Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Chapter 34 [first half]

In which it is shown the perdition of King Lisuarte and everything that happened due to his promises, which should have been denied.

[A panel from the sepulcher of King Fernando I of Aragón, also called Ferran d'Antequera or Ferdinand the Just, 1380-1416. The tomb is in the Monastery of Poblet, Catalonia, but the panel, sculpted by Pere Oller, is in the Louvre Museum, Paris.]


Four days after Amadis and Galaor had departed, King Lisuarte and Queen Brisena, his wife, were in their tents with many knights and ladies and damsels, when a knight entered, the one who had left the cloak and the crown with them, as ye have heard. He knelt in front of the King and said:

"My lord, how is it that ye are not wearing the beautiful crown that I left you, and my lady and Queen, the rich cloak?"

The King was silent and did not wish give any response, and the knight said:

"I would be very pleased if ye were not delighted with them, for then ye would save me from losing my head in exchange or the boon which ye would have to grant. And if it is not to be, then have them returned to me, for by no means can I wait."

When the King heard this, it hurt him deeply, and he said:

"Knight, I cannot give you the cloak nor the crown, for I have lost them both, and since you need them so much, your plight hurts me more than mine, though they were very valuable."

"Oh, poor me, I am dead!" the knight said. He began to mourn so deeply it was amazing, and he said, "Woeful me, without good fortune, I am dead by the worst death that ever died a knight who so little deserved it!" Tears fell down his whiskers, which were as white as wool.

The King felt great pity for him and said:

"Knight, do not fear for your head, for ye shall have everything I have to protect it. This I promise you and this I shall do."

The knight fell at his feet to kiss them, but the King raised him up by the hand and said:

"Now ask for what ye please."

"My lord," he said, "it is true that ye were going to return my cloak and crown or give me whatever I asked for them. And God knows, my lord, that my intention was not to ask for that which I shall now demand, and if there were anything else in the world that would help me, I would not anger you with it, but I can do nothing else. I know well that it will be very hard for you to give, but it would be even worse for such a man as yourself to fail keep your word. It will hurt you to give it to me, and it will hurt me to receive it."

"Now, ask," said the King, "for what I have cannot be so costly that you shall not have it."

"Many thanks," the knight said, "but I must ask your assurance now that no one in your court will do me any harm or violence over my boon, and that ye yourself give me such assurance, for in no other way will your honesty be protected nor shall I be satisfied if by one hand ye give me it and by another ye take it back."

"What ye ask is wise," the King said, "and so I shall grant it and order it to be proclaimed."

Then the knight said:

"My lord, I cannot be saved from death except by my crown and cloak, or by your daughter Oriana, and now give me whichever ye will, though I would prefer to receive what I gave you."

"Oh, knight!" the King said, "ye have asked me for much."

And all who were listening felt so sad that more sorrow would not have been possible, but the King, who was the most loyal man in the world, said:

"Do not feel sad, for it would be better to lose my daughter than to fail to keep my word. The former is a loss to only a few, while the latter would be a loss to all and would create more danger, because if people could not feel secure in the words of their lords, it would be hard to preserve true love among them, and where there is none, little good can come of it."

And he ordered that his daughter be brought immediately.

When the Queen and her ladies and damsels heard this, they began to make the greatest mourning in the world, but the King ordered them to retire their rooms, and ordered all his men not to weep under penalty of losing his affection. He said:

"Now what happens to my daughter shall be what God holds to be good, but my word shall not to my knowledge be proven false."

At this time the very beautiful Oriana arrived and fell stunned at his feet. She said:

"Father, my lord, what is this that ye wish to do?"

"I do it," he said, "so as not to go back on my word." And he said to the knight, "Ye see here the boon ye asked for. Do ye wish her to have a retinue?"

"My lord," the knight said, "I bring only two knights and two squires with me, those who came with me to Windsor, and I cannot take a retinue, but I tell you that there is nothing to fear until I put her in the hand of he to whom I must give her."

"If ye wish, let a damsel go with her," the King said, "because it will be more honorable and honest for her to not go alone with you."

The knight agreed. When Oriana heard this, she fell as if she were dead, but this did nothing. The knight wept as he took her in his arms, for he seemed to do this against his will, and gave her to a squire who was on a large and powerful horse. He set her in the saddle and sat on its haunches.

The knight told him:

"Hold her, do not let her fall, for she is barely conscious, and God knows that this deed weighs on no knight in all the court heavier than on me."

The King had the Damsel of Denmark come, and ordered her put on a palfrey, and said:

"Go with your lady and do not leave her side no matter what happens to you, either good or ill, for as long as they let you be with her."

"Oh, poor girl!" she said, "I never expected to depart like this."

Then they began to leave, and the big, strong knight who did not wish to remove his helmet in Windsor took the reins of Oriana's horse. Know ye that he was Arcalaus the Sorcerer. As they left the courtyard, Oriana sighed deeply, as if her heart were breaking, and she said to herself, only half-aware:

"Oh, my good friend! At a potent moment this boon was given, and because of it, ye and I are dead."

She said this about Amadis because she had allowed him to leave with the damsel, but the others thought that she said it for herself and her father.

They led her into a forest, traveling fast until they left the road and entered a deep valley. The King mounted a horse with a club in his hand to make sure no one tried to stop them because he had guaranteed their safe passage. Mabilia, who was weeping loudly from a window, saw Ardian, Amadis's dwarf, passing on a large, fast horse near the castle wall. Full of distress, she called out to him:

"Friend Ardian, if thou lovest thy lord, do not rest by day or night until thou findest him and tellest him of the misfortune that has been done here. If thou dost not, thou shalt be a traitor, for it is certain that what he would most want now is to know what has happened in this city to his love."

"By Holy Mary!" the dwarf said, "he shall know it as fast as possible."

He whipped his horse and took the road to see his lord at full speed.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Links: Medieval life on the Internet

Visit a castle, cook a meal, go jousting, or just enjoy the scenery.

[A tournament of Foote will be held at Scarborough Castle on June 26 and 27 in North Yorkshire, England, an English Heritage event.]


English Heritage
If you'll be visiting Great Britain, this will make your visit spectacular. English Heritage protects and promotes England's historic environment. Visit abbeys, castles, ruins, stately homes and palaces, special events, and historic re-enactments. Overseas Visitor Passes available.

Ozark Medieval Fortress
If you'll be in Arkansas, USA, you can visit a castle under construction, built with 13th-century techniques – a carefully knotted rope is essential. You can even volunteer to help.

The Food Timeline
Wherever you are, you'll need to eat. This site, which is collection of links, starts with pre-historical foods and brings us to 2010. You'll need a well-supplied spice cabinet to cook medieval – roast swan, for example. Don't forget the wine.

Living The Life Of The 'American Jouster'
NPR interviews Richard Alvarez about his documentary, American Jouster, which explores the world of Renaissance Festival knights and tournaments. Jousting is risky work, Alvarez says, and you can get hurt, but the pay isn't bad.
Châteaubriant, France
Visible and infrared light recorded by NASA's Terra satellite was combined to make this simulated natural color image of the city and its surrounding area. The city began when a man named Briant erected a castle there in the 11th century as part of Brittany's defense line against France. A sharp eye can see the vestiges of medieval development.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Chapter 33 [final half]

[How Galaor did what Amadis could not and thus saved them both from Lady Madasima's prison.]

[The interior of the prison known as the Ambassador's Tower or Tower of Inscriptions at Yedikule Castle, Istanbul. Built by the Ottomans, it held foreign emissaries who fell out of favor with the sultans. They often scratched their names and last words on the walls of their tiny cells before their execution. Photo by Sue Burke.]


I tell you that at that moment, Amadis wished he were dead, not because of the pain he was in, for he knew better than anyone how to endure such a thing, but because of the agreement that the lady wanted them to make. If he did not do it, he might soon be put where he could never see his lady Oriana, but if he did it, he would have to be parted from her all the same because he could not live in the household of her father. And so he went so lost in thought that he forgot all else in the world.

The old knight who had rescued him thought that he was suffering because of his injury, and that troubled him greatly, because the damsel who had brought them there said he was the most valiant and daring knight at arms the world had ever known. The damsel was his daughter and she had begged him by God and by mercy to try to protect them from death, or everyone would hold her guilty of treachery. And she said he was Amadis of Gaul and the other was Galaor, his brother, the giant-killer.

The knight knew full well why they had been brought there, and it hurt him to see them treated that way, being such great knights at arms. He wished to save them from death if he could, but death was close at hand.

He approached Amadis and said:

"Does your injury hurt you badly? How are ye?"

When Amadis heard the knight speak, he raised his face and saw that it was the old knight who had protected him when the other knights had wanted to kill him. He said:

"My friend and lord, no wound can hurt me, instead I am hurt by a damsel who led us to such betrayal. She came asking for help, and she did us great treachery."

