A Spielmannsepos dated to the end of the 12th century

Translated from the Middle High German
by Heidi Graw
© 2007

The Holy Robe of Christ on display at the Trier Dom Cathedral

Translated by Heidi Graw

1. Wholesome was the time, when Christ and Queen Maria were born. Had Holy Christ not been born, many souls would have been lost. Oh, Jesus, dear Lord, do not go away from us again, take us up into your heavenly grace!

That we should never forget who gave us life -- the Creator of the whole world. Surely, you would like to hear why God had fasted for 40 days: he did that for our sins. What we throughout the year have committed as sins, the 40 days should erase.

19. Now I will begin to tell of the grey robe. It was worked out of the wool of a beautiful lamb belonging to the Holy Helena, the wool was spun by Queen Maria. It was worked and not sewn upon the Oelberg; it is so durable that it can never be torn. When it was finished, the Lord put it on. He fasted in it for 40 days as the Holy Scriptures claim. Later, the robe came to be of use and piety to King Orendel.

40. Listen: in a German book it is reported how Judas betrayed our Lord. The Jews hung him on the cross and laid him in his grave. Then said an old Jew: "Mighty King Herodes, today you should pay for my services which I have given you for the past 23 years. Give me the grey robe." Herodes did that. Then the Jew lifted up the robe and carried it to a well where he washed it, and then laid it in the sun to dry. But, the red blood of Christ remained on the robe, as Christ had decreed it when he had first been martyred. When King Herodes saw it, he forbade the Jews by threat of death penalty to even just look at the robe.

But, the Jew hid the robe in a stone casket, fared with it seventy-two miles out upon the sea and sank it down to the ocean floor: "There you will remain, grey robe, never will anyone find you." -- There came a siren swimming, a sea-bull, who brought up the casket and took the robe to a beach where he dug it nine fathoms deep into the earth. For eight years did it lay there, in the ninth it came up again upon the beach. Then a poor pilgrim on his way to Zypern found it, and wanted to go to the Holy Grave, but could find no ship to take him. Tragemunt was he called, he knew seventy-two kingdoms. With white hands did he put it on. "Lord," he said,"the robe which you have now given me, that I will wear for the sake of the soul of the man who had drowned in it. You well know I have need of it. "Whoever trusts in God, succeeds in everything." He washed the robe in the ocean, but the blood stains remained, just as our Lord had wanted it to be.

137. When the pilgrim saw it, he said: "Oh, you Heavenly Lord, this would be your robe, the one you wore when the spear point stabbed you. It doesn't seem right that I or someone else -- a human on earth, should wear it." So, he threw it again into the sea. Then came a whale, which swallowed it and kept it eight years in his stomach. So I have read it.

157. In that book is also written of a city called Trier, which lays at the Mosel River. There ruled King Ougel, lord over twelve kingdoms. He had three sons, the youngest was called Orendel, who received at age thirteen the sword on St. Stephan's day. After he went into the courtyard chapel and prayed to God and Maria, and he had implored her to help him to become a good ruler, he looked for his father in his chamber and said: "It is now time that you give to me a wife for me to love and to be queen of the land. To her I will give as a morning gift thirteen kingdoms with dukes and earls." Then said King Ougel: "I know in thirteen kingdoms no princess who would be a match for you -- they are all related to you. There is, however, a queen who rules far away on the other side of the sea, intelligent and famous, she is Bride, the most beautiful of all women. The knights of the Holy Grave serve her, also many heathen . If I could win this noble queen for you, then you should dedicate yourself with body and soul to the Holy Grave of our Lord."

233. Orendel at once agreed: "Build soon for me seventy-two ships and have them filled with provisions for eight years," he bid. King Ougel ordered them right away. Three years later, the ships sailed upon the water. Then said King Ougel: "Dear son, take with you eight kings and seven bishops and people, too." Then said Orendel: "Father and Lord, see to it that you do not compel anyone against their will to deny themselves wife and child in order to dedicate their lives to the Holy Grave. If he came not freely and willingly on this journey, and drowned in the sea, then would Christ not take him up into His realm. Also, battles on the field are fought badly with forced warriors."

The young king now busied twelve silver and gold smiths to make many golden spurs. Then he gathered the people around him in a circle. Next, he called the kings to join the Crusade: eight kings stepped forward, each with a thousand knights. Then he asked the dukes, earls and servants: a thousand reported. Now he let the golden spurs be scattered in the courtyard, these the knights quickly gathered up. Only two remained left over for Orendel himself. Later he let a golden artwork be made of the martyr death of the Lord that he in Jerusalem wanted to attach to the Holy Grave. So he took leave of all his relatives and friends. The ships were loaded with bread, wine and all sorts of food and sailed down the Mosel River. The most warriors boarded at Koblen, then they went down along the Rhine until they reached the open sea. They raised the sail and sailed for six weeks upon calm waters. But then came a heavy storm and drove the fleet into the unfamiliar Klebermeer [Sticky Sea] . There they laid fast for three years. The young king, in great need, did not know how he should get ahead. -- Now advise me, my listeners, how we can bring the ships forward!

381. Then Queen Maria felt great pity for them. She said to Christ: "Dear Son, help that King Orendel out of his need." Then did our Lord make a sign: he sent a storm, then the ships came loose from the Klebermeer, and so now they sailed towards Egypt.

There ruled seventy-two heathen kings . A fisherman let them know that a Christian man with seventy-two ships and a great army was coming their way. King Belian right away ordered his great pirate ships be manned and sailed to meet the Christian fleet. It came to a battle and lasted the whole night through. King Orendel won, five hundred heathen drowned, the remaining ones were wounded. The knights celebrated their victory and sailed by a good wind towards Jerusalem.

