Chrétien de Troyes

12th century French poet and trouvère

Crestïens de Troies was a late 12th-century French poet who played a key part in creating the romance form and in popularizing the Arthurian legend in Europe. His name is conventionally given in the modernized form Chrétien de Troyes.

English quotations are taken from the translations by D. D. R. Owen: Chrétien de Troyes Arthurian Romances (London, 1987) ISBN 0460116983.


Love without fear and trepidation is fire without flame and heat.
  • Amors sanz crieme et sans peor
    Est feus sanz flame et sanz chalor,
    Jorz sanz soloil, bresche sanz miel,
    Estez sans flor, iverz sanz giel,
    Ciaus sanz lune, livres sanz letre.
    • Love without fear and trepidation is fire without flame and heat, day without sun, comb without honey, summer without flowers, winter without frost, sky without moon, a book without letters.
    • Cligès, line 3893.

Yvain or Le Chevalier au Lion

  • Bien pert que c'est aprés mangier,
    Fet Kex, qui teire ne se pot
    Plus a paroles an plain pot
    De vin qu'an un mui de cervoise.
    • "It's obvious that it's after dinner," says Kay, unable to hold his tongue. "There are more words in a potful of wine than in a barrel of beer".
    • Line 590.
  • Joie d'amors qui vient a tart
    Sanble la vert busche qui art,
    Qui dedanz rant plus grant chalor
    Et plus se tient en sa valor,
    Quant plus demore a alumer.
    • The joy of love when it comes late is like the burning of a green log, which gives out all the more heat and keeps its ability to do so all the longer, the slower it is to kindle.
    • Line 2521
For hunger is a sauce, well blended and prepared, for any food.
  • Qu'a toz mangiers est sausse fains
    Bien destanpree et bien confite.
    • For hunger is a sauce, well blended and prepared, for any food.
    • Line 2854

Perceval or Le Conte du Graal

  • Par le sornon connoist on l'ome.
    • One knows the man by the name he has.
    • Line 562
  • Nus ne puet estre trop parliers
    Qui sovent tel chose ne die
    Qui torné li est affolie,
    Car li sages dit et retrait:
    Qui trop parole, il se mesfait.
    • No one can be too talkative without often saying something that makes him look foolish, for the wise man's saying goes: "Whoever talks too much does himself a bad turn."
    • Line 1650.
Only a very base person forgets when he is done some shame or mischief.
  • Que molt est malvais qui oblie
    S'on li fait honte ne laidure.
    • Only a very base person forgets when he is done some shame or mischief.
    • Line 2902.
  • Qui baise feme et plus n'i fait,
    Des qu'il sont sol a sol andui,
    Dont quit je qu'il remaint en lui.
    Feme qui se bouche abandone
    Le sorplus molt de legier done.
    • If someone kisses a woman and goes no further once they are alone together, then in my opinion it's his own fault. A woman who freely surrenders her lips gives the rest very readily.
    • Line 3860.
  • Our books have informed us that the pre-eminence in chivalry and learning once belonged to Greece. Then chivalry passed to Rome, together with that highest learning which now has come to France. God grant that it may be cherished here, and that it may be made so welcome here that the honour which has taken refuge with us may never depart from France: God had awarded it as another's share, but of Greeks and Romans no more is heard, their fame is passed, and their glowing ash is dead.


  • He was one of the first explorers of the human heart, and is therefore rightly to be numbered among the fathers of the novel of sentiment.
  • Chrétien is nothing if not versatile: popular, recherché, allusive, insistent, arch, naïve, racy and demure...He has a dramatist's flair for the handling of dialogue, a deft and economic way with characterization, the sharp confidence of the logician in his handling of rhetorical figures and the self-assurance of the entertainer in the deployment of humour (he is master of the verbal nudge). It is his essential vivacity that one misses most in his imitators.
    • Tony Hunt "Chrétien de Troyes' Arthurian Romance, Yvain", in Boris Ford (ed.) Medieval Literature: The European Inheritance (Harmondsworth, 1983), p. 128.
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