faithful, enduring love of Condwiramurs and Parzival

In Wolfram von Eschenbach’s early thirteenth-century romance Parzival, both Condwiramurs and Parzival have troubled love histories. Condwiramurs had urged her beloved Schenteflurs to fight Clamide, who wanted to marry her. Clamide killed Schenteflurs. Condwiramurs later lamented:

What reason have I to be merry, woeful me?
Now it has come to the point
that I will kill myself
rather than give up my virginity and person
and become Clamide’s wife.
It was his hand that slew
Schenteflurs, whose heart carried
great knightly fame.
He was a blossoming branch of manly beauty.
He knew how to rein in falsity,
Liaze’s brother Schenteflurs.

{ wes möht ich armiu wesen geil?
nu ist ez mir komen an daz zil,
daz ich mich selben tœten wil,
ê daz ich magetuom unde lîp
gebe und Clâmidês wîp
werde; wan sîn hant mir sluoc
Schenteflûrn, des herze truoc
manegen rîterlîchen prîs.
er mannes schœne ein blüende rîs,
er kunde valscheit mâzen,
der bruoder Lîâzen. }[1]

Even merely for their own love interests, women must do more to prevent violence against men.

Parzival, on the other hand, was a late-bloomer in love. His mother had taught him to be a groveling woman-pleaser. That’s a wet-rag way to put out love’s passion. As his mother instructed him, the foolish young man Parzival sought advice from a wise old man, Gurnemanz of Graharz. In Gurnemanz’s castle, a knight observed that Parzival was wounded. Gurnemanz speculated that Parzival had been fighting at a woman’s bidding. The knight was wiser:

No, Lord. The way he behaves,
he couldn’t ever persuade a woman
to accept his love-service.
But his complexion would favor love.

{ nein, hêrre: erst mit sölhen siten,
ern kunde nimer wîp gebiten
daz si sîn dienst næme.
sîn varwe der minne zæme. }

Gurnemanz taught Parzival worldly wisdom and knightly fighting techniques. Gurnemanz also introduced his beautiful daughter Liaze to Parzival:

You must let him kiss you,
this knight, and you must offer him honor.
He travels with Fortune as his guide.

{ du solt di’n küssen lâzen,
disen ritter, biut im êre:
er vert mit sælden lêre. }

Parzival felt awkward and ashamed. Nonetheless, he kissed the lovely Liaze on her lips.

At dinner, Gurnemanz sat Parzival next to Liaze. He asked her to cut and serve food to Parzival. Liaze and Parzival could have engaged in intimate conversation. But Parzival said nothing to her. Such non-intercourse went on for two weeks. Then Parzival asked to leave. Gurnemanz, who had lost three sons in knightly violence, sorrowfully called Parzival his fourth lost son. Gurnemanz lamented:

Now you are riding away from me all too soon,
inconsolable man that I am.
Alas that I cannot die,
since neither Liaze, the beautiful maiden,
nor my land is to your liking.

{ nu sît ir alze fruo geriten
von mir trôstelôsen man.
ôwê daz ich niht sterben kan,
sît Lîâz diu schœne magt
und ouch mîn lant iu niht behagt. }

Parzival foolishly felt that he had to win fame to be worthy of a woman’s love. He declared to Gurnemanz:

Lord, I am not wise.
Yet if I ever win knight’s fame,
so that I might be able to desire love,
then you shall give me Liaze,
your daughter, that beautiful maiden.

{ hêrre, in bin niht wîs:
bezal abr i’emer ritters prîs,
sô daz ich wol mac minne gern,
ir sult mich Lîâzen wern,
iwerr tohter, der schœnen magt. }

Parzival wasn’t wise in understanding of love. Liaze must have been disappointed with him.

