Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Chapter 75 [part 3 of 3]

[How the Knight of the Green Sword defended Angriote and learned why the knights had wanted to kill him.] 

[Ivory plaque with scenes from the life of David: the upper binding of the Melisende Psalter, made in eastern Mediterranean in 1131-1143. At the British Library.]

Because of the armor, Angriote thought the Knight of the Green Sword was Sir Bruneo, and he was happy beyond comparison. Then he of the Green Sword attacked the first knight before them, who was Bradansidel, whom he had already jousted and made ride backwards holding his horse’s tail, as ye have heard. He was one of the most valiant men in arms that could be found in the entire region. He of the Green Sword struck him above the top of his shield close to his helmet on his chest so hard that he was thrown from the saddle onto the ground, where his hands and feet lay still.

The three attacked Angriote, and he charged at them, as he was very valiant. But he of the Green Sword took his sword in his hand and entered the fight with wrath and mighty blows. He struck a single blow on the shoulder of a knight, and his armor could not stop the blade, nor could his bones and flesh. The knight fell at the feet of Angriote, who was amazed by the attack and could not believe that Sir Bruneo had such skill, for he immediately brought down another knight.

The knight who remained alone saw he of the Green Sword coming at him and did not dare wait. He began to flee as fast as his horse could gallop, and he of the Green Sword came after him to attack. In his great fear, the fleeing knight erred as he crossed a river and fell from the horse into the water, and due to the weight of his armor, he drowned.

Then he of the Green Sword gave his shield and helmet to Lasindo and returned to Angriote, who was amazed by his great valor, believing that he was Sir Bruneo, as I have told you. But when he neared, he recognized him as Amadis and rode toward him with his arms open, thanking God that he had found him. He of the Green Sword also came to embrace him, both of them with tears of good will coming to their eyes, for they loved each other dearly.

He of the Green Sword said:

“Now it seems, my lord, that ye have loyal and true love for me, having looked for me for so long amid so many dangers in foreign lands.”

“My lord, I cannot do such labors in your honor and service to exceed what I owe to you, since ye have caused me to have she without whom I would be unable to sustain my life. But let us leave this, for the debt is so great that it can hardly be repaid. Tell me if ye have heard the ill-fated news about your great friend Sir Bruneo of Bonamar.”

“I know it,” said he of the Green Sword, “and it is good news, for God in His mercy wished that I find him at the right time.”

Then he told him how he had found Sir Bruneo and how he had left in him the care of the best doctor in the world, so he was certain to live. Angriote raised his hands to the heavens thanking God for having provided such help. Then they left, and passing by the knights they had defeated, they found that one of them was alive, and he of the Green Sword stopped alongside him and said:

“Evil knight, may God confound you. Tell me why without any reason ye wished to kill knights-errant. Speak now, for if not, I shall cut off your head. And tell me if ye were one of the ones who did ill to the knight whose armor I wear now.”

“He cannot deny this,” Angriote said, “for I left Sir Bruneo with him and the two knights, and after that I found the two boasting that they had killed Sir Bruneo. They had brought him with them to help them, saying that one of their sisters was going to be burned, so all three had to be involved in the treachery, because Sir Bruneo left with them under safe conduct to rescue the damsel. I went with an elderly knight, who had given us lodging that night, to bring back his son, who was being held prisoner in some tents down river. That turned out so well that I had him returned and put the one holding him into his own prison. And so we parted. Now, ye there, say why ye committed such treachery.”

He of the Green Sword told Lasindo:

“Dismount and cut off his head, for he is a traitor.”

The knight was very afraid and said:

“My lord, for God’s sake have mercy, and I shall tell you the truth about what happened. Know, my lord knight, that we knew these two knights were looking for the Knight of the Green Sword, whom we mortally hate, and knowing how they were his friends, we decided to kill them. We did not think we could do so if they were together, so we made up that story that this knight has told. We rode under the pretext of freeing that damsel, and we were talking without armor on our heads and hands, and we arrived at the Spring of the Tall Beech Trees. When the knight let his horse drink, we took our lances, and I, who was at his side, grabbed his sword from its scabbard, and before he could fight back, we knocked him from his horse and gave him so many injuries that we thought we had killed him. So I think he must be dead.”

