Raoul of Cambrai: An Old French Epic
Trans. Jessie Crosland, Raoul de Cambrai, An Old French Epic, London: Chatto & Windus, 1926; revised and with introduction by Richard Abels (1993)
TEXT AND COMPOSITION OF THE POEM
Raoul de Cambrai is one of the most violent and illuminating of the twelfth-century epic poems of chivalry known as the chansons de geste. The poem is preserved in a thirteenth-century manuscript, now in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris (BN fr. 2493), that consists of 8542 lines of poetry distributed over 150 folios. Two manuscript fragments of the poem, preserving different recensions of the tale, also survive. As it stands, BN fr. 2493 is a composite work. The first 5374 lines (Raoul I) are in verse, and the remainder (Raoul II) is in assonance, a substitute for rhyme in which the vowels are the same but the consonants differ. The character of the poem also abruptly changes with the shift in versification, going from a realistic tale of war and vengeance to a courtly romance. The most reasonable explanation for the change is that lines 5375 to 8542 represent a later continuation of the story. They are, in effect, a different poem. For historians Raoul I, with its brutally realistic depiction of warfare, politics, and feudal relations, is of far greater interest than Raoul II. Miss Crosland chose to translate only the former and I have not thought to challenge her decision.
The scribe of Raoul I wrote in an early thirteenth-century hand. He was copying, however, an earlier, now lost, manuscript. We cannot be certain when the poem was composed, and it is possible, maybe even probable, that Raoul I is itself a composite piece that took form over the course of decades or perhaps even centuries. The earliest reference to the story of the intemperate Raoul occurs ca. 1150 in the Waulsort Chronicle. The tale as related in the chronicle differs significantly from that told by the poet. No mention is made, for example, of Raoul’s disinheritance by the king. The version that has come down was apparently composed between 1150 and 1186–when the Poitevin knight and troubador Bertrand de Born wrote a poem with an allusion to it. Most scholars would place the date of composition in the early 1180s and relate the poem to the rising discontent of the northern French baronage against King Philip Augustus’s attempts to impose his authority over them.
The story of Raoul de Cambrai is historically rooted in two violent events from the early history of the northern French county of Vermandois: Raoul de Gouy’s fatal war against the sons of Count Herbert in 943, an incident that occurred during the reign of the late West Frankish king Louis IV; and the burning of the abbey of Saint-Quentin by Raoul, son of Count Baldwin of Flanders, during his attack upon another Count Herbert of Vermandois in 896. (That second Raoul also was killed in battle.) But, as with the other chansons de geste, Raoul de Cambrai‘s chronological setting is incidental to the poet’s real purpose, which was to entertain and provide moral instruction for a contemporary noble audience. Much like a ‘John Wayne “Western,”‘ the poem is far less concerned with historical accuracy than with ‘connecting’ with its intended audience. Though it is set in a legendary past, the poem reflects the political conditions and aristocratic mores of northern France in the late twelfth century, a world in which the civilizing influences of Church, Monarchy, and Chivalry had only begun to tame the warrior nobility of the early Middle Ages.
Unlike its more famous predecessor, the Song of Roland (ca. 1100), Raoul de Cambrai presents the reader with a baronial rather than royal point of view. The political universe of the poem, with its crafty King Louis, hot-headed nobles, and shifting alliances, mirrors the historical reality of the period of the poem’s composition. The second half of the twelfth century was marked by the growth of royal power in northern France. Philip II (1180-1223) was a capable feudal king who increased his own power and authority at the expense of his great vassals, most notably King John of England, from whom he took Normandy and Anjou in 1204-1205. Philip’s successes were to earn him the flattering sobriquet “Augustus.” But the early years of his reign–when Raoul was probably composed–gave little indication of the king’s future greatness. Though he may have been titled king of France and may have claimed to be the liege lord of all French nobles, Philip at his accession actually ruled little more than the Ile-de-France. The young king was surrounded by powerful counts and dukes, who, though technically his vassals, ruled their territories in virtual independence. (One of his vassals was Henry II of England, who held much of western France in his evarious capacities as count of Anjou, duke of Normandy, and count of Poitou and Aquitaine.) Royal diplomacy meant playing these overmighty barons off against one another. And at this game Philip excelled. He was, in the words of one contemporary, a ruler “skilled in strategems,” who put down “the wicked of the realm by sowing discord among them.”(1)
In some ways Philip’s most important tutor was his putative vassal Henry II of England, for Henry had managed to impose in his realm a royal “common law” based on the related legal ideas that all land derived from the Crown and that, consequently, the king was the liege lord of all landholders. Under Henry II the feudal polity began to resemble a consolidated state and the feudal ruler began to assume some of the attributes of a sovereign rather than a mere suzerain (overlord). Though Philip did not yet have the military power or administrative institutions necessary to do in France what Henry had done in England, his conception of royal authority differed little from that of his great Angevin vassal.
The only way that the king could increase his power was by increasing his revenues and military might, and that meant adding lands to the royal domain. Here Philip Augustus’s marriage to Isabelle of Hainault proved useful, for it gave the king an interest in the rich lands of Flanders and a claim to the counties of Artois, Hainault, and Vermandois (perhaps not coincidentally the battleground of the poem). The king was not to make good on this claim, however, for another decade. His goal in the 1180s was more modest: to keep the powerful count of Flanders, who also claimed Vermandois and Hainault by marriage, from gobbling these lands up. To do this Philip used a clever mixture of military action and diplomacy that was meant to keep his barons from ever uniting against him. Like the poem’s “King Louis” and the his historical contemporary Henry II, Philip pressed the Crown’s feudal rights over heiresses and fiefs. Though he claimed more than he could then make good upon, he established a royal ideology that was to justify his later successes and which was to shape royal-baronial relations for centuries to come. The real world inhabited by the Raoul-poet, then, was not all that dissimilar from that represented in the poem. The poem’s audience would have nodded in recognition when the poet sang about shifting alliances, internecine warfare, and kings more interested in enhancing their power and keeping their barons divided than in maintaining law and doing justice.
THEMES AND ISSUES
What made late twelfth-century politics even more complicated was that king and baron could not even agree on who owned any of these lands. And this brings us to the themes ofRaoul. Raoul is the most “feudal” of the chansons; the poem is almost obsessively concerned with legal and moral issues arising from the possession of land and from the rival claims of kinship, kingship, and vassalage. What is a fief? the poet asks. Whose land is it? Lord and vassal alike could agree that a fief was a service tenement, land held by a vassal from a lord in return for homage and knight service. Both, moreover, would have acknowledged that, by custom, the eldest son of a baron had a presumptive right to enter into his deceased father’s fief, after he had paid the lord a proper “relief” (monetary payment in recognition of the lord’s rights over the fief) and performed homage and fealty to the lord. But here the consensus ended. King Henry II of England and King Philip Augustus insisted that the lands and counties held by their nobles ultimately were theirs to dispose of, royal gifts to reward the loyalty and service of the Crown’s vassals. Ordinarily, kings would allow these fiefs to stay within families, but they also had the legal right to confiscate the lands if a vassal proved disloyal, to set the relief at whatever price the kings desired, and to dispose of heiresses and underage sons of royal vassals as they saw fit. The barons, on the other hand, preferred to think of their fiefs as hereditary tenures, landed endowments that inhered in their lineages. Even if they owed services and had to perform ceremonies for their fiefs, nevertheless, the land was theirs. (With a truly cavalier indifference to consistency, many of these counts claimed rights over their own estates that they were reluctant to concede to their own vassals.) In this dispute over the legal character of the fief, the Raoul-poet sides with his baronial patrons. The true culprit of the piece, thus, is not the hot-headed Raoul or his killer, Bernier, but the king who provoked a war when he “invested Raoul with another man’s fief” In this respect, the poem may be read as an admonitory tale to rulers who would interfere with the “property rights” of their barons. In England in 1215 baronial fears and resentment against King John, a ruler much like the poem’s King Louis, were to explode into the feudal uprising that gave birth to the Magna Carta.
But Raoul is far more than a poetic treatise on property rights. It is also a tale of vengeance, vendetta, and betrayal in which the basic bonds of society–feudal loyalty, family, and friendship–come into conflict. The central dilemma in the poem has to do with loyalty. Bernier, the illegitimate son of Count Ybert of Ribemont, is the best household knight and closest friend of Raoul of Cambrai. He had been brought up as a foster son in the household of Lady Alice, Raoul’s mother, and had been knighted by his lord Raoul. By the mores of the day, he owes his lord Raoul both love and loyalty. But Bernier’s sense of obligation toward Raoul is tested when Raoul accepts King Louis’s grant of the county of Vermandois, a fief that had once been held by Bernier’s grandfather and which now belonged to his father and uncles. Compelled by his oath of fealty, Bernier reluctanty accompanies his lord in his invasion of Vermandois. Only after Raoul burns Bernier’s mother to death during a brutal sack of the city of Origny and adds insult to injury by striking Bernier in public, does Bernier formally renounce his allegiance to Raoul and join his kinsmen against his former lord. In the ensuing battle Bernier slays Raoul. The remainder of the poem tells how Raoul’s uncle Guerri the Red and his nephew Gautier pursue vengeance against Bernier, and how, in the end, the warring parties reconciled and forged an alliance against King Louis.
The poet poses key questions for the feudal society to which he belongs: which is the higher duty, loyalty to a lord or obligation to one’s family? how far may a lord push his vassal before that vassal may legitimately renounce his oath of loyalty? what powers and authority do kings legitimately possess? is nobility a matter of birth or of character? is bravery sufficient to make a knight chivalrous? The result is a moral puzzle which neither the poet or his heroes/anti-heroes, Raoul, Bernier, Guerri, and Gautier can fully resolve.
Though the world of Raoul is violent and brutal, the code of chivalry and courtliness (courtoise) still informs the poem. Ironically, the importance of the courtly ethos is underscored by the failure of the poem’s main characters to adhere to its strictures. Raoul de Cambrai is presented as a brave and resourceful knight. Though we mainly see him breaking heads on the battlefield, we catch glimpses of another Raoul, Raoul the royal courtier who plays chess masterfully, who dresses elegantly, who is generous to his household knights, and who has earned the love of a beautiful lady. But Raoul is a hero with a fatal flaw–his lack of moderation. As in a Greek tragedy, the horrors of the poem are the result of overweening pride and lack of moderation. The poem, in essence, is a meditation upon the fragility of chivalric society and the necessity of restraint.
Jessie Crosland’s 1926 translation of the poem, on the whole, accurately renders the poem and conveys well its brutality and power. My efforts at revision have mainly taken the form of ridding the translation of the archaisms that Miss Crosland used to underscore the poem’s antiquity. The original language of the Raoul de Cambrai is anything but archaic, fussy, or even poetic. It is simple and direct, qualities that I have tried to restore in revising Miss Crosland’s otherwise faithful translation. I have felt free to emend the translation in those few places where it fails to capture either the meaning of the flavor of the original. In making these changes I have consulted the translations of Sarah Kay and David and Patricia Herlihy, though my choices, ultimately, reflect my own reading of the text.
Miss Crosland chose to render the poem in prose, a very wise choice in my opinion. Raoul I is composed in a regular meter of ten syllables, with all lines of a laisse sharing the same rhyme. Versification of this source strains the ingenuity of the English translator to find matching rhymes while remaining faithful to the literal meaning of the the text. A verse translation of the first laisse might read something along the lines of:
Listen to a tale of joy and good cheer!
Many–if not most–of those gathered here
Have heard new chansons from other trouveres.
But this flower they’ve missed, so lend me an ear:
I sing of great barons, untainted by fear,
Of the lord of Cambrai, Raoul Taillefer,
For fierce pride he was known both far and near.
He had one son, as I soon shall make clear;
Raoul was his name, a great chevalier,
Against Herbert’s sons he brought fire and spear,
‘Til Bernier killed him, as you will now hear.
(Oiez chançon de joie et de baudor!
Oït avés auquant et li plusor
–chantet vos ont cill autre jogleors–
chançon novelle, mais il laissent la flor,
de grant barniage qui tant ot de valor:
c’est de Raoul–de Canbrai tint l’onour–
Taillefer fu clamés par sa fierour.
Cis ot un fil qui fu bon poingneor,
Raoul ot non, molt par avoit vigor;
as fils Herbert fist maint pesant estor,
mais Berneçons l’ocit puis a dolor.)
A translator must always wrestle between preserving the artistic impact of the work and its literal meaning. In the case of Raoul, which even its advocates could not claim as a great work of art, the choice is relatively easy.
Finally, I would like to thank LCDR Douglas Meister, USN (ret) for his aid in preparing the text and for his encouragement in the project. Not only did Doug scan Miss Crosland’s entire translation into the computer, but his not so veiled threats kept me on schedule despite my natural tendency to procrastinate.
Texts and translations
Raoul de Cambrai, edited with a translation, and notes by Sarah Kay. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992. Dr. Kay provides a full text of the poem, an excellent translation, and an informative introduction.
“Fiefs, feuds, and justice in Raoul of Cambrai.” Trans. David and Patricia Herlihy. In History of Feudalism. Ed. David Herlihy. New Jersey: Humanities, 1970. Herlihy translates a well chosen 60 stanzas of Raoul I‘s 249 stanzas in this collection of sources on feudalism.
Baldwin, John. The Government of Philip Augustus; Foundations of French Royal Power in the Middle Ages. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1986.
Bloch, Marc. Feudal Society. Trans. L. A. Manyon. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1961.
Matarasso, P. Recherches historiques et littéraires sur Raoul de Cambrai. Paris, 1962.
Painter, Sidney. French Chivalry Chivalric Ideas and Practices in Mediaeval France. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1940.
Poly, Jean-Pierre, and Bournazel, Eric. The Feudal Transformation, 900-1200. Trans. Caroline Higgitt. New York and London: Holmes and Meier, 1991.
Raoul de Cambrai. Son of Raoul Taillefer, count of Cambrai, and Lady Alice; nephew of King Louis and nephew of Guerri the Red. Disinherited by King Louis and invested with the fief of Vermandois by the king. Lord of the household knight Bernier.
Bernier. Bastard son of Ybert of Ribemont (Ybert is one of the sons of Count Herbert of Vermandois) and the Lady Marsent. Household knight and close companion of Raoul. Raoul’s attack upon the lands of Bernier’s father and uncles provides the dramatic core of the poem.
King Louis. Emperor of the Franks/King of France. Historically, this is Louis IV, king of the West Franks (936-954). The poet uses Louis as the exemplar for a weak and treacherous king.
Guerri the Red. Count of Arras; brother of Raoul Taillefer and uncle and vassal of Raoul de Cambrai. Raoul’s most important and powerful supporter.
Lady Alice. Mother of Raoul; widow of Raoul Taillefer. Strong-willed and beautiful sister of King Louis, whose refusal to marry the household knight Gibouin of Le Mans results in the disinheritance of her son.
Marsent. Mother of Bernier, concubine of Ybert of Ribemont. By the time of the poem’s action, Marcent has become abbess of the nunnery at Origny.
Gautier. Raoul de Cambrai’s young cousin (the son of Lady Alice’s sister) and his would-be avenger.
Ybert, Ernaut of Douai, Wedon, Louis. The sons of Count Herbert of Vermandois. King Louis’s transfer of the fief of Vermandois from them to Raoul of Cambrai provides the backdrop for Raoul’s conflict with Bernier.
§1 Listen to a song of joy and merriment. Some of you, no, most of you have heard new tales sung by other minstrels, but they have neglected the flower of them all, one about a a baronial family of great valor. That is the song of Raoul, lord of Cambrai; Taillefer he was called on account of his pride. He had one son who became a good warrior: he too was called Raoul, a man of much strength. Many a dire battle he fought against the sons of Herbert; but then young Bernier slew him most painfully.
§2 It is not right to leave this tale untold. Make less noise and listen to the song of Guerri the Red, of the lady Alice and of Raoul, lord of Cambrai. The bishop of Beauvais was his godfather. Raoul waged such warfare against the sons of Herbert as you shall hear presently in my song. §3 This Raoul Taillefer, of whom I am telling you, was a very noble and brave-hearted man. He served the emperor of France so well that the emperor rewarded his services and invested him with Cambrai as his rightful fief, and a wife so beautiful none fairer was ever seen. All his kinsmen and friends rejoiced, and anyone can tell you about the wedding which took place at the court of the great King Louis. After this he lived till his hair was white, and when it was God’s will he died. But the lady Alice, so noble and fair of face, mourned greatly for him: such grief was never heard before. And the barons buried him; in the church of St. Geri they laid him to rest. It was by this baron, I tell you truthfully, that the lady Alice was with child.
§4 They buried the brave knight–that is Taillefer of whom I have been telling you. The gentle lady of gentle heart was pregnant with child. As long as God willed she carried the child, and much was the rejoicing of all those of the land, both knights and men-at-arms, at his birth. Many a one rejoiced, I know full well, who were later to have sad and grief-filled hearts on his account. Then the noble lady took the child and wrapped him in a fine and costly cloth, and straightaway called two knights—one they say was Thibaut, the other, I know, was Acelin. “Barons,” said she, “for God’s sake, come here; ride straight to Beauvais for me, make full speed.”
§5 Lady Alice was not faint-hearted. She laid her son in a costly purple cloth; then she called two barons of noble lineage: “Straight to Beauvais you will go for me in the morning, to my cousin, Lord Gui the bishop.” Then they left her, and small delay they made. They did not stop till they reached Beauvais, and they found the bishop in his marble palace. He was the brother of Geoffroy of Lavardin.
§6 The two messengers go up to the palace and they carry the infant whom they hold so dear. They find the worthy bishop and salute him in proper fashion: “Our worthy lady Alice, wife of the warrior Raoul Taillefer, prays God, the Judge of all, to save and protect the holy bishop. The count is dead, and we cannot bring him back. But his lady has an heir by him; through us she sends him here out of love for him, for from his lineage she does not wish him to be estranged.” The bishop listened; then he crossed himself and thanked God Almighty and said: “Noble countess, may God be your councillor! For my part, I will not delay in this matter.” So he had the font made ready in the church and the holy oil and chrism to anoint the child, and he put on his robes to perform his office.
§7 The noble bishop came to the chapel to baptize the child who is his close relation; for the sake of his father, the marquis Taillefer, he gave him the name of Raoul of Cambrai. Then without delay he clothed him as befits his rank, and a nurse, fair of face and clad in rich apparel, took the child. On the next day the messengers took leave and returned to [Cambrai], where Guerri the Red was. They went up to the great hall, where there was no fun or laughter. But the child was petted and cherished and gently nourished by his nurse. Years and months and days passed: more than three years, so the record tells us.
§8 Lady Alice was not faint-hearted. You shall now hear of the sorrow and conflict and of the great endless war. The King of France had a noble youth in his service whom the French called Gibouin of Le Mans. He served the king with his good sword, and made many an orphan in the course of his wars. He served our noble king so well and in such knightly fashion that he was entitled to a full reward. Those from beyond the Rhine counselled that he should be given the fief of Cambrai which was held by Alice, conqueror of men’s hearts, of the family of Geoffroy of Lavardin. Now, if God who turned the water into wine does not prevent it, a fief will be given and a promise made which will be the cause of many a knight lying sprawled on the ground dead.
§9 Our emperor listened to the barons talking and advising him to give the fair Alice to the baron of Le Mans who had served him so well. He took their counsel, for which he is to be blamed; he gave the glove to Gibouin, who thanked him for it and stooped and kissed his shoe. Then said the King of France: Gibouin, my brother, I deserve your thanks, for it is a great gift that I give you here. But on one condition I grant it: I wish not to disinherit the boy Raoul. He is yet young, now protect him well until such time that he can carry arms. He shall hold Cambrai; no one can refuse it to him and I shall give you some other land.” Gibouin said, “I shall not refuse, but arrange for me to marry the lady.” But he acted like a fool in daring to expect this, for it afterwards caused the overthrow of many noble men. The gentle lady fair of countenance would not accept him even if they hacked off her limbs for it.
§10 King Louis did a very foolish thing when he took the heritage away from his nephew; and Gibouin on his side did a great outrage when he desired the land of another for his baronage. It caused him afterwards to die a shameful death. Then the emperor called his messenger: “Go, saddle the Carthaginian steed, and ride straight to Cambrai, my sister’s rich inheritance; tell my fair sister that she is to take the brave Gibouin of Le Mans to be her husband. Between here and Carthage there is not such a knight to be found. I am giving him all the land as a fief. Tell her to come without delay to my court and bring her escort with her, and I will summon many of my kinsmen. But if she fails me because of her pride, she will have only her dowry for her household’s support; over no other lands shall she enjoy legal rights or draw revenues.”
§11 The messenger took his leave. He saddles his horse and mounts it; then he left Paris and rode straight for Cambrai. He entered the city by the main gate and halted by the great abbey of St. Geri. He found the noble lady in the square with several knights in her company. He reined in his horse and dismounted, and greeted the lady in the king’s name: “The king, our protector, prays God who created heaven and earth and all things in them by his command save the countess and all those she loves.” “May God the Creator protect you, brother. Tell me the king’s bidding and conceal nothing.” “In God’s name, lady, I will tell you. The king’s message is that he will give you Gibouin for a husband. Know, lady, that is what the king commands.” Lady Alice sank down to the earth, tears fell from her eyes and she gave a deep sigh. Then she called her counsellors. “Ah, God!” said she, “Here is an evil message.
[At this point there is a gap in the main manuscript. One of the two surviving manuscript fragments allows us to fill in the blank in the narrative:
Lady Alice declares the king mad to have invested Gibouin with her fief and vows that: “King Louis will return Cambrai to my son on the day that he becomes and knight and can receive justice and judgment from a court.”
King Louis then informs Guerri the Red, count of Arras and brother of the dead Raoul Taillefer, that he has invested Gibouin with the fief of Cambrésis. Guerri tells him that he will fight to prevent it, and the king reminds him that the child Raoul is but three years old.]
§14 “Just Emperor,” said the baron Guerri, “Are you minded to disinherit your nephew because as yet he can neither walk nor ride? By the faith that I owe you, you shall see a thousand knights overturned before this knight of Le Mans can get help from them. Just Emperor, I declare to you that if he lets himself be seen in the Cambrésis he may be certain of losing his head. And you too, foolish king, deserve blame for this. The child is your nephew, and you should never have thought of such a thing.” But the king replied “Let all this be. The gift is given and I cannot go back on it now.” So Guerri departed, for he had no desire to remain. Evil was to come from the way he took leave. The good steeds were ready at the foot of the steps and the barons mounted. And Guerri cried at the top of his voice, “Now make ready, you young warriors who desire hard knocks! For I swear by Him who allowed himself to suffer, I would rather have my limbs hacked off than fail my nephew as long as I live.”
§15 Guerri the Red was full of anger. He returned to Cambrai and dismounted in the sqaure. Lady Alice saw the knight coming and spoke to him as you may now hear, “Sir Guerri, without fail now, will you tell me the truth?” “Lady,” said he, “I wish not to lie to you. The king is determined to seize your heritage for Gibouin, God curse him. Take him for your husband, for only so can you make your peace with Louis, the ruler of France.” “God!” said the lady, “I could die of grief! I would rather be burnt alive than that the king should force a greyhound to lie with a watchdog. God will allow me to bring up my child till such time as he can carry arms.” Then said Guerri: “Lady, a blessing on you for daring to say it; I will not desert you in your great need.”
§16 Guerri the stout-hearted speaks again: “Lady Alice, I swear by God the Redeemer that I will not fail you as long as I live. Where is my nephew? Bring him here, I pray you.” Up rose two young lords and brought the child to the forecourt. He was three years old, I tell you for a fact, and he was dressed in bright silk with a tunic of crimson cloth. A more beautiful child could not be found. Guerri takes him in his arms at once and sighs deeply from his heart. “Child,” said he, “you are scarce grown yet, and the knight of Le Mans has evil intent towards you, since he deprives you of your land.” “Uncle,” said the child, “I shall get it back, if I live long enough to carry arms seated on my charger.” “Truly,” said Guerri, “you shall not lose a foot of it, unless twenty thousand warriors die for it first.” Then the knights call for water [to wash with] and seat themselves at the tables.
§17 Lady Alice and the vassal Guerri and the barons are seated at the tables. The seneschals have done their duty well, for they have been well trained to serve. After the meal the fair lady gives costly garments to the barons. Then the powerful Guerri takes his leave; he kisses the lady and departs. Straight to Arras he goes at full speed. After this many years and days passed and there was no sound of war or of discord in the land. When Raoul of Cambrai was fifteen years old he was an exceedingly courteous and noble youth and greatly beloved by his men and his marquises.
§18 Fifteen years have now passed and gone and Lady Alice sees her son tall and broad and well formed. There was a nobleman in that kingdom, Ybert by name, a man of dauntless spirit. He had a son who was christened Bernier when he was small. He was grown now and well-favored, and at fifteen years he too was both tall and strong. Count Raoul loved him dearly, and Lady Alice out of goodness of heart had fostered him from an early age. Together they went to Paris to acquaint themselves with noble knighthood, and he waited on Raoul with the wine and the spiced cup. Better had it been, I can tell you, had Bernier’s head been severed from his body, for grievously and shamefully he slew his lord in the end.
§19 Count Raoul of handsome face was extraordinarily fond of young Bernier, the son of Ybert of Ribemont. There was no handsomer boy in any land, nor any that knew better the use of shield and spear, nor of wise speech in a king’s court, even though he was called a bastard. Handsome Raoul loved him and gladly made him his squire, but strange companions they proved to be.
§20 Lady Alice has watched her son grow up and now she sees that he is fit to bear arms, and thus she addressed him as you may hear: “Call the ban and summon your men, so that you may see them assembled at Cambrai, and we shall soon see who is reluctant to serve.” Raoul summoned them and spoke his mind to them: “You must not fail me when I need you.”
[Gap in the manuscript of about 60 lines. Raoul goes to the king and asks to be knighted by him].
