Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chapter 54 [second half]

[How the Damsel of Denmark arrived bearing Beltenebros's letter.] 

["Philosophy Presenting the Seven Liberal Arts to Boethius," attributed to Coëtify Master, about 1460-1470. The women are dressed in the latest fashions of the time.] 


Sir Galaor, Sir Florestan, and Agrajes, armed and on horseback, departed from the King, took Corisanda with them, left London, and went on their way. Gandalin, who was there and saw it all, left immediately for Miraflores and told Oriana and Mabilia, to whom those three companions had send their regards.

Oriana said:

"Now Corisanda is in great pleasure, for she has Sir Florestan in her company, who loves her so much, and may God give her him forever, for she is a very good lady."

She began to sigh, and the tears came to her eyes, and she said:

"Oh Lord God, why do Ye not wish to let me see Amadis for just one day? Oh Lord, either give me that blessing or take me from this world and do not let me live in such anguish and pain."

Gandalin felt very sorry for her but made himself look angry, and he said:

"My lady, do not call me to appear before you, because we are waiting for the good news that God shall send us, and ye wish to make us lose hope."

Oriana wiped the tears from her eyes and said:

"Oh, Gandalin, by God, do not complain! If I could do something, I would do it gladly, for although I may look happy, my heart never stops weeping. If it were not for the hope that thy words have given me, I think that I would not have the strength to rise and stand. But now tell me what shall become of my father the King, since he will not have Amadis in that battle."

"My lady," he said, "my lord cannot be so hidden away that something so renowned has not come to his notice. So who can doubt that he would wish to come and put his strength in your service, knowing what would happen to you if your father were to loose? For although ye have forbidden him to appear before you, he shall appear there where he sees that he can serve and achieve pardon for the error that he did not do nor think of doing."

"May it please God to be as thou dost believe," Oriana said.

And as they were speaking, a girl ran in and said:

"My lady, come see the Damsel of Denmark and the rich gifts that she brings you!"

Oriana's heart shook and stopped, and she could not speak. She was disturbed because the Damsel's arrival brought life or death according to the news that she carried.

Mabilia, who saw her thus, told the girl:

"Go and tell the Damsel to come here alone, because I wish to see her privately."

She said this so that no one could see the great sorrow or joy of Oriana, depending on the news that she brought. The girl left and did what she had been told, but as for Mabilia and Gandalin, I tell you that they were faint for not knowing what news the Damsel brought.

The Damsel entered joyfully and with a happy face, knelt before Oriana, gave her the letter that she carried, and said:

"My lady, I bring you news that shall be to your pleasure, and know, my lady, that I have fulfilled all that which ye had asked me to do, just as ye had wished. Read this letter and ye shall see that Amadis wrote it with his own hand."

Oriana took the letter, but her hands shook with such joy that the letter fell from them, and when her heart became more calm, she opened the letter and found the ring that she had ordered Gandalin to bring to Amadis when he fought with Dardan in Windsor, which she immediately recognized and kissed many times. She said:

"Blessed be the hour in which thou wert made, and with such joy and pleasure thou hast traveled from hand to hand."

She put it on her finger. When she saw the humble words in the letter and the great thanks that he had for her, and how he had turned from death to life, her heart felt joy, and she raised her hands and said:

"Oh Lord of the world, Who helps in all things, blessed be You for helping me at this time and freeing me from death, which was so close!"

She had the damsel sit in front of her and told her:

"My friend, now tell me what ye found, and the days ye were with him, and where ye left him."

The damsel told how she had looked for him, and how she was returning very sadly without any news when a great storm overcame her at sea and made her dock at Poor Rock, where she found him. And she told what had happened to him there and the great pleasure Oriana's letter had given him. She told where she had left him and how he awaited her orders. But when the Damsel came to tell how he had come so close to death and how he was so unlike himself that she could recognize him only by the scar on his face, and how he had changed his name, and how Durin had spent three days with him and had not recognized him, Oriana felt great sorrow and pity for him.

And when everything had been told, Oriana said:

"By God, my friend, the orders have to be sent right away. Tell me how to do it."

"I shall tell you," she said. "I knowingly left two jewels there that I was carrying, so that we will have to send Durin back for them, and he can carry your orders."

"Ye did well," she said, "and now, in front of everyone in the castle, give me the gifts that ye bring and say that ye have forgotten the ones for Mabilia, just as ye have said."

Then they told the Damsel what Corisanda had said about him, and how he had called himself Beltenebros, but she did not recognize him nor learn who he was.

"It is true that he is called that," the Damsel said, "and he said that he shall not change his name back until he sees you and ye tell him to do so."

And they also told her how they had the keys to the gates of the garden, and they called Durin and showed him where to bring Beltenebros when he came, and they ordered him to go get him immediately. But they did not have to work hard to persuade him, for he was still very sorry for the misfortune he had brought Amadis, which had almost meant death for him, and Durin thought that now he could make amends and correct everything, which gave his heart great joy. He kissed Oriana's hands for ordering it.

And then he concurred that Mabilia, in front of everyone in the castle, would ask him to go get those gifts, and he would agree to it very reluctantly, as if it were a great burden, so that no one would suspect anything about his trip. That is what they did, and when they asked him, he showed how much it bothered him, and he angrily said to Mabilia:

"I tell you, my lady, that I go only because they are yours, and if they were for the Queen or Oriana, I would not go, for it was hard traveling on this road."

Mabilia thanked him, and Oriana told him:

"My friend Durin, although ye have served us well, ye would not wish to complain about the service that ye did in such a way that ye would not be thanked for it."

"Yes, I shall when ye order me to serve you," he said, "for I well believe that your thanks are worth as little as my service."

They all laughed at the anger that Durin showed and how he had responded, and he said to Mabilia:

"My lady, since ye wish me to go, I want to leave immediately tomorrow."

Then he said goodbye to them and left with Gandalin to sleep in town, and Gandalin asked him to bring his regards to Enil, his cousin, and to ask him to come to see him if he could, for he had to speak to him about some things, and to ask him that as long as he was traveling with that knight, to seek news of Amadis. He sent this message so that Amadis could travel better disguised, and because if Enil wished to leave him, then he would have a reason to see Gandalin.

Speaking of this, they arrived in London, and the next morning Durin mounted his palfrey to go to where he had left Beltenebros, but first he made sure to learn all the news of the court so that he could recount it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Chapter 54 [first half]

How, while King Lisuarte was lingering over the dinner table, an unfamiliar knight entered fully armed and challenged the King and all his court, and what Florestan did with him, and how Oriana was consoled and Amadis was found. 

["Portrait of a Knight" by Vittore Carpaccio, 1520. It is housed in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid.]  

King Lisuarte was lingering at the dinner table after the tablecloths had been removed because Sir Galaor and Sir Florestan and Agrajes, who were going to leave with Corisanda, wanted to say goodbye to him. An unfamiliar knight, fully armed except for his head and hands, entered the doorway of the palace with two squires. He carried a letter with five seals in his hand, and he knelt and gave it to the King, saying:

"Read that letter and then I shall say why I have come."

The King read it, and seeing that it gave its bearer credence, he told him:

"Now ye may say what ye wish."

"King," the knight said, "I challenge thee and all thy vassals and friends on behalf of Famongomadan, the giant of the Boiling Lake, and on behalf of Cartadaque, the Giant of the Forbidden Mountain, and Madanfabul, his brother-in-law, the giant of the Vermilion Tower, and Sir Cuadragante, the brother of King Abies of Ireland, and Aracalaus the Sorcerer. And I am ordered to tell thee that you hast in them death, both thee and all those who call themselves thine. They would have thee know that they, with all their great friends, shall oppose thee and shall aid King Cildadan in the battle that thou hast set with him.

"But if thou wouldst give thy daughter Oriana to Madasima, the very beautiful daughter of Famongomadan, to be her damsel and serve her, they shall not oppose thee, but shall wed Oriana with Basagante, his brother, when the time comes. He is such a lord that thy lands and hers shall be well-employed by him. And now, King, consider what shall be best for thee: either the peace that they wish, or the most cruel war that could come to thee against such able men."

