Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Chapter 84

How Princess Grasinda, when she learned of Amadis’s victory, attired herself and went to meet Oriana, accompanied by many knights and ladies. 

[Gardens of Generalife Palace, part of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. Photo by Cindy Van Vreede.]

Among those whom I spoke of and who had remained on the island was the very beautiful Grasinda. When she learned of the arrival of the fleet and of everything that had happened at sea, with great diligence she immediately prepared to meet Oriana, whom she wished to see more than anyone else in the world because of the great things that had been said about her everywhere. And as she was a lady of great means and very rich, and she wished to show her wealth, she quickly put on a gown and an overdress with a pattern of golden roses created with superb art, decorated and surrounded by pearls and precious stones of great value, which until then she had not worn nor shown to anyone because she was keeping it for the test of the forbidden chamber, which she would do later.

On her beautiful hair she wished to wear none other than the very costly crown that by her beauty and by the great skill of the Greek Knight she had won in an outstanding victory for both of them from all the damsels who at that time were in the court of King Lisuarte.

She rode on a white palfrey whose saddle and reins and other adornments covered with enameled gold worked with great artifice. She had this clothing and saddlery so that if by good fortune she were able to successfully complete the test of the forbidden chamber, she could return to the court of King Lisuarte with this grand and fine attire to make her achievement known to Queen Brisena, her daughter Oriana, and the other princesses and ladies and damsels, and with great glory return to her lands. But things seemed to be happening very differently from what she had thought, because although she was finely attired and beautiful in the opinion of many people, and even more beautiful in her own opinion, she was far from equal to the beauty of Queen Briolanja, who had already tried that test and failed.

So with this grand attire, as ye hear, she left her lodging, attended by her ladies and damsels, also richly dressed, and ten knights on foot, who carried the reins and accompanied her so no one could approach her. She went to the seaside, where with great haste they had constructed the bridge ye have heard of to the ship that carried Oriana. When Grasinda arrived, she stood at the entrance to the bridge waiting for Oriana, who by then was ready, and all the knights had gone to her ship to accompany her.

Dressed more in keeping with her misfortune and her modesty than to accent her beauty, Oriana saw her and asked Sir Bruneo who that lady was who had come to the court of her father the King and won the crown from the damsels. Sir Bruneo told her who she was, and that she should be honored and welcomed, for she was one of the finest ladies in the world in her condition. And he told her a great deal about her and of the great honors that Amadis and Angriote and he himself had received from her.

Oriana told him:

“It is very proper that ye and your friends honor her and love her dearly, and so I shall myself.”

Then Sir Cuadragante and Agrajes took her by the arm, Sir Florestan and Angriote took Queen Sardamira, Amadis took Mabilia, Sir Bruneo and Dragonis took Olinda, and other knights took the rest of the princesses and ladies. All the knights wore their armor and were very happy, laughing to give courage and pleasure to the ladies. When Oriana neared the land, Grasinda dismounted from her palfrey and knelt next to the bridge, and took her hands to kiss them. But Oriana pulled her hands back and did not wish to give them; instead she embraced her with great love as one who was customarily very humble and gracious toward those whom she ought to be. Grasinda, seeing her so close and looking at her great beauty, was startled, although she had heard her thoroughly praised. She found her so much different in person that she could not believe that a mortal person could achieve such great beauty.

And, on her knees, for Oriana could not make her rise, she said:

“Now, my good lady, I must rightly give great thanks to our Lord and serve him for the great kindness he did me in not having you in the court of your father the King when I came there, for surely, although I brought the best knight in the world as my guard and protector in my quest to be judged for my beauty, I say that he could have been in great danger if God had helped the knight at arms who was in the right, as God is said to do. If I had been trying to win the honor that I won given the extreme disadvantage that my beauty has to yours, I would have failed in my quest, and it would not concluded as it did, even if the knight fighting for you had been very weak.”

Then she looked at Amadis and told him:

“My lord, if ye have received any offense from this, forgive me, because my eyes have never seen anything like that which is before them now.”

Amadis, who was very joyful to see his lady receive such praise, said:

“My lady, it would be a great injustice to take wrongly what you have said to this noble lady, and if I were to complain about that, I would speak against the greatest truth that has ever been said.”

