Manuscripts and Special Collections

WLC/LM/6, f. 215r: Heldris de Cornuälle, ‘Le Roman de Silence’, lines 5145-5164 (early 13th century, French)


Moult lefist bien ens en larainne
Entre . ii . rens alaquintainne
Ainc feme nefu mains laniere
Decontoier entel maniere
Kil ueist ioster sans mantel
Et lescu porter encantiel
Et faire donques lademise
Lalance sor lefaltre mise
Dire peust que noreture
Puet moult ourer contre nature
Quant ele aprent si et escolte
Atel us . feme . et tendre . et mole
Tels chevaliers par li i uierse
Que seil letenist enuierse
Et il peust lafin sauoir
Que grant honte enpeust auoir
Que feme tendre fainte et malle
Kirien na dome fors lehalle
Et fors les dras et contenance
Leust abatu desa lance


He did well in the tournament out on the lists
Between the two runs and the quintain.1
Never had there been a woman less reluctant
To mix and converse in such a manner.
Whoever saw him jousting, out there without his cloak,
His shield held en cantiel just before his sword hilt and such his scabbard was protected2
And then at the unseating (of his opponent)
The lance he sets at rest upon the falter3,
They may well say that Nurture
Can do much work to overcome Nature
When she can teach such accomplishments
To such a soft and tender woman.
Many a knight who was thrown by him [Silence],
Had he only been aware
And may at last have known the truth,
What dreadful shame he would have felt
That a woman (so) tender, weak and soft
And who, except complexion, possessed nothing of being a male,
With the clothing and the bearing of a man,
Could have struck him down with her lance.

1. The Oxford English Dictionary gives quintain (1440) a similar meaning to a target. However, quintaine (1180) in the Dictionairre de l'Ancien Français gives a jousting dummy serving as a target when practising with a lance. The names probably dates back to the traditions of the Roman army who used 'dummies' made up of five pieces of armour.

2. The shield thus worn appears to have been termed 'ecu en cantiel'. ‘The shield which is large and hollow and charged with ermine ... is suspended from a very long guige in front of the left thigh, immediately behind the sword hilt, thus covering the upper part of the scabbard’. Rev. W. Bramston, A History of the Abbey Church of Minster, Isle of Sheppey, Kent. (1896).

3. faltre: a piece of felt on the saddle where the lance is placed when at rest.

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