Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chapter 43 [first part]

How Sir Galaor and Florestan, on their way to the Kingdom of Sobradisa, found three damsels at the Spring of the Elms.

[Chivalry, by Sir Frank Bernard Dicksee, 1885.]  

Sir Galaor and Florestan remained at Corisanda Castle, as ye have heard, until their wounds had healed, then they agreed to leave to look for Amadis. They thought they would find him in the Kingdom of Sobradisa, and they hoped that the battle to be fought there would not take place until they had arrived to share in the danger and the glory, God willing.

When Florestan said goodbye to his lover, her anguish and pain was so overwhelming with so many tears that they felt great pity for her. Florestan consoled her, promising to return to see her as soon as he could. Having said goodbye, they armed themselves, mounted their horses, and traveled by boat to the mainland with their squires. On the road to Sobradisa, Florestan said to Sir Galaor:

"My lord, grant me a gift as a courtesy."

"Will it be a burden to me, my lord and good brother?" said Sir Galaor.

"No, it will not," he said.

"Then ask for that which I can properly fulfill without shame, and I shall gladly do it."

"I ask you," Sir Florestan said, "that ye do not enter into combat on this road over anything that happens until ye see that I cannot accomplish it alone."

"Truly," Sir Galaor said, "what ye ask shall grieve me."

"It shall not," said Florestan, "for if I prove worthy of anything, the honor is as much yours as mine."

And so it happened that for four days they traveled on that road without finding an adventure worth recounting, and on the fourth day they arrived at a tower at the hour to seek shelter for the night. At the gate to the courtyard they found a knight who gladly invited them to stay, and they were pleased to remain there that night. He had them disarm, took their horses to be cared for, and gave them cloaks to wear. They spent some time walking, talking and relaxing until he took them into the tower and gave them a very good supper.

The knight who was their host was tall and handsome and well-spoken, but they sometimes saw him become so deeply sorrowful that the brothers looked at him and spoke between themselves about what could be the cause. Sir Galaor said:

"My lord, it seems to us that ye are not as happy as ye ought to be, and if your sadness is due to something that we could help you with, tell us and we shall do your will."

"Many thanks," said the knight, "and I realize that ye would do so as good knights, but my sadness is caused by the power of love, and I shall say no more now, for it would be to my great shame."

They spoke about other things until the time came to sleep. Their host retired to his bed, leaving them in a splendidly beautiful room where there were two beds, and they slept and rested that night. In the morning they were given their arms and horses and they took to the road.

Their host rode with them unarmed on a large and fast horse to keep them company and to see what would happen farther on because he was guiding them not by the most direct road that he knew but by another that led to a place where he could see if they were as good at arms as they seemed. They rode until they arrived at a spring called the Spring of the Three Elms because three big, tall elms were there. When they arrived, they saw three damsels alongside the spring who looked exceptionally beautiful and well dressed, and they saw a dwarf up in one of the elms.

Florestan went ahead to the damsels and saluted them very courteously, as one who was well and properly brought up. One of them said to him:

"May God give you health, my lord knight. If ye are as valiant as ye are handsome, God made you very well."

"Damsel," he said, "if I seem handsome, I shall seem even stronger to you if ye may need it."

"Well said," she told him, "and now I wish to see if ye are valiant enough to take me away from here."

"Truly," said Florestan, "for that little skill is needed, so if ye wish it so, I shall take you away."

Then he ordered his squires to put her on a palfrey that was tied to the branches of the elms. When the dwarf up in the elm saw that, he shouted:

"Come out, knights, come out, for they are taking away your lover."

And at that shout, a well-armed knight on a large horse came out of a valley, and he told Florestan:

"What is this, knight? Who told you to lay a hand on my damsel?"

"I do not hold her to be yours, for she freely asked me to take her from here."

The knight said:

"Although she may have asked you, I did not consent, and I have defended her from better knights than you."

"I do not know how that could be," Florestan said, "but if ye are only words, I ought to take her."

"Before that," he said, "ye shall learn about the knights in this valley and how they defend the women they love."

"Then be on guard," said Florestan.

Then they had their horses charge and they struck each others' shields with their lances. The knight broke his lance, and Florestan made the edge of the knight's shield strike his helmet, and its laces broke and it fell from his head. He could not maintain himself in his saddle, and he fell over his sword and broke it in two.

Florestan rode past him and picked up his lance in one hand. He turned back toward the knight, saw him almost dead, put the lance in his face, and said:

"Ye are dead."

"Oh, my lord, mercy!" said the knight. "Ye see that I am almost dead now."

"That will not help you," he said, "if ye do not grant that the damsel is mine."

"She is yours," the knight said, "and damned be she and the day that I saw her, for all the insanities she has made me do until I have lost my body and my life."

