And because the great events presented in the fourth book of Amadis have their origin in the Firm Island, it seems that this second book ought to relate what this island was and to whom its enchantments and grand riches were owed, and as this is the beginning of that book, this is a good place to relate it.
[Entrance to the garden in the Palace of Mondragón, Ronda, Spain, which dates back to the 1300s. Photo by Cindy Van Vreede.]
A King of Greece was married to a sister of the Emperor of Constantinople and had two sons by her who were very handsome, especially the elder. He was named Apolidon, and both in the strength of his body and in the valor of his heart no one of his time was his equal. He dedicated himself to the study of all arts with subtle ingenuity, which rarely concurs with great courage, and he accomplished so much that he shone among all those of his time like the bright Moon among the stars, especially in the arts of necromancy, with which all impossible works can be done.
This King, father of these two sons, being rich in money but poor in life due to his advanced old age, saw that death was approaching and ordered that his son Apolidon, being the oldest, inherit his kingdom, and the other son his great treasures and books, which were many and valuable. But the younger son was not content with this and, with many tears, told his father that this bequest left him almost disinherited.
His father, twisting his hands, could do no more, and his heart was in great anguish. But that famous Apolidon, whose heart was given as much to acts of virtue as to great deeds, saw his father's sorrow and his brother's cowardice. He said that his heart would be consoled to take the treasures and the books, and he would leave the kingdom to his brother. His father was greatly consoled by that, and with many merciful tears, gave his blessing.
So Apolidon took the great treasures and books, had some ships readied, selected good knights along with provisions and arms to load onto them, and set sail for no port except where Fate took him. Fate saw how this Prince had put himself at her will and wished to repay his profound obedience to his elderly father with great glory. She brought forth such a favorable wind that his fleet arrived directly at the empire of Rome, where at the time the Emperor was called Siudan, who received him very well.
He stayed there for some time, and while his great deeds in arms done previously in other lands had made him esteemed, those that he did there with would make him exalted, and this caused a sister of the Emperor named Grimanesa to fall too deeply in love with him. She was famed throughout the world for her beauty surpassing all women at that time.
It happened that he loved her as much as she loved him, but having no hopes for achieving their love by any other means, the two agreed on a plan. She left the palaces of her brother the Emperor for the fleet of her beloved Apolidon, and they sailed the sea to make port at the Firm Island, whose lord at the time was a brave giant. There Apolidon, without knowing whose land it was, ordered a tent erected with a platform on which his lady might rest, for the sea was furious.
But immediately the fierce giant, fully armed, arrived and terrified them. As was the custom of the island and to save his lady and his company, Apolidon used his exceeding skill and courage to fight and defeat the giant, leaving him dead in the field, and so he became the uncontested lord of the island. After he saw the giant's grand fortress, he feared nothing in the world, including the Emperor of Rome, who was irate because he had taken his sister. Everyone on the island had despised the giant for being evil and arrogant, and when they grew to know Apolidon, he was loved.
Having won the Firm Island as ye have heard, Apolidon lived there for sixteen years with his beloved Grimanesa in such pleasure that the mortal desires of both their beings were satisfied. During that time beautiful buildings were constructed in accordance with his great riches and wisdom, which any other emperor or king, however rich he were, would have found difficult to equal.
At the end of these years, the Emperor of Constantinople died without heir, and it citizens knew of Apolidon's abilities and that he was of the imperial blood and family on his mother's side, so he was freely agreed upon and chosen by all. They sent messengers to the island to have him know that they wanted him for their emperor.
Apolidon considered the offer of such a great empire against the island, where he could find all his delights fulfilled, and thought of how great reigns brought more fatigue and labor than delights and pleasures, and if there were any pleasures, they came mixed with bitterness. Yet the nature of mortal men is that their desires, like his, are never content nor satisfied. So he agreed with his beloved that they would leave that island and take the empire that they had been offered.
But she felt great sadness at leaving such a fine place as that island and the grand things there. It had belonged to her beloved, the best knight at arms as could be found in the world, and to her, whose semblance was praised for its beauty above all other women of her time, and there they had loved each other as perfectly as love could be expressed. She entreated Apolidon that before departing he should, with his great knowledge, provide that in times to come its lords should be those who in fortitude at arms, loyalty in love, and great beauty would most resemble them.