§22 The emperor has knighted the boy and now he calls his seneschals and says: “Bring to me the arms, for so I bid you”…. Then the emperor spoke to his nephew: “Nephew Raoul, I see that you have grown up tall and strong, thanks be to God, the Father omnipotent.”
§23 Our emperor loved the boy very dearly and he gave him the helmet of a Saracen whom Roland had slain on the river Rhine. He placed it over the bonnet of his hauberk of double thickness, then he said to him “Cousin, this bright helmet belonged to a Saracen, no arm can do it the slightest injury. May you receive the gift of faith from Him who turned the water into wine and presided over the wedding of St. Archedeclin.” And Raoul spoke, “I accept it and give you this guarantee: your enemies shall have a dangerous neighbor in me; no rest from warfare will they have, by day or by night.” The nose-piece of the helmet was of pure gold and there was a precious stone set in the middle of it by which one could see one’s path even on the darkest night.
§24 Then the king girded him with a strong sword. Its pommel and hilt were of gold and it was forged in a gloomy valley by Galant, who had put into it of his best. Except [Roland’s sword] Durendal, which was the choicest blade of all, this sword was better than all others and no armor or weapon in the world could stand against it. Such were the arms which became him. For Raoul was handsome and of noble form. If within him there would have been but a little restraint, there would have been no better vassal than he. But because of his excess the outcome was grievous, for an unbridled man passes his days in sorrow. Then the king gave him his swift battle-horse; the saddle both back and front was of gold, and there were beasts carved on it, splendid to look upon, wrought in various styles. This saddle was covered with costly buckram and over this another cover of rich oriental silk the flaps of which hung down to the ground. Raoul proudly leaped on it and seized the golden shield. There were bands of gold round the boss, and it is proof against both sword and lance. Then he seized the lance of shining gold, its sweeping pennon fixed with five nails, and charged forward like a man who knows how to ride; and when he stopped his horse he reined him in with such skill that it did not carry him even a glove’s breadth too far. The Frenchmen said: “What a handsome youth he is! He will soon regain his father’s land.” And many a one rejoiced who was afterwards filled with grief, as you will hear if I have leisure to sing.
§26 Raoul of Cambrai was knighted, and for a space there were no further happenings. Our brave emperor kept him by him as his good friend and made him seneschal of France, as you have heard. And now there is not a baron from here to Ponthieu who does not send him his son or his foster-child, or his nephew or cousin, and Raoul loved and cherished them like a gentle knight, and kept them in his service, and clothed them and gave them many a good Arab steed. All his enemies grieved greatly at this, especially the knight of Le Mans who had received the ill-fated gift of Cambrai. Raoul was valiant and hated him from his heart; later on it was the counsel of the powerful Guerri the Red which stirred up such strife and warfare as led to the death and downfall of many a baron.
§27 A long time passed again before the day of which I am going to tell you. It was on an Easter day, which one ought to hold sacred though one may rejoice the day after, that the baron Raoul went out of the church of St. Denis where he had gone to worship. In the spacious forecourt the knights were beginning to play at fencing to amuse themselves, but their sport turned at last to real combat and their game to anger, and the two sons of Ernaut, the praiseworthy lord of Douai, were done to death.
§28 When these two boys, the sons of Ernaut, marquis of Douai, were killed, the blame fell on Raoul, for all the barons of the land said that Raoul killed them both. Count Ernaut will always be his enemy now until such time as his vengeance be sated. This was years and days after–I know not how long–and if God who hung on the cross gives him no thought, then Raoul of Cambrai will suffer much for his deed! Guerri the Red was greatly troubled about it, and with good cause, for the old man later had reason to regret it: the death of these two boys brought him many enemies.
§29 There was much mourning when the two boys were buried. But at the feast of Pentecost King Louis held his high court as was his custom, and he called Raoul, whom he greatly loved, and said to him, “Fair nephew, I wish you to serve me with the spiced wine at dinner today.” “Sire,” replied Raoul, “I ought not to refuse; I am your vassal and must obey you.” It was young Bernier who had the wine in his charge, and the noble knights were served so plentifully that they have no reason for reproach. On the next day the praiseworthy Count Raoul knighted Bernier and invested him with the best arms on which he could lay hands. He put a strong well burnished hauberk on his back and laced a golden helmet on his head. Then he girded the sword with which he was knighted to his side and Bernier straightaway mounted his good warhorse.
§30 As soon as Bernier was mounted on his horse every one could see what a good knight he had become. He seized his gold banded shield and held the sharp lance with its pennon fastened by five golden nails in his hand. Then he charged forward on his horse and returned to his place again. There were many knights in the square and they said one to another: “How well he looks in his arms. Even if he is the son of an unwed mother, he must still be of rich and noble birth.” And Raoul said: “God be thanked! I do not regret, I assure you, the arms that I gave him. He ought to gain great honor amongst his friends.” But he was a cause of grief and anger to Raoul in the end, as you shall hear me tell. “Sir Bernier,” said the wise Raoul, “you shall strike a blow at the quintain for my sake, and in order that King Louis, the seasoned warrior, may see.” And Bernier replied: “I will do it at your bidding. The first request you make of me shall not be refused, so help me God.” So out in the meadows they made a quintain of two shields and two gilded hauberks, and the youth Bernier called out to a nobleman of great wealth who was there: “Sir Berant, hear me. Guide me to the dummy, if you be willing.” And Berant replied, “Willingly and gladly I do it.” So with Berant guiding, Bernier charged forward and such great blows he gave to the quintain as you will never see a bastard give again. He pierced both the shields and tore open and spoiled both the hauberks. One of the stakes too was split and pierced through, for his lance passed right through the middle of it. So Bernier performed his feat of arms and returned; on all sides he was greatly praised, and many ladies both saw and took note of him.
§31 Young Bernier had performed his feat and was back again amongst the barons. He was fair and well formed, both graceful and tall. He dismounts from his horse, his spurs still on his feet, and kneels down beside Raoul “Sire,” said he, “a great favor I ask; I am your liegeman, and, by St. Simon, never shall my heirs be reproached with any treason committed by me. But I pray, in God’s name, that you will not make war against the sons of Herbert.” Raoul listened, the words made him sad and downcast. He went to the house with some of his comrades–so many princes that I know not even their names. Up to the palace they go in their ermine cloaks, and white-bearded Guerri took takes the floor: for the great service Raoul rendered Guerri now claims for him a reward which will empty the saddle of many a noble steed.
§32 The white-bearded Guerri speaks “By my faith, sire, I will not lie to you. My nephew has served you now for a long time and he will get nothing from his friends if you do not recompense his services. Restore to him least the fief of Cambrésis, the land of the hardy knight Taillefer.” “It is not in my power,” replied the king; “the knight of Le Mans has it with my glove as pledge. This arrangement grieves my heart; many a time have I repented of it since, but it was done on the advice of my barons.” Then said Then said the red knight, “This is ill treatment. I challenge it, by St. Geri!” Quickly he strode forth from the room and came to the palace in an evil humor. Raoul of Cambrai was playing chess like a man who expects no evil tidings. Guerri saw him there and seized him by the arm with such force that he tore his fur mantle. “Son of a whore,” he called to him, but the words were false, “miserable coward, what are you doing playing here? I tell you for a fact, you haven’t enough land of your own to rub down an old pack horse on.” Raoul heard these words and sprang to his feet; he spoke so loudly that the palace resounded, and many a noble knight in the hall heard him as he cried, “Who takes it from me? I think him very foolhardy.” Guerri replied: “The king himself. How he must hold you in disgrace, he who ought to be upholding us and warranting your land!” Raoul heard his words, and all his blood boiled. Two knights brought up at his father’s court heard the noise and the clamor and placed themselves at his disposal straightway; and Bernier served them all with wine. Full speed they came before the king and their words did not fall to the ground. Raoul spoke with Guerri the Red standing at his side.
§33 Raoul, full of anger, spoke thus: “Just emperor, by St. Amant I swear that I have served you ever since I carried arms and you have never given me as much as a bezant [i.e., penny] for it. Now at least give me the glove as a pledge that I may hold my own land as my valiant father held it before me.” “I cannot grant it,” replied the king; “I have given it to the knight of Le Mans, and for all the wealth of Milan I would not take it from him.” Guerri listened, then he shouted: “I will fight for it first, armed and on horseback, against that mercenary Gibouin of Le Mans.” Guerri called Raoul a coward and a recreant. “By the apostle whom the penitents seek, if now you do not take possession of your land, this very day or tomorrow before the sun sets, neither I nor any of my men will ever aid you again.” What Raoul now said, the words from which he would never retreat, would cause the bloody death of many a baron: “Just emperor, I tell you all this. First, everyone knows that the land of the father ought by right to pass to the child. By St. Amant, everyone, both small and great, will heap scorn upon me, if I do nothing about the shame of another man holding my land. By God who made the firmament, if ever I find that mercenary of Le Mans, no ordinary death shall he die by my sword.” The king was heavy at heart when he heard these words.
§34 The knight of Le Mans was sitting at a table in the palace. He heard these threats and was filled with fear. He put on his cloak of ermine and came to the king: “Just emperor,” said he, “now am I in a sorry plight. You gave me Cambrésis, near Artois; and now you cannot guarantee the possession of it to me. Here now is this arrogant Count Raoul with his fine armor and weapons (he is your nephew, as the Frenchmen know well), and Guerri the Red, his loyal friend. I have no friend so good in all this land who would be worth anything to me against these two. I have served you long with my Viennese blade, and never have I obtained as much as a penny for it. I shall go forth on my good Norwegian steed poorer than I came, and the Alemans and the Germans, the men of Burgundy, of Normandy and France will all talk of it, that all my service will not have earned me a penny.” Sorrow filled the heart of King Louis. He beckoned Raoul to him with his embroidered glove and said: “Fair nephew, by God, the giver of laws, I pray you let him hold it for another two or three years on such terms as I will tell you: if any count dies between here and Vermandois, or between Aix-la-Chapelle and Senlis, or from Monloon to Orleans, you shall inherit the rights and the land. You shall not lose a fraction of a penny by the exchange.” Raoul listened and did not hesitate: at the advice of Guerri of Artois he accepted the pledge—it was by reason of it that he lay cold in death at last.
§35 Count Raoul called Guerri to speak of the matter. “Uncle,” said he, “I regard you as my friend. I will accept this gift, you will not be let down.” For his father’s fief he began a great conflict that was to be fatal to many a baron in the end. Then they demanded hostages from King Louis; and the king listened to bad advice and allowed Raoul to choose them from some of the highest-born in the land. Forty hostages swore and pledged their word to them, but they were bitterly to regret it. Lohier the king gave them, and Anceis; Gociaume was amongst them and Gerard and Gerin, Herbert of the Maine and Geoffroy of Anjou, Henry of Troyes and the young Gerard who held Senlis on the Beauvoisin side. Together with them the king gave them Galeran and Gaudin and then Berart, who held Quercy as his fief. Count Raoul acted in no ignoble fashion; he brought the sacred objects to the marble palace—precious relics of St. Firmin, St. Peter and St. Augustine, and the king swore without the aid of any priest that, when the time came, he would give him the possessions of the first count who should die between the Loire and the Rhine.
§36 Furthermore the king gave him Oliver and Poncon, Garnier and Poncon, and then in addition Amaury and Droon, Richer the aged and Foucon, Berenger and his uncle Samson. These were the hostages that the king gave to Raoul. In the castle, in the king’s presence, they took an oath that they would support the other hostages and stand surety that if any count should die from Orleans to Soissons, from Monloon to Aix-la-Chapelle, Raoul should have his lands forthwith. Raoul was in the right, we can truly say, but the emperor acted like a felon when he granted to his nephew such land as would cause so many knights to lose their lives. Raoul was wise, we tell you truly to demand hostages in abundance.
§37 Forty hostages the emperor gives him and Guerri the Red musters them and calls them by name. There was Gerin of Aussois and Huon of Hantone, Richard of Reims and Simon of Péronne, Droon of Meaux and Savary of Verona, Estout of Langres and Wedon of Bourbonne. This last held all Burgundy as his fief and there was not such another knight from here to Spain. They swore on saints’ relics that they would seek no excuse, and the king himself swore by his crown that not for any man would Raoul lose even as much as an apple.
§38 The emperor delivered forty hostages to Raoul in the presence of all, and on such conditions that I will tell you: that, whomever it may grieve, he would render to Raoul the land of any count who dies in Vermandois or in France, and that he shall not be the loser of so much as a lance point thereby. But it all came to nothing through his own recklessness—many a noble man was to be brought to grief and the lives of all the hostages put in danger.
§39 Hostages he had now; as many as he wanted, and for some time things remained thus—for a year and a fifteen days, to my knowledge. Raoul returned to Cambrai, and during the time of which I have been speaking, Herbert, a powerful count, died; he was a loyal man and wise and had a great many friends. All Vermandois was his territory, also Roie, Péronne, Origny, Ribemont, St Quentin and Clairy. A man born with so many friends is fortunate indeed! Raoul heard of his death and bestirred himself. He quickly mounted his steed and summoned those who had pledged themselves in this matter. His uncle Guerri the Red of Arras accompanied him and with them rode a hundred and forty men all finely clothed in fur. He rode straight without stopping to demand from King Louis the fatal gift. Raoul was in his right, as I have told you, and it was the king of St. Denis who was in the wrong. When the king is bad many a loyal man suffers for it. The barons arrived at the court at Paris and dismounted beneath the olive trees. Then they went up the palace steps and demanded to see the king. They found King Louis sitting upon his throne; he looked and saw all these nobles coming, headed by the eager Raoul. “Salutations to the great king Louis,” said he, “on behalf of God who suffered on the cross.” The emperor replied slowly: “May God, who made paradise, protect you, nephew!”
§40 Raoul, the noble baron, spoke: “Just emperor. I desire to speak only to you; I am your nephew and you must not act unfairly towards me. I have heard of the death of Herbert, who used to hold and protect Vermandois. Now invest me at once with his land, for thus you swore that you would do, and you pledged it to me by hostages.” “I cannot, nephew,” said the noble Louis. “This noble count of whom you speaks has four praise-worthy sons, than whom no better knights can be found. If now I handed their land over to you, every right-minded person would blame me for it and I could not summon them to my court, for they would refuse to serve or honor me. Besides, I tell you, I have no desire to disinherit them I do not wish to vex four men on account of one.” Raoul listened and thought he would go mad. He cannot think, he is so enraged, but he turns away in a fury and does not stop till lie reaches his palace and finds the hostages waiting there, whereupon he calls them to him upon their oath.
§41 Count Raoul was very angry. He called upon Droon and Geoffroy the bold of Anjou, who was much dismayed at the news, Herbert of the Maine and Gerard and Henry, Samson and the aged Bernard. “Come forward, barons, I pray you, as you have pledged and sworn to do. Tomorrow at daybreak I summon you upon your oath to my castle and, by St. Geri, you will be filled with despair.” Geoffroy shuddered when he heard these words and said, “Friend, why do you alarm me thus?” “I will tell you,” replied Raoul. “Herbert who owned Origny and St. Quentin, Péronne and Clairy, Ham and Roie, Nesle and Falvéy, is dead. Do you think that I have been invested with this rich fief? I tell you no, for the emperor has failed towards me completely.” And the barons all replied: “Give us time: for we will go to Louis and learn from his own lips how he means to protect us.” “I grant it, by my faith,” said Raoul, and Bernier goes to the palace and all the hostages go straightway to the king. Geoffroy speaks first and implores the mercy of the king: “Just emperor, we are in an evil plight, why has you given us as hostages to this devil, the greatest felon that ever wore a hauberk? Herbert, the best of barons, is dead, and Raoul wishes to be invested with the whole of his fief.”
§42 Geoffroy the bold spoke again: “Just emperor, you committed great folly when you gave your nephew such a heritage, and the rights and title to some one else’s land. Count Herbert is dead who conducted himself as a great baron. Raoul is in the right; the outrage is yours. You will have to invest him with it—we are the hostages to your promise.” “God,” said the king, “it nearly makes me mad to think that four men should lose their heritage on account of one! By the one who caused the statue to speak, I swear this gift will turn out to be his undoing. Unless this is resolved by some marriage settlement, there will be grief in many a noble home.”
§43 The king speaks, and he is sad at heart: “Come here, fair nephew Raoul. I give you the glove, but the land is yours on such terms as I shall tell you: namely, that neither I nor my men will act as guarantors.” “I ask for nothing better,” Raoul replies. But Bernier heard his words and leapt up, and he speaks out so that all can hear: “The sons of Herbert are valiant knights, rich and possessed of many friends and never will they suffer any loss through you.” The Frenchmen in the palace, both old and young, talk of the matter, and they say: “The boy Raoul has the mind of a man. He is demanding a fair exchange for his father’s land. The king is stirring up a great war which will bring a sad heart to many a fair lady.”
§44 Bernier, who does not lack courage, speaks out loudly again: “Just emperor, consider, is there not foolishness in all this? The sons of Herbert have done no wrong, and they should not be misjudged in your court. Why do you surrender their land like this? May the Lord God not forgive them if they defend not their lands against Raoul!” “So be it,” said the king straightaway; “since against my will he has accepted the gift, never shall the pennon be fixed upon my lance on his behalf.”
§45 Bernier speaks to Raoul of Cambrai: “I am your man, I don’t deny it, but for my part I will never advise you to seize their lands, for I know that Ernaut of Douai alone has fifty followers and there are no such warriors in all the land. Settle this matter lawfully before any wrong is committed. If they have wronged you, I will make amends for them. I will stand surety for them out of my love for you.” “By my faith,” replied Raoul, “I will not think of it. The grant is made and I will not give it up at any price.” Said Bernier: “Then, my lord, I will say no more until such time as I see their strong defence.”
§46 Raoul sees that his affair has gone well; the gift has been allotted to him in the high court and Louis has not prevented it. But Bernier can scarce refrain from tearing his hair. So Raoul returns to his lodgings. He mounts his horse and summons his men for the homeward journey and leaves Paris without any further disturbances.
§47 Raoul departs and returns to Cambrai at full speed and the barons dismount before their lodgings. But young Bernier bowed his head. He had made the mistake of quarrelling with Raoul and now he will sleep first before he drinks anything or goes up to the palace or the tower, for he wishes to have no words of anger with his lady. Count Raoul dismounted before the steps of the palace and the fair lady Alice kissed her son on the mouth and on the cheek.
§48 Lady Alice kissed and made much of her son Raoul; she took the noble baron by the hand and together they entered their ancestral hall. Then the lady spoke to him in the hearing of many barons: “Fair son,” said she, “you are tall and well-grown; you are seneschal of France, thanks be to God. But I am much amazed at King Louis; you have served him for a long time now and he has not recompensed your service in any way. He ought to give you now of his own free will all the land of Taillefer the bold, your own father and my husband. The knight of Le Mans has had possession of it too long. I am amazed that you have consented to it for so long, and have neither killed him nor brought dishonor upon him.” Then Raoul felt uneasy in his mind and he said: “Be not hard on me, lady, for God’s sake, who never lies; Louis has rewarded my services. Count Herbert has died—we know this now for certain—and I have received the gift of all his land.” The lady sighed when she heard his words. “Fair son,” said she, “I have watched over you many a year and these are my words. He who has given you Péronne and Origny, St. Quentin, Nesle and Falévy, Ham and Roie and the tower of Clairy, has invested you with a deadly gift, my son. I implore you, for God’s sake, let their land be. Raoul your father and Count Herbert were always friends. Many a battle they fought together and never was there any disagreement or dispute between them. If you heed my words, by the Saints of Ponthieu, let his sons have no disagreement or dispute with you.” But Raoul replied: “I will not abandon it thus. Every one would say that I was afraid, and my heirs would be disgraced for ever.”
§49 “Dear son Raoul,” said the fair Alice, “I nourished you with the milk of my own breast. Why do you give me such a pain now beneath my heart? He who gave you Péronne and the country round about, and Ham and Roie and the fortress of Nesle, invested you, my son, with a fatal gift. Anyone who stirs up war against those people need have many a well equipped steed and a great following of vassals. I tell you, rather than see you do it, I would be a waiting-maid, or a veiled nun in a nunnery. All my land will be set on fire by this war.” Raoul grabbed his jaw with his hand and swore by God who was born of a virgin that for all the gold of Toledo he would not give up his fief until many entrails had been strewn and many a brain scattered.
§50 Lady Alice had no deceit in her looks; she was clothed in an ermine cloak. Speaking to her son, she continued to voice her disagreement: “Raoul, my son, if you plan to do this, you must summon the barons of Arrouaise.” “By all means, lady; but if they refuse to come, by the faith that I owe St. Hilary, if God grant that I return alive, I will blind, mutilate and hang upon gallows like thieves so many of them that all the rest will have enough to howl about.” “God,” said the lady, “I see no hope at all. [I assume that ] Guerri the Red shall be the provost and leader in this enterprise.”
§51 “Fair son Raoul,” said the noble lady, “stir not up war for such an evil cause. The sons of Herbert are very good knights; they have many possessions and many devoted friends. My son, never destroy either church or chapel, and for God’s sake, do not slaughter the poor. My son, don’t lie to me, how many men can you raise to begin this war?” “Around ten thousand, lady, to that I can swear, and Guerri the Red shall be my standard bearer. The men of Arrouaise will not dare to remain behind, however little they wish to come.” “Alas! “the countess replied, “it is an evil undertaking!”
§52 “Before God,” said the lady. “I cannot deny that Guerri is both valiant and prudent and of a warlike spirit. He would surely carry your standard well and speedily subdue the land. But the men of Arrouaise are mean and cowardly; if there is booty to be gained of sheep or oxen, they will seem as fierce as lions, but when battle is joined we shall hear other news, for the scoundrels will take to flight at the first blow. Then the danger will be great for you in the battle, for the sons of Herbert are not stupid yokels—when they see you alone there without your companions, they will cut your head off from your neck. And as for me, my son, I swear by St. Simon that I shall die of grief, and nothing can save me.” Then said Raoul: “Your words are in vain; for I swear by God that, for all the gold of Avalon, I would not refrain from going, now that I’ve accepted the gift.”
§53 “Fair son Raoul, I tell you for certain that those men of Arrouaise are an evil crowd. If you win booty of anything of value, they will follow you, one and all, on horse or on foot. But let them not go into battle armed with you; their help will not be worth a penny to you and they will take to flight no matter whose the loss will be. You won’t have an army worth a straw. The sons of Herbert are not to be despised; they will kill you, for I can foretell the issue, and they will cut your heart out of your body with their sharp swords.”
§54 “Fair son Raoul, I beseech you by the God of justice not to stir up such an unlawful strife. Tell me now, what will become of Bernier whom I brought up till he reached the age of knighthood?” “Lady, he has behaved like a presumptuous traitor: he brought me to task in the king’s presence when I swore by St. Richier not to listen to a word that was raised against me; he told me that he would say no more until the day of battle and that then if need be he would stand by his uncles.” When the lady heard this she thought she would go mad with anger, and she cried out loudly: “I knew it, I will not hide it from you: this is the man whom you have reason to fear and by whose sword you will lose your head, if he but have the chance. My son, give heed to my advice: make your peace with the sons of Herbert; let this dispute be arranged and settled. Leave their land alone—they will love you for it and will help you to carry out your other war and drive the knight of Le Mans from the land.” Raoul listened to her words, but they only made him more angry and he swore that not all the gold of Montpelier would stop him. “Accursed be the knight—what a coward he must be—who takes counsel of a woman before going into battle! Go to your chambers, lady, and take your ease; drink pleasant draughts to fatten your belly. Plan meals for your household, for you are not fit to meddle with these other things.” The lady wept when she heard his words: “Fair son,” said she, “there was a time when you had great need of me. When the French wished to do you an injustice and let your rights of inheritance pass to that felon mercenary of Le Mans, I refused to have anything to do with him, but I nursed and raised you out of love until you could mount a horse and hear arms and stand up for your own right. Then I sent you to Paris to learn the ways of the court with four hundred comrades, all of noble birth and high spirit, and not one lacked a well-lined hauberk. The emperor kept you willingly, for he is my brother and wished not to mar your prospects. Rather he knighted you and made you seneschal to do you honor. Then were your enemies much cast down, but your friends rejoiced greatly, for they thought you would have help in case of need. And now you wish to go and claim a land from which no ancestor of yours ever took a penny. If now you will not abandon your design for love of me, may the Lord God, the judge of all, never bring you back safe and sound and whole of skin.” Terrible were the results of this curse, as you shall hear, and fatal in the end.
§55 Lady Alice was heavy at heart. She had cursed her son, and she came out of her palace and entered the church of St. Geri. With arms outstretched she placed herself before the crucifix and she prayed to God who never lies: “Glorious God, for the sake of the pain that you did suffer upon that Friday when you were put upon the cross, when Longinus pierced Your side and Your blood was shed for sinners, bring my son back to me safe and sound and whole. Wretched that I am, I have cursed the child that I nourished so tenderly; if he dies, I must confess the guilt is mine: it will be a great wonder if I do not slay myself with a knife.” With these words she went out of the church; she saw red Guerri in front of her and she seized his bridle and said to him: “Sir vassal, why have you ridden here? Whence did you get all your evil counsels!” “Lady,” he replied, “I will not deceive you—your son’s pride is the cause of all this. No man in the world, no matter how valiant or praiseworthy, could criticize him and still retain his friendship.”
§56 Guerri the Red did not wish to lose any time. As soon as he saw Raoul he called him and said: “Fair nephew, what do you mean to do? Will you abandon this war or not?” Raoul replied: “What folly I hear! I would rather be cut in pieces than abandon it now. Immediately he summons all the barons of Artois and assembles all the grown men of Arrouaise; and they came, for they dared not refuse. You might have reckoned their number at about ten thousand. Through the gates they came, their armor shining and sparkling with gold and silver. The lady saw them and was nearly beside herself: “Alas,” said she, “I am at my wits’ end now. The sons of Herbert too will assemble their whole army and, if battle is joined, there will be great loss on both rides.”
