The Lessons of Gurnemanz

 

From Parzifal by Wolfram von Eschenbach, Twelth Century poet and Minnesinger, for whom Wolfram in my novel The Marriage of True minds is named. Gurnmanz teaches the young foolish Parzifal the ways of knighthood. 

'And thus I begin, do thou hearken—From true shame shalt thou never flee,

A shameless man, bethink thee, what place in the world hath he?

As a bird that moulteth ever so his honour doth fall away,

And hereafter he hath his portion in the fires of Hell for aye.'

'So noble methinks thy bearing, a folk's Lord thou well mayst be;

If high be thy birth, and yet higher the lot that awaiteth thee,

Then see that thy heart hath pity for the poor and needy man

And fight thou against his sorrow with free gifts as best thou can,

For a true knight must aye be humble—A brave man who need doth know

Full often with shame he battles, and sore is that strife I trow,

For him shall thy help be ready—(Who lighteneth his brother's need

From Heaven he winneth favour as rewarding for righteous deed.)

For in sooth his case is harder than theirs who as beggars stand'

Neath the window, and succour seeking, for bread shall stretch forth the hand.

Thou shalt learn in a fitting measure both rich and poor to be,

Who spendeth as lord at all times no lordly soul hath he—

Yet who heapeth o'er-much his treasure he winneth methinks but shame,

But give thou unto each their honour, so best shalt thou guard thy fame.'

I saw well as thou earnest hither that thou hadst of my counsel need—

Yield not unto ways discourteous but give to thy bearing heed,

Nor be thou so swift to question—Yet I would not that thou withhold

An answer good and fitting to the speech one with thee would hold.

Thou canst hear and see, I wot well full five shalt thy senses be,

An thou use them aright, then wisdom it draweth anear to thee.

'In thy wrath remember mercy, and slay not a conquered foe,

He who to thine arms shall yield him take his pledge and let him go;

Unless he such ill have wrought thee as sorrow of heart doth give,

An my counsel thou fain wouldst follow, then in sooth shalt thou let him live.'

'Full oft shalt thou bear thy harness—When thy knightly task is sped

Thy hands and face thou shalt cleanse them from the rust and the iron red,

For such is in truth thy duty, so thy face shall be fair and bright,

And when maiden's eyes behold thee they shall deem thee a goodly sight.

Be manly and of good courage, so shalt thou deserve thy fame;

Hold women in love and honour, it shall be to thine own good name;

And be ever steadfast-minded as befitteth good man and true,

An with lies thou wouldst fain deceive them much harm can thy dealings do.

If true love be repaid with falsehood then swift shalt the judgment be,

And a speedy end to all honour and renown shall it bring to thee.

As beneath the stealthy footsteps of the thief the dry stick breaks,

And the slumbering watcher, startled, to his danger swiftly wakes

So false ways and dealings crooked in their wake bring but strife and woe;

Prove this by true love, for true women have skill 'gainst the hidden foe,

And their wiles can outweigh his cunning—An thou winnest from women hate,

Then for ever art thou dishonoured, and shame on thy life shall wait.'

'So take thou to heart my counsel—And more would I tell to thee;

Husband and wife united as one shall they ever be,

As the sun that this morning shineth, and this morn that we call to-day,

So the twain may be sundered never but one shall be held alway.

As twin blossoms from one root springing e'en so shall they bloom and grow;

With wisdom receive my counsel that its truth thou hereafter know.'

 

Translated by Jessie L. Weston

 

Comments 2

 
Rosy Cole on Thursday, 06 August 2020 16:22

I read this today in Eliot's notes on The Wasteland:

Not only the title, but the plan and a good deal of the incidental symbolism of the poem were suggested by Miss Jessie L. Weston’s book on the Grail legend: From Ritual to Romance (Cambridge). Indeed, so deeply am I indebted, Miss Weston’s book will elucidate the difficulties of the poem much better than my notes can do; and I recommend it (apart from the great interest of the book itself) to any who think such elucidation of the poem worth the trouble. To another work of anthropology I am indebted in general, one which has influenced our generation profoundly; I mean The Golden Bough; I have used especially the two volumes Adonis, Attis, Osiris. Anyone who is acquainted with these works will immediately recognise in the poem certain references to vegetation ceremonies.

You forgot to mention that Wolfram in your book is an Irish Wolfhound who, basically, holds it all together! :-)

I read this today in Eliot's notes on The Wasteland: [i]Not only the title, but the plan and a good deal of the incidental symbolism of the poem were suggested by Miss Jessie L. Weston’s book on the Grail legend: From Ritual to Romance (Cambridge). Indeed, so deeply am I indebted, Miss Weston’s book will elucidate the difficulties of the poem much better than my notes can do; and I recommend it (apart from the great interest of the book itself) to any who think such elucidation of the poem worth the trouble. To another work of anthropology I am indebted in general, one which has influenced our generation profoundly; I mean The Golden Bough; I have used especially the two volumes Adonis, Attis, Osiris. Anyone who is acquainted with these works will immediately recognise in the poem certain references to vegetation ceremonies.[/i] You forgot to mention that Wolfram in your book is an Irish Wolfhound who, basically, holds it all together! :-)
Stephen Evans on Friday, 07 August 2020 00:23

Interesting -thank you! have to see if I can find those books. The Osiris story is in my Emerson play, though I use the version from Plutarch's Morals.

Yes, Wolfram in a centerpiece to be sure :)

Interesting -thank you! have to see if I can find those books. The Osiris story is in my Emerson play, though I use the version from Plutarch's Morals. Yes, Wolfram in a centerpiece to be sure :)
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