Thursday, April 30, 2009

More medieval music: Carmina Burana

With which we can spend a happy evening filled with wine and song.

[Music for songs 201 and 202 from the Carmina Burana, Bibliotheca Augustana.]


If ye have not already heard of the Carmina Burana, ye may find it a pleasing discovery.

It is a manuscript written around 1230 A.D. and discovered in 1803 in the Bavarian monastery of Benediktbeuern in the Bavarian Alps near Munich. It contains the largest preserved collection of medieval Latin song lyrics, with 228 works.

The authors are uncertain, but the content is delightful. It contains religious songs (this part has been lost), moral and satirical songs, love songs, drinking and gambling songs, and religious plays.

Its texts and musical notations have inspired many musicians, most notably Carl Orff, who set 24 of the poems to modern music in a choral and orchestral work called Carmina Burana.

More information about the manuscript is available in an article from Athena Review, Vol. 4, No. 2.

Here are the words and a translation to song 202. Translation by Helen Waddell, Mediaeval Latin Lyrics (London: Constable, [1929] 1943)

O potatores exquisiti,
licet sitis sine siti,
et bibatis expediti
et scyphorum inobliti,
scyphi crebro repetiti
non donniant,
et sermones inauditi
Qui potare non potestis,
ite procul ab his festis,
non est locus hie modes tis.
Inter letos mos agrestis
modes tie,
et est sue certus testis
Si quis latitat hie forte,
qui non curat vinum forte,
ostendantur illi porte,
exeat ab hac cohorte:
plus est nobis gravis morte,
si maneat,
si recedat a consorte,
tune pereat.

To you, consummate drinkers,
Though little be your drought,
Good speed be to your tankards,
And send the wine about.
Let not the full decanter
Sleep on its round,
And may unheard of banter
In wit abound.
If any cannot carry
His liquor as he should,
Let him no longer tarry,
No place here for the prude.
No room among the happy
For modesty.
A fashion only fit for clowns,
If such by chance are lurking
Let them be shown the door;
He who good wine is shirking,
Is one of us no more.
A death's head is his face to us,
If he abide.
Who cannot keep the pace with us,
As well he died.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chapter 12 [first half]

How Galaor fought the great giant, lord of the Rock of Galtares, defeated him, and killed him.

[Cathédrale Saint-Nazaire in Béziers, France. In the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars, the town of Béziers was sacked and destroyed on July 22, 1209, and its inhabitants slaughtered: "Kill them all, God will know His own." The invaders set fire to the cathedral, which collapsed on those who had taken refuge inside. A few parts remained of the Romanesque cathedral, and repairs started in 1215 in Mediterranean gothic style. Photo by Gwyneth Box.]


The news reached the giant, and soon he came out on a horse. He seemed so enormous on it that no man in the world would have dared to look at him. He wore armor of iron scales so long that it covered him from his throat to his saddle, and a helmet both large and bright, and he carried a huge, heavy iron mace with which to attack. The squires and damsels were terrified to see him, and Galaor himself was not so brave that he did not feel great fear at that moment. But the closer the giant came, the more he lost his fear.

The giant said to him:

"Miserable knight, how dost thou dare to meet thy death? He who sent thee here shall never see thee again. Wait and thou shalt see how I know to use this mace."

Galaor grew angry and said:

"Devil, thou shalt be defeated and killed by what I bring in my aid, which is God and righteousness."

The giant came toward him, and he seemed just like a tower. Galaor went at him with his lance lowered and his horse running as fast as it could. He hit him on the chest with such force that he lost a stirrup and broke his lance. The giant raised his mace to strike him on the head, but Galaor passed by so quickly that it only hit the rim of his shield and broke the straps that held it around his arm and neck. It fell to the earth, and Galaor almost fell with it.

The blow had been given with such force that the giant's arm could not control it. The mace struck the head of his own horse and knocked it down dead. He fell beneath it, and as he tried to get up with great difficulty, Galaor came and struck him with the chest of his horse and trampled him twice before he could get up, but then Galaor's horse tripped over the giant's horse and fell over it.

Galaor got off it immediately, seeing himself in danger of death, and he put his hand on the sword that Urganda had given him. He charged at the giant, who was picking up his mace from the ground, and struck it on its staff and cut it in two. Only a piece of it remained in the giant's hand, but with it the giant gave such a blow on the top of Galaor's helmet that he fell, putting a hand on the ground. The mace was so strong and heavy and the giant had struck with such force that his helmet was twisted on his head.

But since the knight was very fast and lively of heart, he got up immediately and turned toward the giant, who tried to hit him again. Galaor, who was skilled and agile, protected himself from the attack and gave him such a blow with his sword on the arm that he cut it off at the shoulder, then the sword swung down to the giant's leg and nearly cut it in half.

The giant shouted:

"Oh, the ill fortune! I am derided and defeated by a lone man!"

In his fury, he tried to grab Galaor, but he could not move forward due to the great wound in his leg, and he sat on the ground. Galaor turned to attack again, and when the giant reached out a hand to catch him, he gave him a blow that made his fingers fall to earth along with half his hand. The giant, who had leaned far out to catch him, fell.

Galaor came over him, killed him with his sword, and cut off his head.

Then the squires and the damsels came to him, and Galaor ordered the squires to take the head to his lord. They were happy and said:

"By God, my lord, he raised you well. Ye have won the honor, and he the revenge and profit!"