Apolidon told her:
"My lady, if that would please you, I shall make it such that no one can be lord nor lady here without being exactly as ye have said."
Then he made an arch at the entrance to a garden in which all the trees of every species were, and in which there were four beautiful chambers of rare construction. It was surrounded by a fence so that no one could enter the garden without passing through the arch. Above it he put the copper image of a man who held a trumpet to his lips as if he wished to play it. In one of those chambers he placed two statues resembling the faces and bodies of himself and his beloved, and next to them a pale jasper stone. And at the distance of half a crossbow arrow's flight away, he ordered placed a iron pillar five cubits high in a large field that was there.
"From here on no man nor woman shall pass who have erred since they first began to love, for if they try, the image that ye see shall play that trumpet with a sound so frightening that they shall be stunned by smoke and flame and thrown out from here as if dead. But if a knight or lady or damsel were to come here worthy of completing this test for their loyalty, as I have said, they shall enter without impediment and the image shall play such a sweet song that it shall delight all those who hear it. They shall see our statues and see their names written on the jasper, but they shall not know who wrote them."
And taking his beloved by the hand, he had her pass through the arch, and the image played a sweet song. He showed her their statues and their names written in the jasper. When they left, Grimanesa wanted to test it, so she ordered some of her ladies and damsels to enter, and the image played such a terrifying song that they were knocked unconscious and thrown from the garden, and Grimanesa, knowing they were in no danger, laughed with pleasure and deeply thanked her beloved Apolidon for fulfilling her will completely.
Then she told him:
"My lord, what then will become of that beautiful chamber in which we had such pleasure and delight?"
"Now," he said, "let us go there and ye shall see what I shall do."
Then they went to the chamber and he ordered two columns brought, one of marble and the other of copper, and he had the marble column placed five paces from the door of the chamber, and the copper column five paces beyond that, and he told his beloved:
"Now know that no man nor woman may enter this chamber by any means or at any time until a knight comes here who surpasses me in skill at arms or woman who surpasses your beauty. But if those who come surpass than me at arms and you at beauty, they shall enter without any trouble."
And he had words inscribed on the copper column that said:
"Knights of great arms may pass here, each according to his valor."
And he had other words inscribed on the marble column that said:
"No knight shall pass here who does not surpass Apolidon in skill at arms."
And above the door of the chamber he had words inscribed that read:
"He who surpasses me in skill shall enter this beautiful chamber and shall be lord of this island. And of the ladies and damsels who arrive, none shall enter inside who do not surpass your beauty."
And with his wisdom he made an enchantment so that no one could approach the chamber within twelve paces on any side, which had no entry other than that which passed the columns of which ye have heard. And he ordered that a governor rule over the island and collect its income and to keep for the knight whose fate was to enter the chamber and be lord of the island. And he ordered that those who failed at the test of the arch of lovers be expelled without honor, and those who passed be served.
And he further said:
"The knights who try to enter the chamber and who cannot pass the copper column shall leave their arms there, and those who manage only to pass it shall leave their swords, and those who reach the marble column but no further shall leave their shields, and those who pass this column but who cannot enter the chamber shall leave their spurs. And from the damsels and ladies nothing shall be taken, but they shall give their names to be put at the door of the castle, saying where each had reached."
And he said:
"When this island shall have a lord, the enchantment for the knights shall be undone, who shall freely be able to pass the columns and enter the chamber, but it shall not be undone for the women until one shall come who will end it with her great beauty, and who shall lodge with that knight who has won the lordship within that beautiful chamber."
This done, leaving the Firm Island well protected as ye have heard, Apolidon and Grimanesa left on their ships and sailed to Constantinople, where they were Emperor and Empress, and they had sons who succeeded them in the empire after their days were done.
But now, without speaking more of this, it shall be told to you what Amadis and his brothers and his cousin Agrajes did after they left the house of the beautiful Queen Briolanja.