In his subsequent fast riding, Parzival came to Condwiramurs’s castle at Pelrapeire. The people there were starving under Clamide’s love-siege. An emaciated duke brought Parzival to the distressed Queen Condwiramurs. She kissed this strong young knight, offered him her hand, and seated him next to her:

Liaze’s beauty was but a breath of air
compared with the maiden who sat here.
God forgot no perfection in creating her
— she was the land’s lady —
as when from sweet dew
the rose peeps out of its bud
showing new, noble radiance,
which is both white and red.
Her beauty brought great love-pain to her guest.
His manly good breeding was complete,
since that noble Gurnemanz
had parted him from his folly
and advised him against asking questions,
unless it were discretely.
Next to the mighty queen
he sat with his mouth entirely wordless.
He was close by her there, not far apart.

{ Lîâzen schœne was ein wint
gein der meide diu hie saz,
an der got wunsches niht vergaz
(diu was des landes frouwe),
als von dem süezen touwe
diu rôse ûz ir bälgelîn
blecket niwen werden schîn,
der beidiu wîz ist unde rôt.
daz fuogte ir gaste grôze nôt.
sîn manlîch zuht was im sô ganz,
sît in der werde Gurnamanz
von sîner tumpheit geschiet
unde im vrâgen widerriet,
ez enwære bescheidenlîche,
bî der küneginne rîche
saz sîn munt gar âne wort,
nâhe aldâ, niht verre dort. }

Of course such behavior troubled Condwiramurs:

The queen’s first thoughts were,
“I think that this man despises me
because my body is wasted away.
No, it’s a ruse on his part.
He’s a guest, I’m the hostess,
the first speech ought to be mine.
He must have looked kindly upon me,
because we have come to be sitting together.
He has shown courtesy to me.
My words have been all too long spared.
Let there be no more silence here.”

{ Diu küneginne gedâhte sân
“ich wæn, mich smæhet dirre man
durch daz mîn lîp vertwâlet ist.
nein, er tuotz durch einen list:
er ist gast, ich pin wirtîn:
diu êrste rede wære mîn.
dar nâch er güetlîch an mich sach,
sît uns ze sitzen hie geschach:
er hât sich zuht gein mir enbart.
mîn rede ist alze vil gespart:
hie sol niht mêr geswigen sîn.” }

The queen asked where he was from. He replied Graharz. She said that he had traveled an amazingly long way to Pelrapeire in only a short time. She said that she knew Gurnemanz of Graharz and that he was her uncle and that she was good friends with his daughter Liaze. She spoke many words. Then she invited him to lodge there and have dinner from the best of the scant fare they had.

Condwiramurs visits Parzival in bed

When night came, Parzival was led to a luxurious bed. He fell asleep quickly. Then Condwiramurs came to his bedroom:

Her path led toward his bed.
On the carpet she knelt down before him.
Neither he nor the queen
had much idea of love
as involves lying together.
Such wooing ensued as this:
the maiden’s joy was ruined, shame oppressed her.
Did he clasp her to him?
Sadly he knew nothing of such an affair.
Yet despite his lack of skill,
it did happen,
yet with such conditions of truce
that they didn’t mingle their conciliatory limbs.
They gave little thought to that.
The maiden’s grief was so great
that tears flowed from her eyes
down upon the young Parzival.
He heard such loud weeping
that he awoke and stared at her.

{ ûffen teppech kniete si für in.
si heten beidiu kranken sin,
Er unt diu küneginne,
an bî ligender minne.
hie wart alsus geworben:
an freuden verdorben
was diu magt: des twanc si schem:
ober si hin an iht nem?
leider des enkan er niht.
âne kunst ez doch geschiht,
mit eime alsô bewanden vride,
daz si diu süenebæren lide
niht zein ander brâhten.
wênc si des gedâhten.
der magede jâmer was sô grôz,
vil zäher von ir ougen vlôz
ûf den jungen Parzivâl.
der rehôrte ir weinens sölhen schal,
daz er si wachende an gesach. }

Parzival was astonished at Condwiramurs’s behavior:

The young man rose to his feet
and said to the queen,
“Lady, are you mocking me?
Before God you should thus kneel.
Be so kind as to sit down beside me,”
(that was his request and his desire)
“or lie down right here where I’ve been lying.
Let me lie where I can.”

