Chapter Ten: The Tournement at the Castle
THEREUPON he departed, taking leave, and rode so long through the forest that the eighth day of Pentecost arrived. And then he rode all that day until the hour of nones without finding any adventure and rode until he looked before him and saw four, youths riding, and each bore a shield at his neck, and they led pack horses and war horses, and behind them was drawn a cart of lances. And as soon as Perceval saw them he spurred after them and asked them where they were taking this equipment and whom they served. And they answered:
"Good sir, we serve Melian de Lis and go to the tourney which is to be held at the White Castle for one of the most beautiful damsels of the world. All those who have seen her say that if all the beauties of the beautiful women of the world were joined in one they would not equal those of this damsel. And besides the great beauty that she has she also has great wealth, and many knights and counts and dukes and other lords have asked for her but she has never wished to listen to any of them. Know therefore that the lady of the White Castle proclaimed for her daughter, who is most gracious, a tournament with the pledge given there that whoso shall be victor in the tournament shall have the damsel, no matter how poor a bachelor he may be, for she will make him a rich man and will put herself and what ever she has at his command. Now know that he to whom God grants this fortune will be the wealthiest man in the world and of more substance than any other in the land of Britain save only King Arthur. And for this reason Sir Melian de Lis goes there for he has loved her for a long time and wishes to bring it about, if he is victorious in the tourney, that he may have the damsel for wife."
And then Perceval asked them at what time they believed that the tourney would be held. And they answered: "Worthy sir, it will be three days from today. " And then Perceval asked them if there would be many knights there. And when the youths heard him they laughed and said: "Sir knight, there is no need to ask about this, for the tourney was cried in the court of the rich King Arthur. Therefore I know well that all the knights of the Round Table will come there since they have returned on this Pentecost from the quest of the Grail in which they have achieved nothing. And King Arthur held on this Pentecost the greatest festival that he has ever held. At this festival the tourney was cried, and know well that more than five thousand will come from this court. And I know well that Sir Gavain will come and Lancelot del Lac and Keu the seneschal and Beduier, and Mordret and Guirres and Garries, and these three are brothers of Sir Gavain. And know that Keu the seneschal boasted in the presence of all the nobles that he would bring her to the court of Arthur, and he would win her by strength of arms. Then the knights laughed much and held this for great folly, and even King Arthur reproached him strongly for it and jested about it many times, and King Arthur said that if Perceval should hear news of the tourney he would be there. He would find no man who could stand against him for he has sent more than a hundred and fifty knights in surrender to the court of Arthur. Now the king is very sad that he is not at his court and believes that he may be dead.
"Now you may be sure that we have told you the truth of this about which you have asked, but tell us whether or not you will come there with us." And when Perceval had heard this he told them that he would not go with them and one answered him "May God aid me but you are right, for you would succeed very little in your work there."
Thereupon the squires left Perceval and proceeded on their road. And Perceval set off on another way and decided he would betake himself to the tourney. And he rode at a trot until evening, and he looked before him on the road and saw the house of a vavasor which was surrounded by a wall. And when Perceval saw it he was very happy and rode swiftly until he reached the castle, and he found that its lord was seated upon the draw bridge and six servants with him, and they watched those who passed there going to the tournament. And as soon as the lord saw Perceval coming he leaped up to meet him and welcomed him most gladly and offered him hostel very willingly. And Perceval, who was very happy for this, thanked him much and dismounted quickly, and the servants of the lord sprang to him and helped him to disarm, and one led his horse to the stable and provided for him as well as he could, and the others bore his arms into a chamber while he stood unburdened of armor And indeed the lord enjoyed looking upon him for he was the most handsome knight in the world. And he said between his teeth, so that Perceval did not hear him: "It is a great loss if such a handsome knight is without prowess."
Then came two youths who fastened a mantle about him and he seated himself beside the lord and looked at the knights and the harness that passed there. And Perceval asked the lord if it was far to the White Castle. And the lord answered: "Truly you could come there in the morning before prime." And then Perceval said: "Have there been other knights who have passed today going to the tournament?" And the lord answered, "A little before you came, those of the court of Arthur passed, and know that in the rout there were more than five hundred knights, and I can tell you that they brought the richest equip ment that ever one might see." And when Perceval heard this he was very happy, and they sat there until the night. And the lord asked his servants if they would be able to eat soon, and they answered: "Yes, betimes." Then the lord mounted into the hail and led Perceval by the hand and honored him most greatly and he commanded that tables be placed, and it was done as he ordered.