Oriana, who was a little embarrassed to hear herself praised like that, and thinking more about the misfortune she had just suffered for being so appreciated for her beauty, answered:

“My lady, I do not wish to respond to what you have said about me, for were I to contradict you, I would err against a person who was very wise, and if I were to agree, it would be a great shame and dishonor for me. I only wish that ye know how much I am happy that your honor was increased, inasmuch as I can as the poor and disinherited damsel that I am.”

Then she asked Agrajes to place Grasinda next to Olinda, which he did, and she remained with Sir Cuadragante. They all left the bridge and Oriana mounted a palfrey more richly adorned than any that she had ever seen, adornments that her mother Queen Brisena had provided for her entrance into Rome. They put Queen Sardamira on another horse, and all the ladies on other horses, and Grasinda on hers. And no matter how much Oriana objected, she could not disuade all those lords and knights from accompanying her on foot, which made her very upset, but they considered that every honor and service they could give her would be returned to them in their own praise.

And so, as ye hear, they entered the island through the castle, and they took the ladies with Oriana to the tower in the garden, where Sir Gandales had prepared their lodgings. It was the main tower of the entire island, and although in many other places there were rich and elaborately made houses that Apolidon had enchanted, as Book II has recounted in greater detail, his principal place of residence and where he spent the most time was that tower. For that reason he had decorated it with such things and riches that the greatest emperor in the world would not dare even to try to reproduce.

It contained nine rooms, three on each floor, one above another, each one different, and although some of them had been made with the ingenuity of men who were very wise, all the rest was done by the art and great wisdom of Apolidon, so amazingly worked that no one in the world would be able to appreciate it, much less understand its great subtlety. And because it would be very tedious to describe in detail, it will only be said that this tower was located in the middle of a garden. A very beautiful masonry wall surrounded the garden, which contained the most beautiful trees and other plants of all types ever seen, and fountains flowing with very sweet water. Many of the trees bore fruit throughout the year, and others lovely flowers. Inside this garden, an arcade along the wall was wrought with gold grillwork through which greenery could be seen, and one could walk within it around the garden and could only enter and leave by a single doorway.

The ground was paved with stones, some white and like glass, some colored and clear like rubies, and others of various kinds, which Apolidon had ordered brought from islands in the Orient where precious stones and other amazing things are produced and transported to other lands. They are created by the great heat of the sun that burns there continuously, but the islands are only populated by fearsome beasts. People living nearby had warned about them and had never gone there themselves. But that wise Apolidon ingeniously made artifices so his men could move among them without fear of being killed. And since that time, many things have been brought to the rest of the world that had never before been seen, and from them Apolidon earned great wealth.

The four sides of this tower were encircled by four fountains with water from the high mountains, brought by metal pipes, and the water fell from high up on pillars of gilded copper, from the mouths of animals. From the first floor windows, water could easily be reached, which was collected in round golden basins that were set into the pillars themselves. From these four fountains the entire garden was watered.

In this tower that ye hear of were lodged Princess Oriana and the other ladies that ye know of, each one in her chamber as she merited and as Princess Mabilia ordered. There they were served by ladies and damsels with everything they could possibly need, which Amadis had ordered supplied for them. And no knight could enter the garden or the chambers at Oriana’s preference. She sent word to those lords to ask for their understanding, for she wished to remain there as if cloistered until her father the King offered some promise to agree to peace and concord. They all held her idea to be very virtuous and praised her good intentions, and they sent a message to say in that, as in every other thing in her service, they could do nothing but follow her will.

Amadis’s anguished heart could nowhere find repose nor remedy except in the presence of his lady, because she was the only source of his rest, and without her presence he was continuously tormented by and suffered from great mortal desires, as ye have heard many times throughout this great story, but he wished even more for her contentment and feared more the loss of her honor than dying himself a hundred thousand times. So, beyond anyone else, he showed contentment and pleasure at what that lady considered proper and honest. As a remedy for his passions and anguish, he knew that he had her in his power and in a place where she had nothing to fear in the world, and where before losing her he would lose his own life; at death, the great flames that continually seared his sad heart would cool and grow still.

All the great lords and knights and the common men were given lodging according to their tastes in places on the island that were appropriate for their conditions and qualities, and they were supplied generously with everything necessary for a good and pleasant life. Although Amadis had always traveled as a poor knight, he had found on that island great treasures to provide him income, and he had many jewels of great worth that his mother the Queen and other great ladies had given him, and since he had had no need for them, they had been sent there. And besides that, all of the residents and inhabitants of the island, who were very rich and prudent with their wealth, were happy to serve him by providing generous provisions of bread and meat and wine, and the other things that they could give him.

