Eustache the Monk

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Eustache the Monk

1. How Eustace becomes an outlaw

Summary: Hainfrois de Hersinguehans plots with the Count and sets him against his Seneschal (Eustache). When he is summoned to give an account of his bailliage Eustache takes flight. When he learns that the Count has confiscated all his possessions the Seneschal sets fire to two mills in Boulogne. In spite of all the Count's efforts to capture him, Eustache succeeds in escaping.

Translation (lines 373-429):

      The Monk was in the service of the Count of Boulogne and rendered to him an accounting in all matters. He was Seneschal of the Boulonnais, peer and bailiff -- that was his duty and rank. Hainfrois [of Hersinguehans] spoke ill of him to the Count and plotted against him. As a result, the Count quickly lost confidence in his Seneschal. The Count sent for Eustache immediately and asked him for an accounting of his stewardship as bailiff. Without delay Eustache said: "I stand ready to give an accounting, because you have summoned me here in the presence of your lords and barons. For I too am one of the peers of the Boulonnais." And the Count replied: "You are hereby summoned to Hardelot, where you will give a formal accounting of your service. For there you will be unable to deceive me." Eustache answered: "That is treason! You merely want an excuse to have me put me into prison."
      The Monk took flight immediately and with great difficulty escaped from the Count. Many times since then he had cause to lament his having to flee thus. The Count seized all of Eustache's possessions and burned his fields. Eustache the Monk swore that the Count would live to regret burning his fields; it would cost him 990 gold marks. One day Eustache came upon two mills which the Count had built just outside the city of Boulogne and which were unguarded. In one of the mills, Eustache found a miller and threatened to cut off his head unless he accepted to go to the city where they were celebrating Simon of Boulogne's wedding feast.
      The miller was instructed thus: "When you get there you shall say that Eustache the Monk has come to enlighten them, for they lack enough light to see what they are eating. I will set fire to the Count's two mills which will be like two candles to light up the festivities." The miller sets off and, as instructed, gives the message to the Count. Without delay the Count leaps up from the table where he was sitting, and has great difficulty shouting instructions: "Eustache the Monk . . . , everyone . . . , after him!" The mayor and the provost come forth and immediately have the bell sounded to signal Eustache's banishment as an outlaw. When Eustache hears the bell ring he begins his flight. The Count's men begin the chase but can't catch him. On the wedding feast of Simon of Boulogne Eustache set fire to the two mills you heard about earlier. And that's the honest truth!


2. How Eustache is betrayed by one of his men.

Summary: The Count pursues Eustache throughout the forest of Hardelot. One of Eustache's watchmen offers to deliver his master into the Count's hands. Unfortunately for him, a second watchman witnesses the treason and reports it to Eustache. When the traitor arrives Eustache kills him on the spot. Shortly thereafter the Count arrives, again too late to capture Eustache, but two of his sergeants are seized. In a fit of anger the Count puts out the two men's eyes.

Translation (lines 660-741):