455. Soon they had arrived so near that they could see the Holy Grave. Orendel lifted his hands up and prayed to God: "Heavenly Father, help me now to escape this wild sea," But, there was raised a heavy storm which annihilated all seventy-two ships. Only Orendel was able to rescue himself by reaching the beach. He lamented the death of his people and the sinking of his ships. "One would think me, this naked man here, to be a robber who had escaped from a pirate ship." he thought. Then he dug a hole in the sand and hid himself there. On the fourth morning he saw a fisherman arrive on his boat, he called out at him and pleaded for help. He told him he was a rich fisherman and that he had lost all his people: so did he have to lie to himself to gain the trust of this fisherman. He offered to be a servant of this fisherman.

553. The fisherman was an honest man. He let him step into the boat. Orendel broke branches with leaves off a shrub and held them to cover his shame. He was, as such, completely naked. When he boarded the boat, the fisherman said: "You have claimed to be a rich fisherman as I, but I have not seen you in seventy-two years. If you cannot in a short time catch enough fish to completely fill up my boat, I will kill you and send you to the bottom of the sea." Then lifted Orendel his hands up and prayed to God : "Lord, send to me your messengers, because I don't know how to fish!" Then he threw the net in the name of the Father, of the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and there helped him the apostle, in particular St. Peter of Rome, and the boat was full of fish. Master Ise was very satisfied and promised to take him into his service.

595. So they now sailed to the living quarters of the fisherman. It was a castle with seven towers, which was appropriate even for the King of Rome, and there lived eight hundred fishermen, who were obligated in service to Master Ise. High upon the battlement stood the fisher's wife with six ladies-in-waiting wearing velvet and silk. "Be welcome, Master Ise," she spoke. "But who is this naked man, who I see up on that ship? He appears to have come from a pirate ship, he will rob us. Throw him down to the bottom of the sea." "But no," answered Master Ise,"You should receive him in a friendlier way, because he is our own groom, he understands something of catching fish. I am seventy-two years old and a good fisherman, but I could still learn from him." Three and a half thousand fish unloaded Master Ise out of the boat; one of them a whale, he cut it open and found the grey robe in its stomach." This robe was worn by a duke or an earl, a robber had slain him and threw him into the sea, the fish had smelled the blood and had swallowed the cloak," so said Master Ise."It is at least worth five golden schillings." Then Orendel pleaded to give him the robe, but he said : "You can have it only if you pay for it."

657. So Orendel then served his lord for six weeks while still naked until St. Thomas Day. Then Master Ise said: "For the day of the feast we should but buy him a garment." His wife agreed with him. She bought him a cheap pair of pants for three pennies and a rough pair of cow-hide shoes, also a cloak of sheepswool. But Orendel did not put on these clothes. He went to a place where he could be alone, roughed his hair and thought: "I could forget the loss of my people and my ships if only I had a dress in which I could allow myself to be seen before the people. Lord, give me comfort and advice." Queen Maria heard him, and at once she pleaded for her Son to help. He agreed and so, through the angel Gabriel, did Maria send the desired thirty gold pennies . "Listen," said the angel Gabriel to Orendel, "God and his mother have sent me to you. You should not mourn so much over your drowned knights, because they are now up in the Lord's heavenly realm. Take the money and buy the grey robe, the one God wore at his martyrdom, it will protect you against all wearpons. Fifteen battles will you win against the heathen."

736. Orendel went right away to the market where the robe was offered for sale. (Nevertheless, he had to buy it then from that master fisherman who demanded for it five gold schillings.) But then again did the Lord offer a sign: anyone who touched the robe, observed that it fell apart as if it were completely rotted through. When Master Ise discovered that, he took only thirty gold pennies for it -- exactly the same amount as once Judas received for the betrayal of Jesus. Orendel, however, obtained the robe like new and was happy about it. When Master Ise observed that, he said: "You have on a good robe which you have also earned." Orendel pleaded with him about leaving: "I have sworn myself to the Holy Grave" -- Ise promised to help him. He gave him two new pairs of trousers, and his wife gave him three gold pennies, and aside from that she pleaded with him about forgiveness for the bad treatment that she had extended to him. Orendel forgave her, took his leave, and completely alone set out to begin the long journey.

804. Then he was met by three hundred heathen, among them a terrible giant who took grasp of the poor banished one, led him over hills and mountains and threw him into a deep prison. Then again did Queen Maria take great pity over him, sie pleaded with her Son to help, and He sent the angel Gabriel to free him. He also told him the path to take that led to the Holy Grave. When he [Orendal] now saw the Grave, he said : "Holy Grave, I have nothing but my body and my soul; these should belong to you." There he also saw four distinguished Temple Lords, who sang the Mass. No one took notice of him. Sadly, he sat down by the castle wall. From the castle courtyard he heard a loud noise. He asked a warrior, who was walking by, what it meant. "God greets you, Lord Grey Robe," he answered, "I can not call you anything else, because I do not know you." -- That was the first man who called Orendel "Grey Robe;" since then, he had been called nothing else. Above the noise he gave him information: "Those are the Temple Lords: they engaged in a war game before our Lady, the Queen Bride." Then his heart opened! The warrior showed him Lady Bride, who was on top of the battlement in her sable cloak, standing among her twelve ladies-in-waiting. Grey Robe strode over the courtyard where he could see the knights under the green-red banners jousting upon magnificent horses. He looked at them and thought full of grief: "Now I have led upon the sea seventy-two ships from Trier and lost them all. Those I will all give away for a horse and a shield. Whoever gives those to me, he will keep all my winnings." Then he observed in an arbour two distinguished heathen lords. They played chess upon a whale bone board decorated with gemstones and delicately carved gold figures. I will name them for you: the one was the heathen Mercian, the other his brother Sudan. Both wished the queen well.

