|This translation of "Le Chevalier Qui Fist Parler les Cons" was taken from Robert Hellman and Richard O'Gorman, Fabliaux: Ribald Tales from the Old French , (New York; Thomas Y. Crowell, 1965), p 105-121.|
Fabliaux increase, as do their markets,
and fabliards can fill their pockets,
who bring to the idle and roisterous,
wherever the company's not too boisterous,
great easement, and can assuage
all pains, so that even men in a rage
can find in fabliaux relief,
forget their troubles and their grief,
their worries and their enmities.
So says Garin, who never lies,
and who in this story will indite
the adventures of a certain knight
who had a truly remarkable talent,
for he could make cunts speak, this gallant,
and conjure arseholes from all parts
to answer his summons by magic arts.
This gift he got, as you shall hear,
after his dubbing, in the first year
of his knighthood, when though he'd come of age
he still was poor and worked for a wage;
and owning no vineyards and no land,
in tourneys and wars was a hired hand,
for he was handy with a lance and not
a bad fighter in a tight spot,
but gallant and bold when the battle was hot.
Now at this time, as I read the tale,
the spirit of peace begins to prevail:
military ventures fail
to take hold, tourneys are banned,
and men-at-arms are in no demand.
And our knight, having spent the last of his gains,
without a single penny remains.
Gone were his fineries: his gypon,
his ermined tunic, his haubergeon,
his fur-lined cloak, his shirts of lawn;
for he had put them all in pawn.
(I feel he did not show good sense
thus to eat and drink his accouterments.)
So he, with nowhere else to go,
took shelter in a provincial chateau,
where he had nothing to do from noon till nine
but sample the excellent local wine.
Until one day, when he had spent
long months in idle luxury pent,
came the great news of a tournament,
to be held in Touraine at the town of La Haye,
whither were riding without delay
the greatest and fiercest knights of the day.
Our knight rejoiced, his spirits higher
than ever, and sent for Hugh his squire
to tell him the news; but sober Hugh
said: "What has this to do with you,
who are so far out of your senses
as to pawn your arms to meet expenses?"
"Ah, Hugh!" said the knight, "now I recall
how in spite of your counsel I pawned them all.
If only I'd taken your advice!
But, Hugh, see now if you can devise
some way of getting them out again--
without you I'm the most helpless of men--
quickly, Hugh, and see also whether
you can scrape a little money together."
Hugh, having seen how matters stood,
went about the business as best he could;
and, thinking he must jump if he would fall free,
decided to sell his master's palfrey.
And he bargained so well that he sold the mare
for the worth of the arms and a little to spare.
The following day the knight and Hugh
set forth without a retinue,
and as they were riding through some sedges
the knight asked Hugh how he'd got their pledges.
Hugh, who was wise, looked out at the heath
and said: "Dear master, by my faith,
I sold your palfrey; I could not see
another way for us to get free
of debt, do what I might;
you'll have no horse to lead on your right."
"And how much, Hugh, could you put by?"
My lord," said Hugh, "to tell no lie,
all we have's twelve measly pence."
"Then we'd better avoid all rash expense,"
said the knight. And, trampling through the heather,
the two of them rode on together.
And when they had traveled a great ways,
they entered a valley. The knight let graze
his horse and rode in thought, but Hugh
set spurs to his nag and onward flew.
Until he happened on a mead
in whose midst a fountain played
of crystal waters pure that poured
in many little streams abroad,
while all around it beautiful trees,
such as only in summer one sees,
all green and leafy, there were planted;
and where the silvery jet decanted
three maidens bathed, so seeming wise
and beautiful, one might surmise
that they were fairies in mortal guise.
Their clothes they'd hung upon a tree,
so rich in stuff and embroidery,
and trimmed in gold and made to pleasure,
they surely were worth a very treasure.
Hugh, when he glimpsed their white charms,
their pretty bosoms, haunches, arms,
spurred horse and did not stop to praise,
but riding by the naked fays,
without so much as a yea or nay,
seized and carried their clothes away.
The nymphs, left standing all aghast
to see the squire ride off so fast,
as if truly he'd no mind to stay,
and their gowns and petticoats carried away,
began to weep and rave and cry out;
and while they thus were flinging about,
up came the knight at a smart pace,
in search of Hugh. The eldest grace
hailed him and told him their plight,
at which, much moved, the worthy knight
set spurs and gave his stallion head,
till he caught Hugh, to whom he said:
"Drop them at once! By my head,
you shall not have them! Nor shall it be said
we acted so basely, in God's name,
as to put those poor naked damsels to shame."