"Ah, my lord," the knight said, "it is true that ye were betrayed, and by chance I know more about you than ye think. And may God help me and keep me from harm, I would make amends if there were a way to do so! I wish to give you some advice that would be good to take and will do you no harm: if they were to find out who ye are, there is nothing for you but death, and nothing in the world could help you escape it. Instead do this: Ye are very handsome and well-built, and the lady will have heard that ye are the best knight in the world. Ask her to marry or win her love some other way, for she is the kind of woman who does as her heart pleases. Either by your skill or by your handsomeness, which is extreme, ye can achieve one of those two things. And if she wishes to grant it, make it happen soon, for she will no doubt send a messenger to find out who ye are tonight from where we are going to sleep. I also want to tell you that in truth the damsel who led you here has not wished to tell her, denying that she knows, for this way and with my help, ye might be freed."

Amadis, who feared his lady Oriana more than death, told the knight:

"My friend, God may do His will with me. But what ye suggest shall never be, even if the lady were to beg me and by it I were released."

"Truly," the knight said, "I am amazed by that, for ye are at the point of death and ye will not try anything to escape it."

"I would not take such an escape if God wished it," Amadis said. "But speak to this other knight, whom with more right than me ye can praise."

The knight then went to Galaor and told him what he had told his brother, and Galaor was very happy to hear it. He said:

"My lord knight, if ye were to arrange it so I could ride alongside the lady, we shall always be at your honor and command."

"Let me go and speak with her now," the knight said, "and I will think of some way to do it."

Then he rode forward, and when he reached the lady, he said:

"My lady, ye have two prisoners here but ye do not know who they are."

"Why do ye say that?" she said.

"Because ye now have the best knight at arms that I know of and the most accomplished in all ways."

"Would he be Amadis," she said, "whom I so much want to kill?"

"No, my lady," the knight said. "I only say that because this man coming toward us, besides his great skill, is the most handsome young knight I have ever seen. Ye foolishly dislike him, which is vile, since however he may have come to be a prisoner, he never deserved it from you, and ye despise him over someone else. Honor him and show him your good side, and it could be that he will bring you pleasure sooner than any by other way."

"Then I shall wait for him," she said, "and I will see what kind of man he is."

"Ye shall see," the knight said, "that he is one of the most handsome knights that ye have ever seen."

At this time Amadis came to Galaor and said:

"Brother Galaor, I see that ye are angry and in danger of death. I beg you to take my advice this time."

"I shall do it," he said, "and may God give you more humility than fear."

The lady turned her palfrey and looked at Galaor and saw him better than she had at night, and he seemed the most handsome man in the world. She said:

"Knight, how goes it for you?"

"Lady," he said, "it is not going as it would for you if ye were in my power the way I am in yours now, because I would give you much service and pleasure. I do not know why ye are doing the complete contrary to me, for I do not deserve it from you, and I would rather be your knight. I would serve you and love you as my lady and not be put into prison, which will bring ye so little good."

The lady looked at him and felt taken by him more than by any other man she had ever seen or met, and she said:

"Knight, if I were to take you as a friend and release you from imprisonment, would ye leave the company of King Lisuarte and tell him that ye do so for me?"

"Yes," Galaor said, "and I would do anything ye ask. And my companion would do the same, for he will do whatever I order."

"That makes me very happy, and now agree to say so in front of all those knights, and I shall agree to do immediately what ye ask and free you and your companion from imprisonment."

"I am very content," Galaor said.

"Then I want it all to be agreed in front of a lady where we are going to lodge," she said, "and if ye promise not to leave, I shall have your hands untied and ye shall ride free."

Galaor called Amadis and told him to agree not to leave the lady. He did so. She immediately ordered their hands untied. Galaor said:

"Also order our squires to be freed, for they shall not leave us."

And so they were freed, and they were given a palfrey without a saddle to ride.

Thus Galaor spent the entire day talking with Madasima. At sunset they arrived at a castle called Abies where the lady received them very well, for there was much love between the two women. Madasima said:

"Galaor, do ye wish to fulfill the agreement that we have made?"

"I will gladly do so," he said, "and ye should fulfill that which ye promised."

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

Then she called the lady of the castle and her two sons who were knights, and she told them:

"I want ye to witness an agreement that I will make with these knights." And she said about Sir Galaor: "This knight is my prisoner and I wish to make him my friend, along with his companion. I have made this pact with them: they shall leave King Lisuarte and tell him that they do it for me, and I shall release them and set them free. Ye and your sons shall be with them before King Lisuarte and see that they fulfill it, and if not, ye shall proclaim and publish what happened so that all shall know. I give them ten days to do it."

"My good friend," said the lady of the castle, "I shall be pleased to do as ye say as soon as they agree to it."

"We agree," said Sir Galaor, "and may this lady fulfill what she has promised."

"I shall do that at once," she said.

And it was as ye hear. And that night Sir Galaor was conjoined with Madasima, who was very beautiful and rich, and a noblewoman, but easier to acquire than she should have been, and she was more taken by him than by any other man she had ever seen.

