Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Chapter 44 [final part]

[How Amadis became lord of Firm Island, and how disaster followed.]

[Art from the 1526 edition of Amadis of Gaul, printed by Jacobo and Juan Cromberger in Seville.] 
Sir Galaor and Florestan, who were waiting for Amadis and Agrajes outside the arch, saw that they were taking their time, so they decided to go to see the protected chamber, and they asked Ysanjo, the governor, to show it to them. He said that it would please him, and took them to see the chamber from a distance and the pillars that ye have heard of.

Sir Florestan said:

"My lord brother, what do ye wish to do?"

"Nothing," he said, "for I have never willingly become involved with enchantments."

"Then rest here," Sir Florestan said, "for I wish to see what I can do."

Then, commending himself to God, raising his shield before himself and with his sword in hand, he advanced. When he entered the enchanted area surrounding the chamber, he felt himself attacked on all sides by great blows with lances and swords, so many of them that it seemed that no man could survive. But since he was strong and valiant of heart, he could only go forward, attacking here and there with his sword, and from what he felt with his hand, he seemed to strike armed men but his sword could not cut them. So he passed the copper pillar and reached the marble one, but then he fell and could go no further, for he had lost all his strength. And then he was thrown out of the area, as had been done to the others.

Sir Galaor, when he saw that, felt very sorry for him and said:

"Regardless of what my will had been regarding this test, I shall not fail to take part in the danger."

He ordered the squires and the dwarf to remain with Florestan and splash cold water on his face. He took up his arms, commended himself to God, and went toward the door of the chamber. Immediately many hard and powerful blows struck him on all sides, and with great difficulty he reached the marble column. He held it and waited for a while, but when he took another step forward, he was attacked with so many blows that he could withstand them no more and fell to the earth, and like Sir Florestan, he was so stunned that he did not know if he was alive or dead. Then he was thrown outside like the others.

Amadis and Agrajes, who had spent some time walking through the garden, returned to the statues and saw there, in the jasper, his name written, which said:

"This is Amadis of Gaul, the loyal lover, son of King Perion of Gaul."

And as they enjoyed reading the words, Ardian the dwarf came to the gateway of the arch shouted:

"My lord Amadis, come help, for your brothers are dead!"

When he heard this, he left quickly, with Agrajes behind him, and he asked the dwarf what he meant, who said:

"My lord, your brothers tested themselves at the chamber and did not succeed and were left near dead."

Then they mounted their horses and rode to where they were, and found them in a bad state as ye have heard, although they had grown more conscious. Agrajes, who had a strong heart, quickly dismounted and, as fast as he could, went with his sword in hand toward the chamber, striking on one side and the other. But his strength was not enough to bear the blows that he was given and he fell between the copper and marble columns, stunned like the others, and he was thrown out.

Amadis began to curse having come there, and he said to Sir Galaor, who was now almost recovered:

"Brother, I cannot fail to place my body in the same danger as yours."

Galaor wanted to stop him, but Amadis quickly took up his arms and went ahead, asking God to help him, and when he arrived at the protected area, he paused and said:

"Oh, my lady Oriana, from whom comes all my strength and valor, think of me, my lady, as much as I need your delightful memory at this time!"

And then he went forward and felt himself attacked fiercely on all sides. He arrived at the marble column, and when he passed it, the entire world seemed to be trying to strike him, and he heard a great shout of voices as if the world were falling, and they said:

"If ye turn back this knight, then no one else in the world now may enter here."

But despite his woes, he did not cease to go forward, falling to his hands and knees at times. His sword, with which he had given great blows, had fallen from his hand and hung from its strap, and he could not recover it. And thus he arrived at the door of the chamber and saw a hand that grasped his hand and pulled him inside, and he heard a voice that said:

"Welcome to the knight who surpasses the skill of he who made this enchantment and who in his time had no equal. Ye shall be lord here."

That hand seemed large and hard, as if it belonged to an old man, and the arm was clothed in green and gold silk brocade. And when Amadis was inside the chamber, he was let go and he saw the hand no more, but he felt rested and had regained all his strength. He took the shield from around his neck and the helmet from his head, put his sword in its sheath, and thanked his lady Oriana for the honor that he won in her name.

At this time, everyone in the castle had heard it proclaimed that he had been granted the lordship and saw him in the chamber, and they began to call out:

"Our lord, we have received that which we have desired for so long, praise God!"

The brothers, who had recovered more of their consciousness, saw how Amadis had succeeded where they had failed, and they were happy because of the great love they had for him, and ordered themselves to be carried as they were to the chamber. The governor, with all his men, came to Amadis and kissed his hands as his lord. When they saw the amazingly worked and splendid things there, they were astonished, but these were nothing compared to the chamber where Apolidon and his lover had lived, which was made in such a way that not only could no one duplicate it nor even understand how it was made, it was such that those inside could see clearly what was being done outside, but those outside could in no way see anything within.

