Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Chapter 70 [part 2 of 3]

[Detail of the Old Royal Palace at Prague Castle. Photo by Sue Burke.] 

Sir Garadan called a squire who brought a chest, and he took out a letter with thirty seals hanging from it on silk cords, all silver except the one in the middle, which was gold and was the Emperor’s, and the others belonged to great lords of the empire. He gave it to the King, who withdrew with his noblemen, and they read it and found that what Garadan said was true, and without a doubt they could choose either of the battles.

The King asked for their advice. In their discussion, some thought a battle of hundreds against hundreds would be better, and others the dozen against dozen, saying that with fewer, the King could pick his best knights. Others said it would be better to keep the war as it had been so far, and not put his reign at risk over one battle. So their opinions were varied.

Then the Count of Galtines said:

“My lord, we should refer this to the Knight of the Green Sword, who may have seen many things and has a great desire to serve you.”

The King and all the others agreed to this, and they had him called. He and Grasandor had been spending a long time speaking with Sir Garadan. The Knight of the Green Sword had watched him closely, and saw that he had a valiant body so he would be very strong, something that made him hesitant to go into battle, but on the other hand saw him say many vain and arrogant things, which made him hope that God would give rise to break his pride.

When he heard the order of the King, he came, and the King said:

“Knight of the Dwarf, my great friend, I beg you not to abstain from giving your advice about what we are speaking of here.”

Then he recounted the different opinions the nobles had offered. The Knight of the Green Sword listened, then said:

“My lord, the determination of such great things is a grave issue because the outcome is in the hands of God and not in the judgement of men; but however that may be, speaking of what I would do if it were up to me, my lord, I say that if I had just one castle and a hundred men, and my enemy had ten castles and a thousand men and wished to overcome me, were God to guide things in such a way that this would be decided by a battle with an equal number of men, I would know what a great mercy He had done. And so I say to you, knights, do not fail to advise the King in what may be in his best service, and whatever you decide, I must place my person in it.”

He wished to go, but the King grabbed the edge of his cape and had him sit next to him, and told him:

“My good friend, we all agree with you, and I choose the battle between twelve knights. And God, who knows the strength I have, shall help me, just as He did for King Perion of Gaul not long ago, when King Abies of Ireland entered his land with a great force of men. Perion was about to lose when it was resolved by a battle that a single knight fought against King Abies himself, who was at the time one of the most valiant and brave knights in the world. The other was such a young man that he was not yet eighteen years old. [See Chapter 9.] In that battle, the King of Ireland died, and King Perion had his entire kingdom restored. And within a few days by an amazing blessing they found out that the young knight was his son. He had been called the Childe of the Sea, and after that he was called Amadis of Gaul, and he is renowned throughout the world as the most courageous and valiant knight ever. I do not know if ye know him.”

“I have never seen him,” the Knight of the Green Sword said, “but I dwelled for a time in those lands and heard a great deal about this Amadis of Gaul, and I know two of his brothers, who are not worse knights than he is.”

“Then having faith in God as did King Perion, I agree to accept the battle between twelve knights.”

“In the name of God,” the Knight of the Green Sword said, “this seems to me the best because, although the Emperor is greater than you and has more men, twelve good knights can be as easily found in your house and his. And if ye could convince Garadan that it would be even fewer, I would consider that good, even to come down to one against one. And if he wishes to do that, I would be the other, and I trust in God, due to your just cause and his excessive arrogance, that I shall give you vengeance on him and bring an end to the war that ye have been fighting with his lord.”

The King thanked him sincerely and went to where Garadan was complaining that they had taken too long to reply. When they arrived, the King told him:

“Sir Garadan, I do not know if it will be your pleasure, but I choose the battle between twelve knights. May it be fought early tomorrow.”

“May God save me,” Garadan said, “ye have responded as I wished, and I am very happy at your answer.”

He of the Green Sword said:

“Many times men are happy at first, but in the end it turns out differently for them.”