"Calm down," said Hugh. "Consider this thing
from all sides; these clothes will bring
at very least a hundred pounds;
if for fifteen years you made the rounds
to tourneys, jousts, and wars and such,
you could never hope to earn as much."
"By God!" said the knight. "I don't care a jot
what the price is. I'll bring back the lot.
Such booty, won without a fight,
will not increase my worth as a knight."
"Take them," said Hugh in a very sweat
of spite. "you'll deserve what you get!"
The knight snatched up the clothes and rode
at a gallop to where the maids abode.
The three fair damsels were glad to see
him and gladder to have their finery.
They put on their clothes in great haste,
for none of them had a moment to waste,
then took their leave; but the first of the three,
As they were going, said: "God save me,
this is a courteous knight, who to please us
returns us all our gowns and chemises,
which he might have sold for pounds and pence.
To leave him without a recompense
or any cause for gratitude
would be ungenerous and rude.
Let's call him back and pay him well;
the poor man has no wherewithal.
Let none of us be mean, but each
give him enough to make him rich."
The others agreed. They called the knight,
and the eldest fay, as was her right,
spoke first of all and said: "Sir knight,
I swear on my faith, it is not right
that you should ride away like this
after rendering us such services.
For you have saved our lives and can
boast yourself a worthy man.
A rich gift on you I'll bestow:
henceforth, in whatever place you go
all men will greet you and make you brave
welcome and offer you all they have,
so that never again will you be in need."
"Fair dame," said the knight, "for this rich meed
much thanks." The second followed the tall one
and said: "Sir knight, my gift's no small one:
wherever you go, west or east,
you shall not find a maid or a beast,
so she have two eyes, whose cunt can refrain
from answering you if you but deign
to speak to it. There's you reward.
You may be sure no king or lord
has such a gift." The knight grew red
with shame; he thought the girl was mad.
The third one took her turn and said:
"Sir knight, to this second gift I add,
as is just and right, that if the cunt
be blocked or stoppered up in front
and cannot answer you straightway,
the arsehole will, without delay,
speak for it, if you give leave,
no matter whom it hurt or grieve."
Again he blushed--he thought that they
were mocking him--and rode away.
And when he'd caught up again with Hugh,
he told him the tale as I've told it to you:
"The maids of that mead made a fool of me."
"I'm glad to hear it," said Hugh. "By my fay,
that man's a fool who can't keep a grip
on what he has, but lets it slip
or throws it down without a care."
"Hugh," said the knight, "by my head, I swear
you speak the truth." Just then and there
a priest came riding astride a mare.
This priest was rich and well supplied
with gold, but mean and greedy-eyed.
He'd set out alone on the road that day
to go to a town not far away;
but sooner did he spy the knight
that he reined in his mare and made to alight.
"My lord, you're welcome," he said. "Please stay
and lodge in my house for today.
To honor and serve you is all I crave;
you may command whatever I have,
to the very last thing, of that no fear."
The knight was much amazed to hear
an utter stranger, as was this priest,
invite him home to be his guest.
Then said wise Hugh: "As God has ruth,
my lord, these fays have spoken truth.
That I believe. But try right now
to conjure the cunt of the mare. I vow
it will reply." The knight said: "Agreed,"
and turned at once toward the rump of the steed.
"Sir cunt, where does your master ride?
Now tell me truly and nothing to hide."
"By my faith, sir knight," said the cunt, "he's bound
to court his mistress, and girdled round
his middle he carries twenty pound
of good hard coin to buy her a gown."
This priest when he heard the cunt speak so clear,
took to his heels from very fear;
he thought he was betrayed and bewitched.
His cloak from off his shoulders he twitched,
the better to run, and also he pitched
his belt and his money onto the road.
He left his mare where she abode
and turned and ran. The squire Hugh
called after him a loud halloo,
but never a word the priest replied;
he saved his breath to lengthen his stride,
and fled off down a wagon track;
for a hundred pounds he would not have turned back.
The knight picked up the money bag,
while squire Hugh caught hold of the nag,
which was well saddled, and snatched up the cloak;
and laughing heartily at the joke,
they rode off together in great haste.
The knight was very pleased; he placed
the money in squire Hugh's care--
twenty good pounds he carried there.
"Hugh, I'd have had to be drunk," said the knight,
"to leave those honest girls in that plight,
all naked, and steal their gowns for the cloth.
That they were fairies I'll take my oath.
They have given me rich recompense.
It does not matter what great expense
we've had or what we squander or waste;
we've come into plenty from that priest,
who'll pay our bills, though he's ignorant
of this and of how his money is spent.
Hugh, he gains little, it seems to me,
who makes his conquests by knavery;
for, losing his honor, he'll have no report
or fine tales told of him at court.
As for me, I'd rather be blind or lame."
So they rode and chatted, until they came
to a castle, well seated, fair, and strong.
But let me not make my tale too long:
in that castle there dwelt a count,
who more than thirty knights could mount
at his command, and with him his fair
wife, a lady most debonair.
Then straightway this knight who made cunts speak
entered into the castle keep,
where all the people came running to meet him,
they were so eager to welcome and greet him.
This pleased the knight beyond all bounds.
There was a green in the midst of the town,
and all the townsfolk assembled there,
among them the count and his lady fair--
who was no chatterbox or flirt--
and everyone in half hose or skirt:
the burghers and damsels and every knight,
the servants and squires; and at the sight
of our knight, who with Hugh came toward'em,
from all sides crowded around to board him.
The count himself could not requite
his longing but hugging him tight,
and kissed him full upon the mouth.
And the countess hugged him; in God's truth,
she'd have kissed him twenty times, full fair,
if the count had not been quite so near,
more willingly than she'd hear a mass.
The knight among the people did pass,
and not a servant or knight-at-arms
but greeted him with open arms.
They led him into the count's hall,
where at once they sat down at table, all
the knights and their peers, for they took no pleasure
in fasting talk. And when at their leisure
they'd dined, began to talk of sleep,
for the night was very dark and deep.
The countess took great pains to please
her guest, and so he might be at his ease,
made a rich bed in a lovely chamber,
where all alone he could rest and slumber.
And when she had done this, she called a maid,
the prettiest of her damsels, and said
to her secretly: "Go, sweet friend,
and lie with that knight whom the heavens send
to please us all. Go freely and bide,
all naked, as long as you like, by his side.
It cannot grieve you, for the knight is fair.
I'd go there myself, nor would I care
a straw for shame, were it not that I dread
the count my lord, who is still not abed."
"Willingly, lady," said the maid,
"will serve you in this." For she was afraid
to refuse and also eager to try.
She entered the room where the knight did lie,
all atremble, and there as best she might
she took off her clothes and lay down by the knight.
The knight, when he felt her by his side,
woke up at once, surprised, and cried:
"Who is it now that lies with me?"
"My lord, don't take it ill, said she,
who was a simple maid and coy.
"I do not mean to harm or annoy.
I'm a maid in the countess's employ;
she sent me here, of that no dread.
I only want to caress your head."
"In faith, that doesn't displease me a bit,"
he said, and by way of proving it
he embraced her and kissed her mouth and cheek
and felt her breasts that were pretty and sleek.
The to touch her cunt the knight made free
and said: "Sir cunt, now speak to me!
I would know how your mistress came by my side."
"My lord," said the cunt, "there's nothing I'd hide;
the countess sent the maid in her stread
to bring you pleasure and joy abed."
When the maiden heard her cunt speak out,
she was shaken strangely by terror and doubt;
she started up and leapt out of bed,
all naked but for her shirt, and fled.
She ran into her mistress's chamber,
and the heart within her beat like a tambour.
The countess called her and said: "What news?
What's happened to you? Did you refuse
the knight to whom I sent you?" The maid,
as best she could, found voice and said:
"My lady, I've never been so daunted;
I think that man in there's enchanted.
I went to him and took off my gown
and all naked by his side lay down;
but no sooner was I in bed, to speak blunt,
than he took to calling on my cunt;
and in my hearing my cunt complied
and to everything he asked replied."
The countess gaped at what she heard
but said she didn't believe a word
of such marvels; at which the maiden swore
that she'd told the truth and nothing more.
There they left the tale without further gloze.
The next morning early the knight arose
and called to Hugh to saddle his horse.
The countess broke her usual course,
when she heard the knight was going away,
and got up early to bid him stay,
and begged him at least to delay
till he'd had dinner. The knight replied:
"Lady, God save me, I would not bide,
for all the world, until dinnertime.
Let it not displease you, I must decline,
for I've a very long journey ahead."
"No matter for that," the countess said,
"You'll make your journey another day."
And the knight, who saw that there was no way
for him to refuse, consented to stay.
And when after dinner the knights at table
began to parley, the countess, unable
to hold her tongue, spoke loud in the hall
and said: "My lords, so may God save us all,
I have heard many knights and squires tell
their adventures, and servants and burghers as well,
but none of them boast and say
they've done what I heard yesterday.
For know, in this castle there is a knight
who all the world surpasses in might;
so puissant he that at his whim
he can conjure cunts to speak to him.
High praise a man like that may claim!
And, by Saint German, he is this same
knight, our guest who yesterday came."
When the knights had heard her, they much admired
this marvel, and the knight inquired
if that was true which the lady gave out.
