King's Cross

Old French Tales from Brittany

Marie de France: The Story of Guigemar

12th century, Old French: British Library, Bibliothèque Nationale Paris.

In the boat was a large bed, and at its prow were two candelabra filled with lighted candles.

Guigemar lifted himself from the ground and asked his squire to go and fetch all his companions. Then he bound his wound with his shirt as best he could, limped with great difficulty back to his horse, mounted, and rode off through the forest. Desiring suddenly to be alone, and not wishing his companions to find him, he followed a path that came out at last into an open plain. A distant mountain fed a stream that ran down to a harbour, and in the harbour was a single ship lying as though ready to sail. Approaching this ship, Guigemar saw that it was made of ebony; it was black, and the sail was of silk.

Guigemar was deeply worried, for he had no idea that such a plain existed beside the forest and there should be no harbour, to his knowledge, anywhere within the district. Nevertheless, he got down from his horse and made his way up the gangplank onto the vessel, expecting to find men on deck who might be able to help him. But there was no one to be found. All he could see in the boat was a large bed, very richly made and adorned with drapes and covers of silk and gold thread. As to the pillow, anyone who lay his head on it would not get any older, and that is the truth! At the prow of the ship were two candelabra filled with lighted candles. Guigemar was intrigued and in such pain from his wound that he lay upon the bed in order to rest for a few moments.

When he came to again, he found to his dismay that the ship was already underway and far from land. The wind was blowing fair and the sea glided swiftly by, although there was not a soul on board but himself. Guigemar knew that there was no possibility of going back, and he could only try to take his mind from the pain of his wound and to put his trust in God to bring him to a safe landing. He lay down again to sleep. But there was no need for him to worry, for ahead lay the place where he would be healed of his wound.

Story fragment retold from: Burgess, Glyn S., and Busby, Keith, 1986. The Lais of Marie de France. Translated from Old French with an introduction. Penguin Books Limited. Guigemar, pp 43–55.

broomstick

The Breton lai of Guigemar, abridged and retold.

Weird Tales—discussion.

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