The King replied laughing, as one who held the challenge as minor, and told him:

"Knight, better a dangerous war than a dishonorable peace, and I would give the Lord a bad repayment for placing me so high if, for a lack of courage, I were to be intimidated and lower myself so dishonorably. Now ye may go, and tell them I would prefer war every day of my life and in the end to die rather than give them the peace they seek. Tell me where my knight may find them so that they learn my response from him, who shall give it to them."

"At the Boiling Lake," the knight said, "which is on an island named Mongaza, he shall find those whom he seeks, both them and those with whom they shall fight the battle."

"Giants being what they are," the King said, "I do not know if my knight may go and return in safety."

"Do not doubt that," he said, "for where Sir Cuadragante is, nothing unjust may be done, and I shall see to it myself."

"In the name of God," said the King. "Now tell me what your name is."

"My lord," he said, "my name is Landin and I am the nephew of Sir Cuadragante, son of his sister. We have come to this land to avenge the death of King Abies of Ireland, and we regret that we cannot find the man who killed him, nor do we know if he is dead or alive."

"That may be so," the King said, "but may it please God to have ye know soon that he is alive and sound, and that all shall go well."

"I understand why ye say that," Landin said, "because ye believe him to be the best knight that ye have ever seen. But whatever I may be, ye shall find me in the battle between you and King Cildadan, and there my good and ill works shall be made manifest in the greatest harm I can cause to you."

"I am very sorry," the King said, "for I would rather have you in my service, but I am sure that in the end ye shall not lack for someone to fight against."

"Nor shall they lack for opponents who shall fight unto death," the knight said.

When Sir Florestan heard this, he became quote upset, because that knight had dared to say he was searching for his brother Amadis, and he told him:

"Knight, I am not of this land nor a vassal of the King, so none of what ye have said matters between you and I, and I shall say nothing about it because in this court there are others who could speak and act better than me. But I speak because ye say that ye have sought Amadis and have not found him, which I believe is not to your loss. I am his brother, Sir Florestan, and if ye wish to fight me, on the condition that if ye are defeated, ye shall end your quest, and if I am killed, your anger and shame shall be satisfied. I shall do this because as sad as ye feel about King Abies, that and much more would Amadis feel at my death."

"Sir Florestan," Landin said, "well I see that ye have a taste for battle, but I fear that I cannot, for I must return with the answer to this message by a set day, and those lords have made me pledge that I shall become involved in no other confrontation. But if I leave that battle alive, I have a date set with you."

"Landin," Sir Florestan said, "ye speak like a good and honorable knight, for those with messages like yours must deny their own will to obey that of those whose wills they carry out, because otherwise, although ye may satisfy your honor, ye would be dishonored by tarrying in your responsibility, so I hold what ye say to be proper."

He gave his gauntlets to the King as a sign of agreement, and Landin gave the skirt of his coat of mail, and both agreed that they would fight thirty days after the battle between the kings. Then the King ordered a knight whom he had raised named Filispinel to accompany Landin and go to challenge those who had challenged him.

Once those knights had left, the King remained speaking with Sir Galaor and Florestan and Agrajes and many other knights who were in the palace, as ye heard, and he told them:

"I want ye to see something that ye will enjoy."

Then he ordered his daughter Leonoreta and all her little damsels be called to dance as they had often done but which he had ceased to ask for after he had heard the news that Amadis was lost. The King told her:

"Daughter, sing the song that Amadis wrote for your love as your knight."

The girl, with the other little damsels, began to sing, and the words were:

Leonoreta, fine rosette,
whiter than any other flower,
may your love, fine rosette,
never cause me any sorrow.

With such ill fate I in madness
have now fallen
by loving you, in madness
I still remain
and cannot find a way to flee.
Oh, your beauty without par
gives me so much pain so sweet.

Of all the others that I view
I have no wish
to serve another besides you
and though my desire now appears
to be in vain
I can no longer leave this place
And since I cannot escape
from being in your duty
may your love, fine rosette,
never cause me any sorrow.