930. Now you should hear what Grey Robe said to them: "You Lords, I, a poor and exiled man, bid of you the use of a horse and a shield only for three rides, that is enough, and what I will win with that should be your earnings." Then said the heathen Sudan: " What are you bawling at us, you old worthless peasant. I will send you packing." But the heathen Mercian replied: "Dear Grey Robe, we are unbaptized people. By the will of our gods we will not do it. But I will not refuse you a horse and shield. But, what money will you pay to me if you lose?" "Then I will be your groom," said Grey Robe. -- the horse was presented to him. It was black as coal and right unruly. Grey Robe did not worry himself about this, girded it and also took the shield. Someone also gave him a heavy spear, half made of horn and half out of ivory, the tip from iron and steel. Songbirds were engraved into the ivory, above those a golden falcon. Someone also gave Gray Robe a sword, and upon his head someone placed a beautiful helmet. Then he sprang, without making use of the stirrups, into the saddle: "May the true God help me now," he called. Then it was discovered that his shoes did not fit into the stirrup, they were too wide for it. He pulled them off and threw them away. At once Christ sent an angel from heaven, who brought to him a pair of golden shoes. Now he was all so proud, a handsome knight. He shook the spear and Mercian said to Sudan: "Do you see how he happily sits and looks forward to the battle? Today it will still cost many lives." Sudan himself wanted now to do battle against Grey Robe. He armed himself, sprang upon his horse and ran at Grey Robe. But he was like a wall. Sudan fell in his thrust against Grey Robe, then two other knights, then four, then six, then twelve. In all, he defeated twenty-four knights, he caught twelve horses and brought them to Merican as his winnings. He asked him to further lend him the horse. But Mercian spoke: "Dear Grey Robe, the devil had brought you here to this courtyard! You have stabbed my brother to death!" "That is true," said Grey Robe, "and if you do not forgive me for it, then you will come next." Then Mercian ran quickly away from there. But Orendel continued to ride, and when there were no more fiends to battle, he rode skillfully back and forth in front of the queen.

1122. But, Queen Bride said to her followers: "There is a simple knight in a grey robe who came to our courtyard, he battles as if he is full of anger. Close all gates! If he were dressed in fur and silk, he would be equal to his masculine appearance. Had I a messenger, who would invite him to see me before our valiant warrior defeats him! I would regret that. Dear Knight Schiltwin, you be that messenger. Go to him and establish if he is a wild or a civilized man." But Schiltwin said he is afraid of the wolf's angry looks of that foreign knight: "Before I can actually speak with him, he would have already stabbed me." -- Now give me advice, how should the queen gain a messenger! Then spoke Duke Schiltwin still one more word. "Lady," he said, "I will despite that be your messenger -- but without shield and without sword." He rode towards Grey Robe, who looked at him in a fiendish way. "Knight," he told him, "I will not do battle with you. My queen, the noble Lady Bride, offers you her greetings; she is to no one more gracious than to you." "God's grace upon her," said Grey Robe, " that she would take a banished man into her service. If I am permitted to show my abilities, then I will do all what is dear to the queen." As a gift for his service, he gave the messenger six beautiful and strong horses. When the messenger returned to his Lady, she asked him what kind of man was Grey Robe. "He is a strong man with broad shoulders, and he has eyes like a wolf," said Schiltwin. "But he is a Christian, and had you thirty thousand knights, he would defeat all of them."

1201. When the Temple Lords learned of this, they concluded, due to hostile feelings against the queen, to defeat the grey knight. They sent messengers all across the land for the powerful giant Mentwin, who no one could withstand and who was the heathen's foremost warrior. He was so big that no horse could carry him; therefore, he rode upon a young elephant. The giant soon arrived. He and his elephant were lavishly decorated with silver, pearls and gemstones. Particularly ornate was his helmet: it had nineteen points which were held together with four golden rods. Over those was suspended a glittering golden crown, under which was found a golden Linden, between the leaves fluttered golden birds. These birds could sing as if they were alive, because air was pumped from the bellows through six golden pipes. The bellows drove also a wheel with a thousand golden bells, the ringing of which mixed with that of the birdsongs: it rang more clearly than any stringed instruments. Under the Linden laid still a lion, a dragon, a bear and a boar, and before them stood a wild man, completely as if he were alive.

1276. The giant Mentwin came riding into the courtyard, a four fathom long spear in his hand, "Who and where is Grey Robe?" he called. " There he comes riding upon my war horse," said Mercian, "He is a heavy lump that no one can defeat. Pull yourself together, one cannot defeat Grey Robe." " I don't know what I should be doing here," replied the giant. "There is no honour in battling this miserable wretch. I will take him under the arm and will throw him into the sea." Then spoke Grey Robe: "Mock me as you will. I am good natured when I take no offense. Pay attention to what I tell you: If you want to take away miserable wretches, then take us up into the forests. There is a place called Rodeland where we can nourish and support ourselves." Then the giant summoned up a fiercesome anger. He spurred on his war animal and shook the shaft of his spear, then he ran at Grey Robe with all his strength. He returned the attack in like manner, angrily he speared the giant, so that he and his elephant fell and were already dead before they landed on the grass. When the Syrians saw that, they broke out into pitiful wailing. But Grey Robe said: "Be quiet, lords. He went softly to sleep with all his grand weapons. Now stand up, my dear child and bind on your sea-cow so she doesn't run away if you do not want to sell her for nothing." With that, he grabbed the giant by his helmet and dragged him across the temple court. "Where are the travellers who our God always looks after?" he called. "They can take here this dangerous animal which I caught and all the magnificent things I collected." Then happily came running the travelling people upon the battle field, quickly they collected all the trinkets that the giant had carried. They ran with those to the wine houses and drank it all away. Poor and rich alike were welcome.

1386. But the Syrians quickly raised a new army: twelve mighty kings, each with six hundred warriors, stepped up to battle. Grey Robe raised his hands and implored the Virgin Maria; who pleaded with her Son Christ, and He right away sent down three angels: Gabriel, Raphael and Michael, each with a sword. They said: "God and his mother have sent us so that we in this slaughter can guard you. Know this with confidence, if you were now to fall, God will take your soul up into His heaven." The battle lasted only one summer's day long. Grey Robe killed six kings, the others were heavily wounded. When Grey Robe saw that he had no more enemies before him, he drew the horse around and artfully rode back and forth before Lady Bride.

