Gold THE GEOFFREY CHAUCER PAGE


Libeaus Desconnus

"The Fair Unknown," English Romance (14th cent.), Part 1.

For words not explained in the margins, see the Glossary to The Riverside Chaucer






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1

Jhesu Crist our saviour,
And his moder, that swete flowr,
Helpe hem at her nede
That harkeneth of a conquerour,
Wis of witte and wight werrour,
And doughty man in dede.
His name was called Gingelein,
Beyete he was of Sir Gawein,
By a forest side;
Of stouter knight, and profitable,
With Arthour of the Rounde Table,
Ne herde ye never rede.

2

This Gingelein was fair of sight,
Gentill of body, of face bright,
All bastard yif he were;
His moder him kepte with hir might,
That he sholde se no wight
Y-armed in no manere,
For he was full savage
And gladly wolde do outrage
To his felawes in fere.
And all for doute of wikked los
His moder kepte him in clos,
As doughty child and dere.

3

And for love of his fair vis,
His moder clepede him Beaufis
And non nother name;
And himself was full nis;
He ne axede nought, y-wis,
What he hight, at his dame.
As hit befelle upon a day,
To wode he wente, on his play,
Of deer to have his game;
He fond a knight whar he lay,
In armes that wer stout and gay,
Y-slain and made full tame.

4

That child dide off the knightes wede,
And anon he gan him schrede,
In that riche armur;
Whan he hadde do that dede,
To Glastonbery he yede,
Ther lay the king Arthour.
He knelede in the halle,
Before the knightes alle,
And grette hem with honour;
And seide, "King Arthour, my lord,
Graunte me to speke a word,
I pray thee par amour.

5

"I am a child uncouthe,
And com out of the southe.
And wolde be made a knight.
Lord, I pray thee nouth
With thy mery mouth
Graunt me anon right!"
Quoth Arthour the king,
Anoon without any dwelling,
"Tell me thin name aplight,
For sithen I was y-bore,
Ne fond I me before
Non so fair of sight."

6

That childe seide, "By Seint Jame,
I not what is my name,
I am the more nis;
But, while I was at hame,
My moder, in hir game,
Clepede me Beaufis."
Quoth Arthour the king,
"This is a wonder thing,
By God and Seint Denis,
Whanne he, that wolde be a knight,
Ne wot noght what he hight,
And is so fair of vis.

7

Now will I yeve him a name,
Before yow alle in same,
For he is so fair and fre;
By God, and by Seint Jame,
So clepede him never his dame,
What woman that so hit be.
Now clepeth him alle in use
`Libeaus Desconus.'
For the love of me;
Than may ye wite a-rowe:
`The faire unknowe,'
Certes so hatte he.

8

King Arthour anon right
Made him tho a knight,
In the selve day;
And yaf him armes bright,
Him gerde with swerde of might,
For sothe as I yow say.
And henge on him a scheld,
Riche and over-geld
With a griffoun of say;
And him betok his fader Gawein,
For to teche him on the plaine,
Of ech knightes play.

9

Whan he was knight y-made,
Anon a bone there he bade,
And seide, "My lord so free,
In herte I were right glad,
That firste fighte if I had,
That ony man asketh thee."
Than seide Arthour the king,
I grante thee thin asking,
What bataile that so hit be;
But me thinketh thou art too ying,
For to don a good fightinge,
By aught that I can se.

10

Withoute more resoun,
Duk, erl, and baroun,
Wesch and yede to mete;
Of all manere fusoun,
As lordes of renown,
Inough they hadde ete.
Nadde Arthour bote a while,
The mountance of a mile,
At his table y-sete,
Ther com a maide ride,
And a dwerf by hir side,
All beswette for hete.

11

That maide was clepede Elene,
Gcntill, bright, and schene,
A lady messenger;
Ther nas contesse, ne quene,
So semelich on to sene,
That mighte be hir pere.
Sche was clothed in tars,
Roume and nothing skars,
Pelured with blauner;
Hir sadell was overgeld
And with diamaundes fulfild;
Milk whit was hir destrere.

