Monday, December 26, 2011

Chapter 53 [first part]

How Sir Galaor, Florestan and Agrajes left Firm Island in search of Amadis, and how they traveled a long time without finding any trace of him, so they arrived in complete despair at King Lisuarte's court. 

[Tomb of King Juan II of Castile (1406-1454) in Cartuja de Miraflores, a monastery near Burgos. Photo by Ecelan.] 

It has already been told to you how Sir Galaor and Sir Florestan and Agrajes left Firm Island to search for Amadis, and how they traveled through many lands separately, doing great deeds at arms in towns as well as in forests and mountains. But of them there will be no mention because they found nothing, as we have said.

Since at the end of a year they had learned nothing, they turned toward the place where they had agreed to meet, which was a hermitage a half-league from London, the city where King Lisuarte was, thinking that more likely at his court than anywhere else they could hear some news about their brother Amadis, since many diverse people always came there. The first to arrive at the hermitage was Sir Galaor and then Agrajes, and soon Sir Florestan with Gandalin.

When they were all together, they embraced with great pleasure, but when they learned that they had had no success, they began to weep fiercely because if they, with such good fortune in all other thing, had failed at this, then very little remedy and hope remained in the future. But Gandalin, who was no less sorry than any of the others to have lost Amadis, encouraged them to stop weeping, for it would do little or no good, and instead to begin to search again. He reminded them that their lord would do the same for any of them if they were in trouble, and how by losing him, they had lost a brother, the best knight in the world.

And so, taking his advice, they agreed first to go to court to see if they could find any news there, and then to look in every part of the world, on land and sea, until they knew if he was dead or alive.

With that agreement, having heard the Mass that the hermit said for them, they mounted their horses and rode toward London. It was the day of Saint John [June 25], and when they came close to the city, they saw before them the King, who was riding in the country with many knights to honor the day, both to celebrate the saint and because Lisuarte had taken the throne on that day.

When the King saw the three knights, he thought they might be knights-errant, and so he rode toward them, as one who honors and appreciates all such knights. When they saw him coming toward them, they took off their helmets and showed Sir Florestan which one was the King, for he had never seen him before.

When they got closer, many of the King's knights recognized Sir Galaor and Agrajes. Although they did not know Florestan, he seemed very handsome, and so before they arrived they believed he was Amadis. The King thought that his face resembled Amadis's more than any of his brothers.

When they reached the King, they had Florestan ride ahead to do him honor, and the King said to Galaor:

"I understand that this is your brother Sir Florestan."

"Yes he is, my lord," he said.

Florestan wanted to kiss the King's hands, but the King did not want to give them, and instead he embraced Florestan with great love, then the others, and with great pleasure he joined them to ride to the city. Gandalin and the dwarf, who saw them received in the same place where their lord had been received with honors and attention from everyone, felt great sorrow, so much so that the King and all others felt great pity for them and more for their lord, whom they all dearly loved.

The King asked the three companions if they had learned any news about Amadis, but they, with tears in their eyes, told him no, although they had traveled through many lands in search of him. The King consoled them by saying that the things of the world were like that, even for those who tried to protect themselves from great confrontations and danger by fleeing them, and even more so for others whose preference and duty was to seek them out and place their lives at the point of death a thousand times. He said they should place their hope in God, Who would not have given Amadis such good fortune in all things only to forsake him.

The news of the arrival of these knights reached the court of the Queen, and she and all the other women were very happy, especially the beloved of Agrajes, Olinda the Discrete, who already knew that he had successfully completed the test of the arch of loyal lovers, and Corisanda, beloved of Sir Florestan, who was waiting for him there, as has been told to you earlier.

Mabilia, who was very happy with the arrival of her brother Agrajes, went to Oriana, who was in her room sadly reading a book at the window. She told her:

"My lady, go to your mother, for Sir Galaor, Agrajes, and Florestan shall arrive there soon."

She responded weeping and sighing, as if her heartstrings were breaking:

"My dear, where do ye wish me to go, for I am not myself? In fact I am more dead than alive, with my face and eyes marked by tears, as ye see. And besides that, how could I see those knights in the company of whom I used to see my beloved lord Amadis? By God, ye wish to kill me, for this would be harder for me than death."

And then she said, weeping:

"Oh, Amadis, my dearly beloved! What shall this unfortunate wretch do when she does not see you among your brothers and friends, whom ye love so much and with whom ye used to see her? By God, my lord, this loneliness will be the cause of my death. And this shall be just, for I caused both our deaths."

She could not remain standing and fell on an estrado. Mabilia tried to raise her spirits and give her hope that her damsel would bring her good and happy news. Oriana told her:

"If these good knights-errant have searched for him so long and hard and have learned nothing, how shall the damsel, who is only going to one place, find him?"

"Do not think that way," Mabilia said, "For the way he left, he is probably fleeing from everyone, but he will come out of hiding for your damsel and be recognized, for she knows all the secrets of you and him, and can bring him the help that his life needs."

Oriana, somewhat encouraged and consoled by this, got up as best she could and washed her eyes and had Olinda called, and she went with them to where her mother the Queen was. When those three knights saw her, they felt great pleasure, and they went to her and were well received.

The King then said to Sir Galaor:

"See how your friend Oriana is beset and ill."

"My lord," he said, "I am very sorry for it, and rightly we all ought to serve her in whatever can bring her better health."

Oriana told him, laughing:

"My good friend Sir Galaor, God is the one who can remedy all illnesses and fates, and so, if it please Him, He shall help me and you, for ye have suffered such a great loss in losing your brother. May God help me, it would please me very much that the toils and dangers that ye have suffered in looking for him would come to the fruition ye wish, for by you and by him my lord the King has always been well-served."

"My lady," Sir Galaor said, "I have faith in God that we shall soon have good news, for he is not a man to fail before great trouble, and no other knight in the world knows how to maintain himself against all dangers."

Oriana felt greatly consoled by what Galaor had said. She took him and Sir Florestan with her and sat on an estrado, and she found great pleasure in looking at Sir Florestan, who greatly resembled Amadis, but who also made her very lonely for him, so much so that her heart broke.

Mabilia called her brother Agrajes and had him sit between her and Olinda, his beloved, who was very joyful and happy in knowing that for her love he had passed beneath the enchanted arch of lovers. She made him know well that she knew it by the loving reception she gave him, showing him great good will. Agrajes, who loved her more than he loved himself, thanked her with great humility, but he did not kiss her hands so that the secret of their love would not become known.

As they were thus speaking, they heard shouts and noise in the palace, and the King asked what it was. He was told him that Gandalin and the dwarf, when they saw the shield and arms of the famous knight Amadis, mourned deeply, and the other knights were consoling them.

"What," the King said, "is Gandalin here?"

"Yes, my lord," Sir Florestan said. "Fully two months ago I found him at the foot of Sanguin Mountain traveling in search of news about his lord, and I told him that I had already searched the entire mountain and had found nothing, and he agreed to travel with me because I asked him to."

The King said:

"I hold Gandalin to be one of the best squires in the world, and it would be right for us to console him."

Then he rose and went to Gandalin. And when Oriana heard Gandalin spoken of, she lost her color and she could not remain on her feet. But Sir Galaor and Sir Florestan held her up by her hands to go with the King. And Mabilia, who knew why she had fainted, came to her and put Oriana's arm around her neck.

Oriana said to Galaor and Sir Florestan:

"My good and loyal friends, if I do not see you and honor you as I ought, it is due not to my will, but the long illness I am suffering is the cause."

"My lady," they said, "this rightly ought to be believed, and because our great desire is to serve you in all things, it would not be right to believe that we seek some reward from your great virtue and goodness."

They left her and went to follow the King, and Oriana went to her room, where she lay on her bed, wracked with great groans and anguish, for she wished to see and be with him who by her will rather than any reason or agreement had gone away and disappeared. Oriana told Mabilia:

"My true friend, ever since we entered London, I have constantly suffered aches and anguish, so I think it would be good, if you agree, that we should go spend some time at my castle, Miraflores, which is a lovely place to stay. Although I firmly believe that my sad heart can find rest nowhere, there sooner than in another place I grant that it could be found."

"My lady," Mabilia said, "you should do so, both because of that and because if the Damsel of Denmark brings the news that we hope for, you may enjoy the pleasure of it right away and  so could he who ought to have it, since he has been so sad. Being here, neither you nor he could enjoy it."

"Oh, by God, my friend," Oriana said, "let us go there at once."

"First," Mabilia said, "you must speak with your father and mother, and since they desire your good health, they will do everything that ye wish."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Chapter 52

How the Damsel of Denmark left to search for Amadis, and how by fortune and after much labor, she docked at Poor Rock, where Amadis had the name of Beltenebros, and how they came to see his lady Oriana. 

[Illustration from Le recueil des histoires de Troye (The Book of the History of Troy), a French courtly romance written by Raoul le Fèvre in about 1464. Le Fèver was chaplain to Philip III "the Good," Duke of Burgundy. The book is now in the Bibliothèque Nacionale de France.] 

The Damsel of Denmark was with the Queen of Scotland for ten days, not so much because it pleased her but because the sea was stormy and dangerous. In addition, she had not heard news about Amadis in that land, where she had come with much hope to learn something, and she thought that bringing a poor notice to her lady would result in her death.

She bid farewell, gathered the gifts the Queen was sending to Queen Brisena and Oriana and her daughter Mabilia, and took to the sea to return from her errand without good fortune, but not knowing what more to do.

But when people seem to be without hope and aid, the Lord of the world wishes to show something of His power to make it understood to all that no one, no matter how wise or discrete, cannot be helped without His help. He changed her voyage, to the great fear and tribulation of herself and all those in the ship, to give them the end she sought with joy and good fortune.

So it was that the sea became rough, and a storm without comparison befell them. They rode the waves without a rudder or course, with sailors' intuition completely lost, and they had no confidence their lives would be saved. Finally one morning, as dawn broke, they docked at the foot of Poor Rock, which the sailors recognized, and some of them knew of Andalod, the holy hermit who lived in the hermitage at the peak.

They told that to the Damsel of Denmark, and because the danger had passed and certain death had given way to life, she ordered that they take her to the top of the peak so that, hearing Mass from that good man, she could give thanks to the Virgin Mary for the mercy her glorious Son had given them.

At that time, Beltenebros was at the spring below the trees as ye have heard, where he spent the nights, and his health had reached such a point where he did not expect to live two weeks more. From so much weeping and loss of weight, his face was sunken and dark, more than it would have been from a grave illness, and as a result no one could have recognized him.

He looked at the ship for a while and saw that a damsel and two squires were climbing up the peak, but now his thoughts were only in seeking death, and everything that until then he would have taken great pleasure in, such as seeing new people and getting to know them and helping them in their fortune, and anything like it, was abhorred in his great desperation.

He went to the hermitage and said to the hermit:

"It seems people have left a ship and are coming to you."

And he knelt before the altar and prayed, begging God to have mercy on his soul, which soon would be given to His account. The hermit dressed to say Mass, and the Damsel with Durin and Enil entered the door, praying, and then they removed the veil she wore over her face.

Beltenebros, after praying a while, rose and turned toward them, and he recognized the Damsel and Durin. His alteration was so great that he could not remain on his feet and fell on the ground as if dead. When the hermit saw that, he thought Beltenebros was at the final point of his life and said:

"Oh, Lord almighty, why hast Thou not taken pity on this man who could do so much in Thy service?"

Many tears fell down his white beard, and he said:

"Good damsel, have these men help me take this man to his room, for this is the final good deed ye could do for him."

Then Enil and Durin, with the hermit, took him to the house where he stayed and put him in a poor and simple bed, and neither of them recognized him.

The Damsel heard Mass, and wishing to eat on land, for the sea was still rough, happened to ask the hermit who the man was who suffered from such a grave illness. The good man told her:

"He is a knight who is doing penance here."

"His guilt must be great," she said, "if he wished to do it in a place so difficult."

"It is as ye say," he said, "but he does it more for the vain and fleeting things of this world than for service to God."

"I wish to see him," the Damsel said, "for ye tell me that he is a knight, and I can give him some things I bring in the ship that may give him aid."

"Do so," the good man said, "but I believe that his death is so near that it shall save you the trouble."

Alone, the damsel entered the room where Beltenebros was. He was unable to decide what to do, for if he let her recognize him, he would be disobeying his lady, but if not, then she, who was the only remaining help for his life, would leave him with no hope at all if she left without recognizing him. In the end, thinking it worse to anger his lady than to suffer death, decided not to make himself known in any way.

The Damsel came close to the bed and said:

"Good man, according to the hermit ye are a knight, and because damsels are much obliged to all knights for the great dangers in which they place themselves for our defense, I thought to see you and leave everything here from the supplies on the ship that ye need for your health."

He did not respond, yet he sobbed and groaned such that the damsel thought his soul would leave his flesh, and she felt great sorrow. Because there was little light in the room, she opened a small window that was closed and came to the bed to see if he was dead and began to study him, and he her, still weeping and sobbing. She stood there a while but never recognized him because she did not think to find the one she sought in such a place as that.

But when she saw a scar on his face that Arcalaus the Sorcerer had caused with the blade of his lance when he had taken Oriana from him, as has been told to you in the first book, she was reminded of what she had never expected to see there, and she recognized him clearly as Amadis. She said:

"Why, Holy Mary, help me! What is this that I see! Oh, my lord, ye are the one for whom I have made so much effort!"

And she fell on her face against the bed, and knelt and kissed his hands again and again, and told him:

"My lord, now ye must have pity and forgiveness against she who wronged you, whose evil suspicions put you unjustly in such straits. Because of that, she is rightly suffering a life more bitter than death."

Beltenebros took her in his arms and held her without being able to speak. She gave him the letter and said:

"Your lady sent you this, and would have me tell you that if ye are the Amadis that ye were, that she loves you so much that if ye can forget what has passed, soon ye shall be with her in her castle in Miraflores, where with much pleasure she shall made amends. Her overwhelming love for you has caused your pain and anguish."

He took the letter, and after kissing it many times, he put it over his heart and said:

"Oh, tormented heart, for so long and with so much anguish thou has shed so many tears, yet thou hast been able to sustain yourself almost up to the straits of cruel death. Receive this medicine, for nothing else could save thy health. Disperse these clouds of great gloom that up to now have covered thee. Take strength in how thou canst serve thy lady to prepay her mercy for taking thee from death."

Then he opened the letter to read it, and it said:

Letter from Oriana to Amadis

"If great errors done with enmity are worthy to be pardoned when they are changed into humility, then what shall become of those that were caused by an excess of love? Even so, my true beloved, I admit that I do not deserve much pity. Just as one ought to consider that in prosperity and happiness lie the reversals of fortune to place one in poverty, I rightly ought to have considered your discretion and your honesty, which up until now have never erred in anything. And above all my sad heart surrenders, for it is nothing unless it is enclosed by yours, and if it senses that by chance some of your ardor has cooled, mine has been the cause for which the mortal desires that it desires have subsided.

"But I erred as those women whose good fortune and great certainty in those they love was too much for them to bear, and more willfully than reasonably they take the words of innocent or lying people of little truth and less virtue, and try to obscure their great joy with the cloud of little sufferance. So, my loyal lover, as a guilty person who recognizes her error with humility, receive my damsel, who besides the letter will give you news of the extremity that my life is in, for which, not because it deserves it but because it may aid your own, ye may have pity."

Having read the letter, Beltenebros's happiness was so extreme that, just as in the past he had fainted with sorrow, he fainted now, unable to feel the tears falling down his cheeks. He soon made it known to all that he wanted those who had came with the Damsel, as a service to God, to take him from that place, where he could not get care for his health. This was done, and within the hour they had returned to the ship and headed for the shore.

But first Beltenebros bid farewell to the hermit and told him how that Damsel, by the mercy of God and great fortune, was brought there for his recovery. He implored him to take charge of the reformation of the monastery that he had promised to make at the foot of the cliff on Firm Island. He agreed, and Amadis headed out to sea, and only the Damsel knew who he was.

They arrived at land and the sailors said farewell to the Damsel. She and her company began to travel toward where her lady was. They found a village on a riverbank with many fine and beautiful trees, and at the Damsel's request they rested there so that Beltenebros could recover somewhat from his weakness.

And if his longing for his lady had not tormented him, he could have had a more agreeable life for his health there than in other part of the world, because beneath those trees, at the feet of which the springs flowed, he had dinner and supper. They spent the nights in the lodgings they had in the village.

There Amadis and the Damsel spoke of things in the past, and there she told him how his lady Oriana wailed and mourned when Durin returned after bringing him the letter, and how neither she nor Mabilia had known what she had written in it.

Beltenebros told her about his sufferings and the life he had had on Poor Rock, and the many and diverse memories that occurred to him each day. He told how Corisanda had come, the lover of his brother Sir Florestan, and the great anguish she had suffered for him. When he saw how she was dying for her beloved and knew how he himself had been discarded and abhorred by his own lover for no reason, it made him approach death more quickly. He told how he had taught Corisanda's damsels the song that he had written and many other things that would be lengthy to recount.

And so, now being free of the cruel death that had awaited him, he felt such joy that after the ten days that they rested there, he was so improved that his heart ordered him to take up arms. He made himself known to Durin, and took Enil, a nephew of Sir Gandales, his foster father, as his squire, without Enil knowing who he was nor whom he served, though Enil was content with him for his kind words.

They left there and after traveling four days, they arrived at a monastery of lay sisters near a fine town, where they agreed that the Damsel and Durin would leave, and he would stay with Enil awaiting orders from his lady. And so they did, and the Damsel left Beltenebros with the money he would need for arms and a horse and clothing. She deliberately forgot some of the gifts with him so that, when it was noticed, Durin could return with the reply.

She went on her way straight to Miraflores, where she expected to find her lady Oriana, given what she had said before the Damsel had left.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Summary, Book II through Chapter 51

Amadis will obey his lady Oriana in all things, which may cause his undoing. 

View of Madrid from the west, created in 1562 by Antoon Van Den Wijngaerde for King Felipe II. In the foreground is the Manzanares River. The medieval walls are still standing guard around the city. At the left on the bluff is the royal castle, which burned down in 1734 and was replaced by the present-day palace.

Beginning of Book II

Apolidon is a wise and mighty young knight whose parents are the King of Greece and a sister of the Emperor of Constantinople. He defeats a giant and takes over Firm Island, where he lives in great pleasure with his beloved, the sister of the Emperor of Rome. But after many years, he is called to rule Constantinople.

Before he goes, he sets an enchantment so that no one shall rule the island if they do not equal his fortitude at arms, his beloved's great beauty, and both their loyalty in love. He creates a arch at the entry to a garden that no one can pass through if they have erred from their first love.

Then he erects magic barriers of invisible warriors ready to attack at the entrance to the chamber where they had lived; no knight can pass them unless he surpasses Apolidon's skill at arms. But if the knight reaches the chamber, he will become lord of the island.

Chapter 44

Amadis, Galaor, Florestan, and Agrajes leave Queen Briolanja in the Kingdom of Sobradisa to rejoin King Lisuarte's court, but as they travel, they meet a maiden from Firm Island and decide to go there to test its enchantments.

Agrajes and Amadis pass through the arch of the loyal lovers; Florestan and Galaor do not even try. Instead, they attempt to enter the chamber and fail. Amadis tries and succeeds and becomes lord of the island, to the joy of all.

But as ye will recall, Oriana has been given bad information and believes that Amadis loves Queen Briolanja instead of her, so she sends him a letter withdrawing her love and ordering him never to come before her again. She orders a page named Durin, brother of the Damsel of Denmark, to deliver it.

Chapter 45

Durin reaches Amadis just after he has won Firm Island, but Amadis's squire, Gandalin, makes him wait to deliver the letter until after the celebration has ended, knowing that Amadis will overreact to whatever it says. Indeed, to Durin's distress, when Amadis finally reads the letter, he weeps and faints repeatedly with grief.

Amadis has lost the will to live. He leaves the island as secretly as possible to wander desolate in the mountains.

Chapter 46

Gandalin and Durin follow Amadis and listen as he mourns his cruel fate in long speeches addressed to fate, Oriana, his father, and many other people whom he loves and esteems.

Meanwhile, a knight passes nearby singing of his love for Oriana. Gandalin goes to Amadis and urges him to attack this knight, and Amadis easily defeats him, then says goodbye to Durin and leaves with Gandalin.

Chapter 47

A flashback reveals that the singing knight is named Patin and had come to King Lisuarte's court to woo Oriana. The King did not wish to give her to him, so he responded with an ambiguous answer to avoid offending him. Patin, though, he was sure he had won her and rode off joyfully.

Durin speaks briefly with Patin after his defeat by Amadis, then leaves to tell Oriana how Amadis has reacted to her letter.

Chapter 48

Galaor, Florestan, and Agrajes learn that Amadis has left Firm Island in sorrow, although they do not know why, and they ride off to find him. They find Patin, then decide to split up to search more widely, and to meet again at King Lisuarte's court.

Gandalin tries to talk some sense into Amadis but fails, and while Gandalin sleeps, Amadis leaves him to wander the mountains again. He rides until he meets a hermit at a spring. He convinces the hermit to allow him to live at the hermitage on an island named Poor Rock, where he can pass what little time remains in his life. Grief is killing Amadis, despite the hermit's counsel to abandon his sorrow as a worldly vanity.

At Amadis's request, the hermit gives him a new name: Beltenebros, which could be translated as "Handsome Gloom."

Gandalin searches for Amadis and meets some damsels who had found his armor, which Amadis had abandoned at the spring when he left with the hermit. A knight named Guilan the Pensive has taken the armor to King Lisuarte's court. Gandalin resumes his search.

Chapter 49

Durin tells Oriana how her letter made Amadis want to die. She faints with sorrow and guilt, but soon sends the Damsel of Denmark to Scotland to look for Amadis, thinking he would go there to see his foster father. If the Damsel finds Amadis, she will tell him to meet Oriana at her castle, Miraflores. But the Damsel does not find him.

Chapter 50

Sir Guilan the Pensive meets an evil knight on his way to King Lisuarte's court, defeats him in a perilous adventure, and continues on to the court to deliver Amadis's arms to the Queen. Everyone is distressed at their sight and wonders what has happened to Amadis.

Chapter 51

While Beltenebros is at the hermitage at Poor Rock, he composes a sad song. He knows that he is faithful and that Oriana is wrong, but he will obey her at the cost of his life.

One night, he hears damsels singing, and discovers that his brother Florestan's lover, Corisanda, has stopped there on her way to King Lisuarte's court to look for Florestan. He teaches the song to her damsels before they leave.

When Corisanda arrives at the court, she tells about meeting the sad Beltenebros, and Oriana and her friends realize that he is Amadis.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chapter 51 [second half]

[How Beltenebros's song came to be sung in the court of King Lisuarte, and what was understood of it there.]

[An illustration of a queen and musicians from De mulieribus claris, written by Giovanni Boccaccio in 1374, from a French version published in 1405.] 

After Mass was said, they carried the lady to Amadis's chamber and laid her in an exceptionally rich bed they had made there. She was weeping and wringing her hands over the great sorrow that she suffered. Beltenebros, when he saw her like that, asked the damsels, who had picked up their instruments to give her solace, what had happened and why she seemed so anguished.

They told him:

"Friend, this lady is very rich and of great nobility. She is beautiful, although now her illness has diminished that. Her anguish, although it is not told to others, we shall tell you if ye keep it secret. Know that her torment is over a very great love, and she is going to look for her lover in the court of King Lisuarte. May God help her find him there so that some of her suffering may be lessened."

When he heard them speak of the court of King Lisuarte and how the lady was dying of love like him, tears came to his eyes and he told them:

"I ask you, my ladies, to tell me the name of the man she loves."

"That knight whom we told you of is not of this land," they said, "and he is one of the best knights in the world, except for two who are very esteemed."

"Now I ask you," he said, "by the faith that ye owe to God, that ye tell me his name and these two that you speak of."

"We shall only if ye tell us if ye are a knight, which ye fully seem to be, and what your name is."

"I shall do so," he said, "to know that which I ask you."

"In the name of God," they said. "Now know that the knight that the lady loves is named Sir Florestan, brother of the good knight Amadis of Gaul and of Sir Galaor, and he is the son of King Perion of Gaul and the Countess of Selandia."

"May God be praised! Now I know that ye tell me the truth about his estate and skill, and I believe that ye could not tell all of how good he is, for he is better than anything ye could say."

"What?" they said. "Do you know him?"

"I saw him not long ago," he said, "in the court of Briolanja, and I saw the battle that Amadis and his cousin Agrajes fought with Abiseos and his sons, and I saw how after it was over, Florestan arrived, and he seemed to me to be very even tempered. I have heard his brother, Sir Galaor, speak often about his great skill at arms, for he had fought with him."

"That battle is why Florestan left," the damsels said, "because during it they found out they were brothers."

"What?" he said. "Is this the lady of the island where they had fought each other?"

"She is," they said.

"I believe her name is Corisanda," he said.

"That is true," they said.

"Now I feel less sorry for her illness," he said, "for I know well that he is so moderate and of such good will that he will always do what she orders."

"Now tell us who ye are," the damsels said.

"My good ladies," he said, "I am a knight, but I was more involved than I am now in the vain things of this world, which I am paying for, and my name is Beltenebros."

"May God have mercy on you," they said. "Now place yourself in His hands, and we must go to console our lady with these musical instruments."

And so they did, and entered her room and having played and sung a while, they told her everything that Beltenebros had heard about Sir Florestan.

"Oh," she said, "call him to me at once, for he must be a fine man since he saw Sir Florestan and met him."

And one of the damsels brought Beltenebros to her, and the lady told him:

"These damsels tell me that ye saw Sir Florestan and ye love him. I ask you, by the faith that ye owe God, to tell me what ye know about him."

He told her all that he had told to the damsels, and that he knew that he and his brothers and his cousin Agrajes had gone to Firm Island, and after that he did not see them again.

"Now tell me," Corisanda said, "if ye please, whether ye have some kinship with him, because to me ye seem to love him."

"My lady," he said, "I love him greatly for his valor and because his father made me a knight, for which I am much obliged to him and his sons. I am very sad over some news about Amadis that I heard before I arrived here."

"And what is this?" she said.

"When I was coming to this place," he said, "I saw a damsel in a forest next to the road I was traveling on, and she sang a song very pleasurable to hear. I asked her who had written it."

" 'It was composed," she said, "by a knight whom God ought to give more happiness than He had at the time, for according to its words, he had received a great affront in love and he was suffering deeply for it.'

"I stayed two days with the damsel until I had learned it, and she told me that Amadis had taught it to her weeping and mourning."

"I beg you," she said, "teach this song that ye speak of to my damsels so that they can play it on their instruments and sing it."

"It would please me to do it," he said, "for your love and for he whom ye most love, although now is not the time for me to sing or do things that are happy or pleasurable."

Then he went with the damsels to the chapel and taught them the song, and he had a very rare voice and his great sadness made it more sweet and agreeable. The damsels learned the song well and sang it to their lady, who took great pleasure in hearing it.

Corisanda was there for four days, and on the fifth she bid farewell to the hermit and Beltenebros, and asked him if he would be there for a long time.

"My lady," he said, "until I die."

Then they got on their ship and continued their voyage to London, where they hoped to hear news there sooner than anywhere else about Sir Florestan. She was well received by the King and Queen and all others, who knew that she was a lady of high estate, and they had her stay in the palace. The Queen asked why she had come, and said she would be willing to help, along with the King, if there was anything they could do.

"My lady," Corisanda said, "I am in your debt, but my quest is to find Sir Florestan, and because news from everywhere comes to your court, I want to be here for some time until I learn something about him."

The Queen said:

"My good friend, you can remain here as long as ye please, but, until now nothing is known about him except that he has left in search of Amadis, his brother, of whom it is not known why he has disappeared."

She told her how Sir Guilan had brought her Amadis's arms but had not learned anything about him. When Corisanda heard this, she began to weep fiercely, saying:

"Oh, God, my Lord, what will become of my beloved lord Sir Florestan, for the way he loves his brother, he may well also be lost if he does not find him, and I shall never see him again."

The Queen consoled her and regretted having given her that news. Oriana, who was next to her mother listening to the lady tell how she loved Sir Florestan, brother of Amadis, felt the desire to honor her, and accompanied her to her room, where she learned everything about her situation.

Speaking with her about many things, Corisanda told her and Mabilia how she was at Poor Rock and found a knight doing penance who taught her damsels a song that Amadis had composed about himself in his hour of great anguish, and he must have suffered deeply judging by the words of the song.

Mabilia told her:

"My good friend and lady, I ask you to please have your damsels to sing it for us, for I would have great pleasure to hear it because it was written by a knight who is my cousin."

"I shall do this willingly," she said, "for my heart shall be lifted to hear it because of the kinship that my lord Sir Florestan has with him."

Then the damsels came and played it and sang very sweetly, in keeping with its beauty, but to the pain of whoever heard it. Oriana thought about these words and saw well that due to her error, Amadis complained very rightly, and a great pain came to her heart so that she could not remain there and went to her room, ashamed of the many tears that had come to her eyes.

Mabilia said to Corisanda:

"My friend, ye have seen how Oriana is suffering, and she was here to give you pleasure and honor longer than she should have. I want to go to give her some remedy, and I beg you to tell me who the man is on Poor Rock who taught this song to your damsels, and if he has any news about Amadis."

She told how she had found him and what he said, and that she had never seen a suffering and weak man so handsome and so elegant in his poverty, and that she had never seen such a young man who was so well educated. Mabilia immediately thought that he was Amadis, who in his great desperation had gone to a place hard to get to and distant from everyone in the world.

She went to Oriana, who was in her room lost in thought and sobbing, and arrived laughing and in a good mood, and told her:

"My lady, by asking a man sometimes learns more than expected. Know that, according to what I have learned from Corisanda, the suffering knight who is called Beltenebros and who is at Poor Rock logically ought to be Amadis, who has gone there to be away from everyone in the world, and wished to fulfill your order not to appear before you or anyone else. Therefore be happy and take consolation, for my heart tells me that without out a doubt it is him."

Oriana raised her hands and said:

"Oh, Lord of the world, my it please You that this be true! My good friend, tell me what to do, for I am in such a state that I have no good judgement nor wisdom, and, by God, have mercy on me, an unfortunate wretch who by my madness and thoughtless ire have lost all my goods and pleasures."

Mabilia felt great sorrow for her, and tears came to her eyes. She turned her head so they would not be seen and told her:

"My lady, my advice is that we wait for your damsel, and if she does not find him, let me look, for I know how we learned about him and I am convinced that he is the one called Beltenebros."

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Amadis's angry song: three English translations

We have the words, now we need the music. 

Text from the 1526 edition printed in Seville by Jacobo and Juan Cromberger.

Who knew that Amadis could sing, let alone compose music? We still have the lyrics but the tune is lost — that is, the tune awaits someone to write it anew. As ye might expect, though, the English translations vary.

First, here is the original Spanish:

Pues se me niega vitoria
do justo m'era devida,
allí do muere la gloria
es gloria morir la vida.

Y con esta muerta mía
morirán todos mis daños
mi esperança, mi porfía,
el amor y sus engaños;
mas quederá en mi memoria
lástima nunca perdida,
por me matar la gloria
me mataron gloria y vida.

Here is my translation. I've taken the liberty to switch some lines to preserve the meter and rhyme:

Being denied the victory
that I justly deserved,
wherever dies that glory,
death with glory is served.

And with that I shall die
and with me die my woes,
love and all its lies,
my struggles and my hopes.
But this one thought remains
from sorrow never free:
that with my glory slain,
glory and life killed me.

Robert Southey, in his 1803 translation, for some reason used a French translation of Amadis for his lyrics, although he used a Spanish edition for the text. Here is the French version and Southey's translation:

Pues qu'a grand tort la victoire
meritee on me denye,
Alors que fine la gloire,
Gloire est de finir la vie.

Et aussi par mièsme mort
Maurent mes plus grands malheurs,
Mon espoir et mon confort,
Amour me fine et ses chaleurs.

Mas toujours t'auray memoire
De perpetuel esmoy:
Car pour fin meure á ma gloire,
On meuririst ma gloire et moy.

Sith that the victory of right deserved
By wrong they do withhold for which I served,
Now sith my glory thus hath had a fall,
Glorious it is to end my life withall.
By this my death, likewise my woes release,
My hope, my joy, my inflamed love doth cease.
But ever will I mind my during pain,
For they, to end my glory and my gain,
myself have murdered, and my glory slain.

Finally, Edwin Place and Herbert Behm translated Amadis in 1974, and here is their version:

Since victory is denied me
Where rightly it was owed to me,
There where glory dies
It is glory for life to die.

And with this death of mine
Will die all my hurts
My hope, my striving,
Love and its deceits.
But there will remain in my memory
A lament never lost,
For in order to kill my glory
My glory and life have been slain.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chapter 51 [first half]

Which tells how, while Beltenebros was at Poor Rock, a ship docked that brought Corisanda in search of her lover Florestan, and of the things that happened and what she recounted at the court of King Lisuarte. 

[The hermitage of Saint John on the island of Gaztelugatxe on the coast of Biscay. Photo by multisani.] 

While Beltenebros was at Poor Rock, as we have already told you, one day the hermit had him sit next to him on a stone bench at the door of the hermitage, and said:

"My son, I ask ye to tell me what made you shout in your sleep when we were at the Spring of the Meadow."

"I shall tell you willingly, my good lord, and I ask you by God to tell me what of it that ye might understand, be it to my pleasure or sadness."

Then he told him the dream that ye have already heard about, although Beltenebros did not tell him the names of the damsels. The good man, after he heard it, spent a long time thinking, then turned to him laughing and said kindly:

"Beltenebros, good son, what you have said has given me much happiness and great pleasure, and know that it rightly out to be so, and I want ye to know how I understand it. Know that the dark room where ye found yourself and could not leave represents the sorrow which ye are now in, and the damsels who opened the door are some of your friends who will speak with she whom ye most love in your life. In that way they shall take you from here and from the sorrow which ye now have. The ray of sunshine that came before them means that they will send happy news with which ye shall leave here.

"The fire that ye saw surrounding your beloved signifies the great distress that your love for her will be for you, as her love for you shall be for her. That fire means love and her suffering before she sees you, from which ye shall take her. The beautiful garden where ye shall take her shows the great pleasure that she shall receive by seeing you.

"I know well that being a priest I ought not to speak of such things, but I understand that it is a better service to God to tell you the truth with which ye shall be consoled than to remain quiet and let your life remain close to hopeless death."

Beltenebros knelt before him and kissed his hands, thanking God that in such great distress and pain He had given him a person who could knew how to advise him, and he prayed, weeping, that God would have pity and make the words of that holy man, His servant, come true.

Then he asked the good man what he could say about the dream he had had the night before Durin gave him the letter when he was on Firm Island. The good man told him:

"This clearly shows you all that ye have already had happen to you. I tell you that the tall hill covered with trees in which ye found yourself and the many happy people around you represents Firm Island, which ye had won and where ye had given great pleasure to all who lived there. The man that ye saw with the box containing bitter medicine is the messenger from your beloved who gave you the letter, and the great bitterness of her words ye know better than anyone, for ye have tasted them.

"The sadness that ye saw in the people who had been happy are the people of the island again, who are alone and in great sorrow because of you. The clothes ye took off are the arms that ye left behind. The rocky place in the middle of water where ye hid yourself represents the rock on which ye are now. The man in the religious order that spoke to you in a language that ye do not understand is myself, who spoke the holy words of God to you, which before that ye did not know nor bear in mind."

"Certainly," Beltenebros said, "ye have told me very truthfully about this dream because all of that did happen to me, so I take great hope in what may come."

But that hope was not so certain nor so great that it fully eased the great anguish that he had been placed in by his desperation over his lady. He looked long and often at the land, remembering the pleasures and great honors he had had there, but they had all been changed into the opposite with cruelty, thus he frequently arrived at such straits that if it were not for the advice of that good man, his life would have been in great danger.

To help distance him from his deep meditations and sorrows, the good man often put him in the company of two boys, his nephews, whom the good man had with him, to go to fishing in a river near there with poles, where they caught fine fish.

So as ye hear Beltenebros did his penance and always had with him great pain and deep concerns, believing that if God in His mercy did not help him with the favor of his lady, he was always much closer to death than life.

Most nights he spent beneath some thick trees that were in the garden near the hermitage so he could mourn and weep without the hermit or his boys hearing him. And he thought about the things that he had done to serve her for which he had been give such a poor reward without cause or justice. In his anger, he composed this song:

Being denied the victory
that I justly deserved,
wherever dies that glory,
death with glory is served.

And with that I shall die
and with me die my woes,
love and all its lies,
my struggles and my hopes.
But this one thought remains
from sorrow never free:
that with my glory slain,
glory and life killed me.

After he had written this song that ye hear, one night while he was beneath those trees as usual, mourning deeply and weeping fiercely, after much of the night had passed he heard some instruments being played very sweetly nearby, which he felt great pleasure to hear. He was surprised, for he had thought that there was no more company there than the hermit and himself and the two boys. He got up and went stealthily to see what it was, and he saw two damsels next to the fountain who had musical instruments in their hands. He heard them play and sing happily.

After he had listened for a while, he told them:

"Good damsels, may God be with you, for with your very sweet playing, ye have made me miss matins."

They were surprised that a man was there, and they told him:

"Friend, please tell us what place this is where we have docked and what man ye are who speaks with us."

"My ladies," he said, "this place is called the Rock of the Hermitage, after a hermit and a hermitage here, and I am a very poor man who stays and lives with him, doing severe penance for my great evil deeds and sins."

Then they said:

"Friend, might we find some house here in which a very ill lady we bring could dwell and rest for two or three days? She is high born as well as rich, and she has been laid low by love."

When Beltenebros heard this, he said:

"There is a small house where I dwell, and if the hermit gives it to her, I shall sleep in the field, which I do many nights, if it would make you happy."

The damsels gave him many thanks for what he had said and held him in great favor. As they were speaking, the dawn broke, and Beltenebros saw beneath some trees the lady they had spoken of in a beautiful and very rich bed, along with four armed knights on the seashore who were waiting on her and sleeping, and five men who lay next to them who did not bear arms. He saw a ship at anchor in the sea well stocked with everything it could need. The lady appeared exceptionally young and very beautiful and it gave him pleasure to look at her.

Then he went to the hermit, who was dressing to say Mass, and told him:

"Father, we have strangers among us. It would be good if ye saw them before Mass."

"I shall do that," the good man said.

Then together they left the hermitage and Beltenebros showed him the ship and they saw that the knights and other men were carrying the ill lady toward them, the damsels with her. They asked the hermit if there was a house where they could put her, and he said:

"There are two houses here, one where I stay, and by my will no woman shall ever enter. This good poor man lodges in the other. He is doing penance here, and I shall not order him out against his will."

Beltenebros said:

"Father, ye may give it to her, for I shall stay beneath the trees, which I am often accustomed to do."

Then they all entered the chapel to hear Mass, and Beltenebros, who looked at the damsels and knights and thought about himself and his lady and his past life, began to weep fiercely and knelt before the altar and prayed to the Virgin Mary to rescue him from the great trouble that he was in.

The damsels and knights who saw him weeping from his heart thought that he was a man of good breeding, and they were amazed by his youth and handsomeness, and wondered why he had come there over any sin, no matter how grave, for everywhere the mercy of God reaches where men are truly repentant.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Hebrew translation of Amadis of Gaul

More than a mere translation, Jacob Algaba's 1541 version tells us about the complex relationship between Jewish and Spanish cultures.

The Theodosian Walls of Constantinople near the Golden Gate. Photo by Sue Burke.


A recent post at the website of David A. Wacks, Associate Professor of Spanish at the University of Oregon, discusses the Spanish influences on the Sephardim. After the Jews' expulsion from Spain in 1492, many moved to Constantinople, where they changed Jewish culture in that city. That culture in turn affected the Hebrew translation of Amadis of Gaul — a translation also tells us a lot about the Spanish original and why it became popular.

"Reading Amadís in Istanbul" at:


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chapter 50

How Guilan the Pensive took Amadis's shield and arms, which he had found without anyone watching over them at the Spring of the Meadow, and brought them to the court of King Lisuarte. 

[The tower of the 12th-century castle at the Ucero River near Soria, Spain. Photo by AnTeMi.] 

After Sir Guilan the Pensive left the spring where he had found the arms of Amadis, as has been told to you, he traveled for seven days on the road to the court of King Lisuarte, and he always wore Amadis's shield on his neck. He never took it off, except twice when he was forced to fight, then he gave it to his squires and took his own.

Once was when he met two knights who were cousins of Arcalaus. They recognized the shield and wanted to take it, saying that they would either bring it or the head of the knight who wore it to their uncle. But Sir Guilan, when he learned they belonged to the family of such an evil man, said:

"Now I hold you for less."

And then they fought bravely, for the two knights were young and hardy, but Sir Guilan, though older, was more valiant and experienced at arms. Although the battle lasted some time, in the end he killed one of them and the other fled toward a mountain. Sir Guilan was injured but not badly, and continued down the road as before.

That night he lodged in the house of a knight he knew, who did him many honors and in the morning gave him a lance, for his had been broken in the joust he had just had. And then Guilan traveled down the road until he came to a river called Guinion. It was wide, and it had a wooden bridge broad enough that two knights on horseback could pass each other. At its near end he saw a knight who wanted to cross the bridge who had a green shield with a white bar on it, and he knew it was Ladasin, his cousin. At the far end was a knight who defended the bridge and who shouted:

"Knight, do not get on the bridge unless ye wish to joust."

"Even if I must joust with you," Ladasin said, "I shall not fail to cross."

Then, raising his shield, he rode onto the bridge. The other knight who guarded the bridge rode a large bay horse and wore a white shield with a brown lion on it, with a matching lion on his helmet. The knight was big of body and rode very well. When he saw Ladasin on the bridge, he charged at him as fast as his could and they met at the entrance of the bridge. Ladasin and his horse fell from the bridge into the water, but as he fell he reached for one of the willows and grabbed it, and with great difficulty he got to the riverbank, for he had fallen far and his armor was heavy.

The knight who had knocked him down turned around and returned to where he had been. Sir Guilan went to his cousin, and he and his squires pulled him from the water and took off his shield and helmet. Guilan told him:

"Truly, cousin, ye would have died except that your great courage saved you when ye grabbed for these branches. All knights ought to avoid jousts on bridges because those who guard them have already trained their horses for it, and they win honor more because of that than because of their courage. I would prefer to go around and look for another road, but due to what has happened to you, I must avenge you if I can."

Meanwhile Ladasin's horse had swum to the other side and the knight ordered his men to put it into a tower in a beautiful fortress in the middle of the river, reached by a stone bridge.

Sir Guilan took off Amadis's shield and gave it to his squires, took his and his lance and went to the bridge. The other knight who guarded it immediately came at him, and both charged as fast as their horses could go.

They struck each other so hard that the knight was knocked from his saddle and fell into the river, and Guilan fell on the bridge and would have fallen in the water if he had not held onto the timbers. The knight who had fallen into the water grabbed Guilan's horse, which had fallen on him, and pulled it out. Guilan's squires took the knight's horse, and Guilan looked and saw the knight at the end of the bridge, and he had Guilan's horse by the reins, which was shaking off the water. Guilan said:

"Order your squires to give me to give me my horse, and we will go."

"What?" said the knight. "Do ye think you can leave here with just that?"

"With that," Guilan said, "because we have jousted with each other as we ought to."

"That cannot be," he said, "because we both fell, so the battle is not finished until we have at each other with swords."

"What?" said Sir Guilan. "First you forced me to fight with you, and the offense ye did us is not enough, since bridges are common for all to cross?"

"I do not care about that," he said, "Ye still must feel how my sword cuts, either by agreement or by force."

Then he jumped onto the horse without putting a foot in a stirrup, so easily that it was amazing to see, and quickly straightened his helmet and went to place himself in the road where Guilan would have to pass, and told him:

"Lowly knight, tell me before we fight if ye are from the land of King Lisuarte or in his retinue."

"Why do ye ask?" Guilan said.

"May God grant that I had King Lisuarte where I have you!" the knight said. "For I swear on my head that he would reign no more."

This made Sir Guilan angry, and he said:

"Truly, if my lord King Lisuarte were here as I am, he would quickly punish your madness. As for myself, I tell you that I am his subject and dwell in his court, and for what ye just said, I want to fight you, though I did not before, and if I can, I shall make it so that the King shall receive no further offence or disloyalty from you."

The knight laughed disdainfully and said:

"And I promise thee that before noon thou shalt be put in such straits that I shall dispatch thee with great dishonor. I want thee to know who I am and what gifts thou shalt be given from me."

Sir Guilan, who was furious and wanted to fight, forced himself to wait and find out who he was.

"Now," the other knight said, "know thou that my name is Gandalod, and I am the son of Barsinan, the lord of Saxony, whom King Lisuarte killed in London, and the gifts that thou shalt bring are the heads of four other knights of his court that I have imprisoned in my tower, one of them being his nephew Giontes, along with thy right hand cut off and hanging from thy neck."

Sir Guilan put his hand on his sword and said:

"Thou art brave in thy threats, if those could frighten me."

And he charged, as did the other knight, and they met with great wrath and began their battle with such bravery and cruelty that it was amazing to see. They attacked each other on all sides with such hard and fierce blows that they could take no moment's respite at all. Ladasin and his squires watched, frightened, and thought that neither of them would escape death, even if he were to win. But what saved them was that while both were well experienced in arms, they fended off many blows, and although their weapons cut, their flesh did not feel it.

And while they were fighting, thinking only of killing the other, a horn sounded from the top of the tower. Gandalod was startled and tried harder to bring the battle to an end to find out what had happened. He came close to Sir Guilan, reached out and grabbed him so hard that both were pulled from their saddles and fell from their horses onto the ground. They spent some moments grappling with each other and rolling on the ground, but each one held tight to his sword with his hand.

Sir Guilan broke free, stood up first, and gave him two blows. But the knight stood up and began to fight more fiercely and dangerously than before because, on foot, they could reach each other much more easily than on horseback, and both wanted to finish the fight. Sir Guilan thought that the horn had sounded to call for help for Gandalod, and Gandalod thought that some treachery was underway in the tower.

So each one, without pausing or resting, tested all his strength against the other. But now that they were on foot, Sir Guilan began to fight much better, which gave great pleasure to Ladasin and the squires who watched because Gandalod could not cover himself as well with what remained of his shield nor fend off damaging blows with his sword because he was too tired.

Sir Guilan, when he saw this, waited for his chance, struck him on his open arm, and cut off his hand, which fell to the ground along with the sword he held in it. Gandalod shouted and tried to flee to the tower, but Guilan reached him and pulled so hard on his helmet that he tugged it from his head and threw him on the ground. He put the sword in his face and said:

"Ye must to go to King Lisuarte with these gifts ye told me about, but they will be different from what ye had planned, and if ye do not, your head will be separated from your body."

"I shall do it," said Gandalod, "for I would prefer the mercies of the King to dying here and now."

Guilan took that promise. He heard a great revolt at the tower and went there, mounted and with Ladasin. They found that the imprisoned knights had gotten loose and left the dungeon, and had armed themselves with the weapons they found at the top of the tower. They had sounded the horn, and one of them stayed with it while the others descended and killed all that they could reach.

When Sir Guilan and Ladasin arrived, they saw their companions at the tower gate and a knight with seven footmen fleeing the tower to take refuge in a woods. The knights in the tower told Guilan and Ladasin to kill them, especially the knight, so they immediately went after them, and soon they had killed four footmen and the other three escaped, but the knight was taken prisoner and brought to the knights who had escaped from the dungeon.

Sir Guilan told them:

"My lords, I cannot stay here for I am going to the Queen, but stay with my cousin Ladasin, and take these knights to King Lisuarte so he may do with them as he thinks best. Put the tower under my command."

"We shall do so," they said.

Then Sir Guilan took off his shield, which now was worthless for it had been cut in many places, and took Amadis's, weeping silently. The knights, who recognized the shield and saw him weeping, were surprised and asked him how he came to have it. He told them how he had found it at the Fountain of the Meadow with all Amadis's other arms, and how he had looked for Amadis throughout the entire region and could learn nothing about him. They felt deeply sorry to think that something very bad had happened to him.

With that, Guilan departed, and without incident he soon arrived to where the King was, who had already learned how Amadis had passed in all the tests of Firm Island and won lordship of it, and how he had departed secretly in great sorrow, but no one knew why, except for those whom ye have already been told about. When Sir Guilan arrived, all came to see Amadis's shield and learn some news about him. The King said:

"By God, Sir Guilan, tell us what ye know about Amadis!"

"My lord," he said, "I do not know a thing and did not hear a thing, but how I came to find the shield I shall tell before the Queen, if ye please."

Then the King went with him to see the Queen, and when Guilan arrived, he knelt before her, weeping, and said:

"My lady, I found all the arms of Amadis at a spring called the Spring of the Meadow, where this shield was unguarded, which gave me great sorrow to see. I put it in a tree, leaving some damsels who I had in my company to guard it, and traveled all about the region looking for Amadis. It was not my fate to find him nor hear news of him, and I, knowing the valor of that knight and that his desire was to be in your service until death, thought that if I could not bring him, then his arms would give testimony to you of what I am obligated to do for you and for him. Order them to be put somewhere where all may see them, so that when people from all parts come to your court they can learn something about their owner. They can be an example to those who wish to be fine knights, for they should seek the great fame that their master in his time won among so many other knights."

The Queen said:

"I am very sorry at the loss of such a man who shall leave the world so much diminished. And I deeply thank you, Sir Guilan, for what ye have done, and I shall do so with all who bear arms if they labor to find Amadis, for the order of chivalry and ladies and damsels were so esteemed and defended by him."

This news weighed heavy on the King and all those of the court, believing that Amadis was dead, but above all on Oriana, who could not remain there with her mother and went to her room, where with many tears she cursed her fate for having caused so much evil that nothing but death awaited her. But all Mabilia's consolation, and the hope that when her damsel returned she would bring good news, gave her some solace.

Five days later the knights and damsels that Sir Guilan had taken from prison arrived at the court, and they went to the King and Queen to ask their favor to thank Guilan for freeing them. And the damsels came who told of the mourning they had seen Gandalin make, and while they did not know his name, they said he was a squire who had asked about the owner of the shield and the arms.

Then the knights arrived who brought Gandalod as prisoner, and they told the King about the battle between him and Sir Guilan and why they had fought, and all the words that had been spoken between them, and how he had held them prisoner and how they had gotten free.

The King told Gandalod:

"This is the place where I killed thy father for the great treachery he did me, and here thou shalt die for the treachery thou hast wished to do to me."

Then he ordered both him and the knight who had fled to be thrown from the tower at the foot of which Barsinan, his father, had been burned, as the first book has recounted.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chapter 49

How Durin, Oriana's page, returned to his lady with the reply to her message that he had brought to Amadis, and how she wept at the news. 

[Portrait of a lady, painted in about 1460 in the workshop of Rogier van de Weyden.] 

After Durin left Amadis in the forest where Patin lay injured, as we have recounted, he took the road to London, where King Lisuarte was, and traveled as fast as he could so that Oriana would learn the unfortunate news about Amadis, because she might be able to do something to remedy all the ill that her letter had done. He rode so fast that in ten days he had arrived in London, dismounted at his lodging, and went to the palace of the Queen.

When Oriana saw him, her heart jumped and could not be still, so she immediately went to her room and lay on her bed, then ordered the Damsel of Denmark to call her brother Durin and make sure no one saw him. The damsel called him, then left to see to Mabilia.

Oriana told him:

"My friend, now tell me where thou hast traveled and where thou foundest Amadis, and what he did when thou gavest him my letter, and whether thou sawest Queen Briolanja. Tell me everything, and do not leave out anything."

"My lady," Durin said, "I shall tell all, although there is no little to recount, for I have seen many marvelous and amazing things. I tell you that I arrived in Sobradisa and saw Briolanja, who is so beautiful and gentle and graceful that, besides yourself, no woman in the world is as beautiful as she. And there I heard news about Amadis and his brothers. They had departed, and I followed their trail and learned that they had left the road and went with a damsel to Firm Island to test themselves with its amazing adventures. When I arrived there, Amadis had entered the Arch of Loyal Lovers, where no one can go if he has strayed from the first woman he has loved."

"What?" Oriana said. "He dared to attempt that adventure knowing he would not succeed?"

"It did not seem to me that is what happened," Durin said. "Instead he completed it proving greater loyalty than anyone ever had, because he was received with signs that until then had never been done."

When she heard this, her heart felt great joy to know that Amadis's loyalty was true and certain, just the opposite of what she had thought. Then he told her how Sir Galaor and Florestan and Agrajes, testing themselves in the adventure of the defended chamber, could not finish it and were left so stunned that they were as if dead, and then Amadis tried and completed the test, winning the lordship of the island, which was the most beautiful and best protected in the world. After that, everyone had entered the chamber, which was the most amazing and rich that could be found.

When Oriana heard this, she said:

"Be quiet a moment."

Raising her hands to Heaven, she began to beg God in his mercy to arrange that she could soon be in that chamber with the one who through his great skill had won it. Then she said:

"Now tell me what Amadis did when thou gavest him my letter."

Tears came to Durin's eyes, and he told her:

"My lady, I advise you that ye do not wish to know, for ye have done a greater cruelty and fiendishness that any other damsel in the world has ever done."

"Oh, Holy Mary, help me!" she said. "What dost thou say?"

"I tell you," Durin said, "that with your anger and with the worst injustice that could ever be, ye have killed the greatest and most loyal knight that any woman has had or will have as long as the world exists. Cursed be the hour in which such a thing was conceived, and cursed be Death for not killing me first, because there has never been such a vile message. If I had known what I carried, I would rather have disappeared from the world than come before him, for you by ordering it and I by carrying it were the cause of his death."

Then he told her what Amadis said and did when he gave him the letter, and how Amadis had left Firm Island and what he said in the hermitage, and how he left there alone and went to a mountain. He told how he and Gandalin, against Amadis's orders, had followed him and found him alongside a spring but did not dare appear before him, and how Patin passed along there singing and what he said, and the battle he did with Amadis. And then Amadis left, telling Gandalin not to prevent his death or else not to come with him. And so nothing remained that he did not recount about what had happened and what he had seen.

When Oriana heard this, it overcame her ire and wrath, and the bravado of her heart was broken, and she was subjected to a sorrow greater than her anger had been, due to the great power that truth has over lies. Thus her thoughts of her guilt, along with thoughts of what he was suffering without her, had such force that they left her almost dead and senseless, unable to utter a single word.

Durin, when he saw her like that, had pity on her but knew well that she deserved it, and went to Mabilia and the Damsel of Denmark and told them:

"Help Oriana, who truly needs it, for it seems to me that if she erred, she is paying for it."

He went to his lodging and they went to Oriana, and seeing her so senseless, they shut the door to her room and threw water on her face to make her come to. When she could speak, she said:

"Oh, ill-fated wretch, I have killed the thing I most loved in the world. Oh, my lord, I killed you unjustly, and rightly I shall die for you, although your death will be poorly avenged with mine, because you, my lord, being loyal, will not be satisfied with the death of one who was disloyal and ill-fated."

She said this with as much pain and anguish as if her heart were breaking to pieces, but her servants and friends, sent by Durin and knowing all that had happened, helped her with the medicine that both Oriana and Amadis needed for their remedy. After giving her consolation, they had her write a letter to Amadis with very humble words and most abject begging, as shall be told more extensively farther on, telling him to cease what he was doing and to come to her at her castle of Miraflores, where she would wait for him and her great error would be corrected.

She entrusted it to the Damsel of Denmark, who was very pleased to do all she could to set things right between the two people that she loved most. So that the Damsel could travel without causing the least suspicion and because Durin had said that Amadis, in his mourning, had made much mention of his tutor, Sir Gandales, they believed that he would more likely be there than anywhere else, the Damsel agreed to take gifts to the Queen of Scotland and to tell her news about Mabilia, her daughter, and to bring news from the Queen to her. Oriana spoke with the Queen, her mother, telling her how they were sending the Damsel on that errand, and she thought it was good and sent her own gifts with her.

Having agreed to this, and taking her brother Durin and a nephew of Gandales named Enil, who had recently arrived to look for his lord, she traveled to the port called Vegil, which is in Great Britain, and they boarded a ship to Scotland. After seven days of sailing, they arrived in Scotland at a town called Poligez, and from there they went straight to Gandales's castle. They learned that he was out hunting with his squires, and he was sent for. He came and greeted her, and when Sir Gandales heard her foreign accent, he asked her where she was from.

She told him:

"I am a messenger from some damsels who love you dearly and who sent some gifts with me for the Queen of Scotland."

"Good damsel," he said, "if you please, tell me who they are."

"Oriana, the daughter of King Lisuarte, and Mabilia, whom ye know."

"My lady," he said, "ye are very welcome, and we shall go to my home and ye shall rest, and then I shall take you to the Queen."

She held that as good and went with him, and speaking of various things, asked Gandales about Amadis, his ward, for she was very disappointed to learn that he was not there, but to avoid giving him sorrow, she did not tell him how he was lost, only that after he left the court to avenge Briolanja, he had not returned.

"When I left, they had thought that he had come here to this land with Agrajes, his cousin, to see you who had raised him and the Queen, his aunt. I have brought letters from Queen Brisena and others of his friends that he would have enjoyed."

She said this because if he were there secretly, when he learned what she had said, he would want to see her and speak to her, but Gandales knew nothing about him. The damsel rested there for two days, and she was very honored and well served by everyone and by Gandales's wife, who was a very noble lady, and then she left to where the Queen was and gave her the letters and gifts that had been sent with her.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Cathedral of Reims, in full color

Adorned with 2303 statues, the building is a medieval masterpiece. 

Photo by Jean-Christophe Hanche for the Ville de Reims. 

The Cathedral of Reims, where the kings of France were once crowned, is celebrating its 800th anniversary. Activities in October include spectacular light shows to reproduce the original bright paint of the facade.

If you can't get to France, you can visit the website:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Chapter 48 [final part]

[What happened to Gandalin after he awoke.] 

[Detail of the Tower of Lozoya, built in the 1300s in Segovia. The shield belonged to the Aguilar family. Photo by Katheline Vernati-Finn.] 

So as ye hear Amadis was left with the name Beltenebros on that Poor Rock seven leagues in the sea, abandoning the world, honor, and the arms that had brought him such heights, and consumed his days with tears and continuous sorrow. He did not think about the brave Galpano, of the mighty King Abies of Ireland, or of the arrogant Dardan, who Amadis's mighty arm had defeated and killed, along with many others whom this story has told, nor of the famous Apolidon, who not in his own time nor for one hundred years after it had been exceeded by any knight in his skill.

And if Amadis were to be asked about the cause of such destruction, how would he respond? That it had no other cause than the ire and rage of a weak woman, in the same way that the mighty Hercules, brave Sampson, wise Virgil, and not forgetting among them King Solomon, were tormented and subjugated by the same passion, along with many others whom he could mention. With this, would he be forgiven? Certainly not, because the errors of others must be remembered not to repeat them but to avoid and be admonished by them.

Would it be right for such a knight who had been defeated and subjugated for such a trivial cause to find mercy so that he could recover and earn twice the victories than he had won in the past? I would say no, except that the things he did at his peril were of such great benefit to the welfare of others who, after God, had no other helper besides him.

And so God had greater compassion for them than for him, who had defeated all others but could not defeat nor subjugate himself. When he finally arrived at the point of death, the Lord of the world mercifully sent him aid.

But, in order to maintain the order of the story, first we will tell you something of what happened in the meantime. Gandalin, who had been left sleeping in the mountain when his lord Amadis departed, after a long while awoke, and looking everywhere, saw only his own horse. He got up quicky and began to call for Amadis, weeping and searching through the thick brush, but he did not find Amadis nor his horse, and then he was sure that he had departed, he returned to his horse to mount and ride off after him, but he could not find his saddle or reins.

Then he began to curse himself and his fate and the day he was born. Searching here and there, he found them hidden in some very thick brush. He saddled his horse and mounted it and rode five days sleeping in the open air and asking in towns about his lord, but it was all lost effort, and after six days fate guided him to the spring where Amadis had left his arms. He found a tent next to it with two damsels inside, and Gandalin dismounted and asked them if they had seek a knight who carried a shield of gold with two purple lions on it.

They said:

"We did not see such a knight, but that shield and all the exceptionally good arms that went with it we found next to this spring without anyone watching over them."

When he heard this, he said, tearing his hair:

"Oh Holy Mary help me! My lord, the best knight in the world, is dead or lost." He began to mourn, and the damsels felt great pity for him, and he began to say:

"My lord, how badly I protected you, and I ought to be hated by everyone in the world, and I should not even be in this world, since I failed you at such a time! You, my lord, were the one who aided everyone, and now they are without help because now the world and everyone in it is without you. By my failure to protect you, I left you without aid at the moment of your painful death."

And he fell face down on the ground as if dead. The damsels shouted:

"Holy Mary, this squire is dead!"

And they went to bring him to consciousness and they could not, for he fainted again and again, but they spent so much time with him throwing water on his face that they made him come to, and they told him:

"Good squire, do not lose hope for that which ye do not know for certain, for it would do no good for your lord. It would be better for you to search for him until you know if he is dead or alive, for good men with great anguish ought to be strong and not let themselves die of desperation."

Gandalin took strength from these word from the damsels and decided to look for him everywhere until death took him, and he said to the damsels:

"My ladies, where did ye see the arms?"

"We shall gladly tell you," they said. "Know that we were traveling in the company of Sir Guilan the Pensive, who took us and twenty other damsels and knights from the prison of Gandinos the Betrayer, and Guilan did such feats of arms that he defeated all the other protectors of his castle and finally Gandinos. He took us all from prison and made him swear that he would never do such a thing again. The knights and damsels went where they pleased, and we went with Guilan to the lands where we are from.

"Four days ago we arrived at this spring, and when Guilan saw the shield that ye ask about, he felt great sorrow, and dismounted from his horse and said that the shield of the best knight in the world should not be there like that. He picked it up from the ground, weeping, and put it on the branch of that tree and told us to guard it while he looked for who it belonged to. We had these tents brought and Sir Guilan traveled for three days for all this land and found nothing. That night very late he came here and in the morning gave the arms to his squires and he put the sword in his belt and took the shield and said:

" 'By God, shield, a bad exchange it is to leave your lord and go with me!'

"And he said that he was going to the court of King Lisuarte to give those arms to Queen Brisena and have her keep them. And we shall go there as will all those who were prisoners, the women to ask the Queen and the knights the King to reward Sir Guilan for what he did for us.

"Then may God be with you," Gandalin said, "and I, taking your comfort and advice, shall go look for the most wretched and unfortunate man who was ever born, for my life and death belong to him."

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Rules of Courtly Love

"Love makes an ugly and rude person shine with beauty. It knows how to endow even one of humble birth with nobility, and it can lend humility to the proud." — Andreas Capellanus. 

An ivory mirror case, now in the Louvre, from the 14th century. 

In the 12th century, Marie de Champagne, daughter of King Louis VII of France and Eleanor of Aquitaine, asked Andreas Cappellanus to write a De Amore, a text on courtly love. His three-book treatise included a definition of love and a list of rules for lovers that he said were an expansion of a list from King Arthur's court:

What is love?

Love is a certain inborn suffering derived from the sight of and excessive meditation upon the beauty of the opposite sex, which causes each one to wish above all things the embraces of the other and to carry out all of love's precepts in the other's embrace by common desire....

The Rules of Love

I. Marriage is no real excuse for not loving.

II. Anyone who is not jealous cannot love.

III. No one can be bound by a double love.

IV. It is well known that love is always increasing or decreasing

V. That which a lover takes against the will of his beloved has no relish.

VI. Boys do not love until they arrive at the age of maturity.

VII. When one lover dies, a widowhood of two years is required of the survivor.

VIII. No one should be deprived of love without the very best of reasons.

IX. No one can love except when impelled by the persuasion of love.

X. Love is always a stranger in the home of avarice.

XI. It is not proper to love any woman whom one would be ashamed to seek to marry.

XII. A true lover does not desire to embrace in love anyone except his beloved.

XIII. When made public, love rarely endures.

XIV. The easy attainment of love makes it of little value; difficulty of attainment makes it prized.

XV. Every lover regularly turns pale in the presence of his beloved.

XVI. When a lover suddenly catches sight of his beloved, his heart palpitates.

XVII. A new love puts to flight an old one.

XVIII. Good character alone makes any man worthy of love.

XIX. If love diminishes, it quickly fails and rarely revives.

XX. A man in love is always apprehensive.

XXI. Real jealousy always increases the feeling of love.

XXII. Jealously, and therefore love, are increased when one suspects his beloved.

XXIII. He who is vexed by the thought of love, eats and sleeps very little.

XXIV. Every act of a lover ends in the thought of his beloved.

XXV. A true lover considers nothing good except what he thinks will please his beloved.

XXVI. Love can deny nothing to love.

XXVII. A lover can never have enough of the solaces of his beloved.

XXVIII. A slight presumption causes a lover to suspect his beloved.

XXIX. A man who is vexed by too much passion usually does not love.

XXX. A true lover is constantly and without intermission possessed by the thought of his beloved.

XXXI. Nothing forbids one woman being loved by two men or one man by two women.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Chapter 48 [middle part]

How Amadis came to be called Beltenebros and went to Poor Rock.

[Detail of the Fiesole Altarpiece painted by Fra Angelico in 1424-1425.] 

Amadis rode all night and the next day until vespers. Then he entered a great meadow at the foot of the mountain, and in it there were two tall trees next to a spring. He went there to give his horse water, for he had ridden all day without finding any, and when he arrived at the spring, he saw a man of religious orders, his hair and beard white, who was giving water to his ass, and who wore a very simple habit of goat hair.

Amadis greeted him and asked if he was a priest. The good man told him that he had been one for a good forty years.

"May God have mercy!" Amadis said. "Now I ask you to remain here tonight and hear my penance, which I need very much."

"In the name of God," the good man said.

Amadis dismounted and put his arms on the ground, took the saddle from his horse, and let it graze in the grass. He removed his armor and knelt in front of the good man and began to kiss his feet. The good man took him by the hand and raised him up to sit next to him and saw how he was the most handsome knight that he had ever seen in his life, but how he was pale and his face and chest were bathed by the tears that he wept. He felt sad for him and said:

"Knight, it seems that ye have great sorrow, and if it is for some sin that ye have done and these tears are repentant, in a good hour ye were born to this world. But if your cause is some temporal thing, which due to your age and looks may be likely, think of God and ask mercy from He who brought you to His service."

And he raised his hand and blessed him and said:

"Now recount all the sins that ye can recall."

Amadis did so, telling him his life story, and left out nothing.

The good man told him:

"Due to your education and the high lineage from which ye come, ye should not kill yourself nor lose anything due you, especially over women, who are easily won and lost. I advise you to cease to think of such things and give up your madness, which ye do not do out of love of God, who is not pleased by such things. Even for worldly reasons ye ought to do so, for no man can nor ought to love someone who does not love him."

"My good lord," Amadis said, "I am injured to such a point that I cannot live much longer, and I beg you, by the mighty Lord whose faith ye keep, that it please you to take me with you for the little time that remains, and I shall take your counsel for my soul, and since now I shall have no need of my arms nor my horse, I shall leave them here and go with you on foot, doing whatever penance ye order. And if ye do not do this, ye do wrong to God, because I shall wander lost on this mountain without finding anyone to help me."

The good man, who saw him so prepared to do good with all his heart, told him:

"Truly, my lord, it is not proper for such a knight to abandon himself, as if all the world has failed you, and much less over a woman, whose love is never more lasting than what they hold in their sight and the words that they hear said to them, and when those pass, then they forget, especially in those false loves they enter into contrary to the service of the Lord. The same sin that engenders them sweet and delightful at first, later makes them cruel and bitter, as now ye have seen.

"And ye are outstanding and have land and lordship over many people, and are a loyal advocate and protector of all men and women who are wronged. Because ye do so much and so rightly, it would be a great misfortune and a harm and loss to the world if ye were to abandon them. I do not know who she is who has brought you to such a state, but it seems to me that if in only one woman were found all the goodness and beauty that were in all others,  such a man as you should not be lost over her."

"My good lord," Amadis said, "I do not seek counsel about that, for I do not need it, but I ask you to advise my soul and that it please you to take me with you, and if ye do not, I have no other remedy but to die on this mountain."

The good man began to weep with great sorrow, and tears fell down his beard, which was long and white, and he said:

"My son and lord, I dwell in a place very isolated and difficult to live in, which is a hermitage  a full seven leagues out in the sea on a high rock with cliffs so sheer that no boat can dock there except in summer. I have lived there thirty years, and he who would live there must leave behind the delights and pleasures of the world. I survive by the alms that people on land give me."

"All that," Amadis said, "is to my liking, and it would please me to pass such little life as remains for me with you. I beg you for the love of God to grant me this."

The good man granted this much against his will, and Amadis told him:

"Now tell me what to do, father, and I shall be obedient in everything."

The good man gave Amadis his blessing and said vespers, then he took bread and fish from his saddlebags and told Amadis to eat, but he did not, although he had spent three days without eating.

The priest said:

"Ye are in my command, and I order you to eat, and if not, your soul will be in great peril if you die."

Then Amadis ate, although very little, for he could not free himself from his great anguish. And when it was time to sleep, the good man lay down on his cloak and Amadis at his feet, but all night he did nothing more that toss and turn and sigh with sorrow. But finally, tired and overcome by exhaustion, he slept, and he dreamed he had been locked in a dark room and could see nothing. He could not find the way out and his heart felt troubled. Then it seemed that his cousin Mabilia and the Damsel of Denmark came to him and before them there was a sunray that took away the darkness and lit the room. They took him by the hands and said:

"My lord, leave this great palace," and they seemed to have great joy, and when he left he saw his lady Oriana surrounded by great tongues of fire, and he shouted:

"Holy Mary, help her!" He ran through the fire but did not feel a thing, and he took her in his arms and carried her to a garden, the most green and beautiful that he had ever seen.

His shouts woke the good man, who took him by the hand and asked him what was the matter. He said:

"My lord, I was sleeping with great anguish and almost died."

"So it seemed by your shouts," he said, "but it is time for us to go."

Then he mounted his ass and got on the road. Amadis went on foot with him, but the good man made him mount his horse, which he did only on orders, and thus they left together as ye hear. Amadis begged him that he grant him a favor that would cost him nothing, which he readily agreed to. Amadis asked him that while he lived with him not to tell anyone who he was nor anything about his situation and not to call him by name but by some other that he chose, and when he was dead, to notify his brothers so that they could take him to his land.

"Your life and death is in God," he said, "and do not speak any more of it, for He will give ye help if ye know Him and serve and love Him as ye ought. But tell me, what name would ye wish to have?"

"The one that ye hold to be good," he said.

The good man looked at him and how handsome and well built he was and how he was suffering, and he said:

"I wish to give ye a name that conforms to your personage and to your anguish, for ye are young and handsome and your life has been placed in bitterness and in gloom. I wish ye to have the name Beltenebros [Handsome Gloom]."

Amadis was pleased and held the good man to be wise for having given him such a reasonable name, and he was called by that name for as long as he lived with him, and for a long time afterwards he was praised by it no less than he was by Amadis for the great things that he did, as shall be told further on.

So speaking about this and other things, they arrived at the sea after night had fallen, and they found a ship there to take the good man to his hermitage. Beltenebros gave his horse to the sailors, and they gave him a leather tunic and tabard of thick brown wool. They boarded the boat and went to the rock, and Beltenebros asked the good man what they called the place when he lived and what his name was.

"The place," he said, "is called Poor Rock, because there no one can live except in great poverty, and my name is Andalod, and I was a very learned cleric and spent my youth in great vanity, but God, by His mercy, made me understand that those who serve Him have great difficulties and obstacles in dealing with people. Due to our weakness, we are inclined to evil instead of good, and that is why I decided to retreat to place with such solitude, where I have spent thirty years and have never left it until now to go to my sister's interment."

Beltenebros was very taken by the solitude and isolation of that place, and thought that dying there would give him some rest. And so they sailed in the ship until they arrived at the rock. The hermit told the sailors:

"Go back."

They returned to shore in their ship, and Beltenebros considered the narrow and blessed life of the good man, and with many tears and groans not from devotion but from hopelessness, he believed that he could live there and bear everything with him for the rest of his life, which sadly would not be long.