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Four Arthurian Romances

af Chrétien de Troyes

Andre forfattere: William Wister Comfort (Oversætter)

Serier: Chrétian's Arthurian Romances (Omnibus, 1-4)

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215295,556 (4.14)1
Clara Dillingham Pierson's Complete Among the People Series' features 99 charming tales about the everyday life of the forest, farmyard, meadow, pond and night creatures. The tales are told in such a manner that they seem realistic, and are not only entertaining, but educational.
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It is hard to believe that these Arthurian Romances were written in the latter part of the 12th century. They have been translated from the medieval French octosyllabic couplets into English prose and are alive with wonderful story telling, humour wit and some thought provoking views on love and honour. There are five tales presented in chronological order and Chretien's development of his major themes and his maturation as a writer can be tracked as one reads through them

Courtly love which started to flourish in the 12th century was based on four basic premise: humility, courtesy, adultery, and the religion of love. It went hand in glove with the concept of chivalry. Knights with their codes of honour were expected to follow the ideals of Courtly love in the romances at least and possibly in real courtly life. Chretien de Troyes was the earliest poet to use the King Arthur tales/histories as source material for his romances

1) Erec and Enide
A tale told in simple narrative style with a loose connection to King Arthur and the knights of the round table. Erec a knight of some worth and valour falls in love and marries Enide. He is so enchanted with married bliss that he neglects his duties to bear arms and his reputation as a knight. Enide must persuade him to get back on his horse and restore his flagging reputation. They ride out together seeking adventure and the story ends with Erec's triumph in the magic garden. This is a celebration of marital love with the underlying message that a knight must not neglect his duty and his honour. Enide says:

"The earth should truly swallow me up, since the very best of knights - the boldest and bravest, the most loyal, the most courteous that was ever count or king - has completely abandoned all chivalry because of me. Now I have truly shamed him; I should not have wished it for anything"

2) Cliges
There are two back to back stories here that celebrate love and fidelity. The first story features Alexandre's courtship and love of the marvellously named Soredamours. Chretien switches easily to a 1st person narrative as Soredamours explains:

"I have not been given the name of Soredamours for nothing.....I consider my name the best, since it begins with the colour with which gold is most in harmony. And the end of my name reminds me of Love for whoever calls me by my right name evokes loves tint within me. One half of my name guilds the other with the bright yellow hue of gold for Soredamours means "gilded over with love" Love has done me great honour in gilding this name upon me"

The second story is Soredamours son's (Cliges) love for the faithful Fernice. Chretien does not hesitate to step in to address the reader directly:

"So I wish to challenge the opinion that love can be found where there is no fear. Whoever wished to love must feel fear; if he does not he cannot love. But he must fear only the one he loves and be emboldened for her sake in all else"

I do not see any irony here as this is strictly in the tenets of courtly love. The story goes on to tell of Fernice' fidelity and constancy in her love for Cliges. Even under the most extreme torture she will not deny her love. Variations on this story have appeared frequently down the ages, but this gruesome tale is told particularly well by Chretien.

3) The Knight of the Cart (Lancelot)
Chretien now takes us into more familiar Arthurian legend territory. Gawain, Kay, and King Arthur himself all feature. It is the story of Lancelot's adulterous love for Arthur's queen Guinivere and as such is a complete break from the tales of fidelty that precede it. Chretien's introduction to the tale is deeply ironical; He says that he is writing it under the instructions of his sponsor; My Lady of Champagne:

"Certainly I am not one intent on flattering his lady. Will I say, 'As the polished gem eclipses the pearl and the sard, the countess eclipses queens'? Indeed not; I'll say nothing of the sort, though it is true in spite of me. I will say however that her command has more importance in this work than any thought or effort that I might put into it."

Lancelot is above all the Knight who gains his power and inspiration from the love of his Lady. He is at his fighting best, when he can see the object of his love (Guinevere). Chretien uses this tale to demonstrate the need for total subservience in courtly love. Guinevere tests Lancelot's love at a tournament by secretly ordering him to do his worst. Lancelot of course complies and takes a beating to prove his love. Chretien handles this part of the story superbly by introducing just the right amount of pathos and humour.

4) The Knight with the Lion (Yvain)
This is Chretien at the height of his powers; it is a well told story with a beginning a middle and a successful conclusion. It would appear that Chretien himself was happy with his effort, because he says at the end:

Thus Chretien brings to a close his romance of the knight with the lion. I've not heard any more about it, and you'll not here any more unless one adds lies to it"

Chretien starts the tale by telling us that the courtly love of by gone ages which was valiant, generous and honourable has been abandoned. He therefore immediately sets a tension to his story of Yvain, who wins the love of Laudine by defeating her champion in combat. He pledges himself to Laudine but is anxious to prove himself further as a knight. She gives him a year to satisfy his need for adventures, but he overstays his time and when he eventually returns she casts him out. Yvain suffers a breakdown and goes native in the forest, during this period he is befriended by a lion who assists him when his reason returns and he once again sets off to prove himself as a knight. New feats of his power are soon becoming apparent and when he saves Laudine's lands from a usurper she finally welcomes him back. The story has everything you could want from a romance; love lost and then regained, help from a faithful ally, plenty of magic, and some lively combat scenes. For the first time in Chretien's tales worship of God plays some part in Yvain's success. Yvain himself explains:

"And if the truth be told, God himself takes on this cause of the righteous, and God and righteousness are as one and since they are on my side therefore, I have better companions than you and better supporters."

5) The story of the Grail (Perceval)
This is Chretien's most ambitious tale. He keeps two stories running in parallel that threaten to intersect. First there is Pereceval quest to become a knight. He has natural talent and his love of God enables him to become almost the perfect knight. Christianity features strongly in Perceval's development and Chretien slips in a paragraph explaining the story of Jesus. It is Perceval who sees both the holy grail and the lance that drips blood when he is in the castle of the Fisher King. However Perceval's failure to ask who the grail serves results in him being denied the opportunity to know what the grail is and its secrets remain closed to him. The second story features Gawain; a very different character. He never misses an opportunity to bed a damsel and he is tasked with a quest to find the blood tipped lance. Chretien moves between the two tales which will seemingly converge at some point, however it all ends suddenly in mid sentence. Chretien never got to finish this tale which may well have been his masterpiece. There is some fine writing here especially when Perceval's story is told. A sense of wonder proliferates not only with the sighting of the grail but also in passages such as this when Perceval spends a morning fascinated by some blood in the snow:

"When Perceval saw the disturbed snow where the goose had lain, with the blood still visible, he leaned against his lance to gaze at this sight for the blood mingled with the snow resembled the blush of his lady's face. He became lost in contemplation: the red tone of his Lady's cheeks in her white face were like the three drops of blood against the whiteness of the snow. As he gazed upon the sight, it pleased him so much it felt as though he were seeing the fresh colour of his fair Lady's face. Perceval mused upon the drops throughout the hours of dawn and spent so much time there that when the squires came out of their tents and saw him, they thought he was sleeping"

I love the translations of these romances. William W Kibler and Carleton W Carroll have avoided modern usage of the English Language to produce translations that have a timeless quality to them. These tales are some of the earliest stories written in the vernacular and to have the pleasure of enjoying them today seems like a special treat and in addition the authorial interventions by Chretien himself give this reader the feeling that he is speaking to us down the ages. ( )
16 stem baswood | Oct 16, 2011 |
Erec and Enid, Yvain, Lancelot, Cliges
  sriddle | Nov 5, 2005 |
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Chrétien de Troyesprimær forfatteralle udgaverberegnet
Comfort, William WisterOversættermedforfatteralle udgaverbekræftet
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Vigtige steder
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This edition represents works containing Erec and Enide, Cligès, Lancelot, and Yvain, but omitting Perceval.

Please do not combine with works containing all 5 romances.
This Dent Everyman edition (#698 ISBN softback 0460025015 or hardback 0460006983)contains only four of Chretien's Arthurian Romances - Erec and Enide, Cligés, Lancelot and Yvain. Perceval is missing. It should not be grouped with the more complete Penguin edition.
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Clara Dillingham Pierson's Complete Among the People Series' features 99 charming tales about the everyday life of the forest, farmyard, meadow, pond and night creatures. The tales are told in such a manner that they seem realistic, and are not only entertaining, but educational.

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