How Queen Sardamira and the other ambassadors from the Emperor of Rome arrived in Great Britain, having been sent to bring him Oriana, the daughter of King Lisuarte; and what happened to them in a forest where they had gone for recreation involving a knight-errant insulted by the ambassadors, and how he repaid them for their lack of respect.
Codex Manesse, a German songbook written and illustrated between about 1304 and 1340. This miniature depicts the Alemannic poet Winli.]
When Emperor Patin’s ambassadors arrived in Lombardy, they hired ships and sailed to Great Britain, landing in Fenusa where King Lisuarte was. He received them with great honors and ordered them to be very well-provisioned and given fine lodgings and everything they might need. At that time, many noblemen were with the King, and he awaited others whom he had sent for to advise him about the marriage of his daughter Oriana. He promised the ambassadors a reply within a month, giving them great hope that his decision would make them happy.
He also decided that Queen Sardamira, whom the Emperor had sent with twenty ladies and damsels to accompany Oriana by sea and serve her, should go to Miraflores where Oriana was and tell her about the grandeur of Rome and the high station she would have with the marriage, reigning over many kings and princes and other great lords. King Lisuarte did this because he knew his daughter’s will was deeply opposed to the wedding, but the Queen, who was very wise, might be able to convince her. Indeed, Oriana was so anxious and anguished that she could not think or speak, believing that her father would deliver her to the Romans entirely against her will, and for her and her beloved Amadis, that would mean death.
So Queen Sardamira left for Miraflores. On orders of the King, Sir Grumedan accompanied her to serve her, and in her guard she had knights from Rome and from Sardinia, where she reigned. It happened that they were on a green riverbank with beautiful flowers waiting for the heat of the afternoon to pass, and her knights, who were esteemed in arms, put their five shields outside the tent.
Sir Grumedan told them:
“My lords, have your shields placed inside the tent if ye do not wish to uphold the custom of this land, which is that any knight who puts his shield or lance outside the tent, house, or hut where he is lodging must joust with any knights who ask him to.”
“We fully understand that custom, and that is why we had them put outside,” they said. “God willing, before we leave, we will be asked to joust by someone.”
“In the name of God,” Sir Grumedan said, “some knights usually travel here, and if they do, we shall see how ye shall fight.”
While they waited, as ye hear, soon came the esteemed and valiant Sir Florestan, who had traveled many lands looking for his brother Amadis but had never learned any news about him, so he rode with great sorrow and sadness. And because he had heard that people from Rome and other places beyond the sea were in the court of King Lisuarte, he was going there to see if any of them had news about his brother.
When he saw the tents near the road he came down, he approached to learn who was there. He arrived at Queen Sardamira’s tent and saw her on an estrado, and she was one of the most beautiful women in the world, and the tent had its side raised, so he saw all her ladies and damsels. To see the Queen better, who seemed so fine and well-attired, he rode on horseback between the ropes of the tent to gaze at her.
And as he did, a damsel came to him and said:
“My lord knight, ye are not very courteous to be on horseback so close to such a good Queen and the other high-born ladies who are here. Ye would do better to study those shields over there, which pose a challenge to you, as do the knights they belong to.”
“Truly, my very good lady,” Sir Florestan said, “what ye say is true, but the blame is in my eyes, wishing to see the beautiful Queen, and that has caused me to fall in such a great error. I ask forgiveness from the good lady and from all of you, and I shall make amends in any way she may order.”
“Ye speak well,” the damsel said, “but before forgiveness, ye must make amends.”
“Good damsel,” Sir Florestan said, “I shall do this right away, if I can, provided that it does not require failing to do what I must about those shields, or else they must be put inside the tent.”
“My lord knight,” she said, “do not believe that the shields were put there by mistake. Before they are removed, their owners in their great courage will have defeated all the knights who have passed here and wished to fight. They will take those knights’ shields to Rome with their owners’ names written on the bosses to show how the skills of the Romans overshadowed those of the knights of other lands. If ye wish to avoid falling into dishonor, turn back toward where ye came from, and your shield and name shall not be taken to where your honor will be declared null.”
“Damsel,” he said, “may it please God, I shall protect myself from the dishonor ye speak of, but I cannot trust in your kindness or take any of your counsel. Instead, I intend to take those shields to Firm Island.”
Then he said to the Queen:
“My lady, may ye be commended to God, and may He, who made you so beautiful, give you great joy and pleasure.” And he rode toward the shields.
Sir Grumedan, who had heard everything he said to the damsel, held him in high regard, especially when he mentioned Firm Island because he immediately thought him to be of the valiant Amadis’s lineage, and he believed the knight would truly be able to do what he had told the damsel and take the shields to Firm Island. He was also happy because he would see how good the Roman knights were at arms. He did not know that the knight was Sir Florestan, but the knight seemed marvelously well-armed and was riding handsomely, and Sir Grumedan considered him very courageous to attempt such a great thing and wished him all the best. He would have thought even higher of him if he had known that he was Sir Florestan, whom he loved and esteemed greately.
When Sir Florestan saw Sir Grumedan before him, knowing that in the entire court there was no knight with greater knowledge of arms than him, his heart grew in ardor until no trace of cowardice could be felt in it. He rode to the shields and put the tip of his lance on the first and second and third and fourth and fifth, and he did this because thus they would have to joust one after the other according to the order in which the shields were touched.
This done, he rode the distance of the flight of an arrow into the field, hung his shield from his neck, took a good, thick lance, sat straight in the saddle, and waited. Whenever he could, Sir Florestan brought two or three squires to be better served so they could carry lances and battle axes, and he knew well how to use them, for in many lands another knight could not be found who jousted as well as he could.
The Romans were also waiting, armed in a tent, and hurried to mount and ride to him. Sir Grumedan told them:
“What is this, my lords? Do all of ye wish to charge together against one? That would violate the custom of these lands.”
Gradamor, a Roman knight who was in charge of the others, asked Sir Grumedan how they ought to do things, since he knew better than anyone. Sir Grumedan told him:
“In the order than the shields were touched, one after the other, the knights must go to joust. And if ye take my word, do not go wildly, for judging by the appearance of that knight, he will not wish to be dishonored.”
“Sir Grumedan,” Gradamor said, “the Romans are not like you, who praise yourselves before the deed. Even after we complete the deed, we let it be forgotten. That is why there are no knights who are our equal. May it please God that our fight with that knight be in accord with that, even if my companions do not lend a hand.”
Sir Grumedan told him:
“My lord, may what happens to that knight be as God pleases, and if he remains free and healthy after these jousts, that shall tell me whether what ye say is true. And if by chance he is impeded from doing so, I shall undertake the battle myself in the name of God. Now go to your joust, and if ye leave it well, we shall come before this noble Queen, so we shall not be able to back out of our agreement.”
Gradamor laughed with disdain and said:
“I wish we had that battle as close as this joust, if that the idiot knight waiting there dares to fight.” Then he said to the knight of the first shield that had been touched, “Go now and fight in a way that frees us from the little praise we would win from defeating that knight.”
“Relax,” the knight said, “for I shall bring you what ye wish, and his name shall be placed on his shield as the Emperor ordered us. And his horse, which looks good, shall be mine.”