Galaor rode on the horse of one of the squires, and he saw ten knights leave the castle bound a chain, who told him:

"Come and take this castle, for ye have killed the giant, and we are those who were held by him."

Galaor said to the damsels:

"Ladies, let us remain here tonight."

They said it would please them. Then he had the chain removed from the knights, and they all went into the castle, where there were beautiful rooms. In one of them he disarmed, and they served him dinner, which he ate with the damsels. And thus they rested with great pleasure as they gazed at stout towers and walls that seemed marvelous to them.

The next day all the people of the surrounding lands assembled there. Galaor came out, and they received him with great joy and told him that since he had won the castle by killing the giant who had ruled them by force and with great oppression, they wanted him as their lord. He thanked them very much, but said that they already knew how this land belonged by right to Gandalaz, and that he, as his servant, had come to win it for him. They were obliged to obey Gandalaz as their lord, who would treat them gently and honorably.

"He will be welcome," they said. "Since he is our natural ruler and since we are properly his, he will take care to do us well, but the one that ye killed treated us as aliens and strangers."

Galaor accepted the fealty of the two knights who seemed most honorable, so they would give the castle to Gandalaz when he arrived. With his arms, the damsels, and one of the two squires that he had brought, he took to the road that led to the house of the hermit. When he arrived, the good man was very happy with him, and told him:

"Fortunate son, ye owe much love to God, Who loves you, for He wished through you to bring about such a beautiful vengeance."

Galaor received his blessing and begged him to remember him in his prayers, then returned to the road. One of the damsels asked him to give her his company. The other said:

"I only came here to see the results of this battle, and I saw so much that I will recount it again and again wherever I go. Now I wish to go to the court of King Lisuarte to see my brother, a knight, who is there."

"My dear," said Galaor, "if ye see there a young knight who carries arms with an insignia of lions, tell him that the young nobleman whom he made a knight commends himself to him, and that I will try to be an honorable man, and if I see him, I can tell him more about my estate and his than he knows."

The damsel went on her way, and Galaor said to the other one that, since he had been the knight she had come to see fight, she should tell him who the lady was who had sent her.

If ye wish to know," she said, "follow me, and I shall show you her five days from now."

"Nothing could keep me from knowing that," he said, "so I shall follow you."

And thus they rode until they came to a fork in the road. Galaor went ahead on one road, thinking that the damsel was behind him, but she took the other one. This occurred at the entrance to a forest called Brananda, which is between County Clare and County Gresca. Soon Galaor heard shouts:

"Oh, good knight, help me!"

He turned to look and said:

"Who is shouting?"

The squire said:

"I think it is the damsel who left us."

"What?" said Galaor. "She left us?"

"Yes, my lord," he said. "She went on that other road."

"By God, I paid no attention to her."

He strapped on his helmet and took up his shield and lance, and as fast as he could, he rode toward the shouts, where he saw an ugly dwarf on a horse and five foot soldiers armed like him with round helmets and battle axes. The dwarf held a rod and was hitting the damsel.

Galaor approached him, saying:

"Get away, foul and ugly thing! May God grant thee misfortune!"

He moved his lance to his left hand, rode up to the dwarf, took the stick, and gave him such a blow that he fell to the earth, stunned. The foot soldiers came at him and attacked on all sides, and he hit one in the face with the rod and knocked him to the earth, and hit another, who had sunk his ax into Galaor's shield, in the chest with the lance, but then he could not pull the lance out, for it had run him through. The soldier fell with the lance in him. Galaor took the ax from the shield and charged at the others, but they did not dare wait for him and ran off through some thickets so dense that he could not go after them. When he turned around, he saw that the dwarf was back on his horse. The dwarf said:

"Knight, in a bad moment ye attacked me and killed my men."

And he whipped his nag and left as fast as he could down a road. Galaor took his lance from the villein and saw that it was still in good shape, which pleased him. He gave his arms to his squire and said:

"Damsel, ride ahead of me and I shall guard you better."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The 1508 edition

How a beautiful book of unknown origin became a treasure of the British Library.

[The title page of the 1508 edition.]


Only one copy remains of the earliest known edition of Amadís de Gaula.

I saw it on display at the Biblioteca Nacional de España in Madrid. It's a handsome book, folio sized (15 inches/38 cm tall), bound in gilt-tooled red leather with gilt-edged pages. The text remains perfectly legible, and the title page confirms that it was printed by Jorge Coci in Zaragoza on October 30, 1508.

We know almost nothing else about the book, except that it didn't always look like that.

According to the Biblioteca Nacional, this copy was discovered by Edwin Tross, a bookseller, in Ferrera, Italy, in 1872. We don't know how he found it, where it came from, or how he resold it. Tross was a German who lived in Paris, where he died in 1875.

Tross sold it to Baron Achille Seillière, a French booklover, known for his Bibliotèque de Mello. As was his custom, he had the book rebound, which destroyed any marks that might have indicated a previous owner or library cataloging.

After the death of Seillière in 1873 and of one of his sons in 1887, part of his library was sold by Sotheby's of London. The book was bought by Bernard Quaritch, a London bookseller, and he eventually sold it in June, 1895, to the British Museum in London for 200 pounds sterling.

The 1508 edition of Amadís de Gaula is currently held by the British Library in London, catalog number C.20.e.6.

And that's all we know.

Ye may be interested in NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day for April 17, Medieval Astronomy from Melk Abbey:

The previous day's picture is of a castle and full moon:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chapter 11 [final half]

How the giant brought Galaor to be armed by the hand of King Lisuarte, and how Amadis knighted him very honorably.

[Chepstow Castle on the River Wye, Wales. Construction began in 1067, making it the oldest surviving stone fortification in Britain. The barbican tower, shown here, was added in 1245. Photo by Gwyneth Box.]


At that moment, Urganda arrived as if she had heard nothing and said:

"My lord, how does this young man seem to you?"

"To me," he said, "he seems the most handsome youth I have ever seen, but he asks me a boon that is not good for him nor for me."

"And what is that?" she said.

"That I make him a knight," he said, "though he was traveling to ask King Lisuarte for it."

"Truly," Urganda said, "it would cause him more harm than good if ye failed to make him a knight. I say to him that ye shall not be relieved of the boon, and to you that ye shall do it. And I tell you that he shall put knighthood to better use than all those who are now on all the islands of the sea except for one other who is there."

"Then so be it," he said, "and in the name of God. Now we shall go to a church to maintain the vigil."

"That is not necessary," Galaor said, "for I have already heard Mass today and seen the true Body of God."

"That shall suffice," said the knight with the lions.

He put on his right spur, kissed him, and said:

"Now ye are a knight. Take the sword from whomever it most pleases you."

"Ye shall give me it," said Galaor. "I shall take it willingly from none other."

The older knight called for a squire to bring a sword he had in his hand. But Urganda said:

"Do not give him that one. Instead, give the one hanging from that tree, which shall make him much happier."

Then everyone looked at the tree, but they saw nothing. She began to laugh heartily, and she said:

"By God, for ten long years it has been there, but no one who has passed by has seen it. Now all shall see it."

They looked again, and they saw a sword hanging from a branch of the tree. It seemed very handsome, and was shining as if it had just been put there. The scabbard was richly worked in silk and gold. The knight with the lions took it and girded it on Galaor, saying:

"Such a handsome sword deserves a handsome knight, and surely ye shall not lose the affection of she who kept it for you for such a long time."

Galaor was very happy with it, and said to the knight:

"My lord, I must go someplace, and there is no way to avoid it. But I would like to be in your company more than any other knight, and if ye please, tell me where I shall find you."

"In the court of King Lisuarte," he said, "and I shall be happy to see you, for it would be wise to go there. I have only just become a knight, like you, and I have to earn my honor."

This made Galaor very happy, and he said to Urganda:

"My lady damsel, I thank you greatly for this sword that ye gave me. Think of me as your knight."

He bid them farewell, and he returned to where he had left the giant hidden on the bank of a river.

During the time that this took place, one of Galaor's damsels had spoken with one of Urganda's, and learned that the knight was Amadis of Gaul, son of King Perion. She learned that his lady Urganda had bidden him come here to get her beloved out of the castle by force of arms. Her vast knowledge of magic could not do it because the lady of the castle, who was also wise in that art, held her beloved enchanted, and she did not fear Urganda's skills. There within the castle, they had tried to magically shield themselves against the force of arms, a charm that the knight with the lion insignia defeated when he crossed the bridge, as ye have heard told. Urganda's beloved, who was held there, had been brought by the niece of the lady of the castle, the damsel who almost drowned herself, as ye heard.

Urganda and the knight spend part of the day talking there, and she told him:

"Good knight, do you not know whom ye knighted?"

"No," he said.

"It is wise that ye know, for he and you share the same heart, and if ye were to meet him and not recognize him, it would be a great misfortune. Know that he is the son of your father and mother, and he is the one that the giant took when he was two and a half years old. Now, as ye have seen, he is grown and handsome. Out of love for you and him I kept that sword for him for such a long time. I tell you that with it, he will have the best commencement of knighthood ever made in Great Britain."

Amadis's eyes filled with tears of joy and he said:

"Oh, my lady, tell me where I shall find him!"

"Now is not the time to look for him," she said. "He still must do what has been ordained."

"Shall I see him soon?"

"Yes," she said, "but it will not be as easy to know him as ye think."

He ceased to ask about him. She and her beloved went on their way, and Amadis with his squire went on another road, intending to go to Windsor, where King Lisuarte was at the time.

Galaor arrived where the giant was and told him:

"Father, I am a knight, praise be to God and to the good knight who did it."

The giant said:

"Son, I am very glad of it, and I ask a favor of you."

"I shall do it willingly," he said, "as long as it does not keep me from going forth to earn honor."

"Son," he said, "in fact, if it pleases God, this will be a great achievement for it."

"Then ask and I shall do it," he said.

"Son," he said, "from time to time ye have heard me say how the giant Albadan treasonously killed my father and took the Rock of Galtares, which ought to be mine. I ask you to set it right for me. No one else can do it for me, and remember the upbringing I gave you and how I would put my body in the path of death for your love."

"Ye need not ask this favor from me," Galaor said. "Instead, I would ask you to grant me this battle. When it is done, if I survive, I am prepared to do all else that would serve your honor and advantage, until with this life I pay the great debt that I owe you. Let us go there now."

"In the name of God," said the giant.

Then they began to travel toward the Rock of Galtares, and they had not gone far before they met Urganda the Unrecognized. They greeted each other courteously, and she said to Galaor:

"Do ye know who made you a knight?"

"Yes," he said, "the best knight I have ever heard of."

