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.”


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