Marie of France: Guigemar

Here is the poem (the lays) of Marie de France concerning the myth Arthurian. Here is the version told in modern French. The first lay is: Gugemer or Guigemar.




Should generally remember the story of the great things that have happened. I will admit to you, Sire, that when dealing with good material, I always fear missing my subject, this is Marie's opinion; she thinks that it only belongs to those who have not ceased to be virtuous to talk about great people. When in a country there is a respectable person of one sex or the other, he finds envious people, who, through slanderous reports, seek to harm him and tarnish his reputation. These jealous people are like the bad dog who bites honest people in betrayal. I want to unmask and pursue these wretches, who only want and say bad things about others. The following tale, of which Bretons have made a Lai, is of the greatest truth; I report it entirely according to the writings of these people, and by warning that this adventure happened very anciently in Little Britain.

During the reign of Arthus, often at peace, often at war, this prince had among his vassals a Baron called Oridial, who was Lord of Leon. The king esteemed him greatly for his valor. From his marriage were born two children, a son and a daughter, named Gugemer and Noguent. Endowed with a charming face, they were the idol of their parents. When Oridial saw his son of old age, he sent him to Arthus to learn the state of arms. The young man was so distinguished by his valor and by the frankness of his character, that he deserved to be armed knight by the great Arthus, who, on this occasion, presented him with superb armor.

Gugemer wants to go looking for adventures, and before his departure he makes rich presents to everyone he knows. He went to Flanders to cut his teeth, because this country was almost always at war. I dare to assure in advance that at that time, one could not find a better knight in Lorraine, Burgundy, Gascony and Anjou. He had one fault, however, and that was that he had not yet thought of loving. However, there was neither lady nor young lady who, if he had shown the desire, would not have taken the honor of being his sweetheart; although even several of them had made advances on this subject to him, yet he did not like it. No one could conceive why Gugemer did not want to give in to love, so everyone feared that something bad would happen to him.

After many fights, from which he always came out with advantage, Gugemer wanted to return to his family, who had long wanted to see him again. After a month's stay, he wanted to go hunting in the forest of Leon. For this purpose, he calls his knights, his huntsmen, and at dawn they were in the wood. Having set out in pursuit of a large stag, the dogs are decoupled, the hunters take the lead, and Gugemer, with a young man carrying the bow, arrows and spear, wanted to strike him the first blow. Carried away by the ardor of his steed, he loses the hunt, and in the thickness of a bush he sees an all white doe, adorned with antlers, which was accompanied by its fawn. Some dogs which had followed him attack the doe; Gugemer bends his bow, shoots his arrow, wounds the animal on the foot and knocks it down.

But the arrow turning back on itself strikes Gugemer in the thigh, so violently that the force of the blow throws him down. Stretched out on the grass beside the doe which was exhaling its complaints, he heard her say these words: Ah God! I am dead, and it is you, vassal (i), who are the cause. I wish that in your situation you never find a remedy for your ailments, nor a doctor to treat your wound; I want you to feel as much pain as you do to women, and you will only get healing when a friend has suffered a lot for you. She will endure inexpressible sufferings, and such as will excite the surprise of lovers of all ages. In addition, withdraw and leave me at rest.

Gugemer, despite his injury, is astonished at what he has just heard; he reflects and deliberates on the choice of the place where he could go, in order to obtain his cure. He does not know what to resolve, nor to which woman to address his wishes and homage. He calls his varlet, orders him to gather his people and then come to find him. As soon as he is gone, the knight tears his shirt, and bandages his wound tightly; then getting back on his steed, he moves away from this fatal place, without wanting any of his family to accompany him. After having crossed the wood, he crosses a plain and arrives on a cliff by the sea. There was a harbor where there was a single vessel, the flag of which Gugemer recognized. This building, which was of ebony, had silk sails and ropes.