{ ûf rihte sich der junge man,
zer küneginne sprach er sân
“frouwe, bin ich iwer spot?
ir soldet knien alsus für got.
geruochet sitzen zuo mir her”
(daz was sîn bete und sîn ger):
“oder leit iuch hie aldâ ich lac.
lât mich belîben swâ ich mac.” }

Condwiramurs wanted to lie next to Parzival:

She said, “Provided you behave honorably,
showing such restraint toward me
that you do not wrestle with me,
then my lying by you will happen.”
He agreed to a love-truce on those terms.
She snuggled into bed with him at once.

{ si sprach “welt ir iuch êren,
sölhe mâze gein mir kêren
daz ir mit mir ringet niht,
mîn ligen aldâ bî iu geschiht.”
des wart ein vride von im getân:
si smouc sich an daz bette sân. }

Did Condwiramurs sexually harass Parzival by coming into his bedroom uninvited in the middle of the night and crying on him? Such a question would have been inconceivable in medieval Europe, just as today many refuse to recognize women raping men.

In bed with Condwiramurs, Parzival asked if she needed any solace. Solace was a medieval term for sex. Condwiramurs expressed her interest:

Yes, lord, if I were free
from Kingrun the Seneschal.
In formal jousts his hand
has felled many of my knights.
He will come back here tomorrow,
and he believes that his lord
will be able to lie in my arms.
You saw, I suppose, my great hall.
However high its elevation,
I’d rather fall from it into the moat below
than have Clamide take
by force my virginity.
By such a fall I would fend off his fame!

{ jâ, hêrre, ob ich wurde erlôst
von Kingrûne scheneschlant.
ze rehter tjost hât mir sîn hant
gevellet manegen ritter nidr.
der kumt morgen dâ her widr,
und wænet daz ter hêrre sîn
süle ligen an dem arme mîn.
ir sâht wol mînen palas,
der ninder sô gehœhet was,
ine viel ê nider in den grabn,
ê Clâmidê solde habn
mit gewalt mîn magetuom.
sus wolt ich wenden sînen ruom. }

Parzival promised to fight Kingrun. Then they went to sleep without engaging in any wrestling, meaning sex. Just before dawn, Condwiramurs crept back into her bed. No one noticed what she had done that night.

Parzival defeats Kingrun

The next morning, Parzival donned his armor, mounted his charger, and rode out to fight Kingrun. The two met in a high-speed joust. The force of their spears’ impacts threw them both off their horses. On the ground they drew swords. With a hard sword-blow to Kingrun’s helmet, Parzival knocked him to the ground and forced him to surrender.[2]

Parzival became a hero. Nobles of Condwiramurs’s castle suggested that she and Parzival get married with the simplest and most traditional of marriage ceremonies:

They were asked if they would lie together.
He and the queen said yes.
He lay with such skills
as will not suffice nowadays
for many women, if a man treats them so.
Oh how women stain their manners
in tormenting moods,
putting on airs!
With strangers they behave chastely,
but the desires of their hearts
undermine all this behavior.

{ Bî ligens wart gevrâget dâ.
er unt diu küngîn sprâchen jâ.
er lac mit sölhen fuogen,
des nu niht wil genuogen
mangiu wîp, der in sô tuot.
daz si durch arbeitlîchen muot
ir zuht sus parrierent
und sich dergegen zierent!
vor gesten sint se an kiuschen siten:
ir herzen wille hât versniten
swaz mac an den gebærden sîn. }

Parzival thus slept with Condwiramurs, but again didn’t have sex with her. Nonetheless, Condwiramurs now regarded herself as his wife. She put up her hair so that others would think she had consummated a marriage to him. She loved Parzival for his whole person, not just his masculine sexual capability:

They passed time together in this way,
joyful in their love,
for two days and the third night.
Often it occurred to him to
embrace her, as his mother had advised.
Gurnemanz too had explained to him
that man and woman are one.
They intertwined arms and legs.
If I may be so bold as to tell you,
he found that which is close and sweet.
That way both ancient and new
joined them there.
They were happy, far from sad.

