(from Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival. Translated by Edwin H. Zeydel
[Chapel Hill: North Carolina UP, 1951, pages 115-127])
PARZIVAL AT THE GRAIL CASTLE
ho fain would hear where he may stray 224
Whom lust for deeds has lured away,
Great acts of wondrous daring
To them we shall be bearing.
Let him his horse untether
Where the loyal live together:
They wish for him, for it must be
That he will suffer misery,
Though mixed with praise and pleasure.
He grieved beyond all measure 10
When this fair woman he forsook,
So fair that not in any book
Nor any tale related
As fairer e'er was rated.
Whenas of her he fondly thought
His mind appeared to be distraught.
He must have surely lost his mind
Had he not been of doughty kind.
Unreigned his might steed must press
All through the swamp and wilderness: 20
The rider's guidance it must miss.
The narrative tells me of this:
That day he rode to such a length,
It would have taxed a birdling's strength
If e'er it such a distance flew.
Now if the story tells me true,
He rode not near so far that day
When Ither came to be his prey,
Nor since, when he from Graharz
Had reached the land of Brobarz.
How he now fared shall I retell? 225
He reached a lake when evening fell
Where fishers had their anchor cast:
To them belonged these waters vast.
Now when they saw him riding,
So close were they abiding,
They heard his words quite audibly.
One of the men, as he could see,
Was clad in raiment rich and grand
As though he ruled o'er every land. 10
One sees no better garb than that.
Peacock plumes composed his hat.
This man who there was fishing
To question he was wishing:
"I beg you in God's holy name
And by the breeding that you claim
To say where I can shelter take."
This answer did the sad one make:
"Good sir," he said, "I understand
That not on water nor on land 20
For thirty miles a house doth lie
Except a single one near by.
'Tis there I'd counsel you to stay:
What other could you reach today?
Where yonder cliff comes to an end,
There sharply to the right hand bend;
Proceed until the moat you face
And that will be your stopping-place.
Bid them the bridge to lower
And entrance free implore."
Obeying what the fisher said, 226
He took his leave to forge ahead.
The fisher: "If you find the way
I'll care for you myself today.
Give thanks to match the care you find.
Take heed: some roads in there are blind;
You may ride false in coping
With paths so steeply sloping.
That's not my wish for you at all."
Away from him rode Parzival, 10
Along the proper road to ride
With speed until the moat he spied.
He found the bridge suspended,
The castle well defended:
It stood as by a turner wrought.
Unless on wing or wind 'twere brought,
Thus he dismounted from his steed.
The knights now begged him to proceed
And led him where he'd comfort find.
Quite swiftly then in manner kind
He was disarmed by men well-reared.
Naught entered there by power.
High walls and many a tower
Afforded wonderful defence.
E'en if besieged by host immense, 20
This castle would evince no fears
Of sieges lasting thirty years.
A page saw him come nigher
And asked of his desire
And whence his wanderings began.
He answered, "By the fisherman
I was directed here and sent.
I thanked him for his kind intent:
A shelter I expected.
To drop the bridge he directed
And bade me enter the castle." 227
"Welcome," rejoined the vassal.
"Since the fisher bade you hither go,
Honor and comfort we will show
For his sake, sending you to us."
He lowered the bridge while speaking thus.
Then entered he of high emprise
Into a court of spacious size.
By battle-games it was not trod--
'Twas covered with a short green sod, 10
The bohourt was forbidden--
Nor with banners overridden,
As are the fields at Abenberg.
No joyous knightly play and work
Had they enjoyed in many a day,
For in their hearts distress held sway.
And yet to him they were polite:
Both young and old received the knight,
And many squires came up who fain
Would seize his bridle, hold his rein, 20
And each with all the others vied
To grasp the stirrup at his side.
Now when this youth without a beard
They saw so winsome, they confessed
That truly he was richly blessed.
Some water now the young man craved 228
And from his skin the rust he laved
Upon his hands and neath his eyes.
Now young and old deemed in surprise
Another sun was gleaming.
Thus sat he, winsome seeming.
Of every flaw and blemish free
And made of silk from Araby,
A cloak they proffered now the lad,
With which his handsome form was clad; 10
The cords it had he wore unbound,
Whereat applause and praise he found.
The prudent chamberlain now spoke:
"Repanse de Schoye wore the cloak,
The queen, my gracious lady she:
It's lent by her and yours to be,
For not yet cut is your attire.
'Twas right to tell her this desire,
For you are fit to be our guest,
If I your worthiness can test." 20
"Your kindness, sir, may God requite.
If what you say of me is right,
I've found good cheer and rapture then:
God grants such recompense to men."
They poured his drink and served him so;
The sad well-nigh concealed their woe.
High honor they could render
And better food could tender
Than Belrapeire had that day
When he drove grief and care away.
Straightway his armor was removed: 229
Regrettable to him this proved
When a jest he failed to recognize.
A man at court in garrulous wise
Too boldly now requested
The lad of valor tested,
As though in wrath, to join the host.
For that he lost his life, almost,
At the hands of Parzival.
Since his bright sword was not at all 10
Within his reach, its blade he missed,
He squeezed that hand into a fist
Till from the nails the red blood shot
And on his sleeve made many a spot.
"Nay, sir!" the knights regret expressed,
"This is a man who likes to jest,
However sad we're prone to be.
Pray show him your civility.
He merely wished to make it clear
That now the fisherman is here. 20
Go in! As guest you're dear to him:
Divest yourself of anger grim."
A hall they entered huge and bright
With a hundred chandeliers for light
And candles large provided
For those who there resided.
Small candles burned along the wall.
A hundred bedsteads in the hall
By serving vassals had been made;
One hundred quilts on them were laid.
Each bed for four knights had a place; 230
Between the beds was left a space,
There round rugs were spread out well.
Fil li roy Frimutel
Such luxury could well provide.
Nor was this further thing denied:
E'en great expense not fearing,
Of marble they'd been rearing
Three fireplaces large and square;
Each bore what's known as fire there, 10
And wood called lignum aloe.
Such fires not then or since I see
At Wildenberg, my place to stay.
A costly work indeed were they.
The king was borne to where he'd face
The second, central fireplace
Upon a bed or litter.
A kind of bargain bitter
Was struck twixt him and happiness:
He lived toward death in dire distress. 20
Now striding to the palace
Came he who without malice
Was met by him who'd sent him there--
Parzival the young and fair.
Not long did he remain alone.
The host soon called in friendly tone,
"Pray come and sit here next to me.
If farther off your seat should be,
A lack of friendship I should show."
Thus said the host beset with woe.
This host, because of illness sore, 231
Craved heat, and heavy clothes he wore.
Made of sable long and wide
Must be for him on either side
Robes of fur and outer cloak.
His poorest pelt high praise bespoke:
It was of blackish hue and gray.
He also wore a fur beret,
Both sides of which were richly lined
With sable fur of costly kind. 10
A round Arabian border
Was sewed on to his order;
As button, quite apparent,
A ruby stone transparent.
There sat the knight for prudence known
The while their grief to them was shown:
A squire came quickly through the door
And a lance with iron point he bore
(A rite that caused them bitter woe)
Which dripped with blood in steady flow, 20
Then down the shaft into the hand;
The sleeve its further progress banned.
All those assembled wept and cried
Throughout the spacious hall and wide.
The folk of thirty nations
Had made less lamentations.
He bore it upon his hands withal
Around the room along each wall,
Then back again toward the door
And out, as he had come before.
Those wails had now abated, 232
By deepest grief dictated,
As by the lance they had been taught
That in his hand the squire had brought.
If now I do not bore you,
The tale I'll set before you,
Until with your own eyes you see
The service done there decorously.
Along the great hall's other side
A door of steel was opened wide. 10
From it two maidens came to sight:
Now mark and know how they were dight,
They could have given love's reward
To him who service would accord:
Maidens were they pure and fair
With garlands laid upon their hair.
Their coiffure was of flowers.
On the hand of each there towers
Of gold a handsome candlestick.
Their curls were long, blonde, and thick. 20
They carried candles burning.
By all means let's be turning
Our eyes their raiment fine to view
As they came in and nearer drew.
The countess fine of Tenabroc,
Of brown wool was he skirt and frock;
The same wore her companion there,
And girded was the noble pair
Each with a belt around her waist
And well above the hip-line placed.
A duchess entered now the hall 233
With escort. Each a pedestal
They bore of finest ivory.
Their lips were red as fire to see.
The four maids bowed politely,
Then two of them set rightly
The pedestals before the host.
Of perfect service they could boast.
They stood together as a group
And were indeed a beauteous troop. 10
These four, all dressed alike were they.
Now look, in come without delay
Yet other maidens, four times two,
Who did what they were called to do.
Four carried candles great and tall,
The others did not mind at all
To bear a precious stone and fine
Through which by day the sun could shine.
This gave the name by which 'twas known:
A garnet-hyacinth. The stone 20
Was amply wide and amply long,
Cut thin, for lightness' sake, but strong,
To make a table of it.
The rich host ate above it.
Advancing now direct and straight,
Before the host appeared the eight;
With lowered heads deep bows they made.
By four this table-top was laid
Upon the pedestals well-wrought
Of ivory white that they had brought.
Then stepping back with modesty 234
They bore the first four company.
On these eight maidens could be seen
Skirts like grass so bright and green
Of Azagouc's velvet fine,
Long and ample in design.
The maidens' waists were confined
By narrow belts of costly kind.
These maidens eight, trim and fair,
Had each adorned her flowing hair 10
With flower chaplets from the dell.
The count Ivan de Nonel,
Also Jernis de Rile
(They both lived distant many a mile),
'Twas their daughters had come here to serve.
These princesses one could observe
In clothes of rich and beauteous sheen.
Two knives that cut like fish-bones keen
They brought, a miracle to see,
Upon two towels separately. 20
These were silver, hard and white.
A dainty skill there came to light:
That silver was so sharp and true
That steel it could have cleft in two.
Before these knives proceeded
More maids for services needed.
Four maids of pure and blameless lives
Held up candles o'er the knives.
All six then forward wended:
Now hear what was intended.
They bowed, and two of them now hare 235
Upon the jewel-table rare
The silver, where they let it lie,
And with decorum then did hie
To join the other twelve ere long.
Unless it be that I am wrong,
Of maidens there should be eighteen.
Aha, six more maids now are seen
In garb of costliness untold,
One half of silk all wrought with gold, 10
The other silk from Ninniveh.
These and the six of whom I say
Wore twelve skirts of twofold hue,
The costliest you'd ever view.
After them appeared the queen.
So bright the maiden's face and mien,
All thought the down was breaking.
The clothes her raiment making
Were costly silks of Araby.
Upon a deep green Achmardi 20
She bore the pride of Paradise,
Root and branch, beyond all price.
That was a thing men call the Grail,
Which makes all earthly glory pale.
Repanse de Schoye was her name
Who bore the Grail of highest fame.
The Grail was such that she must be
Possessed of purest chastity
Who would fulfill its service high:
All false pretense she must deny.
Before the Grail there was more light 236
Of costly kind, a wondrous sight:
Six goblets tall came nigher,
In each a balsam fire.
When they'd entered by the door
And ta'en their proper place before,
The queen bowed low in decorousness
And all the maidens there no less
Who'd brought the flaming balsam near.
The queen, of all deception clear, 10
Before the host set down the Grail.
Parzival, so goes the tale,
With thought to her was clinging
As she the Grail was bringing:
Her cloak he wore, as well ye know.
In seemly wise the seven now go
To join up with the first eighteen,
Admitting then the noble queen
Between them, and, unless I err,
Twelve stood on either side of her. 20
Thus with the crown the maiden
With beauty rare was laden.
