« AnkstesnisTęsti »
in their robes of peace, whose long and rich-tinted mantles were contrasted with the gayer and more splendid habits of the ladies, that, in a greater proportion than even the men themselves, thronged to witness a sport which one would have thought too bloody and dangerous to afford them much pleasure. The lower and interior space was soon filled by substantial yeomen and burghers, and such of the lesser gentry as, from modesty, poverty, or dubious title, durst not assume any higher place. It was, of course, amongst these that the most frequent disputes for precedence occurred.
Prince John, being surrounded by his followers, gave signal to the heralds to proclaim the laws of the tournament, which were briefly as follows:-First, the five challengers were to undertake all comers. Secondly, any knight proposing to combat might, if he pleased, select a special antagonist from among the challengers, by touching his shield.* Thirdly, when the knights present had accomplished their vow, by each of them breaking five lances, the prince was to declare the victor in the first day's tourney, who should receive as prize a war-horse of exquisite beauty and matchless strength; and, in addition to this reward of valor, it was now announced he should have the peculiar honour of naming the Queen of Love and Beauty, by whom the prize should be given on the ensuing day. Fourthly, it was announced, that, on the second day, there should be a general tournament, in which all the knights present, who were desirous to win praise, might take part; and being divided into two bands of equal numbers, might fight it out manfully, until the signal was given by Prince John to cease the combat.
The elected Queen of Love and Beauty was then to crown the knight whom the Prince should adjudge to have borne himself best in this second day, with a coronet composed of thin gold plate, cut into the shape of a laurel crown. On this second day, the knightly games ceased. But on that which followed, feats of archery, of bull-baiting, and other popular amusements, were to be practised, for the more immediate amusement of the populace.
The lists now presented a most splendid spectacle. The sloping galleries were crowded with all that was noble, great, wealthy, and beautiful, in the northern and midland parts of England; and the contrast of the various dresses of these dignified spectators rendered the view as gay as it was rich.
The heralds ceased their proclamation with their usual cry of 'Largesse, largesse, gallant knights!" and gold and silver pieces
* If he did so with the reverse of his lance, the trial of skill was made with what were called the arms of courtesy,—that is, lances at whose extremity a piece of round flat board was fixed, so that no danger was encountered, save from the shock of the horses and spears. But if the shield was touched with the sharp end of the lance, the combat was understood to be at outrance,-that is, the knights were to fight with sharp weapons, as in actual battle.-Note by PARKER.
were showered on them from the galleries, it being a high point of chivalry to exhibit liberality towards those whom the age accounted the secretaries, at once, and historians, of honour.
The heralds withdrew from the lists in gay and glittering procession, and none remained within them save the marshals of the field, who, armed cap-à-pie,* sat on horseback, motionless as statues, at the opposite ends of the lists. Meantime, the inclosed space at the northern extremity of the lists, large as it was, was now completely crowded with knights, desirous to prove their skill against the challengers, and, when viewed from the galleries, presented the appearance of a sea of waving plumage, intermixed with glistening helmets, and tall lances, to the extremities of which were, in many cases, attached many pennons of about a span's breadth, which, fluttering in the air as the breeze caught them, joined with the restless motion of the feathers to add liveliness to the scene.
At length the barriers were opened, and five knights, chosen by lot, advanced slowly into the area; a single champion riding in front, and the other four following in pairs. All were splendidly armed, and my Saxon authority records at great length their devices, their colours, and the embroidery of their horse-trappings.
The champions advanced through the lists, restraining their fiery steeds, and compelling them to move slowly, while, at the same time, they exhibited their paces, together with the grace and dexterity of the riders. With the eyes of an immense concourse of spectators fixed upon them, they advanced up to the platform upon which the tents of the challengers stood, and there separating themselves, each touched slightly, and with the reverse of his lance, the shield of the antagonist to whom he wished to oppose himself.
The lower orders of spectators in general-nay, many of the higher, and it is even said several of the ladies-were rather dis appointed at the champions choosing the arms of courtesy. For the same sort of persons who, in the present day, applaud most highly the deepest tragedies, were then interested in a tournament exactly in proportion to the danger incurred by the champions engaged.
Having intimated their more pacific purpose, the champions retreated to the extremity of the lists, where they remained drawn up in a line; while the challengers, sallying each from his pavilion, mounted their horses, and, headed by Brian de Bois-Guilbert, descended from the platform, and opposed themselves individually to the knights who had touched their respective shields.
At the flourish of clarions and trumpets, they started out against each other at full gallop; and such was the superior dexterity or good fortune of the challengers, that those opposed to Bois-Guilbert, Malvoisin, and Front-de-Boeuf, rolled on the ground.
The antagonist of Grantmesnil, instead of bearing his lance
*From head to foot.
point fair against the crest or the shield of his enemy, swerved so much from the direct line as to break his weapon athwart the person of his opponent-a circumstance which is accounted more disgraceful than being actually unhorsed; because the one might happen from accident, whereas the other evinced awkwardness, and want of management of the weapon and of the horse. The fifth knight alone maintained the honour of his party, and parted fairly with the Knight of St. John, both splintering their lances, without advantage on either side.
The shouts of the multitude, together with the acclamations of the heralds, and the clangor of the trumpets, announced the triumph of the victors and the defeat of the vanquished. The former retreated to their pavilions, and the latter, gathering themselves up as they could, withdrew from the lists in disgrace and dejection, to agree with their victors concerning the redemption of their arms and their horses, which, according to the laws of the tournament, they had forfeited.
The fifth of their number alone tarried in the lists long enough to be greeted with the applauses of the spectators, amongst which he retreated, to the aggravation, doubtless, of his companions' mortification.
A second and third party of knights took the field; and although they had various success, yet, upon the whole, the advantage de cidedly remained with the challengers, not one of whom lost his seat or swerved from his charge-misfortunes which befell one or two of their antagonists, in each encounter. The spirits, there fore, of those opposed to them seemed to be considerably damped by their continued success.
Three knights only appeared on the fourth entry, who, avoiding the shields of Bois-Guilbert and Front-de-Boeuf, contented themselves with touching those of the three other knights, who had not altogether manifested the same strength and dexterity. This politic selection did not alter the luck of the field. The challengers were still successful; one of their antagonists was overthrown, and both the others failed in the attaint-that is, in striking the helmet and shield of their antagonist firmly and strongly, with the lance held in a direct line, so that the weapon might break, unless the champion was overthrown. After this fourth encounter, there was a considerable pause: nor did it appear that any one was very desirous of renewing the encounter.
At length, as the Saracenic music of the challengers concluded one of those long and high flourishes with which they had broken the silence of the lists, it was answered by a solitary trumpet, which breathed a note of defiance from the northern extremity.
All eyes were turned to see the new champion which these sounds announced; and no sooner were the barriers opened than he paced into the lists. As far as could be judged of a man sheathed in armour, the new adventurer did not greatly exceed the middle size, and seemed to be rather slender than strongly made. His suit of armour was formed of steel, richly inlaid with gold, and
the device on his shield was a young oak-tree pulled up by the roots, with the Spanish word Desdichado, signifying disinherited, He was mounted on a gallant black horse, and as he passed through the lists, he gracefully saluted the Prince and the ladies by lowering his lance.
The dexterity with which he managed his horse, and something of youthful grace which he displayed in his manner, won him the favour of the multitude, which some of the lower classes expressed by crying, "Touch Ralph de Vipont's shield-touch the Hospitaller's shield; he has the least sure seat-he is your cheapest bargain!" The champion, moving onward amid these well-meant hints, ascended the platform by the sloping alley which led to it from the lists, and, to the astonishment of all present, riding straight up to the central pavilion, struck with the sharp end of his spear the shield of Brian de Bois-Guilbert, until it rung again.
