In which the Young King is praised for his chivalric qualities and we receive an impression of the hurley burley of a tournament.
The Marshal returned to his lord, the young King, a man of such worthiness that no man was his equal as regards valour and liberality. Never did Arthur or Alexander, whose lives were noted for their noble deeds, perform so many in such a short time. If God, by his command, had allowed him to live a long life, he would have quite surpassed these two in valour and noble deeds.
He gathered so many worthy men around him that no emperor, king, or count ever had such an experienced company, nor would such have been found at any time, for there is no doubt that he had the pick of the bravest young knights in France, Flanders, and Champagne. He did not haggle with them, but he acted in such a way that all the worthiest men came and joined him. I have no wish to name them all here, for it would be a difficult task to bring them together and tell you the names of each, and by so doing I would spoil my tale. But one day I shall list them for you and name them, every single one.
The King did so much in his life that all worthy men desired to have his wisdom and his prowess, his virtues and his generosity. Every man would have liked to be him, for he made the whole world tremble in the battles in which he took part. Many a time it happened that, when he spurred on, so the companies with him spurred on too, so vigorously as they advanced that those riding towards them from the other side could not withstand their charge. And it often happened that the other side had far more men than they, and yet they was soon thrown into disarray by the mighty power of the King’s companies. For, when the latter charged as one band, they found nobody prepared to await their charge, nobody who dared stretch out his hand towards them, nobody bold enough to engage with one of them, so much so that the King had no one to charge at, for those spurring forward in front of him had chased on so far ahead that the King was left without a target to strike at. Often you would see it happen that he was left with very few men, and also, often he would go and join battle with some group from outside, and found it difficult to leave the the fray. Despite his rash forays, the Marshal was there to the rescue; he stuck so close to him and was ever pulling him away from the press of battle at times when he was near to being captured.
The Marshal, responsible for enhancing the King’s reputation, was constantly rescuing him and so sending his enemies on their way; he was always under the Marshal’s wings. For these exploits and similar ones the King loved him dearly, far more than any other knight he knew in any land or any he had ever had in his company. So the King travelled about for a long time, a man so wealthy and courtly, more generous than any other Christian, and who surpassed all the princes on earth in his sheer handsomeness, honourable conduct, and loyalty. Things turned out for him so exceedingly well that everywhere he went there was no talk or report of noble deeds if they were not about him. And, of course, was that not bound to be the case? After all, he had the best instructor in arms that there ever was in his time or since, according to the story that is my source: that is, of course, the Marshal, who devoted himself utterly to the King and never once failed him. And the pains he took were well employed, for through his worthiness the King came to have Generosity as his bride. He did not use her as a concubine, for their marriage was a very good one: as long as he lived he loved her as a true lover, and she him, I have no doubt, as a true and perfect lover.
Forgetfulness, who is as blind as a bat, soon deflects from the path he is following a man who is sunk in his thoughts, diverting him from his course. However, memory puts me back on the right road so that I can tell you what I forgot to tell. Blessed be memory, which, when it pleases it, comes to my aid and guides me at the appropriate moment, recalling to my mind a splendid episode in our story, which, on the advice of Forgetfulness was neglected and left in abeyance.
Between Maintenon and Nogent a great tournament was arranged for the eightth day after Whitsun. Those to whom it was no trouble or hardship to follow the call of knighthood went there with their large companies, for there was the young King and Philip, the most courtly count ever borne in Flanders and about whom the best stories have been told. The count of Boulogne was also there, not a man to go looking for an excuse for not performing feats of prowess everywhere, for such sport was very much to his taste. The count of Clermont was also there, a man among the most doughty knights of this world. I cannot record every man by his name, nor is that a task I wish to saddle myself with, since the effort involved would be too great. Nor is that man wise who strives to tell what is of no importance; indeed, he might thereby weaken his tale. All I wish to say to you in a short word is that within the realm of the empire there was no worthy man who did not attend, provided he could and had been informed of the event.
Once the younger men had reached the site, as was right and proper they commenced most keenly the preliminaries of the tournament. Each man strove to perform well, with the results that there were so many feats of arms then no one witnessed them without saying for a fact that it was chivalry that drove the participants on. But when all is said and done, the barons and high ranking men did not compete in the preliminaries; instead, they sent men on their side to join the contest. It so happened according to the poem that is my source, that Sir Reginald de Nevers captured two of the King’s companions and took them off with him that night.
In the evening at their lodgings, the knights present spoke of the matter and said to the King
‘Fair lord, listen to what we wish to say to you: two of our companions have been captured and the man who has captured them, Sir Reginald de Nevers has taken them off with him.’
‘He will be hard with me,’ said the King, ‘if I ask him about it, and the reason I wish not to do so is that so many a time he has asked me that he could become one of my men and I have refused.’
They advised him thus: ‘You will ask him. You will never be so haughty as not to make the request at least, and, by so doing, you will be less beholden to him. If he refuses you, then without a doubt he has no love for fear of you.’
Acting on the advice he made the request, and Reginald, who was fully urged by others, for his part, to refuse, did so. He also sent a message to the King to the effect that, if he managed to come by anything else of his, he had every intention of holding onto it, and let the King hold and retain unreservedly anything he held of his.
This angered the young King and he said to his knights: ‘My lords, hear the nature of the reply that master Reginald De Nevers has sent me: If he manages to come by anything else of mine, he will hold onto it, those are his very words. And if I can come by anything of his, may I get profit and advantage from it. Now, I beg you that, when day breaks tomorrow, you all make every effort, out of love for me, to capture and hold on to him, for, if I could have had him in my hands, at least he would return my companions to me. I have no wish to add anything further at the moment.’
There was many a man who came forward, swearing to help and offering to catch him and hand him over the next day. And men with a lesser reputation said that, if they could take him, they would hand him over without further delay.
‘Marshal, what have you got to say about the matter?’ asked the King. ‘Is he to get away Scot free?’
‘Sire,’ replied the Marshal, ‘If I could protect my horses and my equipment from him, I would not complain to anyone, since he said that he would retain whatever he took from us.’
Such was the restrained reply from a man who had no time for boasting; he had no intention of giving any further undertaking.
And the tournament next day was a grand, splendid, magnificent affair; during the course of it the count of Clermont he was knocked down, right there in the press of battle, which was ferocious and on a huge scale. While some attempted to take him, others sought to attempt to help him if they could, and defend and rescue him. And the King, without further ado, ordered them to withdraw a little, for he feared that they would constrict him so much that they would crush him with their weight. But then he was rescued, and at the point of rescue, there was more than a brandishing of staves, for there was many a blow to the head, and many a helmet split with blows from sword and mace, until those who had knocked down the count left the field and went on their way in ignominy. And when the count, a man of so many fine qualities, was remounted, they made for a ditch which they had put behind them as a place to bandage their wounds and recover. There you would have seen feats of arms, horses had taken and won. There were no words spoken by way of bargaining, for they had other things to occupy them, some more, others less.
The tournament recommenced so intensely because every man strove to outdo the next man in feats of arms; if every one of them had staked his eyes on winning, he would not have made a greater effort than he did there. Each man made every effort possible. One man seized another by the bridle, another during the battle. There you would have seen them locked together at a standstill, not riding about, for never did you see flies so insistent on attacking an open wound. In many places there were combats fought by bands of men across the plain, with each company shouting out its war cry. The Marshal rushed into their midst, and sought high and low in the press of battle until in some way are another, he found Sir Reginald De Nevers. He had not sought him out in vain, because he took him by his bridle and pulled him down by main force over his horse’s neck. From then on there was no point in a struggle, because the Marshal led him away whether he liked it or not, in that fashion as far as the King, to whom he said: ‘Sire, just look here! I give you Sir Reginald.’
‘I thank you! So god help me, you have done me a service that is greatly to my liking. For now I am no longer despondent about getting my men back and even getting hold of something of his. You have served me well to my advantage, on this occasion and many a time before, I swear!’ With this the tournament started anew in a violent manner. And, without wishing to say a word of a lie or emitting a word of truth, they came together at such speed that not one of them, for a moment, had an eye to protecting his property. They boldly hacked at each other; just as a carpenter chops and carves wood with his axe, so they struck one another. Once the brave count had remounted, that count of Clermont who had so many fine qualities, he called to his brother, Sir Simon who was the marshal.
‘Simon,’ he said, ‘This much I tell you: I shall never regard you as my brother unless we go together and pay them back in such a way that the lists would be no use to them.’ With this, they put the helmets on their heads. Not for a moment or did they pay attention to any mischief that might befall them, but rushed down to them at full gallop; they never ceased striking and beating upon heads and arms, so much so that they sent them on their way. Neither guile nor trap was of any avail; the King and the men in his company forced them back into the town.