Floris and Blancheflour

This Middle English verse romance was adapted from a French original probably sometime between the years 1250 and 1300. The story it tells appears to have been immensely popular, and the romance itself is a good example of the kind of literature that was produced for the bourgeoisie of medieval England: sentimental, cliché-ridden, and sometimes awkward or obscure, but vigorous and often engaging. The beginning of the poem is missing, but details can be supplied from other versions. A Christian lady has been captured by Saracens, who, recognizing her nobility, have made her a lady-in-waiting to their queen. Both the lady and the queen bear children on the same day, during a festival of flowers: the Christian lady bears a girl, named Blancheflour ("white flower"), and the Saracen queen bears a boy, named Floris ("flower"). The children are brought up together . . .

. . . There was no need to look for more beautiful children in the land. The Christian woman nourished them and loved them both very well. She brought them up together until they were seven years old.

The king beheld his dear son and spoke to him thus: that it would be a terrible shame if he were not set to learning letters in books, as men of both high and low estate do. "Fair son," he said, "you must learn: do it diligently!" Floris answered with weeping as he stood before the king; he said, weeping, "can't Blancheflour learn with me?" He said, "I can't go to school without Blancheflour, and I can't sing or read in any school without Blancheflour." The king said to his son, "she will learn, for love of you." They were sent to school; they were both very bright. In fact, it was a wonder how they learned, and yet more how they loved. The children loved each other so much that they could never be apart. When they had been going to school for five years, they had learned so well that they knew Latin thoroughly and could write on parchment.1

The king perceived the great love between his son and Blancheflour and thought that their love would not grow less when they grew up, and that he would be unable to put a stop to their love when it came time for Floris to marry according to the law. The king spoke to the queen and told her of his woe, his thought and his sorrow about how it would go with Floris. "Dame," he said, "I will tell you my advice: I want Blancheflour to be put to death. When that maiden has been slain and the days of her life ended, then as soon as Floris understands it he will forget her. Then he may marry sensibly." The queen then answered, intending by her advice to save the maiden from death: "Sir," she said, "we need to see to it that Floris lives in this land with honor and that he not lose his honor because of the maiden Blancheflour. If anyone could carry off that clean maiden so that it appeared that she had been killed, that would be more honorable than to kill the maiden Blancheflour. The king reluctantly granted that it might be so: "Dame, tell us what is to be done."

"Sir, we must send our son Floris into the land of Mountargis. My sister, who is the lady of that country, will be happy about this; and when she knows why we have sent him away from us, she will do all in her power both day and night to make their love perish as if it had never been. And sir," she said, "I also advise that the maiden's mother pretend that she's sick, and that will be another reason for the same purpose, that she may not leave her mother."2

These children are very unhappy now that they cannot go together; there have never been sadder things. Floris wept before the king and said, "Sir, it is certain that you are sending me out to my sorrow now that she cannot go with me; now that we cannot go together all my happiness is turned to woe." The king immediately said to him, "Son, within a fortnight, whether her mother is alive or dead that maiden will certainly come to you." "Yes sir," he said, "I beg you that it may be so. If you send her with me, then I don't care where I go." The king was glad that the child agreed and committed him to his chamberlain.

They came to that place with much honor, as was fitting for the son of a powerful king. Duke Orgas, who was the king of the castle, received him politely, and his aunt received him with much honor; but he was always thinking about Blancheflour. They were cheerful and happy with him, but no diversion or music or any joy that he could see could gladden him, since he could not see his love. His aunt sent him to study where there were other children, both maidens and boys; many came there to learn. He sighs a lot, but he learns nothing; he is always mourning for Blancheflour. If any man speaks to him, love is fastened in his heart. Love is at the root of his heart, so that there is nothing so sweet. Neither galangal nor licorice, neither anything nor anyone, is as sweet as her love is. He thinks so much about Blancheflour that one day seems three to him, since he can't see his love. And so he endures with great woe until the fortnight has gone.

When he saw that she had not come, he became so sorrowful that he loves neither food nor drink: it won't stay down. The chamberlain sent a letter to the king to let him know his son's condition. The king quickly broke the seal to see what it said. He begins to change his mind, and he immediately understood and angrily summoned the queen and told her all his displeasure. He wrathfully spoke and said, "Let the maiden be brought forth! Her head must part from her body." Then the queen was very unhappy, and that good lady said, "For God's sake, sir, mercy! At the port that is nearest to here there are rich merchants who will happily buy her. Then you will get much cattle and other goods for that lovely child; and so she'll have been bought from us and we won't have to kill her."