All stood astonished at his presumption, but none more than the redoubted knight whom he had thus defied to mortal combat. Have you confessed yourself, brother?" said the Templar; "and have you heard mass this morning, that you peril your life so frankly?"-"I am fitter to meet death than thou art," answered the Disinherited Knight-for by this name the stranger had recorded himself in the books of the tourney. "Then take your place in the lists," said De Bois-Guilbert," and look your last upon the sun for this night thou shalt sleep in paradise!"-" Gramercy for thy courtesy," replied the Disinherited Knight; "and, to requite it, I advise thee to take a fresh horse and a new lance; for, by my honour, you will need both." Having expressed himself thus confidently, he reined his horse backward down the slope which he had ascended, and compelled him in the same manner to move backwards through the lists, till he reached the northern extremity, where he remained stationary, in expectation of his antagonist. This feat of horsemanship again attracted the applause of the multitude.
However incensed at his adversary for the precautions which he recommended, Brian de Bois-Guilbert did not neglect his advice; for his honour was too nearly concerned to permit his neglecting any means which might insure victory over his presumptuous opponent. He changed his horse for a fresh one of great strength and spirit. He chose a new and tough spear, lest the wood of the former might have been strained in the previous encounters he had sustained. Lastly, he laid aside his shield, which had received some little damage, and received another from his squires. His first had only borne the general device of his rider, representing two knights riding upon one horse-an emblem expressive of the original humility and poverty of the Templars' qualities, which they had since exchanged for the arrogance and the wealth that finally occasioned their suppression. Bois-Guilbert's new shield bore a raven in full flight, holding in its claws a skull, and bearing the motto Gare le Corbeau.*
*"Beware of the raven!"
When the two champions stood opposed to each other at the two extremities of the lists, the public expectation was strained to the highest pitch. Few augured the possibility that the encounter could terminate well for the Disinherited Knight, yet his courage and gallantry secured the general good wishes of the spectators.
The trumpets had no sooner given the signal than the champions vanished from their posts with the speed of lightning, and closed in the centre of the lists with the shock of a thunderbolt. The lances burst into shivers up to the very grasp, and it seemed at the moment that both knights had fallen, for the shock had made each horse recoil backwards upon its hams. The address of the riders recovered their steeds by use of the bridle and spur; and having glared on each other for an instant with eyes which seemed to flash fire through the bars of their visors, each made a demi-volte,* and retiring to the extremity of the lists, received a fresh lance from the attendants.
A loud shout from the spectators, waving of scarfs and handkerchiefs, and general acclamations, attested the interest taken by the spectators in this encounter, the most equal, as well as the best performed, which had graced the day. But no sooner had the knights resumed their station than the clamour of applause was hushed into a silence so deep and so dead that it seemed the multitude were afraid even to breathe.
A few minutes' pause having been allowed, that the combatants and their horses might recover breath, Prince John with his truncheon signed to the trumpets to sound the onset. The champions a second time sprung from their stations, and closed in the centre of the lists, with the same speed, the same dexterity, the same violence, but not the same equal fortune as before. In this second encounter, the Templar aimed at the centre of his antagonist's shield, and struck it so fair and forcibly that his spear went to shivers, and the Disinherited Knight reeled in his saddle. On the other hand, that champion had, in the beginning of his career, directed the point of his lance towards Bois-Guilbert's shield, but, changing his aim almost in the moment of encounter, he addressed it to the helmet, a mark more difficult to hit, but which, if attained, rendered the shock more irresistible. Yet, even at this disadvantage, the Templar sustained his high reputation; and had not the girths of his saddle burst, he might not have been unhorsed. As it chanced, however, saddle, horse, and man, rolled on the ground, under a cloud of dust.
To extricate himself from the stirrups and fallen steed was to the Templar scarce the work of a moment; and stung with madness, both at his disgrace and at the acclamations with which it was hailed by the spectators, he drew his sword, and waved it in defiance of his conqueror.
The Disinherited Knight sprung from his steed, and also unsheathed his sword. The marshals of the field, however, spurred
* A turn half around,