Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Bankcroft fragments

A hint at an earlier version of the novel. 

One of the four fragments at the Bankcroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley.


We know that a two-book version of Amadis of Gaul existed in Spain in the early 1300s; a three-book version was written at the end of the 1300s; and a four-book version was created by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo and published in 1508. He said he “corrected” the earlier version, but since all we have is the 1508 edition, we don’t know exactly what he corrected.

However, four fragments from a version written in about 1420 (judging from the handwriting) were discovered in 1956 in the binding of another book. Pieces of pages from old books that were deemed useless were often used to bind new books centuries ago.

One of the fragments, the most complete, is from Chapter 68. Here is a translation of the Rodríguez de Montalvo version from 1508, then a translation of the 1420 version, and finally a transcription of the 1420 text. (Punctuation had not yet been invented.)

1508 version

Then he took a sturdy lance from the squire who had given him the horse, and thinking of Oriana and the great loss she would suffer if her father were defeated, he sat up straight in his saddle and said to Sir Florestan:

“Protect our father.”

By then Brontaxar had neared and saw how Amadis, in a gold helmet, was charging straight at him. Because of the great deeds that Brontaxar had been told about him before joining the battle, he had furiously searched for him. He immediately took a very heavy lance and shouted:

“Now ye shall see a beautiful blow if that knight in the gold helmet dares to approach me.”
With his lance under his arm, he spurred his horse and rode at him, and Amadis, who had already begun to charge, did the same. Their lances struck their shields, which were pierced and the lances were broken....

~1420 version

[…] that part of the town where they said she was, and quickly said to himself:

“Oriana, my good lady, ye must think of me so your good and delightful memories may help me in my honor, as they have always helped me and made my deeds outstanding. By powerful God, may your good aid give me strength me today because, if things not go well here, my good lady, such a good king as your father, the land that ought to be yours when it pleases God, I your loyal servant, and very many good men may all be lost.”

Then he sat up straight in his saddle and turned his horse’s head toward where he saw Brontaxar d’Ampania, and said to Sir Florestan:

“Protect our father well.”

How Amadis brought down Brontaxar de Ampania and thrust a lance in his chest

At the moment when Brontaxar saw him prepare to charge at him, he let his sword hang from its chain and took a very good lance from a squire waiting on him, who had been carrying it, and said shouted in a frightening voice:

“Now ye shall see a beautiful lance blow if that villain who prepared to charge me dares to approach!” Then he put the lance under his arm and had his horse charge at him, and their lances struck each others’ shields so hard that they were pierced[...]


[… a]quella parte de la villa do le dixieron que estava e dijo muy aso entresy oriana my buena señora menester es que vos membredes de my que me ayude en my honra la va buena e sabrosa membrança que me siempre acorrio e adelanto los mys fechos dios poderoso el vo bu accorro my de oy poder porque se de aquy no prospera, tan bu rrey como vo padre e la tierra que ha de ser va cudo a dios plugjere mi buena señora que yo el vo leal serviente e cuantos oes buenos se podriã perder entonces se enderesço todo en la silla e torno la cabeça del cavallo contra do vio a brontaxar dampanja e dixo contra don florestã aguardad bien a no padre ¶ como amadis derribo a brontaxar de ampanja e le metió la lança en los pechos

[A]lla ora que lo vio brontaxar endereçar contra si dexo colgar la espada de la cadena e tomo vna lança muy buena de vn escudero que le aguardava que le traya e dixo a vna bos alta e epantable agora veredes fermosa golpe de la lança si me osare atender aquel canallo que se enderesço contra mi entõce metio la lança so el sobaco e dexo correr el cavallo cõtra el e firierõse de las lanças en los escudos tan cruamente que luego fuerõ falsa[dos ...]


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Chapter 68 [part 3 of 4]

[Which tells how the battle began, and how King Aravigo’s troops had the advantage and steadily gained ground.] 

[A fragment from an early 1400s Spanish version of the legend of Tristan and Iseult, from the Biblioteca Nacional de España. The fragments were discovered in the binding of a collection of works about canonical law from the 15th century. Old parchments were often used for bookbinding.]