{ si wâren mit ein ander sô,
daz si durch liebe wâren vrô,
zwên tage unt die dritten naht.
von im dicke wart gedâht
umbevâhens, daz sîn muoter riet:
Gurnemanz im ouch underschiet,
man und wîp wærn al ein.
si vlâhten arm unde bein.
ob ichz iu sagen müeze,
er vant daz nâhe süeze:
der alte und der niwe site
wonte aldâ in beiden mite.
in was wol und niht ze wê. }

From a Christian perspective, the third day is associated with resurrection. Parzival was far from dead, but he rose to new life with Condwiramurs. Augustine of Hippo proclaimed in relation to God, “Late have I loved you, beauty ever ancient and ever new, late have I loved you {sero te amavi, pulchritudo tam antiqua et tam nova, sero te amavi}!”[3] Condwiramurs and Parzival loved each other that way, too.

While they differed as persons, Condwiramurs and Parzival had a faithful, mutual love. Condwiramurs wasn’t the sort of woman who would cuckold her husband:

Her love was so great in strength
that it was entirely free of wavering.
She knew her husband’s worth,
each found the same in each other.
He was dear to her, as she was to him.

{ ir minne stuont mit sölher kraft,
gar âne wankes anehaft.
si het ir man dâ für erkant,
iewederz an dem andern vant,
er was ir liep, als was si im. }

One day Parzival asked Condwiramurs if he could go visit his mother for a short time and also search for adventure. Internalizing the men-oppressing gender ideology of courtly love, Parzival like his father Gahmuret wanted to perform great feats. Parzival said that such acts would bring fame to Condwiramurs’s noble love for him. Condwiramurs had no wish to refuse anything for Parzival. With both loving each other ardently, Parzival left her.

Parzival was gone from Condwiramurs for five years. During that time she gave birth to twin boys. When Parzival returned, she was in bed with their twins. She leaped out of bed and kissed and embraced him. She praised the good fortune that her heart’s joy was now with her:

Now I ought to be angry, but I can’t.
Honored be this day and hour
that has brought me this embrace
by which my sadness is crippled.
I have now what my heart desires.
Sorrow gains little favor from me!

{ nu solt ich zürnen: ine mac.
gêrt sî diu wîle unt dirre tac,
der mir brâht disen umbevanc,
dâ von mîn trûren wirdet kranc.
ich hân nu des mîn herze gert:
sorge ist an mir vil ungewert. }

She didn’t angrily castigate her husband for being gone for five years. She reveled in the joy of now having him with her. Parzival, not doubting that the twins were actually his, kissed them lovingly. He was aching for love:

His body never received elsewhere
love’s help against love’s distress,
although many a noble woman offered him love.
I believe that they practised pleasure
until that day’s mid-morning.

{ sîn lîp enpfienc nie anderswâ
minne helfe für der minne nôt:
manc wert wîp im doch minne bôt.
ich wæne er kurzwîle pflac
unz an den mitten morgens tac. }[4]

Condwiramurs name in Old French means “to guide love {conduire amours}.” Like Dante’s Beatrice, that she did indeed with her faithfulness.

Parzival learned that the Holy Grail unifies worldly and divine love. Striving to obtain the Holy Grail, he lamented to himself:

Since I lack
what those whom Fortune blesses have
(I mean the love
which cheers men’s sad minds
with joy’s help),
since this isn’t available to me,
I don’t care what happens to me now.
God doesn’t want me to have joy.
She who compels me to love’s desire is far away.
If our love were such, mine and hers,
that severance belonged to it,
such that doubt troubled us,
I might have found another woman for love.
Yet now love of her has deprived me
of other love and joy-bearing solace.
I find no release from my sadness.
May Fortune grant joy
to those who desire true joy!
May God grant joy to all these persons.
I ride away from these joys.