And when the table had been arranged the wife of the lord entered from her chamber and brought her two daughters with her, very beautiful and wise and courteous damsels. And when they saw Perceval they honored him much, and they sat at the table beside Perceval. And know that Perceval was much ob served that night by the lady and her daughters, and they said that never before had they seen such a handsome knight. After they had eaten, the table was removed, and the lord asked Perceval if he had come in order to go to the tourney, and Perceval answered: "1 learned of it for the first time from the servants of Melian de Lis who brought the equipment of Melian de Lis." And the lord answered: "It is he himself who has called for the tourney, and tomorrow the preliminaries are to take place. If I dared, I would pray that you would come there with me. " And Perceval answered him and said: "Dear host, know I will go most willingly for love of you, but I will not in any way bear arms tomorrow." And the lord answered "I would not pray for you to do that which is against your wish.
Then the beds were prepared, and four youths most nobly escorted Perceval to that place where he slept until the morrow at the break of day when the squires arose in the courtyard And when Perceval saw the day he arose and the lord of the house was now risen, and they went to hear Mass in a most noble chapel. And after Mass was sung they returned to the hall and ate with great delight. And when they had eaten the lord came down into the courtyard and commanded that the horses be prepared. And he had the arms of Perceval placed upon a pack horse, and they mounted quickly and went to see the tourney which was held with great violence and fury, and no matter how soon they had come, still the ensigns had al ready been borne out to the field. And you could have seen there so many beautiful shields and so many fine horses and so much rich armor and so many rich ensigns of silk; never since the time of Arthur was there a tourney held where there was so much rich armor or so many good knights. And you may be sure that Melian de Lis had come out into the field very richly armed, and he had a shield of gold with two lions most richly painted and had around his arm the sleeve of the damsel of the castle, and he rode very proudly and had in his company fifty knights most worthily equipped.
And the heralds cried, "To helms!" And there was a great uproar there, and the hearts trembled in the cowards. And you may be sure that you will never see a tourney joined with such great violence, for know that Melian de Lis leaped f or- ward first of all into the middle of the field before any of his companions, further than a bow can shoot, for he wished to do knightly deeds that would please his lady. And as soon as Sir Gavain saw him he directed himself toward him and they came together more quickly than merlins or swallows can fly, and they struck each other with their lances in the shields of gold most fiercely so that the shields shattered and broke; and their lances stopped at the hauberks and the fragments of the lances flew into the air, and they rode by each other most haughtily, and neither one nor the other lost stirrup.
Then the companies assembled most quickly, and they came together to strike each other in the shields and in the hauberks, and when the lances were broken they sprang forward with their swords. And there you might have seen the fiercest tourney that ever any man could see, and you might have seen in more than five hundred places the banners charging one upon another. And know that Melian de Lis jousted very often and won horses and sent them into the town to the damsel who rejoiced greatly because of it. And know that on the wall of the White Castle were more than three hundred ladies and damsels who watched them, and they showed the one to the other the most worthy with arms, and those in the tourney endeavored most fiercely therefore. And know that Sir Gavain and Lancelot and those of the Round Table made all the ranks fold, and they encountered no knight that they did not bear to earth. And Melian de Lis and his knights on the other side performed marvelous deeds of arms. And the tourney lasted until nightfall when they separated; and, in truth, Sir Gavain and Yvain and Lancelot and Keu the seneschal had all done very well there, and Melian de Lis on the other side. Therefore those of the castle did not know to whom to give the prize and said that they had all done
so well that they did not know whom to choose as the best. But the damsel said that Melian de Lis had done best, yet indeed the lady of the White Castle who was the mother of the damsel did not agree; instead most of the women preferred Gavain. Therefore much contention was shown over it, and the damsel said "Tomorrow we will be able to know who is best and who will have the prize."
In this way stayed the argument, and Melian de Lis entered the castle and Sir Gavain also and Lancelot and Keu the seneschal and those of the Round Table; and you may be sure that never in any other tourney was seen such good lodging. And when the preliminary tourney disbanded the vavasor and Perceval left there and returned to the castle which was not far from there; and as soon as they had alighted the servants came out to meet them and led the horses to the stable and stabled them most splendidly. Then the lord and Perceval took each other's hand and mounted to the hall. And the lord commanded the table to be brought and this was done, and they seated themselves to eat. And then the lord began to talk of the tourney, and the lord asked Perceval who in his opinion had done best. Then Perceval answered that the one with the shield of gold and with the two lions had borne himself very worthily as a knight and that he with the white shield had done best. And the lord replied: "Know that he with the shield of gold and the two lions was Melian de Lis, and he with the white shield was the nephew of King Arthur and named Gavain." And Perceval said:
"Know that for as much gold as this castle is great I would not hold from bearing arms tomorrow, and I will joust as well as I can, and I should like, so help me God, that Gavain and Melian de Lis should be on the same side, then I would joust against them."
