Table of Contents
- Text and Translation
- Lines 1-14. Prologue
- Lines 15-62. The Lord’s Wife Inquires
- Lines 63-96. Revelation
- Lines 94-134. Reaction
- Lines 135-160. The King Goes Hunting
- Lines 161-184. Life at the King’s Castle
- Lines 185-218. Strange Doings at Court
- Lines 219-260. An Angry Wolf and a Wise Man
- Lines 261-293. Investigations
- Lines 295-318. Happy (?) Ending
Below is the Old French text of Marie de France’s Bisclavret, one of her twelve “lays” of Breton inspiration, together with an English translation by the Professor (me). Bisclavret is a short but charming tale of lycanthropy, a highly unusual condition that is nonetheless mentioned by a number of medieval authors. In keeping with Marie’s other lays, the story serves as an exploration of the forms of love and loyalty (and their opposites).
In Bisclavret’s case, changing into a wolf involves taking off one’s clothes (in contrast to, say, Icelandic examples, in which the change requires putting on a wolf-skin). Changing back into a human requires putting one’s clothes on again.
Note that, although the shape-changing hero is positively presented, there is no question but that werewolves are nasty, vicious creatures, much more intent on destruction than a run-of-mill natural wolf:
|Garualf, ceo est beste salvage:
tant cum il est en cele rage,
hummes devure, grant mal fait,
12 es granz forez converse e vait.
|“Werewolf,” that is “wild beast”:
as long as he is in that frenzy,
he devours folks, does great evil,
12 in the great forests dwells and goes.
This trait of unusual viciousness has of course been retained in much more recent (twentieth and twenty-first century) depictions of the werewolf.
The Text Used
As in my file on Marie de France’s Lanval, the text presented is that of the 1900 edition by Karl Warnke, as available at Wikisource. A scan of the printed book is here. I have also consulted the 1981 CFMA edition by Jean Rychner. Both editions prioritize manuscript “H” = British Library, Harley 978, which I have also consulted online (the Lais begin at folio 118r; Bisclavret begins at folio 131v and ends at folio 133v).
In my translation, I have not followed Warnke in capitalizing “bisclavret” throughout. When it is used indefinitely (“a” bisclavret), and when it is preceded by the definite article (i.e., referring to this particular…bisclavret), I treat it as a common noun. Only in the remaining cases, when it seems to be used as a personal name, do I capitalize the “b.” (Only at line 14 do I deviate from these principles.)
Accuracy over Elegance
My English version does not aim at elegance, but is a line-by-line rendering that follows fairly closely the syntax of the original. While this approach prioritizes accuracy (of a limited sort) and facilitates comparison of translation and original, the resulting prose is bland at best and occasionally downright clunky. Marie’s original rhyming couplets, in contrast, are light-footed and witty, qualities that would have been enhanced by oral performance. So, please keep in mind that, while the content of the English is pretty much Marie’s, the insipidness is not.
A feature of Old French verse that may seem particularly strange when reproduced in modern English is the variety of verb tenses used for narration. Present appears frequently (even today, French writers are very fond of the historical present, for which see this language topic). Meanwhile, Marie’s choice of past tense (passé composé, passé simple, imperfect, and even pluperfect) often seems governed by the needs of meter or rhyme and is otherwise arbitrary. I have followed Marie’s choices in always translating a present as a present, but for the past tenses I have given myself more leeway, usually translating them with an English simple past. (In the translation of Marie’s Lanval, however, I have reproduced the past verb tenses more exactly.)
Text and Translation
I have placed Marie’s Old French and my modern English side-by-side for ease of comparison. You can also consult online the pages of the main manuscript (Harley 978, British Library) in which Marie’s Lays are found. Links, in square brackets, are included in the Old French text below. They will take you to a particular numbered folio, that is a “leaf,” of the manuscript, either front (recto) or back (verso). Columns a and b will both appear on the recto side of a folio (a on the left, b on the right); columns c and d will both appear on the verso side (c on the left, d on the right).