Garadan looked at him angrily and told him:

“Ye, sir knight, wish to speak about everything. Ye do seem to be a stranger here, for your discretion is so strange and limited. If I knew ye were one of the twelve, I would give you these gauntlets.”

He of the Green Sword took them and said:

“I assure you I shall be in the battle, and just as I take these gauntlets now, in the battle I shall take your head, which your great arrogance and immoderation shall give me.”

When Garadan heard this, he was so irate that he seemed to be out of his mind, and he shouted:

“Oh, I have such ill fortune! Would that it were tomorrow and we were in battle, so that everyone would see, Sir Knight of the Dwarf, how your madness would be punished!”

He of the Green Sword said:

“If from here to tomorrow seems like a long time to you, this day is still long enough so that one of us might have the good fortune to kill the other. Let us arm ourselves, if ye wish, and begin the battle on this condition: he who remains alive may help his companions tomorrow.”

Sir Garadan told him:

“Surely, Sir Knight, if ye dare to do that, I shall pardon you for what ye have said to me.”

He began to ask for his arms with haste. The Knight of the Dwarf ordered Gandalin to bring his, which he did. Sir Garadan’s companions armed him, and he of the Green Sword was armed by the King and his son. Then they went outside, leading the two in the field where they would fight.

Sir Garadan mounted a large, handsome horse, galloped fiercely into the field, turned to his companions, and said:

“Ye may expect this King to remain subject to the Emperor, and without ye having to inflict a single blow, and with great honor. I tell you this because all the hope of our opponents is on this knight, who, if he dares to face me, I shall quickly defeat, and when he is dead, tomorrow they will not dare to enter the field against me or you.”

The Knight of the Green Sword told him:

“What dost thou do, Garadan? Dost thou have so few cares that thou spendest the day praising thyself? The time has drawn near when each shall show who he is, and flattery will not do the deed.”

Spurring his horse, he charged at him, and the other came at him. Their lances struck their shields, which, although they were very strong, did not stop the lances, so great were the blows, and the lances were broken. But they met each other with their shields and helmets so bravely that he of the Green Sword’s horse stumbled back stunned, but it did not fall, while Garadan was knocked from his saddle. He landed so hard on the ground that he almost lost consciousness.

He of the Green Sword saw him rolling on the field trying but unable to get up, and wanted to attack him, but his horse could not move, so badly was it hurt. He had been injured on the left arm by the lance, which had passed through the shield. He immediately dismounted, as one with great anger.

He put his hand on his burning sword and went to Garadan, who was badly shaken up but a little more conscious, waving his sword in his hand and well protected by his shield, but not as bravely as before.

They attacked so fiercely and with such mortal blows that those who watched were very amazed. But he of the Green Sword, since he had taken caught Garadan stunned by the fall, and he was very angry, charged at him with so many heavy blows that Garadan could not withstand them. He pulled back a little and said:

“Truly, Knight of the Green Sword, now I know you better than before, and I despise you more than ever, and although much of your skill has been demonstrated to me, mine is not in a disposition to know which of us will be the winner. If ye wish, we may rest a bit, but if not, come to fight.”

He of the Green Sword told him:

“Certainly, Sir Garadan, I think it would be a much better game to rest than to fight me, but given your great skill and fine deeds at arms, it would run contrary to what ye have said today. And so that such a good man as yourself may not be put to shame, I do not wish to stop fighting until the battle is finished.”

Sir Garadan was sorry to hear this because he was in a bad condition to fight, and his armor and flesh had been cut in many places and bled a lot, and he felt shaken by the fall. Then he remembered his arrogance, especially against the man who stood before him, but showing good courage, he labored to bring to an end his misfortune using all his strength, and they immediately began to fight as if they had just started.

But it did not take long for the Knight of the Dwarf to deliver all his means and will, so that everyone watching saw that even if Garadan were twice as good, his courage would give him no advantage. And as both continued to fight, Garadan fell senseless on the field, stunned by a great blow that the Knight of the Dwarf had struck on the top of his helmet.

