Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Chapter 80 [part 1 of 3]

How King Lisuarte sent for Oriana to deliver her to the Romans; what happened with a knight from Firm Island, and in the battle between Sir Grumedan and the Greek Knight’s companions against three Roman challengers; and how, after they defeated the Romans, the Greek Knight’s companions went to Firm Island, and what they did there. 

[A lady being borne in a litter, from The Collected Works of Christine de Pizan, “The Book of the Queen,” (c. 1410-1414) Harley MS 4431, British Library.]

Ye have heard that Oriana was at Miraflores Castle and Queen Sardamira was with her, having been sent by King Lisuarte to visit her and tell her of the grandeur of Rome and how her reign would by enlarged by her marriage to the Emperor, which was being readied. Now know that, since her father the King had made a promise to the Romans, he decided to order her brought and make arrangements to send her away. He ordered his nephew Giontes to take two knights and some servants to bring her, and to prevent any knight from talking with her.

Giontes took Ganjel of Sadoca and Lasanor and other servants, and went to where Oriana was. They bore her in a litter because that was the only way she would come, for she was faint from so much weeping. With her damsels and Queen Sardamira and her retinue, they left Miraflores and took the road to Tagades, where the King was.

On the second day something happened, about which ye shall now hear: near the road and below some trees next to a fountain was a knight in fine armor on a brown horse. He wore a green surcoat tied with green cords through gold eyelets over his chain mail, and he seemed extremely handsome. He took a shield and put it around his neck, took a lance with a green pendant and blandished it a little, then said to his squire:

“Go tell Oriana’s guards that I ask them to give me the chance to speak with her, and there shall come no harm to them nor her, and if they let me do that, I shall thank them, and if not, I shall be sorry and must attempt to do what I can.”

The squire went and gave them the message, and when he said the knight would force them to let him speak to her, they laughed and told him:

“Tell your lord that we shall not let him see her, and if he wishes to attempt to do so by force, nothing shall come of it.”

But Oriana, who overheard that, said:

“What does it matter to you if that knight speaks to me? Perhaps he brings me some news that would please me.”

“My lady,” Giontes said, “your father the King ordered us not to allow anyone to approach you to speak to you.”

The squire returned with this answer, and Giontes prepared for battle. When the knight in green heard the reply, he immediately charged and they struck each other on their shields so mightily that their lances broke into pieces, but with the great force of the encounter, Giontes’s horse’s leg was dislocated and it fell. One of Gionte’s feet was trapped beneath it in the stirrup, and he could not get up. The knight in green went past him, riding handsomely, turned immediately, and said:

“Knight, I ask you to let me speak with Oriana.”

He told him:

“I can no longer deny you that, although my horse is to blame.”

Then Ganjel of Sadoca shouted at the knight in green to prepare himself and not touch Giontes or he would die for it. “Would that I had you in such as state,” he said.

The knight in green rode at him as fast as his horse could gallop once he got a lance from his squire, but he erred in the encounter. Ganjel of Sadoca struck him on the shield and broke his lance, but no other harm was done. The knight turned around toward him and saw his sword in his hand, and struck him with his lance so hard it flew into pieces. Ganjel was thrown from his saddle and fell hard.

Then Lasanor charged, but the knight, who was very skilled at such situations, protected himself so well that Lasanor missed with the lance and it was knocked from his hand, and they struck each other so bravely that their shields were smashed and the arm Lasanor used to hold it was broken. The knight in green, who turned to face him sword in hand, saw that he was too stunned to attack, so he took the reins to his horse and struck its head with the flat of his sword to made it flee through the countryside with his master. And seeing it go, he could not help from laughing.

Then he took a letter he carried and went to Oriana in her litter. And she, who had seen him defeat those three knights, all quite skilled at arms, thought it was Amadis, and her heart trembled. But the knight approached her with great humility, held out the letter, and said:

“My lady, Agrajes and Sir Florestan send you this letter, in which ye shall find news that will give ye pleasure. May God keep you, my lady, for I must return to those who sent me. I know for certain that they need me, though I may be of little worth.”