§57 Fair Alice was in Cambrai, and through the gate of Galeran de Tudele many a Castilian warhorse could be seen approaching, many a good vassal and fine trappings in plenty. The lady was in the chapel, and when she came out she called her son and said to him: “My dear son, what are you going to do with such a crowd as this? These men of Arrouaise are not worth a fig. They are good enough at emptying dishes, but in battle, so I have heard, they are no better than a piece of cheese.” Raoul listened to her words and his heart beat furiously beneath his ribs. Angrily he held his chin in his hand and said: “Lady, we have spoken too much of this already. By our Lady of Nivele I swear I would rather be the slave of a maidservant all my days than abandon the conquest of Péronne and Péronelle, of Ham and Roie and the fortress of Nesle. King Louis, who leads the French to battle, gave me the gift in his new palace, and many a head shall be split and many a body disembowelled before I leave them even the value of a plum.” –“God,” said the lady, “I feel a sharp pain within me. This will be the cause of your death, for your heart is too rebellious.”
§58 “Fair son Raoul, if you had listened to me this war would not have been begun this year. It is true that I am old and my hair is white, but I have not yet taken leave of my senses.” Raoul shook with anger at her words and called straightway to the fierce Guerri, “See that our men are set in motion, and let such a war be let loose on Vermandois that even the churches be burnt down and laid in ruins. Let my lady alone; she is old and past her prime. The people that I have summoned are blaming me already; they have been tried in many an encounter and are not used to being defeated in battle.”
§59 Raoul de Cambrai takes leave of his mother Alice and rides with Guerri the Red through Arrouaise, which is his own territory. Both the knights are on horseback and well armed. Then they cross the boundary of Vermandois; they seize the herds and take the herdsmen prisoners; they burn the crops and set fire to the farms. Bernier was gloomy and cast down; when he saw the land of his father and his friends ravaged with fire he was almost mad with grief. Wherever the others went he stayed behind and very reluctant was he to put on arms.
§60 Then Count Raoul called Manecier, Count Droon and his brother Gautier: “Take your arms,” said he, “without delay; four hundred of you ride speedily and reach Origny before nightfall. Spread my tent in the middle of the church; let my pack horses be tethered in the porches; prepare my food beneath the vaults, fasten my falcons to the golden crosses and make ready a rich bed before the altar where I may lie. I will lean against the crucifix and deliver the nuns up to my squires. I mean to destroy the place and ruin it utterly because the sons of Herbert hold it so dear.” The knights reply: “We must do your bidding.” They get themselves ready quickly; they mount and each one dons his sword, his shield, his lance and his hauberk of double thickness. As they approached Origny the bells were ringing from the church tower. They remembered God, the father of justice, and even the maddest of them was constrained to kneel down. No longer could they defile the holy places—they pitched their tent outside in the meadows and they lay there till the day dawned. Then they prepared everything as if with the intent to remain there for a whole year.
§61 Near Origny was a pleasant grove where the knights encamped themselves and awaited the dawn of day. On the next day Raoul arrived just as the bells were ringing for matins. Much he abused his knights in his anger : “You lowborn traitors and scoundrels, like base minded slaves you have acted in disobeying my commands!” “We crave your pardon, sire, for the sake of the Redeemer. But we are neither Jews nor tyrants that we can destroy the holy relics.”
§62 Count Raoul was unbridled in his wrath: “Vile traitors,” said he, “I ordered you to stretch my gold topped tent inside the church. By whose advice has it been raised outside?” “By my faith,” said Guerri, “you go too far! You have only just been knighted, and if you offend God you will come to an untimely end. This place is held in honor by men of worth; the holy relics ought not to be defiled. The grass is fresh and green in the meadows; the river banks beside are fair and open and there your advance guards and your men can lie without fear of surprise or assault” —“As you will,” replied Raoul, “at your wish I leave it thus.” So they spread the coverings on the green grass and there Raoul was lodged. There were ten knights with him, and disastrous was the counsel that they took together.
§63 “To arms, knights,” cried Raoul, “and let us attack Origny without delay! My curse on anyone who remains behind!” The barons mount, about four thousand of them, for they dare not disobey, and they ride towards Origny. They attack the fortress and those within defend themselves; and well they may, for Raoul’s men come ever nearer and already they cut down the trees around the town. Then the nuns came forth from their chapel each one with her psalter in her hand—all noble ladies who spent their lives in the service of God. Marsent, the mother of Bernier, was there, and she cried; “Mercy, Raoul, for God’s sake. If you bid destroy us, you commit a great crime, though it be an easy thing to accomplish.”
§64 Marsent was the name of Bernier’s mother. In her hand she was carrying an ancient book held in reverence since the days of Solomon and she was praying as she went. She caught hold of Raoul by his bright hauberk and said: “Sir, tell me in God’s name where is Bernier, that noble baron’s son? I have not seen him since I nursed him as an infant.” —“In the first tent, lady, where he is playing with his boon companions. There is no knight his equal if you search from here to Nero’s meadow. He urged me to make war on the sons of Herbert and said that it mattered not to him if I robbed them of all they possessed.” —“God,” said the lady, “what a traitor he is! They are his uncles, as every one knows. If they lose all their possessions it will be the worse for him.”
§65 “My lord Raoul, would a prayer be of any avail to cause you to withdraw a little space? We are nuns, believe me, and we shall never carry lance nor banner, nor will anyone ever lie on a bier through any act of ours.” —“Truly,” said Raoul, “you are not lacking in cunning. But I will have no dealings with a whore of a chambermaid who everyone knows is a prostitute and harlot, a common slut who has been had by everyone. I knew you to be Count Ybert’s prostitute; your flesh was never too expensive–if anyone wanted some, it could be had for next to nothing.” —“Heavens,” said the lady, “what language do I hear? What strange abuse is heaped upon me. Never have I been a prostitute or a harlot. If a nobleman did make me his mistress, I had a son by hom of whom I am proud to this day. With God’s mercy, I do not hold myself less for it; who serves God well will see His face.”
§66 “My lord Raoul,” said the mother of Bernier again, “we know nothing about the handling of weapons. You can easily slaughter and destroy us if you wish. We shall not take up shield or lance to defend ourselves, of that you may be sure. All our sustenance and all our living we draw from this altar and within the precincts of this place we support ourselves. The men who love this place are good men and they send us gold and silver. Spare the precincts and the chapel and take your ease in our meadows. At our own cost, sire, if you permit it, we will maintain you and your knights. Your squires shall be paid in kind and shall have fodder and oats in abundance.” Then said Raoul: “By St. Richier, for your sake and at your request you shall have the truce you ask for, whomever it may displease.” “My thanks for this,” replied the lady, and Raoul rode on his way. Then came the good knight Bernier to see his fair mother Marsent, for great was the need he felt to speak with her.
§67 Raoul quickened his pace as he rode away, and Bernier came, dressed in his costliest clothes, to see his mother. He dismounted from his horse and she kissed him and took him in her arms and three times she embraced him. Then she spoke out boldly: “My son,” said she, “you have gained your arms, and my blessing be upon the count who gave them to you so young, and still more on you for deserving them! But one thing you must explain to me. Why do you wish to attack your father’s inheritance? There are no other heirs; it would fall to no one else but you, and you will obtain it by your prowess and your good sense.” And Bernier replied: “I myself would not attack for all the wealth of Baghdad. My lord Raoul is more wicked than Judas. But he is my lord; he gives me horses and robes, and arms and cloths from Baghdad. I would not fail him for all the wealth of Damascus until such time as all should say I acted rightly.” —“Son,” said his mother, “by my faith, you are right: serve your lord and God will be your reward.”
§68 The sons of Herbert, who set great value on the large and prosperous town of Origny, had surrounded it with a palisade for its protection; but it would have been of small avail against an attack. All around was a large and beautiful meadow where jousts used to be held. The lowlands belonged to the nuns of the foundation and there grazed the cattle that brought them in their means of livelihood. No man under heaven would dare harm it. There it was that Count Raoul had his tent pitched; the poles of the tent were of gold and silver, and it was so large that a hundred men could lodge in it. Then it came about that three worthless scoundrels stole forth from the army and did not spare the spurs until they reached the town. They stole all they could lay hands on; they were unwilling to leave anything. But they were burdened by the very thing that ought to have profited them. For ten men of the city gave chase, each with a crowbar in his hand, and they killed two of them, for they were overloaded. The third escaped on his horse. Galloping back to the tents, he dismounted and kissed his lord’s shoe; weeping, he called upon him for pity. Loudly he stated his demand: “May the Lord God abandon you if you do not avenge yourself on these citizens who are so rich and proud and strong that they care not a whit for you or anyone else. They say that they will shave your head, and that if they can capture of you, all the gold of Montpelier will not ransom you. I have seen my brother slain and cut in pieces and my nephew overthrown and murdered. By St. Richier, they would have killed me too, but I managed to escape on this horse.” When Raoul heard this he was mad with anger and cried out: Up, noble knights, I must make Origny suffer. Since they have opened war upon me, so help me God, they will pay dearly for it.” Without delay the knights start for Origny, for they dare not refuse—ten thousand of them in all, I have heard it said. They cross the moats, they cut down the stakes of the palisade with their steel axes and trample it under foot. They cross the moat beside the fishpond and don’t stop till they reach the very walls. Great was the alarm of the citizens when they saw that their palisade was useless.
§69 The citizens see that their fortification is gone and the bravest of them was much cast down. They man the walls of the fortress; they throw down stones and great sharp stakes and they kill many of Raoul’s men. Not one remains behind—they are all at the walls and they have sworn by God that if they find Raoul, woe betide him! Old and young alike defend themselves furiously. Raoul is full of wrath at the defence and he swears that if the citizens one and all are not destroyed and strung up he will not give a fig for his own valor. Loudly he cries: “Barons, set fire to the town.” And the soldiers obeyed him, for they were eager for booty. Raoul had broken the agreement between himself and the abbess; he rendered the nuns an evil service that day when the town was burnt to ashes so that nothing remained. Young Bernier was full of grief when he saw the destruction of Origny.
§70 Count Raoul was mad with anger because the citizens had crossed him. He swore by God and his pity that the Archbishop of Rheims could not stop him now from burning them all before nightfall. He gave the order to fire the town. His men obey him; the buildings blaze, the ceilings fall in, the casks catch fire and burst their bands. All, old and young, are burnt in this pitiful crime. Count Raoul has committed a foul act: but yesterday he had sworn to Marsent that the nuns should not lose so much as a napkin, and now today he burns them all in his rage. They flee to the church, but it is of no more use than if they had made a stand against him.
§71 The sons of Herbert had established Marsent, the mother of Bernier, with a hundred nuns, in great and spacious Origny because they set such value on the place. Count Raoul, fierce and proud, ordered that the streets be burnt. The houses blaze, the roofs fall in, the cellars run with wine, sides of bacon burn as the larders collapse, and the melting fat adds fuel to the flames. Now the towers of the church are alight; the fire mounts to the highest steeple–the charred roofs crash to earth, and inside the building it is a blazing furnace. The nuns are burnt to death, for nothing can withstand the heat. All hundred of them perished in torment in the flames; Marsent, the mother of Bernier, was there, and Clamados, the daughter of Duke Renier. Prone in the midst of the blaze they lay and even the hardiest knights could not help weeping for pity. As to Bernier, when he saw how things went from bad to worse, he thought he would go mad. You should have seen how he gripped his shield, when with drawn sword he hastened to the church. The flames were darting up the doors and it was impossible to get nearer than a lance throw for the great heat. But close beside a marble slab Bernier saw his mother stretched on the ground, her tender face turned upwards. He saw her psalter still burning on her breast. Then said the boy: “I can do no good here; for nothing can help her now. Dear mother, it was only yesterday you kissed me! What a bad son you have in me since I can neither save nor help you. May God, the judge of all the world, receive your soul! Raoul, you felon, may God bring disaster upon you! I wish to do you homage no longer and if I do not avenge this dishonor I count myself not worth a penny.” His grief is so great that he drops his sword and swoons three times on the neck of his charger. Then he went to take counsel of Guerri the Red, but of little use could such advice be to him.
§72 Young Bernier was sad at heart and he went to Guerri to seek his advice: “Counsel me, for the love of God who never lies. Raoul of Cambrai has done me a great wrong. He has burnt my mother, the fair lady Marsent, in the church of Origny. I have seen the very breasts that nourished me burning in the flames!” Guerri replied: “I am truly sorry; my heart grieves for love of you.”
§73 The warriors return to their tents, and Bernier full of anger departs to his. He dismounts from his steed and the squires hasten to take off his boots. All his men weep to see his grief. Then Bernier addressed them: “Noble vassals, can you give me good advice? My lord Raoul shows how little he loves me, for he has burnt my mother in the chapel over there. God grant I may live long enough to avenge her.” Raoul also repairs to his tent. He has caused all the trouble and it was at his commands that the nuns were burned and roasted in the flames. He dismounts from his bay charger and his barons who love him take off his armor. They unlace his bright gold helmet and took off his good sword of steel. They draw the doubled hauberk from his back and his crumpled tunic appears. In the whole of France there was no fairer knight nor better fitted to bear arms.
§74 In front of his own tent Raoul dismounts from his swift horse; the princes and captains take off his tunic bordered with ermine, and no finer man could be found than Raoul seen without his arms. He called his seneschal who used to serve him with the food he liked best, and when he came without delay he gave him the order, “Prepare me food and you will do me a great service: roasted peacocks and devilled swans, and venison in abundance, that even the humblest may have his fill. I would not be thought mean by my barons for all the gold of a city.” When the seneschal heard this he looked at him in amazement and crossed himself thrice for such blasphemy. “In the name of Our Lady,” said he, “what are you thinking of? You are denying holy Christianity and your baptism and the God of majesty. It is Lent, when every one ought to fast; it is the holy Friday of the passion on which sinners have always honored the cross. And we miserable men who have come here, we have burned the nuns and violated the church and we shall never be reconciled to God unless his pity be greater than our wickedness.” Raoul looked at him and said: “Whore’s son, why have you spoken to me like that? Why did they wrong me? They insulted two of my squires and it is not a matter for wonder that they had to pay for it dearly. But, it is true, I had forgotten Lent.” So he called for chessmen; these were not refused him and he sat down in an ill temper in the midst of the meadow.
§75 Raoul of Cambrai plays chess like a man who knows the game well. Aggressively he has brought his rook into play and has taken a knight with his pawn, and soon he has mated and conquered his companion who was seated at play with him. Then he leaps to his feet with a more cheerful face. He throws off his cloak, for the heat, and asks for wine. Ten noble youths hasten to fulfil his wishes.
§76 Count Raoul asked for wine and immediately fourteen youths ran up, each clothed in his ermine cloak. One of them was the son of the noble Count Ybert and came from St. Quentin. He had seized a golden goblet and filled it with spiced wine; then he knelt down in front of the count, but never a word said the count in any language for the space of time in which a horse might have drunk his fill. The young knight watches him and swears by St. Firmin that, if Raoul does not take the wine he will spill it on the ground.
§77 As soon as Raoul became aware of the youth he quickly took the goblet and he swore by God who never lied: “Brother, good friend, I did not see you before.” Then without waiting he spoke again “Listen to me, noble and hardy knights; by this clear wine that you see here, by this sword which lies on the carpet, by the saints who have served our Savior, I declare that the sons of Herbert are in for it now. I will not leave them so much as a Paris penny, and I swear moreover by St. Geri that they shall have no peace until they have fled beyond the sea.” —“By God, sire,” replied Bernier, “evil indeed will be their plight when it comes to that, for their Creator knows that they are no cowards, these sons of Herbert. There are fifty of them who are sworn friends and they have taken oaths and pledged themselves to stand together so long as they live.”
§78 Raoul, brave and proud, speaks again: “Listen to me, noble knights! I swear by the Lord of all the earth that I will put the sons of Herbert to shame. I will not leave them a foot of all their lands and possessions to stand upon if they are alive, or to be buried in if they are dead. I will drive them into the sea to sink or swim.” Now hear what Bernier said in answer: “Raoul, dear lord, you are a brave man, but in some things you are greatly to be blamed. The sons of Herbert are very valiant men and good knights; so much I know for certain, that if you drive them over the sea, you will not live easy on their land. I am your vassal–I don’t try to conceal that–but you have ill repaid my services: you have burnt my mother in that church and now that she is dead there is no bringing her back. And now you wish to drive my uncle and my father into exile! It is small wonder if I cannot contain my anger; they are my uncles and my desire is to help them: glad would I be to avenge my shame in so doing.” Raoul was almost mad with anger at these words and bitterly he began to reproach the baron.
§79 This is what Raoul, the handsome youth, said to Bernier: “Son of a whore, I know well that you are their man already—you are the son of my enemy Ybert de Ribemont, and you are in my tent to betray me and to learn my plans from my barons. A bastard has no right to speak as you have done. I have a great mind to cut off your head beneath your chin!” “God,” said Bernier, “what a noble reward this is! What a rich gift I’m being offered for my services.”
§80 Then Bernier called out aloud: “Sir Raoul, I have neither brother nor kinsman here. It is well known that Ybert is my father, and my mother too was a lady of gentle birth.”
§81 “Raoul, I tell you truthfully that my mother was the daughter of a knight who ruled all of Bavaria. She was taken from him to her lasting ruin. There was a noble warrior in this land who took her in lawful wedlock. But he slew two royal princes with his sword in the presence of the King of France and a great and interminable war broke out. At last he fled to Gaifier of Spoleto, who kept him willingly in his service when he perceived his valor. He never returned to this land for he deigned not to be a suppliant to you nor any other man.”
§82 “Then was my mother in sore need of friends. There was no one so fair in forty countries. Then Ybert my father, who is a most noble man, took her by force—so I have been told, but he did not wed her, this I know for certain.
§83 “Sir Raoul, Ybert my father took my mother by force, but I cannot say that he took her to the altar. By reason of his position he took her into his bed and did what he willed with her; then, when the desire took him, he wedded another woman and wished to give my mother to Geoffroy. But she chose the better part and became a nun.
§84 “Sir Raoul, you commit both a sin and a crime. You have burnt my mother, and my heart is still full of wrath. God grant that I live long enough to avenge her death.” Raoul listened with his head bent low; then he cried: “Bastard, renegade, if I did not restrain myself for the sake of God and his pity, I would have had you cut to pieces already. Who prevents me now from destroying you?” Then said Bernier: “A false friend I have found in you. I have served you and loved you and helped to make you powerful; I am ill rewarded for my good service. If I had my polished helmet on my head I would fight either on horse or on foot against any well armed knight to refute your charge of bastard and renegade. And you yourself with all your presumption would not dare strike me, not for the archbishopric of Rheims!” When Raoul heard this he seized the staff of a great lance that the hunters had left lying there. In his fury he raised it aloft and struck young Bernier with such force that his head was broken and all his delicate ermine stained with blood. Then Bernier went out of his mind and seizing Raoul in a fury he would soon have satisfied his desire for vengeance. But the other knights ran up quickly and parted them before any harm was done. Then Bernier shouted aloud for his squire: “Bring my arms and my thick hauberk this instant—my good sword too and my bright helmet, for I will quit this court without any leave-taking.”
§85 Now Count Raoul was noble at heart and when he saw that Bernier was very angry and that his head was streaming with blood he was so grieved that his thoughts were all confused. “Barons,” he cried, “advise me what to do, for Bernier is departing in great anger.” All the knights replied “Sir Raoul, it is small wonder if he is angry. He has served you with his sword and you have ill requited him. You have burnt his mother in her church, and, as for him, you have broken his head. God’s curse on anyone who blames him if he wishes to avenge himself. You must offer him compensation, if indeed he be willing to accept it.” Said Raoul: “No better advice could I have. Bernier, my brother, before God the righteous judge, I will make amends to you in the sight of all my knights.” But not so readily could the reconciliation take place. Bernier replied: “you have burnt my mother who loved me so dearly, and my own head you tried to break. By the One to whom we ought to pray, never will I be reconciled to you until this red blood returns to my head of its own accord. When I see that, then the great vengeance which I long to take on you will be appeased. Not all the gold of Montpelier could make me cease to desire it.”
§86 Then Count Raoul addressed him very courteously. Kneeling down and clothed in a rough tunic, he spoke thus humbly out of true love for him, “Alas, Bernier, woe is me!”–so spoke the count–“don’t you want a just settlement? If you will not take rightful compensation, then let me pay the forfeit—not because I fear you, but because I wish to remain your friend. By St. James of Compostella, I would rather lose the blood from my heart and see my bowels issuing from my wounds. I would rather see my palace broken into splinters [than lose your friendship]. I will make such an offer as would befit the emir of Spain, or even Louis, who leads the French! By the holy virgin, I wish to make you fair and honorable amends. Now hear what I will do. From Origny to the fortress of Nesle, a distance of fourteen leagues, for it is right that I be exact, a hundred knights shall walk each bearing his own saddle, and I myself will carry yours upon my head. I will lead Baucent, my good Spanish war horse, and not a man-at-arms nor a maid will I pass on the road but I say, ‘This is the saddle of Bernier that I am carrying.'” ” And the Frenchmen all say: “This is a fair offer; he who refuses this has no desire to be your friend.”
§87 Raoul speaks again with great humility: “Brother Bernier, you are a valiant knight; accept my amends and lay your anger aside.” But Bernier replied: “All this is child’s play. I would not accept your offer for all the gold of Tagus until this blood that I see here mounts to my head again of its own accord. Until such time that I take my vengeance, no peace can there be between us.” Then said Raoul: “This is a sorry business, by my faith; our parting will be nasty.” Guerri could not contain himself and he shouted: “By God, bastard, you are presumptuous indeed. My nephew has made you a generous offer. From this time on, your sentence of death is written on the blade of my lance.” Bernier replied: “Now is my loyalty at an end. This blow has dubbed me your enemy: it will bring much sorrow in its train.”
§88 Now there is commotion in the camp! Young Bernier has bound a silken cloth round his head. He has put on his mailed hauberk and laced his helmet and has not forgotten to gird his sword. Then he mounts his dappled charger, hangs his embossed shield round his neck and seizes his lance with its pennon fixed. He sounds a loud blast on his horn and five knights, faithful vassals who hold their lands from him, have heard the noise and come running up full speed. They will not fail him for any living thing. There was no love shown at the parting from Raoul’s men as the procession set out. Straight towards Ribemont they made their way. There Count Ybert, his beard streaked with white, stood at the window of his tiled hall, surrounded by a great company of men from his lands. He looked across the valley and saw Bernier with all his belted knights. He recognized him and changed color, “Noble knights,” he said to his men, “I see my son approaching across the fields. The men with him are all armed and look very like men ready for a battle. Now we shall hear why Raoul has ravaged our land.”
§89 Brave Count Ybert goes to hear vespers sung for the glorious Lord of Heaven, just as Bernier arrives. He and his knights dimsount. All run from the castle to his stirrup and ask him quickly, “For God’s sake, can you tell us news! Deny it not if you know anything.” —“Yes, news enough I can give you,” said Bernier, “but such evil tidings that I scarce know what to do. Now let anyone who wishes to hold his land see to it that his helmet is well laced. My lord Raoul wishes to destroy us all and to drive my uncles from the land. He threatens to behead every one of them; but it may be that the God of glory will stand by us.” They disarmed Bernier in front of the palace and saw the blood still flowing from his head and many a knight was filled with dismay. And now vespers are over and Ybert comes out of the chapel. He advances to embrace his son and he too sees the streak of blood down his face. Great was his amazement at the sight and his grief made his senses reel. “Son,” said he, “why can I not mount my charger? What man would have dared to touch you while I could still wield my armor?” —“My lord did this,” replied Bernier, “the Count Raoul who wishes to destroy us all and has come to claim all our lands. He will not leave you as much as penny. He has razed Origny to the ground–I saw my noble hearted mother Marsent burning there, this I cannot deny. And because I was angry on her account he struck me with a staff of apple wood, with such force that I am still blood-stained as far as my breeches. He offered to make amends, this I cannot deny, but I refused to accept it or sanction it. And now I come to you for advice, my father, for it is our part now to avenge our shame.” When his father heard these words he began to reproach him.
§90 Thus spoke white-bearded Ybert: “Son Bernier, I tell you frankly that I know the histories of many men and I never yet heard of a proud man who prospered. It is folly to waste words on him. What he has taken seven years of guile to obtain he wastes in a single day by his great stupidity. As long as you were small and beneath my roof, I brought you up as became a noble knight. But when you grew up, you deserted your mother and me in your pride. You trusted Raoul and his flattering words and went straight to Cambrai, where you served him and received his largesse; and now he has beaten you like an old cast-off horse. I swear that you will never have any of my possessions, for I disinherit you entirely.” Bernier changed color and anxiously he spoke: “For pity’s sake, my father, let me remain in your service. When I saw the church at Origny in flames and my fair mother Marsent and the hundred other ladies burnt–not one escaped–, I would rather have been stark naked in Russia than behold such a sight. And then, by all the saints, when I spoke of it to my lord who had acted so treacherously, in the presence of my barons, he struck me such a blow beside the ear with a staff that my face was covered with crimson blood.” Very angry was Ybert when he heard these words and he swore by God to whom all men pray: “Would that this quarrel had never been begun and that your mother Marsent had not been burnt and roasted alive! That base scoundrel betrayed her by his cunning. Many a shield will be pierced and many a coat of mail torn and rent to pieces before we abandon our land to him. He has wrongfully invaded my land, and if I fail to defend it with my sword I am not worth a rotten apple. May God curse you, you felon Raoul, for first you promised the nuns that they should suffer no harm and afterwards you burnt them in your rage. If God suffers this, if the earth does not open beneath his feet, it can only be the devil’s work.”