And so as ye hear Princess Oriana was brought to Firm Island with those ladies and was given lodging, as were all the knights who were in her service and assistance.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Chapter 83

How by agreement and on order of Princess Oriana, the knights took her to Firm Island. 

[The Wheel of Fortune. From Troy Book and Siege of Thebes by John Lydgate, c. 1457, at the British Library.]

After Amadis and the other knights left the ship carrying Salustanquidio and saw that they had control over the entire Roman fleet without opposition, they all met on Sir Florestan’s ship. They agreed that since Oriana wished to go to Firm Island, which seemed wise to them, they should do so immediately. They ordered that all the prisoners be put on a ship guarded by Gavarte of the Fearful Valley and Landin, Sir Cuadragante’s nephew, with a great many knights to watch over them.

They ordered that the spoils, which were plentiful, be placed in another ship, to be guarded by Sir Gandales, Amadis’s foster father, and Sadamon, one of the most sensible and faithful knights there was. In all the rest of the ships they split up the men at arms and sailors to take them to port, and they still had all the ships that had left Firm Island.

When everything was ready, they asked Sir Bruneo of Bonamar and Angriote d’Estrauvaus to let Oriana know that they would carry out what she had ordered, so she would feel content. Those two knights got on a boat to go to the ship where she was, and entered her chamber. They knelt before her and told her:

“Good lady, all of the knights who came to rescue you in your service wish you to know that the fleet is ready and prepared to leave. They wish to know your will, which they will carry out with complete devotion.”

Oriana told them:

“My good friends, if I am never able to reward you for this love that ye all show me and what ye have done for me, I would now despair of my life. But I have faith in our Lord that by His mercy, He would wish it be done just as it is my will. And tell these noble knights that our agreement should be carried out, which is to go to Firm Island, and when we arrive, we shall hold counsel about what should be done. I have faith in God, who is the just Judge and knows all things, that He will guide what now seems so shattered and turn it into great honor and pleasure. All things just and true, like this, may seem harsh and laborious at the beginning, as things seem now, but in the end we should only hope for good results. And things that are unjust and false yield only lies and disloyalty.”

The two knights returned with that answer. When those awaiting the reply heard it, they ordered the trumpets to sound, of which the fleet had many, and with great joy and with the shouts of the common men, they set sail. All the great lords and knights were very happy and had great spirit, since it had been their desire to remain with each other and the princess after they had successfully achieved what they had begun. As they were all of fine lineage and accomplished at deeds at arms, their courage and hearts grew knowing that their side was in the right and seeing that they were in discord with two such high princes, for they only expected to gain great honor whether things went well or poorly, since great deeds are always praised and remembered wherever they happen.

And as they all wore very fine armor and were great in number, even to those who did not know of their grand and great deeds, they would have seem like the army of a great emperor, for truly it would be hard to find in the house of any prince, no matter how grand he was, so many knights of such lineage and such worth.

Then what can be said here except that thou, King Lisuarte, should have thought about the time when thou wert a prince without inheritance. Thou ventured out into great reigns and realms, making use of thine intelligence, strength, virtue, temperance, and precious honesty more fully than any of the mortals of thy time did. Then thou took the diadem and precious crown and made thyself lord of so many knights, for which in all parts of the world thou wert praised and held in great esteem. It is not known if thou lost this because thy same fate was turned into misfortune, or whether thou suffered a great reversal in thy esteem and honorable fame from thy lack of understanding, for it is in the hand of God to give this to thee or to take it from thee.

Instead, I testify that I believe it occurred so that thou wouldst suffer, reduced from that height in which thou wert placed, so thou should especially regret those prosperous times when thou faced no opposition that might hurt thee.

And if thou hast complaints over this, complain to thyself, for thou wished to subject thy ears to men of little virtue and less truth, believing what thou heard from them instead of what thine own eyes saw. And along with this, without any pity or conscience, thou gave such latitude to thy free will that, not letting thy heart be touched by the admonishments of many people or the painful sobbing of thy daughter, thou wished to disinherit her and place her in tribulation, she whom God had adorned with so much beauty, nobility, and virtue, exceeding all women of her time. If anything in her honor could be reproached, given her excellence and sound thinking, in the end, the outcome should be more attributed to the permission of God, who wished it so according to His will, rather than to any error or sin, since if the wheel of fortune turned against thee, thou wert the one who let it loose from its mechanism.