“It seems to me to be the contrary from what I have seen,” Oriana said, “and I beg you to tell me your name, for ye had to work so hard to bring me pleasure.”

“My lady,” he said, “I am Gavarte of the Fearful Valley, and what your father the King is doing to you gives me deep sorrow. But I trust in God that it will be very hard for him to make it happen. Rather, so many of your subjects and others shall die that it will be known throughout the world.”

“Oh, Sir Gavarte, my good friend, may God be pleased to have such a time come to me when your great loyalty to me shall be rewarded!”

“My lady,” he said, “it has always been my desire to serve you in everything as my legitimate ruler, and in this matter even more, knowing the great injustice being done to you. I shall come to your aid with others who wish to serve you.”

“My friend,” she said, “I beg you to say this wherever ye may be.”

“So I shall,” he said, “for I can do so with loyalty.”

Then he bid her farewell. Oriana went to Mabilia, who was with Queen Sardamira, and the Queen told her:

“It seems to me, my lady, that we have equal guardians. I do not know whether it is due to their weakness or the misfortune of this road, for here your guards and mine were both defeated and left injured.”

When the Queen said this, they all laughed heartily, but the knights were ashamed and confounded and did not dare appear before them. Oriana stood there a while as the knights sought aid, for Lasanor’s horse could not bring him back for a long time.

She stepped away with Mabilia and they read the letter, and from it they learned that Agrajes, Sir Florestan and Sir Gandales wished her to know that Gandalin and Ardian the dwarf were already at Firm Island and Amadis would be there within a week. He had ordered them to prepare a great fleet that would be needed to go to an important place, and they had it ready. They hoped she would be pleased and hold great hope that God would aid her.

Oriana and Mabilia were overjoyed beyond comparison at that news, for it would bring them life, since they held themselves for dead if the wedding were to happen. Mabilia comforted Oriana and begged her to eat. Until then, in her great sorrow, she had not wished nor been able to eat, nor could she now with such great joy.

So they traveled down the road to where the King was, but before they arrived, the King and the Romans came out to receive her along with many other people. When Oriana saw them, she began to weep fiercely and had herself helped from her litter, and all her damsels joined her. When they saw her sobbing so pitifully, they wept and tore their hair and kissed her hands and dress as if they beheld her dead, and everyone felt great sorrow.

This sight troubled the King greatly. He told King Arban of North Wales:

“Go to Oriana and tell her that I feel the greatest distress in the world for what she is doing, and that I send orders for her and her damsels to enter the litter and appear more cheerful and go to her mother, and I shall tell her news that will make her happy.”

King Arban did as he was ordered, but Oriana answered:

“Oh, King of North Wales, my good cousin! My great misfortune has been so cruel that if ye and others who have undertaken great peril to aid sad and distressed damsels cannot rescue me with arms, then perhaps ye can rescue me with words. Advise my father the King not to do me such wrong and not to tempt God, or the great good fortune he has enjoyed in his life may turn contrary. My cousin, try to make him come here and bring with him Count Argamon and Sir Grumedan, for by no means shall I depart from here until this is done.”

As she spoke, King Arban could not stop sobbing and could not answer. He returned to the King and told him what Oriana had said, and Lisuarte thought it harmful to oppose her in public because the more her sorrow and anguish became notorious to everyone, the more his blame would grow. Count Argamon, seeing his hesitation, urged the King to go to her, and he insisted so much that with Sir Grumedan, the three went to his daughter. When she saw her father, she came to him and knelt before him, and her damsels with her, but he immediately dismounted and raised her up by the hand and embraced her.

She told him:

“Father, my lord, have mercy on this daughter who in a sad moment was engendered, and hear me before these noblemen.”

“My daughter,” the King said, “say what ye please, and with a father’s love I must hear you.”