The king was reluctant to grant this, but nevertheless so it happened. The king sent for the burgess, who was gracious and courteous and knew well how to buy and sell and had many languages in his mouth. The maiden was immediately delivered to him and brought to the port. There they paid twenty marks of red gold for that maiden and also a good, rich cup: in all the world there was none like it. There never was one so well engraved: he who made it was not a rogue! I believe that there was portrayed on it how Paris led away the queen, and the love of both of them was portrayed on the lid, and in the knob on the lid there was a carbuncle: in all the world there is no cellar so deep that it would not light the way for the butler to fill both ale and wine. It was of very fine silver and gold. King Aeneas, that noble man, won it in battle at Troy and brought it to Lombardy and gave it to his lover, his friend. The cup was stolen from King Caesar; a thief took it from his treasury, and afterwards that same thief gave it for Blancheflour, for, if he could bring her to his country, he thought he could obtain three such.

Now these merchants are sailing over the sea to their country with this maiden. They journey until they come to Babylon. They very soon sold the maiden to the emir of Babylon; they concluded their deal very quickly, and the emir bought her for seven times her weight in gold as she stood upright, for he intended, without hesitation, to have that beautiful maiden as his queen. He placed her among his maidens in his bower, with great honor. Now these merchants leave the girl and are very happy with their profit.

Now let us leave Blancheflour for a time and speak of Floris in his country. Now the burgess has come to the king with the gold and his money and has delivered the silver and the gold cup into the king's possession. They have a lovely grave made in a church and they have placed on top of it a new and prettily painted stone with letters written all around it with great solemnity. To whoever could read the letters they spoke and said thus: "Here lies sweet Blancheflour, whom Floris loved passionately."

Now Floris has departed and has come to his father; he alighted in his father's hall. His father, and also his mother the queen, greeted him right away, but he could hardly do that before he asked where his lover was. He does not demand an answer, but he goes forth until he comes to the chamber. He instantly asked the maiden's mother, "where is Blancheflour, my sweet creature?" "Sir," she said, "indeed I truly do not know where she is." She remembered the deception that had been agreed on before the king. "You're mocking me," he said; "your mocking is causing me much pain. Tell me where my lover is!" Then she said, weeping, "Dead, sir." "Dead!" he said. She said, "sir, yes, truly." "Alas, when did that sweet creature die?" "Sir, within this fortnight the earth was laid about her, and she died for your love."

Floris, who was so fair and genteel, truly swooned there. The Christian woman began to cry out to Jesus Christ and Saint Mary. The king and queen heard that cry. They rushed into the chamber, and the queen saw before her the child she had borne in a swoon. The king's heart was sorrowful to see his child so situated for love. When he awoke and could speak, he wept and sighed piteously and said to his mother, "lead me to where that maiden is." They led him there in haste; he wished to die for his care and sorrow. As soon as he came to the grave, he looked at it and began to read the letters which spoke and said thus: "Here lies sweet Blancheflour, whom Floris loved passionately." Now Floris swooned three times; he could not speak with his mouth. As soon as he awoke and could speak, he wept and sighed painfully. "Blancheflour!" he said; "Blancheflour! There was never so sweet a thing in chamber. It is of Blancheflour that I'm complaining, for she was come from a good family. The small and the great loved you for your goodness and beauty. If death were distributed correctly, we both would be dead the same night. We were born on the same day, and so we should be dead together. Death," he said, "full of envy and of all treachery, you have robbed me of my lover. Truly you are culpable. She wished to live, and you did not wish it, and I would like to die, and you desire it. I will no longer call upon death, but I will now kill myself." He pulled his knife out of its sheath and he would have killed himself, smiting himself to the heart, if his mother had not perceived it. She fell upon him and took the knife away from him. She took away his little knife and thereby saved the child's life.