When the lord and his daughters heard him they were very joyous and the lord said: "Know that I will arm myself for love of you and be with you tomorrow. " When Perceval heard this he was very happy and thanked him much. Thus they left it until the hour arrived that it was time to go to bed, and they slept until the morning when Perceval and the lord arose. And they heard Mass in the chapel, and alter they had heard Mass they came into the hail and brealdasted on bread and wine. And then the eldest of the daughters of the master came and asked him that for love of her he would bear her sleeve with him in the tourney, and when Perceval saw it he was very happy and said that for love of her he wished to do more deeds of arms than he had ever done on any day before. And when the lord healed him he rejoiced much. Then the servants mounted and brought the harness before them, and then the sire and Perceval mounted and rode to the castle. And, in truth, when they came to the hostels the knights were arming themselves throughout the castle and many of the knights were mounted on their horses. And the knights watched and saw the ladies and the damsels already mounted on the walls. And when Perceval saw that they were all armed he asked for his arms and armed himself very worthily with some very fine arms which the vavasor had loaned him, for he did not wish to arm himself with his own in order that one might not recognize him.
And indeed Melian de Lis had that night stayed at the hostel of Sir Gavain, and they had very wrongfully conspired to overwhelm the party from outside the castle; therefore the damsels of the castle criticized him very severely because on the night before he had been against Sir Gavain. But know that the damsel of the castle excused them as well as she could for she said that since those outside had been increased by three banners those within would have had the worst of it if Melian de Lis did not aid them. And when the party from outside the castle heard of this, they were very sad because of it, but Saigremor said that he would not cease fighting for this reason. And when Perceval heard the news he was very happy and said to the vavasor that it would turn out better for them if they would join with those from the outside.
Then those of the tourney came out from the town and lined themselves up very splendidly the one beside the other. And the servants and the heralds as soon as they were drawn up cried: "To Helms!" And as soon as the cry was made you might see them dash forward from one side and the other, and you may be sure that he was very happy who had the swiftest horse there. And Melian de Lis came leaping forward before all the others, and as soon as Perceval saw him he felt great joy. And he came running against him with great violence, and he had around his arm the sleeve of the damsel. And when the damsels on the wall saw him, they said all together: "Now you can see the most handsome knight that you will ever see.' And I indeed they came together at the swiftest pace that ever horses were able to provide, and they shattered their lances upon their shields so that the fragments flew into the air. And Perceval who had great strength and hardiness struck him so fiercely with breast and body and helm that he made him fly so painfully to the earth that he came close to breaking his neck, and he broke his right arm in two parts, and he fainted with the anguish more than fourteen times. And, in truth, on the charge that Perceval made when he overcame Melian de Lis he encountered Keu the seneschal, and he struck him so fiercely that he did not know if it was day or night, and he bore him from his horse full length upon the earth.
When those from outside saw the glorious knightly deeds that Perceval had done they spurred their horses alter him And Sir Gavain and Lancelot returned to meet them and their banners came together so fiercely that they made the whole earth shake. And know that Saigremor ii Desrees, who re mained with the party from the outside, jousted there very strongly and performed so many deeds of arms that day that those who saw him praised and held him as very worthy. And Lancelot and Sir Gavain struck back most severely and made the ranks bend greatly before them. But, in truth, Perceval did better than all the other knights, for he did not encounter a knight that he did not bear both him and his horse to the earth. And then those on the wall said that the lady had employed her sleeve well who had given it to him to wear, and she to whom he pledged his love ought to have great joy, for he did not encounter a knight that he did not lay him flat on the earth.
Thus said the damsels in the tower where they were, and when Sir Gavain saw Perceval he was most sad because he made such havoc upon his men. And he took a lance that one of his squires handed him and came toward Perceval at a great pace. And when Perceval saw him he feared him very little judging from the appearance that he made; nevertheless he knew that Sir Gavain was a very worthy man. And they struck each other most sharply in the shields so that the lances splintered and the fragments flew into the air, and in the passing that Sir Gavain made he was most unfortunate, for his horse and he were overthrown in the meadow and his horse broke its neck and died.
Thereupon those from within were overwhelmed and turned their backs in flight, and when Sir Gavain saw that his side was fleeing he was deeply moved and he sprang to his feet and drew his sword. Thereupon behold a knight cried to him: "In the name of God, sir knight, do you now remain with us!" Then the knight leaped to him and wished to tear his helmet from his head. When Gavain saw him he was filled with deep anger and approached him and lifted his sword and struck him so hard that he split his head down to the teeth, and threw him to the earth; and he took his horse and mounted on it and spurred after his men, and before he reached them he overthrew four knights before him. And his people hastened into the town and those outside harried them to the gates and took much equipment and won horses and took prisoners. And as soon as the defeat was completed, Perceval came to his host and presented him with three of the best horses he had won and wished that his daughter might have them for the sleeve that he had worn. And the lord thanked him well for them. Then Perceval said: "Lord, let us leave here, for I wish yet tonight to sleep under your roof."
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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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