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.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Chapter 48 [first part]

How Sir Galaor, Florestan, and Agrajes left to search for Amadis, and how Amadis abandoned his arms, changed his name, and retired with an elderly priest in a hermitage to lead a solitary life. 

[Modern joust re-enactment in Livermore, California. Sir Quint of the Knights of Avalon on a Clydesdale draft horse. Photo by David Ball.] 

Ye have already been told how Amadis left Firm Island in great sorrow and so secretly that his brothers Sir Galaor and Sir Florestan and his cousin Agrajes did not know about it; and how he had Ysanjo promise not to speak of it until the next day after Mass. And so Ysanjo did, for having heard Mass, they asked about Amadis, and he told them:

"Arm yourselves and I shall tell you his orders."

And when they were armed, Ysanjo began to sob and said:

"Oh, my lords, what sorrow and pain have come upon us, for our lord was with us so little time!"

Then he told them how Amadis had left the castle in grief and mourning, and everything he had ordered Ysanjo to tell them, and what he ordered done in that land, and how he begged them not to follow him, and that by no means could they give him aid or comfort, and that, by God, not to be saddened by his death.

"Oh, Holy Mary, help us," they said. "The best knight in the world is going to die, so we must ignore his orders and go look for him, and if we cannot give him comfort with our lives, our deaths shall accompany his."

Ysanjo told Sir Galaor that Amadis had wanted him to make Gandalin a knight and to take Ardian the dwarf with him, and Ysanjo told them this weeping bitterly, and they did the same. Galaor took the dwarf into his arms, who had been grieving and beating his head on a wall, and told him:

"Ardian, come with me as thy lord has ordered, for what becomes of me shall become of thee."

The dwarf said:

"My lord, I shall serve you, but not as my lord until I know for certain about Amadis."

Then they mounted their horses, and Ysanjo showed them the road that Amadis had taken. All three rode all day without finding anyone to question. Then they saw Patin, who lay injured and his horse dead. His squires, who had arrived, were cutting wood and branches to make a litter to carry him, for he was very weak from the blood he had lost, and he could tell them nothing.

He gestured for them to leave him alone, and they asked the squires who had injured the knight. They said they did not know except that when they had arrived, he told them he had jousted with a knight who had come from the Firm Island and who had easily knocked him down in the first encounter and with one blow of the sword had caused that wound and killed his horse, and after he had left, he said that he had learned from a page that the knight was the one who had won the lordship of the Firm Island.

Sir Galaor told them:

"Good squires, did ye see where the knight went?"

"No," they said, "but before we arrived here we saw an armed knight in this forest on a fine horse, weeping and cursing his fate, and a squire behind him who carried his arms. On the shield there was a field of gold and two purple lions an it, and the squire was also sobbing."

They said:

"That is him."

Then they went in that direction as fast as they could ride, and when they left the forest they found a great field in which there were roads in all directions, and all of them had tracks, so they could not be sure which was Amadis's. Thus they agreed to part, and in order to find out what each had learned in their search in the lands where they traveled, they would be united on the day of Saint John [June 24] in the court of King Lisuarte. If at that time their efforts ran so contrary that they had learned nothing of him, they would make another pact.

Then they embraced each other, weeping, and separated, holding firmly in their hearts the desire to do all they could finish their search with success. But this was in vain, and however many lands they traversed, where great and very dangerous feats of arms befell them, and despite their mighty and brave hearts filled with great hopes, their fate was to find nothing at all. Their adventures shall not be here recounted because their search failed and went unfulfilled.

That was because when Amadis left Patin, he rode through the forest and when he came out, he found a field in which there were many roads, and he left on none of them so that he would leave no track. He entered a valley and rode up a mountain, and he was so lost in thought that his horse went where it would. At midday the horse had reached some trees on the bank of a rivulet that came down the mountain, and due to the heat and the long night of toil, it stopped there.

Amadis took note of his surroundings again, and looked all around and saw no town, which gave him great pleasure. Then he dismounted and drank some water, and Gandalin, who had been riding behind him, arrived. He took the horses and put them where they could graze on the grass, returned to his lord, and found him so dazed that he seemed more dead than alive, but he did not dare revive him from his sorrow, and lay down in front of him.

Amadis recovered from his thoughts when the sun was about to set, got up, kicked Gandalin, and said:

"Art thou sleeping or what art thou doing?"

"I am not sleeping," he said, "but I am thinking about two things that deal with you, and if ye wish to hear them, I shall tell you. If not, I shall not."

Amadis told him:

"Go and saddle the horses for I must go, since I do not want anyone who searches for me to find me."

"My lord," Gandalin said, "ye are in a secluded place, and your horse is so weak and tired that if ye do not let it rest it will not bear you."

Amadis told him, weeping:

"Do what ye thing best, for neither staying nor riding shall I find rest."

Gandalin cared for the horses, returned to him, and asked him to eat a meat turnover he had brought, but he did not wish to, so he said:

"My lord, do ye wish me to tell you the two things that I thought about?"

"Say what thou wishest," he said, "for I give nothing about anything said or done, and do not wish to live any longer in this world after I have had confession."

Gandalin said:

"Still, my lord, I ask you to listen to me." Then he said:

"I have thought a lot about the letter that Oriana sent you and about the words that the knight that ye fought said. And as the will of many women is very fickle and they change their love from some men to others, it could be that Oriana has strayed from you and wished to pretend to be angry at you before ye found out. The other thing is that I hold her to be so good and loyal that she would not be so moved unless something false had been told her about you that she held to be true, loving you as firmly with her heart as yours must for her.

"And since ye know that ye have never strayed, if something false has been told to her, she will eventually learn the truth, that ye are blameless, so she will not only repent for what she has done, but with great humility she will ask forgiveness, and ye shall return to her with the great delights that your heart desires. Would it not be better to wait for this remedy and to eat and to take such consolation that life may sustain itself, than to die with such little hope and spirit that ye shall lose her and ye shall lose both the honor of this world and what ye may have in the next world?"

"By God, be quiet!" Amadis said. "Thou hast said such madness and lies that it would enrage all the world. Thou hast said things to console me that thou dost not believe to be true, for my lady Oriana has never erred in anything, and if I die it is not because I deserve it but because with it I fulfill her will and orders. And if I did not understand that thou hast said it to console me, I would cut off thy head. Know that thou hast made me very angry, and from here on do not dare to say anything like that to me again."

He left Gandalin and walked down river, so lost in thought that he lost all sense of himself. Gandalin fell asleep as one who had not slept for two days and one night. When Amadis returned, now sensible to his surroundings, he saw how Gandalin slept so deeply, went to saddle his horse, hid Gandalin's saddle and reins in some deep brush so he could not follow him, took his arms, and entered the thickest part of the mountain forest very angry at Gandalin for what he had said.