12

The dwerf was clothed in ynde,
Before and ek behinde,
Stout he was and pert;
Among alle Cristene kinde,
Swich one ne schold no man finde,
His surcote was overt.
His berd was yelow as ony wax,
To his gerdell henge his fax,
I dar well say in certe;
His schon were with gold y-dight,
And coped as a knight,
That semede no povert.

13

Teodelain was his name,
Wide sprong his fame,
By north and ek by southe;
Muche he couthe of game,
Citole, sautrye in same,
Harpe, fithele, and crouthe;
He was a noble disour
With ladies in hir bowr.
A mery man of mouthe.
He spak to the maide hende:
"To telle thin erende
Time hit were nouthe."

14

That maiden knelde in halle
Before the knightes alle
And seide, "My lord Arthour,
A cas ther is befalle,
Worse with-inne walle.
Was never non of dolour.
My lady of Sinadoune
Is brought in strong prisoun.
That was of greet valour.
Sche prayth thee send her a knight
With herte good and light.
To winne her with honour."

15

Up start the yinge knight,
His herte was good and light,
And seid, "Arthour, my lord,
I schal do that fight
And winne that lady bright,
Yif thou art trewe of word."
Quoth Arthour, "That is sooth!
Certain, with-outen ooth,
Ther I to bere record:
God graunt thee grace and might
To helde up that lady right
With dinte of spere and sword!"

16

Then gan Elenbe to chide
And seide, "Alas, that tide
That I was hider y-sent!
This word schal springe wide:
Lore, king, is thy pride
And thy manhod y-schent,
When thou wilt send a child,
That is witless and wilde,
To dele doughty dent,
And has knightes of main,
Perceval and Gawain,
Pris in ech turnement."

17

The dwerf with greet errour
Wente to King Arthour
And seide: "Kinde king,
This child to ne werrour
And do such a labour.
Is nought worth a farthing.
Er he that lady see
He schal do batailes three,
With-oute any lesing.
At the pont perilous
By the chapel auntrous
Schal be his beginning."

18

Libeaus Desconus answerde,
"Yet was I never aferd
For dout of mannes awe.
To fighte with spere or swerd
Som del I have y-lerd,
There many men were y-slawe.
He that fleth for drede,
I wolde, by way or strete
His body were to-drawe.
I will that bataile take
And never one forsake,
As hit is Arthours lawe."

19

Quoth Arthour anon right,
"Thou getest non other knight,
By God that bought me dere!
Yif he thinketh thee nought wight
Go get thee one, wher thou might,
That be of more powere!"
That maide for wrath and hete
Nolde neither drinke ne ete
For alle tho that there were,
But set down all dismayd,
Till the table was unlayd,
Sche and the dwerf in fere.

20

King Arthour in that stounde
Het of the Table Rounde
Four the beste knightes,
In armes hole and sounde,
The best that mighte be founde,
Army hem anon rightes
And seide, "Thorgh helpe of Crist
That in flome was baptist,
He schall holde all his hightes,
And be good champioun
To the lady of Sinadoun,
And felle hir fon in fightes."

21

To army hem wer they fain,
The firste was Sir Gawein,
That other Sir Percevale,
The thirde was Sir Ewein,
The ferthe Sir Agrafrain;
So seith the Frensche tale.
They caste on him of silk,
A gipell as white as milk,
In that semely sale;
And an hauberk bright,
That richely was adight,
With mailes thikke and smale.

22

Gawein his owene sire
Heng aboute his swire
A scheld with a griffoun;
An helm of riche atire
That was steele and non ire,
Percevale set on his crown;
Launcelet him brought a sper,
In werre him with to were,
And also a fell fachoun.
Ywein him brought a stede,
That was good at nede,
And egre as lioun.