He of the Green Sword said:

“Why do ye hate me? What crime have I done you?”

“What?” he said. “Are ye the Knight of the Green Sword?”

“I am,” he said. “Look, I have the sword here.”

“Then I will answer your question now. Ye must recall how a year ago ye passed through these lands, and ye fought with that knight who lies there dead,” and he pointed to Bradansidel. “He was the most fierce and mighty knight in all these lands, and the battle was before the beautiful Grasinda. With great arrogance Bradansidel set the rule the loser would have to obey, which was that he would have to ride backwards on his horse wearing his shield upside down and holding the tail of his horse like reins before that beautiful lady and through her town, which Bradansidel as the loser had to fulfill to his great dishonor and discredit. He mortally hated you over that dishonor, as did all of us who were his relatives and friends, and we fell into the error that ye have seen. Now order me killed or leave me alive, for I have told you everything ye wanted to know.”

“I shall not kill you,” said he of the Green Sword, “because those who do evil die many times while they are alive and pay as their evil deeds deserve, and given your foul acts, ye shall fulfill what I say.”

He ordered Lasindo to take a horse from among those who were loose to carry the deer and to take the reins from the other horses so they could run free through the forest, and they went to the town, where they knew they would find Sir Bruneo, and brought before them the buck on the horse.

The Knight of the Green Sword had great pleasure in asking Angriote for the news from Great Britain, who told him what he knew, although a year and a half had passed since he and Sir Bruneo had left to search for him. Among other things, he said:

“Know, my lord, that in King Lisuarte’s court there is a childe who is the most rare and handsome ever seen, and Urganda the Unrecognized told the King and Queen in a letter that he shall accomplish great things if he lives.”

Angriote told how the hermit had raised him, taking him from the mouth of a lion, and how King Lisuarte found him, and told him about the white and red letters he had on his chest, and how the King was raising him honorably because of what Urganda had said, and how, besides being such a handsome and gallant young man, he was well accomplished in everything he did.

“By God,” the Knight of the Green Sword said, “ye speak to me of a very strange man. Now tell me how old he is.”

“He must be about twelve years old [sic],” Angriote said. “And he and Ambor de Gadel, my son, serve Oriana, who treats them very well because their service is so good, so much that in the King’s court there are none so honored or admired as them. But they are very different in appearance, for one is the most handsome as could be found and the best mannered, and Ambor seems very lazy to me.”

“Oh, Angriote,” the Knight of the Green Sword said, “do not judge your son at an age when he cannot understand either good or bad. And I tell you, my good friend, that if he were older and Oriana wished to give him to me, I would bring him with me and would make Gandalin a knight, for he has served and cared for me for such a long time.”

“So help me God,” Angriote said, “he very much deserves that, and I think that he would make a very good knight, since he has been one of the best squires in the world. And if he were a knight and my son were to serve you in his place, then I would lose all the doubts I have, and he would be exposed to such great experience in your company that he would turn out in such a way as to bring great honor to everyone in his lineage. And let us leave that now until its time, when God may make it so.”

And then he said:

“Know, my lord, that Sir Bruneo and I have been traveling everywhere in the islands of Romania, where we have found that ye have done great deeds at arms, both against very arrogant knights and against powerful and furious giants, and everyone who knows about it is amazed by how much the body of a single man can suffer from such opponents and dangers. And there we learned about the death of the frightening and mighty Endriago, and we wondered at how ye dared to challenge the devil himself, for they say that was how he was made and who engendered him and raised him, although he was the son of a giant and his daughter. And I ask you, my lord, to tell me how ye did it, so I may hear of the most strange and perilous thing that ever happened to a mortal man.”