Florestan left him, went to the damsel, and told her:

"Ye are mine."

"Ye have won me well," she said, "and ye may do with me as ye please."

"Then we shall leave now," he said.

But another of the damsels who remained at the fountain told him:

"Lord knight, ye take away a good companion, for we have been together for a year, and it grieves us to separate thus."

Florestan said:

"If ye wish to go with me, I shall take you, and thus ye shall not be parted from your companion, but I can do nothing else because I shall not leave behind such a lovely damsel as this one."

"Yes, she is beautiful," she said, "and I do not consider myself so ugly that any knight would not do a great deed for me, but I do not believe that ye are the one who will dare to do it."

"What!" said Florestan. "Do ye think I would leave you behind out of fear? May God help me, I would only do that if ye wished to stay, as ye shall now see."

Then he ordered another palfrey brought, and the dwarf shouted as he had for the first damsel, and soon another well-armed knight who seemed very well bred and on a good horse left the valley, and behind him came a squire who carried two lances. He told Sir Florestan:

"Lowly knight, ye have won one damsel, and not content with her, ye take another. Now ye shall lose both and your head with them, for it is not fit for a lowly knight such as yourself to have in your possession a woman of such high birth as the damsel."

"Ye brag too much," said Florestan, "for there are two knights in my family such that I would sooner want one of them to help me rather than someone like you."

"It means little to me," the knight said, "that thou dost value thy lineage so much, for I hold thee and them as nothing. But thou hast won a damsel from someone not strong enough to save her, and if I defeat thee, she shall be my damsel, and if I am defeated, take her with the other whom I protect."

"I am content with this agreement," Florestan said.

Now be on guard if ye can," the knight said.

Then they had their horses charge as fast as they could, and the knight struck Florestan on the shield, which failed, but the lance was stopped by his chain mail, which was strong and well-made, and the lance broke. Florestan missed with his lance and rode past him. The knight took the other lance from the squire who had brought them. Forestan, who was very ashamed and angry because his blow had failed in front of his brother, charged at him and hit him so hard on his shield that it failed, and the arm that held it, and the lance reached his coat of mail with such force that it pushed him onto the haunches of his horse. When it felt him there, it bucked so bravely that it threw him on the field. The ground was so hard and the fall so great that he lay motionless, hand and foot.

Florestan, when he saw that, said to the damsel:

"Ye are mine, and your friend cannot protect you nor even himself."

"So it seems," she said.

Sir Florestan looked at the third damsel who remained alone at the spring, and saw that she was very sad, and told her:

"Damsel, if it does not trouble ye, I shall not leave ye here alone."

The damsel looked at the host and told him:

"I advise ye to leave here, for well ye know that these two knights are not enough to protect you from the one who shall come now, and if he overtakes you, there is nothing for you but death."

"In spite of that," the host said, "I wish to see what shall happen, for my horse is fast and my tower is near, so there is no danger."

"Oh," she said, "protect yourself, for ye together are only three, and ye are not armed, and well ye know that against him, all this is like nothing."

When Sir Florestan heard this, he was more anxious than ever to take the damsel to see the knight they spoke of so highly. So he had her mount a palfrey like the others, and the dwarf, who was up in the tree, said:

"Lowly knight, at a bad moment ye have been so daring, and now ye shall see who shall avenge himself on you and the others." Then he shouted, "Come, my lord, for it is time."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Robert Southey's translation, abridged by half

Southey's translation is still popular, but it's "improved."

Sunrise looking up the Huécar River valley from the walls of the medieval city of Cuenca in La Mancha, Spain. Photo by Sue Burke.


The story "Goldilocks" is based on Robert Southey's "The Story of the Three Bears," first published in 1834, and it's only one of his many important works. One of the Lake Poets of the Romantic school, Southey (1774-1843) was also a Portuguese and Spanish scholar. His 1803 translation of Amadis of Gaul is still in print in many editions today and is widely available on the internet in various formats.

While the translation benefits from his skill as a poet and writer, it has its faults. These are his remarks in the preface to Volume I:

"...To have translated a closely printed folio would have been absurd. I have reduced it to about half its length, by abridging the words, not the story; by curtailing the dialogue, avoiding all recapitulations of the past action, consolidating many of those single blows which have no reference to armorial anatomy, and passing over the occasional moralizings of the Author. There is no vanity in saying that this has improved the book, for what long work may not be improved by compression? Meager wine may be distilled into Alcohol. The minutest traits of manners have been preserved, and not an incident of the narrative omitted. I have merely reduced the picture, every part preserved, and in the same proportions. Amadis of Gaul is valuable not only for its intrinsic merit as a fiction, but as a faithful representation of manners and morality; and as such, these volumes may be referred to as confidently as the original...."