§91 Count Ybert was much troubled all that day. He called Bernier to him again and spoke to him kindly: “Be not dismayed, my son, for I swear by God that Raoul shall pay dearly for what he has done before three days are over.” Then the retainers and the stewards spread the cloths and the knights sat down to table. But however much the others ate, Ybert had no desire for food, but instead sat sharpening a stag’s bone with his knife. His noble knights admonished him, saying: “Eat, sire, we beseech you, for it is Eastertide when all should rejoice.” But Ybert replied: “I can do no such thing. I am almost beside myself on account of my son whom you see here. He is blood-stained down to his girdle and Count Raoul must indeed be my bitter foe since he sends him to me thus covered with blood. You, older ones, must stay and guard the land, the high tower and the palace, but let the youths and the wellborn squires go each to his place and get ready his steed, for we must ride at once.” Then said Bernier: “Sire, you cannot leave me behind.” —“Beyond a doubt, you must stay, my son, for you are sick. Take your ease now, for you have much need of repose.” But Bernier replied: “Sire, it is useless to command. For, by the oil with which I was anointed at my baptism, no power on earth would prevent my going to avenge my shame at the risk of life and limb.” At these words they all set out to make ready. All that night they rode and found themselves at Roie at break of day.
§92 When the barons arrived at Roie, they dismounted without delay and Count Ybert did not stop till he reached the ford. He was fully armed with his shield on his neck and his white hauberk on his back. His well-tempered sword hung at his side. The head watchman, who was at his post, threw down a stone without waiting to see who was there and all but struck him on his pointed helmet. Had it struck him, he would certainly have been felled to the earth, but it fell into the clear water before the battlement. Then he shouted: “Vassal, tell me who you are. I have hurled a stone, but I know not whether I have hit you. Now my bow is drawn and I am all ready to shoot.” Ybert replied: “Stay your hand, brother. My name is Ybert and I am the son of Herbert, your late master. Go, tell the valiant Wedon, my white haired brother, that he must come to me, for it is long since I saw him and I never needed him more than now.”
§93 Then said the watchman: “Tell me again who you are.” Said Ybert “My good friend, you shall know the truth. My name is Ybert and I hail from Ribemont. Go, tell Sir Wedon, my brother, that he must come to me immediately; never has a man needed his brother so urgently.” The watchman replied “God be praised.” And with all speed he hastened to the palace.
§94 The watchman hastened to the chamber of Sir Wedon. He rapped with the knocker and the chamberlain heard and roused the noble knight. As soon as Wedon saw the troubled face of the watchman he said: “Friend, tell me quickly, for God’s sake, is there trouble afoot?”– “Yes, indeed, sire, greater than I have ever known. Outside is a dear friend of yours: Count Ybert, if I heard his name aright.” Out from his bed leapt Wedon when he heard the name. He clad himself in his ermine, he donned his hauberk, he laced his polished helmet and girded his good sword to his side. Then up came his seneschal Thierry with his Arab steed, and Wedon mounted, seized his shield, took his lance with its broidered pennon and hastened from the palace.
§95 Down the steps went Count Wedon and he did not rein in his horse until he reached the outer wall. When he saw the crowd of armed knights he cried: “Ybert, my brother, what brings you to me? Are you in trouble that you come at this hour?” —“Yes, truly, brother, you are never likely to hear of greater. King Louis wishes to disinherit us; he has given our lands to Count Raoul. The Count has invaded our country with ten thousand men and it stands in sore need of defence. We must summon all our friends without delay.” Count Wedon replied: “We shall have no lack of men, but you must be joking with me. I can’t believe that Count Raoul would be so mad as to bring his army against us here; Guerri the Red is a prudent man and he surely never devised such a scheme.” Ybert replied: “You waste your words. Origny is burnt already and all the nuns whom you placed there he has burnt alive–that was a great cruelty.”
§96 Then said Count Wedon, “By St. Richier! Has Raoul burnt Origny? ” —“I swear by God he has, brother, for Bernier came from there but yesterday. He saw his mother burnt to death in the church and the hundred nuns died a cruel death with her.” —“Now I must believe your words,” said proud Wedon, “for I know that young Bernier is no frivolous youth.”
§97 Then the white moustached Ybert spoke again: “For God’s sake, tell me, brother, whom shall we summon?” Wedon replied: “We shall have men in abundance. Let us summon Herbert of Hirson. The best fortified dwellings of Thierache belong to him—thirty castles and keeps he holds in all. He is our brother and we can well trust him.” So they sent for him and Bernier took the message. A thousand noble companions he brought and they pitched their tents beneath the walls of St. Quentin. Then they summoned Raoul, count of Soissons, and he brought a thousand knights with him. The sand was fair beneath the walls of St. Quentin and there they pitched their tents and many pennons floated in the breeze. And they swore by God and all his holy names, so the song tells us, that if they find Raoul he will have no reason to rejoice in the gift of their lands, and they will pull out the beard of Guerri the Red.
§98 Bernard of Retest was the next they summoned. All one side of the province of Champagne was his domain. He swore that he would be the standard bearer and he and Gerard each brought a thousand men with them. There was not a coward amongst them. They too pitched their tents beneath St. Quentin’s walls and angrily swore by their patron St. Lienart that if they should find Raoul or that mongrel Guerri they would drain every drop of blood out of his body.
§99 Then they summoned the good vassal Richier, who ruled the country over against the valley of Rinier. He came with a thousand of his knights, all well-armed and well mounted, and they too camped below St. Quentin.
§100 How their bright armour shone and lighted up both banks of the lovely stream! But the knights swore by God who let himself be crucified to save His people, that if they find Raoul in their land he may be sure of losing his head.
§101 Next came Wedon of Roie, bringing a thousand knights with ensigns of silk. Straight to St. Quentin they marched and gaily encamped beneath its walls. And they swore by God who guides the sinners aright that if they come across Raoul small joy will he have of his booty. “We will tear out his lungs and his liver,” said they. “We would not give a fig for the gift that Louis of France gave him, for he will not get hold of it as long as we are alive.”
§102 Then they sent for Louis, the youngest of the four sons of Herbert, and he came with a thousand valiant knights. He was well armed and mounted on his French bay. They too encamped beneath St. Quentin, and roundly they swore that Raoul and his uncle had invaded their territory to their undoing. Whichever of them they met would lose life and limb, and an evil investiture would Vermandois prove to them.
§103 Last of all came Ybert, the valiant baron. He was the eldest brother and the father of Bernier. Many a good knight he had with him and many a good Gascon courser you might have seen there. They dismount on the sand beneath St. Quentin and pitched their rich tents there. And they too swore that Raoul had been invested with a fief of evil omen.
§104 As soon as the barons were afoot they started for Origny; eleven thousand of them in all and not one without his charger and his goodly amour and sword of steel. A league from Raoul’s army they pitched their tents, so I have heard. Then spoke Wedon: “Noble knights and barons, a man without moderation is not worth a crab-apple. Count Raoul is a valiant knight and moreover he is nephew to the King of France. If we kill him we shall have endless trouble and the emperor will never be well disposed towards us. He will certainly deprive us of our lands and if he get hold of our persons he will have us cut to pieces. Let us send a messenger to him and request him to draw back a little from our land. Let him return to his own land and may God the righteous judge reward him. If he have any cause for complaint we will make amends without delay; not a foot of his land will we demand—rather than that will we let him have some of our own. We will build again the church and the sanctuary which he burnt without a cause and we will help him to wage his other wars and drive the knight of Le Mans from his land. Even his debt of honor to Bernier we will overlook.” —“Whom shall we send on this mission,” said Ybert. “I will go, sire,” cried Bernier, but his father answered him angrily: “By my faith, babbler, you put yourself forward too much. Only the other day you were beaten over there and now you wish to go back. If you go, you will surely make some trouble and diminish the justice of our cause.” He looked round him and spied Gerard of Ponthieu. “You go, brother,” said he. “I ask you as a favor.” —“Willingly, sire,” replied Gerard. “I will set out at once.” And straight to his tent he went to don his hauberk.
§105 Gerard the Spaniard went to his tent; he dressed himself in a bright colored hauberk and laced his helmet of Pavan workmanship on his head. Then they brought him his good Norse steed. The Fleming mounted by the stirrup and quickly hung his shield around his neck and rode straight away across the marshes. To Raoul’s tent he came and found many vassals of Cambrai and Artois. Count Raoul was sitting at the highest table clothed in a robe of costly Greek silk. The messenger did not appear German in the least: he leaned upon his sharp-pointed lance and spoke his greeting without hesitation: “May the Lord God, who created all countries and their laws and who was put on the cross for us, save Raoul, the King’s valiant nephew and all his faithful vassals!” —“May God protect you, brother,” said Raoul courteously, “you don’t seem Irish at all.”
§106 “Sir Raoul,” said the baron Gerard, “if you are willing to hear my message I will deliver it without delay.” —“Deliver it quickly, brother, and leave, for I will not have you spying out my concerns.” —“No such evil intent have I,” replied Gerard. Then he repeated his message from beginning to end in proper form and Raoul listened and began to think. “By my faith,” said he, “I ought to agree to this. But first I must speak to my uncle about it.”
§107 Raoul went to take counsel of his uncle and told him every word of the message that Gerard had brought. Guerri heard it and began to thank God. “Nephew,” said he, “you have reason to be proud when five counts wish to make their peace with you. In God’s name, nephew, accept their offer, leave their land, for it is no concern of yours to govern it.” Raoul was quite beside himself with anger when he heard this and he began to abuse Guerri: “I received the glove in the presence of many knights, and now you bid me relinquish it! If I do it the whole world will cry shame upon me–and rightly so!”
§108 Raoul the fearless spoke again. “They used to say there was no more valiant man in all the world than powerful Guerri the Red, but now I find him cowardly and ready to give up.” Guerri listened and answered proudly that not all the gold of Abbeville would make him hear such words with equanimity, nor suffer reproach from his nephew. He swore by St. Geri: “Now that you have roused me by calling me coward, the sons of Herbert and I will never be friends, unless a thousand hauberks are torn to ribbons first.” He shouted to the messenger, “Quit this place at once. Bid the sons of Herbert prepare for the defence, for they will be fiercely attacked.” The messenger replied, “By my head, so be it. On their behalf I duly defy you. To your misfortune have you known those nuns of Origny. Be on your guard, for you will have a warm reception. Each of us has his hauberk on.” At this he turned round and seized his shield. It was a wonder he did not strike someone. He did brandish his lance, but then he remembered white-haired Ybert who was waiting for a message of peace from Raoul.
§109 Gerard departed without delay. Count Ybert came forward to meet him. “What tidings have you brought? See that you hide nothing from me.” —“By my faith, sire, Raoul’s presumption knows no bounds. There is no more to be done; get ready at once and put your battalions in battle array.” —“God be thanked “said Bernier, but Wedon said: “Silence, barons, and listen to me. A man without moderation soon comes to a bad end. Choose a messenger and send him to Count Raoul again. We will still hold open the offer that Gerard of Ponthieu made to him if he is willing to accept it. He may have thought it over by now and, if he has, right glad shall we all be.” —“God,” said Ybert, “I am all bewildered. Who shall the messenger be? Tell me straight.” — “I am ready to go,” said Bernier. But his father said angrily: “By my faith, rogue, you are too presumptuous. And yet, since you have put yourself forward, no other than you shall set foot there.” –“Many thanks, sire,” replied Bernier, and he quickly donned his hauberk and laced his helmet. Then he took his untarnished sword and leapt upon his horse. His father looked at him and said sorrowfully: “Go, my son, lose no time; and, for God’s sake, see that you uphold our rights.” Bernier replied: “You waste your words, for you will never be dishonored by me.”
§110 So Bernier went forth alone and rode to the tents of Raoul’s army, but he did not dismount from his horse. There was no uncertain sound about his salutation, “May the Lord God who never lied, and who blessed Adam and Eve, guard and protect these noble barons who brought me up in their midst in gentle fashion, with never a harsh word nor a contention towards me; and may he confound Raoul of Cambrai, who burnt my mother in the church of Origny with all the nuns for whom I sorely grieve, and struck me myself so cruelly that the crimson blood flowed down. May God let me live until I render him his deserts! Or, by St. Geri, I will do it, if it lies within my power.” —“Faith,” said Raoul, “we have a mad messenger here. Is this Bernier, son of white-bearded Ybert? Bastard, you are ill-fated: for in shame the old man engendered you.”
§111 Raoul could not restrain himself: “Low-born bastard,” said he, “you should return to my quarters and become serving-man again. So vile a son was never seen of one so noble.” Bernier thought his senses would leave him at these words.
§112 “Sir Raoul,” said the boy, “leave off this talk about your quarters. Your food and drink are not to my liking; so help me God, I would not touch them were my life at stake. But no act of folly shall be laid to my charge. The sons of Herbert have sent me here to say that they will hold to the offer that Sir Gerard of Ponthieu brought to your tent, if you agree to it, nor would I hinder this on my account. You burnt my mother in Origny church and you did your best to break my head to pieces. But you offered me justice—this I cannot deny, and many a charger might I have had in amends. A hundred coursers you offered me, a hundred mules, a hundred costly palfreys, a hundred swords with a hundred doubled hauberks, a hundred shields and a hundred golden helmets. I was angry when I saw my blood running down and I would not accept the offer. But I have taken counsel with my friends and the noble knights advise me that I refuse it not if the offer be renewed. I will pardon all, I swear by St. Richier, if my uncles can be at peace with you.”
§113 Count Raoul considered these words, then he called Bernier to him and said: “Friend, there is true friendship in this and, by God, your words shall not be taken amiss.” Straight to his uncle he made his way. When he found him he seized him by the arm and related and confessed everything to him, even the amends he had promised to Bernier. He told him all the truth in every detail. “Accept the offer, uncle, and let us make peace and all be good friends.” Guerri heard him and haughtily replied: “You called me coward and chicken-hearted. Your saddle is ready on your Arab steed Fauvel, but you would not mount him to ride to battle for all the gold of Ponthieu. Flee to Cambrai, I tell you, but as for me, the sons of Herbert are all my sworn foes; they shall not escape war, for I send them my defiance!” Then said Bernier: “I thank God for this. Sir Raoul, this conclusion is foregone on account of a misdeed which you were guilty of towards me. Up to that time I had served you, but you rewarded me ill for it. You burnt my mother in Origny church and I myself was struck by you so that the crimson blood ran down.” He drew three hairs of the ermine he was wearing through the chain work of the bright hauberk and threw them towards Raoul. Then he said: “Vassal, I defy [renounce my allegiance to] you! Never say now that I have betrayed you.” The French said: “Now go back whence you came, for you have fully delivered your message.”
§114 “Sir Raoul,” said Bernier, “the battle will be grievous and horrible, as you and others will find to your cost. I will harm you now whenever I get the chance.” — “Well,” said Raoul, “I am sorry for that, but there will be no reproach to our children. You have challenged me and I accept it in good faith. But if we could joust together in this field, one of us two would have to quit the saddle.” —“In truth,” said Bernier, “that would suit me well, for then I would prove at the sword’s point that you wrongfully took the pledge of this land and thereby acted like a felon and traitor towards me.” Raoul sweated with anger at these words and was filled with shame on account of his men present. He knew well that Bernier wished him ill, but since he was unarmed, he held his tongue.
§115 When Bernier had made his defiance, he turned his good shield toward his back and spurred his charger forward. He longed to strike Raoul there in the tent, for they had not gone outside. He set his horse at a gallop and rushed at him faster than a deer in a woodland glade. But a knight of good repute thrust himself between them and received Bernier’s blow across his body.
§116 The knight was foolhardy in his generosity when he boldly put himself in Bernier’s path to save Raoul. Bernier struck without mercy and sent his straight lance through his body. The knight fell dead and his soul departed from him. When Raoul saw it he shouted aloud : “Knights, after him at once. If this man escapes us I count myself not worth a bean. He wished to strike me, for he would like to see me dead.” A hundred knights mounted with all speed on their Orcanian chargers and very one of them hurled defiance at Bernier. The boy, seeing his danger, turned and spurred his horse to safety. The knights followed him, but could not catch up with him, for his horse bore him speedily away. Ybert was watching for him beside a leafy wood and he saw the hot pursuit. He called upon God, the son of Mary: “Look upon my son, for he is in sore need of help. If I lose him I shall never have joy again. Go to his help, my brave knights!” Fourteen horns sounded the advance and many a shield was grasped and many a lance brandished ready to strike.
§117 Count Ybert said a few words to them: “Forward to the attack, knights, for ours is the just cause. Bernier is returning at breakneck speed, and I doubt not he has delivered his message like a madman. A hundred knights are following at his heels and I can see the javelins flying.” And now, for better or for worse, Bernier has brought the two armies together.
§118 The barons rode in serried ranks and both sides were well equipped for battle. Even the most fearless of them weep for pity’s sake, for they know that friendship will count for nothing now. As for the cowards, they are in dismay, for there will be nothing but pitiless death for him who falls; they will have no other pledge this day. But the young knights rejoice and are in good spirits. Most of them have dismounted; they are well accoutred for battle and many of them have shortened their stirrups. Now in truth Bernier has unleashed a strife which would bring about the ruin of many a baron. Yes, many that day would be killed and sliced to pieces.
§119 The armies are in sight of one another. They go forward cautiously and reconnoitre as they go. The cowards tremble as they march, but the brave hearts rejoice for the battle. Raoul’s men assured each other as they went that they would bring such disaster on the sons of Herbert that first the fathers and then their sons would grieve on account of it. All have armed themselves, both great and small. Guerri is leading them and with him are his sons, Renier, stout of heart and Garnelin, a good swordsman. Count Raoul was seated on his iron-grey steed, and he and his uncle put their men in battle array. So close together the barons rode that if you had thrown a glove on the tops of their helmets it would not have fallen to earth for a good league’s space. The necks of the horses press upon the cruppers of those in front as they gallop along.
§120 Great was the army that Raoul had brought with him—ten thousand men with Guerri for their leader and all well armed and mounted. The sons of Herbert, and Bernier, who wished for this battle, estimated theirs at eleven thousand; this I know for a fact. The two armies come together and every good knight weeps for the pity of it and vows to God that if he escapes alive he will never in his life commit a sin again or, if he does, he will do penance for it. Many a gentle knight committed body and soul to God and took the communion there with three blades of grass, for there was no priest there with the sacrament. But Raoul swears, and Guerri declares again, that if they have their way the war will not cease till they have made the sons of Herbert die a shameful death, or at least till they have chased them from the land. And Ybert on his side swears that they shall never have a foot of his land, and all his barons declare that not one of them will flee for fear of death. “God,” said Bernier, “what oaths we have here. Cursed be he who first flees from the field of battle.” Bertolai said he would make a song about the battle, and such a song that no other minstrel would sing a better.
§121 Bertolai was both wise and valiant; from the city of Laon he came and was of very high and gentle birth. He was in the thickest of the battle and he made a song which has been heard since in many a great hall and you will never hear a better. It was the song of Guerri the Red and of fair Alice; of Raoul, lord of Cambrai, the godson of the bishop of Beauvais; and, by the heart of St. Gervase, of how Bernier slew him with the help of Ernaut, lord of Douai.
§122 Never was there such a battle nor such a tumult. The fighters were not Normans, nor Englishmen, but knights of Vermandois, of Cambrai and Artois. There were men of Brabant and men of Champagne, together with many a vassal of King Louis from the Ile-de-France. The sons of Herbert are fighting for their rights, but many a knight of theirs will soon be cold and gory in death and the bane of it will last all the rest of their lives. Bernier spurs his good Norse steed and rides to strike a knight from Avalois on his shield. Of no avail are his arms to him for they cannot withstand Bernier’s blow. He falls dead on the grass at end of the lance. Then Bernier cried: “Now strike for St. Quentin without delay. Raoul’s presumption has been his undoing; if I kill him not with my Viennese blade I shall be a felon, a coward and a renegade.” Then each side hurls itself against the other; the trumpets sound amidst the tumult and never was such strife and confusion since God ruled the earth.
§123 Great was the noise when the armies joined battle. No idle threats do they use, but they clash together both fore and aft, and you could not have heard God thundering a league away. There goes Ybert, spurring his horse and crying aloud: “Where are you, Raoul, show yourself for your Redeemer’s sake. Why should so many noble men lose their lives because of you? Ride this way, and if I am vanquished you shall have all my territories to command–fathers and children shall take flight and not a penny’s worth of compensation shall they claim.” But Raoul heard no word of all this, for he was in another part of the field, both he and his uncle with the grizzled hair. Ybert was grieved not to find Raoul, but he spurred his horse and tilted against Fromont instead. He struck him on his shield and split it beneath the buckle. His bright hauberk was of no avail to him, for Ybert drove his lance into his body and hurled him the length of its haft to the ground. “St. Quentin!” he shouted, “strike, barons. Raoul’s men shall have small reason to boast. He took up the gauntlet for this land to his undoing.”
§124 Then Wedon of Roie spurred his horse forward. He was one of the brothers, an uncle of Bernier, and he was fully armed on his Gascon steed. He rode at Simon, near relative to Raoul. Striking his shield, he pierced his coat of arms beneath the buckle and drove his pennon into his body. He hurled him dead upon the sand and cried: “Strike, barons, for St. Quentin. To his misfortune Raoul received the pledge of this land. All those accursed traitors shall die.”
§125 Then Louis, the youngest of the four sons of Herbert but most renowned of all, came galloping through the press. He was well armed seated upon Ferrant of Paris, the French battle horse that the king of St. Denis, his godfather, had given him. At the top of his voice he cried: “Where are you, Raoul of Cambrai? Turn your swift horse in my direction. If you overthrow me great glory will be yours. I will surrender my country and my land to you, and never a claim shall one of my friends put in for it.” But Raoul did not hear him; had he been there he would not have avoided him, but he was elsewhere in the thick fray where he and Guerri the Red were holding the field. Young Louis was enraged not to find him; he covered his breast with his shield and spurred his horse furiously and struck Garnier of Arras, proud Guerri’s son, on his dark shield. The shield was torn and shattered below the buckle, and his hauberk was small protection to him. The lance struck his body and did its worst. Garnier fell dead and Louis returned to his own men.
§126 When Louis had overthrown Garnier he shouted, “St. Quentin! Strike, barons, for Raoul has claimed our lands to his undoing.” Then Guerri spurred towards them, his shield and sword held ready. There is small need of a doctor for the man he reaches with his lance. He has overthrown fourteen knights already, but now his glance falls beside a thicket and he sees his son lying dead. Beside himself for grief he gallops up and does not draw rein till he dismounts beside him. Then he kissed him as he lay there covered with blood. “Son,” said he, “I loved you so dearly. I know not who has slain you but, by St. Richier, I will hear no word of making peace till he be dead and cut in pieces.” He wished to raise him on to the neck of his horse, but as he tried he saw his enemies approaching from the valley and, sad at heart, he had to put him back upon his shield. “Son,” said the father, “I am forced to leave you here, but, please God, I will avenge you well. May the Judge of all the earth receive your soul!” Then he went back to his horse and in a frenzy he leapt upon him and dashed fiercely into the fight. Then indeed he might be seen sating his wrath. He searched the ranks right and left with his sword; he severed arms and trunks and heads and no charge of cowardice could be brought against him. More than twenty knights fell before him and his sword thinned the ranks round about him.
§127 The fight was fierce and the stress of battle grievous. Then Guerri, as he rode at full speed, met Ernaut, lord of Douai, and they tilted at each other and great blows they struck on their good shields of Beauvais. Their lances bend, their bucklers split, but their hauberks are not torn. They both fall to the ground in the midst of the field, but they leap on their horses again, for they have taken no harm and now they have recourse to their swords.
§128 Both the counts were proud and resolute. Guerri the Red was a good knight, strong and fearless at handling arms. He grasped his shield and his sword of steel and struck Ernaut on his golden helmet with such force that the flowers and precious stones fly off it, and if Ernaut had not drawn his head back Guerri would have split him to his belt. The sword slipped down his left side; it sliced off a quarter of his shield and one of the flaps of his lined hauberk. It was a great and fearful blow; Ernaut was so stunned by it that it brought him to his knees and filled him with dismay. He called on God the righteous judge: “Holy Mary, come to my aid. I will rebuild the church of Origny.” As he said these words Renier, the other son of Guerri, came galloping up. He saw Ernaut fall in front of his father. He grasped his shield and hastened up and would have killed him outright, but Bernier came spurring up from another part of the field and shouted loudly: “Noble knight, for God’s sake do not touch him! Turn your horse towards me and you shall have battle if your courage does not fail you.” Renier was full of anger when he heard Bernier’s words. He longed to fight him to avenge his dear brother Garnier. So they rode at each other and struck great blows on their quartered shields. The shields are rent and pierced through beneath the buckles, but the hauberks resisted the blows. Each one rides past; their lances are broken, but neither has left the stirrup and this made Bernier mad with anger.
§129 Young Bernier was resolute and bold. He pulled forth his sharp sword and struck the son of Guerri such a blow on his pointed helmet that the flowers and stones were scattered: the headpiece of his hauberk was pierced and he was split open to the teeth. Then said Guerri, “That was a blow indeed. If I wait for another such I may well hold myself for a fool.” He saw so many of Bernier’s men around him that his blood coursed quickly through his veins for fear. He found his horse waiting and he mounted, his shield on his neck. Then off he rode at full speed and left his son behind lying stretched in death upon the ground.
§130 So Guerri rode away, for he hardly knew what he was doing. As he rode back over the upland his grief for his sons became ever greater, and it was a pitiful sight to see him tearing his hair with his hands. He met Raoul and, without wasting words, he told him of his grief and discomfiture. “The sons of Herbert are low-born traitors; they have killed my sons, but, by St. Hilary, I will make them pay dearly for it before I turn back. Oh God, grant me your aid until my desire for vengeance be sated!”
§131 “Good nephew Raoul,” said Guerri the Red, “by my loyalty to St. Denis, the sons of Herbert are not to be despised. They have killed both my sons. Up till midday yesterday I should not have thought they could hold out for a moment against us for all the gold of France. We have done wrong to challenge them and, unless God takes pity on us, not one of us will go home alive. For the sake of Him who suffered on the cross I beseech you not to leave me alone today in the battle, and I for my part will pledge my faith that, should you meet ten of your enemies at once and they should thrust you from your charger, I will straightaway seat you upon him again by main force.” Raoul was glad when he heard his uncle say these words.
§132 On both sides of the valiant count the press is so great that he can neither turn his horse nor strike with his sword as he would. It angers him to be so hampered: he is sweating from his efforts. With great fierceness he breaks through the press of battle, but in one respect he acted lik a foolish child, I believe—he broke the covenant he had made with his uncle. He deserted his brave uncle Guerri and the barons who were there in case of need. He went hewing his way through the mass of men and dealing deadly strokes. He struck off the heads of more than twenty men and many another fled in haste before him. Then Ybert came spurring and struck Count Morant on his shield, and Bernier galloped up and struck another one down dead, and now all the brothers are fighting hard together. Raoul’s men begin to weaken; the horses flee in terror across the battlefield with broken girths and trailing reins, and many a valiant rider lies dead upon the ground. The sons of Herbert are not like thoughtless children; they have sent forward a thousand of their men lest any of the enemy should flee towards Cambrai. But Raoul is a seasoned warrior. He is not slow to avenge himself. He meets Hugo, a valiant knight and the fairest man and hardiest fighter from here to the far East. He was still a young man, but though of tender years he wished to earn his knighthood and he rode shouting aloud his battle cry and wreaking great havoc among Raoul’s men. Raoul saw him and hastened towards him; he smote him a blow with his keen sword on his helmet with all his might. Flowers and stones went scattering on the ground, the headpiece of his hauberk was split and Raoul’s sword clove him to the shoulders. He fell dead and Raoul shouted: “Cambrai the sons of Herbert will have small cause for rejoicing, for all these false knaves shall die.”
§133 Raoul the count was no coward. On both sides he saw the press growing greater, so that he could not turn his good horse nor handle his shield as he would. This made him almost mad with anger, and if anyone had seen him as he swept the ranks right and left with his sword, he would never lose the memory of a valiant knight. But in one respect he is to be blamed for his thoughtlessness: he left his uncle Guerri and the barons who were there to help him in case of need. He went hewing through the press, and small use would a doctor be to anyone he reached with his sword. More than a score he had overthrown already when he saw the good vassal Richier near him. Richier’s fief lay towards the valley of Rivier; he was Ybert’s kinsman and standard bearer and first cousin to Bernier. He had come with a thousand followers to help the barons and was working havoc amongst Raoul’s men. Raoul notes him and marks him for his prey. He seizes a lance, which will stand him in good stead later, and brandishes it with evil intent. Then he spurs his swift steed and strikes Richer with all his force on his quartered shield. Beneath the boss he rent and pierced it, tearing the white hauberk beneath into pieces. He plunged his spear in the knight’s body and hurled him to the ground at its point. Ybert’s banner fell into the dust and Raoul was filled with triumph at the sight. “Cambrai” he shouted. “Strike, barons! All these false knaves shall die today!”
§134 Away sped Raoul, and looking round him again he spied the valiant John, who held the region of Ponthieu and of Ham. There was no knight so large of limb in the army and no one that Raoul feared so much. He was bigger than a Saxon or a giant and had slain more than a hundred men already with his sword. Raoul took his measure as he looked at him, and when he saw him turning as he sat on his steed he would not have attacked him for all God’s gold. But the thought of Taillefer, his gallant father, came to him all of a sudden and the remembrance of him gave him such courage that he would not have quitted the field for forty men. Straight towards John he rode, spurring his horse and hurling abuse at him. Then he brandished his sharp-edged spear in his hand and struck John on the front of his shield and split it right across beneath the buckle. His white hauberk was of no more use to him than a glove, for the spear passed right through his body and he fell headlong to the earth, dead and covered with blood. “Cambrai!” shouted Raoul aloud so that all could hear. “Strike, barons; hold not back. The sons of Herbert shall have small cause to boast, for the false knaves shall all lose their lives this day.”
§135 Then Raoul speeds away again on his swift steed to strike Bertolai on his new shield. Bertolai was a cousin of the noble youth Bernier and owned a fair castle in the valley of Metz. He was causing great slaughter among Raoul’s men; but Raoul struck him a blow that was marvelous to see, for his shield was of no more use to him than a cloak, and the cape of his hauberk was torn to pieces. The pennon went right through his body and he fell dead on the slope of the valley. “Cambrai shouted Raoul. “Strike hard, you young knights, for by the Lord who created Daniel, their army will not escape to safety from this fight.”
§136 The ground was soft, for there had been a little rain and the mud was thick with blood and slime. The barons were in an evil plight, for many were slain and many overthrown. The good horses were tired and dispirited and the swiftest of them could do scarce more than limp along. The sons of Herbert had suffered great losses in the battle.
§137 It had been raining, and the mud was thick and horrible and the horses lost their footing, both the dappled and the bays. Then Ernaut, count of Douai, came riding up and he met Raoul, lord of Cambrai. He reproached him bitterly in words that I know well: “By God, Raoul, I shall always hate you until I see you dead and vanquished before me. You have slain my nephew Bertolai, and Richier whom I love so strongly, and many another who is lost beyond recall.” “That’s right,” said Raoul. “I will kill others yet, and you yourself if I but get the chance.” Ernaut replied: “I will see that you do not. I challenge you, by St. Nicolai, for right is on my side, so help me God.”
§138 “Is that you, Raoul of Cambresis? I have not seen you since the day that you brought grief upon me. Two young children I had by my wife, and I sent them from Vermandois to Paris, to the King of St. Denis. You did foully slay them both—not with your own hand but you did consent to it. For this I hate you, and if your head is not taken from you by this sword, I do not reckon myself worth a penny.” — “By my faith,” said Raoul, “you are a valiant man, but may I never see Cambrai again if I don’t make you eat your words.”
§139 So the barons heap abuse one upon the other and each spurs his horse forward, though the bravest of them believes his death is near. They rain great blows upon their shields of Pavian gold, but their hauberks stand them in good stead and each has soon hurled the other to the ground. To their feet they leap again full of fierce strength and each becomes so well acquainted with the other’s blade that the bravest heart might well quail.
§140 Both the counts have left their stirrups and are on foot. Now Raoul was a knight of amazing strength and sure in the handling of his arms. He drew his sword from its sheath and struck Ernaut on his golden helmet so that the metalwork and precious stones were scattered. Had it not been for the head piece of his hauberk the blade would have split him open to the teeth. But it glanced off the left side and severed one quartering of his shield and many a ring from his thick coat of mail. Ernaut stumbled, quite dazed by the blow and fear took hold of him. He called upon God, the righteous Judge: “Holy Mary, come to my aid! I will rebuild the church of Origny. Truly, Raoul, you are much to be feared but, please God, I will make you pay dearly the death of those whose fate you have made me mourn.”
§141 Count Ernaut was a noble knight, both gallant and skillful with his arms. He turned back furiously against Raoul and struck him hard in knightly fashion right in the middle of his helmet wrought with flowers of gold. He severed the band with its fleur-de-lys and had it not been for the head piece of his plaited hauberk the blade would have cloven him to the teeth. Raoul was filled with gloom when he felt the blow. “By St. Denis,” he cried, “come what may, that was the stroke of a valiant man. It is the death of your loved ones you wish to avenge. But I have no mind to justify myself towards you for, I swear by God, your children never received either good or evil at my hands.” So damaged was Raoul by Ernaut’s blow that his mouth and face were all bleeding. When he was a young man in Paris he used to teach the boys to fence; now he needed all his skill to defend himself against his enemies.
§142 Count Raoul was no coward and he took his well-tempered sword again in his hand and struck Ernaut such a blow on his pointed helmet that the moulded flowers and precious stones were scattered to the ground. Down his left side the blow travelled and skillfully sought his body. From his left arm it severed the hand, which fell to the ground with the shield it clasped. Now Ernaut sees that he is worsted, for his shield is lying on the ground with his left hand still in the loop, and his bright blood is flowing to the earth. Then Ernaut mounted his horse and fled in terror along by the wooded thicket (small sense has he who blames him), and Raoul followed him in hot pursuit.
§143 Ernaut flees, with Raoul in pursuit, and he was full of misgiving, for his horse was stumbling under him and Raoul’s dappled steed was gaining on him rapidly. Then Ernaut bethought himself to cry for mercy. So he stopped for a brief space in the middle of the way and cried out loudly with his clear voice: “I crave your mercy, Raoul, for the Creator’s sake! If it grieves you that I struck you, I will be your man on whatever terms you wish. All Brabant and Hainaut I surrender to you and not one of my heirs shall ever claim half a foot of the land.” But Raoul swears that he will think of nothing else till Ernaut lies dead at his feet.
§144 So Ernaut flees again, spurring with all his might, and Raoul pursues, his heart unmoved by mercy. Ernaut looks across the sandy plain and perceives the baron Raoul, who holds sway in the valley of Soissons. Raoul was a nephew of Ernaut and cousin to Bernier, and he had come with a thousand noble barons. Ernaut sees him and gallops towards him and cries aloud for protection.
§145 In fear for his life Ernaut cries aloud: “Nephew Raoul, save me from Raoul, who will not let me go. He has robbed me of that which was meant to protect me– my left hand which holds my shield–and now he threatens to take my head.” Raoul heard him and was beside himself with anger. “Uncle,” said he, “you have no need to flee. Raoul shall have battle now beyond a doubt, as hard and fierce as he can bear.”
§146 Raoul was a wonderful knight, strong and fearless in the handling of his arms. “Uncle,” said he, “be not dismayed.” He spurred his horse with his golden spurs towards Raoul, then brandished the polished handle of his lance and each tilted at the other with all his might. Their shields were split and pierced below the bosses, but their hauberks resisted the blows and they took no harm. Past each other they gallop, their lances broken, but neither of the two has left his stirrups. Raoul was furious when he saw this. He drew his sword fiercely and struck Raoul on his golden helmet so that the stones and flowers fell to earth. Down on the left side slid the blade; it just shaved the shield as it descended, then came with its full weight upon the stirrup strap and severed the leg below the knee. Down went the foot with its spur upon the sand. Then Raoul was full of glee and very spitefully he gibed at them “Now I will give you each a fine task,” said he. “Since Ernaut has only one arm and you have only one leg, one of you shall be my watchman and the other my doorkeeper. You will never be able to avenge your shame.” “God,” said Raoul,”‘ that makes my plight the worse. Uncle Ernaut, I thought to help you, but my assistance will be of small use to you now.” Full of dismay Ernaut continues his flight and Raoul still pursues him, for he will not let him off.
§147 Ernaut flees at full speed and Raoul pursues him pitilessly. Raoul swears by God that for all the gold in the world Ernaut shall have no respite until his head be cut off beneath his chin. Ernaut looks across the sandy plain and sees Sir Herbert of Hirson, Wedon of Roie, Louis and Samson and Count Ybert, Bernier’s father, riding along. When Ernaut sees them he spurs wildly towards them and beseeches them to protect him.
§148 In terror of his life Ernaut cries to the knights, “Sir barons, save me from Raoul who will not stop from pursuing me. Many of your kinsmen he has slain already and now he has deprived me of my means of defence, for he has cut off my left hand which was ever wont to hold my shield. He pursues me now to cut off my head.” Ybert heard his cries and could scarcely believe his ears.
§149 Ybert spurs his good Gascon steed; he brandishes his lance so that the pennon unwinds, and smites Raoul on his shield with its lion device. He pierces the coat of arms beneath the buckle of the shield, he rends the chain work of the bright hauberk and the pennon all but enters his side. It was a marvel that he escaped. Then a score of men rushed up to seize him, and he would have been killed or captured had not Guerri galloped up with four hundred of his men, all valiant knights and barons. In anxious haste they rushed to help him, and many a knight they hurled from his saddle.
§150 Now Guerri has brought up his men–four hundred in all, and all well armed. Then he spurred hotly forward and smote a blow on the gilded shield of rugged Bernard of Retest. Below the buckle he pierced his shield and tore to shreds his seasoned coat of mail. The weapon passed through his body and he staggered dead from his saddle of gold. Then there was a fierce struggle indeed. Lances broken, shields rent, hauberks frayed and spoiled, feet, hands, heads severed from the bodies and many a noble vassal lying openmouthed in death. The meadows are strewn with the slain and the grass is reddened by the blood of the wounded. So they snatched Raoul from danger; the count rejoiced to find himself free, and with drawn sword he rushed furiously again into the melee where the battle was hottest. On that day many a soul was parted from its body, whereby many a wife earned the name of widow. Raoul himself slew more than fourteen. Ernaut’s heart was heavy at the sight, and he called upon the Savior of souls “Holy Mary, queen of heaven, my death cannot be averted now, for there is none of the milk of human kindness in this devil.” He turned and Bed again up the valley. Raoul looked round and saw him. After him he galloped again full speed and cried at the top of his voice “By God, Ernaut, I am resolved upon your death. By this naked sword it is decreed.” Now there is not a ray of hope left in Ernaut and he replied: “I can no more, sir knight. Such is my destiny, and no defence that I can make is worth an apple paring.”
§151 Ernaut flees, not knowing which way to turn, for he is filled with an overwhelming fear. He sees Raoul coming after him quickly. He beseeches him to have pity on him as you shall hear: “For pity’s sake, Raoul, cease from this pursuit. I am a young man and I do not wish to die yet. I will be monk and serve God and cry you quit for all my lands.” But Raoul replied “In truth, your end has come now. This sword shall sever your head from your body. Neither earth nor grass can help you now; neither God nor man nor all the saints can save you henceforth from death.” Ernaut heard these words and sighed a sigh of relief.
§152 For now Raoul’s spirit is changed within him. Great harm these words have done him, for he has denied God in his heart. When Ernaut heard him he raised his head; his spirit revived and he reproved him thus: “By God, Raoul, now are you no better than a heathen, for you are proud and wicked and full of presumption. Now you seem no better to me than a mad dog, since you deny God and his love. For the earth and the grass might well have helped me, and the God of glory, if He had taken pity on me.” Then he turned again in flight, his drawn sword naked in his hand. When he had gone a little distance he looked round and saw Bernier coming full speed towards him, fully equipped with goodly amour–hauberk and helmet, shield and spear. Ernaut forgot his hand when he saw him and his heart rose for the pleasure he felt. He turned his horse toward Bernier and besought him to take pity on him for friendship’s sake: “Sir Bernier,” he cried, “take pity on me Look how Raoul has ill-treated me. He has shorn off the hand from my left arm.” Bernier was mad with anger when he heard these words, and trembled with fear right down to his toenail. He saw Raoul coming along riding like a madman. But he will have a word with him before he smites him.
§153 Bernier was a good knight, strong and fearless and a noble warrior. Cheerily he shouted to his uncle “You need no longer fear, uncle Ernaut, for I will go and speak to my liege lord.” Then he leaned over the neck of his steed and shouted loudly “Ho, my lord Raoul, son of a noble mother, you dubbed me knight, that I cannot deny, but you have made me pay for it dearly since. Many a noble knight of ours you have slain. You burnt my mother in Origny church and afterwards you broke my head. You offered me amends, I grant, and I might have had many a battle-steed in payment. A hundred good coursers, a hundred mules and as many costly palfreys, a hundred shields and a hundred doubled hauberks would have been my recompense. But I was angry when I saw my blood running down, so I went and took counsel with my friends. But the valiant knights all advise me to accept the amends, and if you offer it now I will not refuse it, but will pardon everything, I swear by St. Richier, on condition that my uncle may make his peace with you. Then this battle would cease and neither you nor anyone else would have cause of complaint, for all our lands I would place at your disposal. Let the dead be, for they are past our care. My lord Raoul, for God’s sake be moved by pity. Let us be reconciled and do not pursue this dead man any longer. A man who has lost his hand is impotent indeed.” But Raoul was only more furious when he heard him. He stiffened himself so that the stirrups bent and his horse’s back bowed beneath him. “Bastard,” he cried, “you know how to plead. But your subterfuges will not avail you now. You shall not leave this spot with your head upon your shoulders.” “By God,” said Bernier, “I will not humiliate myself any more. I have cause enough to be enraged.”
§154 When Bernier sees that Raoul is thirsting for battle and that his prayer is of no avail, he spurs his horse with all his might. Raoul gallops towards him, and each strikes a great blow on the other’s shield so that both the shields split across beneath the buckles. Bernier’s cause was just, and he struck such a blow that his lance and ensign reached the body of Raoul and brought him to a standstill. Then Raoul struck Bernier such a fierce blow that his shield and hauberk were like tow before it, and he would certainly have been killed had not God and the right been on his side so that the steel did nothing but graze his side. Then Bernier turned about angrily and smote Raoul in the middle of his bright helmet so that the flowers and stones went crashing down. The blade went through the headpiece of his solid hauberk and cut right into his brain. Barons, no man, since humans die and quit this mortal life, ever felt like singing when he could scarce stand on his feet. Raoul fell from his horse, his head sunk on his breast. The sons of Herbert rejoiced, but many a one rejoiced then who afterwards had cause to grieve, as you shall hear if I finish my song.
§155 Count Raoul tried to rise, and with a mighty effort he drew his sword. If you could only have seen him swing his sword aloft! But he cannot tell where to strike, and his arm sinks down to the ground. The sharp steel cuts right into the meadow and he can scarcely pull it out. Then his mouth began to contract and his bright eyes grew dull. He called upon God the omnipotent: “Glorious God, judge of all things, how my strength is failing me. But yesterday there was not a man beneath the sky who would have risen again had I smitten him down. An ill-fated investiture has been mine. I have no need of this land nor of any other now. Sweet Lady of heaven, come to my aid.” Bernier heard him and his heart melted within him. He began to weep beneath his helmet, but he cried out aloud, “Sir Raoul, you were of noble birth and you dubbed me knight, this I cannot deny. But you made me pay dearly for it afterwards, for you burned my mother within the precincts of the church and you did your best to break my head. You offered me amends, I must admit, and now I need have no desire for vengeance.” Then Count Ernaut cried “Let this man as good as dead avenge his hand.”–“In truth,” said Bernier, “I have no mind to forbid you. But it behooves you not to touch a dead man.”–But Ernaut replied: “I have a right to hate him.” He made a leftward turn on his charger, holding his sword in his right hand, and he struck Raoul a pitiless blow on his helmet in his desire to break it. The blow struck off the largest jewel, then it cut through the head piece of his lined hauberk and the blade was bathed in his brain. But not content with this, he took his sword again and plunged it into his heart. Then the soul of the gentle knight took its Sight; may God receive it–if we dare pray on his behalf!
§156 Bernier cried “St. Quentin and Douai! Raoul the lord of Cambrai is dead. Ernaut and I, Bernier, have killed him.” Count Ernaut spurred his bay charger, but Bernier swore by St. Nicholas: “Would to God that I had not slain Raoul, although I was in my right to do it.” Just then Guerri rode up on his big steed and saw his nephew as he lay. Great was his dismay, and this was the lament he uttered “Nephew, I am filled with grief on your account. I will never forgive the man who has slain you and never will I sanction peace or truce or reconcilement until all your murderers are dead upon the gallows. Dear lady Alice, what bad tidings I shall bring you I shall never dare speak to you again.”
§157 Thus Guerri as he rode along found his nephew lying on the sand. His sword was still in his hand, and so tightly had he grasped it between the hilt and the pommel that only with great difficulty could they take it from him. His shield with its lion device lay on his body. Guerri fell almost fainting on his breast. “Nephew,” he said, “there has been foul play here. This is the work of the bastard Bernier whom you knighted in the palace at 0 Paris. He has taken advantage of you and killed you, but, by God, if I do not tear out his lungs and liver for him, I reckon myself not worth a spur-strap.”
§158 Guerri the Red saw his men being worsted and his nephew in the throes of death with his brains lying over his eyes. His grief made him almost senseless, and he lamented again aloud: “Nephew, I know not what will become of me. I swear by the One who let himself be slain that those who have robbed me of you shall never have peace if I can help it until I have brought shame and destruction upon them, or at least driven them from the land. But now I desire a truce, if I can obtain it, until I have buried you beneath the earth.”
§159 Guerri the Red of Arras mourned greatly for his nephew. He called Perron “Come hither, friend, you and Hardouin and Berard of Senlis. Ride swiftly to my enemies and demand a truce at my request until my nephew be put into the ground.” And the knights replied: “Willingly, sire; we will go straightaway.” Spurring fast, their shields before their faces, they have soon found the sons of Herbert seated on their thoroughbred steeds. There was great joy in their camp over the death of Raoul, but many a one rejoiced then who had reason to grieve afterwards. And now the messengers address themselves to their errand, and thus, their shields still on their necks, they speak to them “By St. Denis, you have put yourselves in the wrong. Count Raoul was of very noble birth. One of his uncles was our King Louis himself and the other was the good vassal Guerri of Arras. He who now rejoices safe and sound over his death may be dead and dismembered on account of it ere long. But now the valiant and hardy knight Guerri demands respite and a truce until his nephew be buried.” -“We grant it,” replied Ybert, “even should he desire it until the day of judgment.”
§160 So before midday the truce was granted, and all went searching amongst the slain. `You can just imagine the grief when anyone found his father or his child, his nephew, his uncle, or anyone who belonged to him. And Guerri went to look for his dead ones; he forgot both his sons now on account of Raoul his nephew. Looking round him he saw the giant John lying dead; he was the biggest knight in the whole of France, and Raoul killed him, as many of you know. Guerri saw his body and went up to it, then he took Raoul’s body and he opened them both with his sharp sword. He took out their hearts, as we read in the chronicle, and placed them on a fine golden shield to see what they were like. John’s heart was small like that of a child, but Raoul’s, as we all know, was very large–like that of an ox that draws the plough. Guerri saw it and he wept for sorrow. He called his knights and said: “Comrades, for God’s sake come and see what a great heart Raoul had compared with this giant. You have pledged me your help and your support, all you noble knights, for the rest of your lives. Now see my enemies here before me. They have killed the one I love so dearly, and if I do not avenge him I am a contemptible coward. Pierre d’Artois, hasten to them and give them back their truce, for I desire it no longer.” “Willingly, sire,” he replied and spurred towards the sons of Herbert. He cried in a loud voice so that all could hear, “Take back your truce at Guerri’s bidding, and know it a truth that not one of you shall escape if he has his way.” When they heard these words they were filled with dismay, for they were sick of the battle and their horses were tired and restive. The messenger returned to Guerri, who quickly put his men in battle array. Alas! There will be many a sad heart before nightfall.
§161 Now Guerri has assembled his whole army—five thousand and seven hundred all told—in the meadowland. And the sons of Herbert have drawn up theirs in serried ranks seven thousand strong. Guerri rides with his banner raised aloft. Bernier sees him and turns pale with anger. “Look,” said he, “what a dastardly trick. Guerri has brought up his main army against us. To our misfortune we granted him a truce today, I believe.” Then Guerri charged at full speed and struck Bernier’s cousin, haughty Hugh. Such a blow he gave him that his shield was broken and pierced, and his well-worn hauberk rent and torn to ribbons. The lance passed through his body and he fell dead from his gilded saddle. When Bernier saw it he cried wrathfully: “Guerri, you perjured grey-beard, you have asked us for truce and respite this day, and like a traitor you have broken it. Before this day turns to night many a shield will be shattered and many a soul parted from its body.” Then the fight began again. Guerri held his drawn sword in his hand and proved its strength on many a helmet. More than thirty men he slew with it, and it was bloodstained to the hilt. Bernier turned pale when he saw such slaughter of his men, and he swore by the queen of heaven: “We two must fight together this day though I lie open mouthed in death thereby.”
§162 Now Bernier was a noble hearted man, and when he saw his cousin Hugh, the son of his own aunt, stretched upon the ground, he was filled with grief and lamented over his evil fortune thus: “Alas, Guerri, of what a friend have you robbed me. May God’s curse be upon you, you low-born old man!” Then he sat erect on his long-maned steed. Guerri saw him and spurred towards him, and they struck each other fearful blows. Both their shields are pierced, but their good hauberks withstood the strain. The white haired Guerri remained in his saddle, but Bernier was thrown from his horse. Guerri rejoiced when he saw him fall; he drew his sword and ran upon him and would have struck off his head from his body if Ybert had not hastened to his aid. Guerri saw him with displeasure. “Bastard,” he cried, “I have suffered you to live too long. You have slain the ill-fated Raoul, but I swear by God that I will never have a straw’s worth of pleasure until I have torn your heart naked from your body.”
§163 Guerri spoke again: “Gentle knights and barons, never shall my lineage suffer the reproach of having committed treason. Bernier, you bastard, where are you gone? It is but a moment since I had you in such a plight that your heels were pointing towards the sky, and nothing could have saved you from death if your father, Ybert of Ribemont, had not come to your aid.” Then Guerri charged again, brandishing his lance with its unfurled pennon. This time Herbert of Irefon, one of the brothers and Bernier’s uncle, was his victim. He struck him a great blow on his shield; through his ermine mantle it went and cut in halves his liver and his lungs so that one half fell into the sand and the other remained upon the saddle: the knight fell dead from his Spanish charger. Then up came Louis and Wedon and Count Ybert, Bernier’s father. Great was their horror when they found their brother Herbert dead. Bernier gave his horse the rein and struck Count Faucon on his shield; Louis charged the duke Samson and Count Ybert the Breton Amaury. None of these three had leisure for confession. The numbers of Ybert’s men became ever greater, and Guerri’s men were filled with panic as Bernier and his kinsmen pushed them back. So many dead knights lay upon the ground that a man could scarcely pass along, and the best and swiftest horse must go at walking pace.