1444. "God bless you, Grey Robe," said Lady Bride. "Actually, I should not be greeting you, because you have killed my people, the ones who were to guard the Holy Grave." " But no," said Grey Robe, "I have not killed any Christians. Your heathen servants have done me wrong -- I would have killed them had I not taken your interests under consideration." "Come here, you son of an emperor," said Bride, "Sit here and speak with me. Through godly messages have I come to know that King Ougel's son set out with seventy-two ships from Trier. But they all sank. Only the young king survived and he should now become my lord, king and lord over the land and the city Jerusalem. If you are this young man, then should you be most welcome by me." " No," said Grey Robe, "I am a pious, exiled man who has searched for the Holy Grave." Then she took him in her arms. When the heathen Mercian saw that, he came rushing forward and spoke angrily at her. "How came you in this manner" he said, " here to speak so friendly with my groom?" " I am not his groom," said Grey Robe, "I first came to know him yesterday, he loaned me his horse. I am no one's groom except for God's and his mother's." " Listen," said the heathen Mercian, "or I will let you be dragged by the hair in front of the castle and have you beaten there." Then Grey Robe balled his fist and struck down the heathen: "This is the service you want of me and you can have more of it." "Good words," said Lady Bride and let the heathen be bound to be thrown into the prison. But Grey Robe pleaded with her: "It is God's will that you hand over the heathen to me. I have done him much harm, I have killed his brother." Then Lady Bride handed the heathen over to him. Grey Robe cut his bindings and said to him: "Now go over the courtyard, take your shield and your horse and never more claim I am your groom." The heathen promised to do that. He took grasp of the reigns of his horse, sat upon it and rode quickly through the gate and the Garden of Abraham to his Land Saloniki .

The Queen took Grey Robe by the hand and led him over the courtyard into a chamber. There were two lords who prepared a meal for Grey Robe. Meat, fish, bread and wine was dished out to him, the best of the hunt and out of the stable. He stayed there for sixteen days and rested.

1566. But then came out of Saloniki fourteen hundred heathen to Jerusalem. Among them was a dangerous giant named Liberian. He pressed himself around the castle walls and called: "Are you there, Lady Bride? Give us Grey Robe, or I will burn the Holy Grave and the Christians also." When Lady Bride heard that, she went quickly across the courtyard and into the chamber where Grey Robe lived. "Are you asleep, Lord Grey Robe?" she asked." No," he answered. Then she told him what she had come to know. On another morning when it became light out, Grey Robe went out to the courtyard. Lady Bride let a horse with an ivory saddle be brought to him. "This shall belong to you," she said. She also let him be brought a gold covered chain mail. But he chose rather to wear his good grey robe: "Should I lose my life, I would rather sacrifice the grey robe." He pleaded for a sword, and at once, Lady Bride let her chamberlain come and ordered ihm to bring the sword of her father David. The chamberlain let a chest be brought and took out a sword that shone like a mirror. He gave it to Lady Bride, she struck it against the wall, where the sword broke into three pieces. Then, using the hilt, she struck the chamberlain over his back, tore at his hair, brought him down to the floor and trampled on him with her feet. The chamberlain yelled and pleaded to be spared: right away will he bring the sword of his lord. Then he indicated to the ground and a hole was dug the depth of a man and the old slaughter sword was found which he swore a thousand fold had belonged to King David. It was tucked inside a golden sheath and was sharp and wide and made of steel and iron. The queen brought it to Grey Robe: "Take good care of it, it is a relique of the Holy Pankratius, and it had always belonged only to a victorious man." The Grey Robe buckled it around his waist, Lady Bride placed on his head a helmet with a glowing golden crown on it, just as King David had done in battle. Then he sprang without stirrups into the saddle to the wonder of the lords standing nearby who had taken him to be a runaway monk. Finally, he took the shield to his arm and took grasp of the unwieldy spear. So he rode out through the gate of Jerusalem which was then closed up behind him.

1694. Then stood a heathen army of fourteen hundred men before him. Again, the three angels helped him with their swords, as was the case before, and he endured the battle. After that, he made his way to Jordan to meet Liberian. He stabbed him through the rings of the chain mail shirt and cut off the head of the heathen banner carrier. Three times did he break through the army with David's sword until the enemies cleared the battle field and retreated one mile away. On another morning he chased them into the wild Klebermeer [Sticky Sea] where they all drowned. On the third morning, he drove another group into the open Weltmeer (World Ocean). On the fourth, he drove the last group into the dark forest which was the death of them. There they could not go forward in the darkness and Grey Robe killed them. So had King Ougel's son defeated all his enemies. Those who had run from him fled to the mountains in search of hiding places, always in the fear that he could at any time appear before them.

1777. When Grey Robe had conquered the fourteen hundred heathens, he returned victorious to the castle in Jerusalem. In the meantime, Lady Bride was deep in prayer before the Holy Grave and implored about the life of Grey Robe. Then someone told her that he had come back. "Be welcome, Grey Robe," she received him. "I cannot call you anything else. How much I would like to know your name! You should be King of Jerusalem and my lord." But Grey Robe said: "You are only mocking me. You need a king who has land and people." But, Bride embraced him and led him by the hand into the castle. She let him prepare for a bath, that battle weary man, young ladies in waiting bathed him and after that dressed him in silk. They laid a sable cloak around him, which had cost more than a thousand pounds. Bride placed a radiant crown upon him, just as King David had worn it for the courtly feasts.

1831. When they had finished eating and drinking and Grey Robe and Lady Bride went for their wedding night to their chamber, there stood an angel on the bed, looked deep into Orendel's eyes and said: "God and his mother have sent me to you. They command you, as of today until a year is over, to not have marital intercourse with Lady Bride." Then Orendel stood up, brought his sword and laid it between himself and the virgin. Lady Bride asked if this is customary in his own land, but he informed her of God's command. "Place the sword back into the sheath, I can be without a man for ten years," replied the maiden.