23

The knight to hors gan spring,
And rod to Arthour the king,
And seide, "My lord hende,
Yef me thy blessinge,
Anoon withoute dwellinge,
My will is for to wende."
Arthour his hond up haf,
And his blessinge him yaf,
As corteis king and kende;
And seide, "God grante the grace,
And of spede space,
To bringe the birde of bende!"

24

The maide, stout and gay,
Lep on hir palfray,
The dwerf rod hir beside:
Till the thirde day
Upon the knight alwey
Ever sche gan to chide.
And seide, "Lorell caitif,
Though thou wer worth swiche five,
Y-tint now is thy pride;
This pase kepeth a knight,
That with ech man will fight,
His name is spronge wide:

25

William Selebraunche,
His fight may no man staunch,
He is werrour out of witte.
Thorugh herte, other thorugh haunche,
With his sper he will launche
All that ayens him rit."
Quoth Libeaus Desconus,
Is his feghtinge swich use?
Was he never y-hitte?
For aught that may betide,
To him I will ride,
And loke how he sitte

26

They ride forth al three,
With merthe and greet solempnitee,
By the chapel aunterous,
The knight they gonne y-see,
In armes bright of blee,
Upon the pont perilous.
He bar a scheld of grene,
With thre liouns of gold schene,
Well proude and precious,
Of swich lengell and trappes;
To delen ech man rappes
Ever he was fous.

27

When he hadde of hem sight
To hem he rod full right,
And seide, "Welcome, beaufrer!
Who so rit here day other night,
With me he mot fight,
Other leve his armes here."
Quoth Libeaus Desconus,
"For love of swete Jhesus,
Now let us passe skere;
We haveth for to wende,
And beth fer from our frende,
I and this meide in fere.

28


William answerede tho,
"Thou might not scapy so,
So god yeve me good reste!
We willeth er thou go
Fighte bothe two
A forlang here by weste."
Quoth Libeaus, "Now I see
That hit nell non other be,
In haste do thy beste.
Take thy cours with schafte,
Yif thou art knight of crafte,
For here is min all preste.

29

No lengere they nolde abide,
Togedere they gonne ride,
With well greet randoun;
Libeaus Desconus that tide
Smot William in the side
With a sper feloun.
But William sat so faste,
That his stiropes to-braste,
And his hinder arsoun;
William gan to stoupe
Over his horses croupe
That he fell adoun.

30

His stede ran away,
William nought longe lay,
But start up anoon right
And seide, "By my fay,
Before this ilke day
Ne fond I non so wight.
Now my stede is ago,
Fighte a fote also,
As thou art hendy knight."
Quoth Lybeaus Desconus,
"By the love of Jhesus,
Therto I am full light!"

31

Togedere they gone spring,
And fauchouns out to fling,
And foughte fell and faste;
So harde they gonne dinge
That fier, with-oute lesinge,
Out of her helmes braste.
But William Salebraunche
Libeaus Desconus gan launche
Thorgh out his scheld in haste;
A cantell fell to grounde;
Libeaus that ilke stounde
In herte was agast.

32

Than Libeaus, wis and wight,
Defende him as a knight,
As werrour queinte and sligh,
Barbel and crest in sight
He made fly down right
Of Williames helm on high.
And with the point of his swerd
He schaved Williams berd,
And com by flessch right nigh;
William smitte to him tho,
That his sword brast a-two,
That many man hit sigh.


33

Tho gan William to crie,
"For love of Seint Marie,
A-live let me passe!
Hit wer greet vilanye
To do a knight to dye
Wepeneles in place."
Quoth Libeaus Desconus,
"For love of swete Jhesus,
Of live gettest thou no grace,
But yif thou swere an oth,
Er than we hennes goth,
Right here before my face.

34

"In haste knele adoun
And swer on my fachoun
Thou schalt to Arthour wende,
And sey, `Lord of renoun,
As overcome and prisoun,
A knight me hider gan sende.
That is y-cleped in use
Libeaus Desconus,
Unknowe of kith and kende.'"
William on knees down set,
And swor as he him het,
Her forward, ord and ende.