      The Count continued his relentless pursuit of Eustache. He followed him into the forest of Hardelot, pursing in all directions. Eustache had two watchmen posted in the forest. Day and night the two men were on watch, never taking any rest. The two young men had been well taken care of by the Monk, who had raised them since childhood. One day, as the Count continued his hunt for Eustache, one of the two young men came before him. "Sire," said he, "how much will you give me if I deliver my lord to you? For I am Eustache the Monk's man." "In truth," said the Count of Boulogne, "if you deliver him to me you will do well, and I will make you a young gentleman at my court." "Sire, at this moment he is sitting at table eating his meal. If you follow me I will show you where you can capture him." "Go," said the Count, "I will follow you at a safe distance, but be careful he does not suspect anything. I fear lest he deceive you." The second watchman overheard the first and immediately sensed treason. His comrade had betrayed his lord, biting the very hand that had fed him. In due haste he came to Eustache and told him that the other had sold out to the Count. Eustache said: "You may take your leave, but as soon as my other watchman arrives to betray and deceive me I will give him the garrote, for he has served me ill." The young watchman left Eustache just as his former companion arrived to hear Eustache say: "It would do you well to cut this willow branch for me." "Willingly, Sire," said the boy as he cut the sapling. "Twist it well and make a cord out of it." The young man very fearfully twisted the strip of willow, after which Eustache put it around his neck and pulled it tight. "God have mercy," said the boy. "Sire, why do you want me hanged? Could you not wait until I have had chance to go to confession?" Eustache replied: "You have taken great pleasure in doing evil, but you see I am well informed about that. You have fallen into evil hands, thinking you could have me wait here long enough for the Count to capture me. I have little time to spare for your confession of sins. Up there on the tree you will have time enough to talk to God. In fact, when you climb high up on that tree you'll be closer to God for your chat. So go ahead, climb up there and tell me how you sold me out to the Count." "Sire," said he, "by Saint Remi I did in fact sell you out and betrayed you. But tell me first, who in the devil told you I did it? Now there will be no man to kill you, but you would do well to leave immediately and not tarry here any longer." Eustache answered: "I will not delay seeing you hanged, so climb up there and we'll get the job done." The young traitor climbed up quickly into the tree and was hanged with the rope he had himself prepared. Soon after, the Count arrived, spurring on his horse. As he remounted Moriel, his own horse, Eustache saw the Count coming after him and declared: "Sire, since I have no one else to watch over him, I will depart, leaving this hanged man, my former watchman, in your care." The Count, like a mad man, along with his troops quickly chased after Eustache. They succeeded only in stopping two of the Monk's sergeants. Their first reaction, in a fit of anger, was to gouge out the two men's eyes. When Eustache received news of the deed, he swore an oath by the Holy Virgin that in retaliation for the four eyes put out, he in turn would maim four of the Count's men by cutting off their feet.


3. Capture and release of Sheriff / Count of Boulogne

Summary: Eustache leads the Count of Boulogne and seven of his knights into an ambush set by thirty of Eustache's men. Eustache seeks a reconciliation; but the Count, after contemptuously rejecting the offer of a settlement, is given a safe-conduct.

Translation (lines 776-853):

      One day as he went wandering through the forest Eustache the Monk put on a hair-shirt and a rough homespun pilgrim's cloak. Thus woefully dressed, he came upon twenty knights along the way. He greeted them simply, and they in turn responded joyfully: "Say, where are you coming from, and where are you going?" "My Lords, I'm coming from Boulogne and am on my way at this very moment to see Count Dammartin to lodge a claim against a bad monk. He says he has a feud with the Count and has stolen a hundred marks from me in this very country. The man is a scurrilous mendicant who refuses to give me even a piece of his bread in the morning or at supper. My Lords, tell me without delay where I might find the Count." One of the knights replied: "At Hardelot. Go there, on my advice." Eustache set off for Hardelot and, arriving at mealtime, exclaimed to one of the Count's men: "In God's name I seek justice against this devil! My good sir, which one is the Count of Boulogne?" The man answered: "There he is." Forthwith the Monk went up to the Count. "Sir," he said, "may God have mercy! I am a bourgeois from Les Andelys. On my way from Bruges in Flanders I was carrying fine woollen breeches and a sum of money, some thirty pounds, when a drunken dim-wit (he was tonsured like a priest, but looked too much like a monk to be truly one; he also said he was your sworn enemy), robbed me of all my gold and silver, my furs; he even took my horse and cloak. I beg you. Do me justice against this mad monk. He is nearby, not far from where we are standing." (He was telling the truth, since it was in fact he who was talking to the Count.) "This false monk, son of a bitch, had me put on this pilgrim's cloak and made me swear that I would come to speak with you. You should know he is not far from here. As a matter of fact, I saw the spot where he went into the woods." The Count asked: "What does the man look like? Is he black or white, tall or short?" "About my height," said Eustache. The Count leaped forward immediately, shouting: "Quick, take me to the spot, and you will have your revenge." Eustache said: "Come on. I'll turn him over to you, and you can take him prisoner." The Count, accompanied by seven of his men, followed Eustache, who had thirty of his own men with him. As Eustache led the Count off, the latter became wary, surrounded as he was by Eustache's band. The Count became frightened. "Don't be scared," said Eustache. "I seek only reconciliation. By God's mercy, my sweet lord, let's talk peace." But the Count replied sarcastically: "Leave me alone in peace! It's all for naught, the die is cast. Our differences can never be reconciled. Eustache responded: "Go then, since things cannot be otherwise. You came here in my safe-conduct, and no harm will come to you." The Count returned home, and Eustache went off on another path.