1867. For six weeks there was peace. Then out of Saloniki came sixteen hundred heathen, among them the giant Pelian. He leaned over the castle wall of Jerusalem and called out: "Are you inside, Lady Bride? Bring out Grey Robe to the temple courtyard, or else I will burn the Holy Grave and the Christians which are there." Then went Lady Bride to Grey Robe to inform him. Grey Robe climbed up the battlement and called: "You tall fellow, get lost back to Jordan! There I will come, and you will not remain alive!" Then went Pelian to his people and told them that Grey Robe is a little fellow. "I will catch him and hang him at the gallows," he said, "And Lady Bride shall be my wife." -- Then Grey Robe went to the Grave of Christ and pleaded with him to help him. Lady Bride did the same. Then appeared to her an angel, who ordered her to place all her worries on Grey Robe for him to make right. Lady Bride then called through the sexton for all Temple Lords to gather together. The bells rang, and all the Temple Lords came hand in hand over the courtyard and into the great palace where Bride and Grey Robe sat. "The heathen Pelian," said the regal virgin, "will take away my servant and with that my honour, too."

1968. Then spoke Grey Robe: "Lady, leave to me the heathen; and were he so tall as a tower, I will beat him down or die on the Holy Grave." Lady Bride gave him a team of men to help, but he stepped up on the battlement and saw across the fields many red and green banners waving. He made himself ready to go directly to the Holy Grave, pulled off his clothes which Lady Bride had given him, and let the priests sing a Mass. Then he put on his good grey robe and said: "Should I lose my life, so will I give it up in this robe." He girded his good sword, placed on a helmet and let his horse be brought to him. Without using the stirrup, he sprang into the saddle. He took the shield in arm and took grasp of an unwieldy spear. So he rode completely alone in front of the gate .

2023. There a large devilish man held over his breast three breast plates: one of ivory, one of silver and one of steel; when the sword should pierce through the ivory one, so would the other two withstand it. -- At first they ran with the spears at each other; both split apart. Then they pulled out the swords and struck at each other until sparks sprayed. Grey Robe almost lost his life: the heathen gave him such a hard blow that he fell and laid before him . -- Queen Maria was moved to pity and she pleaded with her Son to help. Our Lord Christ sent at once an angel from heaven, the Holy Gabriel, who strenthened Grey Robe: He struck that heathen's head off. Now there came riding sixteen hundred heathen, who had hidden themselves until then; these gave Grey Robe great worries. Lady Bride saw that. She prayed to God, armed herself, sprang upon a horse, took a shield and a steel rod and rode alone before the gate. She fought like a man and struck a path through the heathen horde until she reached Grey Robe. "My hero, are you wounded?" she called. Grey Robe recognized her voice: "No, I am not wounded," he called, "I need nothing except a better horse!" "I see there a Syrian riding upon a great war horse -- if my rod does not break, it is all over for him," called Lady Bride and ran at once towards the heathen. She gave him a blow across the back that his shield broke into three pieces and he fell from his horse. She quickly took grasp of the horse by the reigns and led it to Grey Robe. She held the stirrups for him when he mounted.

2145. Grey Robe looked happily at her. "Dearest Lord," she said, "Now stay at my side, then nothing can happen to us." They fought in such a way that all the heathens who came near them lost their lives. The Saracens believed the devil was let loose and surrendered. Grey Robe ordered that they be baptised.

When the Temple Lords saw that Lady Bride was herself engaged in battle, they resolved to run into the battle field. Lady Bride wanted to attack her servants, but Grey Robe said: "Leave it be, Lady. I led seventy-two ships here from Trier, they all sank and the men drowned. Had they been spared for me, so would I now have loyal supporters." Then said Lady Bride: "If you are King Orendel, then had God sent you to me." When the Temple Lords learned that it was King Orendel, they received him with great honour and sat him upon the throne seat .

2187. Then came Master Ise, the fisherman, and asked if his groom by the Holy Grave was well. Grey Robe gave a friendly answer: "Be welcome, Master Ise, high and wise fisherman! Forgive me the will of God and his royal mother that I had been so long away from my service to you." Then spoke Master Ise: "That I will do at once, great hero." "Then go straight over the courtyard to stand before Lady Bride's chamber and let your groom be given who had been so long held away from you." Master Ise did that, he demanded of Lady Bride his groom. " Who should that be?" asked the noble queen. "It is Grey Robe," answered Ise. Lady Bride sent for her chamberlain, he had to fill a shield with red Gold. "This shall belong to you," said Lady Bride, "With that can you hire twelve grooms. Grey Robe does not fit into your service, claim it never again that he is your groom." That promised Master Ise; he was very happy for this gift. Right away he went to Grey Robe who asked, "Now, must I sail again with you to the sea?" " No," said Master Ise, "You should stay here with Lady Bride to be lord and king over the land and city of Jerusalem." Orendel was happy about that. He pulled out a good new cloak which had at first cost over a hundred pounds and pleaded with Master Ise that he should take this gift for his wife. Ise was happy about that, took his leave and sailed without his groom over the sea .

2269. When he came into his own house, his wife received him and asked where his groom was left behind. "He will stay with Lady Bride," said Ise, "to become king over the land and the city of Jerusalem. He has sent you this new good sable cloak to add to your clothing and as thanks for your good deeds." -- In the meantime Grey Robe searched for Lady Bride. He pleaded for her to grant him leave. "I am the fisher's groom and must sail over the sea with my master," he said. "He had found me and helped me; I must serve him, this is my duty." "I will not hear of it," said Lady Bride. "Better to let Master Ise be brought here to the courtyard." On a Saturday he arrived. He had put on his grey robe and carried an oar in his hand. He was a great hero, two spans wide between the brows. Grey Robe greeted him: "Be welcome, Master Ise! You should give up your oar and net and no more go out to catch fish. You should become Duke of the Holy Grave." " I am still not too old: I can defeat five hundred enemies," said Master Ise.

