The poet who occupies himself in composing tales must vary his tales; he will always speak in a reasonable manner, so that. his speeches can please society. In dealing with Milon, I will tell you in a few words the reasons which determined to have this Lai so named.
Milo was born in the Southwales, and from the moment he was made a knight he was not often in the running without slaughtering his rivals and spreading them out on the arena. So his fame quickly spread. Milo was esteemed and well known in Ireland, Norway, Dannemarck, the land of Logres and Albania; many were jealous of his success, others loved him for his prowess, and many princes held him in great esteem. In his country there was a baron, whose name does not come to me, who had a charming daughter. The account of Milo's great deeds having reached him, they inspired a violent passion in this young person who made him warn of the feelings she had for him. The knight, flattered to hear such pleasant news, hastens to thank the young lady, swears endless love to her, and says a hundred similar things to her. He generously rewards the messenger carrying the news.
My friend, he said to him, I demand from your friendship that you make me arrange a meeting with my beautiful, in order to understand us and to keep our love affairs secret. You will give her my gold ring, and tell her that if she pleases, she will come to me or that I will go to her. The messenger returns to the castle to give an account of his mission, and gives the ring he had received. The young lady, flattered to see her wishes fulfilled, accepts the proposal made to her; she invites her lover to come and find her in an orchard near her room, where she used to go for recreation. Milo often went there; her love grew constantly, and her friend was not long in showing the proofs of her weakness. As soon as the young lady sees her condition, she calls her lover, complains bitterly that she has lost her father and his property. All misfortunes will come upon me, she said, and I will be cruelly punished. You know that I will be treated ruthlessly, and that I will be sold to go to another country; and you must not ignore it, this custom comes from the ancients who established it.
Milo, very distressed, asks his friend for advice, and promises to do whatever she commands him to do. As soon as I deliver, you will take my child to my sister, a wise, educated, richly married woman who lives in Northumbria. You will tell her by your letter that this child is mine, and that it causes me great sorrow, that I beg her to feed him and take the greatest care of him, whether it is boy or girl. In addition to attaching your ring to her collar, I will place a letter between her swaddling clothes in which I will write the names and the adventure of her parents. These marks will only be given to him when he has reached the age of reason, so that he can one day recognize us. This opinion was adopted; and, when she was finished, the young lady gave birth to a son. An old woman who looked after her took her measurements so well that no one in the castle suspected what had happened. The mother slipped the knight's ring and a silk purse which contained the letter around the neck of her beautiful child, so that no one could read it. The child was then placed in a cradle surrounded by beautiful white linen; her head rested on an excellent pillow; the whole was wrapped in a rich material bordered with sable all around.
It was in this state that the old woman handed the newborn baby to Milo, who was waiting in the garden. The knight orders his people to carry his son to the appointed place, and traces the route for them. During the trip, two nurses made him drink seven times a day, bathed him and made him rest several times. Finally we arrive at the aunt's house who, after having read the letter, took the greatest care of her nephew and sent the servants back to their master. Milo left his country to go and serve a foreign prince. During his absence the baron married his daughter to one of his neighbors, a very valiant and esteemed man. What was the despair of this tender lover on hearing the news of this marriage! On the one hand, she regrets Milon; on the other hand, she fears that her husband will notice that she has been a mother. Not only am I no longer a virgin, but I still fear, losing my husband, to descend to the rank of servant for the rest of my life. I had no idea that it was so, I thought, on the contrary, that I never belonged to anyone but my lover. It is fine for me to die for the sorrow I am experiencing, but I am not free. Unfortunately I am surrounded by old and young guardians, chamberlains who, hating love, seem to be amused only by the sadness of others. It is therefore necessary to contain my pain since I cannot die.
Finally, the wedding took place, and the new husband took his wife to his castle. On returning to his country, Milo reflected on his fate and his hopes, he could not defend himself in spite of himself from an extreme sadness which was only dissipated in the places where his friend lived. But how will he be able to send him back without being seen. He writes a letter, seals it, and entrusts it to a swan whom he had raised and whom he particularly loved. The letter hidden among the feathers is attached to the neck of the bird. Milon calls his squire and charges him with the message. Get dressed immediately, then you will go to my beautiful castle. You will take my swan with you, and leave it to no one other than yourself to present it. Following the instruction he had received, the squire goes out carrying the bird; he arrives at the castle, crosses the city, and the great gate of which he calls the keeper. Friend, he said, give me the pleasure of listening to myself. I am a bird catcher by trade, I had stretched my lakes within earshot of Carlion, I took a superb swan which I want to pay homage to the lady of the house, and I want to present it myself.