Returning to our purpose, as ye have heard, the fleet was sailing in the sea, and in seven days at dawn it entered the port of Firm Island, where as a sign of joy many shots were fired from their cannons. When the island’s populace saw so many captured ships, they were alarmed, and everyone with their weapons rushed to the docks. But as soon as they arrived, they knew the ships belonged to their lord Amadis by the pendants and flags that flew from the crow’s nests, which were the same as those he had taken with him.

And then they launched boats, and men got out, Sir Gandales among them, to arrange for lodgings as well as to have a bridge of boats made from the land to the ships so Oriana and the ladies could disembark.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

An overview of Book IV

Hints of current affairs and new attitudes seep into the text. 

Queen Isabel I at prayer, as portrayed in the altarpiece at the church of the Miraflores Charterhouse in Burgos. She commissioned it in honor of her parents, who are buried in the church. Photo from ArteHistoria.

In the late 1400s and early 1500s, Europe developed an interest – a fandom, in fact – for knighthood and chivalry. Tournaments, festivals, and new literary works dedicated to knights in armor and their feats entertained everyone. It was fueled both by a revitalized interest in historical traditions and by the newly invented printing press, which brought the price of books down to levels so low that the merely modestly wealthy could afford them. The reach of the printing press even extended to illiterate people, who could attend public readings of rented books, which became a popular form of entertainment.

In Britain, Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Malory was published in 1485, along with other chivalrous works; in France, Tristan was republished in 1489 and Lancelot in 1494; and in Austria, Emperor Maximilian I called himself the last knight and patronized chivalry in literature and art.

During those heady times, Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo decided to set his hand to renewing an old, prestigious Spanish chivalric classic, Amadis of Gaul.

As you may know, the novel originally consisted of three books. Book I is the oldest and dates back to around the 1330s. It tells how Amadis is born and raised, how he falls in love with Oriana, and how he saves her father, King Lisuarte, from a rebellion sparked by the evil sorcerer Arcalaus. Before the turn of the century, Books II and III were added. Book II tells how Oriana mistakenly spurns Amadis, who retreats to a distant hermitage, and after that misunderstanding is settled, treachery drives him from the court of King Lisuarte. Book III follows Amadis’s pursuit of fame as an anonymous knight-errant, eventually returning to rescue Oriana from a forced marriage to the Emperor of Rome.

Actually, the original Book III had a much different ending – more about that soon. No spoilers, but think in terms of George R.R. Martin: lots of death. Montalvo, writing at the end of the 1400s, changed the ending so that a fourth book could be added, as well as changing or adding occasional details in the earlier books. Then he wrote another novel, Las serjas de Esplandián (The Exploits of Esplandian), about the adventures of Amadis’s son, Esplandian.

One reason for these changes may have been the waning of the Middle Ages and the new sensibilities of the coming Renaissance: more triumphalism and apparently more aggressive piety as well. In the earlier books, Amadis is inspired by the frivolities of love, but Montalvo inserts, as best he can, inspiration in the glory of God and in the protection of Christendom, especially in the novel about Esplandian. Those moralizing little sermons that appear here and there even in the earlier books of Amadis come from Montalvo’s hand. It is also possible that Oriana’s conflicts to achieve the throne in Book IV mirror those of Queen Isabel I of Spain, whom Montalvo admired. Fighting styles change, too, with fewer one-on-one fights and more grand battles, reflecting new real-world warfare techniques, which had been used in the reconquest of Granada by Queen Isabel and King Fernando in 1492.

Montalvo also focuses more on Amadis, while earlier books featured an ensemble of characters in interlacing stories. The prose style in Book IV differs, too: Montalvo’s is more complex and less elegant, with a more Latinized syntax, than the earlier medieval prose. This does not always come through in the translation, which might not be a loss for you.

These changes in focus and attitude gave the novel new life and made it Europe’s first bestseller. Its popularity remained high throughout the 1500s. It also served as the inspiration for more than two dozen sequels and a hundred new chivalry novels with different characters in various languages all across Europe.

And now, the fourth and final book of the story of the greatest knight who ever lived is underway. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy bringing it to you.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Chapter 82

About Queen Sardamira’s anguished mourning over the death of Prince Salustanquidio. 

[Detail from The Mourning of Christ, painted between 1304 and 1306 by Giotto in Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy.]

