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.


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