He of the Dwarf was hardly able to withdraw his sword. He immediately launched himself over Garadan with great courage, took the helmet from his head, and saw that the blow had sunk so deep that his brains were splattered inside it. That pleased him greatly, both for the sorrow it would give the Emperor and for the pleasure it would give the King he wished to serve.

He cleaned his sword and put it in its sheath, and knelt and gave thanks to God for the honor and mercy He had given him. The King, when he saw this, dismounted from his palfrey with two other knights and came to he of the Green Sword, seeing his hands stained by blood, both his own and his opponent’s, and said:

“My good friend, how do ye feel?”

“Very well,” he said. “Thanks to God, I shall still be here tomorrow with my companions in the battle.”

Then they had him mount and took him to the town with great honor, where he was disarmed in his chamber and his wounds were tended to.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Count Gaston of Foix's noble medieval household

A page from the Chronicles.

Often we read in Amadis of Gaul that he was well received at the castle of a nobleman, but we get few details. Audiences at the time knew what that meant, so there was no need to elaborate. Now, however, it’s not so obvious.

Here is an account of a visit to a noble household by Jean Froissart (1337-1405), a French author who traveled widely. His book, Chronicles, has long been an important source for historians about events in the last half of the 14th century, especially the Hundred Year’s War.

This excerpt is from Book III, Chapter 13, translated by T. Johnes in 1805:

“...The count received me most handsomely, and retained me in his household. Our acquaintance was strengthened by my having brought with me a book which I had made at the desire of Winceslaus of Bohemia, duke of Luxembourg and Brabant; in which book, called Le Meliador, are contained all the songs, ballads, rondelays, and virelays which that gentle duke had composed. Every night after supper I read out to the count parts of it, during which time he and all present preserved the greatest silence; and when any passages were not perfectly clear, the count himself discussed them with me, not in his Gascon language, but in very good French.

I shall now tell you several particulars respecting the count and his household. Count Gascon Phoebus de Foix, at the time of which I am speaking, was about fifty-nine years old; and although I have seen very many knights, squires, kings, princes, and others, I never saw anyone so handsome. He was so perfectly formed that no one could praise him too much.

He loved earnestly the things he ought to love, and hated those which it became him to hate. He was a prudent knight, full of enterprise and wisdom. He never allowed any men of abandoned character to be about him, reigned prudently, and was constant in his devotions. There were regular nocturnals from the psalter, prayers from the rituals to the Virgin, to the Holy Ghost, and from the Office for the Dead.

He had, every day, distributed, as alms at his gate, five florins in small coin, to all comers. He was liberal and courteous in his gifts, and well knew how to take and how to give back.

He loved dogs above all other animals; and during summer and winter amused himself much with hunting. He never indulged in any foolish works or ridiculous extravagances, and took account every month of the amount of his expenditure. He chose twelves of the most able of his subjects to receive and administer his finances, two serving two months each, and one of them acting as the comptroller.

He had certain coffers in his apartment, whence he took money to give to different knights, squires, or gentlemen, when they came to wait on him, for none ever left him without a gift. He was easy of access to all, and entered very freely into discourse, though laconic in his advice and answers.

He employed four secretaries to write and copy his letters, and these were to be in readiness as soon as he left his room. He called them neither John, Walter, nor William, but his good-for-nothings, to whom he gave his letters after he had read them to copy or do anything else he might command.

In such manner lived the Count de Foix. When he quitted his chamber at midnight for supper, twelve servants bore each a lighted torch before him. The hall was full of knights and squires, and there were plenty of tables laid out for any who chose to sup. No one spoke to him at table unless he first began the conversation.

He ate heartily of poultry, but only the wings and thighs. He had great pleasure in hearing minstrels, being himself proficient in the science. He remained at table about two hours, and was pleased whenever fanciful dishes were served up to him – not that he desired to partake of them, but having seen them, he immediately sent them to the tables of his knights and squires.