King Lisuarte and his men camped on a hill a half-league from the field where his enemies were. Each side saw the other, and there were at least twice as many men with the seven kings. King Lisuarte’s company spent the night preparing their weapons and horses for the battle the next day.

Know ye that six of the kings and other great lords paid tribute that night to King Aravigo for leading the confrontation, and they pledged to be guided by his orders. He swore he would not take a greater part of the kingdom than any of them, for he only wanted honor for himself. Then they had their men move to a river between themselves and King Lisuarte to be closer.

The next morning they all armed themselves and came before King Aravigo so numerous and with such fine weapons that they held their opponents to be as nothing. And they said that since King Lisuarte had dared to do battle with them, Great Britain was theirs. King Aravigo divided his men into nine divisions, each with a thousand knights, but his division had one thousand five hundred. He gave the divisions to the kings and other knights, and arranged them in close formation.

King Lisuarte ordered Sir Grumedan, Sir Galaor, Sir Cuadragante, and Angriote d’Estravaus to divide his men and arrange them on the field ready to fight, since these men knew a great deal about everything regarding the use of arms. Then they rode down the hill onto the plain. It was sunrise, and the sun sparkled on their armor. They looked so well-prepared that their opponents, who had held them for little, thought differently of them.

These knights of whom I tell ye had been placed into five divisions. Brian of Monjaste had the first one with a thousand knights from Spain at his orders, whom his father had sent to King Lisuarte. King Cildadan had the second division with his men and others who had been given to him. Sir Galvanes had the third with his nephew Agrajes, who came there more for the love of his uncle and his friends than to serve the King.

Giontes, nephew of the King, went with the fourth, with exceptionally good knights. King Lisuarte led the fifth, with two thousand knights, and he asked and ordered Sir Galaor, Sir Cuadragante, and Angriote d’Estravaus to protect him and stand by him. For that reason, he did not place them in charge of any troops.

So, as ye hear, arranged thus, they slowly advanced across the field at each other. And then King Perion and his sons Amadis and Florestan arrived at the plain on their handsome horses and bearing the arms with dragon insignia, which gleamed in the sun. They rode forward to place themselves between the two armies, brandishing their lances with iron tips so polished that they were bright as stars. The father rode between his two sons.

Men in both armies stared at them and each side wished to have them among their troops, but no one knew whom they meant to help nor who they were. When the three saw that Brian of Monjaste’s division was going to meet the enemy, they spurred their horses and rode close to Brian’s standard. Then they turned toward King Targadan, who was coming at him.

Sir Brian was happy for their help, although he did not know who they were. When they saw it was the right time, all three went to attack King Targadan’s division so fiercely that everyone felt terror. In the charge, King Perion struck that King so hard that he knocked him to the ground and part of the iron of his lance entered his chest. Amadis attacked Abdasian the Brave, whose armor did not protect him, and the lance passed from one side of his ribs to the other, and he fell as a dead man. Sir Florestan knocked Carduel to the feet of his horse with the saddle on top of him. Those three, as the most esteemed of the division, had come forward to fight with the dragon-insignia knights.

Then Amadis, King Perion, and Sir Florestan put their hands on their swords and passed through the first division knocking down many whom they encountered, then attacked the second division. And when they found themselves amid both, ye would have been able to see the great wonders they did with their swords, so much that not on one side or the other was there a man who equaled them, and ten knights whom they had brought down lay beneath their horses’ hooves.

But eventually, when their opponents saw they were only three men, they charged at them with great blows from every side, so the help of Sir Brian of Monjaste was clearly needed. He immediately came with his Spaniards, who were strong men with good horses. They attacked so fiercely, knocking down and killing men, and they themselves dying and falling on the ground, that the knights with the dragon insignia were rescued and their opponents put in such danger that the struggle brought those two columns into contact with a third.

There was a great melee that put everyone in danger, and many knights on both sides died, but what King Perion and his sons did cannot be recounted. The struggle was so great that King Aravigo feared that his own men, who had retreated, would make the others flee, and he shouted to Arcalaus to move all the divisions and, with a sudden charge, break through.

And so it happened. They all charged together and King Aravigo with them, but it did not take long for King Lisuarte to do the same. So all were battling at once, and the injuries were many, and the shouting and the noise of the knights so great that the earth shook and the valleys echoed.

At this time King Perion, who was riding bravely at the front line, suddenly entered into the enemy ranks and would have been lost, but he was immediately aided by his sons, and many of those who attacked Perion were killed by them. The damsels in the tower shouted:

“There, knights, the one in the white helmet is the best!”

But Amadis’s horse was killed as he came to help, and it fell with him in the middle of the battle, and his father’s and brother’s horses were badly injured. When they saw him on foot in such great peril, they dismounted and came to him. Then many men charged to kill them, and others to help them, yet they were in great danger, and were it not for the hard and cruel blows that they offered so that none dared to near them, they would have been killed.

As King Lisuarte rode from one battle to another, with his seven companions whom ye have heard about, he saw the knights with the dragon insignia in great danger, and he said to Sir Galaor and the others:

“Now, my good friends, let us show our skills and save those who have helped us so well.”

“Now, have at them!” Sir Galaor said.

Then they spurred their horses and charged into the middle of that great battle until they reached the standard of King Aravigo, who was shouting to encourage his men. King Lisuarte was exceedingly brave, and with his good sword in his hand, giving so many mortal blows that everyone was frightened to see it, and his guards could hardly keep up. And despite the many who attacked him, they could not prevent him from reaching the standard, grabbing it from the hands of the man who held it, and throwing it at the feet of the horses. He shouted:

“Clarence, Clarence, for I am King Lisuarte,” invoking his surname.

He did so much for so long among his enemies that they killed his horse and he fell and was so badly stunned that those who guarded him could not put him on another horse. But immediately Angriote, Antimon the Brave, and Landin of Fajarque arrived. They dismounted and put him on Angriote’s horse to the consternation of his enemies and with the help of those who guarded him. And although he was badly injured and shaken, he did not leave there until Antimon and Landin of Fajarque had mounted and brought another horse for Angriote from those that the King had ordered to circulate through the battle to help his knights.

Meanwhile, Sir Galaor and Cuadragante, in the midst of the thickest part of the battle and the greatest danger, showed well their courage by suffering and giving mortal blows. Know ye that if it were not for them, through their great effort to prevent enemy troops from reaching King Lisuarte and those with him while they were on foot, the King and his guards would have found themselves in great danger.

The damsels in the tower shouted that those two knights with the flower insignia were fighting the best.

But none of this could keep King Aravigo’s men from having the advantage and steadily gaining ground. The principal cause was that two well-rested knights had begun to fight. They were of such great deeds at arms and so valiant that they thought they could defeat their enemies because they believed that King Lisuarte’s men had no knight who could hold the field against them.

One was named Brontaxar d’Anfania and the other Argomades of the Deep Isle. He bore green arms with white doves scattered across them, and Brontaxar’s had gold and red cups. When they entered into battle, they seemed so tall that their helmets and shoulders stood out above the rest, and while their lances lasted, no knight remained in his saddle. When their lances were broken, they put their hands on their uncommonly large swords. What shall I tell you? They delivered such great blows with them that soon they hardly found anyone to attack, so hard had they dealt out punishment with those swords to all.

So they cleared the field, and the damsels in the tower called out:

“Knights, do not flee. They are men, not devils.”

But the men on the side of Brontaxar and Argomades shouted:

“King Lisuarte is defeated!”

When the King heard this, he began to encourage his men, saying:

“Here I shall remain, dead or victorious, so the sovereignty of Great Britain shall not be lost.”

All the remaining knights came to him, as they ought. Amadis took another horse that was very good and rested, and waited for his father to mount. When he heard those shouts saying that King Lisuarte was defeated, he said to Sir Florestan, who rode beside him:

“What is this? Why are these despicable men braying?”

Florestan responded:

“Do ye not see those two mighty and valiant knights who done nothing but devastate and destroy all that they find? Although they did not appear in this battle until now, with their strength they are making the men on their side gain ground.”

