Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Chapter 62 [part 2 of 4]

[How King Lisuarte fell into grave error, and why it happened.] 

[King Fernando II of Castile, 1217–1252. He was canonized as a saint in 1671. Miniature from the 13th century Index of Royal Privileges kept at Santiago de Compostela.]   

Now know ye that in the court of King Lisuarte there were two elderly knights who had served his brother King Falangris for many years, so due to their long service and the authority of their great age more than to their virtue or their abilities, they were made counselors to King Lisuarte. One of them was named Brocadan and the other Gandandel. And Gandandel had two sons who had been esteemed knights before Amadis and his brothers and relatives came to the court, and their surpassing skill and strength had left those two famed knights forgotten. This put such great anguish and brooding into the heart of their father, Gandandel, that without fear of God nor considering the faith he owed to his lord the King, he thought he could use his private honor and advantage to damage and darken the general good which he was obligated to uphold, so he fabricated a great treachery in his evil heart, which he brought about in this way:

Speaking to the King one day, he said:

“My lord, ye and I must speak in private. I have refrained from talking with you for many days, hoping that the issue would be solved some other way, and I realize I have erred seriously in doing so, and since things get worse every day, it is very necessary for you to receive counsel.”

When the King heard this, he wanted to know what it was about, and he took Gandandel to his chamber, where no one else was, and told him:

“Now say what ye please.”

And Gandandel told him:

“My lord, I have always had the wisdom to protect my soul and honor, and to do nothing wrong although I could, thanks be to God. So I am free and without passion and can use my judgement in your service to advise you without impediment, and ye, my lord, may do what ye see fit. And because I would err before God and you if I were not to speak of it, I must say this:

“Ye already know, my lord, how for a long time in the past until now there has always been great discord between the kingdoms of Gaul and Great Britain, and how that kingdom ought to be subject to this one, recognizing its supremacy as all the other neighboring regions do. This is an illness that shall not be cured until the matter has been justly concluded. Now I have seen how Amadis is not only native to Gaul but the eldest son of his lineage, and others are here in your land who have such power over and affection from your people that it seems it is within his grasp to rebel and take this land as if he were its rightful heir.

“It is true that from this knight and his brothers and relatives I have never received anything other than honor and pleasure, for which I am obliged to them with my person and sons and estate, but may it never please God for me to be obliged with what is yours, for ye are my lord and natural king. Instead I would submit my own person and possessions to yours over the least thing, for if I were to do less, in this world I would fall into evil and in the next my soul would be in Hell.

“And so, my lord, I have said what I am obliged to say and have discharged my duty. Order the situation remedied before waiting brings greater peril for, in keeping with your majesty, ye can more honorably and restfully be with your own people rather than with strangers who are contrary to you and will place your estate in great danger, although it may seem otherwise now.”

The King said, without anger:

“These knights have served me so well and done so much for my honor and advantage that I cannot think of them except as in every way good.”

“My lord,” Gandandel said, “this is the worst way ye can look at it, because if they were to do you disservice, ye would protect yourself from them as if they were enemies, but great services hide within themselves trickery, and in the end its nature cannot be denied, as I have told you.”

And with this which ye have heard, the talk was ended because the King did not reply again. But Gandandel immediately spoke with the other man, named Brocadan, who was his brother-in-law, and in keeping with his ill will, he told him everything that had happened with the King and suggested he do the same.

And so, with what one or the other said, attributing it all to the good of the kingdom, the King was moved to great resentment against those who thought of nothing except to serve him. He forgot about the great danger from which Sir Galaor had saved him when he was a prisoner of Arcalaus’s ten knights, and the danger from which Amadis, calling himself Beltenebros, had saved him from when Madanfabul, the brave giant of the Scarlet Tower, had pulled him from his saddle and was carrying him away under his arm toward the ships. In each case it could be very rightly said that he had been restored to life with all his kingdom.

Oh, kings and great lords who govern this world, how appropriate and pertinent this example is for you! Remember to place your trust in men of good conscience and good will, without trickery or malice, who will advise you not only in what is to your service but also in what is to your salvation. Stay far away from those resembling Brocadan and Gandandel and many others like them who spend their time in your courts thinking and working about how, with false praise and hidden trickery, they can make you stray from the service of the God whose ministers ye are, only so that they and their sons and daughters may achieve honors in the same way that these self-interested men have done.