Even though my complaint may seem
to be concerning you, my lady
yet another is the winner
yet another is the killer
she for whom my life would fail.
It is she who has the power
to declare a total war on me.
It is she who can do this
though I do not deserve that fate
so dead beneath the earth I live.

I want you to know why Amadis composed this carol for Princess Leonoreta. He was talking with Queen Brisena, when Oriana and Mabilia and Olinda told Leonoreta to tell Amadis that he was her knight and should serve her well and look at no other woman. She went to him and said what they had told her to say. Amadis and the Queen heard it and laughed heartily, and Amadis took her in his arms and sat her on the estrado and told her:

"Since ye wish me to be your knight, give me some jewel to recognize that I hold myself to be yours."

She took a clip from her hair with some precious stones and gave it to him. They all began to laugh to see how the girl had taken their joke as truth, and Amadis, as her knight, wrote her the carol that ye have heard. And when she and her damsels sang it, they all wore garlands on their heads and dresses of rich fabric like Leonoreta's, and she was extremely beautiful, but not as much as Oriana, who had no par in the world. In time, as shall be told further on, Leonoreta became Empress of Rome.

She had twelve little damsels, all daughters of dukes and counts and other great lords, and they sang that carol so well and so prettily that the King and all his knights felt great pleasure to hear it.

And after they had sung, the Princess and damsels knelt before the King, then went to where the Queen was. Sir Galaor and Sir Florestan and Agrajes told the King they wanted to leave with Corisanda and asked for permission, and he took them aside in the hall and said:

"My friends, in all the world none give me courage like you, and the date for my battle is nearing. It must be in the first week of August, and ye have heard who the men are who will confront me. They will bring others who are very brave and strong at arms, as well as those who have the nature and blood of giants. So I sincerely ask you not to take on any other fights or quests that may be prevent you from being with me in the battle, for I have serious mortal enemies, and ye would unjustly leave me short-handed. I trust God that with your great skills and those of all the others who will serve me, our enemies shall not be valiant nor strong enough to overcome us, and in the end they shall be defeated and destroyed and shamed by us."

"My lord," they said, "for something as notable and proclaimed everywhere as this shall be, your order and plea is not necessary, for even if we lacked the desire and good will to serve you, we would not lack a real desire to be in that great conflict. Our hearts and wills have traveled through many places and foreign lands looking for one thing, which is to find ourselves in great peril, for by winning we achieve the glory that we desire, and losing we fulfill that for which we were born. So we shall return promptly. Meanwhile, give spirit and courage to your knights so that their great love and affection for you shall turn their weakness into strength."

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Book I now available in print and Kindle

Trade paperback, 316 pages. And ebook. 

Cover art: Suit of armor at the Alcázar of Segovia. Photo by Sue Burke. 


Book I of my translation of Amadis of Gaul is now on sale in print and Kindle format.

The novel is divided into four books, and Book I is the oldest, written in the early 1330s. It starts with Amadis's birth out of wedlock. While still a boy, he falls hopelessly in love with Princess Oriana of Great Britain, and to win her love, he becomes a knight and embarks on a series of perilous adventures — rescuing damsels, kings, and kingdoms. Interwoven with these feats are the stories of Amadis's two brothers, their friends in arms, and their mortal enemies.

This edition includes:

• a preface by José Miguel Pallarés, a Spanish writer, who tells how he discovered the novel as a boy by sneaking into a locked room in his family home in a medieval town in Spain — one of the best memories of his childhood.

• an introduction providing background to the book, what inspired it, who wrote it, and how it became Europe's first best-seller.

• notes to selected chapters to help the modern reader understand some of the historic references in the text.

• an appendix discussing the relationship of Amadis of Gaul and Don Quixote de la Mancha, and the reasons why Amadis, once the favored reading of kings and emperors, disappeared as if by magic from the inventories of the libraries of Spanish noble families and fell into oblivion — but it wasn't due to Don Quixote.

Amadis of Gaul Book I at Amazon: