Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Chapter 13 [first half]

How Amadis left Urganda the Unrecognized and came to a fortress, and what happened to him there.

[Detail from the portico of San Martín Church, Segovia, built in the 11th century. This chapter contains a fine medieval sermon, as ye shall see. Photo by Katheline Vernati-Finn.]


Amadis left Urganda in high spirits, because he had learned that the man he had made a knight was his brother, and because he knew he would soon be where his lady was, for though he might not see her, it would be a great comfort to see the place where she was.

He traveled a long way through a forest without finding a town, and when night fell, a little further on he saw lights over the trees, and he headed that way, thinking he would find shelter. He left the road and rode until he came to a beautiful fortress, and the lights in the windows of one of its towers were from torches, and he heard voices of men and women singing and celebrating.

He called at the gate, and they did not hear him, but in a little while the people in the tower looked through the crenels and they saw him calling. A knight said to him:

"Who are ye that calls at this hour?"

He replied:

"My lord, I am a knight and a stranger."

"So it seems," said the man on the wall. "Ye are strange, for instead of traveling by day, ye travel by night, but I think that, since ye have no reason to fight us, ye shall find nothing but the devils of the night to fight."

Amadis told him:

"If there were any goodness in you, ye might see that sometimes those who travel by night cannot help doing so."

"Go away now," the knight said, "for ye shall not enter here."

"God help me," Amadis said, "I venture that ye do not wish anyone worthy in your company. But before going, I would like to know your name."

"I shall tell thee," he said, "provided that, when thou meetest me, thou shalt fight with me."

Amadis, who was angry, agreed. The knight said:

"Know that I am named Dardan, and there can be nothing so bad in this night that the day on which thou meetest me shall not be worse."

"Then I wish to fulfill this promise now. Let the light of these torches shine on our battle."

"What?" Dardan said. "I not only have to fight someone like you, but I have to take up arms during the night? Cursed be he who wears spurs and arms in search of honor!"

Then he left the wall, and Amadis continued on his way.

Here the author denounces arrogance and says:

Ye prideful men and women, what do ye desire? What are your thoughts? I beg you to speak to me of your physical beauty, your great courage, or the burning in your heart. By good fortune did ye inherit it from your parents, buy it with your riches, acquire it in the schools of wise men, or win it through the mercy of great princes? Surely ye shall say no. Then, where did ye get it? It seems to me from the Lord most high, from Whom all good things arise and come.

And to this Lord, what thanks, what services have ye given in repayment? Surely none other than to disdain the virtuous and to dishonor the good, to mistreat those who have taken His holy orders, to kill the weak with your great arrogance, and to offer many other insults to Him, believing, it seems, that thus ye shall gain fame and honor in this world, and thus with a little penitence at the end of your days ye shall gain the glory of next world.

Oh, what vain and mad thoughts! Ye pass your time doing these things without repentance, without giving atonement to the Lord as ye ought, saving it all for that sad and dangerous hour of death, which ye do not know when or in what form it shall come!

Ye shall say that the power and grace of God is great, as is His mercy, and that is true. But still ye ought use your power to conquer your ire and brutality in time to free yourself from those things that He holds loathsome, because by making yourselves worthy, ye might worthily achieve His pardon. Consider, not without cause, the cruel inferno that He has established.

But now I wish to leave aside that which ye do not see and to speak to you of that which we have seen and read. Tell me, why was the evil Lucifer thrown down from Heaven into the abysmal pit? For no other reason than for his great pride. And that mighty giant Nimrod, the first to lord over all humanity, why was he left abandoned, like a brute and senseless animal, to waste away his remaining days in the desert? For no other reason than because, by his great pride, he wished to make a stairway like a road [up the tower of Babel] on which he thought to climb to the heavens and rule them.

And why do we say that by Hercules the great city of Troy was devastated and destroyed, and its powerful King Laomedon killed? For no other reason than for the prideful message the King's emissaries delivered to the Greek warriors, who had arrived with a letter providing safe conduct to the port of Simoesis.

Many others could be told of who, due to evil and wicked pride, were lost in this world and in the next, which would strengthen this argument even more. But by being more prolix, it would be more tedious to read, so it shall not be recounted. It will only be brought to your mind that if those who in heaven and earth, where they had such great power and honor, by pride were lost, dishonored, and perverted, what fruit is there in those vile words said by Dardan and by others like him? What authority, in this world or the next, do they have or could they acquire? This story shall show you further along.

Greatly angered, Amadis left that very arrogant knight Dardan and went through a forest looking for a clump of thickets he could use for shelter. As he went, he heard voices up ahead, and spurring his horse, he soon arrived and found two damsels on their palfreys, and a squire with them. He neared them and greeted them. They asked where he came from at such an hour armed. He told them what had happened to him since nightfall.

"Do ye know," one of them said, "what the name of that knight is?"

"Yes, I do," he said, "for he told me, and he said it was Dardan."

"It is true," they said. "He is called Dardan the Arrogant because he is the most arrogant knight in this land."

"I well believe it," Amadis said.

And the damsels told him:

"Sir knight, our lodging is nearby. Stay with us."

Amadis agreed, and traveling together, they arrived at two tents set up where the damsels were lodging, and got off their horses. Amadis took off his armor, and the damsels were very pleased by his good looks. They enjoyed supper, and they put up a tent where he could sleep. Meanwhile, the damsels asked him where he was going.