§164 Guerri the Red sees his men getting worsted and he is filled with dismay. Immediately he charges Gautier; then Pierre d’Artois hurried to strike at Gilemer of Ponthieu and Hardouin rode at Elier. With such fury they struck that not one of these three had further use for weapon or for priest. Ybert’s men are advancing now and Guerri’s men are growing less. So many of the knights have lost their lives that there are but seven score left and of these scarce one is whole. But they rally again in the plain and they will sell themselves dearly before they flee. Guerri looks round and sees his vassals lying dead and, bleeding and he is overcome with grief. With his right hand he makes the sign of the cross upon them and says: “Alas for you, my noble knights of Cambrai, for you are beyond my aid!” He weeps tenderly for them and cannot restrain himself, so that the water flows down to his breeches.
§165 Now Guerri has reached the edge of the wood with seven score of his gallant knights. On the other side of the marsh he spied Bernier, and Louis on his Castilian steed; Count Ybert of Vermandois was there too and Wedon of Roie with all their vassals. “Heavenly father, what shall I do?” cried Guerri. “Here are all my enemies equipped for battle; there is Bernier who has put me to confusion and slain the one for whom I grieve. If I leave them like this and go off now, all the world will hold me for a coward.” So with all his might he urges on his charger; but it avails him no whit, for the beast falls beneath him in the stubble.
§166 Guerri the Red was in dismay, for he could not urge his horse to go so fast but that a common plough horse would overtake him. Quickly he dismounted and took off the saddle without the aid of a squire and led his steed to and fro to cool him down.
§167 To and fro Guerri led his charger. Then the horse reared three times and rose upon his feet. He neighed so loudly that the earth resounded and Guerri was filled with joy. He put back the saddle and mounted by the stirrup. He touched him with his spurs and now the horse bounded forward more quickly than a swallow in its flight. Fiercely he called again to Bernier: “Bastard, I wish you were nearer. You have treacherously slain Raoul who knighted you at the first and loved you dearly. If you would come a little nearer I would invest you with a novel death.”
§168 When Bernier heard the sentence of his death he set spurs to his horse and unfurled his battle standard. “Sir Guerri,” said he, “you are to blame. Your nephew Raoul was ill-disposed of heart, but you are wilder and stronger still. And yet, to make amends, I would go as a pilgrim to Acre and become a servant in the Temple for the rest of my days.”
§169 Said Guerri: “That will not help you much unless my shield and spear play me false. I care not a straw for such amends unless I can slay you first or hang you up on high.” Bernier replied: “These are idle boasts! You old villain, I will make it hot for you today. I will smash you to the ground, so help me God
§170 With these words the gallant knight charged. But his steed was slow and weary, while that of Guerri was quite refreshed. Guerri struck Bernier on his burnished shield; he broke and shattered it below the buckle and pierced the coat of mail beneath it. Close to his side went both the blade and the handle of his lance—it was a wonder that it did not enter his flesh. So firmly did white bearded Guerri hold it that Bernier was hurled out of his stirrups and Guerri joyfully turned on him with drawn sword in his hand. And now the game would have been up for Bernier had not his nephews rushed up from another part of the field. Gerard and Henry of Senlis were their names, and they rode up and parted the fighters. Guerri was furious, and he struck Gerard the proud Spanish boy on his helmet adorned with fleur-de-lys. The band of gold did not protect him; the head piece of his choice hauberk was pierced and the sword sliced him to the teeth. Down he fell dead from his charger and Guerri rejoiced. “Cambrai!” he cried, “this one, at any rate, is accounted for. Bernier, you coward, where have you escaped to? You low-born bastard, you have always eluded me. I shall never be content as long as you are alive.”
§171 When Bernier sees Gerard lying dead he is nearly senseless with grief. But the massed troops of Vermandois are coming up and the men of Cambrai are forced to give way. Guerri almost dies of grief; once again he rushed into the fray, and he and all his men lay about them with fury. What a fierce battle you might have seen then! Lances broken, shields splintered, hauberks split and torn, horses that will never neigh again, feet, hands and heads lying on the ground. More than forty were slain outright. But Guerri cannot hold out any longer; he has to leave the field with his seven score men. But it grieves him sorely, “My noble vassals,” he cried, “what will become of you since I must leave you and quit the field of battle?”
§172 So Guerri departs, leading seven score men—all that remain out of ten thousand. He looked across the valley and saw so many knights lying there disembowelled, even those most alive still had little reason for revelry. Guerri wept with his face in his hands. He carried away his nephew Raoul, and his grief broke out afresh; as he went across the fields and saw so many of his men slain he addressed them piteously: “My noble vassals, alas! I cannot bury you in cloister or in church. My lady Alice, I bring you evil news.” He has wept so much that his face is all wet and his heart fails him beneath his breast. He swears by St. James of Compostella that he will not make peace for all the wealth of Spain until Bernier’s heart be torn from out his breast.
§173 The sons of Herbert have little reason to rejoice. Out of the eleven thousand men they had at first, and the reinforcements which the peasants had brought them, there are but three hundred left. And these are filled with grief—for it is enough to stagger the hardiest of them when they see their brothers lying dead on the sand and so many of their kinsmen slain. They bear them to St. Quentin, grieving as they go; but Guerri grieves more than all, for he carries Raoul. With heavy hearts they all dismount beneath Cambrai.
§174 The lady Alice was at Cambrai. For three days she had neither eaten nor slept on account of the hard words she had said to her son. She had cursed him and bitterly she had repented it. But at last she fell asleep, for she had suffered so much. She dreamed a dream which came only too true. She saw her valiant son Raoul returning from battle clad in a green tunic all shred to ribbons by Bernier. Fear caused her to awake and she ran from her chamber. She met Amaury, a knight who had been brought up in her household, and she called loudly to him: “Where is my son, tell me truly for God’s sake.” But he would not have answered for all the gold of France. He was badly wounded with a spear, and would have fallen from his Arab steed had not one of the townsmen caught him in his arms. But now the cry begins to be raised, and it is echoed on all sides so that everyone can hear it: “Raoul is dead, and Guerri is taken prisoner.”
§175 Then the gentle lady perceived that the sounds of grief were growing louder. Battle-steeds are entering the gate with saddles broken beyond repair and without their brave riders. To and fro run the sergeants, the varlets and the squires, and see now, Guerri is coming in carrying Raoul on his broad shield. The valiant knights support him, for his head is bowed beneath his golden helmet. To the church of St. Geri they carry their burden and place the body on a bier. Then they put four golden crosses at his head and I know not how many incense bowls or silver. The priests performed their office duly and well; but dame Alice was overcome by grief. She sat down on a costly chair before the bier and she spoke aloud to the knights about her. “My lords,” she said, “I confess to you now that I cursed my son the other day when my anger was aroused. Son, you were better than Roland or Oliver for helping your friends. When I think of that traitor Bernier who killed you, I am like to go mad with rage!” Then she fell in a swoon; they hastened to raise her up and many a gentle lady wept for pity.
§176 When the lady Alice recovered from her swoon she lamented her son again and refused to be comforted. “My son,” said she, “how much I loved you! I cared for you until such time as you could carry arms; then my dear brother, the king of France, gave you your arms and you carried them like a warrior. But you desired that a bastard whom I had saved from dishonor should be knighted with you; and now he has ill repaid you, for he has slain you beneath the walls of Origny.” As she spoke, the redoubtable Guerri came in. He went to the bier and raised the pall. Dame Alice began to reproach him bitterly: “Sir Guerri, you are much to blame. I charged you to protect my child and you let him be parted from you in the battle. What man of worth will ever put his trust in you since your own nephew looked to you in vain for help?” Guerri was almost mad with anger when he heard these words. He rolled his eyes and frowned and looked fiercer than a wild boar. He turned in fury on the lady, and if she had been a man he would surely have struck her. “Lady,” said he, “it is my turn to speak now. For this nephew of mine whom I have brought here I had to forget my own two sons who lost both life and limb before my eyes. Mine is the heart that might well burst with grief.”
§177 But the lady cried again: “Sir Guerri, I put my son Raoul in your charge. He was your brother’s son and he loved you dearly, yet you treacherously deserted him in the battle.” Guerri replied angrily: “You speak ill-advisedly, lady, I swear by St. Denis. But I can say no more, for I am overcome with grief myself that the bastard Bernier has slain him. But they have lost more of their men than we have.” “O God,” said the lady, “how heavy my heart is! If it had been a powerful count who had killed you my grief would have been lightened by one half. To whom shall I leave my country and my land? For now, truthfully, I have no heir. Where did the bastard pluck up so much heart that he dared attack a man of such high birth? Now I have no heir, alas, except for little Gautier; son of Henry he is and of my sister, and a very valiant youth.” Now Gautier had followed and had come to Cambrai with his mother at full speed. They dismounted with heavy hearts; but the boy was eager and full of courage.
§178 The boy Gautier dismounted from his horse and went into the church sad at heart. He went up to the bier and raised the pall and the noble knights around wept for pity. “Uncle,” said he, I have early learnt what grief is. Never will I forgive the man who has parted my friend and me, until I have slain him, or burnt him or chased him from the realm. You vile bastard, how I hate you. You have deprived me of the one who would have stood by me and would have been a support to all our friends. But I swear by the saints who prayed to Jesus that, if I live long enough to lace a helmet, I will not let you rest in a tower, in a fortress, nor behind a palisade as far as the city of Paris, until I have torn your heart from your breast and split it and cut it up into a hundred pieces. Both you and all your friends shall be put to death for this.” At these words Guerri raised his head and said to himself so that no one heard him: “If this boy lives long enough, he will give Ybert something to grieve about.”
§179 Dame Alice was full of heaviness. And now her daughter has fallen down senseless and young Gautier has lifted her from the ground. As he raised her he shifted the veil with which the bier was covered and saw Raoul’s blood stained face and the great open wound upon it. “Uncle,” said the boy, “this is an evil recompense that you have received from the bastard Bernier for bringing him up in your tiled hall. If God grant that I live long enough to have my visor closed, to lace my helmet and to grasp my sword, the country will not be long in peace. Your death shall be dearly paid.” Guerri raised his head at these words and answered him gravely: “In God’s name, nephew, I promise that I will knight you.” Then said the wise and valiant Alice: “Fair sir nephew, you shall have my land. Very soon all shall acknowledge your control.”
§180 Great was the mourning of all the knighthood. Through all the length and breadth of Apulia and Hungary you would not find a man who could truthfully say that he had seen such mourning in all his life for such a noble count. Then up came Helois his affianced bride who had the rightful title to Abbeville. She was richly clothed and swathed in a cloak of Pavia. Her skin was white as a May flower and her cheeks as ruddy as a rose. No one could look at her without smiling all the time. No more beautiful woman had ever lived ; but now she came into the church all woebegone, and she cried loudly as soon as she saw the body: “My lord Raoul, what a cruel parting. Dear friend, kiss your lover, I beseech you. Your death is a hateful crime. When you were seated on your battle-horse you looked like a king at the head of his troops. When you had girded your polished sword and laced your helmet over the well-fitting head piece there was no fairer man and no better vassal in the whole of Europe. Alas! now is our love at an end. Cruel death! how did you dare attack such a prince as this? For this reason alone, that I loved you, never will I have another lord and master all my life.” Then she fell senseless—so great was her grief—and the strong knights lifted her quickly from the ground.
§181 “My lord Raoul,” said the noble maiden, “you gave me your oath in a church. Afterwards Hardouin of Nivelle, lord of the fair country of Brabant, wished to wed me; but I would not have taken him for all the wealth of Toledo. Holy Mary, glorious virgin, why does my heart not break beneath my breast when I see him dead whose handmaid I should be? Now this dear face and the bright orbs of these clear eyes will moulder in the ground. Your breath was fresh and sweet every morning.” Then the gentle lady would have swooned again had not some one held her by the arm.
§182 “Lady Alice,” said the noble maiden, whose body was so elegant, “I see that your grief is very great. Yesterday morning you started something from which you will suffer much for the rest of your life. Now, for the Redeemer’s sake, leave him to me, for I have come as soon as I could; and I did right to come, for he promised to make me his bride in less than a month’s time. Sir Guerri, noble lord, I beg and pray you for the Redeemer’s sake that you take off his mailed hauberk and his shining helmet and all his costly amour and garments, for I wish to take leave of my love.” Guerri did her bidding, and she kissed him again and again. Then she looked at him back and front, and weeping she said: “Dear friend, I will never have another lord all my life, because our love has come to such a grievous end.” When she had finished speaking they decked Raoul like a warrior prince and offered many bezants to have prayers said for him; the bishop chanted the high mass aloud, and there were splendid offerings made. Then they buried the brave warrior and many of you know the whereabouts of his grave.
§183 When they had buried Raoul in the chapel, the knights returned to their homes; but lady Alice kept little Gautier with her. Guerri the Red went back to Arras his domain to tend himself and rest, for he was very tired and greatly in need of it. Helois, the noble girl, returned to Ponthieu and was sought by many a noble prince and lord. But she would have none of them. Then for a long time this great war of which I am telling you ceased. But the boy Gautier caused it to break out afresh. As soon as he could mount a horse and carry arms and handle a shield he burned to avenge his uncle. So Louis and Bernier, Wedon of Roie and brave Ybert were plunged again into a conflict which cost many a brave warrior his life.
§184 For a long time this war of which I have been telling you was in abeyance. But one day, near about Christmas time, lady Alice, who still mourned the loss of her son, was listening to the service in the church. As the singing ceased she came out into the square, and there she found the boy Gautier playing with his friends. The lady beckoned to him with her glove, and he came running up. “Nephew,” she said, “now I know that you have forgotten your uncle Raoul and all his noble courage.” Gautier’s head sank when he heard her speak. “Lady,” said he, “that is a cruel taunt. My heart is still heavy on account of my uncle, although I was playing with the children. Let my armor be got ready, and at Pentecost, when summer draws near, I will be dubbed a knight, if God permit. Bernier has lived too long in security, but he shall soon hear of us again; all our enemies have entered upon an evil year.” Then the lady thanked God and kissed and embraced her nephew. And now the time has passed and Pentecost is here, when the fields are covered with flowers. They have sent to Arras for Guerri the Red and he has come with a noble escort. A hundred armed knights rode down the high road with him and they did not draw rein till they reached the fair city. Then Guerri dismounted before the porch and dame Alice, who loved him dearly, went to meet him. She kissed him and said: “For pity’s sake, sir, why is it so long since I have seen you?” “Lady,” he replied, upon my honor, I was so damaged in that battle that my sides were wounded in fifteen places. But, thank God, my wounds are now healed.”
§185 Said Guerri: “Lady, I must confess to you that it is five years since I mounted my warhorse. I had to leave so much blood behind in that battle that I had great need of repose. But now, by St. Richier, for seven years I have not felt so strong and light as I do now, nor so ready to wield my sword.” “By heaven,” said the lady, “I thank you greatly.” Guerri looked toward the high palace, and seeing his nephew he called to him: “Nephew, I love you exceedingly. How are you, tell me truly.” Gautier replied wisely: “By my faith, uncle, I am big and full grown, and quite strong enough to carry arms. I beg you, give them to me, for we have let Bernier sleep too long and it is high time we paid him another visit and woke him up.” —“Nothing would please me better,” replied Guerri; “I desire it more than my food and my drink.” Dame Alice hastened to prepare a shirt and breeches, golden spurs and a rich cloak of quartered silk. The costly arms are carried to the church and thither they go to hear the bishop Renier read the mass. Then they clothe the slim youth and Guerri girt him with the polished blade of steel which the noble warrior Raoul used to wield. “Nephew,” he said, “may God speed you! I knight you this day with the prayer that God may enable you to humble your enemies and to help and exalt your friends.” —“May God grant your prayer, Sire,” replied Gautier. Then they brought a noble steed and Gautier leapt upon it without the aid of stirrups. A quartered shield with two golden lions worked upon it was given to him, a straight and polished haft of apple wood with ensign attached and sharp-edged blade. He bounded forward on his steed, then returned as quickly, and the onlookers said one to another, “What a handsome knight he is.” But lady Alice began to weep as she thought of the son she had loved so dearly, even though she now has Gautier in his place.
§186 In a loud voice Gautier cries: “Uncle Guerri, for the love of the true God, stand by me, for you can be of great assistance to me. I wish to set out at once for St. Quentin. We shall have a thousand knights before nightfall. When the day begins to dawn let us place our ambush in some thicket and send a hundred of our men to burn the land. The traitor Bernier will soon learn whether I am capable of waging war against him. Not for riches or possessions would I refrain from going and acquainting myself with them.” —“Truly,” said Guerri, “you act like my son; gladly will I support you and stand by you. Young Bernier is fooling himself if he thinks himself at peace in his land, since he slew the one for whom my heart is still in mourning. Mount up, barons, for the love of God. My nephew wishes it and his cause brooks no delay.”
§187 Gautier and Guerri mounted their steeds and summoned their kinsmen and their friends from all the country round. Soon a thousand knights were assembled in their shining hauberks and they rode out of Cambresis without delay. Into Vermandois they rode and placed their ambush in a wood. Then a hundred armed knights rode forth and drove in the prey; there were oxen and cows, horses and beasts of burden and many a man was reduced to beggary by their pillaging. At St. Quentin the alarm was given, for a townsman was killed in front of the gate. Sadly Bernier put on his armor and rode forth beside his uncles Louis and Wedon of Roie, and [his father] white haired Ybert. One was mounted on a dappled steed, the other on a grey, and Ybert on the black horse that had fallen wounded beneath Raoul when he was killed. Then said Bernier: “I swear by St. Denis that never since the day when Raoul was killed has so much as a barn in my land been destroyed by war. This is Gautier, beyond a doubt. He has returned from Paris and has received his arms, you may be sure. Now may He who forgave Longinus guide us, for Gautier is an implacable foe. Let none be in too great haste to joust, for he who falls will never rise again and a man’s head will be his only ransom. This battle will be no child’s play.”
§188 Bernier issued forth from the gate with his two uncles and his father Ybert and five hundred armed men. Proudly they rode forth to battle; they passed the ambush and covered fourteen furlongs before ever they were seen. Then Guerri the Red and the sturdy Gautier charged them. “Cambrai!” they shouted. “There is grief in store for you. By God, bastard, your last hour has come now. I will give you such a greeting for my nephew’s sake that I would not give two straws for my own courage if you escape me this time.” Bernier heard these words and they grieved him sorely. Then the battle began in earnest; lances were broken, shields pierced, costly hauberks riven and torn, and the field was strewn with the fallen and the slain. Guerri and young Gautier drew their swords when their lances no longer served them. Those who fell there have quitted this mortal life and not one of them will ever feel heat or cold again. A good thirty men were killed or mortally wounded there and fifty more were taken prisoner. Bernier was forced to flee; Ybert was lost in the fray and Louis among the hills, nor did Wedon of Roie remain in his place. “God,” said Bernier, “eternal Father, will that old man Guerri never cease from fighting? How he revives each time there is chance of a battle!” But now the townspeople of St. Quentin have come to their aid; five hundred archers with bows ready strung and more crossbowmen than I can say. “Thank God,” said Bernier, “my courage is revived, for I shall be succored by these men.”
§189 “Sir Barons,” said brave Bernier, “I hear the noise of men on all sides. This man is a tough and furious fighter; his sword is much to be feared, for anyone struck by it lies straightway mute and silent in death. Guerri the Red is ruthless and cunning and there is not such a fighter in all the world. He has taken our friends prisoner which grieves me sorely, and I see so many more lying dead in the field that I am quite cast down. But I will never die with my back to the foe. Let us ride forward, for we are three times as many as they. Guerri the Red is ruthless and cunning. If he is to be found in this land again, either he or that arrogant Gautier, never will I take a penny of ransom for him, for I am quite set on his destruction. Louis shall not save him, nor any emperor nor king nor emir, even though we are beset by war all the rest of our lives.” With this they set spurs to their gallant steeds. Guerri looked along the hillside and saw such a multitude of men coming and bands of peasants with them all armed and carrying sparkling shields that he turned to Gautier and said two courteous words to him: “A fool is the man who hearkens to the counsel of a child. If God the Redeemer help us not there will be many a bleeding corpse ere the sun sets and! the evening falls.” —“How timid you are,” said Gautier. “Here is a chance to avenge my kinsmen, for I see my enemies approaching.”
§190 Even as he spoke Bernier galloped up, well-armed on his Gascon steed. Up to Guerri he rode and spoke thus to him: “Aged sir, there was a time when you and I loved each other. I adjure you by St. Simon, give up the prisoners we demand, for what good is it to carry on this useless war? Already so many knights have been done to death on either side that we cannot number the slain. In my father’s name I make this request of you.” Guerri heard him and bowed his head in thought. But young Gautier called out to his uncle: “Who is this man who looks like a knight? Is it for the ransom of the prisoners that he comes? ” —“By no means, sir nephew,” replied Guerri, “his name is Bernier, upon my oath, and there is no greater traitor in France. Let us go back and leave this worm. See how the number of his men increases every minute.” —“God,” said Gautier, “how my blood boils! By St. Peter, I would not turn back for all the wealth of Avalon until I have shown him what my pennon is like.” He sets spurs to his horse and charges, brandishing his lance with its pennon unfurled. He strikes Bernier on his shield with its lion device, he pierces the coat of arms beneath the boss and wrenches the chain work of his hauberk and strikes him so fiercely in the side that the blood flows down upon the sand. With the full force of his lance he hurled him from his saddle a fathom’s length from his Spanish steed. Then he hurled words of insult at him: “You low bastard, I swear by St. Simon that living devils have saved your life. On behalf of my uncle whom you slew I wage this war against you, for you were his man. If I did not see so many of your men here I would teach you such a hard lesson with this sword that hangs at my side, that you would have no need of a priest, for it would be the worst sermon you had ever heard in your life.” “Truly,” said Bernier, “these are the words of a fool. By threats like these I know that you are only a child.”
§191 But Bernier was sorely grieved when he saw that his shield was pierced and his hauberk torn and riven; moreover he himself was grievously wounded in the side. “God,” said he, “it would be maddening to be overthrown in the field by a boy!” Nevertheless he humbled himself before young Gautier and spoke courteously to him. “Sir Gautier,” said he, “you are nobly nurtured and courtly, and both gallant and wise in counsel. But in one thing you are to be blamed; it was not the act of a knight to threaten me. Your uncle Raoul was a very arrogant man. I was his man it is true, but he burnt my mother in his mad rage and he struck me in his pride. I challenged him and you have no right to blame me. Since you are his nephew, make peace with me and deign to accept the amends that I offer. I will be your man and will hold my fiefs from you. A hundred well-armed knights shall serve you of their own free will and I myself, barefoot and in rags, will walk as far as your fiefs around Cambrai. For the sake of our Lord who died on the cross, take counsel with yourself and accept my offer.” But Gautier was the more incensed at his words: “Bastard,” said he, “you anger me. I will recognize no right of yours until I have plucked your heart from your breast and cut it up into a hundred pieces.” —“Then is all friendship at an end,” said Bernier, “for before that happens I shall have shaved your neck for you.” So they set spurs to their horses again and Gautier returned all breathless to the charge. But there were too many armed men round about, the vassals of each, and full tilt they came to the rescue of their leaders.
§192 Then Guerri spoke aloud so that all could hear. “Nephew Gautier, now, by St. Amant, I know that you are only a child. I care not a fig for knighthood and valor if it be not mixed with good sense. We have great and splendid booty if we can get away straightway from this place.” —“By my faith,” replied Gautier, “I am of the same mind.” So they turned and rode down the hillside. Then the others gave chase at full speed until they caught up with them beside a stream. And there you might have seen another wild and grievous fight–shields split in two, lances shivered, costly hauberks riven, feet, hands and heads severed and many a noble knight lying stretched by the ford. There were so many wounded and killed that the clear water of the stream ran red. Then Guerri turned and charged and struck Droant, Bernier’s brave kinsman, on his helmet, scattering flowers and gems on the ground. The blow went through the headpiece of his hauberk and clove him to the teeth. He fell dead from the back of his swift steed, and Guerri shouted his battle cry, “Cambrai!” so that all might hear. “God,” said Bernier, “you fill me with grief when I see you killing my kinsmen thus. You are a bane to me all my days. By the pilgrims’ saint if I charge you not now that I have the chance, no gallant man will ever look to me for aid.” He sets spurs to his courser and brandishes the haft of his sharp edged spear and strikes Guerri such a blow that his shield is split in two beneath the buckle, but the good hauberk beneath saved him from harm. Bernier held his weapon so firmly that Guerri was thrust from his saddle. Ten men-at-arms hastened up and seized him and handed him over to Bernier. Then Bernier was glad, and not a piece of ransom will he accept if there be but a chance of having his head.
§193 When Gautier sees that his uncle is captured, his grief knows no bounds. He spurs his horse forward full speed and strikes Bernier on his barred shield. The shield is smashed to pieces, the hauberk is torn to ribbons and Bernier is sorely wounded in the side. His right foot is forced out of the stirrup and he lies prone on the back of his steed. It was a marvel that he was not killed. With a noble effort he righted himself and recovered his stirrup by main force. Then quickly he drew his sword and struck Gautier on his jewelled helmet. He greatly damaged the band of gold and the nose piece as far as it went and wounded Gautier slightly in the face. Had it not been for the head piece of his broidered hauberk Gautier would have seen no more of the battle. The boy was stunned by the blow and if it could have been followed by another, I warrant he would have received his death blow. But his men hastened up, for they had not forgotten their liege lord, and there was a mortal conflict. Gautier was rescued by force and many a blow the boy delivered himself. Then Bernier and his men turned back, for already the towers of Cambrai were in sight. He raised his horn and sounded the retreat and with his men he left the field. And Gautier returned to Cambrai and what plunder he and his men took with them. The lady Alice came forward to meet them. She saluted Guerri and said to him: “My lord, tell me by your sacred fidelity what you think of the new-made knight? Does my son in any way live again in him?” — “Yes, surely, lady, by my sacred fidelity, never have I seen such a knight in all christendom. Thirty times and more has he jousted true and never a baron survived his thrust. Whether he slays them outright or captures them alive, no man’s arms can resist his blows when the heat of battle is upon him. Twice he overthrew the bastard himself and he wounded him sorely in the side.” —“By the Creator,” said the lady, “now I have no regrets concerning what I promised him. As a fief redeemed he shall hold my land.” Thus the title to his heritage was secured to him that day.
