Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Chapter 42 [first part]

Which tells how Sir Florestan was the son of King Perion, and how he was born by a very beautiful damsel who was the daughter of the count of Selandia.

[Empress Irene, later venerated as Saint Irene, depicted in a mosaic in the Hagia Sophia Cathedral, Constantinople. Photo by Sue Burke.] 

I wish you to know how and in what land this valiant and intrepid knight Sir Florestan was engendered and by whom. Know ye that when King Perion was young, seeking adventures with his brave and valiant heart in many foreign lands, he spent two years in Germany, where he did so many great deeds at arms that they were told by all Germans as something to marvel at.

As he was returning to his own lands with much glory and fame, he happened to lodge one day in the house of the Count of Selandia, who was very happy to have him, because, like King Perion, he enjoyed practicing the exercise of arms and had achieved much praise and fame with them. He had also experienced the many troubles, labors, and pains that good knights are wont to suffer in the course of fulfilling their obligations, and so he held this Perion highly, for he was at the summit of his fame and glory in arms. The Count and did him as many honors and services as he could.

After they had eaten and spoken of things had happened to them, King Perion was called to a chamber, where he lay down in a rich bed, and because his travels had left him tired, he immediately fell asleep. But soon he found himself embraced by a very beautiful damsel who pressed her mouth on his. When he became fully awake, he wanted to get away, but she held him and said:

"What is this, my lord? Will ye not enjoy this bed more with me in it than alone?"

The King looked at her by the light of a candle in the room and saw that she was the most beautiful woman of all those he had ever seen, and he said:

"Tell me who ye are."

"Whoever I am," she said, "I love you deeply and I wish to give you my love."

"This cannot be if ye do not tell me first."

"Oh," she said, "how much sorrow this question gives me because ye might hold me as worse than I seem! But God knows I can do nothing else."

"It still must be that I know," he said, "or I shall do nothing."

"Then, I shall tell you," she said. "Know that I am the daughter of the Count."

The King said:

"A woman of such great means as you ought not do such madness. And now I tell you that I shall do nothing that shall cause your father great anger."

She said:

"Oh, they have wrongly praised you, for ye are the worst man in the world and the most disrespectful! What goodness is there in you after discarding someone so beautiful and noble?"

"Ye shall do that which shall be to your honor and to mine," the King said, "and not that which is contrary to either of them."

"No?" she said. "Then I shall cause my father greater anger at you than if ye were to do as I ask."

Then she got up and took the King's sword, which was next to his shield. It was the sword that would later be placed in the ark with Amadis when he was put to sea, as the beginning of this book has told you. She took it from its scabbard and put the point of it directly over her heart, and she said:

"Now I know that my father will grieve my death more than he would his own."

When the King saw this, he was shocked. He leaped out of the bed and told her:

"Wait, I shall do what ye wish."

He took the sword from her hand and embraced her amorously and fulfilled her will that night, from which she became pregnant. But the King never saw her again, for the next day he left the Count and continued on his way.

She disguised her pregnancy as best she could, but when the time for childbirth came, she could no longer do so. Instead, she arranged to have one of her damsels go with her to see her aunt, who lived near there, where she had been accustomed to go occasionally for recreation. As they were traveling through a small forest, childbirth suddenly came upon her, and she dismounted her palfrey and gave birth to a son. The damsel, who saw her in distress, put the child at her breast and said:

"My lady, use the same courage that ye had to err to be strong now until I return."

Then she mounted her palfrey and as fast as she could she rode to the aunt's castle and told her what had happened. When the aunt heard this, she was very sad, but she did not let that stop her from helping. She immediately mounted a horse and ordered a litter to be brought, which she had used at times to protect herself from the sun when she went to see the Count. When she came to the niece, she dismounted and wept with her and had her put into the litter with her son. They returned to the castle at night so that no one would see them except for the servants who carried the litter, and they had been strictly instructed to keep it secret.

Finally, when the damsel was better, she returned to her father the Count, and he knew nothing about what had happened. When the child was eighteen years old, he seemed very strong and valiant, more than any other young man in the county. The lady, when she saw him thus disposed, gave him a horse and arms and brought him to the Count, his grandfather, to be knighted, and who did so without knowing he was his grandson.

She returned to the castle with him, but on the way she told him that the truth was that he was the son of King Perion of Gaul and the grandson of the one who had made him a knight, and he should go meet his father, who was the best knight in the world.

"Truly, my lady," he said, "I have heard you speak highly of him many times, but I never thought he was may father, and by the faith I owe God and you who raised me, I swear that he shall never know me or anyone else, if I can help it, until people say that I deserve to be the son of such a fine man."

He said farewell to her, took two squires with him, and went to Constantinople, where it was well known that a cruel war being fought in the empire. He was there for four years, and he did such feats at arms that they held him to be the best knight they had ever seen. And when he saw that he had gained such honor and fame, he decided to leave for Gaul to meet his father.

But when he had neared those lands, he heard of the great fame of Amadis, who by then had begun to do amazing things, as well as that of Sir Galaor. He changed his mind, believing that his deeds were nothing compared to theirs, and he decided to begin again and gain honor there in Great Britain, where more than anywhere else knights were esteemed. He would hide his identity until his deeds had satisfied his desires.

And so he spent some time doing deeds of chivalry, gaining honor, until he fought with Sir Galaor, his brother, as ye have heard, and they learned who each other was in the way that was told above.