Amadis turned his head and saw Brontaxar d’Anfania coming toward him, attacking and felling knights with his sword. Sometimes he let it hang from a chain with which it was attached, and he grabbed the knights who approached with his arms and hands, so that not one remained in his saddle, and all the rest fled from him.

“Holy Mary, help us!” Amadis said. “How can this be?”

Then he took a sturdy lance from the squire who had given him the horse, and thinking of Oriana and the great loss she would suffer if her father were defeated, he sat up straight in his saddle and said to Sir Florestan:

“Protect our father.”

By then Brontaxar had neared and saw how Amadis, in a gold helmet, was charging straight at him. Because of the great deeds that Brontaxar had been told about him before joining the battle, he had furiously searched for him. He immediately took a very heavy lance and shouted:

“Now ye shall see a beautiful blow if that knight in the gold helmet dares to approach me.”

With his lance under his arm, he spurred his horse and rode at him, and Amadis, who had already begun to charge, did the same. Their lances struck their shields, which were pierced and the lances were broken, and their horses’ bodies struck each other so hard that it seemed to each knight that they had struck a rocky peak. Brontaxar hit his head and felt so faint he could not maintain himself on his horse and fell to the ground as if he were dead. His great weight fell twisted onto one foot, and his leg broke beneath him, and he carried a piece of lance stuck in his shield, although it was strong.

Amadis’s horse bucked backwards twice and was about to fall. Amadis was so stunned he could not spur his horse or put his hand on his sword to defend himself from those who were attacking him. But King Perion, who had by then mounted a horse and had seen the enormous knight and how Amadis had met him so hard, was very frightened and said:

“My Lord God, protect that knight. Now, my son Florestan, let us come to his aid.”

Then they charged so bravely that it was amazing to see them, and they entered into the melee, attacking and striking down knights until they reached Amadis. The King told him:

“What is this, knight? Be strong, be strong, for I am here.”

Amadis recognized the voice of his father, and although he was not entirely aware of his surroundings, he put his hand on his sword and, as he saw that many knights were attacking his father and brother, began to strike at those knights, although weakly.

At this point there was nothing for them but danger because the opposing men were very spirited and King Lisuarte’s men had lost a lot of ground. Many had come to kill those three, and few had come in their defense. But then Agrajes, Sir Galvanes, and Brian of Monjaste arrived, rushing to find Brontaxar d’Anfania, who had caused so much havoc, as ye have heard, and they saw the three knights with the dragon insignia in combat. They came to their aid as those who in any kind of danger never lose heart, and as they arrived, they killed or brought down many of their opponents. Thus the knights with the dragon insignia were able to attack more fiercely and with less danger.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Chapter 68 [part 2 of 4]

[How Urganda the Unrecognized sent armor to Amadis, King Perion, and Sir Florestan.] 

[Sketch from about 1400 of a knight with his armor from the book Pèlerinage de vie humaine, by Guillaume de Deguileville.]

While King Perion and Amadis were speaking, as ye hear, they saw a knight coming on a worn, exhausted horse, and his armor, which a squire carried for him, was cut in so many places that its insignia could not be made out, and his torn and damaged chain mail offered little protection. The knight was tall and seemed well armed. They got up and went to receive him with full honors as a knight who sought adventures. When he was closer, Amadis recognized him as his brother Sir Florestan, and he told the King:

“My lord, ye see there the best knight that I am aware of after Sir Galaor, and know that Sir Florestan is your son.”

The King was elated since he knew of his great fame but had never seen him, and hurried toward him. But when Sir Florestan met them, he dismounted, knelt, and wished to kiss the King’s foot, but the King rose him up, gave him his hand, and kissed him on the mouth. Then he brought him to the palace, had him disarm and wash his hands and face, and Amadis had him dress in some of his finest and well-made garments that until then had never been worn. As he was large and tall and well-built and had a handsome face, he seemed so fine that few have ever looked as gallant as he did. They brought him to the Queen, and he was received with as much love from her and from her daughter Melicia as any other of his brothers would have enjoyed, especially because of his great deeds at arms that they knew about.