§194 Now Gautier held the land with all its appurtenances. He summoned his vassals without delay and fortified every stronghold and every fortress in the land while he had leisure from war. Homeward too went Bernier with all his men, and many a costly battle-steed that they had conquered in the battle did he and his uncles lead back with them. To the palace at St. Quentin they returned and Ybert gently summoned Bernier and his nephew to him, and his two valiant brothers, Wedon of Roie and Louis the younger. “Barons,” said he, “God knows I am in much dread of this war. In the whole of France there are no two such fighters as proud Guerri and that bold youth Gautier.” Bernier replied: “Sire, you are too fearful. Pluck up heart and prepare for the battle, and let each man think upon his noble ancestors. Not for many a costly treasure would I wish a jongleur to make up an evil song about me.”
§195 Then Ybert spoke with great wisdom: “Son,” said he, “you are a very valiant man. I have no friend so powerful as you, and I put no trust in my own life. All my land do I acquit to you, and after my death you shall never lose a foot of it.” But Bernier swore by Jesus and his power that not for all the wealth of Ind would he sanction such a deed. “Sire,” said he, “you speak very foolishly. I am a young man and all I ask for is my life and all I fear is untimely death. Guerri is altogether too outrageous and Gautier arrogant beyond his years. Many a body shall be transfixed before they work their wicked will on me.”
§196 Then Bernier called his barons, Ybert his father, and all his friends: “My lords, in God’s name let us summon all the men we can.” And they consented to do so without delay and sent their messengers throughout the Vermandois. By Tuesday, before the sun set, there were three thousand armed men there with young Bernier at their head. The heat was great and the sand was blowing in the wind, and Bernier swore by Him who formed the fishes: “If I find those I seek I will tear out the beard of that old Guerri, and I will take no ransom for Gautier till I have put my sword in his entrails. Since God wills not that there be peace between us, and they are so full of pride and anger that the more we humble ourselves the prouder and angrier they become since they threaten us more and more by God and all his names when we offer them hostages or desire to put our hand between theirs, it is clear that they care not two spurs for our friendship. There is no more to be done–let us get to work.”
§197 When Bernier had assembled all his men there were three thousand of them all well armed. One fair morning they came to Cambrai, and Bernier called Geoffroy of Pierrelee. “Sound a long blast on your horn,” said he, “so that the noise goes through the land, for I would not attack in secret fashion.” —“Sire,” replied Geoffroy, “your words please me well.” He sounded his horn and the alarm was raised. The squires cut down the barricade and fire was set to the outskirts of the town. The lady Alice had arisen early and she saw the glow of the burning town without. So great was her grief that she fell down senseless. Young Gautier raised her in his arms: “Lady,” said he, “why this grief? We will make them pay dearly for this folly.” He blew a furious blast on his horn and set off at full speed for the gateway. And there a furious fight took place and many were the arms and legs and heads severed. Soon more than two hundred knights lay dead on the field.
§198 The noise and shouting grew louder and louder. Gautier, that quick and valiant knight, charged like a man eager for the fray. He brandished his lance as he saw Antiaume, the brave kinsman of Bernier, approaching; in an instant he had pierced his shield and torn asunder his hauberk and plunged his lance right into his body. Antiaume fell dead and the noise grew ever greater. Then Guerri spurred his horse and charged the enemy. All could see that he meant mischief, for be needed to strike no man twice. More than seven he overthrew and slew in his charge. “God,” said Bernier, “I could die of rage. Will this wicked old man never get his deserts! I can have no rest until I wreak my vengeance upon him.” “Then,” answered Gurerri, “you will have no rest, you low-born traitor for a very long time to come. You are too far off; come nearer and try your strength with me.” “I’m ready to do so,” replied Bernier, and they both spurred their steeds and brandished the blades of their spears. Then each gave the other a fearful blow on his polished shield, so that both their shields were pierced and broken; but their hauberks resisted the blows. With such force they charged each other that the steel of their lances broke, but neither of them lost his seat as they dashed past. Each wheeled about sharply in the French manner of riding, and the fight would have begun again had not their vassals hastened up with helmets lowered for the battle and parted them.
§199 Great was the noise of battle and the shouting grew louder. Gautier was near at hand with his fine shield painted with fleur-de-lys. Then Bernier charged in valiant fashion and struck John of Paris in the middle of his shield. So sure was the stroke that he hurled him from his saddle. Quickly Bernier seized the charger and called to his grey-bearded father: “By our Lord who pardoned Longinus, I swear that if I do not get back in exchange for this man all the booty that Gautier and his uncle have taken, this knight will hang before noon is past.” Then Guerri the Red was much displeased. Young Gautier, for his part, did not avoid Bernier but called to him across the field, and Bernier cautiously approached him. “Sir Bernier,” said Gautier of the proud countenance, “much do I regret that you are not my friend. I say that not to reassure you: be on your guard against all your enemies! I grieve bitterly still for the marquis Raoul. But why should so many brave men lose their lives? Let us two fix upon a day when we can meet in combat. Let no living man be present besides two who shall bring word afterwards to tell which of us has been slain.” “I agree to your proposal,” said Bernier the courteous, “though I grieve much that you urge me to it.”
§200 Then said Bernier: “Young Gautier, listen to me. You have compelled me to this by your relentless pride, though I take no pleasure in it. Give me your hand; I swear to you in good faith that no more than two shall be with us and they shall bear the painful news to our friends.” “So be it then,” replied Gautier, and at these words they parted from each other. Bernier went with all speed to his rightful domain, St. Quentin. Gautier repaired straightaway to Cambrai, and he and Guerri dismounted by the stairway. The fair lady Alice came quickly to meet them. “Nephew,” said she. “how goes this grievous war? It will be your death, I know full well.” —“Not so, lady, if God wills. You will yet see me leading my men and never shall this war cease until such time as I bring grief to the one who started it. I swear to you he shall either die by the sword or swing in the wind.”
§201 Gautier went into a church and not a word did he say to anyone of his intent. He humbled himself much before God on account of the battle. Not a mass did he omit, nor a vespers nor a matins. He put right away all his childish folly, nor was he seen to laugh or joke with anyone. But Guerri the Red was a cunning man. He called Gautier and spoke sternly to him: “What is the matter, nephew, in God’s name? Tell me the truth and hide nothing from me.” —“I must keep silence, uncle, may it not displease you. If I disclosed my intent to more than one man, I should belie my faith. I must do mortal combat with Bernier. You will remain here in my panelled hall and, if I die, you will possess all my lands and my rights will devolve on you.” “Really,” replied Guerri, “you speak very foolishly.” Not for all the gold of Pavia would I abstain from going fully armed to your battleground to see your great chivalry and the mighty blows you deal with your bright sword.”
§202 Now was the day agreed upon and the hour was fixed for the combat of which you have heard. Young Gautier armed himself early in the morning without the aid of a squire. He donned his hauberk, then fixed his helmet and girded his sword to his left side; his boots are costly and his spurs golden. With a leap he was on the back of his charger, his shield with its stout thongs upon his arm. Nor was his lance forgotten with its long, sharp blade and the slender pennon fixed to its point. Thus was Gautier equipped and many a time the boy surveyed himself. He was tall and slender, full grown and well proportioned, and small wish had he to change places with any living man. He called Ysoret, his host, and said to him: “Now pledge your fidelity to me that you will tell no mother’s son in which direction I have gone, until such time that you see me again. Then you shall possess this well-rested warhorse, this hauberk and this jewelled helmet, my good sword too shall be yours and my banded shield as well as three hundred pounds’ weight of minted pennies.” He held out his hand to him and the other answered: “Here is my hand upon it.” Thus they pledged each other and Gautier set out. He did not stop until he reached the gateway and there stood Guerri richly attired in costly amour. So the two friends joined each other and it would be hard to find two such well-armed knights in any land. They came to the appointed place and dismounted straightway. They took the saddles and breastplates from their horses and walked them about to and fro, and let them roll over three times. Then they put the saddles back on the horses and tightened up the girth straps all ready for the encounter. Now Bernier had better look to it that he is well prepared, for young Gautier is fully clad and Red Guerri richly armed. Young Bernier has risen at dawn of day and he too has costly arms whose value none can doubt. He armed himself with all the speed he could, then lovingly he told his father that he would go to St. Quentin for awhile: “Await me here, my lord,” said he, “and I commend you to God Almighty, for I know not whether you will see me again.” Then he took his leave and galloped across the meadows in the company of a vassal well mounted and well armed. Aliaume of Namur was the vassal’s name; he himself had defeated more than a hundred men in battle and no cowardice could be laid at his door. They did not draw rein till they reached the appointed place, and now all four warriors are assembled there. Then Guerri cried out aloud: “Now is your chance, nephew Gautier! Here is the man against whom you wish to try your strength. He killed your uncle, now make him pay the price. You have no need to concern yourself on account of his companion.”
§203 All four barons are now assembled in the field fully armed and mailed for the combat. Bernier came riding up at full speed spurring his long maned steed. Gautier seized his shield when he saw him and greeted him with an insult: “Bastard,” said he, “I have put up with you too long. You slew Raoul in an evil hour for him, but, by God, if I don’t take your head from your body now, I am not worth a straw.” —“By my faith, small chance have you,” answered Bernier; “my trust is in God and his strength, and before eventide you will have met your fate.”
§204 Gautier spoke again: “Brother Bernier, I beg you in the name of Christ who caused his image to Boat to Lucques upon the waves, grant the request which I now have in mind. You and I are young and can prove our valor, but let these two old men who are near of an age watch that there be no foul play between us. Then, when we have fought and one of us lies dead on the battlefield, they can both go to bear the tidings to those near of kin.” —“What a shameless request do I hear,” replied Bernier; “a curse upon the head of him who would do this. I was mistaken when I took you to be wise. My nephew Aliaume is too valiant a knight to consent to this.” —“Truly,” said Gautier, “your are raving; you are greatly wrong to take this as an insult; Guerri, my uncle, is a very brave vassal.”
§205 Then Gautier spoke like a wise man: “Brother Bernier, for the love of God I make one request of you and no more. Let us two young men fight without delay. These others shall be ready to bear the tidings. They shall watch the battle so that they will be able to go and bear tidings of the vanquished.” “It is granted,” replied Bernier, and thereupon the two knights tilted at each other. With desperation they both rode, and each struck the other a furious blow on his shield. Both their shields were split across, their lances broke and their horses arched up beneath them. “God,” said Guerri, “this is no child’s play. Take care of my valiant nephew, Gautier.”
§206 But Gautier was eager to renew the combat. It was the custom at this time for knights to carry two lances when they engaged in single combat. Bernier had broken one lance to splinters; the other one he had fixed upright in the meadow. He hastened now to fetch it and Gautier did the same without delay. Their two swords were still in their sheaths and they charged again with such fury that young Gautier could not withstand it. As Bernier passed him, he gave Gautier such a blow that not only was his shield broken again but his hauberk too was rent and torn. But the spear did not enter his flesh though it closely pressed his side. “God,” said Guerri, “I have had enough of this. My nephew is killed and I have been too long about taking the head of that bastard.” —“Really,” said Aliaume, “that is a foolish thought. You have no right to interfere. I will soon punish you for it if you do. My helmet is laced, my shield is on my neck and my sword at my side, and you would soon leave the back of your swift warhorse!” Then young Gautier called out loudly: “Uncle Guerri, you need not be so alarmed. The bastard has not wounded me at all.” He set spurs again to his horse and gave him the rein, and he and Bernier charged each other again. Their shields were shattered by the blows, but their hauberks were not damaged; so great was the shock when the two practiced vassals met that their spears flew up in splinters. So they rushed past each other. Then each wheeled back by the French manner of turning, and quickly drew their keen-edged swords.
§207 Now both the barons have returned to the charge, their well tempered blades in their hands. Gautier was fierce in his anger, and he struck Bernier on his helmet with such fury that the blow went home. The jewels and brass work crashed to the ground and the circlet was broken to splinters. Had it not been for the hood which protected his head Bernier would have been split apart to the shoulders, The sword glanced off to his left, but so severe had been the blow that the blood poured from Bernier’s mouth and he all but fell full length to the ground. Then Gautier shouted: “Confess yourself vanquished for, by God, bastard, your hour has come. If I let you escape me now I am not worth two straws. For my uncle’s sake I will teach you such a lesson that you will never need another.” Bernier heard these words and was dismayed. He rushed at him angrily, but Gautier turned in an instant and parried his blows, and they were soon at grips with one another beneath their shields. So fiercely they wrestled with each other that both were dragged from their horses, but they leapt to their feet and renewed the struggle again. “God in heaven,” said Aliaume, “we shall lose both of them. Guerri, you old grey-beard, do go and part them.” But Guerri replied: “May he who parts them before one of them is vanquished never know God’s forgiveness. It is their pride that has brought about this conflict and right sorry I am that neither of them has yet acknowledged himself beaten.”
§208 The two barons are in dead earnest now, and tackle one another furiously. The steel of their swords is jagged, their helmets are scored and cut, their shields are so smashed to pieces that there is not space enough to place a penny cake on the least damaged of the two. Next they must seek to cut through the hauberks. “Glutton,” said Gautier, “you will fall in a moment. You shall not leave this field with a head on your shoulders” “Upon my oath,” said Bernier, “the lady Alice, who loved you so much, might as well give her land to some one else, for you will never be her heir.” These words filled Gautier with rage and he struck Bernier such a fearful blow in his wrath that his bright helmet was useless to him. The precious stones and emblems were scattered, and the stout head piece of his hauberk could not resist the blow. A handful of his hair was cut off and the sword entered his head as far as the bone. Then if it had not swerved to the left Bernier would have been split in half to his belt. Down his body the sword travelled, bringing two hundred links of his hauberk with it. It cut his flesh just above his belt so that a large piece of it fell to the earth. At this blow Bernier was almost crushed; the blood flowed from his mouth, his eyes grew dim so that he could not keep from stumbling ; if another such blow had followed the first he would have been past help for ever. Aliaume saw that Bernier was badly wounded and he said to Guerri: “We must go to him. If either of them dies, he will be beyond our aid.” Guerri replied: “These are the words of a fool. This blow is more to me than meat and drink. O God, let my great grief be now assuaged!” Bernier heard what he said and called aloud to him: “By God, Guerri, your wish will not be granted just yet. Gautier has struck me and he shall get his due. As for me, I am all the lighter for what I have lost. We can be too much burdened by our poor flesh; I care not for it nor wish to carry it about with me. Useless flesh is of no worth to the knight who wishes to increase his honor and bring glory to his name.”
§209 But, despite his words, Bernier was sick and weary of the battle which lasted so long and of the wounds which pained him sorely. He raised his sharp sword again and struck Gautier on his helmet, scattering the precious stones and the flowers. Had it not been for the head piece of his stout hauberk he would have been cleft down to the nose piece. With such violence the blow fell that the blood poured from Gautier’s mouth and his clear eyes grew dim. A man might have run for a furlong before he could speak a word after the blow. Then said Bernier: “Confess yourself vanquished. I would kill you, but you are such a child.” Proudly Gautier answered: “I swear that you shall proceed no further. I will have your heart, bastard, before the sun sets today.” And he rushed again to the attack, but neither of the two would have gone away boasting when Aliaume and Guerri rode up and quickly separated the fighters.
§210 There was great dismay at the parting of the knights. They made Gautier sit down in the meadow close to Bernier, each in sight of the other. Aliaume waited eagerly on Bernier: “You are terribly pale,” he said. “Tell me, for God’s sake, do you think you can recover? ” —“In truth,” replied Bernier, “I am near death. But young Gautier has not much fight left in him either.” Gautier heard what he said, and was beside himself with anger. “God curse you, bastard,” said he; “I would be torn limb from limb rather than leave this field until your head flies from your body.” —“I am ready to fight,” answered Bernier, and they both leap to their feet again to put on their hauberks. Then they would have begun the combat again, but the two barons forbade them and made them swear and promise that they would not return to the fight until they could carry arms again. Unwillingly they promised, and they must not break their word. “Nephew,” said Guerri, “a loyal heart must keep fidelity. I would rather that all my lands were pillaged than that you should do a shameful thing.”
§211 Then Bernier with hardy courage spoke again: “Nephew Aliaume, by St. Geri I ask you, what will your friends and kinsmen say if you take back your shield unscathed? Now by the saint I beg you, go try your strength with Guerri, for we shall be a laughing stock to all.” —” With all my heart,” said Aliaume, “and on such terms as you shall hear. The one that quits his saddle shall lose his horse and not regain his seat.” Then said old Guerri: “It is folly to provoke me this way. You and I have never been at odds and you have never shed the blood of anyone of my lineage. Let’s leave it at that and carry this matter no further.”
§212 “By St. Richier,” said Aliaume, “I too would gladly let this matter stand. But Bernier wills it otherwise and I would incur no reproach. This is the condition on which I enter into conflict—that he who falls shall forfeit his warhorse.” —“Then fight I must,” said Guerri, “for I should be a coward did I refuse.” So each of them mounted his warhorse and hastened to get ready. They stationed themselves at the right distance in the field, and then they set spurs to their horses so that it was a sight to see! Each wishes to prove that he is the better knight, and they give each other fearful blows upon their quartered shields. Guerri yielded to the shock against his will. Aliaume struck him without mercy on his golden shield and split and pierced it below the buckle. His hauberk too was broken and torn and the sword entered his left side; but Guerri did not leave his saddle. “Truly,” said he, “I see that you wish to slay me. This is an evil game at which we are playing. You shall pay for it dearly if I have my way.”
§213 Guerri the Red was very angry when he saw the blood running over his shield. He spurred his horse again so that it sprang forward and brandished the haft of his finely wrought lance. Then he struck Aliaume on his shield so that it was smashed to pieces; his hauberk was torn to pieces and Aliaume was hurled to the ground. Nearly beside himself for rage he sprang up again and drew his naked sword. He came back to his horse which was waiting for him and leapt swiftly upon it. Then he called to Guerri and said: “Sir Guerri, you have unhorsed me as all can see. Though the fight was to end there, I would like to give you a taste of my tempered blade, nor would I have leave you while your head was on your body for a whole valley full of gold.” —“Truly,” said Guerri, “this is a madman’s scheme. Never yet have I left a battle unfinished.”
§214 Guerri gave rein again to his horse and brandished his lance with its waving pennon. He struck Aliaume on his bordered shield; he cut off all the enamelled woodwork and the covering, he smashed the chest-piece of his hauberk and drove the pennon into his body. No child’s blow was that, for he pressed it hard, and Aliaume fell with his legs in the air. As he drew back his lance Guerri spoke ugly and taunting words to him. “Sir Aliaume,” said he, “I do not let you off your game. You won’t take me for a shepherd again, for your bowels are coming out of your wounds. It is better not to play with an old dog like me.” Aliaume swore by St. Daniel and said “if I do not make mincemeat of your flesh, I am not worth a young swallow.”
§215 When Aliaume felt that he was wounded he was nearly mad with rage, and he leapt angrily to his feet. Guerri charged down on him again with drawn sword and shield held low. Aliaume was on his guard and struck Guerri as he approached, The blow fell upon his hauberk and cut off one of the flaps, and if the sword had fallen in a straight line Guerri would have lost a leg. But it fell on the neck of his steed and severed it in two. The horse fell, and Guerri was dismayed. “Holy Mary, come to my aid!” he cried loudly. “This horse will never be sound again; yours shall be handed over to take the place of mine.” The gallant Aliaume is feeble now from loss of blood. But Guerri is raging with anger and there will be something amiss if he does not satisfy his vengeance.
§216 Guerri the Red held a fresh shield before him and drew his polished sword than which no better could be found in all the land. He struck Aliaume upon his helmet as he rose up against him. He cut through the helmet like a piece of stuff, and the strong head piece of his hauberk was useless. The blade entered his brain and he fell to earth. Then Guerri called out mockingly: “By God, Aliaume, here is bad news for you. Now you will have to leave me the saddle as well as the horse.” Aliaume turned away with the entrails appearing out of his wounds and his heart beating fiercely beneath his breast. “Holy Mary, blessed virgin,” said he as he tottered to his death, “never again shall I see St. Quentin or Nesle.” Then he sat down with his head in his hands. Bernier perceived him and his grief broke out afresh.
§217 Great was the grief and anger of young Bernier. He and Gautier both sprang to their feet and hastened towards Aliaume. Said Bernier “Friend, I am in anguish on your account. Will you live? Don’t hide the truth from me.” Said Aliaume: “What a foolish question! I shall never be sound again; never again shall I see my lands or my fiefs or my children: have pity on them. Your pride has been my undoing. Aid me now, for God’s sake, do me a last service.” Bernier, who was sorely wounded, replied: “Sir Aliaume, I can do nothing for you, for I am helpless.” Then said Gautier: “I am ready to help you,” and he rendered him aid in knightly fashion. He turned his head towards the east and the knight confessed his sins in the hearing of the two barons beside him, for there was no other priest at hand. Then Guerri rode up to Gautier’s side on the horse that he had won. He dismounted quickly and Bernier shuddered at the sight of him.
§218 “Sir Guerri,” said the faithful Bernier, “you slew Aliaume treasonably.” —“You lie, glutton, by St. Denis,” said Guerri fiercely. “I was sound of skin when he attacked me and he struck with such force upon my shield that my left side was pierced and damaged. Right glad would you have been if I had been slain by Aliaume. But, thank God, my knighthood has suffered no loss. But now I swear by Him who suffered on the cross, you shall die, for I decree it.” He set spurs to his horse and rushed towards Bernier. When he saw him approaching Bernier was paralysed with fear and the blood left his face. “Mercy, noble knight,” said he; “an evil report concerning you will be spread about the land if I am murdered by you before the truce has ended. Your knighthood will be lowered forever in men’s eyes.”
§219 Bernier was filled with terror and he shouted: “Gautier, what are you thinking of? If you allow me to be cut to pieces like this all your friends will be reproached with it. With your naked hand I saw you pledge that I should have nothing to fear except from one knight alone.” —“It is as you say, Bernier,” said young Gautier, “and I would rather be torn limb from limb than that you should suffer hurt before the truce is over. But when my uncle’s wrath is roused, he is not easy to appease. It is better that you mount your horse as best you can, and I myself will help you to depart.” So Bernier mounted his horse and Gautier held the stirrup for him. Then he accompanied him a short distance on his way. “Bernier,” said he,
“you have much need of a doctor, and I myself am not quite whole of skin. I will help you to escape now, but I have not learnt to love you yet.” Then they separated and the strife ceased for awhile. Bernier returned to St. Quentin. They buried Aliaume beneath the porch of a church and made great lamentations for him. Gautier went back and found Guerri the Red and together they hastened back to Cambrai. Proud-faced lady Alice went forth to greet them. “My lords,” said she, “you take this war too lightly, mark my words. It will be the death of you both, I swear to you by God; even now I see blood flowing from both your sides.” The two warriors both replied: “We shall not die, lady, through God’s mercy. Summon your doctors now and have them name us a day when we shall be able to mount our steeds again and ride against our enemies.”
§220 Without delay the doctors came and used all their skill to heal the barons. But they went not out again until such time as I will tell you. It was Pentecost when all the world rejoices and our emperor who rules fair France summoned all his vassals to come to him. It were hard to tell the number of those who came, but Guerri, lord of Arras, was among them.
§221 Our emperor summoned all his barons. Guerri was among them and Gautier the chivalrous. Louis was there and the wise Wedon, Ernaut who lost his arm in the battle of Origny, and many another warrior might be seen. Guerri was lodged in the main tower with his gallant nephew Gautier.
§222 Our emperor summoned all his vassals; the number of them
assembled on that day was reckoned at thirty thousand men. They heard mass at daybreak and then they went up to the tiled hall. The seneschal walked up and down the table with a peeled rod in his hand. He cried in a loud voice: “Listen, lords, noble and honored men, to what the king has commanded. If anyone here stirs up strife, he shall lose his head before the evening.” Guerri heard these words and changed color. He looked at Bernier and put his hand to his sword, but Gautier pushed it back in its sheath. “Uncle,” said he, “it is sheer madness to undertake something urged on by a powerful destiny that brings blame or disgrace on oneself or one’s family. See that restraint be used, that our countrymen be not dishonored until such time as the matter may be amended.”
§223 Great was the court that met high in the royal palace. The knights were seated in places of honor. The seneschal had much to learn: close to one another he put Bernier and Gautier, Guerri the Red and the warlike Ybert, Wedon of Roie and the haughty Louis, and the one-armed Ernaut whose anger was not yet appeased. There they are all together, these noble warriors. Guerri looked round and rage made him lose his sense. He seized a large knife and would have hurled it straightway at Bernier, but Gautier made him put it down. “Uncle,” said he, “you are truly to blame. This food is not costing you a penny, and a man may believe that he is avenging some great dishonor when really he is stirring up mortal combat.” A dish of royal venison was placed before Guerri, upon it lay the thighbone of the animal’s hindquarters. Guerri looked at it and could resist no longer. He seized it and struck Bernier in the middle of his forehead. He cut right through the flesh as far as the bone, so that the blood poured down his face. Bernier was beside himself with anger on account of all the knights who had seen him struck as they sat at meat. He leapt from the table and would have given Guerri such a blow on the neck as would have made him fall across the table. But Gautier sprang to help his uncle and seized Bernier by the hair. Then count Ybert rose from his seat and Louis snatched up a knotted staff; Wedon of Roie grabbed his sword, Guerri the Red seized an iron crowbar and young Gautier a knife. On both sides the barons leapt to their feet and heavy would have been the price paid for the struggle had not men-at-arms and servants rushed up, dragged the barons from the tables, and led them before the king of France. Then said the king: “Who struck the first blow?” —“It was Guerri the Red,” replied the knights; “he began it first by striking Bernier.”