The next morning she ordered them given their horses and arms, and released them, and she continued on to Gantasi, which was the name of her castle. They took the road to London, where King Lisuarte was, very happy to have escaped from that betrayal, and they thought they could be exempted from their promise with honor. That night they lodged with a hermit, where they ate a very humble supper, and the next day they continued on their journey.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Quixote Hip Hop: Hipjote

Spain's best hip hop artists celebrated the 400th anniversary of the publication of Don Quijote de la Mancha.

[Photo by SNEO Mestizaje Projects.]

I wrote this piece in 2005, and now that I've looked again at the videos, I remember what a surprising night it was.


I was skeptical. An almost infinite number of events are being held this year in Spain for the 400th anniversary of the publication of the novel Don Quijote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes. Now, the immortal text was going to be performed as rap. Spanish National Radio 3, the National Library of Spain, and the Province of Castilla-La Mancha had teamed up to create "Quijote Hip Hop."

I wasn't sure librarians and politicians were hip people, although the line-up of performers included top names: La Excepción, Zenit, Artes, and Korazón Crudo, the DJ Zeta, the graffiti artist Soso33, and the Dani Pannullo Dancetheatre Co. They planned to turn the novel into urban poetry.

In an interview on the day of the event, the director of Spanish National Radio, Pedro Piqueras, declared that the show was "the most recent madness that Radio 3 has gotten involved in, mixing a universal classic with the new ways that today's youth speak, dance and express themselves."

Everyone wants to be mad these days. It's the quixotic thing to do.

The debut on Friday night, June 17, at the steps of the National Library was free, and my husband and I went. We arrived at sunset, 10:15 p.m. The garden in front of the library was packed. We found a spot on the crowded sidewalk behind the high iron fence. Slowly, the street behind us and finally the median strip filled with people, mostly young, but a number with gray hair and a few parents with small children.

Soon, a relaxed and friendly producer mounted the library's majestic steps and explained the work, adding that some of the weird sounds in the music they were about to hear were by instruments from the age of Cervantes, such as a forerunner of the violin. He invited the audience to return during the daytime to see the library's historic exhibit about El Quixote, "Biography of a Book."

The statues of Saint Isidoro and King Alfonso the Wise towered over him in the staircase. The statue of Cervantes stood near the door in a spotlight. Panels by the entrance would display a light show. It was a hot night, and women fanned themselves.

Then fog billowed from the velvet curtains in the ornate formal entrance to the library. Music began. Zenit, a young man dressed in loose, black clothing walked out and declaimed:

En un lugar de La Mancha cuyo nombre recordar no quiero
dió comienzo aquesta historia del hidalgo
de antigua adarga, flaco rocín y corredor galgo
convertido en andante caballero.
Retales de viejos metales fueron su armadura
y un equino lleno ya de males su cabalgadura,
llano el escudero compañero de aventuras
y una moza labradora el objeto de sus locuras....
...el más famoso caballero andante por doquier,
más que Belianis de Grecia, más que Amadís de Gaula.
Aquí les dejo con esta versión rap que estos MCs han hecho de la andadura
de el Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de La Mancha, el Caballero de la Triste Figura.

(In a place in La Mancha whose name I don't want to remember / arose this story of a nobleman / with an old shield, a skinny nag and a racing greyhound / changed into a knight-errant. / Scraps of old metal served as armor / and a horse already sick as his steed / a simpleton squire as companion for his adventures / and a farm girl as the object of his madness... / ... the most famous knight-errant anywhere, / more than Belianis of Greece, more than Amadis of Gaul. / Here I bring you this rap version that these MCs have made about the deeds / of the Ingenious Nobleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, the Knight of the Woeful Countenance.)

Watch it here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPRa_JyEe7M - professional video.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFddRFUies8&feature=related - fan video.

The audience cheered and applauded. They were fans of the performers. As the hour-long performance went on, a few danced, but not many. They were too busy listening.

I can't exaggerate the importance of Don Quijote in Spain — like Shakespeare in English-language culture, maybe even more. The rappers and the entire crew took their task seriously.

It worked. There was a match. Hip hop is all about words, and a book is nothing but words. Spanish language has the innate rhythm and easy rhyme to make the verses fall naturally. The assertive nature of hip hop mirrored the depth of the novel. As Korazón Crudo said: "Four hundred years and still the same / it's the essence of a human being. . . . Beauty and love have meaning. ... Passion isn't crazy."

The hip hop artists also proclaimed the importance of books, praised literature and culture, and proudly cited the portions of the text that their songs encompassed.

The encore, delivered by Korazón Crudo, reprised Chapter 3.

More videos:

The words to the raps here: