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The Age of Chivalry, or Legends of King Arthur



GERAINT, as he had been used to do when he was at Arthur’s court, frequented tournaments. And he became acquainted with valiant and mighty men, until he had gained as much fame there as he had formerly done elsewhere. And he enriched his court, and his companions, and his nobles, with the best horses and the best arms, and with the best and most valuable jewels, and he ceased not until his fame had flown over the face of the whole kingdom. When he knew that it was thus, he began to love ease and pleasure, for there was no one who was worth his opposing. And he loved his wife, and liked to continue in the palace, with minstrelsy and diversions. So he began to shut himself up in the chamber of his wife, and he took no delight in anything besides, insomuch that he gave up the friendship of his nobles, together with his hunting and his amusements, and lost the hearts of all the host in his court. And there was murmuring and scoffing concerning him among the inhabitants of the palace, on account of his relinquishing so completely their companionship for the love of his wife. These tidings came to Erbin. And when Erbin had heard these things, he spoke unto Enid, and inquired of her whether it was she that had caused Geraint to act thus, and to forsake his people and his hosts. “Not I, by my confession unto heaven,” said she; “there is nothing more hateful unto me than this.” And she knew not what she should do, for, although it was hard for her to own this to Geraint, yet was it not more easy for her to listen to what she heard, without warning Geraint concerning it. And she was very sorrowful.

One morning in the summer–time they were upon their couch, and Geraint lay upon the edge of it. And Enid was without sleep in the apartment, which had windows of glass;[26] and the sun shone upon the couch. And the clothes had slipped from off his arms and his breast, and he was asleep. Then she gazed upon the marvellous beauty of his appearance, and she said, “Alas! and am I the cause that these arms and this breast have lost their glory, and the warlike fame which they once so richly enjoyed?” As she said this the tears dropped from her eyes, and they fell upon his breast. And the tears she shed, and the words she had spoken awoke him. And another thing contributed to awaken him, and that was the idea that it was not in thinking of him that she spoke thus, but that it was because she loved some other more than him, and that she wished for other society. Thereupon Geraint was troubled in his mind, and he called his squire; and when he came to him, “Go quickly,” said he, and prepare my horse and my arms, and make them ready. And do thou arise,” said he to Enid, “and apparel thyself; and cause thy horse to be accoutred, and clothe thee in the worst riding–dress that thou hast in thy possession. And evil betide me,” said he, “if thou returnest here until thou knowest whether I have lost my strength so completely as thou didst say. And if it be so, it will then be easy for thee to seek the society thou didst wish for of him of whom thou wast thinking.” So she arose, and clothed herself in her meanest garments. “I know nothing, lord,” said she, “of thy meaning.” “Neither wilt thou know at this time,” said he.

[26] The terms of admiration in which the older writers invariably speak of glass windows would be sufficient proof, if other evidence were wanting, how rare an article of luxury they were in the houses of our ancestors. They were first introduced in ecclesiastical architecture, to which they were for a long time confined. Glass is said not to have been employed in domestic architecture before the fourteenth century.

Then Geraint went to see Erbin. “Sir,” said he, “I am going upon a quest, and I am not certain when I may come back. Take heed, therefore, unto thy possessions until my return.” “I will do so,” said he; “but it is strange to me that thou shouldst go so suddenly. And who will proceed with thee, since thou art not strong enough to traverse the land of Loegyr alone?” “But one person only will go with me.” “Heaven counsel thee, my son,” said Erbin, “and may many attach themselves to thee in Loegyr.” Then went Geraint to the place where his horse was, and it was equipped with foreign armor, heavy and shining. And he desired Enid to mount her horse, and to ride forward, and to keep a long way before him. “And whatever thou mayest see, and whatever thou mayest hear concerning me,” said he, “do thou not turn back. And unless I speak unto thee, say not thou one word either.” So they set forward. And he did not choose the pleasantest and most frequented road, but that which was the wildest and most beset by thieves and robbers and venomous animals.