Look, look for yourselves and see how those men entrusted with great reigns by the Lord must render a full and good account for what He has given them. And if ye do not, whatever glory and power and pleasure that ye may have in this world, in the other world without end ye shall have to endure the great anguish and pain with which your souls will be inflicted and tormented. And not only shall ye be left in that vast waste, but in the present years, where ye esteem honor and fame so much, ye shall be brought down like King Lisuarte was. He believed and trusted the words of those who knew how to do ill works, and he saw with his own eyes the loss and dishonor of his court without any remedy for it in all the days of his life. If Fortune had up until this point granted him some victories, it was because the farther he fell, the more anguished and pained his soul would be.

Returning to the story, I say that these words had such power over the King that the great and excessive love he had felt with great cause and good reason for Amadis and his family was not only chilled with great injustice but thrust aside in such a way that without any further thought or advice, he no longer had an interest in seeing them. He immediately ceased to visit and converse with Amadis as he lay injured in his bed, which he had often done, and, several times, he passed by his lodging without remembering to ask about his ill health or to speak to the knights who were accompanying him.

When they saw the King’s new and strange behavior, they were surprised, and they spoke of it sometimes in front of Amadis. But he still thought of himself as completely in his service and thought the King understood that, so he believed other duties and business had caused that behavior. He told the others not to suspect anything, especially his loyal and great friend Angriote de Estravaus, who was more concerned than anyone else.

The situation being as ye have heard, King Lisuarte ordered Madasima and her damsels and the old giant and his sons and the nine knights who were his hostages to be brought before him. He told them that if they did not immediately turn over the island of Mogaza as had been agreed, he would cut off their heads. When Madasima heard this, due to her great fear, tears came in abundance to her eyes, for she thought that if the lands were delivered, she would be disinherited, and if it were not done, she would suffer cruel death. She did not know how to respond, and in her great anxiety, her flesh trembled.

But Andaguel, the old giant, told the King that if he gave him permission and some men, he promised to have the island turned over or he would return to prison. The King held that as good and gave him some men, and they immediately left.

Madasima returned to prison, accompanied by many knights, among them Sir Galvanes the Landless. When he saw those tears falling down the cheeks of that beautiful face, his heart was not only moved to great pity, but suddenly, he lost the freedom he had possessed until that moment, never having been the prisoner of any of the many women he had seen. He did not know why nor how, but he was deeply subjected and captivated without any further thought or delay. Within the hour, he spoke privately to Madasima, laying bare his heart, and told her that if she were pleased to marry him, he would find a way to save her life and let her keep her land in freedom.

Madasima had already noticed the quality of this knight and his great and high lineage. She granted what he asked and knelt, wishing to kiss his hands. With that assurance, Sir Galvanes felt his heart ache cruelly as the flames rose higher and higher in it, which until that moment had been free of the combat of love for so long.

A few days later, to put into effect what he had promised, he went to Amadis’s lodging. He spoke with him and his nephew Agrajes, and he revealed the full secret of his heart, showing them that if they did not get him a remedy, his life would be placed in the extreme of death. They were amazed by his sudden change and how he seemed to have lost control over his own will, being the reverse of his former concerns and thoughts. They told him that due to his valor and the great services he had done for King Lisuarte, it would be much easier to have Madasima and all her land be delivered to him, especially since it would remain in the realm because he was the King’s vassal. Amadis said that when he could mount a horse, he would go and arrange it with the King.

Meanwhile, Gandandel, sowing enmity, often went to see Amadis and showed him great love, and each time they spoke of the King, he always said it seemed to him that the King’s love had greatly cooled, and Amadis should be careful not to have any harm befall him. Gandandel said this would be a serious sorrow for him, considering all the help and favors he and his sons had received from Amadis.