The queen ran forth weeping until she came to the king. Then the good lady said, "For the love of God, sir, mercy! Of our twelve children only this one is now alive; and it would be better for her to be his mate than that he should die for her sake." He said, "Dame, what you say is true. Since it may not be otherwise, I would rather she were his wife than that I lost my son's life." The queen was happy with this word and ran to her son. "Floris, son, be glad! You will see your lover alive. Floris, dear son, through a stratagem of your father's counsel and mine, we had this grave made for your sake, so that you would forget about that maiden and marry according to our advice." Now she has told him every word about how they sold the maiden. "Is this true, my dear mother?" "Truly," she said, "she is not here." They laid aside the rough stone and saw that the maiden was not there. "Now, mother, I think that I will leave. I will not rest by night or day, not night or day or a single hour, until I have found my lover. I will go and seek her even to the end of the world!"

He goes to the king to take his leave, and his father asked him to stay. "Sir, I will not stop for any reason; it would be a great sin to ask me to." Then the king said, "since it is so and you won't do anything else, we'll provide you with everything you need. Jesus release you from care!"3 "Beloved father," he said, "I will tell you everything you must provide for me. You may provide, at my choosing, seven fine horses, and two laden with silver and gold, two laden with money to spend along the way, and three with rich clothing, the best in all the kingdom. Seven horses, seven men and three servants; also your own chamberlain, who is a very noble man. He can both guide and advise us. We will conduct ourselves as merchants."

His father was a gracious king. He had brought to him the gold cup--the same gold cup that was given for Blancheflour. The king said, "have this, son; with it, whatever may happen, you may win that sweet thing, Blancheflour with the white skin, Blancheflour that fair maiden." The king had a palfrey saddled which on one side was as white as milk and on the other was as red as silk. I cannot tell how richly that saddle was made. The saddle-bow was of fine gold; powerful stones stood in it, and it was fringed with embroidery. The queen was kind and courteous. She turned toward the king and drew a ring from her finger: "now have this same ring; while it is yours, fear nothing, neither the burning fire nor the water in the sea; and neither iron nor steel will hurt you." He took his leave; there was much woe; they behaved no differently than if their son were laid on his bier.

He went forth with his whole retinue; the chamberlain went with him. So they have taken their way until they came to the port where Blancheflour had spent the night. They were received very richly. The lord of the inn was very gracious; he placed the child nearest the end of the table in the fairest seat. They all drank and ate, but he could not eat or drink: his thoughts were entirely on Blancheflour. The lady of the inn perceived that the child sat there mourning and said to her lord in a quiet voice, "Sir, notice carefully how the child sits there mourning. He forgets his food and drink; he eats little and drinks less. He doesn't seem like a merchant to me." Then she said to Floris, "I see you all full of mourning. Just the other day Blancheflour, that sweet girl, was sitting there. That maiden was brought here by merchants who had bought her; they brought that sweet maiden here. They meant to sell her at a profit, and they are bringing her to Babylon. You are like her in every way, both in your appearance and in the way you are mourning." When Floris heard her speak of his lover, he was gladder than he had ever been and began to grow light in his heart; he immediately had the cup filled. "Dame," he said, "the vessel is yours, both the cup and the wine--the wine and also the gold--because you spoke of my lover. I thought about her; I sighed for her; I didn't know where I could find her. Neither wind nor weather will prevent my seeking her out in Babylon."

Now Floris rests for the whole night. In the morning, when it was daylight, he set out on the wild sea. Wind and weather were favorable to him, and as soon as Floris came to land, he thanked God's providence; being in the land where his beloved was, he thought himself in paradise. Soon men told Floris the news that the emir would hold a feast. His earls and barons and all who wished to hold land from him would come to listen to his command and to honor his feast. Floris was glad to hear that news. He hoped to come to that banquet; perhaps he could see his lover there among the people in the hall.

Now Floris has come to that city. He has taken handsome quarters at a palace; there was none like it. The lord of that inn was very rich; he had traveled far and wide. He set the child beside him in the fairest seat of all. All the people who were there drank and ate and made good cheer. They all ate and drank, each of them with the other, but Floris was thinking quite differently. He could neither eat nor drink; all his thought was on Blancheflour. Then the burgess spoke, who was gracious and courteous: "oh, child, it seems to me a fine thing that you are thinking so much about your goods." "Nay, sir, I'm not thinking about my goods" (all his thoughts were on Blancheflour), "but I am thinking about how to find my merchandise. And yet it is the greatest anxiety to me that I may find it and yet have to lose it." Then the lord of the inn spoke: "Just the other day, that fair maiden Blancheflour was sitting right in here, both in hall and in bower. Her countenance was always mournful, and she lamented Floris, her beloved companion; she was neither joyful nor blissful, but she grieved for Floris." Floris took a cup of bright silver and a scarlet mantle with miniver: "Sir, have these things for your honor: you may thank Blancheflour for them. Whoever could tell me where she has been taken would make my heart glad." "Child, she has been brought to Babylon; the emir has bought her. He gave for her, as she stood upright, seven times her weight in gold, for he intends, without doubt, to have that fair girl as his queen. He placed her among the maidens in his tower with great honor."