In short, everything considered, though I had before been in several courts, I never was at one which pleased me more, nor was ever anywhere more delighted with feats of arms. Knights and squires were to be seen in every chamber, hall, and court, conversing on arms and armor.

Everything honorable was to be found there. All intelligence from distant countries was there to be learned; for the gallantry of the count had brought together visitors from all parts of the world....”


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Chapter 70 [part 1 of 3]

Which recounts how Esplandian was in the company of the hermit Nasciano; and how Amadis, his father, went to seek adventures, changing his name to the Knight of the Green Sword, and recounts his great deeds and victories.

[The Bohemian crown, called the St. Wenceslas Crown, made in 1345, with 19 sapphires, 44 spinels, 1 ruby, 30 emeralds and 22 pearls; and the orb, made in the first half of the 16th century. Photo by Sue Burke of the replica on display at Prague Castle – the real ones are kept under seven locks in the castle’s Crown Chamber.] 

Four years after Esplandian was born, Nasciano the hermit sent word to have him brought to him, and the boy arrived, well bred for his age, and so handsome that Nasciano was amazed. He blessed him and came to him, and the boy embraced him as if he recognized him. Then Nasciano sent the foster-mother home, who left her own son there, who had been raised with the same milk as Esplandian. Together these boys scampered outside the hermitage, which made the holy man very happy, and he gave thanks to God for having protected the child.

Then it happened that, when Esplandian was tired of playing, he went to sleep beneath a tree.  The lioness ye have heard about that sometimes visited the hermit, who would give her what food he had, saw the child and went to him. She walked around him a while, sniffing him, and then lay down next to him. The other boy came crying to the good man, saying that a big dog was going to eat Esplandian. The good man came out and saw the lioness and went to them, but she approached him affectionately. He took the boy in his arms, who was now awake, and when he saw the lion, he asked,

“Father, this beautiful dog, is it ours?”

“No,” the good man said, “it belongs to God, as all things do.”

“I would very much like if it were ours.”

The hermit was pleased, and told him:

“Son, would you like to feed it.”

“Yes,” he said.

Then Nasciano brought out the leg of a fallow dear that some crossbowmen had given him, and the boy gave it to the lioness, and when he came to her, he put his hand on her ears and in her mouth. And know ye that from then on the lioness came every day and guarded him when he left the hermitage.

And when he was older, the hermit gave him a child-sized bow and another to his foster brother, with which they went shooting after they had finished their studies. The lioness went with them, and if they wounded a deer, she took it down. Sometimes some friends of the hermit who were crossbowmen went hunting with Esplandian, respectful of the lioness who would scare up game, and that is how the boy learned to hunt. And so he passed his time under the tutelage of that holy man.

Amadis left Gaul, as ye have already been told, intending to put to the lie those who had profaned and diminished his honor due to his long stay in Gaul on orders of his lady. With that thought he entered German lands, where he soon became well-known, and many men and women came to him with injuries and grievances that had been done to them, and which he put to right through grave confrontations and danger to his person, in many places fighting with valiant knights, sometimes against one, other times against two or three, as each situation required.

What shall I tell you? He did so much throughout all Germany that he was known as the best knight who had ever come to those lands, and they knew him by no other name than the Knight of the Green Sword, or the Knight of the Dwarf because of the dwarf he had brought with him.

In this way fully four years went past during which he never returned to Gaul or Firm Island, nor did he learn any news about his lady Oriana, which caused such great torment and trouble to his heart that in comparison, all those other dangers and labors seemed to be pleasure, and if he felt any consolation, it was only in knowing that his lady, whose thoughts were solidly on him, suffered the same loneliness.

So he rode through that land all summer, and when winter came, fearing the cold, he decided to go to the Kingdom of Bohemia and spend it with the very good King there who was at war with Patin, who was then the Emperor of Rome, whom Amadis despised over the episode involving Oriana, of which ye have heard. [See Chapter 47.] At that time Bohemia was reigned by Tafinor, of whose great wealth and goodness he had heard tell, and so he immediately left for Bohemia.

