Monday, January 14, 2008

An excerpt from the History of William Marshal (trans. Gregory)


The tournament assembled,

And none that had ever gone before

resembled this,

nor ever before were so many blades and shafts

put into serviced in a single day,

for matters were so arranged

that the winner of a challenge took all,

so that each man was looking out for his own fame and glory.

The opening contests lasted a short time.

The large companies and battalions

came together savagely

and with great ostentation,

neither side fearing the other in the least.

When the companies clashed,

the crush of battle was on such a scale

that the field was soon so covered

with lances and splinters

that there was not so much as a way through

to spur on their horses

without being encumbered.

The tournament was a fully-pitched battle,

and was there a better seen.

In many spots there were skirmishes,

and the land around was so drowned by the sound of lance and

sword, and of helmets resounding

from the hefty blows meted out by both sides

that any man present would not have heard

God thundering, assuming that He had,

nor been aware of it;

there were no weaklings on that field.

The count of Saint-Pol was taken there

by the bridle of his horse,

but the worthy Marshal,

like the valiant knight he was, rescued him

from the hands of seven and more who were striving

to do him injury and were leading him away.

On that field the cowards stayed behind.

There you would have seen many a banner

soiled in the mud and trampled on,

and many a knight trampled on too

when they were knocked to the ground.

But the saying used to go that

the brave and the valiant are to be sought

often between the hooves of horses,

for never will cowards fall down there,

never will they so hate their lives

as to be willing to join the fray;

they take care not to do themselves injury,

they have no wish to get involved in that.

There you would have seen knights taken and horses won and lost.

Any man who was able to take another man's bridle

strove with might and main to hold on to him,

and the other did just as much to stave him off,

to join battle with him and defend himself.

At that point, any man wishing to separate the two

by negotiation would have had little success,

for words would have been no use whatever.

To sum up, so much I will say,

that on that day so many feats of arms were performed

that it was a true marvel;

indeed, all marvelled

where so many excellent knights had come from

to sustain such a tournament.

But it was a well known fact,

and plain for all to see,

that on that day the Marshal

performed many more feats of arms by far in combat

than any other man who had come there.

No matter how many of them were amassed, as soon as he launched himself into the fray,

he overwhelmed them

so with mighty blows

that they all withdrew.


Image: William Marshal in action, as drawn by Matthew Paris (13th c.)

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