But no matter how many subtle things he said, he could never move Amadis to anger or suspicion, and because Gandandel kept insisting, Amadis told him with some ire to speak about it no more. He said that even if everyone were to say the same thing, he could not believe that a man as wise and virtuous as the King could have come to oppose him, for Amadis, whether sleeping or awake, had never thought of anything but his service.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Chapter 62 [part 1 of 4]

How the battle was fought between Sir Bruneo of Bonamar and Madaman the Envious, brother of the exceptionally tall damsel, and what happened in the uprising caused by ill will toward the knights who were Amadis’s friends, as a result of which Amadis left the court of King Lisuarte. 

[The Wheel of Fortune, as depicted in On the Fate of Famous Men, by Giovanni Boccaccio, 1467 Parisian edition.] 

After the battle between Amadis and Ardan Canileo, which ye have heard about, the next day Sir Bruneo of Bonamar immediately appeared before the King, accompanied by many good knights who loved and esteemed him. He arrived to find the exceptionally tall damsel telling the King that her brother was prepared for battle, so the King should order his opponent to come forward: Although her brother could achieve little vengeance by killing Sir Bruneo compared to the value of the courageous Ardan Canileo, that was all this could be done, and with that poor recompense, they would be somewhat consoled.

Sir Bruneo, refusing to respond to those mad words, said that he wished to fight immediately, so both knights armed themselves at once and entered the field, each accompanied by those who wished him well, although they were different in each case. Sir Bruneo went with many esteemed knights, while Madaman the Envious, which was his name, had only three knights of his company to carry his arms.

After the judges had set them in their proper places to fight, they charged at each other as fast as their horses could gallop. In the first encounter, their lances were broken to pieces, Madaman was thrown from his saddle, and Bruneo carried off part of a lance in his shield, which it had pierced, causing him a small injury to his chest.

But when Bruneo turned his horse around, he saw the other knight with his sword in his hand to defend himself, who said:

“Sir Bruneo, if thou dost not wish to lose thy horse, dismount or let me mount my own.”

“Whatever ye wish,” Sir Bruneo said, “I shall do.”

Madaman, who thought he could fight better on foot than on horseback because he was large and the other knight was small, told him:

“Since thou hast left it to me, dismount and we shall fight on foot.”

Sir Bruneo pulled back and dismounted from his horse. A battle began between them so brave that soon their armor was broken in many places and their flesh was cut, from which much blood flowed, and their shields on their arms were chopped to bits, and the pieces littered the ground.

After they had been locked in battle for a while, as ye hear, a strange thing took place in which it seemed their animals understood what was happening to their masters. The horses, who were loose in the field, approached each other and began to fight, biting and kicking with such tenacity and hatred that it amazed everyone. The fight lasted until Madaman’s horse could take no more, fled from the other horse, and in great fear leaped over the chains that surrounded the field.

That was taken as a good sign by those who wanted Sir Bruneo to win. Returning their attention to the battle, they saw how Sir Bruneo hurried to attack his enemy with great and mighty blows, so that Madaman drew back and said:

“Sir Bruneo, why dost thy hurry? Is the day not long enough? Wait a bit and let us rest, for if thou wert to look at thy arms and the blood that flows from thy wounds, it would seem quite necessary to thee.”

“Madaman,” Sir Bruneo said, “If our battle were different and not with such high enmity, then thou wouldst find every courtesy and patience in me, but due to the great arrogance that thou hast shown so far, if I were give thee what thou hast asked for, it would diminish thy fame and valor. Thus I shall not do so for thine own good, since by winning thou shalt achieve greater glory, and I do not wish to cause thy weakness to be manifest. Protect thyself, for I shall not let thee rest.”

Then they fought as before, but soon Sir Bruneo, demonstrating his great strength and his burning heart, did nothing but attack Madaman with such speed that Madaman could do nothing but protect himself from the blows. When he could take no more, he backed as far as he could toward the sea, thinking that he could defend himself among the rocks. But when he saw how high and frightening the cliff was, he stopped.

Sir Bruneo, who was chasing him, came so close that Madaman could do nothing for himself. Sir Bruneo struck him with his shield and hands, pushing so hard that he fell down the tall cliff and was broken to pieces before he reached the sea.

Then Sir Bruneo knelt and thanked God for the great mercy He had given him.