And it happened that, when he arrived at a river with many people on the other side, they released a gryfalcon at a heron, which it killed on the side of the river where the Knight of the Green Sword was, wearing his armor. He dismounted and shouted across the river to ask if he should lure the gryfalcon with bait. They said yes. Then he gave it something to eat that he knew was proper, as one who had done such a thing many times. The river was deep and they could not cross it there.

Know ye that King Tafinor of Bohemia was among them, and when he saw the knight with a dwarf, he asked if someone knew them, and no one did.

“By chance,” the King said, “could he be knight who has been traveling through the lands of Germany and has done wonderful feats of arms, which all recount as miraculous and call him the Knight of the Green Sword or the Knight of the Dwarf? I ask that because of the dwarf he has with him.”

A knight called Sadian, who was head of the King’s guards, said:

“Truly, that is him, for he has a green sword on his belt.”

The King hurried to go to a ford in the river because he of the Green Sword was going there with the gryfalcon on his hand. And when he arrived, he said:

“My good friend, ye are very welcome in this my land.”

“Are you the King?”

“Yes, I am,” he said, “as long as God wills it.”

Then the knight came very properly to kiss his hand, and said:

“My lord, forgive me, although I did ye no wrong, for I did not recognize you. I have come here to see you and serve you, and they tell me that ye are at war with such a powerful man that ye well need all the services of your own men and even of foreigners. Although I am a foreigner, as long as I am with you, ye me consider me a natural vassal.”

“Knight of the Green Sword, my friend, how much I thank you for coming and for what ye have said to me. My heart knows how much, for its strength has doubled. Now let us go to our castle in the town.”

And so the King left, speaking with him, and they all praised his looks and his arms, which seemed better than anyone’s they had seen. When they arrived at the palace, the King ordered he be given rooms. After he was disarmed in a rich chamber, he dressed in some fresh and beautiful clothing that the dwarf brought him, and he went to the King with such a presence that it gave testimony to the great exploits that had been attributed to him. There he ate with the King, served as one would be at the table with such a noble man. When the tablecloths had been lifted and everyone was quiet, the King said:

“Knight of the Green Sword, my friend, tales of your great deeds and your honorable presence move me to ask your help, although until now I have not been equal to help like yours, but may it please God that someday ye shall be rewarded for it. Know, my good friend, that I have been at war against my will with the most powerful man in Christendom, who is Patin, Emperor of Rome, and given both his great power and his great arrogance, he wishes to make this kingdom, which God gave me independent, be his subject and tributary. Up until now, with the faith and force of my vassals and friends, I have stoutly defended it, and I shall defend it as long as I live. But as it is a thing of great labor and peril for the few to fight the many over a long time, my heart is always tormented and in search of aid, for this is, after God, the goodness and courage that some men give to others. And because God has given you such outstanding skill and strength, I put great hope that your courage, which always receives praise and honor, will help the smaller side win. And so, good friend, help defend this kingdom, which shall always be at your service.”

The Knight of the Green Sword said:

“My lord, I shall serve you, and ye may judge my skill by my deeds.”

So as ye hear, the Knight of the Green Sword remained in the house of King Tafinor of Bohemia, where they did him great honor, and he was escorted at the King’s orders by his son Grasandor and a count, the King’s cousin, named Galtines, so that he might be better accompanied and honored.

It happened that one day the King was riding through the countryside with many noblemen, and was speaking with his son Grasandor and the Knight of the Green Sword about the coming war, for the truce would end in five days. And as he spoke, they saw twelve knights coming through the fields, their armor carried by palfreys and their helmets and shields and lances by squires. Among them the King recognized the shield of Sir Garadan, who was the second cousin of Emperor Patin and was the most prized knight of all those in the reign of Rome, and had fought in the war against the King of Bohemia. The King said to the Knight of the Green Sword, with a sigh:

“Oh, what offense the one with that shield has done to me!”

He pointed it out. The shield had a purple field with two golden eagles as large as would fit on it.

