Tales from the Old French

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¶ Lais

THE WOFUL KNIGHT _Marie de France_ 17
THE TWO LOVERS _Marie de France_ 26
ELIDUC _Marie de France_ 35
THE LAY OF THE HORN _Robert Biquet_ 93

¶ Fabliaux

THE GRAY PALFREY _Huon Leroi_ 131

¶ Contes dévots et didactiques


¶ Epilogue 249

¶ Bibliography 263

¶ Translator's Note 264


The Lay of the Bird


Once upon a time, a hundred years and more agone, there lived a rich
villein; his name I know not for certain, but he was rich as beseemeth
a great lord in woodland, stream and meadow, and in whatsoever else
longeth to a puissant man. And to tell you the sum thereof, his manor
was so goodly no town, or burg, or castle hath its like, for to tell
you true, in all the world is none other so fair and delectable; and if
any were to show you its form and fashion, the tale would seem to you
but fable, for none, methinketh, could ever make such a keep, or so
mighty a tower. Round about it ran a river, encircling all the close,
that the orchard, which was of great price, was all walled in by wood
and water. Wise was the gentle knight who contrived it, but from him it
went to his son, who sold it to this villein; so passed it from hand to
hand: and wit ye well, an ill heir ofttimes bringeth thorpe and manor
into dishonour.

Fair as man can desire was that orchard, and therein grew many an herb
whose name I know not; yet may I tell you of a truth there were roses
and flowers that gave forth a strong and pleasant fragrance; and such
manner of spices grew there that if any creature, suffering from
sickness and infirmity, were brought thither in a litter, and lay in
that orchard but for the space of a single night, he would go forth
healed and strong; so rich it was in goodly herbs. And the meadow was
so level even that in it was neither hill nor hollow, and all the
tree-tops were of one height; no other orchard close so fair was there
in all the world. Ask ye not of its fruit, for none such shall ye find;
but in the garden they ripened in every season. Wise was he who contrived
it, and by enchantment he wrought it, whereof within was many a proof.

Full great was the orchard and wide, like a round ring in its form; and
in its midst was a fountain whose waters were clear and fresh, and ran
so swiftly they seemed to boil in fury, yet was it colder than marble.
A goodly tree gave shade there, wide reaching were the branches and
cunningly trained; good store of leaves there were, for in the longest
day of summer, when came the month of May, ye could not see a ray of
the sun, so leafy was it. Full dear should that tree be held, for its
kind was such that it kept its leaves in all seasons, and neither wind
nor storm had might to strip its bark or its branches.

Pleasant and delectable was that green tree; and to it twice each day,
and no more, came a bird to sing, in the morning namely, and again at
eventide. So wondrous fair was the bird it were over long to tell you
all its fashion. More small it was than the sparrow, yet somewhat
greater than the wren, and it sang so sweetly and fairly that know
ye of a sooth, not nightingale, nor merle, nor mavis, nor starling,
methinketh, nor voice of lark or calender, were so good to hear as was
its song. And it was so ready with refrains and lays and songs and
new tunes, that harp, or viol, or rebec were as nought beside it.
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Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940012844835
  • Publisher: SAP
  • Publication date: 3/9/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 118 KB

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