The Celtic Literature Collective

Didot Perceval
The Adventures of Perceval

NOW KNOW THAT when Perceval separated from his companions, he rode all day but found no adventure, neither could he find hostel where he could shelter himself. Therefore it was necessary that he sleep that night in the forest, so he removed the bridle from his horse and let him feed upon the grass. Yet never throughout the night did Perceval sleep; instead he watched his horse all night because of the wild animals of the forest. And the next day when dawn had broken, he saddled his horse and put on the bridle and mounted without delay and rode through the forest steadily until the hour of prime. Then, as he was riding, he looked beside him to his left, and he saw a knight who was struck with a lance through the body so that the lance was yet there, and also a sword had cleft his helm down to the teeth. And beside him there was a horse tethered and a shield, and beside the body was the most beautiful damsel that ever Nature made. And she grieved the deepest that ever woman grieved, and wept and mourned the knight that was there, and struck one fist on the other and tore out her hair and scratched her face so agonizingly that no one could have seen her without having deep pity. And when Perceval saw her he pitied her greatly, and pricked his horse with his spurs riding in that direction; and when the damsel saw him she ceased her mourning a little and raised herself to meet him and said: "Sir, I welcome you." And Perceval said:

"Damsel, God grant you greater joy than you have." And she responded: "Sir, I will never be able to have joy, for one has killed before me him whom I loved so much and who honored me so greatly that there was nothing that he loved so much as he did myself. " And when Perceval heard her he asked her:

"Maiden, how long were you in his company?" And she answered: "Good sir, I will tell you.

"It happened that I was in the house of my father in this forest, and a giant dwelt in his house a half day's journey nearby, and he had asked my father for me many times but my father had refused him and therefore he warred against my father for a long while. And then the giant learned that my father had gone to the palace of the noble King Arthur who held the Round Table at Carduel on Pentecost. When he knew that my father had gone to King Arthur's court, he came to our manor and he tore off the door and came into the hail, for he found no one to gainsay him, and thence he came into the chamber of my mother and took me up and bore me away with him and he made me mount on his horse that you can see there. And he brought me here and made me dismount and he wished to lie with me. And I, who feared him greatly, wept and cried loudly; and this knight that you see here heard my voice and he came spurring upon us, yet the giant gave him no heed until he saw him beside him, then he had great grief of it, and charged upon him full tilt. And the knight who was very noble and brave received him very stalwartly with the strength he had, but I must say that the giant contested with him most evilly and harassed him greatly, yet the knight attacked him with his sword and cut off his head and hanged him there down from the branch of a tree. And he came to me and made me mount, and he said that he would make me his beloved. And I, who enjoyed much in this, granted it to him willingly, and I told him that henceforth I would keep him as my lord and my lover since he had delivered me from the fiend who would have shamed and killed me.

Then we rode all day yesterday together and this morning until tierce when we found a pavilion raised, so we went toward it to see what celebration was being made there, for I have never elsewhere seen such great festivities as those held who were in the tent. And then we entered into the pavilion of which the flaps were raised, and when we were within the pavilion, everyone, just as they had been making great joy, showed afterwards great sorrow when they saw us come. And when my beloved saw that they showed such great sorrow he marveled over it much; and then came a damsel who said that we should take ourselves quickly from the tent, and we should depart in flight, for if we stayed there longer we would certainly be killed, and he answered, as one who knew nothing of their activities, that he would not yet leave there, and he prayed them:

'Maidens, for God's sake, leave be the sorrowing and resume the gaiety that you are accustomed to make. 'And she answered:

'Good sir, how can we make our festival when it is necessary that you die before us? For the Orguelleus de la Lande who has pitched his pavilion here, will kill you and you may be sure he will never have pity on you; therefore if you believe me you will go hence before worse comes to you.

"And he answered: 'Sweet damsel, I do not fear that a knight may be able to harm me.' And when they heard him they began to weep. Then came a dwarf riding a nag, a whip in his hand, who was very evil and cruel. Nor did he greet us otherwise than to say that we were unwelcome, and so we were in the guise that he showed to us, for he struck me most harshly with his whip across my face so that the marks appeared there. Then he took up the pole of the tent and threw it down upon us. And you may be sure that my beloved was much vexed by this, but he did not deign to quarrel with the dwarf, and as soon as the dwarf had done this, he turned and struck his horse with his whip. And we turned as well and went on our road, for we had no more to do there. And we had not gone more than a half league when we saw a knight well armed come riding. And he was armed with vermilion arms and came at such great speed that he made the whole wood quake, and it seemed that he might have been ten he made such great tumult. And when the knight approached us he cried in a loud voice: 'By God, sir knight, in an evil hour have you upset my tent and interrupted the joy that was made there.' And when my lover heard him he turned toward him, and they reined their horses' heads for combat. Then the knight, who was very strong, struck my lover in the body and then drew his sword and struck him amidst the helm just as you can see. And when he had killed him, he turned away, for he did not deign to look at me or my horse. And I remained all alone in this forest, and if I have great sorrow none ought to blame me for it since I have lost him who had delivered me from my enemy. Now I have told you truly this which you asked of me.

When she had thus spoken she began to weep and to mourn deeply, and Perceval who was most saddened by the sorrow he saw her have, spoke to her and said: "Damsel, in this grief you can recover nothing; but mount on this mule and lead me to the tent of the knight, for never will I have joy until I have avenged him." Then the maiden answered him: "If you trust me you will not go there, for the knight is too Large and strong and if he should be the victor he will kill you; and though I say this, yet no less is it true that this is the person in the world whom I hate most." And Perceval told her that he would not stop until he had seen the knight.

Thereupon Perceval helped the lady mount, and they held their way together up to the pavilion and heard the joy that the damsels made. And as soon as they espied Perceval they made an end of their joy, and they cried in a loud voice that he should leave there, for if their lord came he would have to die. And Perceval, who cared very little for this that they said, came riding up to the pavilion. Then when he had entered within and had begun to speak to them, the dwarf, who was most ugly and hideous, came on his nag, and he held a whip in his hand and with it struck the nag on the head and then he said: "Fly quickly from the pavilion of my lord." And then he came to the damsel and struck her across the neck and across the hands; and he grasped the palfrey of the damsel and wished to make it go back outside the pavilion. When Perceval saw him he was much moved, and he took his lance by the iron and with it gave him a great blow across the shoulders so that he made him fly from the nag to the earth all flat. But he Leaped up and came to his nag and mounted there and said to Perceval: "By God, sir knight, before this day is past great shame will be placed on you. " And Perceval, who sorrowed much for the damsel whom the dwarf had so misused, remained in the tent.

While they were there they saw the knight come all armed with vermilion arms, and with him the dwarf. And when the damsel saw him she was afraid and cried: "Good sir, behold him who killed my love." And when Perceval heard her he turned the head of his horse and came out of the pavilion. And when the knight saw him he cried: "By God, sir knight, in an evil hour did you beat my dwarf." And Perceval, who valued little his speech and his arrogance, turned the head of his horse and they came together at a great pace as those who in no way have love for each other. And the knight who had much strength and fortitude struck Perceval on the shield so that he pierced and split it and made the head pass through along Perceval's left armpit, and you may be sure if it had caught him in the flesh it would have killed him. And Perceval who was very knightly struck the shield with his lance with such fury that neither hauberk nor shield nor anything else he might have worn was enough protection that the iron might not make itself felt in the flesh. And they came together with their bodies and heads and shields so violently that they were so dazed they did not know what had happened and so that the reins and shield straps flew from their fists, and each bore the other to the earth so violently that you might have gone a league before you would have known what had happened to them.

But as quickly as they could they leaped up and grasped the shields by the straps and drew their swords and came toward each other. And the knight who had great strength and power held his sword nude and his shield on his arm and attacked Perceval with the deepest fury. And Perceval put his shield forward, and the knight struck there most fiercely so that he cut it down to the boss. And the blow came downward with great strength, so that it made fly on the ground the flowers and stones and might have harmed Perceval, but the sword turned in his fist and glanced to the outside. When Perceval saw this the strength and courage grew in him, and he came towards him for he wished to strike him through the helm. But the knight opposed the shield to him, and Perceval who felt great anger and hatred, struck there so that he split it down to his fist and wounded him most cruelly in the left shoulder and smote him so that he almost fell to the ground. Then he charged upon him most fiercely and the knight defended him- sell the best he could, as one who had believed that no man might prevail against him. But Perceval pressed him so that he had to flee across the meadow and nowhere could he recover himself; and Perceval pressed him so closely that he pulled his helmet from his head and would have cut off his head, when he cried in God's name mercy, that he might not kill him, and that he would put himself as his prisoner in any place that he would wish to name.

When Perceval heard him seek mercy he did not deign to touch him further. Instead, he drew back and told him that he must swear on holy relics that he and his damsels would put themselves under the governance of King Arthur, and must promise that he would take to the court of Arthur the damsel whose sweetheart he had killed and would render her to Gavain the nephew of the king, "and I believe that he will lead her according to her will," or at least he would escort her back to the house of her father. And the knight answered: "Sir, I will do this most willingly, but now tell me from whom I shall surrender me as prisoner when I come to the court of the rich King Arthur. "And he replied: "From Perceval li Galois, who has entered on the quest of the Grail. Yet I have forgotten to tell you that, if you do not find Sir Gavain, you must deliver the damsel to the queen, for truly I do not believe Gavain will be there." And the knight answered: "Sir, I will do your will in all this, but I request that, before you go from here or I likewise, you will eat with me, and then I will go more joyfully there where you have commanded me."

Then Perceval answered as one who had great need of it that he would most willingly do this. Thereupon they came into the tent, and when they had entered, the knight commanded the damsels that they should make good cheer to the knight, and as he asked and commanded so they performed. And they clothed him with a rich mantle and the tables were set, and they seated themselves to eat and had great plenty. And when they had eaten they arose and Perceval asked for his arms, and they were brought to him and he armed himself; and when he was armed he mounted his horse and the knight did likewise and made the damsels mount and also the damsel that Perceval had led there. And you may be sure that when she left Perceval she grieved greatly, and it was very clear from her appearance that she would have liked better to have stayed in his company than in the company of the 'knight; but this could not be, for Perceval was thinking much of other things.

Thus they separated and the knight rode until he came to the court of the rich King Arthur. And Arthur was in his great hail and with him the queen who was very beautiful, and many good knights who had come to the court. Then the knight whom Perceval had sent there came into the hail and saluted the king and queen and all the nobles afterward and said: "Sire, I surrender myself as your prisoner on behalf of Perceval li Galois, and these damsels that you can see here, to do your will. And this damsel that you see he sends to Sir Gavain, and if Sir Gavain is not here he asks the queen that she receive her for she is of most noble lineage; and he himself salutes you all."

When King Arthur heard him he was very happy, and he retained him in his household and released him from any prison; and the queen took the maiden and welcomed her with much honor for the love of Sir Gavain who was her cousin. Thus the knight remained in the court of King Arthur and was much loved in the court by the barons.

I | II | III | IV | V
VI | VII | VIII | IX | X | XI

SOURCE: Didot Perceval, or, The Romance of Perceval in Prose. ed. and trans. Dell Skeels. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1966.

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