2320. Lady Bride had a duke's garment be brought to her. Master Ise was led to the Holy Grave, a sword was girded around him, and a valuable armour put on him. Upon his head was placed a beautiful helmet. Then he sprang, without using the stirrup, upon a horse which had been brought to him. Then said Grey Robe: "God knows that was a good jump! Now, protect the Christians and kill the heathens!" Then came riding into that courtyard many dukes, earls, knights and peasants and a tournament began. Lady Bride let silk garments, brown and blue ones, that were set with gemstones, be carried into that courtyard to be distributed to the people. All over the land did she let it be known that Master Ise was appointed to be a duke.

2374. Master Ise ordered a military campaign. Many men very much complained, because they rode through forest and the fields a distance of seven days in only two days. Then they laid siege to the castle of Westfalen. For three years they could not conquer it no matter what they did. Early one morning, when they again attacked, came Grey Robe so near to the wall that the enemies caught him with a hook and pulled him over the castle wall. They threw him into a deep prison. So now Grey Robe was caught. Now give to me good advice about how we can again bring him out! When Master Ise knew of it, he said: "Now will one only see me sad." He right away let messengers be brought to Lady Bride. She cried very much and lamented: "Heavenly Lord, protect for me the heroes, who are now in foreign lands, or I will destroy your altar! Holy Grave of our Lord, I will never more serve and sacrifice to you." This heard a baptised heathen named Durian who served the Holy Grave. "Noble Queen," he said, "Do not argue with our Lord! Whoever has, and wherever my lord has been caught in the seventy-two lands, he will come back soon in good health."

2429. Lady Bride searched within her land and brought thirty thousand splendid warriors together with whom she set out upon the voyage. Durian carried the banners up front and led the army through the forest and the fields in two days to the castle Westfalen. There they laid up a half year and two days without accomplishing anything. One morning, when Lady Bride still slept, came a wondrous dwarf who was called Alban. He said: "Rise up, noble queen. I will show you where I have seen the lord last night still hail and healthy." Lady Bride, the innocent virgin, rose up right away and followed the dwarf into a beautiful chamber. "Welcome," said the dwarf," Now you must do my will before I let you out again." "Speak no further words," demanded Lady Bride, "You should leave my virginity in tact! If I had saved myself for such a laughable fellow as you, then would it have been a real shame." She took grasp of him by his hair and trampled around on him. "Let me go," he yelled, "Stop it, noble queen and virgin, I will show you to your Lord!" He led the virgin through two hollow mountains into a deep prison; There he lit a candle. When she saw Grey Robe, she joyfully flung her arms about his neck and kissed him. Sie told him that she had led thirty thousand men. In the meantime, the dwarf hurried out the door, closed it shut and locked it with three crossbars. "Well, Lady Bride?" he called, "Now you must pay for the abuse you inflicted upon me."

2510. Now Lady Bride is caught along with Grey Robe -- give advice in this circle, how should we bring them out! The dwarf wanted to go away, but then an angel with a three-prong scourge met him, and with that he would be in an evil way be received. The angel beat him and drove him back until he opened the prison again so that Grey Robe and the virgin could return through the hollow mountains back to Master Ise. On the sixth morning, they stormed the castle. Grey Robe compelled thirteen kings who were inside and those other seven kings. All obliged themselves into his service. With these twenty kings they fared towards Babylon where there sat seventy-two heathen kings. They were all conquered and obliged themselves also into the service of Grey Robe, and so they turned back towards Jerusalem. But when they all believed finally to have found peace, they deceived themselves; two babylonian kings contradicted Grey Robe, namely Elin and Durian his brother. Elin, through Duke Daniel, let a message be brought to Grey Robe. In Jerusalem, Daniel stepped before Grey Robe and declared the message: If he wanted to become servant to both heathen kings, they would make for him subject the land of Akkon to Jordan, otherwise they would wage a war against him. "I would very much like to be your servant," answered Grey Robe, "if you would allow yourselves to be baptised. If not, then I will wage war against you."

2626. "That appears not to be very smart," said the messenger, "Both mighty kings can bring together thirty thousand men within a day and a half. Besides, you are but a fisher's groom, you wear a robe without decoration, you ran away from your rightful lord." "That is true," replied Grey Robe, "Come nearer, I will give you a message." That did the duke. But, Grey Robe balled his fist and gave him such a blow that he to fell to the ground. "These messenges bring to your lords," he said," and they should sue the letters with blows of the sword." He gave him still a second blow. The messenger hurried away and sailed over the sea towards Babylon. King Elin asked him what Grey Robe looked like. "He has broad shoulders and eyes like a wolf," said the messenger. "He can defeat thirty thousand heathens. Lord, I would like to answer these messenges here with my own hand." "That is rightly so," said Elin, "When someone sent a message, so lets one the messengers hand over the letters." " Step nearer," said the messenger, "You should receive from me the letters." Daniel balled his fist and struck down at first Elin, then Durian. "See, dear Lords," he said ," these are both messenges. Had I stayed longer until a third letter had been written, then I would never again be a messenger for you."

2712. Throughout his land, King Elin called twenty thousand heathens together and went with them towards Jerusalem. Daniel led with the banner. Elin called over the castle gate: " Listen, Grey Robe, now you must fight with me and my people." Durian spoke: "I will do battle with Grey Robe and compel him to peace." But, Grey Robe went straight away to the Holy Grave and implored God for help. Then he put on his grey robe and armed himself, sprang up on the horse and rode alone in front of the gate. There he found a devilish heavily armoured man who said to him: "God greets you, Lord Grey Robe. I can not call you anything else. If I knew who you were, I would call you something else. You should become my servant, then I will give you the land of Akkon all the way to Jordan. If not, you must you do battle." "That I will do when you allow yourself to become baptised," answered Grey Robe. Now it came to doing battle: the spears broke, the swords were drawn, and finally, Durian gave Grey Robe such a heavy blow that he fell to the ground..-- What is now with Grey Robe? He must lose his life -- if one doesn't give the narrator anything to drink! But again, Queen Maria felt great pity. She pleaded with her Son to help Orendel, and soon appeared the angel Gabriel from heaven, lifted up Grey Robe and strengthened his courage. So stepped he again in front of that heathen and struck his head off. Then he strode back into the city.

