Marie of France: the Two Lovers

Here is the poem (the lays) of Marie de France concerning the myth Arthurian. Here is the storytelling version in modern French. The sixth lay is: the Two Lovers.

the two lovers

The Two Lovers

Long ago in Normandy there happened a well-known adventure of two young people who loved each other tenderly, and who died as a result of their passion. THE Bretons made a Lai of it, named the Lai of the Two Lovers.

In Neustria, which we called today Normandy, is a large and high mountain where the remains of these tender victims are deposited (i). Near this mountain, the king of the Pistreans raised the capital of his estates, and gave it the name of Pistres. This city still exists today; we notice the castle, private houses, and the region is called the Valley of Pistres.

The king saw a very beautiful girl, whose happy character and amiable qualities had (consoled) him for the loss of a beloved wife. Her daughter grew in age as well as in beauty; the people of his household and his subjects murmured that he was not thinking of marrying her. The king was informed of the complaints of his people; and despite the sorrow he felt at parting with such a dear person, so as not to annoy any of the many suitors for his daughter's hand, he had it proclaimed in his estates that the one who, without resting, would carry the princess on the top of the mountain, would become his son-in-law. As soon as this news was spread, there came a crowd of young people from all sides who tried in vain to fulfill the imposed condition, but in vain. Some go a quarter of the way, others halfway; finally, repelled by the futility of the attempt, they all returned home. So that the difficulty of the enterprise was the cause that no one asked for the beautiful young lady.

In the country was a young man, the son of a count, handsome, beneficent, and valiant; he resolved to attempt the adventure and obtain the hand of the prince's daughter. His property being located in the vicinity of the Valley of Pistres, he often came to the king's court, even stayed there; having seen the young person, he was not long in loving her and falling head over heels in love. He often begged this beauty to kindly respond to his feelings. The friendship which the king bore the young count, his valor, his courtesy, decided the young lady in his favor. Both carefully contained their love, and concealed it from all eyes. Their suffering increased every day, when the count, considering the excess of his ills, not wanting to hasten anything so as not to get lost, came to find his beauty and said to her: If you love me, dear friend, follow my steps, let's go to another country; if I ask your father for you, knowing the friendship he has for you, I will either get a refusal or he will demand that I carry you to the top of the mountain.

Dear lover, I am not unaware that you will never have enough strength to carry me to the appointed place. But, if I accompany you in your flight, please think of the sorrow and the despair of my father, who was dying of sorrow. Of course, I love him too much to want to poison his last years. Look for another way, this one may not suit me. Listen, I have a very wealthy relative in Salerno. During more than thirty years that she lived in this city, she studied and practiced medicine, a science in which she is very skilled. She thoroughly understands the virtues and properties of herbs and roots; you will come to her with my letters; you will explain the subject of your trip to him. My aunt will provide you with advice and remedies. She will give you potions and liquors which by comforting, will double your strength and your / courage. As soon as you are back, you will ask my father for me; I know that he will not fail to repeat to you the conditions which he has put in place to obtain me, and which are to carry me to the top of the mountain without resting.

The count, delighted with the advice, thanks his beauty and takes leave of her to carry it out. He returns to his state, makes his preparations and leaves. He takes with him a large suite, made up of several of his friends, then luxury horses and luggage. As soon as he arrives in Salerno, he goes to his friend's aunt, and gives her the letters from his niece. After having read them and inquiring into the object of her trip, the old woman gives the young man some comforting remedies; and before his departure, she gives him a liquor which dispels fatigue the instant it is taken, and which refreshes the body, the veins, the bones. As soon as he had received this precious beverage, the cheerful count set off again, arrived at his house, and was not long in going to the king to ask him for his daughter, and offered to take her to the hospital. 'agreed place. The king received him very well; but he thought that the count was doing something foolish, that he was much too young, that he would doubtless fail in an enterprise in which so many strong and valiant men had not succeeded.

The day has come when our lover must attempt the adventure; each of the two parties invites his friends and his men to come and see the outcome. Curiosity had brought it on from all sides. The young person had submitted to a severe fast, to relieve her lover. Finally, on the appointed day, the count arrives first at the rendezvous, and did not fail to bring the precious liquor with him. The crowd was assembled in the meadow in front of the Seine. The king comes followed by his daughter, who had only one shirt for clothing. The count immediately takes her in his arms, and hands her the vase which contained the liquor which he thinks he can do without. He was all the more wrong in that he quickly climbed half the mountain. The joy he felt had made him forget the remedy he was to use. The young lady, observing that her lover weakened and slowed down, said to him: My friend, you are weary, drink, I beg you, the drink will restore all your courage.

No, my dear, I still feel full of vigor, and for everything in the world, I would not stop. While drinking I would be forced to slow down my walk. All these people would begin to cry out, to stun me with their boos; these cries would disturb me and I might not be able to continue my journey. Arriving at two-thirds of the way, the count weakened even more, the young girl asked him several times to swallow the liquor. He doesn't want to do anything with it, he comes alive when he sees the goal of the career; but he was touching it when he fell exhausted with fatigue. The young lady, thinking that her lover was ill, knelt down to make him take the liquor which was to restore his strength. It was too late, the unfortunate man had breathed his last. She utters a cry, sheds tears, and throws the bottle which contained the remedy far from her. Since that time the herbs which have been sprinkled with it, have become famous for the healings they have made.

The princess in despair throws herself on the body of her friend, she hugs him, kisses his eyes and mouth, finally the pain makes her fall next to her lover. Thus died a young lady who was all at the same time virtuous, beautiful and good. The king and the whole assembly, not seeing the two lovers reappear, decide to climb the mountain. Witness of this horrible spectacle, the king loses the use of his senses and covers them only to complain about his unhappy fate, to exhale his sorrow, which was shared by all the people. Three days after the event, a marble coffin was built, in which the bodies of the young people were kept. According to the advice of several people, they were deposited * on the top of the mountain. The people did not separate until after this sad ceremony.

From Celtic unfortunate adventure, the place where it happened was named the Mont des Deux Amants. As I have warned, the Bretons have made a Lai out of this story.