Now Floris rests there all night till the day was bright in the morning. He rose in the morning. He gave a hundred shillings to his host and his hostess and took his leave and kissed them fairly, and he eagerly asked his host to help him, if he could in any way do so--if he could by any device win the fair girl for him. "Child," he said, "you will come to a bridge, and you'll find the keeper at home. He lives at the bridge's end; he is a courteous and gracious man. We are brothers and sworn to be true; he can direct and advise you well. You must bear him a ring from myself as a token so that he will help you in bower and hall as if it concerned myself."

Floris takes the ring and leaves: he wouldn't stay longer. By the time it was noon he was approaching the bridge. The keeper's name was Daris. Floris greeted him very fairly, and handed him the ring, committing it to him. By the token of that ring Floris had very good fare of fish, meat and fresh bread, of both white and red wine. Floris all the while sat very coldly, and Daris began to behold the child: "Dear child, what may it be that makes you as thoughtful as I see you? Are you in poor health, that you are so sad, or is this lodging not to your liking?" Then Floris answered him, "yes, sir, by God's grace, I have not had such good lodging for many days; may God permit me to survive until the day when I can repay you. But I am thinking most about my merchandise. And yet it is the greatest anxiety to me that I may find it and yet have to lose it." "Child, if you would tell me your grief I would be very happy to heal you." He has told him every word: how the maiden was sold from him, how he was the son of a king of Spain, and how he had come to this place for great love to attempt to win Blancheflour with cleverness and with schemes.

Daris says, "now you're a fool" (and he takes the child for a fool). "Now I know how it goes: you desire your own death. The emir has a hundred and fifty powerful kings at his tournaments, and the richest king of them all wouldn't dare to undertake such a thing, for if the emir found out about it, he would be dragged the sixteen miles around Babylon. At every mile there is a wall, and seven times twenty gates, and there are twenty towers in the city, where every day trading is carried on. Every day and night throughout the year the trading is equally vigorous, and even if all the men that were ever born had sworn by their lives to win that fair and noble maiden, I am sure they would all die. In the middle of the place stands a tower, as I tell you. It is a hundred fathoms high; whoever beholds it from far or near can see that it is a hundred fathoms altogether. Without an equal, it is made of limestone and marble; there's not another such in all the world. The mortar is made so well that neither iron nor steel can break it. The finial placed above is made with so much pride that one has no need to burn a torch or lantern in the tower: the finial that was set there shines at night like the sun. Now there are forty-two noble bowers in that tower; the man who could dwell in one of them would be happy, for he would never need to long for greater bliss. There are men at arms on the upper floor who serve those maidens of high parentage. But no man at arms may serve there who bears in his breeches that device which serves him both day and night, but he must be made a eunuch. There is a gatekeeper at the gate, and he is no coward; he is very proud, and every day he wears rich clothing.

"The emir has a marvelous custom (there's not another luminary like him in all the world!) to have a new wife every year: for that time he loves his queen as his life. The men must bring all the maidens of great honor down from the tower and bring them into an orchard, the fairest in all the earth, where there is the song of many birds--a man might live there a long time! There is a wall around the orchard, and the worst stone in it is crystal. Inside there is a well made with great ingenuity; it is of great value, for the streams come from paradise. The gravel on the ground is precious stones, all of which have exceedingly great power. The well has great power: if an unchaste woman comes and she goes to the stream to wash her hands, the water will scream as if it were mad and turn as red as blood. The maiden whom the water accuses in this way will immediately be put to death. I believe that those maidens who are chaste can wash in the well, and the water will stay fair and clear; it is no danger to them. Above the wall there stands the fairest tree on earth, and it is called the Tree of Love; flowers and blossoms bloom all over it. Then those maidens who are chaste are brought under the tree, and whoever a blossom falls on will be made queen with great honor. If there is any maiden whom the emir considers to be of great value, the flower is sent to her through the art of enchantment. The emir chooses them by the flower, and everyone thinks it will be Blancheflour this time."