She fell to the ground to kiss his feet. He pulled back and rose her up. She said:

“My lord, your will is to send me to the Emperor of Rome and separate me from you and my mother the Queen and this land which God made my homeland. And since from this trip I expect nothing but death, which shall either come for me or I shall give to myself, in no way shall your wish be fulfilled. The results for you shall be sin, and in two ways: first, I shall be disobedient to your will, and second, I shall die because of you. For all this to be avoided and God be served by us, I wish to enter a convent and live there, leaving you free to dispose of your kingdom and lordships as ye wish. I shall renounce all rights that God gave me in favor of my sister Leonoreta or anyone else as ye may desire. And, my lord, ye shall be better served by whoever she marries than by the Romans, who when they have me, shall become your enemies. If in this way ye think to win them, ye shall not only lose them but, as I said, ye shall make them mortal enemies of yours, and they will think of nothing else but how to take this land.”

“My daughter,” the King said, “I understand well what ye say, and I shall give you my answer in front of your mother. Now return to your litter and go to her.”

Then they put her in her litter and had her taken to her mother the Queen, who received her with great love, but weeping, for the wedding was being arranged entirely against her will.

But neither her nor the great lords of the kingdom nor the lesser lords could change the King’s mind. Because of this, Fortune was now angered and tired. It had given him high achievements and blessings, but now he had grown more angry and arrogant than ever before, so Fortune wished to change things to the contrary, more for the sake of his soul than his honor, as the fourth book of this grand story shall tell in much greater detail.

The Queen consoled her daughter with great pity, and her daughter, with many tears and true humility, on her knees, said that her mother was outstanding in the world for giving counsel to sad women and finding the remedy to their tribulations, so who equal or better than she could be found in all the world? To those who saw them, mother and daughter seemed embraced, speaking with deep compassion both of the great delights of the past and their anguish and profound sadness, which many times overcome people, and no one, no matter how great or discreet they may be, can avoid it.

Count Argamon, King Arban of North Wales, and Sir Grumedan took the King aside under some trees, and the Count told him:

“My lord, ye have ordered me not to speak further about this concern, and because your discretion is so much greater than all others, knowing what is best and what is not, well and honorably I could be excused from speaking. But as I am of your blood and your vassal, I am not content or satisfied with what has been said, and I believe, my lord, that as wise men oftentimes are right, when they err even once, they do so worse than any madman, because, in their daring wisdom, they do not take counsel, blinded by love, hatred, greed, or pride, and they can fall so low that they can hardly rise again. Beware, my lord, for ye are committing great cruelty and sin, and very soon ye may suffer such a lashing from the Lord on high that your brilliance and glory in the world shall become obscured. Consider how many wise men have forgone their own desires to bend their fortunes to follow your will. Listen to advice this one time, and if trouble should come to you from this, you can blame the advice rather than yourself, which this is the great remedy and relief of those who err.”

“Good Uncle,” the King said, “I am very aware of all that ye have just told me, but I can do nothing else but fulfill the promise I have made.”

“Then, my lord,” the Count said, “I ask for permission to return to my lands.”

“May ye go with God,” the King said.

So they concluded their conversation, and the King went to eat. When the tablecloths were lifted, he ordered Brondajel de Roca be called, and said to him:

“My friend, ye see how much this wedding goes against the will of my daughter and all my vassals, who love her dearly. But I, understanding that I will be giving her to such an honorable man and placing her among you, shall not go back on my promise. So prepare the ships, for within three days I shall deliver Oriana and all her ladies and damsels to you. And take the precaution of not allowing her to leave her chamber in the ship so that no disaster can occur.”

Brondajel told him:

“Everything shall be done as ye order, and although now the Empress finds it sorrowful to leave her lands where she is known to all, when she sees the grandeur of Rome and its great reign, and sees kings and princes bowing to serve her, it shall not take long before her will shall be satisfied and content. Such news shall be sent to you by writing soon, my lord.”