§224 Then said the king: “Tell me, my noble knights and barons, who started this?” —“It was Guerri the Red,” came the answer; “he began it first against Bernier.” Then the king swore by St. James that he would see justice done as he had said. But Guerri spoke proudly: “Rightful emperor,” said he, “a great wrong has been committed here. So help me God, you are not worth a button! How could I look at that wretch who treasonably slew my nephew? He was sister’s son to you too, as all the world knows well.” —“Truly,” said Bernier, “your words are contemptible. I defied(2) Raoul to him in his own tent. But, by the apostle whom the pilgrims seek in Nero’s meadow, you shall not lack those who wish to fight. There will be so many men in spurs before nightfall that you will hold yourself a fool [for provoking this fight].” There could be no happier man than Guerri when he heard these words, for he longed for Bernier as a hawk longs for a lark.
§225 Guerri spoke angrily again: “Rightful emperor, I tell you plainly all the world will despise you if you can bear to look upon the man who caused your nephew’s soul to quit his body. I am amazed that you have not caused him to be torn limb from limb, or hanged on the gallows or to die some shameful death before now.” The king replied: “No, it would not be right. If one noble lord summons another to serve under him he must not shame and dishonor him. Nevertheless I swear by St. Paul the martyr, that, if this man cannot put up a good defence, he shall surely meet his death.” Bernier burned with anger at these words. “My lords,” said he, “Do your worst to me. I shall be ready for the battle as soon as you.”
§226 Then the boy Gautier sprang to his feet and spoke loudly so that all might hear. “Rightful emperor, listen now to me. I will take on this low bastard with my sword. I will force him to give in and to confess by word of mouth before all that he killed my uncle Raoul treasonably, as we all know.” “Leave off, wastrel,” said Guerri. “You are too young and you still have the mind of a child. If anyone were to tap on the nose with his glove so that a drop of blood flew out, you would shed tears, beyond a doubt. But my sinews are tough and strong and my heart is bold. If anyone strikes me with hia sharp-edged lance I’ll soon pay him back with my strong sword. I wish to undertake this combat with the bastard; if I don’t make him yield before nightfall, then the king is a felon if I escape the gallows.” Then said the fearless Gautier: “Rightful emperor, for all the wealth of Milan I would not want anyone but myself to gird on his sword for this encounter.” —“I would not have it otherwise,” said Bernier. “I tell you truly that, before the sun sets at vespers, you will have had such a taste of battle that you will not want to go on, not for the sake of any man.”
§227 “Rightful emperor,” said Bernier, “I will willingly do my part in this battle, but you must hear my terms. May God who suffered on the cross not permit me to return safe and sound if those things that have happened be not as I have said.” —“I myself will stand surety for you,” said the king; “none the less I would have some hostages as well.” —“It shall be as you wish,” replied Bernier, and he called upon his father to stand aside. Young Gautier wasted no time. He went straightway to his abode; he put on his hauberk and laced his helmet; he girded his sword on his left side; then he sprang upon his warhorse without touching the stirrups and hung his shield on his left side. Nor did he forget his lance with its pennon fixed by three golden nails. Bernier too prepared himself for the battle and clad himself richly in noble arms.
§228 Then our emperor acted wisely. He sent the knights in two boats across the Seine. Gautier is on the other side, the noble baron, as is Bernier who is so deserving of praise. Then the king had the holy relics brought out and placed upon the grass on a cloth of green silk. Anyone who saw the green cloth fluttering in the breeze and the relics tumbling up and down would never forget these strange happenings.
§229 Then young Bernier rose to his feet. “Barons,” said he, “hold your peace and listen to me: I swear by all the saints that I see before me here and by all others who bear our prayers to God, I swear by the One who was raised upon the cross, that I rightfully took vengeance on Raoul, so help me God and His holy mercies. I likewise swear that Gautier has wrongfully risen up against me.” —“You lie, renegade,” shouted Gautier, “before this evening you shall be cut to pieces.” Bernier replied very humbly: “May God help the right. You accuse me wrongfully.”
§230 Bernier has taken his oath [and now Gautier comes forward]. “Barons,” said he, “listen to me. I swear by all the saints I see here before me, and by all the others through whom men pray, that Bernier has perjured himself and will be proved a liar and slain before the morning.” Bernier then said: “May it please God, you are lying.” Gautier mounted his charger and Bernier did likewise when his was led up. Gautier was young and but newly knighted, but he attacked Bernier like a veteran. He dealt such a blow upon his shield that it was broken and pierced below the boss and the hauberk beneath was slashed and torn. The iron entered between his ribs and young Gautier pressed him so hard that he hurled him headlong in the midst of the meadow. Then he rode on and shouted: “Bastard, you will never escape safely from this.” —“Truly,” said Bernier, “you will not hold your lands much longer; a man unhorsed is not always a man defeated.”
§231 Nonetheless young Bernier was heavy at heart and full of anger when he found himself on foot. He drew his sword and gripped his shield and made his way back to his horse, which he saw to be ready. He mounted by the gilded stirrup and tucked his sword into its sheath again. With lance in air he charged again and struck Gautier on his quartered shield. Beneath the boss he pierced and broke it, so that the hauberk too was slashed and rent. In Gautier’s left side he bathed his lance and rode onward leaving the blade behind. Then he looked towards Guerri and taunted him: “you low-born old man, you may well be disheartened. you shall not see the sun set today before you and your nephew have parted company.” Gautier heard his words and shouted loudly: “You low-born bastard, have you lost your wits? You will be punished before evening falls; you will never hold even a half foot of land again!” He spurs his warhorse and has drawn his sword drawn; he thinks nothing of sparing him but strikes Bernier such a marvelous blow upon his banded helmet that it splits and shatters it down to the circlet. Bernier’s fine coif afforded him little protection: he lost a half a foot of flesh, as Gautier hacked off his ear, mangling him horribly. “Heaven help me,” said Bernier, “that was a bloody stroke.”
§232 “O God,” said Bernier, “holy, Father, what shall I do, now that I have lost my right ear despite my just cause? If I do not avenge myself, I will never be happy again!” He raised his lance again, as I well know, and struck Gautier, inflicting upon him a tremendous wound so that a stream of blood gushed from his body. “Now I have you,” said Bernier, “and never again will you see your fiefs in Cambrai.” —“Truly,” replied Gautier, “I won’t eat even a morsel until the hour that I hold your heart in my hand. I know that I shall kill you without fail before night fall. You have lost your ear already and all the mud is red with your blood.” —“I can still take my revenge,” said Bernier. Ernaut of Douai cried: “My nephew will be victorious.” —“Son of a whore,” said Guerri of Chimai, “I will punish you if I get near you. Without your left arm you look like the magpie that perches on a tree where I shoot for sport. My arrow carries off his leg without touching his thigh bone. If I can get near you, I will finish you off.” Then Ybert spoke: “Don’t even think about it, while I am alive and still have any strength left. With my sword I will play a tune on you to which you will have no desire to dance. Never again shall you set eyes on the fortress of St. Nicolas.” —“Truly,” said Guerri, “I will treat you as I treated your brother Herbert, whom I disembowelled beneath Origny when we met in battle. If I do not that I will hang you by the neck till you are dead.”
§233 The battle is fierce and terrible. Never did two men fight so furiously, each raining blows on the other with his sword of German steel. Their shields were of no more use to them than an old stirrup-strap for not even the buckles remained whole. Their hauberks were torn both back and front. Each tried to find the other’s living flesh with his sword; each one’s face was streaming with blood and the streams ran down past their stirrups. I do not think that either can go on with the struggle much longer; it is a wonder that they are not both are not lying dead on their biers. But now Geoffroy of Roche Angliere bestirs himself and goes back to the palace. “Rightful emperor,” said the baron, “I swear by St. Peter, your men are no cowards. Each champion has a strong arm; they are hurling fine blows at each other both back and front.”
§234 Then there was great commotion up at the palace. Meanwhile the two in the meadow have no mind to spare each other. Young Gautier was a most excellent knight—tall and strong and every inch a warrior. He is eager to get at close quarters with Bernier. He rains great blows upon his quartered shield with no intention of sparing him; the sharp blade glanced down Bernier’s left side and sliced the flesh from his left shoulder. Right through to the bone the sword penetrated and half-a-foot of Bernier’s flesh fell to the ground. If the strong sword had not turned aside, he would have been cut in halves down to his breeches. The blood streamed from his mouth and he fell half stunned to the earth. “Truly,” said Bernier, “you are set on my destruction.” —“It is for your chastisement,” said Gautier; “that is the way to do justice upon a traitor who wrongfully kills his rightful liege lord.” —“You lie, Gautier,” replied Bernier. “You do not speak the truth and you shall pay for it dearly. I shall die of chagrin if I cannot avenge myself.” Then you ought to have seen him grasp his shield and swing his good sword, and redouble his effort again and again. When young Gautier saw him coming down upon him so fiercely he put himself resolutely on his guard. Bernier struck him mercilessly—a tremendous blow he gave him in the middle of his helmet of pure gold. The helmet was split a good way down and if the blade had not glanced towards the left it would have split him in half down to the shoulders. Gautier felt it and was mad with anger. He rushed fiercely at Bernier again and they would both have been killed at last, for neither of them could survive such blows. But Guerri, as he watched, could contain himself no longer; he sounded a shrill horn and his men came up, for they dared not disobey. Then he knelt towards the church tower and swore by the saints in the sight of his knights that if he sees Gautier done to death he will tear Bernier limb from limb. Ybert heard him and he too was almost beside himself. He called up his men in ranks before him, and swore by God who rules all things that if he sees Bernier slain or overthrown, not all the gold of Montpelier, nor Louis of France himself, shall prevent him wreaking dire vengeance on Gautier. Should he meet him in the melee when they charged with lowered lances, Gautier would be sure to lose his head. Then up rose Geoffroy and Manecier and went and announced these words to the king. “By St. Richier,” said the king, “go and separate them and let them not come near each other again.” More than fifty men rushed down the causeway. They ran along the beach beside the river Seine and separated the fighters without delay. They were reluctant to leave off, so I have heard, for both wished to fight on; but there would have been no hope for either of them if they had been allowed to batter each other any more. They both had great wounds that would not stop bleeding. Doctors came and bound up their wounds and fanned them to cool their bodies. Then they bore them to the palace and laid them in two rich beds they had prepared. But the emperor did a stupid thing—the two warriors lay so close together that they could see each other’s movements as they lay. The king went up to Gautier first and spoke gently to him “Do you think you will recover? Tell me frankly.” —“Yes, truly, Sire, you may depend upon it.” —“Thank God,” replied the king, “for I would have you make your peace with Bernier.” Gautier’s blood boiled again when he heard this and he cried out at the top of his voice: “Rightful emperor, may God curse you, for you are the real cause of this war and of my uncle Raoul having been killed and dismembered. By God who judges all things, you shall never see me reconciled to him, for I will cut him in pieces first.” —“These are the words of a fool,” said Bernier. “I swear you will not live to see the month of February, or I will never eat and drink again!”
§235 The emperor turned away from Gautier and went straight to young Bernier’s bedside. Courteously he spoke to him: “Sir Bernier, noble and renowned knight, will you recover? Tell me frankly.” —“Yes, truly, Sire, I shall recover, but I am grievously wounded.” —“God be thanked,” said the king. “For I wish to live long enough, believe me about this, to see you reconciled to Gautier. But he is so proud and unbridled that for the wealth of ten cities he will not consent.” —Said Bernier “Sire, it cannot be otherwise. Gautier is young and but newly knighted and he thinks he can accomplish all his desires. But, by our Lord, as long as I live I will never surrender or recant.” Gautier listened wrathfully and cried: “You low-born bastard, how shameless you are! you have slain my uncle like the proven traitor you are. He was a wise and valiant man and your liege lord to boot. I don’t know how you can hold out so long. You are badly off from the loss of your ear, which is still lying in the fields by the Seine.” Said young Bernier: “You are very wrong,” said Bernier. “I gave you a blow in your left side which left a deep wound, as you well know. I am sorry for it still and it grieved me sorely at the time. You are guilty of sin if you will not make peace.” Gautier hears this, and it moves him to pity.
§236 “Sir Gautier,” said the courteous Bernier, “tell me for God’s sake who suffered on the cross, is this war to last for ever? Our Lord himself pardoned Longinus, who thrust the sword in his side. Accept the reparation I offer, noble and peerless knight, and I will make good to the full extent of your demands. I will cede to you absolutely my land and my country, and go with you to Cambresis to be your serving-man: on this I pledge my word. I will content myself with a couple of old nags; no fur lined mantles shall I wear. Compared with the squires, I will be like a begger, drinking water and eating rye bread. Such will be my miserable existence until such day as pity shall move your heart–or else take my sword now and slay me on the spot!” Then Gautier and Guerri both cried out at once: “Now you are brought low, you low-born bastard. By God who has hung on the cross, never shall your amends be accepted. You will die first, by the body of St. Denis.” —“All is in God’s hands,” replied Bernier. “I cannot die before my appointed time.” As they spoke, the sister of King Louis entered the city, and all around her in the streets of Paris she heard people talking about the two vassals and how they had wounded each other. The lady’s heart sank as she listened and for all the wealth of France she could not have laughed or jested till she had news of the one she loved. Down she got from her Arab steed and mounted the steps of the vaulted palace. With her escort of trusty knights she came to King Louis in the hall.
§237 The lady Alice, deserving of praise, dismounted quickly from her good mule and began to mount the palace steps with her escort of trusty knights. Her dearest friends came forward to receive her—Guerri the Red and many another noble. The emperor of France greeted her courteously as she entered and went up to her to embrace and kiss her. But the noble lady thrust him back. “Get away from me, king! May you have troubles—you are not fit to rule a kingdom. If I were a man I would prove to you before sunset at the point of my sword that you have no right to be a king. Plain enough it is, since you allow to sit at your table the man who cut off your nephew’s limbs.” She looked round and saw Gautier lying there. She swooned with grief and her valiant knights had to raise her from the ground. Then young Gautier began to shout: “Courage, my noble household. Tell my great aunt what I have done to Bernier. He will be of no use to anyone for the rest of his life for I have cut off his ear with my sword.” The lady stretched out her hands to heaven when she heard this. “Dear Lord God,” said she, “receive my thanks for this.” She looked in the other direction and saw Bernier lying on his bed. She picked up a crowbar and ran towards him. She would have killed him outright, but the barons would not let her go near him. Then Bernier lifted himself from his bed; elegantly and without further delay, he he runs up and embraces the lady’s leg and sweetly kisses her shoe. “Noble countess, I can wait no longer. You brought me up and gave me food and drink, that I cannot deny. Alas, Gautier, for the love of the righteous God, if you are not willing for Christ’s sake to make your peace with me, see here my sword—take it and avenge yourself, for I do not wish to fight against you any longer.” Lady Alice began to weep–nothing could have stopped her tears, not if she were to be torn limb from limb, when she saw Bernier humble himself so completely.
§238 There was a great gathering in the richly adorned hall. The youth Bernier, his face without a trace of fear, took a bandage of silk and bound it round his head. He wore only his breeches, he had no shirt on. On his face with arms outstretched he lay, holding his burnished sword, and there in the presence of the king he begged mercy from young Gautier. “Have pity, Gautier, for the sake of Mary’s Son who raised the dead in Bethany and was put to death himself for our redemption. Let go of this folly, Sire, I pray you, for it ought not to continue all our lives. Either kill me now or let me live in peace.” But Gautier’s countenance darkened as he listened. Then he spoke so loud that all the hall resounded: “By God, bastard, it shall not end thus. You shall either hang for it or die a death of shame—unless you flee to Hungary or Apulia.” Then the whole court turned back to Bernier, and the knights cried out so that the hall resounded: “By God, Bernier, that is no answer at all! Sir Gautier, you are full of pride when you say that his strength fails him; he still has a thousand men in his employ and they will not desert him at peril of their lives.” Then Bernier spoke again and his words were well considered: “My lords, take pity on me for the sake of God the son of Mary. If God who rules all things grants that my request be favorably received, this war will be ended before nightfall.”
§239 Bernier lay in the vaulted palace on his face with arms outstretched, holding his sharp sword in his hand. Then the abbot of St. Germain came forward with many costly relics of St. Denis and St. Honore in his hand. He spoke out loudly so that everyone heard what he said. “Barons,” said he, “listen to my counsel. You know well, by your most holy faith, that our Lord in his loving kindness suffered his body to be tortured on the sacred cross upon that special Friday. The blessed Longinus was near at hand and struck him in the left side. It was many a long day since he had seen anything, but now he rubbed his eyes and he straightway perceived the light. Then he cried for mercy, with good will, and our Lord forgave him then and there. Sir Gautier, by the God of glory, this war has lasted too long. Bernier makes you an offer with good intent, and if you do not accept it you will be much blamed for it.” The gentle abbot was steadfast in his purpose; he called by name to him Count Ybert, Wedon of Roie, Louis the seasoned warrior and the prudent Sir Ernaut of Douai, who had his left hand cut off in the battle that was fought in the meadows of Origny. “Barons,” said he, “listen to what I propose. Each of you take his good sword in his hand and let them be handed over to your enemies so that you may be reconciled on such terms as you shall hear me say: may all the sins be forgiven of you in the same measure as their sins will be forgiven on the Judgment Day.” —“Truly,” said Ybert, “your proposal shall not be set aside.” On their knees they went in the sight of all the barons and, in good will, begged for mercy. But Guerri didn’t even bother to glance at them. When the abbot saw this he was quite dumbfounded.
§240 The learned abbot cried: “What are you thinking of, Guerri of Arras? Bid them rise, noble knight.” Then young Gautier called out loudly: “Lady, bid them rise, lady, for your pity’s sake and for the sake of the Lord God who never lied. But he [Bernier] can never be my friend until he is cut to pieces and killed.” Guerri heard this and laughed aloud. “Dear nephew,” said he, “you are really a man of great worth to hate your enemies with all your heart. That wretched Bernier is doomed to perish.” But the abbot was very angry. “Sir Guerri,” said he, “your hair is grey and your last hour may be very near. If you do not make peace now, I pray to St. Denis that your soul may never reach the gates of paradise.”
§241 Great was the excitement in the palace while Bernier lay humbly before Gautier and Ybert with his brother Louis before Guerri. Wedon of Roie and noble Ernaut of Douai added their courteous prayers. Bernier cried aloud: “My lord Gautier, before God who rules all we present you here with our five swords. We shall never require them of you again. Either let your anger abate towards us now or take your sword and avenge yourself at once.” Seven hundred voices throughout the palace cried: “For God’s sake, young Gautier, in the name of Him who upholds everything, bid them rise, noble knight.” —“God,” said Gautier, “how unwillingly I do it.” Briefly he said the word and raised them and they kissed one another like friends and kinsmen. But the king went away full of displeasure, for he did not desire the reconciliation. Then Guerri the Red arose and went to the window. He called out at the top of his voice: “Come here, brother Bernier. This king is a traitor, what I scoundrel I know him to be! I swear by St. Amant that it was he who stirred up this war and many of you know it. Valiant knight, let us make war on him.” — “Truly,” said Bernier, “I consent and agree. I would not fail you for any man alive.” Then grey-bearded Ybert spoke: “The whole of Vermandois I hand over to you to do with as you will. It is a wide and well fortified land and never will I claim a glove’s breadth of it or take from it a penny’s value. By St. Amant, I am very sorry that this war has lasted so long.” Said Guerri : “It cannot be otherwise now. From now on we shall be like near kinsmen.”
§242 Great was the assembly in the royal palace. The lady Alice was there and noble Ybert, Guerri the Red and the courteous Gautier, Ernaut the warrior of Douai, Louis and Wedon and Bernier; together all the counts went to the dining hall. The king of France was full of displeasure. He summoned his barons to come and speak with him, and they came in haste to the palace, for they dared not disobey. The king went and leaned against a table. He called Ybert to him and said: “Ybert, I have always loved you dearly. After your death I intend, if it please God, to give Vermandois to a prince.” —“Sire,” replied Ybert, “I agree. Only the other day I gave it to Bernier.” —“What, you devil!” cried the king his face filled with wrath. “Has a bastard then the right to claim a fief?” Ybert replied in great anger: “Rightful emperor, by the righteous God you do wrong to speak ill of your liege man. At dawn today I too was your man, but now I refuse my homage unless you do what is right and pledge me the land.” —“By heaven,” said the king, “your arrogance is too great. Never shall you have a penny’s worth of the fief; I have given it to Gilemer of Ponthieu.” Then Bernier spoke: “Sire,” said he, “your plead in vain for, by the Creator, your protection will never prevent me from cutting him to pieces.” —“Hold your tongue, you miserable glutton,” cried the king. “Low-born bastard, do you dare dispute with me. I will have you thrown upon a dung heap.” Bernier was mad with anger as he listened, and he drew his sword in fury. “Gautier,” he cried, “where are you? You above all men ought to help me.” Guerri spoke in answer: “I at least will not fail you, not for all the gold of Montpelier. This coward king deserves to die, for it was he who made us enter into this war and caused my nephew to be slain.” Then you should have seen how they all drew their swords and how red Guerri flourished his blade above his head, and how the king’s men shook and ran like foxes into their hiding places. More than seven of them were left gaping; even the emperor did not escape with a whole skin, for Bernier made for him and slashed his thigh with his sword so that he fell headlong to the ground.
§243 The king was much cast down and full of wrath. Then young Gautier rose to his feet: “Rightful emperor,” said he. “You have done a great wrong. I am your nephew, you ought not to fail me.” –“Traitor! Glutton!” replied the king, “leave me alone; for, by Him who hung on the cross, every one shall be disinherited before long.” Young Gautier replied: “Since you break faith with me, from now on be on your guard against me!” A messenger rode quickly to where the knights were quartered and cried loudly: “Noble sirs, to horse! Our barons have come to blows in the palace.” When the knights heard it how speedily they mounted! In a short time there were a thousand of them ready. Now they are rushing towards the palace.
§244 Great was the assembly in the vaulted hall and Guerri spoke in firm tones: “Rightful emperor, it is only just that I tell you the truth. You caused this war by your stupidity. You invested Raoul with another man’s fief. You swore to him in the presence of your knights that you would not fail him as long as you lived. We all know the price he had to pay: he was killed near the abbey of Origny. But by the One to whom all men pray, you have not had to call up your whole army yet.” —“You old traitor,” said the king, “a curse upon you! However this turns out, Arras will no longer be yours. Within a month the fief shall be taken from you and, if I find you still there, by God son of Mary, I will hang you at the main gate in the presence of all my barons–that is my decree!” Guerri listened and shouted his defiance: “Be on your guard against my glittering sword. Bernier, my brother, now I have need of your aid.” —“I will stand by you so long as you have need of me,” replied the valiant Bernier. And so the court dispersed with many a word of anger.
§245 Guerri the Red came down the steps and found a thousand armed knights at the entrance. Young Bernier cried loudly: “Think to do well, noble knights. All our squires are ready and armed. Pillage this town as fast as you can–anything you grab will be yours to have.” The knights replied: “We will obey your orders.” The cry went up to torch the town, and it was done then and there. In all the streets of Paris the fire was lit, and the town burned. From the palace, about which I have told you, to the bridge where vessels cast anchor, there was not enough property left that day to load down a peasant.
§246 Through their great lack of restraint the city burned. Then Guerri and Bernier made straight for home and young Gautier quietly went his way. They had no wish to remain in the city any longer. Straight to Pierrefont they came; they rode all through the dark night and galloped full speed towards St. Quentin. All the people of the country fortified their dwellings on account of the great war which will break out. The king was in dismay for the great injury they have done him in his own city. He swears in his wrath by the body of St. Peter that neither castle nor stronghold shall protect them; neither kinship nor vassal’s rights shall save them from the punishment he will mete out to them.
§247 The knights returned to St. Quentin in Vermandois. “Sir Gautier,” said the courteous Bernier, “my lord Guerri will return to Artois and you will go straight back to Cambrai. I am still suffering from my wounds, nor will you yourself be completely healed for some months to come. I know full well that the king hates us greatly; he will make war upon us in Vermandois if he can and will attack us with overpowering force. Summon all the men at your disposal; Guerri the valiant knight will summon his, and I will hold myself in readiness to attack Laon and will keep the country round in constant fear. No barricades or defenses shall restrain my good Viennese sword.” When he had finished speaking they all departed without delay: Guerri the Red went back to Artois and the lady Alice to her lands in Cambresis.
§248 To Arras went Guerri the Red, and young Gautier returned to Cambrai with his great aunt, the lady Alice. They summon their men and their most loyal supporters; Guerri the Red has done the same, for Bernier is quite sure they will have war. The king swears by God who suffered on the cross that for all the gold of Senlis he will not fail to take vengeance on the bastard who has burned his fortress and pillaged his capital. Bernier and Gautier and Red Guerri of Arras have shamed him in the land; if he holds not the land within two weeks and if he conquers not Vermandois by force of arms he will not value his own worth at two pennies. He called his clerks and he charged them: “Draft these letters as I shall tell you. I wish to summon all my friends, my barons and my loyal vassals that I may avenge my shame. Neither strongholds nor barricades shall protect them. I will drag them out–I am in haste to do so.” His scribes reply: “We will do it at your bidding.”
§249 Gautier, Guerri and the courteous knight Bernier went to St. Quentin in Vermandois. There they lingered for the best part of a month, for they were still oppressed by their wounds. Two skillful doctors tended them and when they were healed they departed again. Guerri the Red went to Artois and with him went courtly young Bernier; the lady Alice went back to her domains in Cambresis and she took Gautier back with her.