possibly indeed a holograph of Chretien de Troyes himself
from a manuscript discovered and translated from the Old French by Antonio Furtado, 7/25/2006.
For the text of William of Tyr under discussion, see Page Two.
1. Note from C: In fact, there was much more to blame in his conduct. Try
this scandalous bit, for a sample:
Quid rides? Mutato nomine de te fabula narratur.
Here I am, my lord, obedient to your summons. I understand that
you want to talk again about your trip to the Holy Land, and would
order me to compose a poem inspired on it. Is it true that you are planning
to take the cross once more?
Hi, Chris. Yes I feel as if I have left an unfinished task. That
first expedition seemed to start favourably, but ended not so well. Some
grandees there had the nerve to insult me. When my arrival was announced,
the king of Jerusalem himself, Balwin IV (1161-1185), sounded extremely
happy, and hastened to offer me both the regency of the kingdom and the
command of the army. His leprosy was getting worse and worse with time. He
had just been carried back from Ascalon in a litter, being no longer able
to mount a horse. I first took counsel with my men. Then I said that I
declined the offer, claiming that I was there only as a pilgrim.
They were surely disappointed, my lord. But please let me know why the
king feared no opposition to his plan to, so to speak, hand you the sword of command,
perhaps with the promise of a future crown. Was there no claimant of his
At that time, I was actually the closest man around of his blood. A
former king of Jerusalem, Fulk of Anjou (1089-1143), had been the father of
both Amalric (1136-1174), who was Baldwin's father, and of my mother
Sibylla (1112-1165). So I am his first cousin.
Your reply, although negative, was quite courteous. I see no reason for
insults! Did you leave immediately afterwards?
No. I took the occasion to ask for a far less ambitious concession,
which they however chose to interpret as evidence of my "great malice". To open the
discussion discreetly, I expressed my surprise that nobody was considering
the marriage of the elder sister of Baldwin, who of course was equally my
first cousin. Her name is Sibylla (1160-1190), after my own mother. My purpose was to have her married to one of my
vassals, and this infuriated the Ibelins, who wanted to marry her, as also
her younger sister, into their family. To me the reply was that it would be
improper to marry off again so soon a recent widow.
I can visualize the scene. You are received with honour in his court by
the ailing king who wants you to help him to redeem the land. He gives
you a sword and expects from you an attitude that would be beneficial
to all concerned, and ultimately to yourself. Claiming to have follow
wise counsel, you demur--you seem insensitive to their plight. And,
next, you see a lady--one who knows well the sufferings of her
brother--and one who should be especially dear to you, since her name
would make you remember your mother. This lady is holding in her
arms the dead body of her man--and you coldly tell her to follow you
and leave the dead to the dead.
Hey, wait a minute! I don't keep you on my payroll to criticize me!1 What
I got from that archbishop of Tyre was more than enough penitence! I want
you to write something that may cheer me up!
Peace, my lord! I am aware that your intentions were pure. But I would
like to know more about the court of Jerusalem. I was told that, since
1183, there is a Baldwin V (1177-1186) acting as co-king, so two kings
now live in that palace. Surely they are treated differently. Did the
doctors prescribe anything to cure or at least reduce the pains of the
Leper King (li Rois mesiaus)?
They tried repeated formentations, anointings, and even poisonous drugs
(emplastres et oignemenz; poisons et autres medicines) to improve his
condition, but it was all in vain.
Excuse me, but "poison" is one of the ambiguous words of our language.
It means "venom", as you seem to imply, but it may also be a purgative, or
even any medical potion. Furthermore, it can be easily confused with
"poisson" (fish). Last but not the least, you can talk of a "poissans roi"
Yes, and, since you mention that, the words "fish" and "fishing" are
often heard in the region of the Holy Land and of Egypt. Baldwin I is
reported to have taken a fancy for one of the mouths of the Nile, close
to the village of Farama (Faramie). He was charmed with this water,
regarded as one of the four rivers flowing from Paradise. He ordered
his men to catch fish, which they did, and then everybody ate. Too
much, perhaps, because Baldwin died shortly afterwards. Fishes exist in
a fair variety, including species such as "loches" and "verons",
which can be found in the famous fountain called Tubanie; Baldwin IV
once considered moving his court to that area.
You mentioned another place - Ascalon (cite d'Escalone). Is it worthy of
a tourist's visit?
It is an impregnable fortress, situated beside the sea. King Baldwin IV
tried in vain to cross its threshold when his brother-in-law, Gui de
Lusignan (an ill-reputed Guy, by the way), took refuge inside it with his
wife, whom he had called to join him there--and this wife was Sibylla, the
very same king's sister that I mentioned to you before. The burgesses
stayed watching from the walls and the towers, waiting for the outcome.
Another fascinating scene! A knight invited by his enemy to be a guest
in his castle of Escalone - or some similar name better adapted to my meter
and rhyme scheme, wherein he is loved and
protected by the enemy's sister! The burgesses crowding around, but fearing
the knight! Also, I'll find ways to include two villains with names
starting with "Gui".
I don't see how you could insert this scene coherently in any sensible
plot. You would need to introduce a second hero. Merely as a joke, I
suggest Gauvain de Chenechi...
Never mind. We expert writers know how to put our various threads
together; we call that "entrelacement". But I need one more element to get
started. The crusaders hoped to find holy relics as part of their mission.
Is there any such finding that you may care to mention?
Oh, sure! There is the Holy Lance. But it was located much before my
coming. A poor semi-literate monk, named Peter Bartholomew, found it.
It was carried aloft during a victorious battle. It worked as a
prophetic sign of destruction! However, some people doubted its
authenticity, and Peter offered to submit himself to an ordeal by fire.
For you, who love fantastic scenes, this one should be a treat. Let me
read for you what says a book that I brought back with me:
Iluec fu renovelee une parole; car la menue gent et aucuns meismes des
barons comencierent a douter de la lance qui avoit este trovee en Antioche
si com vos oistes desus; car li un disoient que cestoit cele vraiement dont
Nostre Sires fu poinz en la croiz et qui de son sanc fu arousee (...). Cil
qui trovee lavoit oi la doute; si vint devant les Barons mout hardiement et
leur dist: "Beau seigneur ne doutez pas de ce (...). Et por vous mostrer
que voirs soit einsi com je lai dit je vos pri que vos faciez alumer un
grant feu je enterrai enz et tendrai la lance en ma main: je passerai outre
et men irai touz sains." Quant il oirent ce bien si acorderent tuit: li
feus fu apareilliez granz et hauz. Ce fu le jor du vendredi beneoit; et
leur plot que la chose fu einsi esprovee le jor que Jhesucrist fu feruz de
la lance. Cil qui soffroit a ce joise avoit non Pierres Bertelemis clers
assez pou lettrez et selonc ce que len pooit connoistre par dehors mout
estoit simples hom. Touz li oz fu assemblez entor le feu. Pierres vint
avant et sagenoilla. Quant il ot fete soroison il prist la lance et entra
eu feu passa tout outre de rien ne fu bleciez que len peust cognoistre.
Quant li pueples vit ce tuit li corurent por lui touchier et por fere grant
Great! So he walked through the fire, carrying the lance in his hand,
and that during a Holy Friday, when the lance could again be "de son sanc
arousee"! It is in fact a strong scene, too strong perhaps. I can tune it
down a little and, at the same time, introduce a bit of mystery: imagine
that the man passes by between a great fire and the onlookers, instead of
through the fire, and that the character corresponding to you, my noble
Count, does not know what this is all about. Incidentally, is this French
text a translation from Latin? Serious prose most often is, in our present
As a matter of fact, yes. And this part comes after an explanatory
title: "Renovatur quaestio de lancea Domini: Inventor rogum intrat
accensum; paucis post diebus moritur". 3
This word "quaestio" turns out to be quite handy. It suggests many
things. You see: in my new narrative, the hero's fault will be no more than
not asking a certain question! I may introduce a few additional objects,
such as platter that would take "poison" (in one of its many senses) or
some other thing to the king or to the co-king. One last request: you have
a wonderful memory and have told me a lot. But, just as a little extra
help, I would be grateful to have that book available. Can I borrow the
Latin original from you? On second thought, the French version would be a
nice supplement--the Latin I am used to is the classic one, the language
of Virgil and Ovid, whereas the Latin of our times is somewhat, let us say,
precarious, at its very best.
I don't have the books here, but you may look at:
for, respectively, the texts in Latin, French, and (a few passages only) in
a barbarous dialect of Norman/ Saxon origin. I hear there are also a number
of Wikipedia entries, whatever that may mean, about myself, Baldwin,
Archbishop William of Tyre, etc.
Tandis come la besoigne aloit einsi au reigne de Surie li cuens de Flandres
et li autre qui avec lui estoient demoroient encore au chastel de Harenc
mes ni fesoient gueres de leur enneur ne de la besoigne Nostre Seigneur;
car il nentendoient mie a grever leur anemis si com il deussent aincois ne
finoient de joer aus tables et aus esches; en robes legieres estoient touz
nuz piez dedenz leur paveillons. Sovent sen aloient en Antioche o granz
compaignies por estre iluec es bainz et es tavernes et es mengiers; a
luxure et a mauves deliz metoient toutes leur ententes.
But no matter! He is my patron, more open-handed than Alexander, and is
paying in advance! On the other hand, he has a fear, with no reason, that I
may not finish the job. I did not finish the Lancelot, ordered by my
previous employer, because I hate her notion of "courtly love"! Anyway, the
Count established and included in his will a clause to the effect that, if
I did not complete the text of my poem, any continuator would earn from him
or from his heirs a handsome amount of money, in proportion to the number
of added verses. That's what I call a rash boon! Imagine the number of
rascals, eager to stretch my romance with tens of thousands of meaningless
lines, to finally come up with some obvious ending!
While the work was going on in the realm of Syria the Count of Flanders
and the others who were with him were still hanging out at Herring
Castle, and they didn't do much for their own reputations, to say
nothing of God's work, for they were no longer planning to attack their
enemies as they had before. Instead they played endless games of chess
and checkers; they lay around naked in flimsy robes in their tents.
Often they went to Antioch in groups to take in the baths, the taverns,
the restaurants; the only thing on their minds was lust and wicked
pleasures. (tr. J. Shoaf)
2. Then a rumor began again, for the petty folks and even some of the
barons began to have doubts about the lance which had been found in
Antioch, as you have heard tell. Some said it was indeed the one which
pierced Our Lord on the Cross and was sprinkled with His blood.... The
man who had found it heard about the doubts; he went boldly in front
of the Barons and said to them, "Fine Lord, do not doubt this! ... And
to show you that it is ture as I said I pray you to have a great fire
lit and I will enter it holding the lance in my hand; I will go through
it and emerge untouched." When they heard this they all agreed; the
fire was built up huge and high. It was the day of Holy Friday, and it
pleased them that the test was essayed on the day when Jesus Christ was
struck by the lance. He who endured this was named Pierre Berthelemis,
a clerk with not much education and, from what we can learn about him,
apparently a very plain man. The whole army gathered around the fire.
Pierre approached and kneeled down. When he had made his prayer he took
the lance and entered the fire, passed completey through it, was not
hurt in any way that anyone could discover. Whe the people saw this,
they all ran to touch him and rejoice. (tr. J. Shoaf)
3. The debate about the Lord's lance recurs; the finder enters the fire; he dies a few days later.