When Mataleza, the giant damsel, saw this, she ran into the field as fast as she could and arrived at the cliff with great effort. She saw how the waves bore the blood and flesh of her brother back and forth. She took his sword, which had fallen there, and said:

“Here where the blood of my uncle Ardan Canileo and my brother was spilled, I wish mine to lie so that my soul and theirs shall be together wherever they may be.”

She thrust the point of the sword through her body and let herself fall back down the cliff, and so she was broken to pieces.

After this, Sir Bruneo mounted his horse to the great praise of the King and all those with him, and, accompanied by many of them, went Amadis’s lodging. There in a rich bed next to Amadis and Angriote, his wounds were treated along with theirs. They were frequently visited by knights and ladies and damsels to give them rest and pleasure.

But because Amadis’s ill health would delay her departure, Queen Briolanja got permission from him to leave for her reign. But first she wished to see the wonders of Firm Island and test the protected chamber, and she brought Enil with her to show him everything, and she promised Oriana to let her know what she found and what happened to her, as shall be told farther on.

Now as this story continues, it wishes to let ye see how little the strength of human reason matters when the Lord on High lets go of the reins and raises His hand to remove His grace, allowing man’s judgement free power to act. It shall be made manifest whether mortal men may win great states and govern them with discretion and diligence or, when they lack divine Grace, if great arrogance, greed, and a multitude of armed men is enough to maintain them.

Ye have heard how when King Lisuarte was a prince, possessing only his arms and horse, with a few servants, he rode as a knight errant looking for adventure, arriving at the Kingdom of Denmark. As Fortune would have it, Princess Brinsena fell in love with the Prince. She was the daughter of the King, and she was much esteemed and sought by many princes and great men for her great beauty and virtue, but she cast all of them aside and took Lisuarte as her husband.

This was the first good fortune that he had, and among earthly fortunes, one of the best that he could have had. But the powerful Lord loved him so much that He was not content with this blessing. Lisuarte’s brother Falangris, King of Great Britain, was without heir, and when he left this life, without any travail this disinherited Prince became King. But unlike other kings of his time who were satisfied with only their subjects and kingdoms, he had sought to win and reign over others, and so the sons of kings and great princes and dukes came to his court, among them those three brothers, Amadis, Sir Galaor, and Florestan, along with many others of great renown.

Lisuarte shone high above the emperors and kings of the world, and if his splendor was somewhat darkened by the boon he had promised to the treacherous damsel that caused him become Arcalaus’s prisoner, this could better be attributed to the strength of his heart than a lack of caution, for at that time great courage and skill at arms flourished in princes and great lords, making them shine above others more lowly, just as it can be found among the ancient stories of the Greeks and Trojans.

Then what more shall we say about the greatness of this powerful King? In his court amazing ventures were fulfilled with great glory after roaming the world for a long time and finding none who could accomplish them. Yet that is no reason to forget his victory in the painful and frightening battle he had with Cildadan, where so many strong and vile giants, so many valiant knights of giants’ blood, and other men of great rank and renown in the world were killed and destroyed by the great virtue and courage of the King and his men. And then, soon after, the brave and famous Ardan Canileo, who in all the lands he traveled never found four knights who could match him in the field of battle, was defeated and killed by just one knight in the court of this King.

Then, shall we say now that Fortune caused this King to be gracious and very human, frank, and courageous? In fact, one might think so, but because he did not know how to govern himself and for a very slight cause, as ye shall now hear, he undid and wasted most of what he had. For that reason we must believe that when someone is provided with great good fortune and his judgement and discretion are not enough for him to maintain it, we should not attribute his fate to himself to anything other than the Most High and Powerful Lord, Who is pleased to give blessings with such secrecy that it would be madness for us to try to understand.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Queen Isabella and the invention of modern chess

She was an actual field marshal, after all. 

Modern standard chess pieces, featuring the queen.


Until the late 1400s, the queen moved only one square at a time in chess. And then, suddenly, the rules changed and she became the most powerful piece on the board, revolutionizing the game.

In this essay, Eduardo Gil Bera traces that change to November 7, 1489, and Queen Isabella of Castille — chess changed as an homage to her spectacular victory at Baza: