Here He Telleth of the Champyon of
`Of the knyght', quod
I,`that standeth besydes this ymage, yet haue ye
seid me no thynge at al.'
`Ful soothe it is', quod myn aungel. `But ful soone I shalle seye the somwhat therof. There was somtyme a noble kynge, that hyght Poeticus, of grete power and wonder grete renoume. To this kynge, by cause of his worshyp and also for his worthynesse, knowen in to full ferre countreesa, ther come knyghtes and soudyours of many dyuerse costes for to see worshyp, and also for to done hym seruyse in what hym nedid, supposyng therby for to geten honoure and fame where that they shold come after. For why soo grete and worthy name had this kyng, neuer none had gretter sith the world bigan, so that his loos and his fame spred euerywhere in to ferre countre by longe tyme, withouten admenusynge or lesynge ought of his renoune.
`Soo after a grete whyle there come to his court a knyght of a straunge countreb for to seken worship, for as moch as he had herd speke of the worthynes of this noble kynge. And as it happed the tyme of his comyng, there was no meyne walkyng ne sterrynge in the court, ne no wyght founde whome to speken to in spedynge of his purpoos.
`Soo walked he forth tylle he come to the entre of a lytel gardeyn, where he sawe syttyng vnder an ympe in an herber a wonder fayre damoysel of passynge beaute, that ful bitterly wept; grete doel and pyte was hit to byholde. He salewed hyr goodly, and she welcomed hym ful connyngly, as she wel couthe. The knyght thenne asked of hyr why she wepte so. But she wold nought tellen hym, but said it was for a thynge nought hym for to knowe.
`So left this knyght to aske ony more of that mater, but he enquyred of hyr [85v] where the kynge was. But thenne began she to wepe wel faster than byfore. "Now worthy knyght", quod she, "I preye yow of youre gentilnes and for the loue of God, yf ye lyst for to sene hym, abydeth for to morowen, And thenne cometh, and ye shalle me fynden in this same place. And I ensure yow feythfully I shalle brynge yow to a place wheere ye shalle sene hym alle youre hertes fylle.
`Thenne said this knyght "I wylle with ryght gode herte doo by youre counceylle. But parauenture, whan I am retorned I fynde yow nought here, ne knowe nought youre name, thenne sholde I hold my seluen as deceyued, and fayle of my purpoos."
"I am", quod she, "by my ryght name cleped Lyberalyte. And here shalle ye fynde me to morne at this tyme. Asketh of me now no moo demaundes, I praye yow. I am soo full of sorow and of heuynes, that I haue no herte to speke to yow, ne to doo yow suche chere as to youre estate bylongeth."
`The knyght soo departid, and vpon the morowe he come thyder ageyne, right as he was assigned. This damoysel was redy and honestly receyued hym, and took hym by the hande, and soo ledde hym forthe in to the paleys, where the kyng was that tyme with full lytell meyny of noblesse or of worthy persones.
`But he found in his presence an old vnsemely one - I ne can nought calle hyr lady, ne wil nought dishonoure the honeste of wymmen with so fowle a name as she semyd worthy. She was ryght fowle disfigured with a lothely mouthe, whiche that sat al a wry in ful dishonest wise. This same of whome I speke pletid and held parlement ful vnwomanly bifore the kynges presence, and bare hyr seluen boldely, right as she were maystresse and hadde alle the gouernement of the kyng and his houshold.
`What tyme that this worthy knyght sawe this maner of doyng, he helde hym self abasshed and desmayed, and anone retourned hym, withouten ony speche, seyng to this damoysell whiche had brought hym there: "What is this", quodc he, "that I am comen to seken oute of so ferre countre? Sothly I am deceyued, and that wonder foule, of this kynge that I haue now sene, for I haue herd all otherwyse speken of his persone than I see at this present tyme with myn eye. But seye me", quod he, "gentil damoisell, what meneth al this, and what is this old one that soo besily pleteth in the kynges presence."
"O", quod this damoiselle, "my dere gentil knyght, for these same it is that I am thus in anguysshe and dysese. For I was wont to be loued of the kyng, more than ony other, and euer in his companye. And [86r] that tyme was he lyke to a lord, and euery man hym loued and recommendid. Thenne he hadde pryce and renome wel more than euer hadde Salamon. But now, allas! with sorowfull herte that I shall ought seye other than worshyp by hym that I haue foundend soo noble a lord. For now hath he had newe counceylle of folke newe comen, whiche haue brought hym fro bynethen the erthe this old one that ye seeth, and dryuen me oute of his presence.
"And soothe it is, he is ful wery of hyr, sauynge that he dare not offende these counceylours. They ben so wonder wyse, and ben as ful of eyen as euer was Argus, that had a thousand eyen. The beestes that Seynt Iohan88 sawe, that were so full of eyen before & behynd, sawe not half so clerely. Wherfore hath he grauntede and establysshed that alle thynge ordeyned and deuysed by theyr counceylle shall be hold and kepte of alle men, be they more or lesse. And sothely the kynge ne thynketh none other, as I suppose, but that all theyr ordynaunce is to his hye honoure & worshyp.
"And yf he wyst the contrary, withouten doute he wold not long suffre them. He wold rather dye, for wyte it wel, syre knyght, theyr ordynaunces whiche they maken is to grete greuaunce and oppressynge of the poure peple.
"Ful soothe it is that Pharao put the children of Israel in to grete seruage and in to grete afflictions. But no wonder was it, for they were straunge foreyners, nought of his propre peple, wherfore, though that he put them in trauaile and distresse, it was not moche merueyle, ne soo moch mystoke hym not as yf he hadde thus oppressyd his owne kyndely peple of his owne countre.
"But here is it other wise, for nought only straungeours, but also the kyndely borne men of this same land ben troubled & dysesed by counceylle of these fals deceyuours. Soo they leden the kynge at theyr owne lust, ryght as tutours and curatours, for to ordeyne and gouerne hym ryght as he were to yonge within age and couthe nought gouerne hym seluen."
"But wote ye euer", quod the knyght, "yf the kyng take ony grete auauntage by these folkes gouernaunce?"
"Soothly", quod this damoisel, "neuer a dele at al, but it torneth euen contrary. But they hauen the auauntage, and he moche harme. Hit is wel seene in theyr howses, for they hauen gold ynowe to bye & purchace grete londes and rentes. They haue plente of ieweles & of siluer vessel. But the kyng hath nought wherof to paye for his mete, but of white stikkes that no thyng auailen, wherof it is grete pite for to knowe and here. Thus is the kynge of his people [86v] waryed and cursid, soo that meschyef and mysauenture mote nedes falle at the laste; bothe he and his court torne to nought and vtterly be destroyed. For soothely, alle his trewe seruauntes ben departid fro hym, for drede of the old deuel that hath hym vnder hande.
"But whyle that he was woned to haue me in his companyf, and we lyued to geders in ioye and gladnesse of herte, thenne was the kynge moche preysed and worshypped in alle the world aboute. Wherfore, sithe I see this fowle monstruous old one brought in to his companye for to fordone his noble renome, and I am cast oute fro hym to his grete dishonoure, no wonder though I dye for sorowe. And yet weyle I more the lesyng of the kynges worshyp than of myn owne dysese, for he had more worshyp by me than euer I had by hym, or may haue herafter."
`Thenne said the knyght: "now, gentil damoysel, cesse of thy weypyng, for wel I see that thou art to the kynge stedfast and trewe, and louest hym hertely. But seye me, what wolt thou yeue me yf I make thy pees, so that the kynge put awey that foule mysfarynge old one, and take the to his companye ageyne?"
"Certes", quod she, "ther shalle neuer be that day that ye shalle fayle of my loue. And yf I may els doo, that may be to youre worship and myn, I shalle hit done ful gladly with all my dylygence."
"Now by Seynt George", quod this knyght, "I shal speke to the kyng; I wol no longer tarye."
"Syre kyng", quod he, "God yeue yow moche worshyp! With huge ful peyne and laboure I am comen fro ful ferre countre for to visite and see youre ryal estate, and for to honouren yow after my symple power, for as moche as I haue herd speke of youre full excellent and noble persone, of whiche the renome is spred in all the world about. Soo haue I syth come in to youre land founden the soothe, that ye ben worshipfully gouerned with iustice in youre iugementes and youre assyses. Al youre offycers in the countre done wel theyr deuoyre. That moche plesith my herte, wherfore ye ben moche to preyse and commende.
"But of another thyng haue I herd speke. Sythe I come to yourg countre, by whiche youre loos & worship moche empeyreth, I haue founden a damoisell fayre and gracious, ne were nought here importable sorowes that she maketh hyr teres and hyr pytous wepynge, whiche ye were woned to cherisshen and to loue right as youre owne paramoure. And standyngeh soo that she hath nought mystaken hyr, ne no thyng mysdone, but moche honour and worship haue ye had by hir.
"Ye haue [87r] cast hyr oute for an vnthrifty and vnsemely tyraunt, whiche ye haue take in hyr stede, for whiche thyng al folke preyseth yow the lesse, and lesse wylle herafter, whyle that she is with yow in companyei. Wherfore by my counceyll: casteth hyr fro yow, and take to yow that other, as it better bysemeth youre honourable persone & also your worshypfull and royall estate."
"Fayr syre", quod the kynge, "ye speketh of a thynge wherof ye knoweth lytell. The damoysel that ye speketh of, haue I not put awey, ne taken this other, but my counceylle hath done hit for my greete profite and worshyp. I must nedes trowe my counceyll, and be gouerned after them, as euery kyng mote yf he wyll sauen his honoure, soo that I nyl not cast awey this olde, ne receyue the yong, but yf I doo it by the counceylle of them that brought me to gouernaunce. But therto suppose I nought that they wylle consenten."
"And how wylle ye", quod this knyght, "suffren them thus bytrayen yow, withdrawynge youre worshyppe and youre fame by suche maner of gouernaunce?"
"I wote nought", quod the kynge", but I byleue fully they done hit for my worshyp and my profyte."
"Soothly", quod this knyght", and I shalle anone right bifore yow prouen the contrary, and shewen yow openly that tho, whiche yaue yow this counceyllj: haue done aweye the worship of youre name. And falsely is it done, and traitourly, of who so euer it be. And of treson I appele them here in presence of you, and of alle youre baronage. And here I wage my gloue to proue this vppon their persones with my right hand. Make them to come in to your presence, for I am redy for to take this bataille, be there neuer soo many. Therfore wille I not spare, soo moche I triste in the trouth of my quarell, and soo moche treson I knowe in their persones, soo that I will not leue them till I haue made them for to crye yow mercy and knowleche their treason, that they haue falsely and wickedly put Liberalite oute of youre presence, and brought in Couetyse. Wherfore, sire kynge, doth me right as touchynge this appele, for ye maye nought with worship werne me myn askyng; ye knoweth well you seluen."
"Soothly", quodk the kyng, "I graunt yow this bataill for to be done in the playn ordeyned therfore, the eighte daye after this daye present."
"And I accepte this iourneye", quod the knyght," with ful gladde chere al redy, anone right in this same houre."
"And I shall", quod the kynge, "sitten present as iuge. And in this eighte dayes I [87v] enquere whiche of them alle is moost able to defende this quarel and take hit on hand."
`Soo thenne at the eyghte daye the feld was arrayed. The kynge set in his tente redy for to see this bataylle. Forth cometh this knyght, ful thriftely armed, and entred the feld. And whan that the heraudes hadde made theyr proclamacion, hym seluen of hye courage byganne to cryen, and seyde: "Cometh fort, ye cursid traitours that haue bytrayd youre lyege lord youre kynge, byreuynge hym his good fame and honourable loos. Cometh forthe, I defye yow as fals and vntrewe. I shal slytte youre belyes and shewen the treson openly, whiche ye haue withyn yow pryuely counceyled. Cometh forthe oute, and shewe yowre selue present!"
`soo this knyght abode a wonder long tyme, appelynge these traytours. But none was so bold ne so hardy for to shewe hym selue, wherfore the peple that there was assembled and had longe abyden were annoyed gretely.
`The kynge thenne, syttynge in his tente abydynge this bataylle, lette cryen pees, that he myht haue audyence to speke to this knyght. Soo was this knyght cleped to the kynges presence, and he vnhelmed hym and come before the kynge, to whome the kyng said: "Fayre sire", quod he, "I hold the for a worthy and a valyauntl knyght, ful able to moche worshippe, and worthy for to bere the signe of knyghthode and of worthynesse. For thou hast manfully pursewed thyn appele and hast deserued victorye of thyne aduersaryes. And in as moche as they wol nought apperen, I deme them culpable. I wol neuer trusten them herafter. But they shalle haue their peynes, as to suche fals traitours belongeth. And I yeue the worship of the felde, as thou hast wel deserued.
"And my self I abandoune to be gouerned after thy counceill, wherfor make come to me the damoiselle for whome thou tooke this batail. And this olde one, I will that she be voided as fast, withouten ony taryeng."
`And so was this damoisel Liberalite brought to the kynge, and that other put oute of his presence, by the which thynge the kyng recouered suche honoure and preising of the peple, so that al folk loued hym entyerly, as they owed their lyege lord, with al their hoole hertes.
`And here myght thou see the courage and manfulhede of a good knyght. Here myght thou see the meschyef of vntrewe counceylle, that made this gentil Lyberalite prisond and put out of presence, and cursid Couetise cleped in to courte, and coupled to soo hye a persone of estate as is the kynge hym selue. Caste and ymagyne euery man his luste, [88r] worship and couetyse acordeth not to geders, but they ben euen contrarym. Who that loueth that one, he voyded that other withouten ony doute.
`Now I seye the that this worthy kyng for the grete courage of knyghthode and trewe counceylle that he fond in this noble knyght,he lete grauen his ymage and set it here in this open place for to be had in contynuel remembraunce, and to that ende that euery kynge therafter shold take ensample to kepen hym seluen fro vntrewe counceylle. And this is thynge wel knowen to all tho that dwellen nyhe the place where this statua standethn here in open syght.’
Explicit Liber Quartus