"That is true," she said, "and he is better than ye think, but I want you to know who he is."

Then she called Gandalaz the giant, and said:

"Gandalaz, dost thou not know that this knight whom thou hast raised is the son of King Perion and Queen Elisena, and because of what I said to thee, thou hast taken and reared?"

"It is true," he said. Then he said to Galaor:

"My beloved son, know that he who made ye knight is your brother and is two years older than you, and when ye meet him, honor him as the best knight in the world and try to be like him in spirit and good will."

"Is it true?" Galaor said. "King Perion is my father and the Queen my mother, and I am the brother of such a fine knight?"

"Without a doubt," she said, "it is true."

"Thanks be to God," he said. "Now I tell you that I am more worried than before and my life is in greater danger, since it behooves me to be that which ye have said, damsel, so that they and all others shall believe it."

Urganda bid them farewell, and the giant and Galaor continued to travel as they were before. Galaor asked the giant who that wise damsel was, and he answered that it was Urganda the Unrecognized, who was called that because she often transformed and could not be recognized.

They arrived at a riverbank, and, because of the heat, they decided to rest there in a tent that they put up. Soon they saw a damsel coming down the road, and then another on a different road, and they met near the tent. When they saw the giant, they wanted to flee, but Sir Galaor ran to them and made them turn back, offering assurances. He asked them where they were going. One of them said:

"I have been sent by my lady to watch an amazing battle in which a lone knight will fight the mighty giant of the Rock of Galtares, and to bring back news about it."

The other damsel said:

"I am amazed by what ye say, that there is a knight so mad as to dare such a feat, and although I am traveling elsewhere, I want to go with you to see something that insane."

They were about to leave, but Galaor told them:

"Damsels, ye ought not go, for we are also going to see this battle. Go in our company."

They agreed, and they were very pleased to see him so handsome and dressed as a new knight, which made him look even better. They all ate and rested. Galaor took the giant aside and said:

"Father, I would prefer that ye stay behind when I go to the battle. Without you I will get there faster."

He said this so the damsels would not know that he was the one who was going to fight and would not suspect that he had the spirit to try such a thing. The giant agreed against his will.

Galaor put on his armor and got on the road, along with both damsels and three squires that the giant ordered to go with him and who carried weapons and everything that was necessary. He traveled until he was two leagues from the Rock of Galtares, where they spent the night in the house of a hermit.

Galaor learned the good man was ordained, and he made his confession to him. And when he said that he was going to enter into that battle, the priest was frightened and said:

"Who has made ye so mad as to do that? In this entire region there are not ten knights that would dare to do it, because the giant is so brave and frightening and merciless. And ye are too young to put yourself in such danger and to lose your body and even your soul, for those who knowingly put themselves in the path of death when they could avoid it, kill themselves."

"Father," Sir Galaor said, "God may do His will with me, but I would not avoid the battle by any means."

The hermit began to weep, and said to him:

"Son, may God give you help and strength, since this is what ye wish to do, and it pleases me to find that you are living faithfully."

Galaor asked him to pray to God for him. There they spent the night, and the next day, having heard Mass, Galaor put on his armor and went to the Rock, and when he arrived, he saw that it was very tall with many high towers, which made the castle seem marvelously beautiful. The damsels asked Galaor if he knew the knight who was going to fight. He told them:

"I believe I have seen him." Galaor asked the damsel who had been sent by her lady to see the battle if she had been told who it was.

"That can only be known by the knight who will fight."

And as they spoke, they arrived at the castle. Its gate was shut. Galaor called, and two men appeared over the door, and he told them:

"Tell Albaban that Gandalaz's knight is here and comes to fight him, and if he tarries, no man shall leave or enter whom I shall not kill if I can."

The men laughed and said:

"Thy rancor will not last long, because either thou shalt leave, or thou shalt lose thy head."

They went to talk to the giant, and the damsels came up to Galaor and said:

"Dear sir, are you the champion in this battle?"

"Yes," he said.

"Oh, my Lord!" they said. "May God help you and let ye conclude this with honor. What a great feat ye undertake! May fate be with you, but we do not dare to wait here for the giant."

"My dears, fear not and watch what ye came to see, or go back to the house of the hermit, where I shall go if I do not die here."

One of them said:

"Whatever happens, no matter now bad, I want to watch what I came for."

Then they backed away from the castle and hid themselves in the edge of a forest, where they were ready to flee if things went poorly for the knight.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cooking medieval

In which we observe that history tastes good.

[Nazrid Palace, la Alhambra, Granada, Spain, built during the 13th and 14th centuries. Photo by Cindy Van Vreede.]


"... and they gave them supper." (Chapter 9) What did Amadis and Agrajes eat?

We will never know, but some medieval Spanish recipes are still available to us. Here is a simple meal ye can make at home. Remember to include bread, olives, and wine.

Rabbit a la medieval

This recipe comes from Toledo. Rabbit is still common in Spanish supermarkets, but you can substitute chicken.

salt to taste
a handful of parsley
two spoons of vinegar
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
olive oil
one rabbit (or chicken), cut in quarters or pieces

Crush the garlic, salt, and parsley in a mortar, and add vinegar and oil to make a paste. Spread over the rabbit, and bake in a 180C/350F oven for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Al-Andalus onions

Note the Moorish influence.

medium-sized onions
ground cinnamon, nutmeg, or other sweet spices (I recommend ginger)
honey or sugar, if desired

Peel the onions and cut a cross at the root end. Arrange them in a cooking pan next to each other, but not crowded. Sprinkle with salt, saffron, and spices. Cover with water and add a little butter. Cover and cook over a slow fire for about 20 minutes until the onions are tender and the water has evaporated. Uncover, add the honey or sugar, raise the fire, and carefully caramelize the onions.

Almond pudding (Menjar blanc)

From the Libro de Sen Soví, a 14th-century Catalan cookbook. You can substitute a liter of cow milk for the almond milk. Sancho Panza liked this with cooked with chicken breasts (Don Quixote de la Mancha, Chapter LXII).

400g/2 cups blanched and skinned almonds
1 liter/quart boiling water
1 cinnamon stick
1 piece of lemon peel, yellow part only
200g/1 cup sugar
6 tbsp. rice flour (or cornstarch)

Grind or finely chop the almonds. Place in a bowl and pour boiling water over them, let sit for at least 10 minutes, and pour through a cheesecloth, squeezing it tight. Put in a saucepan, add cinnamon, lemon peel, and sugar. Simmer for a few minutes. Dissolve the flour in a little liquid and add, stirring constantly until thickened, and simmer a few minutes more. Pour into a mold and chill.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Chapter 11 [first half]

How the giant brought Galaor to be armed by the hand of King Lisuarte, and how Amadis knighted him very honorably.

[Inner defensive wall of the Moorish castle of Gilbralfaro, built between the 7th and 11th centuries near the port of Málaga, Spain. Photo by Cindy Van Vreede.]


Sir Galaor was with the giant, as we have told you, learning to ride horses and fight with swords and all else necessary to be a knight. He was now very skilled, since the year had passed that the giant had set for him to learn it, so he said:

"Father, I ask you to make me a knight now, since I have done all that ye ordered."

The giant, who saw that it was time, said to him:

"Son, it would please me. Tell me whom ye wish to do it."

"King Lisuarte," he said, "whose fame has spread so wide."

"I shall take you there," said the giant.

Three days later, when everything had been prepared, they began traveling, and on the fifth day found themselves near a very stout castle surrounded by a salt-water moat. The castle was named Bradoid and was the most beautiful in all that land, and it sat on a tall rock. Water flowed on one side, and on the other side there was a large marsh. The only way to enter on the water side was by boat, and on the marsh side there was a causeway wide enough that carts could go both ways, but at the entrance to the marsh, there was a narrow drawbridge, and when it was raised, the water beneath it was very deep.

At the entrance to the bridge there were two tall elm trees. The giant and Galaor saw two damsels and a squire beneath them, and an armed knight on a white horse who carried a shield that bore an insignia of lions. He had ridden up to the bridge, which raised so he could not pass over it, and he was shouting at those in the castle.

Galaor said to the giant:

"If it please you, let us see what that knight will do."

Soon they saw two knights and ten unarmed foot soldiers come from the castle at the end of the bridge, and they asked the knight what he wanted.

"I would like to enter," he said.

"That cannot be," they said, "if ye do not fight with us first."

"If it cannot be otherwise," he said, "drop the bridge and come out to joust."

The knights had the foot soldiers lower the bridge, and one of the knights began to charge, with his horse running as fast as it could. The knight with the lion insignia, who carried his lance low, came at him, and they collided bravely. The knight from the castle broke his lance, and the other knight's lance hit him so hard that he was knocked to the ground with his horse on top of him. Then the knight with the lions went for the other knight, who had just begun to cross the bridge. The horses struck each other because both lances missed their targets. The lion knight hit the other knight with such force that both he and his horse fell into the water, and the knight died immediately.

The lion knight passed over the bridge and continued toward the castle. The villeins raised the bridge. The damsels on the far end alerted the knight. When he looked toward the soldiers, he saw three well-armed knights coming at him, who said:

"Ye crossed the bridge at a bad time, for death shall come to you in the water just as it did to him, who was more worthy than you."

All three charged at him and struck him so hard that his horse was knocked to its knees and he almost fell. They broke their lances and he was injured by two of them, but he struck one of them such that his armor did not withstand the blow, and the lance entered his ribs and came out the other side, both the iron and a portion of the shaft.

The lion knight bravely took his sword in hand and charged at the two remaining knights, and they at him, and a fierce battle commenced among them. But the knight with the lion insignia, fearing death, fought to be free of them, and struck one with such a blow of his sword on his right arm that he fell to the earth along with his sword. He began to run toward the castle, shouting:

"Come help, friends, for your lord is being killed!"

When the knight with the lion insignia heard him say that the other one was the lord of the castle, he wished more than ever to defeat him. He gave him such a blow on the top of his helmet that the sword reached the flesh. The other knight was so stunned that he was knocked from his stirrups and would have fallen if he had not caught the neck of his horse. The knight with the lions grabbed his helmet and pulled it off his head. The knight from the castle wanted to flee, but he saw that his opponent was between him and his castle.

"Ye are dead," said the knight with the lion insignia, "if ye do not yield and become my prisoner."

He greatly feared his sword, which he had already felt on his head, and said:

"Oh, good knight, mercy, do not kill me. Take my sword and take me prisoner."

But the knight with the lion insignia saw knights and armed foot soldiers leaving the castle. He grabbed the rim of the other knight's shield, put the point of his sword in his face, and said:

"Order them to turn back. If not, I will kill you."