Floris swooned three times right in front of everyone. When he awoke and could speak, he wept and sighed painfully, and said, "Daris, I will die unless I can hope for some advice from you." "Dear son, you have done well to place your trust in me. The best advice I know--and I know no other advice--is to go to the tower tomorrow as if you were a good craftsman. Take a square and a measure in your hand as if you were a freemason. Look up and down the tower. The porter is cruel and villainous; he'll come to you immediately and ask what kind of man you are and accuse you of some crime, claiming you to be a spy. And you will answer sweetly and mildly say to him that you are a craftsman come to look at the beautiful tower, meaning to make one like it in your land. Then he'll approach you and ask you to play chess with him. When you come to the chessboard, don't be without silver, but you must have twenty marks of silver ready in your pocket. If you win anything from him, look as if you set little store by it; if he wins anything from you, make sure you leave it with him. In this way you will, entirely with cleverness, win the porter's love so that he will help you on this day. Unless he helps you, no man can. He will eagerly ask and pray you to come play another day. You will say that you will do so, and you will take twice as much with you. On the third day, take a hundred pounds and your cup, whole and sound. Give him marks and pounds from your bag, and appear to set no store by your treasure. He'll eagerly ask you to lay your cup and play for it. First you'll answer that you don't want to play any longer. He'll offer you a lot to see if he can have better luck playing for the cup; you will cheerfully give it to him, even if it's made of fine gold. Then he will love you much, and indeed bow to you and fall to your foot and become yours, if he can; and you will accept homage from him and the pledge of his hand."

He did as he instructed, and it is as he ordained: the porter has become Floris's man because of his gold and his generosity. Floris said, "Now that you are my man, all my trust is in you. Now I will show you my plan; advise me well if you are loyal." Now he has told him every word--how the maiden was sold away from him and how he was the son of a king of Spain who had come to that place for great love to attempt, through some stratagem, to win that fair maiden. The porter heard that and sighed painfully, and said, "Now I am truly betrayed; I have been brought low by your goods, and for that reason I am ill pleased. Now I know how it goes: for you I'm going to suffer death. I will never fail you ever, for as long as I can ride and walk. I will hold all your agreements, whatever may happen to me. Now go home to your inn while I think of some plan; between now and the third day I will try what I can do."

Floris meanwhile spoke and wept, and thought the time all too long. The porter thought up the best plan and had flowers gathered in a meadow; he knew it was the wish of the maidens to have two baskets filled with flowers. Then he thought it was the best idea to put the flowers into one basket.4 Two maidens carried the basket; they had never carried so heavy a burden, and prayed God to give him an evil end for having put so many flowers in there. They were supposed to go to Blancheflour's chamber, but they went to another and left it there. They should have gone to Blancheflour, and they went to the room of sweet Claris, cursing him who had put so much into their hands. They went home and let the flowers stay there. Claris came to the basket to fondle and admire the flowers. Floris thought it was his sweet creature; he started up out of the basket, and the maiden, in a fright, began to shriek and cry out. When he saw it was not Blancheflour, he darted back into the basket and thought he had been betrayed; he cared not a bean about his life! Maidens came rushing in to Claris by tens and twelves, all in a crowd, and they asked her what was wrong and why she was making such an outcry. Right then it occurred to Claris that this was for Blancheflour the white and answered the maidens who had come to her room that she had come to the basket to fondle and admire the flowers, "and before I knew it, a butterfly flew right against my breast! I was so terribly frightened that I cried aloud." The maidens had a good laugh at that and went away and let her be.

