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Jane Tozer, 3rd prize (Open category)
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The story so far:

Lanval, a young penniless knight, is overlooked at King Arthur's court. His fortunes change when he encounters the beautiful Otherworld Lady. She seduces him, and they fall in love. The Lady agrees to visit Lanval, under a cloak of invisibility, whenever he calls for her. However, if he once speaks of her, she will disappear for ever. Returning to the court at Carlisle, Lanval finds himself rich. His generosity and charity endear him to all. The Queen is intrigued by his reputation and good looks, and makes a play for him.

Lanval is brooding alone in a secluded arbour. The Queen approaches, sits next to him, and speaks:
Lai Lanval (Lai V)
[an extract: lines 263-311]


…«Lanval, mut vus ai honuré
E mut cheri e mut amé.
Tute m'amur poëz aveir;
Kar me dites vostre voleir!
Ma drüerie vus otrei;
Mut devez estre lié de mei.»
«Dame,» fet il, «lessez m'ester!
Jeo n'ai cure de vus amer.
Lungement ai servi le rei;
Ne li voil pas mentir ma fei.
Ja pur vus ne pur vostre amur
Ne mesf[e]rai a mun seignur.»
La reïne s'en curuça,
Irie fu, si mesparla.
«Lanval,» fet ele, «bien le quit,
Vuz n'amez gueres cel delit;
Asiz le m'ad hum dit sovent
Que des femmez n'avez talent.
Vallez avez bien afeitiez,
Ensemble od eus vus deduiez.
Vileins cuarz, mauveis failliz,
Mut est mi sires maubailliz
Que pres de lui vus ad suffert;
Mun escïent que Deus en pert!»

   Quant il l'oï, mut fu dolent;
Del respundre ne fu pas lent.
Teu chose dist par maltalent
Dunt il se repenti sovent.
«Dame,» dist il, «de cel mestier
Ne me sai jeo nïent aidier;
Mes jo aim, [e] si sui amis
Cele ke deit aver le pris
Sur tutes celes que jeo sai.
E une chose vus dirai,
Bien le sachez a descovert:
Une de celes ke la sert,
Tute la plus povre meschine,
Vaut meuz de vus, dame reïne,
De cors, de vis e de beauté,
D'enseignement e de bunté.»
La reïne s'en part atant,
En sa chambrë en vait plurant.
Mut fu dolente e curuciee
De ceo k'il [l']out [si] avilee.
En sun lit malade cucha;
Jamés, ceo dit, ne levera,
Si li reis ne l'en feseit dreit
De ceo dunt ele se pleindreit…


Marie de France
Lai Lanval (Lai V)
[an extract: lines 263-311]


…"Sir Lanval, greatly I esteem you
Love you, honour you, and deem you
A verray parfit gentil knight.
You may have all for your delight!
Just tell me what you want of me
You have my love.
            Make love with me.
It is your privilege to have me
And with due joy, make me your own."

"Madame," he begs, "Leave me alone!
I feel no stir of love for you -
Nor am I ever likely to.
For a long time I've served the King
I never would prove false to him;
Neither for your sake, nor your passion
Would I betray him in this fashion!"

At this, the Queen flies off the handle
Initiating a huge scandal.
She utters the first spiteful thought
That's in her head:
            "I know your sort!
You've other outlets for your sport.
Of course you've never fancied women -
You've got a bunch of hand-picked yeomen!
You slake your infamous desires
With pretty serving boys and squires.
Why did you ever turn up here
You snivelling, skulking, craven queer!
King Arthur's spotless reputation
Is tarnished by association.
I even fear for his salvation!
God sees the company he keeps
With such a sinful little creep."

This outburst shakes him to the heart.
He snaps back with a quick retort
But in his anger's flaming heat
Says things he later will regret.
I never saw an uglier scene
This good knight with this screaming Queen.

"Listen, lady, my activities
Do not extend to those proclivities
I don't indulge forbidden liberties.
I love, and am loved in return
By one whose charms and beauties earn
Honour above all other women
I have known. I'll tell you this
So listen well, and watch my lips -
Any of her serving wenches,
Even the one who scrubs the dishes,
Surpasses you, Queen, in her grace,
Figure, complexion, pretty face
In learning and integrity."

Barely maintaining dignity
She flounces off, back to her tower
And there she weeps for several hours
…Such impudent recrimination -
Time young Lanval was taught his station.
She takes to her bed, in desperation
Pleading a strange indisposition:
She will not rise again, unless
The King exacts condign redress …


Translated from the Old French by Jane Tozer
  [Commentary on the poem by the translator]   



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