My dear, replied the porter, no one speaks to Madame; however I will go and find out if it can be done. Follow me. They first come to the room where two knights, seated near a large table, were playing a game of chess, and quickly retrace their steps, so as not to be seen, go to the apartment without being seen. no one noticed their approach. Before entering the porter calls, and immediately a young girl opens the door to them, introduces them to her mistress, to whom the swan is presented. The lady recommends that one of her varlets take the greatest care of this bird. I promise you, lady, I can even assure you that the man who brought it to you will never take one like it. He gave you a real royal present, for the animal appears to be as well trained as it is beautiful. The varlet puts the swan back in the hands of the lady who, stroking its head and neck, notices that a letter is hidden under the quill. She winced, and the blush rose to her face. Who other than her lover can have employed such a means? She has the squire rewarded and asks to be left alone.
No sooner had the men left than she summoned a young person to her confidante, to help her and ask her for advice. The letter is detached with the broken seal showing Milo's signature. This tender lover kisses these characters a hundred times while crying, without being able to speak. She learns the details of all the sorrows and sorrows that her friend suffered night and day for her. In you, he told him, is my life or my death. Try to find a way to talk to us if you want me to live. The knight, in his letter, begged his lady to return his answer to him by the swan, which she would deprive of food for three days before letting him go. You can be assured that he will return to the place from which he left, and that he will bring me your letter. She took advantage of the advice, so after taking great care of the bird for a month, she then put it on a diet. The lady had kept the bird so long only because she did not know how to get hold of ink and parchment. The lady did so as long as she succeeded in obtaining the things which were necessary for her to write. She made her letter which she sealed with her ring, and after depriving the swan of food, the lady tied it to her neck, and then set it free.
This bird, which by its nature eats a lot, being hungry, soon reached the place from which it had first emerged. He takes his flight, comes to the city, recognizes the house of his master, at whose feet he comes to stand. Milo seeing the swan is at the height of joy, he takes it by the wings and caresses it. Then calling his spender, he orders him to feed his bird. Before giving it to her, he unties from the collar the letter which he awaited with so much impatience. His lover told him: Without you I cannot live and taste any pleasure, and my only consolation is to hear from you. For twenty years the swan was the messenger of the two lovers who could not see or speak to each other. For twenty years he was filled with friendships and caresses. They employed no other means than to make the bird fast before letting it go. The one he arrived at immediately gave him something to eat. The swan was fully trained for this exercise, it acquitted itself all the more easily as the lady was very embarrassed and held close enough to find her always.
The sister of the lady to whom Milo's son had been entrusted had taken the greatest care of it. As soon as he had reached the accomplished age, this young man of distinguished appearance, had already gained his spurs, and had just been made a knight. Before his nephew left to seek adventures, the good aunt returned him the ring and the letter he wore on his collar when it was given to him. She taught him the story of his birth, the name of his father, that of his mother, and made him know the exploits of the author of his days. On earth, she told him, there is no better knight, he is brave, daring and valiant. The young man, who listened attentively, was pleasantly surprised when he heard the account of Milo's great deeds; delighted with what he had just learned, he reflected that he would not be worthy of such an origin if he did not seek to distinguish himself in foreign countries. The next day he takes leave of his aunt who, by giving him a lot of money, urges him to always behave like a loyal knight.
The young man leaves, arrives at Southampton, embarks, and gets off at Barfleur. He immediately goes to Brittany, where he stood out in tournaments and was esteemed by brave and rich people. The young man never went to a tournament without winning the advantage over the other fighters. He loved poor knights, gave them what he earned from the rich, and always spent a lot of money. Wherever he went, the young knight won the prize for valor. Also the news of his courage, his courtesy, his liberality, and the hero's reputation spread quickly. It was even learned in his country that a damsel had crossed the sea to win the prize in the tournaments, and that he pointed out in himself all the qualities required in a man clothed with the sublime order. As his origin was unknown, he was nicknamed the unparalleled man. The report of his exploits reached the ears of Milo; he is sorry to find a braver braver than himself, and becomes jealous when he thinks that a young knight could surpass him. He is surprised that none of the old ones have dared to try their strength against the newcomer.