As soon as the maidens were gone, she went straight to Blancheflour and boldly said to her, "companion, come see the fair flower. A flower like this one will please you much if you'll just glance at it." "Go away, Claris," said Blancheflour, "it is not honorable to make fun of me. I hear, Claris--and it's not idle chat--that the emir wants to have me as his wife; but the day will never come when he shall have me, when I'll be so untrue in love or change my love for a new one and for either love or fear forsake Floris in his country. Now that I must do without sweet Floris, no other shall have joy of me." Claris stood there and beheld her sorrow and the sincerity of her truth, and said, "Lady Blancheflour, let's go see that flower!" They both went to the basket; then Floris was a joyful man, for he had heard all this. He started up out of the basket, and right then Blancheflour changed color; each of them recognized the other. They rushed together without speech and embraced and kissed wonderfully sweetly. Claris beheld all this, her countenance and her bliss, and then said to Blancheflour, "companion, do you recognize this flower at all? She would have to be very wily indeed who could induce you to give her any part of it!" Now both of these sweet things, Blancheflour and Floris, weeping, cry to her for mercy that she won't betray them to the king. "Don't fear any more from me than if it had happened to myself. You may be sure that I will hide your love well." They were brought to a bed that was dressed with purple cloth and silk, and there they lay themselves down and drew themselves apart. There was no man who could tell the joy that the two of them made. Floris then began to speak and said, "Lord, you who made mankind, I thank the Son of God that I have overcome all my sorrow. Now that I have found my love, I am relieved of all my care." Claris attended to all their needs both secretly and quietly.

The fair-skinned Claris rose up in the morning and called to Blancheflour to go with her to the tower. She said, "I'm coming," but she answered while still sleeping. The emir had the custom that every day two maidens should come up to him in the tower from their rooms with water and cloth and a basin for him to wash his hands in. That day they served him well, and the next day another pair would come. But mostly Claris and Blancheflour were the ones who were accustomed to go into the tower. That day Claris came alone, and the emir asked, "where is the noble Blancheflour? Why hasn't she come with you?" "Sir," she said promptly, "she has stayed awake all this night and cried and gazed and read in her book and prayed her prayer to God that he give you his blessing and that he preserve your life for a long time; and now the maiden is sleeping soundly. That sweet maiden is sleeping so soundly that she can't come yet." The king said, "she certainly is a sweet thing! It's fitting that I should desire to marry her, since she is praying so for my life." On another day Claris rose up early, and when Claris began to call her Blancheflour said, "I'll come right away," but fell asleep again; they were sorry about that soon enough! Claris came to the pillar5 with a basin of gold in her hand and called to Blancheflour to go to the tower with her. The emir asked after Blancheflour, "What! Hasn't she come yet? Now she fears me all too little!" He called forth his chamberlain and ordered him to go with his retinue to find out why she would not come as she was accustomed to do. The chamberlain has gone forth; he has come to the chamber and stands before her bed and finds them there, face to face and mouth to mouth. This was soon made known to the emir; the chamberlain climbed into the tower and told his lord everything he had seen. The emir had his sword brought to him, for he wished to learn this news for himself. He went to where they lay; she was still sleeping there. The emir had the bedclothes drawn down a little beneath her breast and soon he knew that one was a woman and the other a man. He quaked with anger right where he stood and had a mind to kill them; but he thought, before he put them to death, that they should tell him who they were, and afterwards he would judge them.

The children soon awakened and saw the sword drawn over them; they were afraid and in awe. Then Floris said to Blancheflour, "there is no help for our lives"; but they begged him for mercy to lengthen their lives. He commanded them both to sit up and put on their clothes, and then he had them bound tightly and cast into prison. Now he has sent for his barons to be avenged according to his judgment. Now the barons have set out and have come to the emir. He stood up among them all with a very angry countenance and said, "Lordings, with respect, you have heard Blancheflour spoken of, how I bought her at a very high price, for seven times her weight in gold. For I intended, without doubt, to have that fair maiden as my queen. I placed her with great honor among the maidens in my tower. I myself came before her bed and found a naked man in it; whereupon they became so hateful to me that I intended to slay them both, so angry and mad was I. Yet I withdrew my hot blood until I had sent after you, to be avenged with your assent and according to judgment. Now you know how it has happened: quickly avenge me on my foes!" Then a king of that land said, "We have heard all this disgrace and shame, but before we condemn them to death, let us see them, if it is pleasing to you, and hear what they will speak or say if they will offer any defense against us. It would not be a lawful judgment to make an accusation without an answer. Until this is heard from them, both greater and lesser, what power do we have to bear witness?"

They have sent for the children: it was his intention to burn them. Two sergeants brought them, weeping, toward their deaths. These children proceed most sorrowfully; each bemoans the other's woe. Then Floris said to Blancheflour, "There is no help for our lives. If human nature permitted it, it would be just for me to die twice, once for me and once for you." Then Blancheflour said, "The guilt for our sorrow is mine." Floris took out the ring that his mother had given him at their parting: "Have this ring, my love; you cannot die while it is yours." Then Blancheflour said, "It will never happen that this ring helps me and I see you dead." Floris gave that ring to her and she gave it back to him; neither wishes to see the other dead; they let it fall between them. A king came after them; he found a ring and brought it forth in his hand.6

Thus the children came weeping to the fire and to their judgment. They were brought before the people. Both of them were thinking sorrowful thoughts. There could not be a man so stern that, if the children dared to speak or say anything and he were looking at them, he would not be glad to withdraw his judgment and ransom them at great expense; for Floris was so fair a youth and Blancheflour so sweet a thing that no man could tell from their appearance whether they were sorrowful.

The emir was so furious that he could not cool his hot blood. He commanded the children to be bound fast and thrown into the fire. The same king who had found the ring spoke and whispered to the emir and, wishing to save their lives, told him how they had contended over the ring. The emir had them called back for he wished to hear them speak, and he asked Floris what he was named, and he told him promptly. "Sir," he said, "if you please, do not allow that maiden to perish; rather, good sir, kill me and allow her to remain alive." At the same time Blancheflour was saying, "The guilt for our deeds is mine." Then the emir said, "in fact, both of you must die." He drew his sword from its scabbard to slay the children. Blancheflour stretched forth her neck and Floris made her draw back, and said, "I am a man; I must go first; it would be unjust for you to lose your life!" Floris stretched his neck forth and Blancheflour pulled him back. The king said, "You must be sorrowful to see the pitiable sight of these children!" For pity of them, the king who had the ring advised--and at the emir's pleasure succeeded--to save the children from death. "Sir," he said, "it would be little honor indeed to slay these children, and it would be more honor to learn of Floris's plot, who suggested to him the stratagem of entering your tower, and who brought him there, and so forth, so that you can be on your guard." Then the emir said, "As God may save me, Floris shall have his life if he tells me who helped him enter the tower." Floris said, "I will never do that."7

Now they all begged that the emir should grant this: to forgive that trespass if Floris would tell how it happened. Now he has told them every word: how that maiden was sold away from him and how he was the son of a king of Spain, come to that place because of his great love to attempt, with some stratagem, to win that fair maiden, and how the porter had become his man because of his gold and his payments, and how he was carried into the tower--and all the lordings laughed at that. Now the emir (well may he prosper!) sets Floris by his side, and then he had him stand upright and dubbed him a knight right there, and asked that he would stay with him as the foremost among his retinue. Floris falls at his feet and prays him to give him his sweetheart. The emir gave him his lover; everyone who was there thanked him then. He had them brought to a church and had them wedded with a ring. Indeed, both of these sweet things fell down to kiss his feet, and by Blancheflour's counsel Claris was brought down from the tower and the emir wedded her as his queen. There was a very fine feast. I cannot tell all the arrangements, but there was never a richer feast in that land. It wasn't long after that that news came to Floris that the king, his father, was dead. The barons advised him to go home and succeed to his fair kingdom. They took their leave of the emir, though he asked them to stay. He went home with a royal retinue and was crowned a few days later.


1. Notice that the story's main action begins when Floris and Blancheflour are twelve years old.

2. This passage is far from clear; but the queen seems simply to be saying that an excuse must be found why Blancheflour cannot accompany Floris to Mountargis.

3. Did the poet notice that he was making his Saracen king commend his son to the care of Jesus Christ?

4. The text is obscure here. Apparently the maidens who gathered the flowers preferred to have them divided between two baskets, but instead the porter makes them put the flowers in one large basket. They think the great weight of the basket is due to the double load of flowers and do not realize that they are also carrying Floris.

5. The poet left this unexplained by an oversight. Other versions show that it is the place where the maidens drew water for the emir's morning ablutions.

6. The poet here omits an essential fact: the king has not only picked up the ring, but has also witnessed the scene that has just passed between the lovers.

7. So the text appears to say: but it is obscure at this point. The poet soon tells us that Floris told all about the help he received from the porter.