The chevalier was very surprised to find a nave in a place where it had never been. He dismounts from his horse, and then climbs with great difficulty on the vessel where he expected to meet the men of the crew, and where he found no one. In one of the bedrooms was a bed enriched with gilding, precious stones, ivory figures. It was covered with a cloth of gold, and the large cover made of cloth of Alexandria was garnished with sable. The room was lighted by candles, which were carried by two golden candelabra, adorned with precious stones. Tired of his wound, Gugemer gets down on the bed; after having taken a few moments of rest, he wants to go out; but he perceives that the vessel, driven by a favorable wind, was at sea. Worried about his fate, suffering from his wound, he invokes the Lord, and begs him to lead him to safe harbor. The knight lies down and falls asleep, only to wake up in places where he must find an end to his ills.

He arrives at an ancient city, capital of a kingdom whose sovereign, a very old man, had married a young woman. Fearing some accident, he was extremely jealous. Such is the decree of nature that all old men are jealous, and that when they marry young women, we are in no way surprised that they are unfaithful to them. Under the keep was an orchard enclosed by a green marble wall, and bordered by the sea. The only door which served as an entrance was guarded night and day. It could only be entered from the shore by boat. So that his wife could be more carefully monitored, the jealous man had an apartment built for her in the tower. On the walls, we see painted Venus, goddess of love, and represented how happy lovers should behave; on the other hand the goddess threw the book where Ovid teaches the remedy to cure love. Declaring with indignation that she would never favor those who read this work and who practiced its morality.

The lady had near her her niece, a young person whom she loved very much; the latter accompanied her aunt whenever he felt like going out, and then sewn her back up to the house. An old priest with white hair alone had the key to the tower, and regardless of his age, he found himself incapable of alarming a jealous man, otherwise he would not have been accepted; besides the mass he said every day, our priest still served at table. At the end of her dinner, the lady, wanting to take a walk, took her niece with her. Turning her eyes to the side of the sea that bathes the edge of the garden, she sees the vessel lashing at full sail on her side. Seeing no one on the bridge, she was frightened and wanted to flee; but the young person, naturally bolder and more courageous than her aunt, succeeded in reassuring her; when the vessel is stopped, she takes off her cloak and goes down into the nave. She saw no one except Gugemer stretched out on the bed, where he was still sleeping. At the pallor of his complexion, at the blood with which he was covered, she stops, and believes him dead.

The maid immediately returned to her aunt and told her what she had just seen. The lady replied: Let us return immediately to the ship, and if the knight has ceased to live, we will have him buried by our old chaplain. As soon as she entered the building, the lady saw the knight whose misfortune she pitied, and deplored the loss. She comes forward, puts her hand on his heart, and feels it beating. Immediately Gugemer waking up, greets the lady who was crying; she hastens to ask him what his name is, his homeland; by what chance he came to this country, and finally whether he was wounded in the war. Madam, he said, I will tell you the whole truth. I am from the small Brittany ; having gone hunting yesterday, I injured a white doe; the arrow, returning on itself, hit my thigh with so much violence that I think I can never be cured.

This doe told me that my wound would not close until I had made a woman sensitive to my love. As soon as I heard my stop, coming out of the woods I came to the edge of the shore, where I found this vessel, I was mad to enter it, and soon I saw myself in the open sea; I arrived near you, and I do not know the name of the country and of this city in particular. Ah! Beautiful lady, deign to advise me in my misfortune, I do not know where to go, and I am unable to control my vessel. Handsome sire, I will gladly give you the information you ask for. This city and the countries which surround it belong to my husband, a rich man of great birth, but very old, and moreover, extremely jealous. He locked me up in this enclosure, the only door of which is still closed, and is guarded by an old priest. I will never leave this place without my husband's order. I have my apartment and my chapel near here; and this young person shares the boredom of my solitude. Moreover, if it is agreeable to you, come and stay with us; we will take care of you.

With this proposal Gugemer hastens to thank the lady, and accepts the offer which has just been made to him; he stands up on his bed, these ladies help him to walk and lead him to the tower. He was given the young person's bed and bedroom, and as soon as he arrived they washed him and bandaged his wound. The most loving care is given to Gugemer; but soon love gives him a much more dangerous wound; as the first closed and healed, the other assumed a very different character. He forgets his old illness, his homeland, but he sighs unceasingly; how happy he would be if he knew that his ardor was shared! Left alone, he abandoned himself to his reflections, and saw clearly that if the lady did not come to his aid, he would infallibly die.


That… /… Here 3 pages are missing in the entry

… /… Could sleep, got up very early in the morning. She complains about the suffering she endures. Her niece, who kept her company, noticed the love her aunt had for the knight. She does not know if the latter shares the sweet feelings we have for him. In order to clarify it, she takes advantage of the moment when her aunt was in the chapel, to question Gugemer. To this end, she goes to him. The chevalier, after having made him sit down in front of the bed, asks him where his lady was, and why she got up so early in the morning. Fearing to have committed an indiscretion, he stops and sighs. Sir Chevalier, said the virgin, you love and you are wrong to hide your love; besides, there would be nothing but very honorable for you, if you obtained the tenderness of my aunt. This love is perfectly matched, you are both beautiful and kind and young. Ah! Dear friend, I am so deeply in love that I will become the most unhappy of men if I am not helped. Counsel me, sweet friend, and please teach me what to hope for.

The young person, in the most affectionate tone, hastened to reassure the knight, and promised to serve him with all her power in whatever he wanted to undertake, she is so good and helpful. As soon as she had heard mass, the lady wanted to know news of her lover and to find out what he was doing. She calls her niece because she wants to have a secret interview with Gugemer, an interview on which the happiness of her life must depend. After going to Gugemer's apartment, the two lovers greet each other, and both intimidated, hardly dare to speak. The knight's embarrassment is all the greater because he is a foreigner, because he is ignorant of the customs of the country to which he has come. He is also afraid of committing an indiscretion which would deprive him of the good graces of his sweetheart and force her to retire. He who does not discover his illness is much more difficult to cure.

Love is an interior wound which leaves nothing to be seen outside. It is an evil which lasts a long time, because it is natural. I know that there are many who take the pains of love into jokes. So think these discourteous men, who are jealous of happy people, and who everywhere boast of their good fortunes. No, they do not know what love is, they only know wickedness, debauchery and debauchery For her part, the lady who loved the knight tenderly was not unaware that, when one finds a sincere friend and true, one must cherish it and do whatever it takes. Finally love gives Gugemer the courage to discover in his crumb all the violence of his passion. I die for you, he said, deign to grant me your love; and if you reject my tenderness, I have no other hope than death.

Ah! Please, I beg you, do not refuse me. Good friend, one moment, I beg you; such a request to which I am not accustomed deserves reflection. Sorry, madam, if my speech hurts you. You are no doubt aware that a coquette must be prayed for for a long time to grant her good graces, so as not to reveal herself and to avoid raising suspicion of her intrigues. When a well-born woman, at the same time amiable, pretty and witty, sees a man of her rank who suits her, far from refusing him, she will gladly accept his homage, and their union will already be old when it is over. will be known. The lady, convinced of the truth of this speech, granted the knight the gift of loving thank you, and from that day on they were happy.

For a year and a half our two lovers had enjoyed perfect happiness, but fortune ceased to be favorable to them. Its wheel turns, and in a few moments it carries above the one which was below. They had the sad experience of it, for they were seen. On a beautiful summer day our two lovers, united in the same bed, conversed about their loves, and mingled in their embraces. The doe speaking said: My sweet friend, sinister forebodings tell me that I will lose you, and that we will be discovered; but if you die, I don't want to live anymore. If you escape, you can make another conquest, and I will perish in sorrow. Ah! If I were forced to leave you, not - only would I not make another friend, but I would have neither joy nor rest, nor peace. To give you a pledge of my faith, you are going to put your shirt back on me, I will make a fold in one of the corners; promise me you only love the one who can undo it. The knight gives his shirt to the lady; she makes a knot so arranged that it cannot be untied unless the laundry is torn or cut.