The King embraced him laughing and said:

“May God help me, Brondajel, my friend, I believe that such men as you will know very well how to make her recover her joy.”

Salustanquidio, who was now well enough to leave his bed, asked the King for the kindness of sending Olinda with Oriana, for he had promised Olinda that when he was King, as the Emperor had said he would be when he arrived with Oriana, he would take her as his wife. The King was very pleased by that and praised her highly, saying that given her discretion and honesty and great beauty, she well deserved to be queen and lady of a great land.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Medieval sidesaddles

They weren’t like modern sidesaddles at all. 

A Spanish sidesaddle from the 14th or 15th century. Photo from Georgia Ladies Aside.

“Then her brother gave the reins of her horse to the childe, who took them and led them to the palace.” – Chapter 78.

Time and again we’ve read in Amadis of Gaul how some knight or nobleman takes the reins of a woman’s horse as they ride along. Is that mere chivalry? No.

As you probably know, women rode sidesaddle in the Middle Ages, but sidesaddles then weren’t like sidesaddles now. Modern sidesaddles have a pair of pommels, which are sort of like curved horns, that women can brace their legs around or against, as well as safety stirrups and other improvements. These allow women to jump fences and gallop safely.

Medieval sidesaddles weren’t exactly chairs mounted sideways on the horse, but that’s what they amounted to. The rider sat in a pillion or padded seat, and her feet rested on a planchette or footrest. A woman didn’t face the direction her horse was going, she sat perpendicular. And she didn’t sit especially securely.

That’s why they rode palfreys. A palfrey isn’t a breed of horse but rather a kind of horse, a lighter-weight animal with a smooth, ambling gait. This is much easier for the rider, and women had to avoid jolts.

So when a man takes a woman’s reins, he’s doing it because someone has to lead her horse. The woman is in no position to do so herself.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Chapter 79 [part 2 of 2]

[How the Greek Knight defeated two more Romans but was persuaded by Esplandian to let them live.] 

[A picota, a column used in Spanish civil law since medieval times. This one is located in the town of Presencio near Burgos. Photo by Sanbec.]

The Greek Knight spurred his horse and found it strong and rested, since it had done little labor that day. He hung his shield from his neck and selected a lance with a very handsome pennant. He called the damsel who had brought Grasinda’s message and told her:

“My friend, go to the King and tell him that he knows the agreement: if after the first battle I was in a condition to fight, I would hold the field against two knights who came together against me. And now it falls upon me to comply with that madness, and I ask him the favor of not ordering any of his knights to fight with me, because they are such that they would gain no honor in defeating me. Let me fight the Romans, who began this, and it shall be seen if I, being Greek, fear them.”

The damsel went to the King and told him in French what the Greek Knight had ordered her to say.

“Damsel,” the King said, “I would not be pleased if anyone from my court or reign were to fight him. He has earned his honor today and I esteem him greatly, and if he were to be pleased to remain with me, I would make it worthwhile for him. And I forbid those of my domain and lands to trouble him. Now I must leave, for I have things to do, but the Romans, who are on their own, may do what they please.”

He said this because he had a lot to prepare for his daughter Oriana’s departure and because at that time he had none of his most esteemed knights in the court, for they had left to avoid seeing the cruelty and madness of forcing his daughter to leave. He only had Guilan the Pensive in his court, who was ill, and Cendil of Ganota, whose legs had been pierced by an arrow released by Brondajel de Roca, one of the Romans, when the King had been pursuing a deer during a hunt in the mountains.

After the damsel heard this, she told him:

“My lord, many thanks for your kindness ye have done for the Greek Knight, but know for certain that if he had wished to remain in Greece with the Emperor, he would have fulfilled what was asked of him there, but his will is only to travel freely through the world rescuing ladies and damsels from the injuries they receive, and many others who ask him for justice. Of these things and more he has done so much that ye shall soon hear of them, and then ye, my lord, and others who do not know him now will come to hold and esteem him.”

“So help you God, damsel, tell me whose orders he follows.”

“Truly, my lord, I do not know, but if his mighty heart is subjected by something, I think it can only be some lady whom he loves to extreme and who is in your realm. May ye be commended to God, and I shall return to him with this response. Whoever wishes to meet him in that field shall find him there until midday.”

After hearing the response, the Greek Knight rode slowly toward Grasinda, and he gave one of the majordomo’s sons his shield and another one his lance, but he did not take off his helmet so he would not be recognized. He told the one who took his shield to put it on the column and to say that the Greek Knight ordered it put there as a challenge to the knights of Rome in order to fulfill what he had promised. He took Grasinda’s horse by the reins to converse with her.

Among the Romans was a knight who was held in great esteem at arms, second only to Salustanquidio, named Maganil, and it was truly believed that two knights from Greece would not hold the field against him. He brought two brothers with him, both good knights. When the shield had been placed on the column, the Romans looked to this Maganil as the one from whom they expected honor and vengeance, but he told them:

“My friends, do not look at me with expectation, because I can do nothing in this matter. I have promised Prince Salustanquidio that if he left this fight in a such a way that he could not fight, I would take upon myself his battle with Sir Grumedan with my brothers. And if he and his companions do not dare fight with us because I will be doing it for Salustanquidio, then I shall avenge him.”

As they were speaking, they saw two Roman knights of their company bearing fine arms and riding beautiful horses. One was named Gradamor and the other Lasanor, and they were brothers, Brondajel de Roca’s nephews, sons of his sister, who was as brave and arrogant as her husband and her sons. They were greatly feared by other Romans because of that and because they were Brondajel’s nephews, who was the Emperor’s majordomo.

When they arrived at the field, as ye hear, without speaking or bowing to the King they went to the column. One of them took the Greek Knight’s shield and gave it such a blow against the column that it was smashed to pieces, and he shouted:

“May he be damned who consents to have a Greek’s shield be placed as a challenge to Romans!”

The Greek Knight, when he saw his shield broken, was so angered that his heart burned with rage, and he left Grasinda, took his lance from the squire holding it, and did not bother with a shield, although Angriote told him he could take his. He charged at the Romans, and they at him. He struck his lance against the one who had broken his shield and hit him so hard that the Roman was thrown from his saddle, and when he fell, his helmet flew from his head. He he was so stunned he could not get up, and everyone thought he was dead.

Having lost his lance, the Greek Knight put his hand on his sword and turned to Lasanor, who was attacking him with great blows. The Greek struck him on his shoulder and cut his armor and flesh down to the bones and made him drop his lance. He gave him another blow on the top of his helmet and made him lose his stirrups and grasp the neck of his horse. Seeing him thus, he quickly switched the sword to his left hand, grabbed the other knight’s shield and pulled it from his neck, and the knight fell to the ground, but he got up quickly in fear of death.

He saw his brother, now on foot, sword in hand, and ran to join him. The Greek Knight, fearing they would kill his horse, dismounted and held up the shield he had taken, and with his sword he headed toward them and attacked so fiercely that the brothers could not hold their positions in the field. Those who watched were startled to see him so valiant, esteeming them so little.

Thus he made the Romans know how skilled he was and how weak they were. He gave Lasanor a blow on the left leg so it could no longer sustain him, and he begged for mercy, but the Greek Knight acted as if he did not understand him and kicked him in the chest and threw him flat onto the field.

Then he turned to the other knight, the one who had smashed his shield, but that Roman did not dare to face him, fearing that death was coming for him, and ran toward the King, begging for mercy and shouting to not let him be killed. But the Greek Knight followed him and stopped in front of him and made him turn back toward the column, and when he reached it, Gradamor ran behind it to protect himself from the blows. The Greek Knight, who was irate, tried to attack him, and at times his sword struck the column, which was of very hard stone, and when he did, sparks of flame flew from his sword.

And when he saw the other knight too tired to move, he took him in his arms and squeezed so tightly that all his strength left him, then he let the knight fall onto the field.

Then he took the shield and struck him such a blow on his head that the shield was smashed to pieces and the Roman lay as if dead. He put his sword point in his face and pushed a bit, and Gradamor shuddered and hid his face in great fear and put his arms around his head, terrified by the sword, and shouted:

“Oh, good Greek, my lord! Do not kill me. Order me to do anything!”

But the Greek Knight acted as if he did not understand him, and when he saw that he was conscious, he grabbed him by the hand, struck him on the head with the flat of his sword to force him to stand up, and motioned for him to climb onto the column. But Gradamor was so weak he could not, so the Greek helped him, and when he was standing still on it, the Greek pushed him so hard that he fell. And as he was large and heavy and fell from a great height, he landed and lay so still that he did not move, and the Greek put the pieces of the shield on his chest, went to Lasanor, grabbed his leg, and dragged him to lie next to his brother.

Everyone realized that he meant to behead them, and Sir Grumedan, who was watching with pleasure, said:

“It seems to me that the Greek has made a fine vengeance for his shield.”

The childe Esplandian, who was watching the battle, realized that the Greek Knight meant to kill the two knights whom he had defeated, and, feeling sorry for them, spurred his palfrey, called to his companion Ambor, and rode toward the knights. When the Greek Knight saw them coming, he waited to see what they wanted, and when they neared, Esplandian seemed to be the most handsome noble childe of all those he had seen in his life.

Esplandian came to him and said:

“My lord, since these knights are in such a state that they cannot defend themselves, and since  your skill is now well known, free them for me, and all honor shall remain with you.”

He gestured that he did not understand. Esplandian began to shout to Count Argamon to come there because the Greek Knight did not understand his language. The Count came immediately, and the Greek asked what the childe had said, and he told him:

“He asks you to give these knights to him.”

“I would savor killing them,” he said, “but I shall grant them to him.” And he told the Count, “My lord, who is this handsome childe, and whose son is he?”

The Count told him:

“Truly, knight, this I cannot tell you for I do not know, and no one in this land knows.” And he told him how the childe had been raised.

“I had heard speak of this childe in Romania, and I think they called him Esplandian. They told me he had some letters on his chest.”

“That is true,” the Count said, “and ye can see them if ye wish.”

“I would appreciate that, and would thank him for showing me them, for it is one thing to hear an amazing thing and another to see it.”

The Count asked Esplandian to show him the letters. He came closer, and he wore a doublet, a French hood embroidered with gold lions, and a narrow gold belt, and his tunic and hood were fastened with gold buttons. He loosened some buttons and showed the letters to the Greek Knight, who was amazed and considered them the most amazing thing he had ever heard. The white letters said Esplandian, but the red letters he could not read, although they were well defined and formed. He said:

“Handsome childe, may God bless you.”

Then he bid farewell to the Count and mounted his horse, which his squire had brought him, rode to Grasinda, and told her:

“My lady, ye must be annoyed by having to wait over my mad behavior, but blame the arrogance of the Romans, who caused it.”

“May God help me,” she said, “in fact, your good fortune makes me joyful.”

Then they rode toward the ships, Grasinda with great glory and happiness in her soul, and no less so the Greek Knight for having stopped the Romans that way, and he gave many thanks to God. When they arrived at the ships, they had the tents put on board, and they sailed off toward Firm Island.

But I tell you that Angriote d’Estravaus and Sir Bruneo remained at the orders of the Greek Knight in a galley so that they could secretly help Sir Grumedan in the battle he had pledged to fight with the Romans, and he asked them that when that confrontation was concluded, however God willed it, they should try to learn some news about Oriana and immediately go to Firm Island.

And the good childe Esplandian was sincerely thanked by the Roman knights for what he did, saving them from death, to which they had come so close.