The other shouted at them to turn back if they loved their lives. They saw the danger that he was in and did so. The knight with the lions said:

"Have the foot soldiers to drop the bridge."

He ordered it done immediately. Then the other knight took him and crossed the bridge, and when the knight from the castle saw the damsels and knew one of them, who was Urganda the Unrecognized, he said:

"My lord knight, if ye do not protect me from that damsel, I am dead."

"God help me, but I will not," he said. "Instead, I will do with you what she tells me." Then he said to Urganda: "Ye see here the knight who is lord of the castle. What do ye wish done with him?"

"Cut off his head if he does not return my lover, whom he holds prisoner in his castle, and if he does not deliver the damsel who took him from me."

"So be it." He raised his sword to frighten the other knight, who said:

"Oh, good lord, do not kill me. I will do whatever she says."

"Then do so without delay," he said.

The knight from the castle called one of his foot soldiers and told him:

"See my brother and tell him, if he wishes to see me alive, to bring out the knight right away and the damsel who brought him."

This was done. And the knight with the lion insignia came up to the freed prisoner and told him:

"Knight, ye see here your friend. Love her, for she went through great effort to free you from prison."

"Yes," he said, "I love her more than ever." Urganda went to embrace him, and he embraced her.

"What shall ye do with the damsel?" said the knight with the lions.

"Kill her," said Urganda. "I have suffered too much from her." Then she cast a spell that made her about to jump, trembling, into the water.

But the lion knight said:

"My lady, by God, do not kill this damsel, for I captured her."

"I shall leave her go this time for you, but if she fails me, she shall pay for everything."

The lord of the castle said:

"My lord, I have done all that ye ordered. Get me away from Urganda."

She told him:

"I set ye free in honor of he who defeated you."

The lion knight asked the damsel why she had almost jumped willingly into the water.

"My lord," she said, "there seemed to be torches burning on every part of me, and I wanted to protect myself in the water."

He began to laugh, and said:

"By God, damsel, it is madness to anger she who can avenge herself so well."

Galaor, who had seen it all, said to the giant:

"I would like this man to make me a knight. If King Lisuarte is so renowned, it is probably due to his grandeur, but this knight deserves fame for his valor."

"Then go to him," said the giant, "and if he does not do it, it will be to his harm."

Galaor went to where the knight with the lion insignia was, beneath some elms and accompanied by four squires and two damsels, and when he arrived, they greeted each other. Galaor said:

"My lord knight, I ask a boon of you."

That knight saw before him the most handsome man he had ever seen. He took him by the hand, and said:

"If it be right, I shall grant it."

"Then I beg you the courtesy to make me a knight without delay, so I shall not have to go to King Lisuarte, which is where I was going."

"My friend," he said, "it would be madness to fail to seek such honor from the greatest king in the world and to take it from a poor knight like me."

"My lord," said Galaor, "the grandeur of King Lisuarte would not give me as much courage as your great valor would, which I just saw you demonstrate. Do as ye promised me."

"Good squire," he said, "anything else that ye ask of me I would be happy to do, but this would not be an honor for me nor for you."

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Song and dance

As ye have heard, knights and damsels often enjoyed feasts and moments of rest and relaxation, which no doubt featured music and dance. But what music?

The Cantigas of Holy Mary, found in four 13th century parchment codices, contain medieval Spain's most important lyrical works. The 427 poems were written en Galician-Portuguese by King Alfonso X The Wise and include their corresponding musical notation adorned with extraordinary miniatures.

Among the songs are tales of miracles popular in the Middle Ages with praises to the Virgin Mary that are a testament to the Marian devotion that developed in parallel to the construction of the Gothic cathedrals.

But others involve celebration and dancing. You can hear many interpretations of these songs, including heavy metal, but these are more traditional:

Cantigas de Santa Maria, Cantiga CCV — shown above, or at:
Cántigas - 07 Eduardo Paniagua - Cantiga d'Ucles y Calatrava
The story of a wartime miracle. The words are in the comments:
"Oraçon con piadade oe a Virgen de grado,
e guard' á de mal por ela o que ll' é encomendado..."

Miniaturas de las Cantigas de Alfonso X
The music is the prologue to the Cantigas, and the video shows the miniatures in the codices, and a variety of musical instruments, some strange, some familiar.

Ensemble Obsidienne - Muito demostra a Virgen
Singing and dancing! Utterly charming.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Chapter 10

[Detail of St. Eulàlia Cathedral, Barcelona. Construction was begun in 1298 by King Jaume II. Photo by kdburke.]


How the Childe of the Sea was recognized by his father, King Perion, and by his mother, Elisena.
In the beginning, this story told how King Perion gave Queen Elisena, his lover, one of the two rings that he wore on his hand, each so like the other that no difference could be found between them; and how, when the Childe of the Sea was launched into the river in the ark, he wore that ring from his neck; and how later it was given to him with the sword by his foster-father Gandales. King Perion had asked the Queen several times about the ring, and she, ashamed to have him know what she had done with it, told him she had lost it.

Thus it happened that the Childe of the Sea was passing through a hall, speaking with a damsel, when he saw Milicia, daughter of the King, and the little girl was crying. He asked her what had happened. The girl said:

"My lord, I lost a ring that the King gave me to keep while he slept."

"Well," he said, "I shall give you another one, as good or better, to give him."

Then he took a ring from his finger and give it to her. She said:

"This is the one I lost."