2856. When King Elin saw that, he sent messengers to Grey Robe: he wanted to let himself be baptised and to believe in the true Christ. Grey Robe let the priests to be brought, they baptised all who were there, whether they wanted to be or not. Then turned Grey Robe back towards Jerusalem where they all happily ate and drank. When both Grey Robe and Lady Bride wanted to go to sleep in their chamber, an angel stepped towards them and said: "God and his mother have sent me: before your father's city Trier lay encamped thirteen heathen kings, sixteen earls and twelve dukes. If you do not come to help him, then it will be all over for him." At once Grey Robe wanted to take his leave of Lady Bride, but she said: "I will sail with you over over sea. We can offer the Cross and Crown to Master Ise." But Master Ise also wanted to go to Trier: "I could be useful to you upon the sea," he said. So then two former heathens, just recently baptised, were ordered to assume the Cross, Crown and the Holy Grave.

2934. The ships were made ready and were loaded with provisions. For five weeks they sailed with good wind. During the sixth week came a fleet of twenty-two ships towards them. Lady Bride commissioned Lord Schiltwin with the task to find out who may be these sea-faring people. Schiltwin fared towards the foreign ships and asked the ship's navigator who may be the lord over the fleet. "They are the Duke Mersilian and his brother Stefan, both the sons of Master Ise," he said. "They have heard that their father has become Duke of Jerusalem and they now came with thirty thousand warriors in support of Grey Robe." That was good news for the messenger; he turned at once back and reported all. Grey Robe, Lady Bride and Master Ise were very happy. They lifted the anchors and sailed towards the others. They greeted each other with all the honours and remained at rest for three days. On the fourth morning, Lady Bride said: "Grey Robe, you are a rich man. Buy now horses and what else is needed to be attractive to the Ladies of Trier." But Master Ise opposed it: "Yesterday, I saw over there on that land a whole herd of horses. Those I will catch and no one shall stop me." With that he took grasp of an oar, fared across with a little ship and began to chase the horses. But he could not bring them together. The Dukes Warmunt and Berwin, two brothers, saw it. Warmunt said: "Brother Berwin, who might be the knight who is there completely alone chasing our horses across the pasture? He has a dangerous oar in his hand. Should we not stop him?" But Berwin refused. In the meantime, Master Ise went towards the lords and was greeted by them with all honour. They asked him from where he came; he gave them information about that . Warmunt was happy about it and gave Ise a beautiful horse with an ivory saddle: "This shall be your earnings as messenger." Then together they chased the beautiful and young dapple-grey horses and gave them to Master Ise. He led them to Lady Bride to the castle courtyard of Bari where the wild horses willingly allowed themselves to be shod. Lady Bride gave fifty of them to each lord.

3109. In the meantime, the Dukes Mersilian and his brother Stefan rode with thirty thousand men through Apulien, then over the Tiger and through Rome. Grey Robe reached Metz where he and the queen were honorably received. Fourteen miles further they arrived at Trier. There laid the heathen army before Orendel's father city. When the heathens learned of who had arrived, many of them wanted to go barefoot and wearing garments of penance to see Orendel, they fell before his feet and pleaded for Lady Bride to admit them: Grey Robe may well forgive them their guilt; they wanted to let themselves be baptised. So it was done. The whole army was baptised, even those who actually didn't want it done. Then Orendel's father and mother received him and Lady Bride -- they all believed that she was his wife. For fourteen days they all rested. But, on the fifteenth, Lady Bride said: "Lord, last night I had dreamed that the Holy Grave was under the control of the heathens. Help me, I must go again over the sea." Orendel was at once ready, but there appeared an angel and ordered him to leave behind in Trier the grey robe: "God will in the earliest days hold judgement there," he said. Orendel then let let three priests come to close fast the grey robe in a stone casket. Then he gave over the city and land of Trier to his father and took his leave.

3214. Lady Bride and Master Ise travelled with him . They rode through Italy, through Rome over the Tiber, then through Apulien until Bari. From there, they reached the sea to Akkon. Grey Robe well wanted to know if the Holy Grave was really under the control of the heathens. For that, Lady Bride dressed herself in pilgrim clothing. But soon enough she was captured on the way by Duke Daniel and King Wolfhart who led her to Babylon to King Minolt. He said to her: "Welcome, Lady Bride! You should love me and take me as your husband, then here I will make subject to you seventy-two kings and ride with a great army towards Trier to conquer the city, hang Grey Robe and blind Master Ise." Lady Bride replied she would only take him as a husband if he allowed himself to become baptised. Then one of the knights named Princian interfered. He proposed before the king to grant him six weeks; time he wanted to convince Lady Bride to marry him. The virgin was handed over to him. He was a totally devilish fellow; naked he let her be thrown into the prison and to be beaten there so that her blood ran down her body.

3302. Grey Robe, in the meantime, did not even know that she had been caught, until a poor pilgrim who had met the heathens brought him the news. He told Master Ise, who had received him, that the Holy Grave is surrounded by seventy-two idols which everyone has to pray to. He also reported that Lady Bride is captured and that the heathen king wants to destroy Trier. They all then rushed onto the ships and sailed seven hundred miles. They came into thick reeds. "Here we can hide ourselves for a thousand years, no one would find us," said Master Ise. They left behind all the people and went ahead alone, Grey Robe and Master Ise, seven days journey until they came to King Minolt's castle and rested upon a green grassy plaine. On another morning, they went to the castle gate. There stood an old gate-keeper with a long white beard. They remained standing to find out at which god he would direct his morning prayer. He lifted his hands up and began his prayer, and then they knew that it was to Christ. They greeted him, and Ise told him they escaped from a heathenish imprisonment and are pleading for help to return to the Holy Grave. The gate-keeper -- who was the Duke Achilles -- told them of Lady Bride's imprisonment and sorrow and he pleaded for them to inform Grey Robe in Akkon. This they promised .