And they came to a high–road, which they followed till they saw a vast forest; and they saw four armed horsemen come forth from the forest. When the armed men saw them, they said one to another, “Here is a good occasion for us to capture two horses and armor, and a lady likewise; for this we shall have no difficulty in doing against yonder single knight, who hangs his head so pensively and heavily.” Enid heard this discourse, and she knew not what she do through fear of Geraint, who had told her to be silent. “The vengeance of Heaven be upon me,” said she, “if I would not rather receive my death from his hand than from the hand of any other; and though he should slay me, yet will I speak to him, lest I should have the misery to witness his death.” So she waited for Geraint until he came near to her. “Lord,” said she, “didst thou hear the words of those men concerning thee?” Then he lifted up his eyes, and looked at her angrily. “Thou hadst only,” said he, “to hold thy peace, as I bade thee. I wish but for silence, and not for warning. And though thou shouldst desire to see my defeat and my death by the hands of those men, yet I do feel no dread.” Then the foremost of them couched his lance, and rushed upon Geraint. And he received him, and that not feebly. But he let the thrust go by him, while he struck the horseman upon the centre of the shield, in such a manner that his shield was split, and his armor broken, so that a cubit’s length of the shaft of Geraint’s lance passed through his body, and sent him to the earth, the length of the lance over his horse’s crupper. Then the second horseman attacked him furiously, being wroth at the death of his companion. But with one thrust Geraint overthrew him also, and killed him as he had done the other. Then the third set upon him, and he killed him in like manner. And thus also he slew the fourth. Sad and sorrowful was the maiden as she saw all this. Geraint dismounted his horse, and took the arms of the men he had slain, and placed them upon their saddles, and tied together the reins of their horses; and he mounted his horse again. “Behold what thou must do,” said he; “take the four horses, and drive them before thee, and proceed forward as I bade thee just now. And say not one word unto me, unless I speak first unto thee. And I declare unto Heaven,” said he, “if thou doest not thus, it will be to thy cost.” “I will do as far as I can, lord,” said she, “according to thy desire.”

So the maiden went forward, keeping in advance of Geraint, as he had desired her; and it grieved him as much as his wrath would permit to see a maiden so illustrious as she having so much trouble with the care of the horses. Then they reached a wood, and it was both deep and vast, and in the wood night overtook them. “Ah, maiden,” said he, “it is vain to attempt proceeding forward.” “Well, lord,” said she, “whatever thou wishest we will do.” “It will be best for us,” he answered, “to rest and wait for the day in order to pursue our journey.” “That will we, gladly,” said she. And they did so. Having dismounted himself, he took her down from her horse. “I cannot by any means refrain from sleep through weariness,” said he; “do thou therefore watch the horses and sleep not.” “I will, lord,” said she. Then he went to sleep in his armor, and thus passed the night, which was not long at that season. And when she saw the dawn of day appear she looked around her to see if he were waking, and thereupon he awoke. Then he arose, and said unto her, “Take the horses and ride on, and keep straight on as thou didst yesterday.” And they left the wood, and they came to an open country, with meadows on one hand, and mowers mowing the meadows. And there was a river before them, and the horses bent down and drank of the water. And they went up out of the river by a lofty steep; and there they met a slender stripling with a satchel about his neck, and they saw there was something in the satchel, but they knew not what it was. And he had a small blue pitcher in his hand, and a bowl on the mouth of the pitcher. And the youth saluted Geraint. “Heaven prosper thee!” said Geraint; “and whence dost thou come?” “I come,” said he, “from the city that lies before thee. My lord,” he added, “will it be displeasing to thee if I ask whence thou comest also?” “By no means; through yonder wood did I come.” “Thou camest not through the wood to–day.” “No,” he replied; “we were in the wood last night.” “I warrant,” said the youth, “that thy condition there last night was not the most pleasant, and that thou hadst neither meat nor drink.” “No, by my faith,” said he. “Wilt thou follow my counsel,” said the youth, “and take thy meal from me?” “What sort of meal?” he inquired. “The breakfast which is sent for yonder mowers, nothing less than bread and meat and wine; and if thou wilt, sir, they shall have none of it.” “I will,” said he, “and Heaven reward thee for it.”

So Geraint alighted, and the youth took the maiden from off her horse. Then they washed, and took their repast. And the youth cut the bread in slices, and gave them drink, and served them withal. And when they had finished the youth arose and said to Geraint, “My lord, with thy permission, I will now go and fetch some food, for the mowers.” “Go first to the town,” said Geraint, “and take a lodging for me in the best place thou knowest, and the most commodious one for the horses; and take thou whichever horse and arms thou choosest in payment for thy service and thy gift.” “Heaven reward thee, lord!” said the youth; “and this would be ample to repay services much greater than those I have rendered unto thee.” And to the town went the youth, and he took the best and most pleasant lodgings that he knew; and after that he went to the palace, having the horse and armor with him, and proceeded to the place where the earl was, and told him all his adventure. “I go now, lord,” said he, “to meet the knight, and to conduct him to his lodging.” “Go, gladly,” said the earl, “and right joyfully shall he be received here, if he so come.” And the youth went to meet Geraint, and told him that he would be received gladly by the earl in his own palace; but he would go only to his lodgings. And he had a goodly chamber, in which was plenty of straw and drapery, and a spacious and commodious place he had for the horses; and the youth prepared for them plenty of provender. After they had disarrayed themselves, Geraint spoke thus to Enid: “Go,” said he, “to the other side of the chamber, and come not to this side of the house; and thou mayst call to thee the woman of the house if thou wilt.” “I will do, lord,” said she, “as thou sayest.” Thereupon the man of the house came to Geraint, and welcomed him. And after they had eaten and drank Geraint went to sleep, and so did Enid also.

In the evening, behold, the earl came to visit Geraint, and his twelve honorable knights with him. And Geraint rose up and welcomed him. Then they all sat down according to their precedence in honor. And the earl conversed with Geraint, and inquired of him the object of his journey. “I have none,” he replied, “but to seek adventures and to follow my own inclination.” Then the earl cast his eye upon Enid, and he looked at her steadfastly. And he thought he had never seen a maiden fairer or more comely than she. And he set all his thoughts and his affections upon her. Then he asked of Geraint, “Have I thy permission to go and converse with yonder maiden, for I see that she is apart from thee?” “Thou hast it gladly,” said he. So the earl went to the place where the maiden was, and spake with her. “Ah! maiden,” said he, “it cannot be pleasant to thee to journey with yonder man.” “It is not unpleasant to me,” said she. “Thou hast neither youths nor maidens to serve thee,” said he. “Truly,” she replied, “it is more pleasant for me to follow yonder man than to be served by youths and maidens.” “I will give thee good counsel,” said he; “all my earldom will I place in thy possession if thou wilt dwell with me.” “That will I not, by Heaven,” she said; “yonder man was the first to whom my faith was pledged, and shall I prove inconstant to him?” “Thou art in the wrong,” said the earl; “if I slay the man yonder I can keep thee with me as long as I choose; and when thou no longer pleasest me I can turn thee away. But if thou goest with me by thy own goodwill, I protest that our union shall continue as long as I shall remain alive.” Then she pondered those words of his, and she considered that it was advisable to encourage him in his request. “Behold then, chieftain, this is most expedient for thee to do to save me from all reproach; come here to–morrow and take me away as though I knew nothing thereof.” “I will do so,” said he. So he arose and took his leave, and went forth with his attendants. And she told not then to Geraint any of the conversation which she had had with the earl lest it should rouse his anger, and cause him uneasiness and care.

And at the usual hour they went to sleep. And at the beginning of the night Enid slept a little; and at midnight she arose, and placed all Geraint’s armor together, so that it might be ready to put on. And though fearful of her errand, she came to the side of Geraint’s bed; and she spoke to him softly and gently, saying, “My lord, arise, and clothe thyself, for these were the words of the earl to me, and his intention concerning me.” So she told Geraint all that had passed. And although he was wroth with her, he took warning, and clothed himself. And she lighted a candle that he might have light to do so. “Leave there the candle,” said he, “and desire the man of the house to come here.” Then she went, and the man of the house came to him. “Dost thou know how much I owe thee?” asked Geraint. “I think thou owest but little.” “Take the three horses, and the three suits of armor.” “Heaven reward thee, Lord,” said he, “but I spent not the value of one suit of armor upon thee.” “For that reason,” said he, “thou wilt be the richer. And now, wilt thou come to guide me out of the town?” “I will, gladly,” said he; “and in which direction dost thou intend to go?” “I wish to leave the town by a different way from that by which I entered it.” So the man of the lodgings accompanied him as far as he desired. Then he bade the maiden to go on before him, and she did so, and went straight forward, and his host returned home.

And Geraint and the maiden went forward along the high–road. And as they journeyed thus, they heard an exceeding loud wailing near to them. “Stay thou here,” said he, “and I will go and see what is the cause of this wailing.” “I will,” said she. Then he went forward into an open glade that was near the road. And in the glade he saw two horses, one having a man’s saddle, and the other a woman’s saddle upon it. And behold there was a knight lying dead in his armor, and a young damsel in a riding–dress standing over him lamenting. “Ah, lady,” said Geraint, “what hath befallen thee?” “Behold,” she answered, “I journeyed here with my beloved husband, when lo! three giants came upon us, and without any cause in the world, they slew him.” “Which way went they hence?” said Geraint. “Yonder by the high–road,” she replied. So he returned to Enid. “Go,” said he, “to the lady that is below yonder, and await me there till I come.” She was sad when he ordered her to do thus, but nevertheless she went to the damsel, whom it was ruth to hear, and she felt certain that Geraint would never return.

Meanwhile Geraint followed the giants, and overtook them. And each of them was greater in stature than three other men, and a huge club was on the shoulder of each. Then he rushed upon one of them, and thrust his lance through his body. And having drawn it forth again, he pierced another of them through likewise. But the third turned upon him, and struck him with his club so that he split his shield and crushed his shoulder. But Geraint drew his sword, and gave the giant a blow on the crown of his head, so severe, and fierce, and violent, that his head and his neck were split down to his shoulders, and he fell dead. So Geraint left him thus, and returned to Enid. And when he reached the place where she was, he fell down lifeless from his horse. Piercing and loud and thrilling was the cry that Enid uttered. And she came and stood over him where he had fallen. And at the sound of her cries came the Earl of Limours, and they who journeyed with him, whom her lamentations brought out of their road. And the earl said to Enid, “Alas, lady, what hath befallen thee?” “Ah, good sir,” said she, “the only man I have loved, or ever shall love, is slain.” Then he said to the other, “And what is the cause of thy grief?” “They have slain my beloved husband also,” said she. “And who was it that slew them?” “Some giants,” she answered, “slew my best–beloved, and the other knight went in pursuit of them, and came back in the state thou seest.” The earl caused the knight that was dead to be buried, but he thought that there still remained some life in Geraint; and to see if he yet would live, he had him carried with him in the hollow of his shield, and upon a bier. And the two damsels went to the court; and when they arrived there, Geraint was placed upon a little couch in front of the table that was in the hall. Then they all took off their travelling–gear, and the earl besought Enid to do the same, and to clothe herself in other garments. “I will not, by Heaven,” said she. “Ah, lady,” said he, “be not so sorrowful for this matter.” “It were hard to persuade me to be otherwise,” said she. “I will act towards thee in such wise that thou needest not be sorrowful, whether yonder knight live or die. Behold, a good earldom, together with myself, will I bestow upon thee; be therefore happy and joyful.” “I declare to Heaven,” said she, “that henceforth I shall never be joyful while I live.” “Come,” said he, “and eat.” “No, by Heaven, I will not.” “But by Heaven, thou shalt,” said he. So he took her with him to the table against her will, and many times desired her to eat. “I call Heaven to witness,” said she, “that I will not eat until the man that is upon yonder bier shall eat likewise.” “Thou canst not fulfil that,” said the earl; “yonder man is dead already.” “I will prove that I can,” said she. Then he offered her a goblet of liquor. “Drink this goblet,” he said, “and it will cause thee to change thy mind.” “Evil betide me,” she answered, “if I drink aught until he drink also.” “Truly,” said the earl, “it is of no more avail for me to be gentle with thee than ungentle.” And he gave her a box in the ear. Thereupon she raised a loud and piercing shriek, and her lamentations were much greater than they had been before; for she considered in her mind that, had Geraint been alive, he durst not have struck her thus. But behold, at the sound of her cry, Geraint revived from his swoon, and he sat up on the bier; and finding his sword in the hollow of his shield, he rushed to the place where the earl was, and struck him a fiercely–wounding, severely–venomous, and sternly–smiting blow upon the crown of his head, so that he clove him in twain, until his sword was staid by the table. Then all left the board and fled away. And this was not so much through fear of the living, as through the dread they felt at seeing the dead man rise up to slay them. And Geraint looked upon Enid, and he was grieved for two causes; one was to see that Enid had lost her color and her wonted aspect; and the other, to know that she was in the right. “Lady,” said he, “knowest thou where our horses are?” “I know, lord, where thy horse is,” she replied, “but I know not where is the other. Thy horse is in the house yonder.” So he went to the house, and brought forth his horse, and mounted him, and took up Enid, and placed her upon the horse with him. And he rode forward. And their road lay between two hedges; and the night was gaining on the day. And lo! they saw behind them the shafts of spears betwixt them and the sky, and they heard the tramping of horses, and the noise of a host approaching. “I hear something following us,” said he, “and I will put thee on the other side of the hedge.” And thus he did. And thereupon, behold, a knight pricked towards him, and couched his lance. When Enid saw this, she cried out, saying, “O chieftain, whoever thou art, what renown wilt thou gain by slaying a dead man?” “O Heaven!” said he, “is it Geraint?” “Yes, in truth,” said she; “and who art thou?” “I am Gwiffert Petit,” said he, “thy husband’s ally, coming to thy assistance, for I heard that thou wast in trouble. Come with me to the court of a son–in–law of my sister, which is near here, and thou shalt have the best medical assistance in the kingdom.” “I will do so gladly,” said Geraint. And Enid was placed upon the horse of one of Gwiffert’s squires, and they went forward to the baron’s palace. And they were received there with gladness, and they met with hospitality and attention. The next morning they went to seek physicians; and it was not long before they came, and they attended Geraint until he was perfectly well. And while Geraint was under medical care, Gwiffert caused his armor to be repaired, until it was as good as it had ever been. And they remained there a month and a fortnight. Then they separated, and Geraint went towards his own dominions, and thenceforth he reigned prosperously, and his warlike fame and splendor lasted with renown and honor both to him and to Enid,[27] from that time forward.

[27] Throughout the broad and varied regions of romance, it would be difficult do find a character of greater simplicity and truth than that of Enid, the daughter of Earl Ynywl. Conspicuous for her beauty and noble bearing, we are at a loss whether more to admire the patience with which she bore all the hardships she was destined to undergo, or the constancy and affection which finally achieved the triumph she so richly deserved.
The character of Enid is admirably sustained through the whole tale; and as it is more natural, because less overstrained, so perhaps it is even more touching, than that of Griselda, over which, however, Chaucer has thrown a charm that leads us to forget the improbability of her story.

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