"It is not," he said.

"In that case it is the ring most like it in all the world," the little girl said.

"Then it is even better to give him this one instead of another," said the Childe of the Sea.

He left her and went with the damsel to his room, where he lay down to sleep in one bed and she in the other bed that was there for her. The King awoke and asked his daughter for the ring, and she give her the one she had. He put it on his finger, believing that it was his, but then he saw the one she had lost laying at the end of the room. He picked it up, compared them, and saw that it was the one that he had given to the Queen. He said to the girl:

"What happened with this ring?"

She was afraid of him, and said:

"By God, my lord, I lost yours, and the Childe of the Sea came by here, and when he saw that I was crying, he gave me this one that he had, and I thought it was yours."

The King suspected that the great kindness of the Childe of the Sea, along with his surpassing handsomeness, had given the Queen improper thoughts. He took his sword, entered the Queen's room, shut the door, and said:

"My lady, ye always denied ye had the ring I gave you, and the Childe of the Sea just gave it to Milicia. How could it be that ye see it here? Tell me how he got it, and if ye lie, ye shall pay for it with your head."

The Queen, seeing how angry he was, fell at his feet and said:

"My lord, by God, have mercy! Ye suspect me wrongly. Now I shall tell you my sorrow that up until here I have kept from you."

Then she began to sob and strike her face with her hands as she told him how she had thrown their son in the river, along with his sword and that ring.

"By Holy Mary!" the King said. "I think he is our son!"

The Queen raised up her hands and said:

"May it so please the Lord of the world!"

"Let us go now, ye and I," said the King, "and ask him about his lineage."

Then they went alone to the room where he was, and found him sleeping peacefully, and the Queen could do nothing but weep over the King's unfounded suspicions of her. But the King picked up the sword that had been placed at the head of the bed, looked at it, and knew immediately that it was the one with which he had given many true blows. He said to the Queen:

"By God, I know this sword well, and now I believe what ye said more than ever."

"Oh, my lord," she said, "let us not allow him to sleep any longer, for my heart aches too much."

And then she went to him, took his hand, tugged him a little toward her, and said:

"My beloved lord, help me with my sorrow and suffering."

He awoke, saw her weeping hard, and said:

"My lady, what is this that ye suffer? If I can do anything to help you, tell me, and I will give my life to complete your orders."

"My dear," said the Queen, "help us by giving us your word about whose son ye are."

"May God help me," he said, "but I do not know. I was found, by great good fortune, in the sea."

The Queen fell dazed at his feet. He knelt before her and said:

"Oh, God, what is this?"

She said, weeping:

"Son, thou seest here thy father and mother."

When he heard this, he said:

"Holy Mary, what could this be that I hear?"

The Queen took him in her arms, turned and said:

"This is what God in his mercy has granted, son. He has let us remedy the error I made in fear. My son, I was the bad mother who threw you into the sea. Ye see here the King that engendered you."

The Childe knelt and kissed their hands, weeping many tears of joy, and thanked God for having rescued him from so many dangers in order, in the end, to give him such honor and good fortune to have this father and mother. The Queen told him:

"Son, do ye know if you have another name?"

"My lady, yes, I know," he said. "When I left the battle, that damsel gave me a letter covered with wax that I wore when I was thrown into the sea, and it says to call myself Amadis."

Then, taking it from beneath his shirt, he gave it to them and they saw what Darioleta herself had written by her own hand. The Queen said:

"My beloved son, when this letter was written I was deep in suffering and pain, and now I am in complete comfort and joy. Blessed be God! From here forward call yourself by this name."

"So I shall," he said.

And he was called Amadis, and in many other places Amadis of Gaul. The pleasure that his cousin Agrajes took this news, and that of everyone else in the kingdom, need not be told. Whenever lost children are found, however depraved and debauched they may be, their parents and family receive them with consolation and joy. Then imagine how it could be with him, who was a clear and shining paragon for all the world to see.

And so, leaving aside any further recounting of this, let us tell what happened next. The damsel of Denmark said:

"Amadis, my lord, I wish to go with this good news, which will give my lady great pleasure. Stay and give joy and happiness to those eyes that for your love have shed many tears.

Tears came to his eyes and streamed down his face, and he said:

"My friend, go commended to God, and I commend my life to you. May ye have mercy on me, but from my lady I would not dare to ask it, since she has already given me this great gift. I will be there to serve her soon bearing arms with an insignia like that which I carried in the battle with King Abies. Ye may know me by them, if there is no other way to recognize me."

Agrajes also said goodbye to him, and told him that the damsel for whom he had taken the head of Galpano to avenge her dishonor, had carried a message to him from Olinda, her lady, daughter of King Vavayn of Norway, to go see him immediately. He had won her love while he and his uncle, Sir Galvanes, were in that kingdom. Sir Galvanes was brother of his father, and since he had no other inheritance than a single poor castle, they called him Ganvales Lackland. Agrajes said:

"My lord cousin, I would rather remain your company more than anything else, but my heart is so troubled that it will let me do nothing other than go to see her. Near or far, I am always in her power. But I want to know where I can find you when I return."

"My lord," Amadis said, "I think ye should find me in the court if King Lisuarte. They tell me chivalry is practiced better there than under any other king or emperor in the world. I beg you to commend me to your father the King and your mother, and they and ye may count on me in your service for having raised me so well."