{ sît ich mangel hân
daz den sældehaften undertân
ist (ich mein die minne,
diu manges trûrgen sinne
mit freuden helfe ergeilet),
sît ich des pin verteilet,
ich enruoche nu waz mir geschiht.
got wil mîner freude niht.
diu mich twinget minnen gir,
stüend unser minne, mîn unt ir,
daz scheiden dar zuo hôrte
sô daz uns zwîvel stôrte,
ich möht wol zanderr minne komn:
nu hât ir minne mir benomn
ander minne und freudebæren trôst.
ich pin trûrens unerlôst.
gelücke müeze freude wern
die endehafter freude gern:
got gebe freude al disen scharn:
ich wil ûz disen freuden varn. }

Parzival armed himself and rode off recklessly and unwittingly to battle his half-brother Feirefiz. Parzival thought that his quest for the Holy Grail would forever deprive him of Condwiramurs’s love. The Holy Grail in truth had written on it the names of Parzival and Condwiramurs as husband and wife.

Parvizal found the Holy Grail. He compassionately asked the Grail King Anfortas about his suffering. Then Parzival and Condwiramurs became, respectively, the new King and Queen of the Holy Grail. Worldly and divine love became one for them in loyally serving the Holy Grain. Their joy was complete.

Parzival becomes King of the Holy Grail and is reunited with Condwiramurs

* * * * *

Read more:

Notes:

[1] Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival 194.26-195.6 (Bk. 4), Middle High German text from Lachmann (1833 / 1891), English translation (modified) from Edwards (2004). For Parzival English translations freely available online, Kline (2020), Zeydel & Morgan (1951) (some passages omitted), and Weston (1894). Condwiramurs is the same character as Blancheflor in Chrétien de Troyes’s earlier Perceval, but Wolfram makes her a much different person. Gibbs (1999) pp. 31-2.

Gurnemanz sent an army including his son Schenteflurs to help Condwiramurs fight off Clamide’s besieging army. Schenteflurs thus at least originally came to Condwiramurs to provide military assistance, not love service. Clamide stated:

Because of Condwiramurs
Schenteflurs fought with me.

{ durch Condwîr âmûrs
vaht ouch mit mir Schenteflûrs }

Parzival 214.11-12 (Bk. 4). According to Ghosh (2008), “no blame can attach to Condwiramurs for the death of Schenteflurs.” Ghosh (2008) pp. 6-7. Schenteflurs was the brother of Condwiramurs’s friend Liaze. Medieval readers of Wolfram probably and plausibly thought that Schenteflurs and Condwiramurs were in love and that Schenteflurs fought Clamide because of that love. Moreover, Condwiramurs could have refused the military assistance that Gurnemanz sent. She could have done more to convince Clamide that she was a shrewish, abusive woman whom no man in his right mind would want to marry. Women must do more to end violence against men.

The subsequent quotes above from Parzival are by section.verse 164.29-165.2 (No, Lord. The way he behaves…), 175.26-8 (You must let him kiss you…), 178.6-10 (Now you are riding away…), 178.29-179.2 (Lord, I am not wise…), 188.6-22 (Liaze’s beauty was but a breath of air…), 188.6-22 (The queen’s first thoughts were…), 193.1-19 (Her path led toward his bed…), 193.21-8 (The young man rose to his feet…), 193.29-194.4 (She said, “Provided you behave honorably…), 195.14-26 (Yes, lord, if I were free…), 201.19-29 (They were asked if they would lie together…), 202.29-203.11 (They passed time together in this way…), 223.3-7 (Her love was so great in strength…), 801.9-14 (Now I ought to be angry…), 801.9-14 (His body never received elsewhere…), 733.1-20 (Since I lack…).