To all the knights attending,
And thus their presence lending,
Servants with basins were assigned
Of heavy gold and well designed:
Each steward served a group of four.
A handsome noble, helping, bore
A towel of snow-white radiance.
It was a scene of opulence.
A hundred tables must have been 237
Through the entrance carried in:
One table they completed
For each four knights there seated,
On each a white cloth laying
And thus their zeal displaying.
The host then washing water took;
Joy long since his soul forsook.
With his then Parzival washed too:
A silken towel of brightest hue 10
Was offered by a county's son,
Who knelt as service there was done.
Where any table one could find,
Four youthful squires were assigned,
That service good be meted
To those who there were seated.
Of these, two knelt and cut the food,
The other two, in serving mood,
Food and drink they richly bore
And served as oft they'd done before. 20
Hear more of luxury untold.
Four carts into the hall were rolled
And bore gold vessels rich and dear
To all the knights assembled here,
Along the walls progressing.
Four knights, to serve professing,
Set the vessels on the board.
A clerk each item must record,
For it was his to be concerned
That all the vessels be returned
When once the sumptuous meal was o'er. 238
Now let me tell you something more:
One hundred squires, nobly led,
In snow-white cloths accepted bread
In reverence there from the Grail.
Then each one took a different trail
And to the several tables came.
'Twas said to me, I'll say the same--
That is, if on your oaths ye'll swear
The Grail of everyone took care 10
(If truth I am denying,
Perforce ye too are lying!)
Whatever someone wanted,
That by the Grail was granted:
Dishes warm, dishes cold,
Dishes new and dishes old,
Meat that's tame and meat that's game.
"It can't have happened as you claim,"
I hear some men objecting.
Their rancor needs correcting. 20
The Grail, the fruit of highest bliss,
The plethora of sweetnesses,
Well-nigh possessed the attributes
That man to heaven's realm imputes.
They served in golden vessels small
The proper savors one and all:
Pepper, fruit-juice, every sauce.
The moderate and the gluttonous,
Both had just enough to eat.
Service was courteous and meet.
Mulberry juice, wine red or white 239
To please the cup of every knight--
Whatever beverage came to mind
The knight within his cup would find,
All from the Grail's capacity.
This noble, worthy company
Was served completely by the Grail.
Parzival could hardly fail
These costly wonders to admire,
But he'd been taught: Do not inquire. 10
"Prince Gurnemanz admonished me,"
He thought, "in steadfast loyalty
That I should not inquire too much.
What if my visit here be such
As when to his abode I turned?
Without a question I'll have learned
How stands the situation here."
Bearing a sword whose sheath alone
'Twould cost a thousand marks to own. 20
While thus he thought, a squire drew near,
Its hilt was of one ruby made
And then it seemed as if the blade
Were a source of many wonders blest.
The host bestowed in on the guest.
Said he, "I used it, sir, in need
In many a fight, ere God decreed
To wound me past all measure.
This sword shall be your pleasure
And make up for our faulty care.
You're fit to bear it anywhere.
When its full merit you have tried 240
'Twill keep you safe whate'er betide."
Woe's me that he did not inquire!
For him I still feel sorrow dire.
When with this sword invested,
A question was suggested.
And his sweet host I pity there,
Whom God's displeasure did not spare:
A question this had mended.
The banquet now was ended. 10
Those who were charged with serving neared,
Equipment soon away was cleared.
They loaded all four rolling carts,
The women also played their parts.
Who entered last now went our first.
Once more they led the queen, who durst
Approach the Grail there in the hall.
Before the host and Parzival
The queen bowed low in courteousness,
And all the other maids no less. 20
Again they took out through the door
The things they'd carried in before.
Parzival these actions eyed,
Thus on a litter he espied,
Within a room reposing,
Ere they the door were closing,
The handsomest old man that e'er
He'd laid his eyes on anywhere.
With moderation I insist
That he was whiter than the mist.
to Text Listing