"Yes," said the knight, "without any doubt."
At this the count and all his men
laughed out loud. Then spoke once again
the dame, who was neither foolish nor base,
and said: "Sir knight, whatever the case
I'll bet you forty pounds my cunt
will never be so mad or so drunk
as to speak to you a single word."
As soon as the knight this challenge heard,
he said: "My lady, so God me save,
forty pounds I do not have,
but my horse and armor, for what they'll fetch,
I'll bet here and now, if you'll stake as much."
"I don't ask better than that," said the dame,
"and you'll get forty pounds just the same,
if you win, but if you lose, now mind,
you leave on foot and your gear stays behind."
The knight agreed, and to be precise
as to what must happen, in which he was wise,
he said: "My lady, the cunt will pronounce
at least three consecutive words at once."
"If you wish," she said, "take seven or eight.
But before you do, I'll ask you to wait
while I go to my room for a bit." She heard
no demur or contradictory word;
the bet was clinched, and the countess went in
to her chamber. Now hear how she planned to win:
She filled her fist with a good lump
of cotton and stuffed it up her cunt;
the countess calked her seam aright
and with her right fist rammed it tight;
more than a pound of it she inducted,
so that the cunt was well obstructed.
And when she had shoved enough cotton in
to fill it up to the very brim,
she returned to the hall and challenged the knight
to do his worst, for do what he might,
her organ to gossip was never wont,
it would not give him a word or a grunt.
The knight answered nothing but called on the cunt:
"Sir cunt, I call on you to remember
what your lady did in her chamber
when she retired, and tell me why."
But the cunt was unable to reply--
so stuffed with cotton was its throat
that it could not utter a single note.
The knight put the question to it again,
but it wouldn't as much as say amen,
for it was mute. The knight in great ire
turned to ask advice of his squire,
"My lord," Hugh answered, "have no fear!
Remember now what the third maid said:
if the cunt were silent, the arsehole instead
would speak. I' sure she told no lie."
"Hugh," laughed the knight, "as I live and must die,
you speak the truth!" To the arsehole now
it was the cunt no answer would grant.
The arsehole said: "Because he can't;
for both his mouth and throat are full,
I'm not sure whether of cotton or wool.
It was my lady stuffed him so
when she went to her room a moment ago.
But it the cotton were out, why then
I'm sure that he would speak again."
When the knight had heard the arsehole's account,
at once he spoke to his host the count
and said: "my lord, by faith I owe,
the countess has done me wrong to go
and stopple up her cunt; for know,
it would speak if she hadn't crammed it so."
Then the count gave the order immediately
that the countess set her organ free.
The countess returned to her room, where she,
who knew that the count no refusal would brook,
pulled out all the cotton by means of a hook;
she repented that she had stuffed it at all.
Then back she went into the hall;
she knew full well the wager was lost,
a foolish bet which she'd made to her cost.
The knight called the cunt and asked it why
at his first call it would not reply.
Said the cunt: "I could not, I was so choked
with the cotton my mistress had crammed down my throat."
The count laughed loud, and all his men
laughed at the joke again and again,
and told the countess she'd lost; it were best
she say no more, but make peace with her guest.
This she did, and also, without delay,
the forty pounds to the knight did pay.
And he received with joy what he won, he
stood in such great need of money;
and as long as he lived he was honored by all.
Now wasn't he born in good hour to fall
into such good fortune the very year
he was dubbed! My story ends here.
"Le Chevalier Qui Fist Parler les Cons" is preserved in no less than seven manuscripts, a
clear testimony to its popularity in the Middles Ages. The tale, which may well have inspired
Les Bijoux Indiscrets ("The Telltale Jewels") of Diderot, offers overtones of parody of
chivalric literature in the opposition between the idealistic knight and the worldly-wise but
unscrupulous squire, Hugh, who are not unlike the knight and squire of the most famous of all
parodies of chivalric ideals, Cervantes' Don Quixote . The story of our fabliau was retold
at least once in German literature, in "Der Weisse Rosendorn" ("The White Rosebush"), included
in Von der Hagen's Gesammtabenteuer (Collected Tales, 1850).
Nothing is known about the Garin who, in line 10, claims to be the author as well as the reciter of this tale. The dialect of the work is probably that of the Parisian area of the mid-thirteenth century. Also, the author may have been associated with the city mentioned in the work, La Haye, although this name might have been chosen only for the sake of the rhyme.
Edition: Rychner, II, 38-79 (version C).
Hellman, Robert and Richard O'Gorman, Fabliaux: Ribald Tales from the Old French. (1965: New York; Thomas Y Crowell Company).