Speaking with him about some of those deeds, he answered as a wise and well-bred knight. They asked him about what was happening with the island kings and their troops, since he had come from Great Britain. Sir Florestan told them:

“I know this to be true. And know, my lords, that the power of those kings is so great and mighty and their men so strong that I think that King Lisuarte will not be able to hold his own land, which ought not to trouble us much, given what has happened.”

“My son Sir Florestan,” the King said, “from what I have been told, I believe King Lisuarte to possess such strength as well as the other good qualities a king ought to have, so he should emerge from this attack with the same honor as he has from others. And even if it were to be otherwise, we ought not to take pleasure in it, because no king ought to be happy about the destruction of another king unless he himself were to destroy him for legitimate reasons that obliged him to do so.”

They were together for a while, then the King retired to his chamber, and Amadis and Sir Florestan to theirs. When they were alone, Florestan said:

“My lord, I have come to you to ask about something I have heard everywhere I went that gave my heart great pain, and I hope it does not trouble you to hear it.”

“My brother,” Amadis said, “everything you say I am glad to hear, and if it merits correction, I shall do so at your counsel.”

Sir Florestan said:

“Know, my lord, that everyone speaks ill of you, and they scorn your honor and malevolently believe that ye have ceased the use of arms, for which ye were born to be more outstanding than all others.”

Amadis told him, laughing:

“They think what they should not about me, and from here on things will be done in another way and they shall speak in another way.”

They spent that day in great pleasure at Sir Florestan’s arrival, whom many people came to see and do honor. When night came, they lay down in luxurious beds, but Amadis could not sleep because he was thinking about two things: one, how to do so much at arms in the coming year so that what had been said about him would be forgotten; the other, what to do in the coming battle, which for its size he could not avoid without great shame, but he could not fight against King Lisuarte because his lady had prohibited it, and reason prohibited fighting for him, given the ingratitude and mistreatment of his family. In the end, he decided to be in the battle helping King Lisuarte for two reasons: one, because his men were many fewer than those on the other side; and the other, because if Lisuarte were defeated, he would lose the lands that his lady Oriana ought to have.

The next morning, Amadis took Florestan with him and went to the chamber of his father the King, ordered all others to leave, and told him:

“My lord, I have not slept last night thinking about this battle being planned between the kings of the islands and King Lisuarte. Since it is such an outstanding event, all those who bear arms ought to be in such a great endeavor as this on one side or another. And as I have spent so much time without exercise of arms, and with that I have suffered such ill fame, as ye know, my brother, in the end I decided to be in the battle on the side of King Lisuarte, not out of any love for him, but because two things that ye shall now hear. First, because he has fewer troops, so all good men ought to help him. Second, because my idea is to die there or do more than anywhere else I might find myself. And if I were to fight on the opposing side to King Lisuarte, since Galaor, Sir Cuadragante and Brian of Monjaste would be there and each of them, due to their excellence, would have the same idea as me, and since they could not avoid meeting me, then ye see that from this nothing else could result except their death or mine. But my presence will be so disguised by all means I have so I shall not be recognized.”

The King told him:

“My son, I am a friend of good men, and since I know that this King of whom ye speak is one of them, my will has always been to honor and help him in any way I could. And if I am distant from him now, it has been due to these differences that he has had with you and your friends. But since this is your intention, I also want to come to his aid and witness the things that will be done there. I am sorry that this has arisen so quickly that I cannot take the men I wish, but we can go with as many as I can.”

Upon hearing this,  Sir Florestan thought for a while, then said:

“My lords, remembering the cruelty of this King, and how he would have let us die in the field if it were not for Sir Galaor, and the enmity that he held against us for no reason, there is nothing in the world that could cause my heart to wish to help him. But two things that occur to me now have made my intentions change. One is that ye, my lords, wish to aid him, and I must serve you. The other is that when Sir Galvanes made a treaty with him to surrender the Isle of Mongaza, we agreed to a peace of two years. So, if I do not wish to serve him wrongly, I must serve him against my will. And I want to go with you, for my soul would always be in great anguish if that battle were to happen and I were not on one side or the other.”