For his part, the knight takes a belt tied in a particular way, ties it around the body of his mistress, hides the buckles, and the latter swears to him never to love anyone but the person who can untie it without anything. break or break.

They were right to act thus, because during the day, they were discovered by a cursed chamberlain, that the husband sent to his wife. He was waiting for the moment when he could enter, and fulfill the object of his mission, when looking through the window, he saw Gugemer. Having finished, he hastens to return to his master, to share this discovery with him. At this news, the old man, transported with fury, takes three of his servants with him, leads them to his wife's apartment, whose door he breaks.

The first object he sees is the knight. In a movement of which the husband is not the master, he gives the order to seize the culprit and to put him to death. Gugemer, not terrified by his threat, grabbed a large pine pole, on which they hung clothes; by his assurance and courage, he contains the assailants who dare not advance. After watching it a lot, the husband asks Gugemer his name, his country, and how he got into his castle. The knight naively recounted his adventure, from the moment he injured the doe until that moment. The husband doubts the truth of the story he has just heard; if he finds the vessel which brought the knight, he will force him to re-embark immediately. Would to God, he added, that you could drown yourself! In fact, having gone to the port, they saw the building near the shore; Gugemer enters there, and the fairy, his protector, leads him to his country.

I leave one to imagine what our knight's grief was: absent from his mistress, from whom he is perhaps estranged forever, he weeps and sighs. In his despair, he begs heaven to put him to death, especially if he loses the object he loves more than life. He was still reflecting on the full extent of his misfortune when the vessel entered the port from which it had first left. He landed immediately, hastened to descend, because he was near his country. No sooner had he landed than he met a young man whose childhood he had looked after. This young man accompanied a knight, and led a fully equipped battle horse on a leash. Gugemer called him, and the young man, recognizing his lord, hastened to offer him a steed. He returns to his family where he is perfectly well received.

In order to fix him in the country, and to dispel the melancholy in which he was plunged, his friends want to give him a wife, but Gugemer defended himself by declaring that he would not take any wife, either for love or for wealth, than the one that could undo the fold of the shirt. When this news was spread in Brittany, all there were girls and women to marry, came to try the adventure, but none could come to the end. During this time, the object of Gugemer's love, the unfortunate lady moaned in a dungeon, where her husband had had her put, on the advice of one of his courtiers. Locked up in a marble tower, it passed the day in sadness and the nights were still sadder. No one could recount all the sorrows she endured during the more than two years that she was there.

She kept thinking of her lover. Ah! Gugemer, I saw you to my misfortune, but I would rather die than suffer any longer. Dear friend, if I can manage to escape, I will go to the place where you have all embarked, to throw myself into the sea. She had hardly finished these words when she gets up and comes to the door. where she sees neither lock nor lock. Taking advantage of the opportunity, she leaves immediately, goes without obstacle to the port where she finds the vessel which had led her lover; he was moored to the rock, whence she wished to precipitate herself into the waves. She embarks on the spot, but a reflection comes to moderate the joy she feels at having obtained freedom. Wouldn't his friend have perished? This idea hurts her so much that she is ready to pass out and forces her to sit down. The vessel sails and stops in a port in Brittany, towards a perfectly well fortified castle.

It belonged to King Meriadius, who at that time was at war with his neighboring princes. He got up early in the morning because he wanted to send a detachment to ravage the lands of his enemies. Looking through a window, he saw the approaching ship. Followed by a chamberlain, he hastens to go to the port and get on board. Meriadus seeing the beauty of the lady takes her for a fairy, grabs her by the mantle and leads her to her castle. Delighted with the adventure, the monarch is not very curious to learn how this beauty came alone in the nave, he only has to know that she is up there. In love with her charms, more than I could say, Meriadus orders his young sister to have the greatest respect for the lady; he gives her the richest clothes, but the lady is still plunged in sadness; Little touched by the care and eagerness of Mériadus, who often requires her love, she shows him the belt and announces to him that she will never love anyone but the one who can untie this belt without tearing it.