The third part of this great story has told you how, finally, King Lisuarte, against the will of everyone great and small in his kingdom and of many others who wished to place themselves at his service, delivered his daughter Oriana to the Romans to marry Patin, the Emperor of Rome; and how she was taken at sea by Amadis and his companions who had met at Firm Island; and how Prince Salustanquidio was killed; and how Brondajel de Roca, who was chief majordomo of the Emperor, and the Duke of Ancona and the Archbishop of Talancia were taken prisoner; and how many of their men were killed or taken prisoner and the fleet that carried them was destroyed. Now we shall tell you what happened after that.

Know that when this battle had been won, Amadis with other knights who had fought with him left Oriana, Queen Sardamira, and all the other ladies and damsels with her in a ship, with some knights to guard them. Then he and the others went to another ship to secure the Roman fleet and its spoils, which were many, and the prisoners, which were also many, and most of them of great worth, as were proper to send on such a mission.

When they arrived at the ship where Prince Salustanquidio was dead, they heard loud voices and wailing. And they learned the cause of that, which was that his men, both knights and commoners, had surrounded him and were raising the greatest mourning in the world, recounting his good qualities and grandeur. Agraje’s men, who occupied the ship, could not make them stop or step aside. Amadis ordered them sent to another ship so they would cease their mourning, and he ordered that Salustanquidio’s body be placed in a coffin so it could be given the interment befitting such a lord, for although he had been an enemy, he had died properly in the service of his lord. And that was why they had compassion for him and for the others who had survived and ordered that all of them be kept alive, which is what virtuous knights ought to do once rage and anger has been set aside and reason is free to acknowledge justice and let it follow virtue.

The noise of this wailing was so great that the news reached Oriana’s ship about how the prince’s men were mourning him, which is how Queen Sardamira learned about it. Although she already knew and had seen with her own eyes how the entire Roman fleet had been destroyed and many men killed or taken prisoner, she had not heard the news of the death of that knight. And when she heard it, great sorrow filled all her senses, and she forgot the fear and great dread that she had felt until then, and wishing death rather than life, with great passion and alteration, wringing her hands, weeping mightily, she fell to the floor and said:

“Oh, generous prince of very high lineage, light and example for the entire Roman Empire, what pain and sorrow will thy death be to the many men and women who love and serve thee and await thy great benefits and gifts! Oh, what painful news it will be for them when they learn of thy ill-fated and disastrous end! Oh, great Emperor of Rome, what anguish and pain thou shalt feel to learn of the death of this prince, thy cousin, whom thou lovest so much and whom thou hadst as a mighty pillar and shield for thy Empire; and to learn of the destruction of thy fleet and thy noble knights, and above all thy loss at force of arms in great dishonor the thing that thou most loved and desired in the world!

“It may well be said that if fate had decided that a knight-errant such as thee who sought adventure, from such a minor status would be raised up and placed on such a tall peak as the imperial throne with its scepter and crown; then, with a mighty lash of a whip, fate humbled thy honor until it was placed in the abyss at the center of the earth.

“From such a blow only one of two extremes can come to thee: either to conceal what has made thee the most dishonored prince in the world, or to seek vengeance, placing thy person and grand estate in great anguish and fatigued spirits. And in the end thou shalt have no certainty of success, for truly from what I have seen during my disastrous venture in Great Britain, there is not in all the world such a high emperor or king that these knights and those of their lineage, who are many and powerful, would not wage war and battle against. I believe, although from them so much evil and pain has come to me, that they are the finest of all the knighthood in the world. And now my aching heart weeps more for the living, and for the troubles that await them in this misadventure, than for the dead, who have paid their debt.”

Oriana, who saw her in that state, had pity for her because she considered her very wise and of goodwill, except for the first time when she had spoken to her about the deeds of the Emperor, which had caused her great anger and made her ask her to speak of him no more. She had always found her to be a very thoughtful person with great discretion and who never caused her anger again, and instead said things to give her pleasure.

She called for Mabilia and told her:

“My friend, give aid to the Queen in her grieving and console her, as ye know how to do, and pay no attention to what she may say or do, because as ye see, she is almost beyond her senses and has good reason to complain. But what I am obliged to do is what the victorious must do to the vanquished, having them in their power.”

