And with strength that benefits the knight,
If it is great virtues you are seeking
You must the turn toward Hercules
And see how worthy he is,
and how much bounty he reaped.
And although to your family he
Was contrary1 and received great acclaim for it,
Is no reason for you to hate
His virtue, strength and nobility,
Which opened the gates of worthiness,
Yet, though you will follow his path
And also his worthiness, I say
It needs nothing for you to make
War with them of hell nor take any issue with.
Nor should you war with the god Pluto
For this would lead to issue with Proserpine,
The daughter of the goddess called Ceres,
Whom he ravished on the sea of Greece.
Nor should you find it mysterious
That Cerberus, the guard
Of hell, the beast who breaks his chains,
It is best not to cross either of them in hell
Unless one wishes to be an unlucky winner.
Nor for his fellows as dead as he,
Pirithous and Theseus, in fear,
Neither of whom had been deceived were
To adventure to find them in that valley,
Where many a soul suffers,
O Earth you will find enough suffering
You should not go to seek it in hell.
It is not necessary to do this
To purchase or take up arms, parade,
To go and fight with serpents stinging,
With boors wild or bears ramping.
Whether you imagine this I do not know,
Or else the thought sprang from nowhere
To be worthy and make your name
Through struggle, if it is not for this
Body which you ought to defend,
If such beasts would be your enemies,
Then it is different if you are assaulted,
Without doubt it is wise to do so.
If thou overcome them and the save,
Great acclaim and worship will be yours.
The virtue of strength is not only to understand bodily strength, but the stableness and steadfastness that a good knight should have in all his deeds should be due to the deliberation of good wit and strength to resist any struggles that he may face, whether by bad luck or some other struggle, where strength and courage may lead to great worthiness. And the legendary Hercules should be your example of strength, to multiple advantages, that is to say, as he represents virtue and renown in the deeds of knighthood, in which he was excellent. And for the highness of Hector, it si an appropriate thing to use him as an example. Hercules was a knight of Greece of miraculous strength and defeated many worthy knights. He was a great traveler of the world; and for the great and miraculous voyages and things of great strength that he did, the poets, which recorded all manner of stories, said that he went into hell to fight with the princes of hell and that he fought with serpents and fierce beasts, which should suggest the great feats he accomplished. And therefore a knight should consider this, that is to say, his piousness and worthiness. And as a philosopher says: Just as the brightness of the sun is profitable to all things and as the wheat-corn when it falls in good earth is profitable also, this should be an example to all those who are worthy and desire worthiness. And therefore the wiseman says that the virtue of strength makes a man abiding and able to overcome all things.
Just as the good knight without might and strength may not deserve to lead an army, in the same way anyone without strength may never win nor have the wages or recognition that belong to the good victorious people. And Saint Ambrose says in the first Book of Offices that the very strength of mankindly courage is that which is never broken in adversity, nor prided in prosperity; and that he should tend to his virtues and maintain justice which are the enemies of the vices that are tireless enemies of the flesh. And to this purpose Saint John the Evangelist says in his first Epistle: “I write unto you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.”
- Hercules was “contrary” to Hector’s lineage because as one of Hercules’ Twelve Labors he sacked the city of Troy, which is Hector’s home.
- This comes from the first Letter of John the Evangelist in chapter two. Christine’s original Latin translation is here: “Scribo enim iuuenes vobis, quoniam fortes estis, et verbum Dei manet in vobis, vicistis malignum. Prima Johannis ij capitulo.”