Then Agrajes bid farewell to the King and to the Queen, his aunt, and he rode off with his party, accompanied by the King and Amadis to do him honor. As they left gate of the town, they met a damsel, who took the King's horse by the reins and told him:

"Remember, King, what a damsel said to thee, that when thou recoverest thy loss, the dominion of Ireland would lose its glory. See if she had told the truth, for thou hast recovered that son whom thou hadst lost and brave King Abies has died, who was the glory of Ireland. And I tell thee more, that Ireland shall never recover its glory under any lord until the arrival of the good brother of a lady, who arrogantly and by force of arms shall cause tribute to arrive from another land. He shall die at the hand of a man who himself shall be killed by the one who he most loves. This is Morlote of Ireland, brother of the Queen of Ireland. He kills Tristan of Leonis over the tribute demanded by his uncle, King Mark of Cornwall. And Tristan dies due to Queen Isolde, who is the person he loved most in the world. I was sent to tell thee this by Urganda, my lady."

Amadis told her:

"Damsel, tell your lady that the knight to whom she gave the lance commends himself to her, and now I see the truth in what she said, that with it I would liberate the house from which I first left, for I freed my father the King when he was at the point of death."

The damsel went on her way, then Agrajes bade farewell to the King and Amadis and went on his way, which is how we shall leave him until later.

King Perion ordered the court to meet so that all might see his son Amadis. They held many feasts and games in honor and in service of him, the lord whom God had given them, for they hoped to live in great honor and peace with Amadis and his father. There Amadis learned about the giant who had taken away his brother, Sir Galaor, and he pledged to strive to find out what happened to him and to take him back by force of arms or by any other means necessary.

Many things were done in that court, and many and grand were the gifts that the King gave, which would be too many to recount here. When they were done, Amadis spoke with his father, saying that he wished to go to Great Britain, and since the King had no need of him, asked for his permission to go. The King and the Queen tried hard to keep him, but there was no way to do it. The great ache for his lady never left him and allowed him no other obedience than to she who had subjugated his heart.

Amadis took with him only Gandalin and new arms to replace those that King Abies had cut to pieces in the battle. He left and traveled until he reached the sea, where he got on a ship and went to Great Britain, and took port at a good town named Bristol. There he learned that King Lisuarte was in one of his towns, Windsor; that he was very powerful and had a force of good knights; and that all the other kings of the islands obeyed him.

He left for Windsor and was not long on the road before he met a damsel who said to him:

"Is this the road to Bristol?"

"Yes," he said.

"By chance, do ye know if I might find there a ship that is traveling to Gaul?"

"Why are ye going there?" he said.

"I am going to ask about a good knight, son of the King of Gaul, named Amadis, who only recently met his father."

He was amazed and said:

"Damsel, from whom do ye know about this?"

"From she from whom nothing can be hidden, and who knew about his lineage before both he and his father did, for she is Urganda the Unrecognized. She has great need of him because only by him and by none other can she recover the man she desires."

"Merciful God," he said. "She from whom all need so much has need of me. Know, damsel, that I am he for whom ye ask. Let us go now wherever ye wish."

"Why, are ye the one I seek?" she said.

"I am without doubt," he said.

"Then follow me," the damsel said, "and I will take you to where my lady is."

Amadis left the road he was on, and entered the one that the damsel led him down.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A portion of the original text

At the request of ye who wish to enjoy the original Spanish, here is the climax of the fight between Amadis and King Abies in Chapter 9, which I think is a exemplary of the style of the work overall. It sounds especially good read aloud.

This excerpt starts with: "The King took up his sword and what little remained of his shield and said..."

El Rey tomó su spada, y lo poco del escudo, y dixo:

—Por tu mal hazes este ardimiento que él te pone en este lazo donde no saldrás sin perder la cabeça.

—Agora haz tu poder —dixo el Donzel del Mar—, que no folgarás hasta que tu muerte se llegue o tu honra sea acabada.

Y cometiéronse muy más sañudos que ante, y tan bravo se herían como si estonces començaran la batalla y aquel día no ovieran dado golpe. El rey Abiés, como muy diestro fuesse por el gran uso de las armas, combatíase muy cuerdamente, guardándose de los golpes y hiriendo donde más podía dañar.

Las maravillas que el Donzel hazía en andar ligero y acometedor y en dar muy duros golpes le puso en desconcierto todo su saber, y a mal de su grado no le podiendo ya a sufrir perdía el campo, y el Donzel del Mar le acabó de deshazer con el braço todo el escudo, que nada dél le quedó, y cortávale la carne por muchas partes, assí que la sangre le salía mucha y ya no podía herir, que la spada se le rebolvía en la mano. Tanto fue aquexado que bolviendo cuasi las espaldas andava buscando alguna guarida con el temor de la espada, que tan crudamente la sentía.

Pero como vio que no havía sino muerte, bolvió tomando su spada con ambas las manos y dexóse ir al Donzel, cuidándolo ferir por cima del yelmo, y él alçó el escudo, donde recibió el golpe, y la spada entró tan dentro por él que no la pudo sacar, y tirándose afuera diole el Donzel del Mar en descubierto en la pierna isquierda tal herida, que la meitad della fue cortada, y el Rey cayó tendido en el campo.

El Donzel fue sobre él tirándole el yelmo, díxole:

—Muerte eres, rey Abiés, si no ortorgas por vencido.

"Thou art dead, King Abies, if thou dost not surrender."