Mabilia, who had great undestanding, approached the Queen and knelt, took her by the hands, and told her:

“Noble Queen and lady, it is not proper for a person of such high estate as ye to be defeated and subjugated by fate, for although all us women are naturally weak of body and heart, much good can be seen in the ancient examples of those women who, with their strength of spirit, wished to pay their debt to their ancestors by showing in adversity the source of the nobility of their lineage and blood.

“Although now ye may ache at this great blow contrary to your fortune, recall that fortune herself placed you in great honor and height, but ye could not enjoy it for longer than her changeable will granted you. It is more due to her actions and fault than yours that ye have lost it, because she has always been pleased and takes delight in causing reversals and playing these games. And at that, ye must note that ye are in the power of this noble princess who has great love and goodwill for you and compassion for your sorrow, and will thoughtfully offer you the company and courtesy that your virtue and royal estate command.”

The Queen told her:

“Most noble and gracious princess, although the discretion of your words is of such virtue that it could console anyone’s sorrow, however great it might be, my disastrous fate is such that my impassioned and weak spirit can take no more. And if I can think of any hope in my great desperation, it is only to find myself as ye say in the power of this high and noble lady, who through her great virtue will not permit that my honor and fame be discredited, because this is the greatest treasure that any woman must protect and fear losing.”

Then Princess Mabilia offered promises to assure her that whatever she wished, Oriana would order to come true. And she raised her up by the hands and had her sit on the estrado, where many of the ladies there came to keep her company.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Book IV
[Altarpiece from Sant Miquel de la Seu d'Urgell Church, Spain, made in 1432-1433 by Jaume Cirera and Bernat Despuig. At the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.]

Here begins the fourth book of the noble and virtuous knight Amadis of Gaul, son of King Perion and Queen Elisena, which deals with the deeds and great feats of arms he and other Knights of his lineage accomplished.

Prologue by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo. 

Just as the breadth of ancient times has given us many great events to remember, so it can be believed that an infinite number of others remain hidden without a trace. That is why I believe that the famous and witty doctor Giovanni Boccaccio, in his book On the Fall of Famous Men, made no mention of anything worthy to account from earliest times of our first ancestor until Nimrod, or from Nimrod to King Cadmus of Thebes, making great leaps over long periods of time, during which for good reason it must be believed that great events took place, but since they are all lost to memory, he did not know of them nor could he tell of them. For that reason, very amazing things and many grand buildings can be found throughout the world, but no one knows who originally conceived of them or built them; and not only regarding such ancient times but even regarding our own we could tell of similar things.

Then we should not find it strange for this book to have reappeared, found after so many years hidden inside an ancient tomb as has been told in the prologue to the first of these three books about Amadis. In it is mentioned the Catholic and virtuous prince Esplandian, his son, in whom the two titles of Catholic and virtuous were well employed as the most esteemed honorifics and by which he wished to be designated. He discarded all others that, although they seemed more lofty, they belonged to worldly rather than divine matters, for when life comes to its end, they end with it, just as thick tall smoke dissipates into the air when the fire it proceeds from extinguishes, and thus all trace and recollection of the smoke is lost.

He believed that to be Catholic was to be a friend of God, and understood himself to be His lieutenant and viceroy in great empires and reigns, fearing Him and serving Him, treating his high estate not as his own but as on loan. He hoped to give a strict account to his Lord, bearing in mind the sad death, the frightful inferno, and the glorious paradise where he could escape damnation and would be joyful in that firm and safe place where his soul would attain delight without end.

During life, he strove to be virtuous, humane, gracious, liberal, generous, guided by reason rather than pleasure, pious, and accomplished in the ways for which princes and great men are most loved and most willingly served by their people, both by offering prayers and petitions to the most high Lord and by placing themselves in armed service a thousand times at the edge of death. In addition, no matter how much they treasure their estates, they would willingly and without grieving deliver them to where they could best be employed in Catholic and virtuous acts.

Then, do we dare to say that this prince’s desire came to pass in deeds just as he willed it? Yes, truly, if any faith, none of it feigned, may be placed in what is written about him in the story of his Exploits. For in them, even from an early age, he always feared God, persevering in complete chastity, a saintly life, and a deeper holy faith, avoiding the use of his might and the ardor of his brave heart against those of his faith, and placing himself often and in danger of death against the infidel enemies of the world’s Savior.

And later, when he was older and placed in high estate as Emperor of Constantinople and King of Great Britain and Gaul, he continued to tread the path of virtue, and was humane, liberal, and well-known to his subjects, giving them gifts, keeping them close, honoring them as friends, punishing them in their errors with a pious hand and tender heart with no harsh arrogance or vengeance, preferring that justice be done with reason rather than anger.