Amadis was joyful because everything had happened as he had wished, and he told the King:

“My lord, ye yourself, in addition to we who serve you, should count for many people. All that remains is to decide how we shall go disguised, and with recognizable insignia that will allow us to help each other as we can. If ye were to bring more men, it would be impossible for us to go in secret.”

“Since that is how you see it,” the King said, “let us go to my armory and take from it the most forgotten and recognizable that we find there.”

Then they left the chamber and entered a yard where there were some trees, and when they were in their shadows, they saw a richly dressed damsel coming on a very handsome palfrey with three squires and a packhorse with a large bundle. She came to the King, after the squires had helped her dismount, and greeted him. The King received her very well and said to her:

“Damsel, do ye wish to see the Queen?”

“No,” she said, “only you and these two knights. I come on behalf of the lady of the Undiscovered Island. I am bringing you some gifts that she sent you. Order everyone to leave and I shall show them to you.”

The King ordered everyone to withdraw. The damsel had her squires untie the bundle that the packhorse carried and took from it three shields. On their fields of silver, golden dragons were so amazingly depicted that they seemed alive. The borders were of fine gold and precious stones. Then she took out three surcoats worked with the same insignia as the shields, and three helmets, each different: one white, one purple, and the third gold. She gave the white one with a shield and surcoat to the King, and the purple one to Florestan, and the gold one to Amadis, and told him:

“My lord Amadis, my lady sends you these arms and tells you that ye shall labor better with them than ye have done since ye arrived at these lands.”

Amadis was worried that she would find out why, and said:

“Damsel, tell your lady that I hold this advice as more important than the arms, although they are rich and handsome, and I shall do all in my power as she orders.”

The damsel said:

“My lords, my lady sends you these arms so that ye shall recognize each other in battle and offer help where it is needed.”

“How did your lady know we would be in the battle,” the King said, “if we did not yet know it ourselves?”

“I do not know,” the damsel said. “She only told me that at this time I would find you together in this place, and that I should give you these arms.”

The King ordered that she be given dinner and did her great honor. The damsel, after she had eaten, left immediately for Great Britain, where she had been ordered to go.

Amadis, seeing the arms and equipment, was anxious to depart, fearing that the battle would take place without him. His father saw this and ordered that a ship be prepared secretly. Under the guise of going hunting, they boarded it at midnight and without incident arrived in Great Britain at the place where they knew the seven kings had arrived at port. They went into a forest amid thick brush, where their men armed them in a tent, and from there they sent a squire to see what the seven kings were doing and where they were, and to try to learn the day the battle would be held.

They also sent a letter to King Lisuarte’s camp for Sir Galaor, as if they had sent it from Gaul, and that all three gave him their word to remain in Gaul, and asked him to let them know of his health after the battle. They did this for greater secrecy.

The squire returned late the next day and told them that the kings’ troops were beyond number and among them were men from many lands speaking different languages. They had besieged a castle that belonged to some damsels, and although the castle was very strong, its stores were being exhausted, from what he could hear. When he was leaving the camp he saw Arcalaus the Sorcerer speaking with two kings and telling them that it would be good to have the battle within six days, because food would be hard to find for so many people.

So Amadis, Florestan, and King Perion lodged in that forest and took great pleasure in hunting birds and even some deer by bow that came to drink at a nearby spring. Four days later another messenger arrived and told them:

“My lords, I left Sir Galaor well and in such good spirits that he was encouraging all those with him. When I gave them your message that you are all three remaining Gaul together, tears came to his eyes and with a sigh he said, ‘Dear Lord, if you would be pleased to have us all together here in this battle fighting for the King as we used to, I would lose all fear!’ And he told me that if he survived the battle, he would immediately have you know how he was and everything that had passed.”

“May God protect him,” they said, “and now tell us about King Lisuarte’s men.”

“My lords,” he said, “he brings a very good company with well-known and distinguished knights, but compared to their opponents it must be said that they are few. And the King will be in sight of his enemies within two days to help the damsels who are being sieged.”

And so it was.