The Knight of the Green Sword told him:

“For that, better witnesses than I would be Gandalin and the doctor who is treating Sir Bruneo, and they can tell you.”

And speaking as ye hear, they arrived at the town, where they were received with great pleasure by Grasinda. Angriote had been told he should only call him the Knight of the Green Sword, and they were met by a group of armed knights that Grasinda had sent to look for them. She took them with her and brought them to the chamber of the Knight of the Green Sword, where Sir Bruneo of Bonamar lay in a bed.

When they entered and found him in a good disposition, who could tell you of the pleasure that came to their spirits to find themselves together? And that very beautiful lady also felt great pleasure, feeling very honored to have such esteemed knights in her house protecting her, whom she could give such help that could not be found anywhere else.

Then Angriote was treated for a wound to his leg, which was very inflamed by travel and by the hard combat with the knights. He was placed in a bed next to Sir Bruneo, and when they had eaten the food that the doctor ordered, they all left to let them rest and sleep.

They fed the Knight of the Dwarf in another chamber, where he told Grasinda of the skills and great valor of those very true friends. After he had eaten, she went to her ladies and damsels, and he of the Green Sword to his companions, whom he dearly loved and whom he found awake and talking. He ordered his bed be brought next to theirs, and there he rested, speaking with great pleasure with them about all the things that had happened to them.

The Knight of the Green Sword told them about the boon he had promised the lady and what she had asked for, and how he was preparing to travel by sea to Great Britain, which greatly pleased Sir Bruneo and Angriote, because having found whom they were searching for, they wished to return to that land.

So, just as this story has recounted, the Knight of the Green Sword, Sir Bruneo of Bonamar, and Angriote d’Estravaus were in the house of the beautiful lady Grasinda, with great delight and pleasure. When there was no danger to their health to go to sea, the fleet had already been provisioned with food for a year and men to sail and fight, as might be needed.

One Sunday morning in the month of May, they boarded the ships, and with good weather, they began to sail toward Great Britain.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

The truth about good King Wenceslaus

“Good King Wenceslaus looked out on the Feast of Stephen, when the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even...” 

According to legend, Wenceslaus was holding this church door handle when he was struck down. Photo by Sue Burke.

Christmas was an important holiday in the Middle Ages, and not just Christmas Day but all the time around it, starting with Advent in November and ending with the visit of the Magi in January. People feasted and drank, gave gifts, danced, and sang carols.

The carol about “Good King Wenceslaus” is only somewhat medieval. It was published in 1853 by John Mason Neale in Great Britain, the words inspired by medieval legends that described the king as pious and generous, constructing and visiting churches and giving to the poor. But Neale set it to a tune that was entirely medieval, originally for a 13th-century spring carol.

Wenceslaus was born in about 907 in Prague, son of the Duke of Bohemia. Legends say his family struggled between Christianity and paganism, but his Christian faith never wavered. He became the Duke at age 18 in 924 or 925.

In September 935, his brother Boleslav the Cruel and other nobles quarreled with him on the way to church and he was killed – legend says with his hand on the door of the church where he sought shelter from the attack.

Wenceslaus immediately became a saint and martyr with followers in Bohemia and England, extolled as a righteous king whose power arose in part from his piety. Holy Roman Emperor Otto I soon awarded him the posthumous title of king. Today he is the patron saint of the Czech Republic.

So although the words to the Christmas carol about Wenceslaus are modern, the tune and the sentiment in it come straight from the Middle Ages. Sing and celebrate during the holidays.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Chapter 75 [part 2 of 3]

[How the Knight of the Green Sword found his dear friend Sir Bruneo of Bonamar injured and dying.] 

[A statue of a knight from about 1350 to 1450 in England, possibly a depiction of St. George. On display at the British Museum, with a detailed on-line description.]

After the Knight of the Green Sword had rested for two days, he felt the urge to hunt in the forest and hills, for when he did not need to use arms, he spent his time that way. He brought with him some local knights and huntsmen who knew the area, and went to a very dense forest two leagues form the town, where there were many deer. He was provisioned with two fine dogs and placed himself amid a line of beaters between a densely wooded mountain and a nearby forest frequented by game.

It did not take him long to kill two large bucks, and the huntsmen killed another one. Since it was now close to nightfall, the huntsmen blew their horns. Although he was about to leave with them, the Knight of the Green Sword saw a marvelously handsome buck leave some thick brush. He set the dogs on it, and they pursued the buck until it jumped into a large lake to save itself. The dogs followed eagerly and captured it, and the Knight of the Green Sword arrived and killed it.

Gandalin was with him and was as happy as he was. The knight had spoken a lot about leaving soon to go where his lady was, and he found great comfort from the idea, for he had not seen her for a long time, as ye have heard. He jumped from his horse and fed the dogs, who were well trained, for he had great experience in such things.

At this time, night had fallen and almost nothing could be seen. They quickly put the deer over some bushes, covered it with green branches, and mounted their horses. Soon they lost their way due to the dense brush. They did not know what to do or where to go, so they rode for a while through the woods hoping to come across some road or someone from their party. Although they did not find that, they happened to come upon a spring. There they let their horses drink, and without hope of finding other lodging, they dismounted. They took off the saddles and reins and let the horses graze on the green grass that was next to the fountain.

But he of the Green Sword ordered Gandalin to wait and went to some large trees nearby where he could be alone and would be better able to think about his life and his lady. When he neared them, he saw a dead white horse, marked by great blows, and heard someone among the trees groaning painfully, but could not see anyone because the night was dark and the trees were very dense.

He sat beneath a tree, listening to find out who it might be, and soon he heard someone say with great anguish and pain:

“Oh, miserable wretch, Bruneo de Bonamar, now has come the time when thy mortal desires shalt perish and die with thee, from which thou hast always been tormented! Thou shalt never again see thy great friend Amadis of Gaul, for whom thou hast carried out so much toil and labor in foreign lands, he who more than everyone else in the world valued and loved thee. Without him nor family nor friends to mourn thee, thou shalt pass from this life to cruel death, which has come nigh!”

Then he said:

“Oh, my lady Melicia, paragon and example above all women in the world, now your loyal vassal Bruneo de Bonamar shall no longer see you nor serve you, he who in word and deed never failed to love you more than he loved himself! My lady, ye lose that which ye could never have, and truly, my lady, ye shall never find another who loves you as loyally as I. Ye were she whose sweet memory maintained me and made me happy, the source of my valor and courage as a knight without ever having been able to serve you. And now that I have placed my service in the search of this brother whom ye love so much, a quest I shall never give up except through failure, not daring to come before you, my hard fate has not given me the chance to do this service for you and has brought me death, which I always feared would come to me because of you.”

Then he said,

“Oh, my good friend Angriote d’Estravaus, where are ye now? We spent so long on this quest, but at the end of my days shall I receive no aid or help? Cruel has been my fate when it wished us to split up last night. Sad and troubling has been that separation, for we shall not see each other again as long as the world shall last. But may God receive my soul, and may your great loyalty receive what it deserves.”

Then he was quiet, moaning and breathing painfully. The Knight of the Green Sword, who had heard all that, wept fiercely, and once he had grown quiet, went to him and said:

“Oh, my lord and good friend Bruneo de Bonamar, do not be troubled, have faith in the very merciful God, who wished me to find you now to help you with whatever ye may need, and that shall be the medicine for the illness ye suffer. And believe, my lord Sir Bruneo, that if any man may get remedy and health from the wisdom of a mortal person, ye shall have it with the help from our Lord God.”

Sir Bruneo thought because of how fiercely the knight was weeping that it was his squire Lasindo, whom he had sent to find a priest so he could confess, and said:

“My friend Lasindo, thou hast been away long, and my death is near. Now I ask that as soon as thou takest me from here, that thou goest directly to Gaul to kiss the hands of the princess for me, and give her this part of my shirt-sleeve where seven letters have been written with a stick dipped in my blood, for I had no energy for more. And I trust that in her great discretion she shall have some pity for me in my death, which I did not get to sustain my life, and I found death in her service searching with struggle and labor for the brother whom she loved so much.”

The Knight of the Green Sword told him:

“My friend Sir Bruneo, I am not Lasindo. Rather I am he for whom ye have undergone such trouble. I am your friend Amadis of Gaul, so I am as sad as you over your danger. Do not fear, for God will attend to you, and I, with the help of a doctor to help, shall restore your health, since your soul has not yet left your flesh.”

Sir Bruneo, although he was very confused and weak from the loss of blood, recognized the voice and held his arms out toward him, took him, and held him close, tears falling abundantly down his face. But he of the Green Sword, also holding him and weeping, shouted to Gandalin to come immediately, and when he came, he said:

“Oh, Gandalin, thou seest here my lord and loyal friend Sir Bruneo, who has searched long for me and now has come to the point of death. Help me remove his armor.”

They carefully disarmed him and placed him on Gandalin’s tabard, covering him with the Knight of the Green Sword’s tabard. He ordered Gandalin to ride as fast as he could to an outcrop and wait there until morning, and go to the town and to tell doctor Elisabad that for the great faith the Knight of the Green Sword had in him to take everything he might need and come immediately to care for a knight who was badly injured, and to know that it was one of the best friends he had. Gandalin should also ask Grasinda to send men and equipment to take him to town, as one ought for a knight of such high lineage and great skill at arms.

He of the Green Sword stayed there with him, holding his head in his lap and consoling him, and Gandalin left promptly with those orders. He rode up a high peak in the forest, and when day came, he immediately saw the town, spurred his horse, and rode there. He traveled with such speed that he did not stop to answer any questions, and everyone thought had something that happened to his lord.

He arrived at the home of the doctor Elisabad. When he heard the orders from the Knight of the Green Sword and saw the great haste of Gandalin, he knew that the situation was grave, and he took everything he might need and mounted his horse, waiting for Gandalin to guide him, while Gandalin told Grasinda what had happened to his lord and what he had asked her to provide.

He left and they took the road to the mountains, and soon they had arrived at the place where the knights were. When the doctor Elisabad saw how his loyal friend the Knight of the Green Sword held the head of the other knight on his lap and was fiercely weeping, he well understood that he loved him dearly.

He arrived laughing and said:

“My lords, do not fear, for God shall soon give you council that will make you happy.”

Then he went to Sir Bruneo and studied his wounds, finding them swollen and inflamed from the night’s cold. He put such medicines on them that soon the pain had been taken away, and so sleep overcame him, which was a great aid and rest. When he of the Green Sword saw how the doctor held Sir Bruneo to be in so little danger, he joyfully embraced him and said:

“Oh, doctor Elisabad, my good lord and my friend, on a good day I was placed in your company, for so much goodness and advantage has followed for me! I ask God for the mercy that some time I may reward you, for although ye see me now as a poor knight, it may be that before much time has passed, ye shall find my otherwise.”

“So help me God, Knight of the Green Sword,” he said, “I am more content and find it more agreeable to serve you and help your life than I would be for you to give me a reward, for I am certain that I lack none of your gratitude. Let us speak no more of this and go to eat, for it is time.”

And so they did, for Grasinda had ordered him to be very well provided, since besides being a great lady, she was very careful to give pleasure to the Knight of the Green Sword in everything she offered. As they ate, they spoke about how beautiful the beech trees were that they saw there, which seemed to be the tallest trees they had ever seen.

As they were looking at them, they saw a man arrive on a horse with the heads of two knights hanging from its harness, and he carried a battle ax covered with blood. When he saw the people at the trees, he stopped and wished to turn back. But the Knight of the Green Sword and Gandalin recognized him. He was Lasindo, Sir Bruneo’s squire, and they feared that if he approached, he would innocently say who they were, so he of the Green Sword said:

“Be still everyone, and I shall see who he is, since he is afraid to approach us, and find out why he is carrying those heads.”

Then, mounted on a horse and with a lance, he rode toward him, and told Gandalin to come with him.

“And if that man does not wait for me, follow him.”

The squire, when he saw them coming toward him, pulled back into the forest out of fear, and he of the Green Sword followed him. But when they came to a valley, where the others could not see or hear them, he began to call him, saying:

“Wait, Lasindo. Do not fear me.”

When Lasindo heard this, he looked and recognized Amadis, and with great pleasure he came and kissed his hands, and said:

“Oh, my lord, ye do not know of the misfortune and sad news of my lord Bruneo, who has suffered so much danger looking for you in foreign lands.” He began to mourn, saying: “My lord, these two knights told Angriote that they left him dead near this forest, so he cut off their heads and ordered me to put them next to Sir Bruneo if he were dead or to present them to him on his behalf if he were alive.”

“Oh, God,” said the Knight of the Green Sword, “what is this that thou sayest? I found Sir Bruneo, but in such a state that he could tell me nothing. Wait a bit now, and take Gandalin with thee as if he has caught up with thee, and he shall tell thee the news about thy lord, and when thou art before me, call me the Knight of the Green Sword.”

“I have already been advised to do this,” he said.

“And there thou shalt tell us the news that thou knowest.”

Then he turned back and told his companions that Gandalin was coming behind him with the squire, and soon they saw them coming together. When Lasindo arrived and saw the Knight of the Green Sword, he promptly dismounted and knelt before him and said:

“Blessed be God to bring us to this place, because ye have saved the life of my lord Sir Bruneo, who loved you so.”

He of the Green Sword lifted him up by the hand and said:

“My friend Lasindo, thou art welcome, and thou shalt find thy lord in a good state. But now tell us why thou bringest these men’s heads.”

“My lord,” he said, “show me Sir Bruneo, and there I shall tell you, for such are my orders.”

They went to where he was in a small tent that Grasinda had ordered brought with the other things. Lasindo knelt before him and said:

“My lord, ye see here the heads of the knights who did you such great harm, and they were sent by your loyal friend Angriote d’Estravaus. He knew of the infamy they had done to you, and he fought and killed them. He shall be here soon, for he stopped at a convent next to the forest to have a wound on his leg tended to, and when the blood flow is stopped, he shall come here.”

“God help him!” Sir Bruneo said, “how shall he know where to go?”

“He told me to come to the tallest trees in this forest, where I would find you dead, and he knew that because of what one of those traitors had told him before he killed him. The mourning he made for you cannot be recounted or told.”

“Oh, God!” the Knight of the Green Sword said, “protect him from evil and danger. Tell me,” he said to Lasindo, “dost thou know how to guide me to this convent?”

“I do,” he said.

Then he told the doctor Elisabad to take Sir Bruneo on a stretcher to the town. He put on Sir Bruneo’s armor, mounted his horse, and entered the forest with Lasindo, who carried his helmet and lance. They reached the place where the night before they had left the buck under a tree and saw Angriote coming on his horse, his head down as if he were in mourning, and he of the Green Sword was very pleased to see him.

Then he saw four well-armed knights coming behind him who shouted:

“Wait, Sir False Knight, ye ought to lose your head in exchange for the ones you cut off. They were worth much more than ye are.”

Angriote turned his horse toward them, raised his shield, and meant to defend himself from them even before he had seen the Knight of the Green Sword, who had already taken up his arms and rode as fast as his horse could carry him to Angriote, reaching him before the others arrived.

He said:

“My good friend, do not fear, for God shall be with you.”