Monday, March 17, 2014

The Two Lovers

There came from Normandy an old story that was often told
Of how because two children tried to win the right to love, they died.
A Breton lay preserves their fame;
"The Two Lovers is it's name."

To the Mountain by Alan Giana

As proof of the story, you can see in the country we call Normandy, A mountain marvelously high, on top of which the children lie.

Close to the mountain, on one side, there is a city, once the pride of Pitre, named as was that land, by the king whose wise command had built it. Honoring his will, the city is called Pitre still, and people even now are living in the dominions of that king. The valley of Pitre that we know remains as it was so long ago.

The king had just one child, a daughter Gentle and fair; He turned to her for comfort when her mother died,
Alice Gamby In The Garden, Young Girl Sitting In The Grass, 1891 by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

And kept her always at his side. People began to be aware that the king might never have an heir; To hear them openly complain caused him to suffer bitter pain.
With craft to meet his need he planned how none should win his daughter's hand, and yet the king be free from blame. He ordered heralds to proclaim near and far to everyone how the princess could be won. The king would let his child be married, but first the princess must be carried up the high mountain near the town before her suitor set her down.
As soon as they heard about the test, suitors hastened to request a chance to win the promised bride. But none, no matter how he tried, could ever get beyond half way before exhaustion made him lay his burden and his hopes to rest; All were defeated in their quest. The princess found herself a prize to which no one dared lift his eyes.

In that country lived a youth, The son of a count, and in all truth Noble, courteous, and fair.
To be the best knight anywhere was what he wanted most to do.

Tronie' of a Young Man with Gorget and Beret, circa 1639 by Rembrandt van Rijn
Tronie' of a Young Man with Gorget and Beret, circa 1639

Living much at court, he knew and loved the princess. Eloquent, he tried to make her heart consent to trust his own, to have her learn from love to love him in return. She knew his valor, his gentle ways, and that he had won her father's praise. And so she said that she would be his love, for which he thanked her humbly.

Often they would talk together, taking great care, although they were so much in love, never to show their feelings, and let no one know. But having to hide their love, they grieved. The boy was prudent; he believed whatever the cost, they must refuse to venture all too soon and lose. But very great was his distress.

One day it drove him to confess how much he suffered to his friend, pleading with her to put an end to their unhappiness, and run away with him. That seemed the one way possible-- he could no longer live in torment there with her. But surely, if he asked for her hand in marriage, the king's love would stand between them; he would not agree to lose his daughter willingly unless the suitor, to win his bride , carried her up the mountainside.

To the Mountain by Alan Giana

"I know too well," she said, "dear friend, how that trial would have to end--You are not strong enough to win. But there is no good either in running away. I couldn't forgive myself if I should ever give my father such good cause to grieve. I love him too much, I couldn't leave, knowing his rage and suffering. I think there is only one thing to do: I have an aunt I know could help, but you would have to go to Salerno -- she has lived there more than thirty years.
Classical Style Urn Against an Orange Painted Wall in a Small Town Garden, Bristol by Mark Bolton
Classical Style Urn Against an Orange Painted Wall in a Small Town Garden, Bristol

She is famous for her learning, and rich; for every kind of sickness she knows how to find medicine in roots and plants; Surely this is our only chance. If you agree I'll write a letter for you to take and give to her, and you can tell our story too. She will know how to counsel you, and give you some kind of medicine to make you strong enough to win. Then you can come back to this land, and ask my father for my hand.

He'll say that you are young and foolish, and that he will grant your wish, according to his own decree, only if you can carry me all the way up to the top of the mountain, and you do not stop."

For the prudent counsel that he heard, the boy gave joyful thanks, and answered that he would, that very day, with her consent, be on his way.
He went to his own home, and hurried to assemble all that he would need,

Adare cottage by Timothy O'Keefe
Adare cottage

Gold enough and fine clothing, pack horses, palfreys, summoning those of his men he trusted most to travel with him to the coast.
Once in Salerno, he visited the princess' aunt; when she had read the letter from beginning to end, she decided first to recommend that he stay with her a while. And so she learned all that there was to know. She gave him medicines to build his strength, and by her arts distilled a philter that would meet his need.
As soon as he drank it, however wearied he might be, no matter how great his burden, he would not feel the weight because of the power that had flown from his lips to veins and bone.
She sent him back then to his trial; He carried the philter in a phial.

When he reached his home, the boy, confident and full of joy, wasted no time at all, but went to ask the king if he'd consent to give him the princess for his bride, when he carried her up the mountainside.
The King felt no need to refuse; He thought the boy would surely lose, that it was madness to imagine someone of his age could win, where so many wise and valiant men had tried and every one was beaten.
The king then willingly proclaimed the contest would be held, and named a date. He summoned every friend, every vassal to attend the ceremony. At his command they gathered from throughout the land to see the youth put to the trial of climbing up the mountain while holding in his arms the princess.
She, by eating less and less, prepared in the most useful way she could for the appointed day.

Finally, when everyone arrived, the contest was begun. In a meadow near the Seine, first the boy appeared, and then the King, who led his daughter through the crowd assembled there to do them honor. The young princess wore only a shift and nothing more.

Young Girl Carrying a Basket of Flowers by Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Young Girl Carrying a Basket of Flowers

Holding her in his arms, the boy believed that nothing could destroy their hopes; he had the little phial which she would carry for a while.

However sure the outcome seems, I fear he'll go to such extremes that the medicine will go to waste.