3494. Full of joy the duke led them into a chamber and let them be lavishly entertained, he also promised them silver, gold, and rich clothing. Then Master Ise stood up and said: "Kiss me on my mouth, because I am the son of your sister Elisabeth! Grey Robe is my lord, we both serve him." This also gave the duke much joy, he let a sleeping place be prepared for both in the chamber, then he hurried to the gate where his shield and sword laid ready. On another morning, he woke his guests and said to them that he wanted to go to King Minolt to ask him to give them an escort to the Holy Grave, or he would renounce his oath of loyalty. Grey Robe promised to help him when needed. When the duke entered King Minolt's house, he was received in a very friendly way. He told him of a dream he had had: "A raven and an eagle came flying over the sea and wanted from above to destroy my castle." "For seventy-two years I have loyally served you," said Duke Achilles, "Now, two sons of my sister are here and are requesting an escort." "Bring them here." When they stood before him, he said: "Where have you hidden Grey Robe and the Master Ise? If you are them, I will let you be hanged!" Then the Knight Princian advised him to have Lady Bride be brought to them. "She knows both pilgrims, in this way can we be sure." Lady Bride was brought to them, beautifully dressed in silk, and was ordered to greet both heroes which Grey Robe had sent. Lady Bride secretly blinked at both and said: "I have never seen them before. Listen: If I were to now promise to marry you, would you let them go from here?" This he promised. "And if Grey Robe himself came?" "Then he must suffer death." "Never will I seperate from my first husband -- God forbids it to me," she said.

3654. When Grey Robe observed that he was now known in the house of him, he called in: "There is only one way out of this house and I am standing in front of it. The devil can take you out from above!" Then King Minolt lost his courage. He fled up to a tower, Grey Robe, Bride and Master Ise followed him, also Duke Achilles. But it was of no use: the seventy-two kings caught them all. Nothing was known about it within Gray Robe's army, except for the Queen Sancta Maria! She wrote a letter which a dove brought to Grey Robe's army. At that moment a priest was reading the Mass and the letter fell upon the altar. At once he broke open the letter -- which was completely against all rules: even if a priest were to see the cathedral burning, he must continue to read to the end of the Mass. But in this way everyone knew Grey Robe was caught and everyone was asked to support him.

3715. The army's general bound the holy realm to the cause of the banner and rode ahead to lead them. They rode in two days what usually took seven days through the desert until they came before Minolt's city and castle. On the fourth day, they attacked it. Dead heathens and Christians laid before the castle. Grey Robe woke God's voice, "If we leave this house, the king will escape," he said. But Lady Bride disagreed: "I will stand in front of the gate and strike his head off!" The three let themselves back down to be among the heathens. Master Ise struck the gate-keeper's head off. The gate was opened and all the folks were let in. Now it caused fright and misery for the heathens: whosoever did not want to submit to the Holy Grave was killed. Grey Robe let King Minolt to be brought forward. " Will you let yourself be baptised and believe in the true Christ?" he asked him, " Or else you must lose your life." King Minolt said: "I would rather suffer worse than death." Master Ise lifted the sword and struck that heathen's head off .

3786. Then the guests became lords of the castle. They ate and drank; then Master Ise burned down the castle. They turned back with the horses to the ships and sailed again towards Akkon. Then Lady Bride put on her garment of penance and wanted to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When she arrived the gate was opened to her. At once she went to the Holy Grave and made a sacrifice before the three nails which had been driven through the hands and feet of Jesus, and before the spear and the crown of thorns.-- Then she saw a warrior named Durian, who knew Lady Bride well. At once he went to King Wolfhart. "What would you give me as a reward if I caught and brought to you Lady Bride?" he asked. "Silver and gold and eternal thanks," was the answer. Then Durian led Lady Bride before the king. "Welcome, Lady Bride," he greeted her. "You must love me." But Lady Bride refused to give up her virginity. Then the king let a sleeping potion be brought to him, Durian passed it to him. But barely had he taken a drink, he sank down on the bench. Durian lifted his sword and struck off his head. He led Lady Bride into a chamber and demanded she arm herself. This she did and then she went quickly to the gate and struck the gate-keeper's head off. The gate was opened. Lady Bride sent messengers to Grey Robe with the news that the Holy Grave had been freed. Then he arrived with his whole army, was let in and killed all the heathens so that the Holy Grave could not be conquered.

3906. When Grey Robe, after a meal, went with Lady Bride into the chamber to sleep, an angel stepped by the bed and said: "God and his mother have sent me to you, King Orendel. You should not engage in any kind of love play with Lady Bride. You will not live longer than half a year and two days. Then I will come and lead you into the lordly heavenly realm!" Then they all went into a monastery: Grey Robe and Lady Bride, Master Ise and Duke Achilles. After the appointed time, the angel came and led the four souls into the heavenly realm.

Here ends the book.


Translated by Heidi Graw

October 11, 2007

Reference used to create this translation:

Walter Johannes Schroeder, Spielmannsepen II: Sankt Oswald, Orendel, Salman
und Morolf. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft Darmstadt, 1976.

Also by Heidi Graw

"Dukus Haurant" is a 14th-century narrative poem written in the Middle High German language using Hebrew characters. It is a heroic epic with a theme similar to the German poem Kudrun. It exists among a collection of works which survive in the Cambridge Codex T.-S.10.K.22. This manuscript was discovered in the Cairo Geniza in 1896. The other works in the manuscript contain traditional Jewish material.

The purpose of this book is to make this Germanic epic accessible to English speakers. It is not my intention to delve into, nor discuss, nor debate the scholarly merits of this poem. I will leave these matters to the scholars, members of academia, and other interested parties.
As for me? I just love a good story!"
—Heidi Graw, Translator

Translator of "Dukus Haurant," Lulu Publications,
Also see King Rother, a Spielmannsdichtung, translated by Heidi Graw.