Well, he did leave things out. Here is his version of the end of Chapter 35, followed by my translation, which is unabridged. You can also refer to the original Spanish text of that section, which I posted last fall here.


...Amadis then placed Oriana upon the Damsel's palfrey, while Gandalin caught one of the loose horses for the Damsel, and taking her bridle they left the place of battle. But Amadis, as they went along, reminded Oriana how she had promised to be his.

"Hitherto," said he, "I have known that it was not in your power to show me more favour than you did; but now that you are at full liberty, how should I support disappointments without the worst despair that ever destroyed a man!"

"Dear friend," quoth she, "never for my sake shall you suffer, for I am at your will: though it be an error and a sin now, let it not be so before God."

When they had proceeded about three leagues, they entered a thick wood, and about a league farther there was a town. Oriana, who had not slept a wink since she left her father's house, complained of fatigue.

"Let us rest in the valley," said Amadis.

There was a brook there and soft herbage; there Amadis took her from her palfrey.

"The noon," said he, "is coming on very hot, let us sleep here until it be cooler, and meantime Gandalin shall go bring us food from the town."

"He may go," replied Oriana, "but who will give him food?"

"They will give it him for his horse, which he may leave in pledge, and return on foot."

"No," said Oriana, "let him take my ring, which was never before so useful."

And she gave it to Gandalin, who, as he went by Amadis, said to him, "He who loses a good opportunity, Sir, must wait long before he find another."

Oriana laid herself down upon the Damsel's cloak, while Amadis disarmed, of which he had great need, and the Damsel retired farther among the trees to sleep. Then was the lady in his power, nothing loth; and the fairest Damsel in the world became a Woman. Yet was their love increased thereby, as pure and true love always is.

When Gandalin returned, the Damsel prepared the food; and, though they had neither many serving-men, nor vessels of gold and silver, yet was that a sweet meal upon the green grass in the forest.


...Then Amadis ordered him to put the Damsel of Denmark on one of the horses that was loose, and he put Oriana on the Damsel's palfrey, and they could not have been more happy as they left. Amadis led his lady's horse by the reins, and she told him how she was so frightened by the dead knights that she could not turn around, but he said:

"Much more frightening and cruel is the death that I would suffer for you. And my lady, feel sorrow for me and remember what ye have promised me. If that has sustained me to this point, it is only because I believed it was not in your hands or your power to give me more than ye had given me. But here and now, my lady, finding yourself in such freedom, if ye do not help me, now nothing would be enough to keep me alive, and I would be brought down by the most hungry hope that ever killed anyone."

Oriana said:

"In good faith, my beloved, never because of me, if I can help it, would you be put in this danger. I shall do what ye wish. Do it, and although it may seem here like an error and sin, it shall not be thus before God."

So they rode three leagues until they entered a thick forest of trees that was a league away from a village. Oriana felt very tired, as someone who had not slept at all the night before, and she said:

"My dear, I am so sleepy that I cannot go on."

"My lady," he said, "let us go to that valley, and ye shall sleep."

And they left the road and went to a valley, where they found a small stream and very fresh green grass. There Amadis helped his lady from her horse and said:

"My lady, the afternoon is becoming very warm. Sleep here until it becomes cooler. Meanwhile, I shall send Gandalin to the village to bring us something to refresh us."

"If he goes," Oriana said, "who will give him anything?"

Amadis said:

"They will give him something in exchange for the horse, and he shall return on foot."

"Not like that," she said. "Instead, take this ring, for it will never be worth as much to us as it is now." She took it from her finger and gave it to Gandalin.

As he was leaving, he said quietly to Amadis, "My lord, he who has a chance and loses it, shall regret it later." And having said this, he left, and Amadis understood well why he had said it.

Oriana lay on the cloak of the Damsel, while Amadis removed his armor and the Damsel helped him, which he needed. After he was disarmed, she went to sleep in some thick brush.

Amadis turned to his lady, and when he saw her so beautiful and in his possession, having given herself to his will, he was so struck by joy and shyness that he did not dare even to gaze at her. So it could well be said that in that green grass, on that cloak, more by the quiet grace of Oriana rather than the bold courage of Amadis, did the most beautiful maiden in the world become a woman.

And though they thought that with it, the flames of their passion would be cooled, instead they grew even bigger, brighter, and stronger, as will happen with healthy and true love. Thus they were together in loving acts, which he and she whose hearts have been wounded by similar arrows of love can understand and share, until Gandalin's return made Amadis arise.

He called to the Damsel and asked them to prepare something to eat, which they all needed. There, though they had no staff of servants nor grand gold and silver dinnerware, nothing could diminish the sweet delight that that meal gave them on the green grass. And so, as ye hear, the two lovers enjoyed such pleasure than neither the one nor the other would have left that forest for the rest of their lives if need and shame would have permitted.

We shall leave them there to rest and be happy, while we tell what happened to Sir Galaor as he sought the King.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Chapter 42 [fourth and final part]

[Moral of the story: kings who are greedy and sinful will be dealt cruel justice.]

[Isabel and Fernando, the Catholic sovereigns of Spain, who defeated the Moors in 1492.] 


Take heed, ye who are greedy and who have been given great reigns to govern by God, ye who have not merely forgotten to give Him thanks for placing you in a high position but, against His commands and losing all proper fear of Him, are not content with the estates that ye received from your predecessors. Instead, with deaths, fires, and thefts, ye wish to usurp and acquire the possessions of others who by right of law truly own them. Ye will not consider turning your ire and greed against the infidels, where it could be well employed, and will not take part in the great victory that our Catholic sovereigns have enjoyed in this world and will enjoy in the next, which they won by serving God laboriously.

Remember that great estates and riches do not satisfy greedy and base appetites, but instead often inflame them.

And ye of lower ranks whom Fortune has given much power and position and placed in these princes' councils to guide them the same way that a rudder guides and governs a great ship, provide them with loyal counsel and esteem, for in doing so ye serve God and the general good. Although in this world ye may not satisfy your wishes, ye shall in the next one, which is eternal. If on the contrary ye let yourself be guided by your passions and your avarice, ye shall be ruined with much pain and anguish to your souls. Ye rightly ought to believe that everything depends on you, because princes, due either to their tender age or their enemies, can become confused or forget their good sense and place themselves at sword-point, believing they have done the right thing. Their errors can be forgiven, especially if they were committed under your advice.

But ye who are free men, if ye see the errors before your eyes and esteem the favor of mortal men more than the ire of the Lord most high, not only do ye lose restraint and fail to avoid such great error, but because ye hope to gain power and advantage, ye forget your spirit and embrace the things of this world. Ye do not remember how many councilors of men in high places received cruel death from those same men as a result of the bad advice they gave them, because although erroneous things can for a time be most gratifying to base desire, when the dark cloud dissipates and vision becomes cleared, those things are abhorred, along with those who advised to do them.

One and all of ye take as a warning this King whose rebellious greed moved his heart to do such great treason that he killed his brother, who was his King and natural lord, while seated on his throne, splitting his head and his crown into two. He took the kingdom by force and achieved great glory, or so it seemed to him, believing that mutable Fortune lay beneath his feet.

But what fruit came from such flowers? Truly, only one thing. He did not offer his full recognition and penance to the Lord of the world, who, withstanding many injuries, would have mercifully pardoned him from cruel vengeance. And because Abiseos did not do so, God permitted Amadis to arrive as a crude executioner, killing him and his sons and avenging the great treason that had been done to that noble King. And although the hearts of Abiseos and his sons ached during the perilous battle as they saw their weapons broken, their flesh cut to pieces, and in end they suffered cruel death, do not believe that with that they had paid and purged their guilt. Instead their souls, with their shared sins and errors but with little understanding of He who had created them, were given to be perpetually and continuously punished in the burning flames of cruel Hell.

So let us leave aside those fleeting things that many others through great labor have wrongly won and then lost with terrible pain, paying for the sins they committed to get them, for we shall not do likewise, and instead we shall acquire the things that promise eternal glory.


The story now returns to the events underway. Amadis and Agrajes had won the battle in which Abiseos and his two courageous sons died, as ye have heard, and the bodies were removed from the field. But Amadis, despite his injuries, did not wish to disarm because he feared someone might intervene to keep Briolanja from recovering her kingdom.

Soon there arrived a great and powerful lord of the realm named Goman with fully one hundred men from his family and court, who happened to be there at that time. He explained to Amadis that for too long the kingdom had been helplessly subjected to a ruler who, with great treachery, had killed their natural lord. But now that God had given them a remedy, he did not fear nor expect anything other than the loyalty and vassalage of all people to their lady Briolanja.

With this, Amadis and all the company went to the royal palaces, where within a week everyone in the realm had come with joy and happiness in their souls to swear their obedience to Queen Briolanja. Amadis lay in bed, and the beautiful Queen never left his side except to sleep, for she loved him more than she loved herself. Agrajes, who was very dangerously injured, was put under the care of a man who know much of such things and kept him in his own home so that no one would talk to him, for the wound was in his throat, and such a precaution was necessary.

All the rest that this first book has told about the growing love between Amadis and this beautiful Queen was added to the story, as ye have already heard, and so, because it is superfluous and vain, it will not be recounted here, since it ought to be ignored. Its falsehoods would contradict and damage that which this great story shall tell you farther on and more correctly.