4. Those who "tell the truth" allowed to keep their money.

Summary: Eustache meets a merchant from Boulogne and demands his money. The merchant swears that he has only forty pounds and fifteen sous. Eustache notes that the man is telling the truth, so he gives him back his purse.

Translation (lines 930-54):

      One day as Eustache was wandering through the forest he met a merchant who was carrying forty pounds on his way home from Bruges in Flanders. The merchant was himself from Boulogne, so he recognized Eustache the Monk immediately. Knowing the Monk's reputation he was obviously worried about the money he had on him. Eustache promptly asked: "Tell me, how much money do you have?" To which the merchant replied: "Sir, I tell you truthfully without a lie I have forty pounds in a belt and I also have fifteen sous in my purse." Eustache quickly took it from him and led the man into a thicket where he proceeded to Count all the money. He immediately gave the merchant back his money, saying: "Go! May God be with you! If you had in any way lied to me you would have left here without a cent. You would have lost all you have, keeping not even a penny." The merchant thanked him for his generosity.


5. Eustace entertains the Count for dinner and, disguised as a leper, steals his horse.

Summary: Eustache and his men are preparing a meal in the forest. Inadvertently Hainfrois of Heresinguehains arrives in the enemy camp and is invited to dinner. Eustache forgives him for causing his father's death and sends him back to Count Renaut. The Count does an about turn and immediately comes upon a leper to whom he gives twenty-eight deniers. The leper returns the favor by stealing one of the horses.

Translation (lines 1366-1422):

      Eustache and his men fled into the woods where they found a safe hiding place. One day, just as they were sitting down to eat, Hainfrois, Eustache's mortal enemy, inadvertently came upon their meal. He had gone into the woods to seek relief (piss/shit), but once there he thought he would never get out alive. As he sat there on his horse, frightened to death, Eustache stood up and said: "Well then, do dismount and join us for a meal." Hainfrois dismounted, fearing for his very life. Little did he trust Eustache. When the meal was over Hainfrois began to plead great mercy of Eustache. In reply the Monk said: "Get out of here! You killed my father and my cousin, bringing both to their end, not to mention the mess you have gotten me into with Count Renaut. But should anyone give me all of France I would not seek reconciliation with him. The same is not the case between you and me. Because you and I have eaten together, from this day forth you will have nothing to fear from me. For you and I take leave quits. As for the Count, you can tell him on my behalf that when -- just a short time ago, while you and I were quenching our thirst together -- you asked what direction he was planning to take, the Monk told you that he would stay put, in the forest right where he was." Hainfrois took leave of Eustache and ran to tell the Count what had happened. When the Count learned all that had been said, he immediately retraced his tracks, only to find that Eustache had taken still another turn.
      Eustache next turned up in the guise of a leper carrying his bowl, along with a crutch and a wooden rattle. As soon as he saw the Count approaching he began to shake the rattle, with the result that the Count and his knights put twenty-eight deniers into the poor beggar's bowl. The troop passed by, but one of the men riding a fine battle horse had the misfortune to remain alone in the rear. Eustache the leper tripped the animal, knocked the rider out of his saddle, and rode away. The horseless rider came to the Count and cried: "Sire, upon my word, a leper stole your horse from me." Furious, the Count cursed: "By bowels, belly and legs . . . the damn Monk tricked us once again. He was the leper that shook his rattle at us. Yet, upon my word," so says Count Renaut, "he really did look like a leper, with his fingers all bent over like claws and his face all pustulous." And so the Count continued his relentless pursuit of Eustache the Monk.


6. Robs those who fail to "tell the truth."

Summary: Eustache comes upon the Abbot of Jumièges, threatens him and demands his purse. The Abbot says he only has four marks; but, when he opens the purse, Eustache finds thirty marks. He keeps twenty six and gives the Abbot back the four marks he said he had.

Translation (lines 1746-77):

      Eustache spotted the Abbot of Jumièges as he was coming down the road. "Sir Abbot," he said, "stop where you are! What are you carrying? Come now, don't hide it." The Abbot answered: "What's it to you?" At this, Eustache was ready to hit him, but instead replied: "What's it to me, fat-ass [couillon = balls]? Upon my word, Ill make it my business. Get down, fast, and not another word out of you, or I'll let you have it. You'll be beaten up so badly you won't be worth a hundred pounds." The Abbot thought the man was drunk, and said, more politely this time: "Go away. You won't find what you are looking for here." Eustache responded: "Cut the bullshit and get off your horse fast, or you'll be in for a lot of trouble." The Abbot got down, frightened now. Eustache asked how much money he had with him. "Four marks," said the Abbot, "in truth I only have four marks silver." Eustache searched him immediately and found thirty marks or more. He gave back to the Abbot the four marks he claimed to have. The Abbot became duly furious; for, had he told the truth, he would have got back all his money. The Abbot lost his money only because he told a lie.

7. Disguise as a Potter.

Summary: One of the Count of Boulogne's spies finds Eustache's hideout; he informs the Count who then sets an ambush in a ditch. When Eustache learns of the ambush from a watchman, he disguises himself as a coal-man. Shortly thereafter, Eustache comes face to face with the Count, telling him he is looking for the Count of Boulogne for the purpose of filing a grievance for damages against Eustache. The Count asks where he might find Eustache and goes after him. Eustache again changes identity, this time becoming a potter. The Count returns and inquires of the potter where he might now find the coalman. Eustache sends him down the road toward Boulogne, and the Count comes upon the real potter who had the misfortune to exchange his pottery for the donkey and coal of Eustache. This individual is seized and mistreated until finally recognized by one of the Count's men-at-arms. The Count retraces his steps, Eustache by this time having thrown off his disguise as a potter.

Translation (lines 996-1141):