Meriadus, stung to the quick, tells the lady that in the country there was a very famous knight who would not take a wife because of a shirt, the right side of which was folded in a particular way. I would not be surprised, Madame, to learn that it was you who had made this fold. The lady was hardly to lose the use of her senses when she heard this news. Meriadus held her in his arms and cut the lace of her dress. He set out to untie the belt, but he, his courtiers and all the knights in the land failed in their endeavor. In the hope of meeting the person who should put an end to the adventure, Mériadus publishes a great tournament; a great number of knights went there, at the head of which was Gugemer. He was requested to come there as a friend and as a companion in arms, because Meriadus needed his help; so he had more than a hundred knights in his train who were perfectly well received and who lodged in the tower.

As soon as they arrived, Meriadus sent two knights to beg his sister to come down with the beautiful lady in her belt. They soon entered covered in rich clothes, and holding hands. Someone called Gugemer, and as soon as the lady, who was pale and thoughtful, heard her lover named, she was ready to faint; she would even have fallen to the ground if the young person had not held her back. The knight got up as his beauty approached, looked at her fixedly and dragging her a little aside, he said to her: Isn't this my sweet friend, my happiness, my hope, my life, the beautiful one? lady who loved me so much? But where does it come from? Who could have led her to these places? Where does my head go? It can't be her. Often women look alike, and your sight upsets all my ideas.

Oh ! this resemblance makes my heart beat, and I cannot help but shudder and sigh. I absolutely want to convince myself of this and question him. Gugemer, after kissing the lady, makes her sit down and takes a place next to her. Meriadus, very worried, had not lost a single one of their movements; taking on a laughing look, he asks Gugemer to invite the beautiful stranger to try the shirt test. The knight responds with pleasure, giving the order to fetch him. The chamberlain brings the shirt, Gugemer takes it and gives it to the lady who immediately recognized the knot she had tied herself. However, she does not dare to undo it, because her heart is experiencing the greatest agitation. Meriadus, whose concern was much greater, invited him to try the adventure. At his invitation, the lady takes the shirt and unfolds it immediately. We cannot imagine Gugemer's astonishment, he cannot doubt that Celtic woman is his mistress, and he hardly dares to believe his eyes. Is it you, dear friend, who are before me! Please let me look at one thing.

Then bringing her hand to the side, he notices that she is wearing the belt which must be used for their recognition. Ah! Beautiful friend, please tell me by what happy chance I find you in this country! Who can have brought you there! Immediately she told him of the pains and torments she had endured, her imprisonment, her resolution to destroy herself, her deliverance, her journey and her arrival at Mériadus, who showered her with honors, but who constantly asked her for love: rejoice, my friend, your lover is returned to you. Gugemer rose immediately, and addressing the assembly, he said: Fine lords, deign to listen to me; I just found my friend, whom I thought I had lost forever. I therefore ask Meriadus to return it to me, and to thank him, I will become his liege man; I undertake to serve him for two or three years with a hundred knights whom I will bribe. Dear friend, replies Meriadus, the war I am supporting has not yet reduced me to the point that I can accept the offer you are making to me.

I found this beautiful lady, I welcomed her, I will keep her, and woe to anyone who wants to dispute her with me! After this declaration, Gugemer summons all his knights; in front of them he challenges Meriadus, and he leaves with the pain of still leaving his crumb. He is not one of the lords who have come for the tournament that he does not take with him; each of them promises him to follow him wherever he goes, and to regard as a traitor anyone who breaks his oath. The troop goes the same evening to the prince with whom Meriadus was at war, who lodges them and receives them with open arms. This help gives him hope that he will soon have peace. The next day, at dawn, the troops set out under the leadership of Gugemer. They besiege the castle of which he absolutely wants to make himself master. The space invested on all sides is soon reduced. Finally, we seize the castle, which it destroys, Mériadus is killed. After so much danger and pain, Gugemer finds his friend, whom he leads to his land.