Saturday, July 30, 2016

William Marshal

Some insight on the character of William Marshal. He is lying on his deathbed:
The Marshal called to John of Earley
and said "Shall I tell you surprising thing?"
"Yes my Lord, but do not tire yourself out."
"I don't know what it all means
But in truth I can tell you this,
That for the last three years or even longer,
As far as I know, I haven't had
Such a great lords to sing
As I've had these last three days;
I can truly say as much,
But I don't know that it will please God."
John replied: "My Lord, do sing
For the love of God, if you're capable
Of giving yourself to that. The heart would take comfort
In your body and that would be a good thing,
For your joy would be restored.
It please God, it would be helpful
For it might bring back your appetite."
"Be quiet, John," the earl said,
"Such a song would do me no good at all,
For the people here, I believe,
Would think I was a madman.
Most of them would think, hearing me sing
That I was out of my mind."
He would not sing, nor could he.
Then Henry Fitz Gerold said:
"My lord, in the name of our God of glory,
Send for your daughters,
And they will sing some piece
That will do you good and comfort you."
The daughters were sent for and they duly appeared,
For they were glad to obey his commands.
"Matilda, you be the first sing,"
He said. She had no wish to do so,
For her life at the time was a bitter cup,
But she had no wish to disobey
Her father's command.
She started to sing Since she wished to please her father,
And she sang exceedingly well
Giving a verse of a song
In a sweet, clear voice.
"Joan, sing on as best you can!"
She sang one verse from a routrouenge,
but timidly.
"Don't be bashful when you sing," said the earl,
"For, if you are, you will not perform well
And the words will not come across in the right way;
the words you've just sang certainly didn't."
So the marshal taught her
How to sing the words.
Once the song was finished, he said to them:
"My daughters, go in the name of Christ
Who guards and protects all those who believe in him;
I pray to him to grant you his protection."
As was fitting, they took their leave.
Once they had left his bedside,
He said: "There are five of my daughters,
I believe. If all of them hold together,
So it please God, it could well be
That great good could come of it."
-- From the S. Gregory translation of the History of William Marshal, Anglo- Norman Text Society

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