      One day the Count was out hunting. A spy came and told him that Eustache was in the forest. The Count put on his heavy brown cloak, and he and his men followed the spy on foot. They set up an ambush in a ditch. One of Eustache's watchmen approached the group and recognized the Count. He found Eustache and told him of the ambush. Eustache then approached a coal-man and his donkey. The coal-man's donkey was used to carry the coal to market. Without further ado, Eustache put on the coal-man's clothes and black hat. He smeared coal dust on his face and hands, as well as around his neck. As a result, he was marvelously blackened. The donkey's back was loaded with sacks of coal. Goad in hand, Eustache set off with the donkey toward Boulogne. Not recognizing his foe, the Count paid him no attention and didn't even deign to speak to him as he passed by. So Eustache shouted to them: "My lords," he said, "what are you doing there?" The Count was the first to answer: "What's it to you, you scurvy fellow?" Eustache replied: "By Saint Omer! I'll go lodge a formal complaint with the Count telling him how shamefully we are treated by Eustache the Monk. I dared not bring my draft horse to carry my coal to market for fear that Eustache might steal it. Right now he is lying comfortably next to a good coal fire eating meat and venison. He has burned all my coal and has already cost me plenty." "Is he nearby?" asked the Count. Eustache replied: "He is in this very forest. Go straight down this road if you want to talk to him." Eustache struck Romer (the donkey) with the goad as the Count and his men began to enter the forest. In the meantime, the real coal-man had found it appropriate to put on the monk's clothes. As a result, the poor man was mistaken for Eustache, beaten and mistreated. The Count's men had thought, without any doubt, that he was Eustache the Monk. "My lords," said he, "why are you beating me so? You can have these clothes. Be advised I have no money; this is the robe of Eustache the Monk who at this moment is on his way toward Boulogne with my coal and my donkey. His hands, face and neck are well blackened with coal dust. He is also wearing my black cap. He made me take off my clothes and put on his." And the Count said: "Listen, my lords! Catch him if you can. By God's teeth, I have been burned by this living devil so many times! He was disguised as the coal-man who spoke to us just a short while ago on this very spot." The Count added: "Quick, after him!" The horses were nearby, so they mounted and rode off in haste after Eustache. Eustache had by that time washed his face before meeting a potter. The potter was shouting: "Pots for sale! Pots for sale!" And Eustache, who was no fool, knew he was being chased. So he immediately struck a deal with the potter; in exchange for his donkey and coal, he got pitchers, pots, and vases. The swap was made and so Eustache became a potter and the potter became a coal-man. The latter was a fool for giving up his own trade. Eustache went off shouting: "Pots for sale! Pots for sale!" Just at that moment the Count came out of the woods and asked the potter if he had seen a coal-man. "Sir," said Eustache the Monk, "he went down this road straight toward Boulogne, leading his donkey loaded with coal sacks." The Count dug in his spurs, and he, his servants, and knights caught up with the coal-man. They proceeded to beat and mistreat the poor man. Sorely did they strike him with their fists, while tying him up hands and feet. They then threw him over the back of a horse, with his head dangling over the animal's rump. The poor fellow screamed, shouted, and cried: "My Lords," said he, "in God's name, I beg you, have pity on me. Tell me why you have taken me thus; and, if I have done you any ill, I will willingly make amends." "Aha! Aha! sir scoundrel," said the Count, "you thought you could escape? I will soon have you hanged." One of the Count's knights looked closely at the man and recognized him as the potter whom he knew well. This wise knight, who knew where the man was born, said: "What devils have turned you into a coal-man? You used to be a potter; no man will ever stay healthy who takes on so many different trades." "My Lord, have mercy," said the man, "for this donkey and this coal I gave my pots to the coal-man. May God strike him down, the one by whose doing I am so sorely tried. I think he probably stole the goods; by God's name I can truly say I didn't steal anything. I gave him my pots in exchange for the donkey. He rode off in haste into the woods, shouting: 'Pots for sale! Pots for sale!"' The knight spoke to the Count in these words: "Eustache is a shameful fellow! Just a short while ago he was dressed as a coal-man, now he has become a potter." "So I see," said the Count, "by the pluck! Quick, after the man, let's go! Bring to me everyone you meet today and tomorrow. I'll never catch the Monk unless I take all of them." So they left the poor coal-man and set off into the forest, once again on the chase. By this time Eustache had gotten rid of all his pots, having thrown them into a swamp.


8. Disguise as a Prostitute.

Summary: The Count sets up his court in Neuchatel. Eustache disguises himself as a prostitute. One of the Count's men (a sergeant) burns with passion for this slut in the forest, but he is quickly disabused of his desire after he loses his two horses. Eustache orders him back to tell the Count what happened, but the sergeant's shame is so great that he does not dare return to his master. Instead he prefers flight from the Boulonnais region.

Translation (lines 1186-1283):

The Count goes to Neuchatel where he sets up his new court. Eustache, who had many tricks up his sleeve, entered after him into the city. He dressed up in a woman's clothing, and his disguise was so good he did in fact look just like a woman. He put on a linen dress, covered his face with a veil, and carried a distaff by his side. As he sat there spinning, a sergeant arrived almost immediately, riding one of the Count's horses and leading another. Eustache exclaimed: "Let me mount your horse and in return I will let you fuck me." "Quite willingly," said the sergeant. "Climb up, then, on this good ambling palfrey, and I'll give you four-pence if you let me fuck you. I will also teach you how to ass-play." In reply Eustache said: "Here and now, I declare, never has any man screwed thus." Eustache lifts a leg to the horseman; and, as he does so, lets off a loud fart. "Hah, damsel, you fart!" Eustache responds: "You are mistaken, sweet handsome friend, don't let it bother you, but it's only the noise of the saddle cracking." Eustache the Monk climbs up on the second horse, and he and the sergeant ride off in haste into the forest side by side. "Let's not go any farther. I am riding my master's horse, and you have his best palfrey." The sergeant added: "I will have great shame if this affair of ours is not quickly finished." "Sergeant," said Eustache the Monk, "I too am all desirous to fuck. So let's get to our ass-playing quickly. Come a little closer so that no one can spy on us." "Damsel," said the sergeant, "be careful there is no trickery. Should there be such, I swear by Saint Mary's bowels I would take your life." In reply Eustache said: "My dear friend, no need to get so upset, my lodge is just ahead. Come, just a bit farther now." The sergeant foolishly follows along as Eustache comes upon his own band of men. He seizes the poor wretch by the scruff of the neck as if he were mad. Here you have a good illustration of the truth in the popular saying: "Thus scratches a trapped goat when ill befalls it." Eustache ordered: "Get down off the good horse. You won't ride it any farther. The palfrey too will stay here quite well. The Count will never again mount it." Both riders dismount there amid great bursts of laughter. "My lords," said Eustache the Monk, "this sergeant will do his duty, for I have his word." He leads the poor man forward a bit, and takes him to a mud-pit. "Sergeant," he says, "don't let it trouble you. Quick, strip off all your clothes. I know how anxious you are to have a fuck." The sergeant enters the mud-pit for he dares not contradict Eustache. The latter exclaims: "Now, about that ass-play! You can fuck at your leisure, all stretched out for some good ass-play, or you will be beaten so badly you'll never be able to leave. You thought you would fuck me. Aren't you ashamed for wanting to bugger a black monk?" The sergeant replied: "May God have mercy, do not put me to such shame here. Sire, by Our Lady, I thought you were a woman!" Eustache (who was neither heretic nor bugger, nor sodomite), answered: "Well then, come forward before you leave. You are to tell the Count on my behalf how I used you." "I will tell him straight away on your behalf," so says the sergeant as he sets off immediately. In fact, his shame was such that he dared not return to tell the Count anything of what had happened to him. Instead, he left the Boulonnais for a foreign land, never to return. Following this episode, the war between Eustache the Monk and the Count lasted a long time. Eustache continued to put his adversary to even greater shame.


9. Eustace invades England.

Summary: Eustache serves the King of France well, accompanying Prince Louis to England. Yet he is suspected of complicity in the defeat of the combat fleet assembled at Damme by Louis-Philippe. There is, however, none courageous enough to charge him with responsibility for the defeat.

Translation (lines 2250-65):

      The Monk was a fine warrior; he was bold and proud, and on the other hand did many devilish things on the islands. He led King Louis and his large fleet across the sea, personally capturing the Nef de Boulogne. He took the French King with him to the port of Damme. That was the year [1213 A.D.] the King lost his ships! They blamed Eustache for having betrayed the King's fleet. Eustache justified himself by claiming there was no man bold enough to furnish proof of such treason. And so they left him alone after that.


10. The Death of Eustace.

Summary: Eustache sets out to sea again to wage battle against twenty English ships. A violent combat ensues during which the English set up a curtain of smoke before boarding Eustache's vessel. They cut off Eustache's head and the battle is lost (2266-2305). The romance ends with a moralizing comment of the life of Eustache (2306-07).

Translation (lines 2266-2307):

       Once again he set out to sea in a great fleet of ships. With him there was Robert de Tornelle, along with Varles de Montagui. When Eustache, the courageous warrior, got out on the high seas he soon encountered more than twenty English ships bearing down on him. The enemy set out in skiffs and attacked the ships with long bows and cross bows. The Monk's men guard themselves against everything thrown at them in the chase. They kill many Englishmen and defend themselves nobly. Eustache himself crushed many with the oar he wielded, breaking arms and legs with every swing. This one he killed, another one he threw overboard. This one he knocks down, another he tramples under foot, and a third one has his wind-pipe crushed. But Eustache is assailed from all directions. Battle axes strike his ship on all sides. On the first wave the defenders were able to ward off the attack, preventing the enemy from coming on board. Then the English started hurling big pots of finely ground lime on board, with the result that great clouds of dust covered the decks. That was what caused the most damage, against which Eustache's men could not defend themselves. To their misfortune the wind was against them, which caused further torment, for their eyes became filled with ash. In the confusion the English leaped onto Eustache's ship and mistreated his men badly, taking all the nobles prisoner. As for Eustache the Monk, he was slain, his head cut off. Thus ended the battle.

      "No man can live long who spends his days doing ill."

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