35

Thus departede they alle,
William to Arthours halle
Toke the righte way;
As cas ther gan befall:
Three knightes proud in palle
He mette that selve day.
His susteres sones three
Wer the knightes free,
That were so stout and gay,
Whan they sighe William blede,
As men that wolde awede,
They made greet deray

35

And seide, "Eem William,
Who hath don thee this scham?
Why bledest thou so yerne?"
He seide, "By Seint Jame,
One, that is nought to blame,
A knight stout and sterne.
Libeaus Desconus he hight;
To felle his fon in fight
He nis nought to lerne.
A dwerf rit him before,
His squier as he wore,
And ek a well fair berne.

37

"But o thing greveth me sore,
That he hath do me swore,
Upon his fauchoun bright,
That I ne schall never more,
Till I come Arthour before,
Sojourne day ne night;
To him I mot me yeld,
As overcome in feld,
Of his owene knight,
And never ayens him bere
Nother scheld ne spere;
All this I have him hight."

38

Than seide the knightes free,
Thou schalt awreke be,
For sothe, with-oute faile;
He one ayens us three
Nis nought worth a stree
For to holde bataile.
Wend forth and do thin othe.
And though the traitour be wroth,
We schull him assaile;
Er he this forest passe
His hauberk we will to-rasse,
Though he be thikke of maile.

39

Now lete we William be,
That wente in his jornee,
Toward Arthour the king;
Of these knightes three
Harkeneth, lordinges free,
A ferly fair fightinge.
They armede hem full well,
In iren and in stel,
With-oute ony dwelling,
And lepe on stedes sterne,
And after gonne y-erne,
To slee that knight so yinge.

40

Herof wiste no wight
Libeaus, the yinge knight,
But rod forth pas by pas;
He and that maide bright
Made togedere all night
Game and greet solas.
Mercy sche gan him crie
That sche spak vilanye.
He foryaf her that trespas.
The dwerf was hir squier,
And servede her fer and ner
Of all that nede was.


41

A morwe, when that hit was day,
They wente in her jornay
Toward Sinadoune,
Than sigh they in the way
Three knightes stout and gay,
In armes bright of ble,
Ride out of Carlioune,
All y-armed into the teth,
(Everich swor his deth),
And stedes baye and browne,
To him they cride aright,
"Thef, turne again and fight,
Or leve here thy renown!"

42

Libeaus Desconus tho cride,
"I am redy to ride
Ayens you alle in same.
He prikede, as prince in pride,
His stede in bothe side,
In ernest and nought in game.
The eldest brother gan bere
To Sir Libeaus a spere,
Sir Gower was his name,
But Libeaus rod him so nigh,
That he brak his thigh,
And ever efte he was lame.

43

The knight gronede for paine,
Libeaus with might and maine,
Felde him flat adown.
The dwerf Teodelein
Tok the stede by the reine,
And lep into the arsoun,
And rod forth also sket
Ther that the maide set,
That was fair of fasoun,
Tho lough that maide bright,
And seide, "This yinge knight,
Is chose for champion."

44

The middell brother beheld
How his brother in the feld
Hadde lore main and might.
He smitte, as hit is teld,
Sir Libeaus in the scheld
With ike spere full right.
The schaft a two did braste;
The hede stiked faste
In place there it was pight.
Libeaus than gan bere
With the point of his spere
The helm awey of the knight.

45

The yingest com y-erne
Upon a stede sterne,
Egre as lioun,
Him thoghte his body wold berne,
But he might also yerne
Felle Libeaus adown.
As werrour out of witte,
Libeaus on helm he smit,
With a fell fauchoun,
His strok so hard he set,
Thorgh helm and basnet,
That sword tochede his crown.

46

Tho was Libeaus agreved,
Whan he feld on his heved
That sword with egre mode;
His brond aboute he waved,
All that he hit he clevede,
As werrour wild and wode.
"Allas," he seide tho,
"Oon ayens two
To fighte; that is not good."
Well faste they smitte to him,
And he with strokes grim,
Well harde ayens hem stode.