[2] Parzival subsequently won Clamide’s surrender in personal battle. Clamide poignantly explained the extent of his love for Condwiramurs:

Pontius Pilate
and the wretched Judas,
who kept kissing company
on that faithless road
where Jesus was betrayed,
no matter how their Creator might avenge it,
I would not renounce similar punishment,
if only Brobarz’s lady Condwiramurs were my wife
and her favor mine,
so that I might take her into my arms,
whatever might become of me thereafter.

{ Pilâtus von Poncîâ,
und der arme Jûdas,
der bî eime kusse was
an der triwenlôsen vart
dâ Jêsus verrâten wart,
swie daz ir schepfær ræche,
die nôt ich niht verspræche,
daz Brôbarzære frouwen lîp
mit ir hulden wær mîn wîp,
sô daz ich se umbevienge,
swiez mir dar nâch ergienge. }

Parzival 219.24-220.4 (Bk. 4). Clamide thus explicitly expressed his gyno-idolatry. But gyno-idolatry was by no means a medieval development. Lucretius mocked the gyno-idolatry of Roman men in the first century BGC. Cf. Hasty (2016) pp. 165-6.

[3] Augustine, Confessions 10.27.38, Latin text from O’Donnell (1992), my English translation, benefiting from that of Outler (1955).

[4] The vicious and beautiful Duchess Orgeluse of Logroys, with whom Gawan became infatuated, sought Parzival’s love. He told her that he had a wife more beautiful and dearer to him than she, and that he wanted nothing of her love. Parzival 619.3-10 (Bk. 12). According to Wolfram the narrator, no woman was more beautiful than Orgeluse, other than Condwiramurs. Parzival 508.22-3 (Bk. 10).

[images] (1) Queen Condwiramurs comes to Parzival in bed. Manuscript illumination for Parzival. Painting made in 1443-1446 in Diebold Lauber’s workshop in Hagenau near the German border of present-day France. Detail from folio 147r in Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. germ. 339 (part 1part 2). (2) Parzival defeats Kingrun the Seneschal in a joust. Manuscript illumination for Parzival made in 1467. Detail from folio 38r in Bern, Burgerbibliothek Bern, Codex AA 91. (3) Parzival becomes King of the Holy Grail and is re-united with Condwiramurs. Manuscript illumination for Parzival made about 1240. Detail (color enhanced) from scan 102 of MS. Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cgm 19.

References:

Edwards, Cyril W., trans. 2004. Wolfram von Eschenbach. Parzival and Titurel. Oxford World’s Classics (2006 edition). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Ghosh, Shami. 2008. “Condwiramurs.” Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft Und Geistesgeschichte. 82 (1): 3-25.

Gibbs, Marion E. 1999. “Ideals of Flesh and Blood: Women Characters in Parzival.” Pp. 12-36 in Hasty (1999).

Hasty, Will, ed. 1999. A Companion to Wolfram’s Parzival. Columbia, SC: Camden House.

Hasty, Will. 2016. The Medieval Risk-Reward Society: Courts, Adventure, and Love in the European Middle Ages. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press. Review by Wojtek Jezierski.

Kline, A. S., trans. 2020. Wolfram von Eschenbach. Parzival. Poetry in Translation. Online.

Lachmann, Karl, ed. 1833. Wolfram von Eschenbach. Lieder, Parzival, Titurel, Willehalm. Berlin: G. Reimer. 5th edition (1891)alternate presentation.

O’Donnell, James J., ed. and comm. 1992. Augustine of Hippo. Confessions. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Outler, Albert C., trans. 1955. Augustine: Confessions and Enchiridion. London: SCM Press.

Weston, Jessie L., trans. 1894. Wolfram von Eschenbach. Parzival: A Knightly Epic. 2 vol. London: D. Nutt. Vol. 1Vol. 2.

Zeydel, Edwin H., with Bayard Quincy Morgan, trans. 1951. The Parzival of Wolfram von Eschenbach: Translated into English Verse with Introduction, Notes, Connecting Summaries. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Alternate online presentation.

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