The Knight of the Green Sword said:

“My lord, the more arrogance and excess that ye receive from your enemy, the more faith ye should have in the vengeance that God shall give you. And my lord, since they come here to your lands to put themselves within your discretion, honor them and speak well to them, but do not grant them anything that would be against your honor and advantage.”

The King embraced him and said:

“My it please God in His mercy to always have you with me, and may ye do in my affairs what ye will.”

When the knights approached, Garadan and his companions came before the King, who received them with gentler words than the feelings in his heart. He told them to come to the town where he would do them every honor.

Sir Garadan said:

“I have come over two things that ye shall be told, and about which ye shall not need better advice than from your own heart. Answer us promptly for we cannot tarry. The truce will end very soon.”

Then he presented a letter of credentials from the Emperor which said that he would bring about truthfully and faithfully everything that might be arranged with Sir Garadan.

“It seems to me,” the King said after he had read it, “that he has no little faith in you. Now tell me what ye were ordered to say.”

“King,” Sir Garadan said, “although the Emperor is of higher lineage and lordship than you, he has many other things to attend to, so he wishes to bring your war to an end in two ways, whichever ye may prefer. First, if ye wish, a battle with Salustanquidio, his cousin, Prince of Calabria, of one hundred men against one hundred, with up to one thousand men on each side. The second, twelve knights against twelve, against those here whom I bring along with myself. The condition will be that if ye win, ye shall be free forever, and if ye are defeated, ye shall be his vassal, as it has proven to be in the history of Rome from the ancient times of the empire. Now take the one ye wish, and if ye refuse, the Emperor would have ye know that he shall put aside all other things and shall come here personally and shall not leave until he has destroyed you.”

“Sir Garadan,” said the Knight of the Green Sword, “ye have said things of amazing arrogance, both on behalf of the Emperor and yourself, but often God undoes things with little mercy. The King may give you the answer that pleases him, but I wish to ask, if he were to choose either of these battles, how can he be sure it will be done as ye say?”

Sir Garadan looked and him and was amazed that he would speak without waiting for the King, and told him:

“Sir knight,* I do not know who ye are, but from your speech ye seem to be a foreigner in this land, and I tell you that I consider you a man with little caution to answer without orders from the King. But if he considers what ye said as proper and grants what I ask, I shall answer your question.” [*The expression “sir knight” is an insult.]

“Sir Garadan,” the King said, “I agree to and authorize whatever the Knight of the Green Sword may say.”

When Garadan heard he was the knight renowned for such great deeds at arms, his heart moved in two ways: first, to sorrow because such a knight was on the side of the King; and second, to pleasure because he would fight him. And in keeping with his feelings, he expected to defeat or kill him, winning all the honor and glory that he had won in Germany and the lands where no one spoke to praise any knight except him. He said:

“I grant the King’s will to you, and now say if ye wish either of these battles.”

The Knight of the Green Sword said:

“The King can answer as he pleases, but I tell you that I choose to serve him in either of the battles, and if he wishes, I shall fight in his war as long as I shall dwell in his house.”

The King threw his arms around his neck to embrace him, and said:

“My good friend, ye have given me such courage with your words that I shall not hesitate to choose either of those that they offer me, and I beg you to choose the one that seems best to you for me.”

“Truly, my lord, this I shall not do,” he said. “Instead, take counsel from your noblemen and pick the best one. Then give me orders as to how I may best serve you, for otherwise the nobles would complain about me and I would take charge of something beyond my discretion. Still, my lord, I say that ye should see the guarantee that Sir Garadan brings to make sure.”

When Sir Garadan heard this, he said:

“Although ye, sir knight, for your own reasons seem to wish to draw out this war, I will show what ye ask to prevent further delay.”

The Knight of the Dwarf responded:

“Do not be surprised by that, Sir Garadan, because peace is a more delicious thing than dangerous battles, but shame is the cause for accepting them. Ye scorn me now because ye do not know me, but after the King gives you his reply, I trust in God that ye shall judge me differently.”