47

But thorgh Goddes grace
That other brother he gan brace
Under his right arm tho.
He threw him in that place
And in that thilke space
His left arm brast a two.
The yingest sigh that sight;
He nadde main ne might
To fight ayens his fo.
To Libeaus up he yelde
His spere and ek his schelde
And mercy cride him tho.

48

Libeaus answerede, "Nay!
The scapest nought so away,
By God that schop mankende;
Thou and thy bretheren tway.
Schull plight here your fay,
To king Arthour to wende;
And sey, `Lord of renoun,
As overcome and prisouns,
A knight us hider gan sende,
To yelde you tour and town,
And dwelle in your bandoun,
Ay with-outen ende.'


49

"And but ye will do so
Certes, I schall you slo,
Long er hit be night."
The knightes swere tho
They wolde to Arthour go,
And trewes ther they plight.
Libeaus and that may,
Wente in their journay,
As they hadden tight;
Till the thirde day
They ride in game and play,
He and that maide bright.





them . . . their

strong warrior


begotten . . . by



You never heard read (about)



handsome in appearance

Even though he was

creature



together
fear of evil fame





visage
"Pretty son"

foolish

was called










shroud, put on


went













now

right away


truly
since






not = ne wot, do not know
foolish
home






knows not . . . is called
visage



give
together




in use, customarily


know in turn

is called




then


girded


adorned with gold
fine woolen cloth
entrusted to
in the field





boon, request







young





talking

washed and went
foison, plenty


Nadde = ne hadde, had not
the time of a mile-way (20 min.)



sweaty because of heat




shining (beautiful)

nas = ne was
so pretty to look upon
equal
silk
flowing, roomy
furlined . . . white fur


horse



dark blue

lively

Such a one
open


certainly
shoes . . . adorned
dressed in a cope








cithole, psalter (stringed instruments)
fiddle . . . violin-like instrument
reciter of romances



message
now






situation

sadness


value






young
happy



if




Maintain that lady's rights





time


Lost
put to shame


To strike stout blows






passion, fury


warrior




lie
bridge
chapel of adventures






For fear of man

Something . . . learned
Where . . . slain


dragged to pieces






immediately

at a dear price
If he does not seem strong to you
one

passion
Nolde = ne wolde
tho = those

cleared of dishes
together



time, moment
Commanded

whole

to arm themselves
through
river . . . baptized
promises


foes



eager






tunic
handsome hall

adorned




father
hanged. . . neck
Griffin (Gawain's heraldic symbol)
adornment
not iron


war . . . make war
sword









give


heaved, lifted

kind

time of success
lady from bondage



vigorous





wretched coward
five such
lost
passage guards









strike
rit = rideth

custom











hue
bridge

shining

harness straps . . . trappings

ready





handsome (good) brother
rit = rideth
must
other = or


safely


together





escape



furlong

nell = ne will



ready



nolde = ne wolde

force




stirrups broke to pieces
rear saddle-bow

rump












courteous


eager




swords

strike
fire . . . lies




piece







ingenious and sly






tho = then

saw








die




But if = unless






sword


defeated and taken prisoner

customarily



commanded
Their agreement, beginning







rich cloth




saw . . . bleed
go mad
disturbance



uncle





is called
foes
nis = ne is


young man




made me swear
sword








promised




avenged

one against
straw





hack to pieces









wondrously


delay

did run, rushed
young











forgave

























all at once
spurred
















saddle-bow
quickly


then laughed







lost
told




put






running


burn
But = unless . . . quickly



sword

head-piece
touched (i.e., cut)




felt . . . head


cleaved











embrace




saw
nadde = ne had

yielded









faith


defeated and prisoners


control
forever





slay






decided




Adapted for beginning readers of Middle English from Libeaus Desconus, ed. Max Kaluza, Altenglische Biblikothek Vol. 5, Leipzig, 1890.


 
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