave knight Jean de Metz rescues her and takes her to Aix-le-Chapelle. Otto and Ganelon lay siege to Aix, but news comes that the Lorrainers have in fact won the war. Otto raises the siege, and Ganelon flees to his fief in Sweden [!], whence he marries off his daughter Irene to Emperor Leo of Constantinople.

Otto, meanwhile, still thinks his wife unfaithful, and at the advice of the traitor Conrad, sends her into exile in Norway. Garin comes up from the Midi to escort his niece Judith to Paris, where she weds Prince Louis. Yon and Otto are still angry at each other, so the Emperor summons them to his court at Aix. They finally agree that Conrad will gve Metz to Judith in compensation, if Yon will promise to never see Helen again. Yon reluctantly agrees, urged by Ogier the Dane and his other kinsmen. Yon and his son Richard leave France for their fief of Scythia. Learning that Ganelon’s daughter Irene is now Empress of Constantinople, they build the castle of Gardeterre on their border with the Empire, expecting war…

A II: Ganelon, while in exile in Heathenesse [Spain] had taken service with Desramés, and married his daughter, by whom he had two sons: Baligant and Marsilius. Ganelon, in the course of his adventures, has betrayed Agolant, who now invades Spain with his son Almont. The Spaniards ask for Charlemagne’s assistance, who arrives with the Peers. Single combats follow, then the miracle of the flowering spears. In battle the day after this miracle, Milon, Roland’s father, is slain. Charlemagne is on the brink of death, when Gerbert II, son of Garin II, saves him. The battle is inconclusive. The following day, Ganelon, currently home in Norway, offers his aid to Charlemagne, if Charles will forgive him his crimes. He also offers his help to Agolant, who indignantly refuses it, but retreats. Ganelon presents himself before Charlemagne and offers to be reconciled with the Lorrainers. Garin and Gerbert take council with Yon, and refuse Ganelon’s offer. Garin and Gerbert return to Gironville. Charles returns to France and gives his sister, Milon’s widow and Roland’s mother, to Ganelon in marriage.

Helen sends word to Yon, begging him to come to Norway and rescue her. He does so, but they get lost sailing back to Scythia, and land in the country of the Goths, which is near the Caucasus. There they found the village of Ays, and life in amorous bliss, having a son, Haestinc, and a daughter, Isolde.

Richard, Yon’s son, having been sent by his father to France, visits Garin at his castle of Medeborch. Garin informs him of Ganelon’s preferment, and sends him home to warn his father. Otto, having learned of his wife’s escape, sends his knight Paridaen to Scythia to find her. Richard returns home to find his father missing and unaccounted for. He assumes control, fortifies the country round about, and installs one Hugelin as his lieutenant. He then returns to France to inform Garin of what has occurred, and sets out to seek his father. Paridaen, having sought in vain for Helen, returns to Cologne, where Conrad advises Otto to avenge himself by making war on Garin and on Ogier the Dane. Otto sends Paridaen to tell Garin that he must hand Metz over to Otto or prepare for war. Garin refuses, and appeals to Charlemagne. Ogier, Garin, and Otto meet at court, and it is decided that there will be a trial by combat. Gerbert fights against Ganelon’s champion Gyoet of Cremona. Richard, having again returned to France, fights both Berengier and Pyroet, and kills the latter, after Charles has called a halt to the fight. When Charles tries to arrest him, Richard kills Ganelon’s kinsman Lancelin of Clermont, and flees to Bordeaux. The Lorrainers refuse to make peace unless Richard is fully pardoned…

Peace is nonetheless made, and Ganelon travels to the East, where he finds Helen and Yon. He deviously brings about a quarrel between them, causing Helen to secretly leave Ays and wander the world. Meanwhile, in France, Ganelon’s nephew Robert of Milan is at war with the Lorrainers again.

A III: Charlemagne sends Wernier van Graven and Reinout van den dorne wit [= Of the White Thorn = Reynard of Mountauban] with Roland to Robert’s camp, to verify a claim by one Rigaut…

A IV: The envoys find Richard, then go to Belves, where they find Robert’s envoy Gubelin, who takes them to Robert himself…

A V: Ganelon is back in France, and confers with Robert. He advises his nephew to make peace now and betray the Lorrainers when they aren’t expecting anything. They go to Paris, Ganelon leading a hundred Arabian destriers, which he offers to Charlemagne, who promptly forgives him and Robert everything. Ganelon tells him that Yon and Helen are in Gothland…

C II: The Lorrainers and Bordelais make peace. Robert will give his daughter Ogieve and his fief of Montferrat to Rigaud. Richard will wed the Damsel of the [Spanish] March…

C III: Queen Helen, in her wanderings, comes to Jerusalem where she is shriven of her adultery by the Patriarch. Besides Otto and Yon, she has slept with two other kings, by whom she has two sons: Sigfried [Segenfrijt] and Rollo. She enters a nunnery. Yon, distraught at her absence, departs Gothland, leaving his son Haestinc behind. He comes to Gardeterre, which is under attack by Empress Irene. Hugelin recognizes his king with joy, and the two send word to France for Richard to come help them, with as many allies as he can…

A battle is fought between the Greeks and the Scythians…

C IV: Yon is victorious, puts Irene’s brother Hardré to flight, and kills Emperor Leo. Irene becomes the regent for her young son Constantine. Needing an ally, she becomes the mistress of the King of Bulgaria, and bears him a son, Michael. Shortly afterwards, however, they quarrel and go to war, totally distracting Irene from her conflict with the Scythians.

Meanwhile, the Scythians’ messenger arrives in France, finds Richard at court, and tells all his news. Ganelon promises to make Irene see reason, but privately encourages her to continue the war against Scythia. Richard suspects as much, but takes no action – yet. Meanwhile, Agolant still seeks vengeance against Ganelon…

Yon for some reason returns to France, possibly. Other scholars place Fragment B IV immediately after C II…

B IV: Rigaud and Ogieve receive the land of Bayonne in fief from Yon and Garin. The latter two travel to Gascony, where Yon stays while Garin vists his daughter Erminjard in Narbonne, with her husband Aymeri and their seven sons, including William. He next goes to Medeborch, where he meets Alice [The Damsel of the March?] and her son Wanfreid.

Ganelon orders his sons Baligant and Marsilius to invade Spain, and Irene to invade Scythia, while Yon is in France. Yon, Garin, and Rigaud travel through France, meeting the elderly Bancelin in Belin. Bancelin, apparently none other than the uncle of Raoul of Cambrai, intends to become a monk at Saint Berin, but the poet foretells a tragic death for him. Yon and Richard entrust Belin, Gironville, and Monstesclavorijn to Pyroen, who, though a son of Ganelon, is faithful to the Lorrainers…

Richard, son of Yon, is slain in the war, thus ending Book Two.

B V: Duke Frederick of Denmark comes to Yon’s aid and routs the Greeks outside Gardeterre. Irene and her son Fromondin are in the city of Pharat. As the Greek, Scythian, and Danish armies manouver and countermanouver, Fromondin kills Frederick. Yon recovers his corpse and praises him for his attempt to avenge the death of Richard…

D: Two Bordelais counts, Pinabel and Laidoen, are leading a mule-train laden with gold when they are surprised and robbed by the Scythians. The two counts are left alone in the forest, and are separated. Pinabel finds his way back to camp, but Laidoen finds a nest of gryphons. An old gryphon bites his arm off and feeds it to its young. Laidoen binds up his wound as best he can and repents his wicked plots against Charlemagne and Yon as he wanders through the night. At sunrise, he meets an old hermit, named Serpio…

The third book was meant to carry the history down to the days of Emperor Frederick. Roland and Aude’s son, Ryoen, known only in this poem, likely played a large role.

Marsilius and Baligant, living in Africa, invade Spain with their uncle Synagon, Sultan of Arabia, at their father’s suggestion. Charles takes his army into Spain to repel them, leading to the Battle of Roncesvalles. Ganelon orchestrates this battle, hoping it will kill off the flower of the world’s chivalry and leave the way clear for him to become master of all. Empress Irene leads her Greek army to fight the Christians at Roncesvalles. When Charlemagne hears Roland’s horn, he is suspicious of Ganelon, but Ganelon points out that his (Ganelon’s) sons Hugo and Hendrick are with Roland, and his daughter Irene is coming with an army to help Charles. Turpin is with Charlemagne, not at the battle. Charlemagne is not convinced, and orders the army to return to Roncesvalles. Ganelon goes to Irene, and they plot how best to betray Charles. They decide that the Greeks will fall on Charlemagne from the rear, and after he is dead Irene will wed Baligant [!]. Irene’s captains prepare the banners of Africa, but the common Greek soldiers, seeing this and realizing what is about to happen, abandon her en masse and go over to Charlemagne, who thereby learns of the treason, foils it, and arrests Ganelon and Irene. Ganelon is hanged with fourteen of his companions. Irene pleads her innocence, but the Duke of Monbaes shows the court her to sons, whom she blinded to maintain her power, and tells how she killed her own husband. Irene is quartered and her accomplices hanged. [This paragraph is from the Dutch chapbook of Roncesvalles, which seems to have been based partially on Der Lorreinen.]

At least one scholar thinks that Frederick was an error for Ludovic [Louis] and that the story would actually have ended with Louis the Pious and William of Orange. At any rate, if the story was ever finished, the end is lost.

Origins and Influence

A pun on the name of Haestinc and the Old French hanste, ‘lance’ suggests a French source, though how much it was altered by the Dutchman will never be known.

French or Dutch, our author knew the Pseudo-Turpin, some version of the Song of Roland, Aspremont (the gryphons’ nest, and Girbert’s rescue of Charlemagne during the war against Agolant, are clearly inspired by this poem), and Aymeri of Narbonne. The throwing of Judith into a brothel is derived either from saints’ lives (Saint Agnes, most famously) or from Apollonius of Tyre.

Empress Judith appears in this poem as a paragon of chastity. In real life, she had a rather different reputation.

Queen Helen’s sons, Haestinc, Rollo, and Segenfrijt, seem to take their names from the Viking chiefs Hasting and Rollo, and the Danish Sigifrid.

Empress Irene is very loosly based on the historical Irene, who was wife of Emperor Leo IV (775-780) regent for their son Constantine VI (780-790), and finally Empress in her own right (797-802). The historical Irene was an ally of Charlemagne’s, and even considered marrying him. All these historical characters, our author likely found in the chroncicle of Sigebert of Gembloux.

The Dutch chapbooks of Roncesvalles claim that Marsilius and Baligant were bastard sons of Ganelon, a conception found nowhere else outside Der Lorreinen. They also feature Ganelon’s daughter Irene as Empress of Greece. The reconstruction of Book III above is based on them. Of necessity it is rather speculative, as one never knows quite how much of a chapbook is due to the imagination, or the idiocy, of its publisher.

Let thus much suffice for the history of the Lorrainers, and let us now turn to Bevis of Hampton, that was the illustrious forbear of the house of Clairmont.

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Book I, Canto XIII, Part 1

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

ARGUMENT

Rinaldo, to obtain a magic steed,
Fights with two gryphons and a giant great.
He learns the tale of Albarose sweet,
How she and her beloved were betrayed
And slain by Trufaldino. He is fleet
To swear an oath to venge the hapless maid.
As they ride onward underneath the trees,
A centaur comes and kidnaps Fiordelis.

1
I told you earlier how those two heard
A cry that could have made the brave despair.
No fear nor panic in Rinaldo stirred.
He leapt to ground and left the palfrey there
With the fair maiden, sweet as singing bird,
Whose face was white with anguish and with care.
Rinald advances with an air defiant,
And finds the reason for this is a giant

2
Who stood a sentinel, as it appeared,
Before a darkling and enormous cave.
His face was horrible, his visage fierce,
To terrify the bravest of the brave.
But braver still than they, our cavalier
Who never has known fear in all his days,
Now moves against him with his sword in hand;
But not a muscle moved the giant grand.

3
His right hand he an iron club held stiff in.
From head to foot he was enclosed in mail.
On either side of him there lay a gryphon,
Bound to the rocks by chains too thick to fail,
But lest his presence be a hieroglyph in
Your eyes, his purpose here I will unveil.
This giant here was set to guard, you see, a
Horse, which erst belonged to Argalía.

4
By strange enchantment was this horse begot,
Because, of fire and of purest ashes,
A mare was magic’ly to being brought,
A thing that with the course of Nature clashes.
And then the wind this mare with child got,
And this the horse, of all the fastest,
Which ate no grass and fed upon no hay,
But lived on air alone from day to day.

5
Back to this cave the charger had returned,
As soon as Ferraguto set him free.
Here he was born, for here he ever yearned,
Here all his happy foalhood days spent he,
Till Argalía, who had magic learned,
Compelled him hence, to serve him faithfully,
Long as he loved, and once the knight was dead,
The horse in but a day to his home sped.

6
The giant then his sentry post regained,
The ugly, cruel, strong, and pertinacious,
And with him kept two gryphons tightly chained,
Each with sharp talons, horrid and rapacious.
These chains were wrought, as I should have explained,
So he could quickly loose those beasts hellacious.
Each of these gryphons was so strong in flight,
That though the air they could transport a knight.

7
Rinaldo with caution to the battle stepped,
Deliberate footsteps and a searching eye,
But do not think that fear upon him crept,
Because his paces are so far from spry.
The loft giant who the passage kept
Could clearly see a valiant knight drew nigh.
Not that he cared, for he had slain already
A thousand comers, be they weak or steady.

8
And all around the field were spread the white
Bones of the men the giant fierce had slain.
And now began the hard and eager fight:
Each seeks a vantage point upon the plain.
And furious blows they deal to left and right:
Neither to smile or to laugh will deign,
For each knows, true as there’s a sun i’th’ sky,
That one or th’other on this day will die.

9
The good Rinaldo was the first to strike,
And smites the mighty giant on the head.
But that brute’s helm was stronger than a dyke,
And not a whit was he discomfortéd.
Now his hot wrath and surqidry up-spike,
Just like a storm descends his club of lead;
Rinaldo takes the blow upon his shield,
Which splinters; pieces fly across the field.

10
But this was all the damage that was done;
Rinaldo pays him back a mighty blow
Which was a cruel and a mortal one,
Between his ribs, nigh to his heart it goes,
But scarcely had this wound to bleed begun
Rinald struck, on the other flank, his foe.
The armor strong no more intact remains,
Fusbert cuts through his entrails to his reins.

11
At this the giant was astonished quite;
Clearly he could perceive his death at hand.
From his two wounds his pain is infinite.
Upon his feet the brute can scarcely stand.
So he resolveth, out of hellish spite
That Don Rinald will leave the living land.
He staggers back, and ere his body stiffens,
The chains he loosens to release the gryphons.

12
The first one clutched the giant in his talons
And sailed away with him into the air,
And vanished from the dame’s sight and the gallants.
The other moves against Rinaldo there,
Hoping, perhaps, to knock him off his balance,
Ruffles his feathers, and to strike prepares.
His wings outspread, and ev’ry talon shows.
Rinaldo with Fusberta swings a blow

13
The bold Rinaldo’s aim was stout and true:
Both the beast’s foreclaws at a blow he mauls.
A searing pain the ugly bird shot through;
Shrieking, it fled, and came back not at all
When lo! A mighty noise from in the blue:
The other gryphon lets the giant fall.
I don’t think that he can survive this leap:
The gryphon dropped him from four thousand feet.

14
With a great rushing noise, he downward sped.
Rinaldo sees him falling from the sky;
It seems the brute is headed for his head.
If not exactly there, he’ll land nearby.
He sees that very shortly he’ll be dead,
Nor does he know what tactics he can try;
Whether he runs, or he stays where he’s at,
The giant’s massive corpse will squash him flat.

15
Still closer to the ground it makes its way;
Straight at Rinaldo, seemingly, it’s bound,
Before it lands, less than a foot away.
His head was shattered when it hit the ground,
And made a greater noise than words could say,
And shook the plain for nigh a mile around.
Rinaldo scarcely has the time to sigh,
Before, God help him! other perils nigh.

16
For th’other gryphon his way downwards took,
Wings folded back, with such a rush he comes,
The air re-echoed and the heavens shook,
And he concealed the splendor of the sun,
Shadowing ev’rywhere the knight might look.
A beast so great as this was never none.
Turpin affirms it for a certain thing
That fifteen feet outspread was either wing.

17
Rinaldo firmly for the bird awaits
But very little time does he spend waiting,
Ere like a lightning bolt accelerates
The gryphon, not a whit its speed abating.
Rinaldo his revenge anticipates,
And smites the monster without hesitating:
Beneath its throat he digs a nasty ditch,
Through which the red blood flows without a hitch.

18
But not enough he struck it death to bring.
He could not break the ribs or pierce the lungs.
The brute mounts to the sky, then folds its wings,
And downward with a piercing shriek it plunged.
The ugly brute Rinaldo’s helmet dings,
The crest and circlet from the top it wrung,
But could not break the helm itself because
The magic helmet of Mambrino ’twas.

19
The bird now flies aloft and now dives back;
Rinaldo does not know and cannot guess
Which is the weakest point he should attack.
The damsel watches with such great distress
She thought for fear she would her life soon lack.
Not for herself did she her prayers address
To God above, but only for the knight.
Her own self then she had forgotten quite.

20
The day was vanquished by the dismal night,
And yet the battle ’twixt the two raged on.
One thing alone now caused Rinaldo fright.
He might not see which way the beast had gone;
He knows that swiftly he must end the fight.
To this he bends his members, ev’ry one;
His only hope to keep himself from dying
Is to prevent that vicious bird from flying.

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Notes