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  • Il Novellino

    A tale told of the Court of Puy in Provence

    At the court of Puy-Notre-Dame in Provence, when the son of Count Raymond1 was made knight, a great court was held, to which were invited all good people, and so many came willingly that the robes and silver ran short. And it was necessary to have recourse to the knights of the feud itself that sufficient might be supplied for the knights who came to the court. Some refused, and some gave with good grace.

    The day the feast was ordered a tame hawk was placed on a pole.

    Now it was arranged that whosoever felt himself a man of courage and means enough and should take the hawk in his hand, should provide a feast for the court that year.

    The knights and squires all joyous and gay, made beautiful songs and poems, and four judges were chosen that those which had merit might be rewarded.

    Then they sang and said much good of their lord.

    And their sons were noble knights and gentle.

    Then it happened that one of those knights (whose name was Messer Alamanno), a man of much valour and goodness, loved a very beautiful woman of Provence who was called Madonna Grigia; and he loved her so secretly that none could guess the truth.

    It came about that the squires of Puy plotted together to deceive him and make him boast of his love. They spoke thus to certain knights and barons: we pray you that at the first tournament which is held, it be ordered that there be boastings2. For they thought: Messer So and So is a great knight, and will do well on the day of the tourney, and will be exalted with delight. The knights will take up the boasts; and he will not be able to hold himself from boasting of his lady.

    Thus it was ordered.

    The tournament took place. The knight won honour and was victorious. He was excited with joy.

    In the repose of the evening, the knights began the boasts: such a one of a beautiful castle; another of a fine goshawk; another of a lucky chance.

    And the knight could not hold himself from boasting that he had such a beautiful lady.

    Then it happened that he returned to pay her homage as was the custom. And the lady dismissed him3.

    The knight was all dismayed, and departed from her and the company of the knights and went into a forest, and shut himself up in a hermitage, so secret that none knew of it.

    Then anyone who had seen the grief of the knights and the ladies and the damsels who constantly lamented the loss of so noble a knight might well have felt pity.

    One day it came about that the young squires of Puy lost their prey and their bearings during a hunt, and chanced upon the aforesaid hermitage. The knight asked them it they were from Puy. They replied yes. He asked them for news.

    And the squires began to tell him how they had sad tidings; how for a small misdeed they had lost the flower of knights, and how this lady had dismissed him, and no one knew what had become of him. But soon, they said, a tournament will be proclaimed at which there will be many good people, and we think that he has so gentle a heart, that wherever he may be, he will come and joust with us4. And we have marshalled guards of great strength and knowledge who will surely bring him back. So we hope to regain our great loss.

    Then the hermit wrote to a faithful friend of his to send him secretly on the day of the tournament arms and a horse. And he sent away the squires.

    The friend supplied the needs of the hermit, and on the day of the tournament sent him arms and a horse, and it was the day of the challenges between the knights, and he won the prize at the tournament.

    The guards saw him and recognized him. They bore him among them in triumph. And the people rejoiced, and lowered his visor, and begged him for love that he would sing. And he replied: I shall never sing unless I am at peace with my lady.

    Then the noble knights were persuaded to go to the lady, and begged her that she would pardon him.

    The lady replied: tell him I will never pardon him unless a hundred barons and a hundred knights, a hundred ladies and a hundred damsels shall cry to me with one voice for mercy, and know not to whom they cry.

    Then the knight, who was a man of great wisdom, bethought himself that the feast of Candlemass was approaching, when there would be great rejoicing in Puy, and all good folk would go to the monastery. And he argued; my lady will be there and many good people, such as she (Madonna Grigia) has asked herself shall cry out to her for mercy.

    Then he composed a very beautiful song; and in the morning early went up into the pulpit and began to sing his song as best he knew, and well he knew how to sing it, and thus it ran:

    Like the stag which has run a great course and comes to die 'mid the sound of the hunters' cries, so, lady, to your pity, I turn . . . 5

    Then all the folk who were in the church cried out mercy, and the lady pardoned him.

    And he entered into her good grace as he had been before.

    1 Raimondo Berlinghieri, father-in-law of St Louis, King of France, referred to in Novella XII.
    2 The boasts formed a usual part of tournaments.
    3 Sent him away in disgrace.
    4 The narrative changes abruptly into the direct form here as in several other places. I have kept to the original form here as elsewhere.
    5 The original of the "song" runs:–
    Aissi co'l sers que cant a fait lonc cors
    Torna murir als crit del chassadors,
    Aissi torn eu, dompna, en vostra mersé.
    A longer "song" is given in some of the readings.

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    Il Novellino : The Hundred Old Tales
    Return to Italian Folktales Page

    Additional Resources
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    Storer, Edward, trans. Il Novellino: The Hundred Old Tales. London: G. Routledge & Sons Ltd.; New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., [1925]. 149-154


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