There for a time they were all happy, the knights because they had in their family such a knight whose skill surpassed all those in the present world and in the previous one for a hundred years, and those who lived on the island because they had found a lord whom they hoped would be blessed and who would rule over many other lands from that island.

Ysanjo, the governor, said to Amadis:

"My lord, it would be good if ye were to eat and rest, and tomorrow all the noblemen of the land will come here and do you homage, receiving you as their lord."

At that they left, and they entered a great palace, where they ate a well-prepared meal and rested that day. The next day, everyone on the island came together amid fine games and festivities, and they took Amadis as their lord with the pledges of vassalage as were customary in that time and land.

And so as this story has told, Amadis won the Firm Island one hundred years after the handsome Apolidon had left it enchanted, which served as true testimony that in all those years no knight had come who surpassed his skill.

But upon reaching such glory by great deeds at arms, which ought we to judge to be better: to win or to lose? Some men win, and these feel what that knight Amadis might have felt, while others, who expected victory and instead received the opposite, weep at their misadventure. Which of these two extremes is better? I have seen that the first can attract great sins through pride due to human weakness, which has no bounds, and the second, great desperation. Who can chose wisely between them? The reasonable judgement that the true Lord gives to men over all living things tells us that prosperity and adversity shall not last, and the heart that has been indoctrinated and reinforced may judge one against the other and reach a blessed middle course.

But will Amadis of Gaul take this middle course now that fickle Fortune has prepared herself to show him the toxic henbane and poisons that are hidden within these joys and achievements? I think not. Up until now, without measure or pause, favorable things have occurred to him through no combat against Fortune, but now, incomparably, his heart and his reason shall be defeated and subjugated by her, and his mighty arms shall not serve him, nor the sweet memory of his lady, nor the bravura of his heart. But he shall be helped by the great pity of our Lord who came to our world to serve sinners and sufferers. Now ye shall be told of his sorrows and later happiness.

It has already been told in the first part of this great story how Oriana, when she heard the words of the dwarf about the pieces of the sword*, was overcome by ire and rage and so upset that she took no note of the wise counsel offered her by Mabilia and the Damsel of Denmark. Now ye shall be told what she did about it after that day when she gave way to passion and let it grow within her.

Although her habit was to be in the company those damsels, she changed, and, disdaining their presence, spent most of her time alone thinking about how she could avenge her rage and cause sorrow to the one who had enraged her, as he deserved. She decided that since he was not present, in his absence all her feelings could be manifest in writing. When she was alone in her room, she took ink and parchment from their box and wrote a letter that said this:


"My enraged complaint accompanied by complete justification gives rise to cause my weak hand to declare what my sad heart can no longer hide against you, the false and disloyal knight Amadis of Gaul. It is now known the disloyalty and irresolution ye have shown against me, the most miserable and neglected woman in the world. Ye have withdrawn your love for me, whom ye had loved above all things in the world, and given it to she who due to her age has not sufficient discretion for love nor wisdom.

"And because my defeated heart can take no other vengeance, I wish to withdraw all the excessive and misemployed love that I had for you, since it would be a great error to love someone who despises me and to spurn all others as a result of this love and desire.

"Oh, how poorly I used and subjected my heart, since in payment for my sighs and passions, it was mocked and discarded. And because this deceit has been made manifest, do not come before me anywhere I am, for ye may be certain that the burning love I had for you has become rabid and cruel rage, which ye deserve. Take your fallen faith and knowing deceits and deceive another poor woman like me, for I have overcome your lying words and will receive no excuses nor petitions from you. I shall not see you; instead, I shall weep many tears over my misfortune and with those tears end my life and finish my sad lament."

When her letter was finished, she sealed it with Amadis's own well-known seal, and on the envelope she wrote:

"I am the damsel whose heart has been wounded at sword-point, and ye are the one who attacked me."

She spoke in utter secrecy with a page named Durin, brother of the Damsel of Denmark, and ordered him not to rest until he had arrived at the kingdom of Sobradisa, where he would find Amadis, then give him the letter, watch his face as he read it and stay with him that day, but take no letter from him in response, even if he wished to give him one.

* Translator's note: In Chapter 40, Amadis left London to help Briolanja regain her kingdom, but he had not gone far before he realized that he had left behind Briolanja's father's sword, which she had given him and which he had later broken in battle. His servant, the dwarf Ardian, went back to get it, and as he left, he told Oriana that the broken sword meant a lot to Amadis because he had received it from the woman he deeply loved. Ardian did not know that Amadis loved Oriana, and he had mistaken Amadis's kindness to Briolanja as love rather than chivalry. Although Oriana's friends Mabilia and the Damsel of Denmark tried to convince her that Ardian might be wrong, she believed him and grew irate.

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