Milon plans to cross the sea and go joust against the young adventurer, in order to fight and defeat him. He absolutely wants to joust with him in order to have the honor of making him leave the stirrups, to overthrow him on the arena, to avenge his honor which he believes has been outraged. After the fight, he will go in search of his son, whom he has not heard from since the moment he left his aunt's house. Milo warns his friend of his views, tells her of his plans, and talks to her about the swan, which will make it easier to endure the boredom of absence. When the lady was informed of her lover's plan, she congratulated him and approved of his conduct. Far from wanting to turn him away, on the contrary, she urges him to leave and go quickly to their son. After reading his friend's letter, Milon prepares richly, he leaves and disembarks in Normandy to go to Brittany. He visits the knights, inquires about the places where there were tournaments. Milo held a great estate, and gave generously to all the poor knights. During a winter that he remained in Armorica, he retained several brave men with him, and from the Easter holidays, the time when the games and the fighting recommenced, he began to look everywhere for the opportunity to feel the strength of his arm.
A tournament was announced at Mont Saint-Michel; a considerable number of Normans, Bretons, Flemish, French, but very few English. Milo the good knight, who was one of the first to go there, prayed that the young hero be pointed out to him who filled the earth with the noise of his prowess. Several furnished him with information, told him of the places he had visited, the victories he had won, and pointed out to him the color of his shield and the arms he carried. The tournament begins; who jousts seeks, finds it immediately; who wants to fight in the ranks, can soon lose or win, and can find a dangerous rival. I will tell you that Milo, having placed himself among the number of combatants, performed many commendable exploits that day. But the young man won the prize. Milo advanced into the fray, he saw his son using his arms so well that he was enchanted with his courage and good countenance. He stands opposite him to joust; at the first race Milo's spear shattered, but without being even shaken, his son made him empty his stirrups.
In his fall the visor of Milo's helmet came to open, and the young man perceived that his adversary had beard and hair whitened by the years; saddened by what had just happened, he seized the steed of the fallen warrior by the reins, and said to the latter: Lord, get back on horseback, I cannot express to you the sorrow I feel at having jousted against a knight of your age, please be persuaded that my intention was not to insult you. On resuming his horse, Milo, flattered by the courtesy of his adversary, had recognized the ring the young man was wearing, and as soon as he was remounted, he spoke to him in these terms: My friend, for the love of God, do me the pleasure of listening to me, tell me the name of your parents, I have the greatest interest in knowing it. I will confess to you that I have traveled a great deal, that I have been to a number of combats, wars, tournaments, and that I have never left the stirrups. You killed me in battle, and therefore I must particularly esteem you (i). My father, answered the young man, was born, I believe, in the Wales, and his name is Milo. He loved the daughter of a rich man who secretly gave birth to me. As soon as I was born I was sent to Northumbria, where I was brought up by an old aunt who took the greatest care of my childhood.
When I had reached the age, she gave me arms, a horse, and sent me to this country, where I have been for a long time. I plan to cross the sea to go to my homeland, in order to know how the author of my days behaves with my mother. I will show him his gold ring and give him so much information that he cannot ignore me. On the contrary, I am convinced that he will love me dearly and that he will esteem me. When Milo had heard this speech, he could not contain himself; he immediately dismounts from his horse, and seizing the side of the hauberk of the young warrior: Friend, he said, praise God, kill my son, it is to go in search of you that I have come to these places, and that I left my country. The young man throws himself into Milo's arms, kisses him, and both shed the sweetest tears. The spectators of this touching scene looked at them with interest; they wept with joy and tenderness. The tournament over, the two brave men return together, for Milo is slow to speak to this son so worthy of him, and to know the designs he has formed. They return to their hotel, and as soon as they are disarmed, they give a feast to the knights. Milo told his son the story of his love affairs with his mother, the marriage she had been forced to contract, the duration of their fires; the messages of the swan were not forgotten.
It was reported how when no one could be trusted, this bird carried the letters and their answers. My father, said the son, I want to unite you with your beloved, I will go and challenge her husband, I will kill him, then you will marry his widow. The next day the two knights took leave of their friends, and left to go to Wales. They crossed the sea in a good wind, and they had just disembarked to set out when they were joined by a young man who came from the lady, and was going to go to Brittany to deliver a letter to Milon. He has greatly reduced his pain since he had this meeting. By handing over the letter he was carrying, the young man invites the two travelers to hurry to return to the lady promptly, because she had just lost her husband. Milo, whom this news had brought to the height of joy, communicates it to his son, and both hastening, they soon arrive at the castle of the lady, who was delighted with the high qualities of her son. They did not ask anyone for advice, did not invite any parents, the son brought together the authors of his days who still lived for a long time in perfect bliss.
Of the history and happiness of these husbands, the old Bretons made a Lai; and I, who put it in verse, find it a lot of pleasure to tell it.