Many other good customs of his that would be too many to recount give testimony to why with just cause and proper reason he deserved the title of those two excellent words, Catholic and virtuous, and the Lord of the world permitted that in addition to the glory his soul achieved at the end of his days, after much time had passed and the account of his great deeds had been hidden and locked away, as has been said, it might all be made manifest, not because he needed it, but so it might serve as an example to those who possess even greater estates and reigns than his were.

They should wish to read his story so they will put aside the arrogance and meritless anger and rage that makes them enemies of He whom they should serve as friends, and so they may instead direct their emotions toward the enemy infidels of our holy Catholic faith, because their efforts and expenses, and finally their deaths, if it should overtake them, in this manner would be very well employed because they would win perpetual and blessed life.


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Welcome back

It’s time to start Book IV. 

From Horae ad usam romanum, a 15th century prayer book, at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, manuscript 1156B.

After a brief summer vacation, we’re all back to start Book IV, the final section of Amadis of Gaul. The greatest knight in the world will face new and old foes and ever greater challenges.

Book IV differs in several ways from the earlier sections of the novel, as I’ll discuss farther on. For now, know that the chapters tend to be shorter, so I’ll be posting a translation every Tuesday instead of every other Tuesday. I’ll continue to offer commentaries about the text and the medieval world on occasional Thursdays.

As always, if you have questions or suggestions, please let me know. I hope you enjoy this landmark work in European literature in every way.

Your translator,

Sue Burke


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Index to Book IV

Here begins the fourth book about the noble and virtuous knight Amadis of Gaul, son of King Perion and Queen Elisena, which deals with the exploits and great feats at arms he and other knights of his lineage performed. 

[Art at the beginning of Book IV from the 1526 edition, printed in Seville, Spain, by Jacobo and Juan Cromberger.]


Chapter LXXXII. Of Queen Sardamira’s great mourning over the death of Prince Salustanquidio.

Chapter LXXXIII. How by the agreement and at orders of Princess Oriana, the knights took her to Firm Island.

Chapter LXXXIV. How Princess Grasinda, when she learned of Amadis’s victory, attired herself and, accompanied by many knights and ladies, went to meet Oriana.

Chapter LXXXV. How Amadis brought together all the lords, what he discussed with them, and what they agreed to.

Chapter LXXXVI. How all the knights were very satisfied with what Sir Cuadragante proposed.

Chapter XXXVII. How all the knights were eager to serve and honor Princess Oriana.

Chapter LXXXVIII. How Amadis spoke with Grasinda, and how she answered.

Chapter LXXXIX. How Amadis sent another messenger to Queen Briolanja.

Chapter XC. How Sir Cuadragante spoke with his nephew Landin and told him to go to Ireland and speak with the Queen, his niece, so she might permit some of her vassals to come and serve them.

Chapter XCI. What Amadis sent to the King of Bohemia.

Chapter XCII. How Gandalin spoke with Mabilia and Oriana, and what they sent him to say to Amadis.

Chapter XCIII. How Amadis and Agrajes, with all the high-born knights, went to see and console Oriana and the ladies with her, and what happened.

Chapter XCIV. How news reached King Lisuarte about the vanquishing of the Romans and the capture of Oriana, and what he did about it.

Chapter XCV. About the letter that Princess Oriana sent to her mother Queen Brisena from Firm Island, where she was.

Chapter XCVI. How King Lisuarte asked for advice from King Arban of North Wales, Sir Grumedan, and Guilan the Pensive, and what they told him.

Chapter XCVII. How Sir Cuadragante and Brian of Monjaste had the misfortune to be lost at sea, and how fate made them find Queen Briolanja, and what happened to them with her.

Chapter XCVIII. About the message that Sir Cuadragante and Brian of Monjaste brought from King Lisuarte, and what all the knights and lords there decided to do about it.

Chapter XCIX. How doctor Elisabad arrived in Grasinda’s lands, and from there went to see the Emperor of Constantinople with a message from Amadis, and what he obtained.

Chapter C. How Gandalin arrived in Gaul and spoke to King Perion about what his lord had sent him to say, and the answer he received.

Chapter CI. How Lasindo, the squire of Sir Bruneo of Bonamar, came with his lord’s message for the Marquis and Branfil, and what they did.

