Marie of France: Laüstic

Here is the poem (the lays) of Marie de France concerning the myth Arthurian. Here is the storytelling version in modern French. The eighth lane is: Laüstic.



I will bring you another adventure whose Bretons made a Lai; they call it in their language Laustic; the French for this reason call it Rossignol, and the Auglois Nihtegale.

In Saint Malo(4), a city renowned in the Brittany , resided two very rich and highly esteemed knights. The goodness of their character was so well known that the name of the town where they lived became famous. One of them had married a wise, kind and spiritual young woman. She only loved adornment; and by the taste she brought to her adjustments, she set the tone for all the ladies of her rank. The other was a bachelor highly esteemed by his colleagues; he was particularly distinguished by his prowess, his courtesy and his great valour; he lived very honourably, received well and gave many presents. The bachelor fell madly in love with the knight's wife; by dint of prayers and supplications and above all because of the praises she heard of them, perhaps also because of the proximity of their home, the lady soon shared the fires which burned her lover.

By the restraint they brought to their relationship, no one noticed their intelligence. This was all the easier for the two characters as their dwellings touched each other, and they were only separated by a high wall blackened with dilapidation. From the window of her bedroom the lady could talk to her friend. They even had the facility to throw each other what they wanted; the only thing they lacked was not being able to be together, for the lady was closely guarded. When the bachelor was in the city, he easily found the means of maintaining his beauty, either day or night. Moreover, they could not prevent each other from coming to the crossroads only to enjoy the pleasure of seeing each other.

They have loved each other for a long time, when during the charming season when the woods and the meadows are covered with greenery, when the trees of the orchards are in bloom, the birds sing the most pleasant songs and celebrate their loves, the two lovers become even more enamored than they were. At night, as soon as the moon shows its rays, and her husband goes to sleep, the lady gets up noiselessly, wraps herself in her cloak, and comes to sit at the window to talk to her friend. 'she knew how to meet there. They spend the night talking to each other; it was the only pleasure they could get. The lady got up so often, her absences were so prolonged, that in the end the husband got angry with his wife, and asked her several times angrily what motive she had for doing so and where she was going.

Lord, she said, it is no greater pleasure for me than to hear the nightingale sing; that's why I wake up quietly most nights. I cannot express to you what I feel when it comes to being heard. Therefore it is impossible for me to be able to close my eyes and sleep. Listening to this speech, the husband laughs with anger and pity. It occurs to him to seize the songbird. He consequently orders his servants to make machines and nets, then to place them in the orchard. There was no tree which was not coated with glue or which did not hide some trap. So the nightingale was soon taken. The servants brought it alive to their master, who was delighted to have it in his possession; he immediately goes to his wife.

Where are you, madame, he said to her, I have to talk to you? Well ! this bird which disturbs your sleep will not interrupt it any more, you can now sleep in peace, because I took it with glue. I leave to think what was the wrath of the lady on hearing this news; she asks her husband to give her the nightingale. The knight, outraged with jealousy, kills the poor bird, and a very nasty thing, he tears off his head and throws his bloody body on the knees of his wife, whose dress was stained on her breast. He immediately left the apartment. The lady picks up the body of the nightingale, she sheds tears and curses with all her heart the wretches who made the machines and the lakes. Ah! unhappy, what is my misfortune, I will not be able to get up at night or go to the window, where I used to see my friend.

I could not doubt, he will doubtless think that I no longer love him; I don't know who to confide in, and who to ask for advice. Well! I'm going to send him the nightingale, and tell him what just happened. The lady wraps the body of the unfortunate bird in a large piece of taffeta embroidered in gold, on which she had represented and described the adventure. She calls one of her people and sends him to her friend. The valet fulfills his mission, he goes to the knight, greets him on behalf of his mistress, then, handing him the nightingale, he tells him the story of his death. The bachelor, who was very sensitive, was greatly affected to hear this news; he had a small vase made, not of iron or steel, but of fine gold and enriched with precious stones and closed with a lid. He locked up the body of the bird, then he sealed the vase which he always carried with him.

This adventure, which could not remain ignored for long, was soon spread throughout the country. The Bretons made of it a Lai to which they gave the name of Laustic.