"To the court of King Lisuarte," he said.

"We are going there also," they said, "to see what will happen to a lady who was one of the best looking and most noble in this land. All her worldly goods have been placed at trial by combat. She must appear in ten days before King Lisuarte with someone who will fight for her, but we do not know what will happen, because the one to fight against is the best knight there is now in all Great Britain."

"Who is that," Amadis said, "so esteemed in arms in a land where there are so many good knights?"

"The same one ye just left," they said. "Dardan the Arrogant."

"What is the reason for this battle?" he said. "Tell me, so help you God."

"My lord," they said, "this knight loves a lady of this land who is the daughter of a knight married to another lady, and the beloved told her suitor Dardan that she would never make love to him if he did not take her to the court of King Lisuarte to say that the estate of her stepmother ought to be hers, and he would fight for it against anyone who said the contrary. He did as his lover ordered. The other lady did not have the necessary evidence and said that she would provide a champion for herself before the King, and she did this because she was in the right, and she needs to find someone who will uphold her claim. But Dardan is such a good knight at arms that, right or wrong, everyone fears him."

Amadis was pleased by this news because the knight had been arrogant to him, so he could avenge his anger justly, and because the battle would be done before his lady Oriana. He began to think hard about it. The damsels noticed his concern, and one of them said:

"My lord knight, I beg you to have the courtesy to tell us what ye are thinking, if ye can say it properly."

"My friends," he said, "if ye promise me as trustworthy damsels to keep it secret and tell no one, I will gladly tell you."

They promised, and he said:

"I am thinking of fighting for that lady about whom ye told me, and I shall do so, but I do not wish anyone to know it."

The damsels held him in esteem for that, since he had been so highly praised in arms, and they said:

"My lord, your idea is good and very brave. God grant that it goes well."

And they went to sleep in their tents, and in the morning mounted up and got on the road. The damsels asked him that, since they had a ways to go and there were men of ill fame in the forest, not to leave their company. He agreed.

Then they rode together speaking of many things, and the damsels asked him, since God had brought them together, to give them his name. He told it and asked them to tell no one. And so they traveled, as ye heard, lodging in the wilds, resting in their tents with the provisions that the damsels had brought.

It happened that they saw two armed knights beneath a tree, who rode on their horses to block their way in the road, and one of them said to the other:

"Which of these two damsels do ye desire? I shall take the other."

"I want this damsel," the knight said.

"Then, I want that one."

And each one took his own.

Amadis told them:

"What is this, my lords. What do ye wish with the damsels?"

They said:

"We wish to make them our lovers."

"So easily ye want to take them against their will?" he said.

"Well, who shall take them from us?"

"I will," Amadis said, "if I can."

Then he took up his helmet and shield and lance and said:

"Now it would be wise to release the damsels."

"First," one of them said, "ye shall see that I know how to joust."

And they both let their horses charge fast and struck bravely with their lances. One knight broke his lance, and Amadis hit him so hard that he knocked him off his horse, head over heels. The straps on his helmet broke and it flew off his head. The other knight came at Amadis fiercely and hit him so that his hauberk failed and he injured him, but the injury was slight, and he broke his lance. Amadis erred in his aim and they struck each other with their horses and shields, but Amadis held his place against the other, pulled him from his saddle, and threw him to the ground. So the knights were left on foot with their horses loose.

Amadis took the damsels in front of him and left on the road until they came to a riverbank, where they ordered the tents to be put up and a meal prepared, but before he got off his horse, the two knights he had jousted with arrived, and they said:

"Now is the time to defend the damsels with your sword, as you did with your lance. If not, we shall carry them off."

"Ye shall not," he said, "as long as I can defend them."

"Then put down your lance," they said, "and let us do battle."

"I will do so," he said, "if ye come one by one."

He gave his lance to Gandalin, put his hand on his sword, and went at one of them, the one most likely to cause injury, and began his battle, but soon the knight was doing so badly that his companion came to help him, against his promise. And Amadis, when he saw that, said:

"What is this, knight? Do ye not keep your word? I tell you that I hold you to be nothing."

The knight came rested, and being brave, he attacked Amadis with great blows. But Amadis, seeing himself in battle with both, had no wish to be slow and hit the one who had arrived rested with all his strength on his helmet, and the blow glanced off and landed on his shoulder, where it cut the straps of his hauberk and the flesh and bones, so his sword fell from his hand. The knight took himself for dead and began to flee.

Amadis went at the other and hit him on the shield directly in front of his fist, sinking so deep it reached his hand and cut it open up to his arm. The knight said:

"Oh, my lord, I am dead!"

Then he let the sword fall from his hand and the shield from his neck. Amadis told him:

"This is not necessary, but I shall not let you go if ye do not swear that ye shall never take a lady or damsel against her will."

The knight swore it, and Amadis made him put his sword in its scabbard and the shield back on his neck, and let him go wherever he might get help. Amadis turned to the damsels next to the tents, and they told him:

"Truly, sir knight, we would have been dishonored if it were not for you, in whom there is more goodness than we knew, and we have great hopes that no only will ye find satisfaction for the arrogant words that Dardan spoke to you, but also for the lady who is placed in a grave confrontation, if fortune guides you to win the battle."

Amadis was embarrassed by the praise. He disarmed himself, and they ate and rested a while. Then they returned to the road and traveled until they came to a castle, where they were given shelter by a lady who did them great honors.

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