Chapter CII. How Isanjo brought a message from Amadis to the good King of Bohemia, and the fine reply he obtained from him.

Chapter CIII. How Landin, nephew of Sir Cuadragante, arrived in Ireland, and what he obtained from the Queen.

Chapter CIV. How Sir Guilan the Pensive arrived in Rome with the message from his lord King Lisuarte, and what he did on his mission with Emperor Patin.

Chapter CV. How Grasandor, son of the King of Bohemia, met Giontes, and what happened to him.

Chapter CVI. How the Emperor of Rome arrived at Great Britain with his fleet, and what he and King Lisuarte did.

Chapter CVII. How King Perion moved the troops from camp to face their enemies, and how he arranged the columns for battle.

Chapter CVIII. How, when Arcalaus the Sorcerer learned of the preparations for battle, he sent word as fast as possible to summon King Arabigo and his companions.

Chapter CIX. How the Emperor of Rome and King Lisuarte went with all their men to Firm Island to seek their enemies.

Chapter CX. How Gasquilan, the King of Suesa, sent his squire with the request ye have heard about to Amadis.

Chapter CXI. What happened to each side in the second battle, and why the battle ended.

Chapter CXII. How King Lisuarte brought the Emperor of Rome’s body to a monastery, and what he said to the Romans about the day’s date, and how they answered.

Chapter CXIII. How, when the holy hermit Nasciano, who had raised the handsome young nobleman Esplandian, learned about the rupture between the kings, he decided to seek peace, and what he did.

Chapter CXIV. How the holy man Nasciano brought King Perion’s reply to King Lisuarte, and what he agreed to.

Chapter CXV. How when King Arabigo learned of the agreement between these men, he decided to fight King Lisuarte.

Chapter CXVI. About the battle King Lisuarte had with King Arabigo and his men, and how King Lisuarte was defeated, and how Amadis of Gaul, who never failed to rescue those in need, came his aid.

Chapter CXVII. How Amadis went to rescue King Lisuarte, and what happened to him on the road before he arrived.

Chapter CXVIII. How King Lisuarte brought together Kings and great lords and many other knights at Lubaina Monastery, and when they were with him, how he told them about the great service and honors that he had received from Amadis of Gaul, and the reward he gave him.

Chapter CXIX. How King Lisuarte arrived at the town of Windsor, where his wife Queen Brisena was, and how, with her and their daughter, he agreed to return to Firm Island.

Chapter CXX. How King Perion and his men returned to Firm Island, and what they did before King Lisuarte arrived.

Chapter CXXI. How Sir Bruneo of Bonamar, Angriote d’Estravaus, and Branfil went to Gaul to get Queen Elisena and Sir Galaor, and the adventure they had as they returned.

Chapter CXXII. What happened to Sir Bruneo of Bonamar, Angriote d’Estravaus, and Branfil during the rescue they and the Queen of Dacia carried out.

Chapter CXXIII. How King Lisuarte and his wife Queen Brisena and his daughter Leonoreta came to Firm Island, and how its lords and ladies received them.

Chapter CXXIV. How Amadis had his cousin Dragonis marry Princess Estrelleta and go to win Deep Island, where he would be king.

Chapter CXXV. How the Kings came together to arrange the weddings of those great lords and ladies, and what was done during them.

Chapter CXXVI. How Urganda the Unrecognized joined all the kings and knights who were at Firm Island and spoke to them about the great events of the past, present and future , and how she then left.

Chapter CXXVII. How Amadis left with the lady who came by sea to avenge the death of the dead knight brought in the ship, and what happened to him on that quest.

Chapter CXXVIII. How Amadis went with the lady to the island of a giant named Balan, accompanied by the knight who governed Prince Island.

Chapter CXXIX. How Darioleta grieved over the great danger Amadis was in.

Chapter CXXX. How Amadis was at the Island of the Vermilion Tower sitting on some rocks above the sea speaking with Grasandor about his lady Oriana, when he saw a ship arrive, from which he learned that the fleet had gone to Sansuena and Landas islands.

Chapter CXXXI. How Agrajes, Sir Cuadragante, and Bruno of Bonamar, with many other knights, came to see the giant Balan, and what happened to them with him.

Chapter CXXXII. Which speaks of the answer that Agrajes gave the giant Balan about what he had said.

Chapter CXXXIII. How after King Lisuarte returned to his kingdom from Firm Island, he was imprisoned by enchantment, and what befell him.