He reached the halfway point in haste, far too happy to remember more than that he was close to her.
She felt his strength would not allow much more. "Please drink the philter now!" she said, "Dear friend, you cannot hide your weariness!" The boy replied, "Dearest, my heart is very strong; I will not stop to drink as long as I can manage three steps more -- Nothing can change my mind before! We would be seen by all the crowd, and, if they should shout aloud, I'd lose my balance. They're too near; I won't take time to drink right here."

Two thirds of the way to to the top, He stumbled, and nearly let her drop. Time and again the girl would plead, "Here is the medicine you need!" But trying, in pain, to reach the peak, he didn't even hear her speak.
Exhausted, he went on until He fell at the top, and then lay still; His heart cracked open in his breast. Thinking him worn out by his conquest, the maiden came to kneel beside her friend, and once again she tried to bring him comfort with the philter. But now he could not answer her.

Thus, as I have told, he died there upon the mountainside. Crying aloud her grief, the girl picked up the phial again to hurl the philter down. And it was worth much to that well watered earth, and to the region all around, for afterwards the people found powerful herbs that flourished there.

The maiden, in her great despair, lay down beside her friend, alone with sorrow she had never known, now that he was lost forever.

So she held him close to her, tightly in her arms, and still kissing his eyes and mouth until her grief became a sword inside her heart. And so the maiden died who was so lovely, and so wise.

Those waiting began to realize the children should long since have returned. When they climbed the peak, and learned the truth, the King, in horror, fainted. When he could speak, he mourned the dead, and all the people shared his sorrow. They did not let the children go for three days. A marble coffin holding them both bas buried in the place that would forever tell the story.
Then they said farewell.

"Two Lovers" is the name they gave the mountain that was now a grave.
It all happened just this way in truth and in a Breton lay.

To the Mountain by Alan Giana
To the Mountain

Marie de France

Marie de France (ca. 1155-1189) wrote in the second half of the twelfth century, this is all we know for certain. The dates usually given refer to the ascension to the throne of Henry II, to whom she addressed her poems. She was perhaps the daughter of Geoffrey Plantagenet and therefore half-sister to Henry II. Although born in France, she probably did all her writing in England, where she was Abbess of Shaftesbury. Marie de France is the greatest woman poet of medieval Europe. She wrote lais, narrative poems of love and adventure, using prevalent medieval legends as her source. Although the poems are narrative, the lines read with the grace and lyrical flow of skillful song. She takes advantage of narrative technique in order to create suspense, drama, and often exquisitely poignant climatic scenes.

This Narrative Poem is posted for my grand daughters Brittany and Bridget...
This was my literature lesson for today


Barbara said...

I love this! Some great lessons here.

maranatha777 said...

What a great literature lesson, for sure!! :-) I loved it!


Mimi said...

Thank you Barbara and Kate, for your kind comments...
my Grandchildren are home I like to send them a story or something once in a while to let them know that their Mimi is still on her toes...

SBTVD said...

Hello. This post is likeable, and your blog is very interesting, congratulations :-). I will add in my blogroll =). If possible gives a last there on my blog, it is about the SBTVD, I hope you enjoy. The address is A hug.

Brittany and Bridget said...

We were very disappointed that the young man's heart cracked. Bummer about the girl, too. ;o)

Thank you for the literature lesson.

Love you, Mimi!

Brittany and Bridget said...

PS Did you watch Sense & Sensibility? We liked the old one better. Mom said you watched the PBS Emma. We want you to watch our Emma when you're here. Mr. Knightly isn't bald in ours!

PPS Papaw is cute bald! :o) (Mr. Knightly was not a "cutie" bald) We love you, Papaw!!

Cathy said...

Brittany and Bridget ~ I agree it is a very sad story. But your Mimi does tell great stories, and the pictures are wonderful. I enjoyed reading it.

Lisa said...

This was a beautiful Literature lesson for your granddaughters. I will have my Girl's read this. We homeschool to. God bless you. Lisa

Karen H. said...

Good Morning Mimi,
I enjoyed this Literature lesson that you posted for your Grandaughters. I'm sure they enjoyed it as well. "THANK YOU" for sharing it with us and it is such a lovely story and lessons can be learned from it. I have been a bad blogger lately and haven't visited like I normally do. I guess it's because of all the rains we are having. More rain is in the forecast for later this evening and going thru possibly Friday morning. Take care my friend and have a great day. May God Bless You and Yours.

Love & Hugs,
Karen H.

Mimi said...

Brittany and Bridgie,
I look forward to watching your version of Emma with you while I am there!!
I will see you very soon!!
Love you,

red tin heart said...

It is so sad. But I guess we have to learn to let go of our children when it is time for them to go.
Good story.. Hope you have a great day. xoxo Nita

Mimi I also have another site, i don't remember if i e-mailed you or not.
My mind is scattered these days. It is more of a personal journal. E-mial me if you don't have the link and I will e-mail it back to you.
xoxo Nita

Maxine said...

Ohh, I was so captivated while reading this. And the lovely pictures sprinkled throughout made for such pleasant reading! I was sad, too, about the two young people dying, but it was such a lesson for young and old. Thanks for sharing it, Mimi!

MYSTI said...

What a great lesson! Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed not only the story but the pictures to.

Ruthie said...

What a beautiful blog! I enjoyed it immensly. Found it through Bold and Free. Good stories and wonderful pictures.

Paula said...

Love it! Beautiful story.