Lines 1-14. Prologue
|Quant de lais faire m’entremet,
ne voil ublier Bisclavret:
Bisclavret ad nun en bretan,
4 garwaf l’apelent li Norman.
jadis le poeit hume oïr
[131d] e sovent suleit avenir,
hume plusur garual devindrent
8 e es boscages meisun tindrent.
Garualf, ceo est beste salvage:
tant cum il est en cele rage,
hummes devure, grant mal fait,
12 es granz forez converse e vait.
cest afere les ore ester;
del Bisclavret vus voil cunter.
|Since I am undertaking to make lays,
I don’t want to forget Bisclavret.
“Bisclavret” is the word in Breton;
4 the Normans call it “werewolf.”
Formerly one could hear,
and it used to come about often,
that many men became werewolves
8 and took their lodging in the woods.
“Werewolf,” that is “wild beast”:
as long as he is in that frenzy,
he devours folks, does great evil,
12 in the great forests dwells and goes.
I’m letting the matter stand for now;
I want to tell you about Bisclavret.
Lines 15-62. The Lord’s Wife Inquires
|en Bretaine maneit un ber,
16 merveille l’ai oï loër;
beaus chevalers e bons esteit
e noblement se cunteneit.
de sun seinur esteit privez
20 e de tuz ses veisins amez.
femme ot espuse mut vailant
e ki mut feseit beu semblant.
il amot li e ele lui;
24 mes d’une chose ert grant ennui,
qu’en la semeine le perdeit
treis jurs entiers, qu’el ne saveit
u deveneit në u alout,
28 ne nuls des soens nïent n’en sout.
|In Brittany there dwelt a baron;
16 I’ve heard him praised to the skies.
He was a knight handsome and good,
and he conducted himself nobly.
He was a familiar of his lord,
20 and loved by all his neighbors.
He had a very worthy woman for wife,
who had a charming manner.
He loved her and she him.
24 But there great distress about one thing,
that every week she lost him
for three whole days, nor did she know
what1 he became nor where he went;
28 nor did any of his2 people know anything about it.
|une feiz esteit repeiriez
a sa meisun joius e liez;
demandé li ad e enquis.
32 « sire, fait el, beaus duz amis,
une chose vus demandasse
mut volentiers, si jeo osasse;
mes jeo creim tant vostre curut,
36 que nule rien tant ne redut. »
quant il l’oï, si l’acola,
vers lui la traist, si la beisa.
« dame, fait il, car demandez!
40 ja cele chose ne querrez,
[132a] si jo la sai, ne la vus die.
|One time he had returned
to his house, joyful and happy;
she asked and inquired of him.
32 “Lord,” she said, “fair sweet friend,
I would ask you a thing
very willingly, if I dared;
but I fear so much your anger,
36 that there is nothing I fear so much.”
When he heard this, he put his arms around her neck,
drew her to him, and kissed her.
“Lady,” he says, “ask away!
40 You will never ask anything
without my telling it to you, if I know it.”
|—par fei, fet ele, ore sui garie!
sire, jeo sui en tel effrei
44 les jurs quant vus partez de mei,
el quor en ai mut grant dolur
e de vus perdre tel poür,
si jeo n’en ai hastif cunfort,
48 bien tost en puis aver la mort.
kar me dites u vus alez,
u vus estes, u conversez!
mun escïent que vus amez,
52 e si si est, vus meserrez.
—dame, fet il, pur Deu, merci!
mal m’en vendra, si jol vus di,
kar de m’amur vus partirai
56 e mei meïsmes en perdrai. »
quant la dame l’ad entendu,
ne l’ad neent en gab tenu.
suventefeiz li demanda;
60 tant le blandi e losenga
que s’aventure li cunta;
nule chose ne li cela.
|“Upon my word,” she said, “now am I saved!
Lord, I am in such affright
44 on the days that you leave me,
I have great suffering in my heart
and such fear of losing you,
that if I don’t have hasty comfort for it,
48 very soon I may suffer death from it.
For God’s sake3 tell me where you go,
where you are, where you dwell!
It’s my belief that you love me,
52 and, if that is so, then you are doing ill.”
“Lady,” he said, “For God’s sake, pity!
Evil will befall me, if I tell you,
for I will separate you from my love4
56 and I myself will suffer for it.”5
When the lady heard this,
she didn’t take it for a joke.
Often she asked it of him.
60 She caressed him and flattered him so much
that he told her his adventure;
he hid nothing from her.
Lines 63-96. Revelation
|« dame, jeo devienc besclavret:
64 en cele grant forest me met,
al plus espés de la gaudine,
s’i vif de preie e de ravine. »
quant il li aveit tut cunté,
68 enquis li ad e demaundé
s’il se despuille u vet vestu.
« dame, fet il, jeo vois tut nu.
—di mei, pur Deu, u sunt voz dras.
72 —dame, ceo ne dirai jeo pas;
kar si jes eüsse perduz
e de ceo feusse aparceüz,
bisclavret sereie a tuz jurs;
76 [132b] jamés n’avreie mes sucurs,
de si k’il me fussent rendu.
pur ceo ne voil k’il seit seü.
—sire, la dame li respunt,
80 jeo vus eim plus que tut le mund:
nel me devez nïent celer,
ne [mei] de nule rien duter;
ne semblereit pas amisté.
84 qu’ai jeo forfait? pur queil peché
me dutez vus de nule rien?
dites [le] mei, si ferez bien! »
|“Lady, I become a bisclavret.
64 I go into that great forest,
to where the woods are thickest,
and there I live on prey and rapine.”
When he had told her everything,
68 she enquired and asked him
if he undresses or goes clothed.
“Lady,” he said, “I go quite naked.”
“Tell me, for God’s sake, where are your clothes.”
72 “Lady, that I will not tell you;
for if I lost them
and someone caught sight of me,6
I would be a bisclavret forever.
76 Never would there be any help for me,
until I got my clothes back.
For this reason I don’t want it to be known.”
“Lord,” the lady answers him,
80 “I love you more than the whole world.
No way should you hide it from me,
nor fear7 me in anything;
that would hardly be friendly.
84 How have I wronged you? For what sin of mine
do you fear me in anything?
Tell me, and you will do well!”
|tant l’anguissa, tant le suzprist,
88 ne pout el faire, si li dist.
« dame, fet il, delez cel bois,
lez le chemin par unt jeo vois,
une vielz chapele i esteit,
92 ke meintefeiz grant bien me feit:
la est la piere cruose e lee
suz un buissun, dedenz cavee;
mes dras i met suz le buissun,
96 tant que jeo revi[e]nc a meisun. »
|She troubled him so much about it, she badgered him so often,
88 that he could not do otherwise than tell her.
“Lady,” he said, “Near that wood,
next to the path I take,
there stood an old chapel,
92 that frequently serves me well.
There you find a stone, wide and hollow,
beneath a bush, hollowed in the middle.
I put my clothes there under the bush
96 until I return home.”
Lines 94-134. Reaction
|la dame oï cele merveille,
de poür fu tute vermeille;
de l’aventure se esfrea.
100 e[n] maint endreit se purpensa
cum ele s’en puïst partir;
ne voleit mes lez lui gisir.
un chevaler de la cuntree,
104 qui lungement l’aveit amee
e mut preié’e mut requise
e mut duné en sun servise—
ele ne l’aveit unc amé
108 ne de s’amur aseüré—
celui manda par sun message,
si li descovri sun curage.
[132c] « amis, fet ele, seez leéz!
112 ceo dunt vus estes travaillez
vus otri jeo sanz nul respit:
ja n’i avrez nul cuntredit;
m’amur e mun cors vus otrei,
116 vostre drue fetes de mei! »
cil l’en mercie bonement
e la fiance de li prent;
e el le met par serement.
120 puis li cunta cumfaitement
ses sire ala e k’il devint;
tute la veie kë il tint
vers la forest l[i] enseigna;
124 pur sa despuille l’enveia.
|The lady listened to this marvel
and turned deep red for fear;
she was terrified by the adventure.
100 She pondered from many angles
how she could get free of her husband;
she didn’t want to lie next to him anymore.
A knight of the region
104 who had loved her for a long time
and much begged and besought her
and given much in her service—
she had never loved him
108 nor assured him of her love—
she sent for him through a messenger
and revealed to him her heart.
“Friend,” she said, “rejoice!
112 That for which you are tormented
I grant to you without any delay.
Never will will you have any opposition in this;
I grant you my love and my body:
116 make me your lover!”
The other thanks her warmly
and takes assurance of her,
and she makes him take an oath.
120 Then she related to him how
her lord went off and what he became.
All the path that he took
to the forest she taught him,
124 and she sent him to get his clothes.
|issi fu Bisclavret trahiz
e par sa femme maubailiz.
pur ceo que hum le perdeit sovent
128 quidouent tuz communalment
que dunc s’en fust del tut alez.
asez fu quis e demandez,
mes n’en porent mie trover;
132 si lur estuit lesser ester.
la dame ad cil dunc espusee,
que lungement aveit amee.
|Thus was Bisclavret betrayed
and badly treated by his wife.
Because he often disappeared from sight,
128 everyone supposed
that on this occasion he had gone off for good.
He was much sought for and inquired after,
but they couldn’t find a trace of him,
132 and they had to give up.
The lady then married the other
who had loved her for a long time.
Lines 135-160. The King Goes Hunting
|issi remist un an entier,
136 tant que li reis ala chacier;
a la forest ala tut dreit,
la u li Bisclavret esteit.
quant li chiens furent descuplé,
140 le Bisclavret unt encuntré;
a lui cururent tutejur
e li chien e li veneür,
tant que pur poi ne l’eurent pris
144 e tut deciré e maumis,
de si qu’il ad le rei choisi;
[132d] vers lui curut quere merci.
il l’aveit pris par sun estrié,
148 la jambe li baise e le pié.
li reis le vit, grant poür ad;
ses cumpainuns tuz apelad.
«seignurs,» fet il, «avant venez!
152 ceste merveillë esgardez,
cum ceste beste se humilie!
ele ad sen de hume, merci crie.
chacez mei tuz ces chiens arere,
156 si gardez quë hum ne la fiere!
ceste beste ad entente e sen.
espleitez vus! alum nus en!
a la beste durrai ma pes;
160 kar jeo ne chacerai hui mes.»
|Things remained thus for a whole year,
136 until the king went hunting.
He went straight to the forest
where the bisclavret was.
When the hounds were unleashed,
140 they met up with the bisclavret.
They ran after him the whole day,
both the dogs and the huntsmen,
so much that they had nearly taken him
144 and entirely torn him to pieces and undone him,—
until he got sight of the king.
Towards him he ran to beg for mercy.
He had taken8 him by the stirrup;
148 he kisses his leg and his foot.
The king saw it, is greatly afraid;
he summoned all this companions.
“Lords,” he said, “Come forward!
152 Observe this marvel,
how this beast humbles himself!
It has the intelligence of a man, it asks for mercy.
Chace all these dogs back for me,
156 Take care that no one strike it.
This beast has purpose and intelligence.
Get on with it! Let’s be off!
To this beast I will grant my protection;
160 for I will hunt no more today.”
Lines 161-184. Life at the King’s Castle
|li reis s’en est turné atant.
le Bisclavret li vet sewant;
mut se tint pres, n’en vout partir,
164 il n’ad cure de lui guerpir.
li reis l’en meine en sun chastel;
mut en fu liez, mut li est bel,
kar unke mes tel n’ot veü;
168 a grant merveille l’ot tenu
e mut le tient a grant chierté.
a tuz les suens ad comaundé
que sur s’amur le gardent bien
172 e li ne mesfacent de rien,
ne par nul de eus ne seit feruz;
bien seit abevreiz e peüz.
cil le garderent volenters;
176 tuz jurs entre les chevalers
e pres del rei se alout cuchier.
n’i ad celui que9 ne l’ad chier;
tant esteit franc e deboneire,
180 unques ne volt a rien mesfeire.
[133a] u ke li reis deüst errer,
il n’out cure de desevrer;
ensemble od lui tuz jurs alout:
184 bien s’aparceit quë il l’amout.
|With that, the king has turned aside.
The bisclavret keeps following him,
Stayed very close to him, refused to leave him,
164 he has no desire to abandon him.
The king takes him to his castle.
He was very happy with the wolf, he is very pleased,
for he had never seen the like.
168 He considered it a great marvel,
and holds him very dear.
To all his household he has commanded
that for his love they should guard him well
172 and not mistreat him in any way:
let him not be struck by any of them,
and let him be well watered and fed.
They guarded him willingly.
176 All days amongst the knights
and near the king he would go lie down.
Not a one but holds him dear.
So noble and mild-mannered he was,
180 never did he try to do harm to anything.
Wherever the king needed to travel,
he never cared to be separated from him:
always he went together with him;
184 it was quite clear that he loved him.
Lines 185-218. Strange Doings at Court
|oëz aprés cument avint.
a une curt ke li rei tint
tuz les baruns aveit mandez,
188 ceus ke furent de lui chasez,
pur aider sa feste a tenir
e lui plus beal faire servir.
li chevaler i est alez,
192 richement e bien aturnez,
ki la femme Bisclavret ot.
il ne saveit ne ne quidot
que il le deüst trover si pres.
196 si tost cum il vint al paleis
e le Bisclavret le aparceut,
de plain esleis vers lui curut;
as denz le prist, vers lui le trait.
200 ja li eüst mut grant leid fait,
ne fust li reis ki l’apela,
de une verge le manaça.
Deus feiz le vout mordrë al jur.
204 mut s’esmerveillent li plusur;
kar unkes tel semblant ne fist
vers nul hume kë il veïst.
ceo dïent tut par la meisun
208 ke il nel fet mie sanz reisun:
mesfait li ad, coment que seit;
kar volenters se vengereit.
a cele feiz remist issi,
212 tant que la feste departi
e li barun unt pris cungé;
a lur meisun sunt repeiré.
alez s’en est li chevaliers,
216 [133b] mien escïent tut as premers,
que le Bisclavret asailli;
n’est merveille s’il le haï.
|Now hear what happened after.
To a court10 that the king held
he had summoned all his barons,
188 those he had given fiefs to,
to help him celebrate the feast
and have him be served more splendidly.
The knight went there,
192 richly and well turned out,
who had the wife of Bisclavret.
He did not think or imagine
that he was to find him so close!
196 As soon as he came to the palace
and the bisclavret caught sight of him,
he ran at him at full speed;
he took him by the teeth, he draws him to him.
200 He would straightway have done him great harm,
were it not for the king who called him;
with a rod he threatened him.
Twice that day he tried to bite him.
204 Quite a few were greatly amazed,
for never had he behaved in such a way
towards any man he saw.
Those of the household all say
208 that he doesn’t do it without reason;
he11 mistreated him somehow or other,
for he12 would avenge himself willingly.
Things remained thus,
212 until the feast ended
and the barons took leave.
They returned to their homes.
The knight left—
216 I think he was among the very first—
whom the bisclavret assaulted;
it’s not surprising if he hated him.
Lines 219-260. An Angry Wolf and a Wise Man
|ne fu puis gueres lungement,
220 ceo m’est avis, si cum j’entent,
que9 a la forest ala li reis,
que tant fu sages e curteis,
u li Bisclavret fu trovez;
224 e il i est od lui alez.
la nuit quant il s’en repeira,
en la cuntree herberga.
la femme Bisclavret le sot;
228 avenantment se appareilot.
al demain vait al rei parler,
riche present li fait porter.
quant Bisclavret la veit venir,
232 nul hum nel poeit retenir;
vers li curut cum enragiez.
oiez cum il est bien vengiez!
le neis li esracha del vis.
236 quei li peüst il faire pis?
|It wasn’t long after,
220 I do believe and understand,
that to the forest went the king
—who was so wise and courteous—
to the forest where the bisclavret was found;
224 and the latter went with him.
That night, when he returned from there,
he lodged in the region.
The wife of Bisclavret learned of it.
228 She dressed becomingly,
went on the morrow to speak to the king;
she has a rich present borne to him.
When Bisclavret sees her coming,
232 no one could hold him back;
he ran at her as though he were rabid.
Hear how he is well avenged:
he tore the nose off her face!
236 What could he have done worse to her?
|de tutes parz l’unt manacié;
ja l’eüssent tut depescié,
quant un sages hum dist al rei:
240 « sire, fet il, entent a mei!
ceste beste ad esté od vus;
n’i ad ore celui de nus
que ne l’eit veü lungement
244 e pres de lui alé sovent;
unke mes humme ne tucha
ne felunie ne mustra,
fors a la dame que ici vei.
248 par cele fei ke jeo vus dei,
aukun curuz ad il vers li,
e vers sun seignur autresi.
[133c] ceo est la femme al chevaler
252 que taunt par suliez aveir chier,
que9 lung tens ad esté perduz,
ne seümes qu’est devenuz.
kar metez la dame en destreit,
256 s’aucune chose vus direit,
pur quei ceste beste la heit;
fetes li dire s’el le seit!
meinte merveille avum veü
260 quë9 en Bretaigne est avenu.»
|On all sides they threatened him;
they would at once have torn him to pieces,
when a wise man said to the king:
240 “Lord,” he said, “hear me!
This beast has been with you;
there is none of us now
who has not observed him a long time
244 and been often near him.
Never did he touch anyone
nor show any wickedness,
save to the lady here.
248 By the faith I owe you,
he has some anger towards her,
and to her lord as well.
This is the [former] wife of the knight
252 whom you used to hold very dear,
but who has been lost a long time;
we never learned what became of him.
I recommend that you put the lady to the torment,
256 (to see) if she should tell you anything
for which this beast hates her;
make her tell it if she knows it.
Many a marvel have we seen
260 that has come about in Brittany.”
Lines 261-293. Investigations
|li reis ad sun cunseil creü:
le chevaler ad retenu;
de l’autre part la dame ad prise
264 e en mut grant destresce mise.
tant par destresce e par poür
tut li cunta de sun seignur:
coment ele l’aveit trahi
268 e sa despoille li toli,
l’avenutre qu’il li cunta,
e quei devint e u ala;
puis que ses dras li ot toluz,
272 ne fud en sun païs veüz;
tresbien quidat e bien creeit
que la beste Bisclavret seit
|The king trusted his advice.
He locked up the knight;
meanwhile, he took the lady
264 and had her severely tortured.
On account of the torture and her fear
she related everything about her lord:
how she had betrayed him
268 and taken his clothing;
the marvel he related to her,
what he became and where he went;
after his clothes had been stolen,
272 he was not seen in his region.
She very much thought and believed
that the beast was Bisclavret.
|le reis demande la despoille;
276 u bel li seit u pas nel voille,
ariere la fet aporter,
al Bisclavret la fist doner.
quant il l’urent devant lui mise,
280 ne se prist garde en nule guise.
li produm le rei apela,
cil ki primes le cunseilla:
« Sire, ne fetes mie bien:
284 cist nel fereit pur nule rien,
que devant vus ses dras reveste
[133d] ne mut la semblance de beste.
ne savez mie que ceo munte:
288 mut durement en ad grant hunte.
en tes chambres le fai mener
e la despoille od lui porter;
une grant piece l’i laissums.
292 s’il devient hum, bien le verums. »
li reis meïsmes le mena
e tuz les hus sur lui ferma.
|The king asks for the clothing,
276 will she or nill she;
he has it brought back
and given to Bisclavret.
When they had placed it before him,
280 he showed no interest in it whatsoever.
The wise man called the king,
the one who first advised him:
“Lord, you are not proceeding the right way.
284 This one would never for any money
put on his clothes again
and change his beastly appearance.
You don’t understand what’s at issue here:
288 he is very ashamed of it.
Have him brought to your private rooms
and have the clothing brought with him;
let’s leave him there a long time.
292 If he becomes a man, the fact will be obvious.” The king himself took him
and closed all the doors on him.
Lines 295-318. Happy (?) Ending
|al chief de piece i est alez,
296 deuz baruns ad od lui menez;
en la chambrë entrent tut trei.
sur le demeine lit al rei
truevent dromant le chevaler.
300 li reis le curut enbracier,
plus de cent feiz l’acole e baise.
si tost cum il pot aver aise,
tute sa tere li rendi;
304 plus li duna ke jeo ne di.
la femme ad del païs ostee
e chacie de la cuntree.
cil s’en alat ensemble od li,
308 pur ki sun seignur ot trahi.
enfanz en ad asés eüz,
puis unt esté bien cuneüz
[e] del semblant e del visage:
312 plusurs [des] femmes del lignage,
c’est verité, senz nes sunt nees
e si viveient esnasees.
l’avenutre ke avez oïe
316 veraie fu, n’en dutez mie.
de Bisclavret fu fet li lais
pur remembrance a tutdis mais.
|After a time he went there,
296 taking two barons with him;
all three enter the room.
On the king’s own bed
they find the knight sleeping.
300 The king ran to embrace him;
more than a hundred times he hugs and kisses him.
As soon as he got a chance
he gave him back all his land;
304 he gave him more than I’m telling you.
The woman he removed from the land
and chased from the country.
That other one went with her
308 for whom she had betrayed her lord.
They had quite a few children
who subsequently were well known
for the appearance of their faces.
312 Many of the women of this line—
this is the truth—were born without noses,
and lived out their lives noseless.
The adventure you have heard
316 was veridical; don’t doubt it for a second.
Of Bisclavret the lay was made
for remembrance forevermore.
- Rychner’s and Warnke’s principal manuscript has “u”, where. “u deveneit” might then be a doublet (that is, mean the same thing) as “u alout”; thus, the meaning of this line would be: “Where he came and where he went.” On the other hand there are the later lines 120-121: puis li cunta cumfaitement / ses sire ala e k’il devint = “then she related to him / how her lord went off and what he became.” Cf. also lines 270: e que devint e u ala; also line 63.
- “His” is perhaps the more likely translation, but “(les) soens” could also conceivably be referring to her people, not his.
- “For God’s sake”—so I translate “car,” which in OF makes an imperative more emphatic. See also line 39.
- I think he means: “By revealing my secret I will cause you to cease to love me.”
- Or perhaps: “I will lose myself because of it.”
- I am not sure how to interpret this line. “And I were perceived at this”—? So-and-so translates lines 73-74 thus: “car non-seulement si je venais à les perdre, mais encore à être aperçu, quand je les quitte…”
- Or: “doubt.” Also in line 85.
- Rychner thinks that for Marie a pluperfect can have (a merely) perfective value, so the translation should be: “He took.” See his note to Guigemar 739-40.
- Amended to “Ki” by Rychner
- Courts in the twelfth century were of limited duration and held around major feast-days (and not always in the same place).
- Scil., Bisclavret’s wife’s new husband.
- Scil., Bisclavret.