Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Chapter 95

About the letter that Princess Oriana sent from Firm Island to her mother Queen Brisena. 

[John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, receiving a letter from the King of Portugal, in the Chronique d'Angleterre (Volume III), late 15th century. Image from the British Library.]

The letter said:

“Mighty Queen Brisena, my lady and mother: I, the sad and ill-fated Oriana, your daughter, with great humility send kisses for your hands and feet. My good lady, ye already know I do not deserve my adverse fortune, which has wished to be more contrary and a greater enemy to me than to any other woman who has lived or who will live. It gave rise to my being exiled from your presence and realms with such cruelty by my lord and father the King, and to so much pain and anguish in my sad heart that I myself am surprised that I can continue even one more day with life. But my great misfortune was not content with merely that, seeing how I would rather die than contradict the orders of my father the King with the obedience that rightly or wrongly I owe him; it gave me a redress much more cruel for me than the suffering and sad life that exile held for me, because if I had died, only a sad damsel would have died, for whom considering her immense ill fortune it would have been much more appropriate and pleasing to die rather than live.

“But from what awaits now, my lady, if after God, ye in your pity for me do not find a solution, not only I but many other blameless people will lose their lives with very cruel and bitter deaths. The reason for that is because either by permission of God, Who knows the great injustice and injury that was being done to me, or because my fate willed it, as I have said, the knights who were at Firm Island destroyed the Roman fleet, leaving many dead and taking many prisoners among those who wished to defend themselves, and I was brought with all my ladies and damsels to that island, where I am treated and held with as much reverence and decency as if I were in your royal household.

“And because they shall send some knights to my lord and father the King with the intention of making peace, if peace may be achieved in some way in what regards me, I decided that before they arrive I would write this letter, by which and by the many tears that with it fell or without it would have fallen, I entreat that with your great nobility and virtue ye beg my father the King to have some pity and compassion for me, giving more importance to the service of God than to the perishable glory and honor of this world, and that he not seek to put at risk the high estate that fickle fortune has until now with great favor given him, since better than anyone else he knows the great violence and injustice that he did to me and that I did not deserve.”

When she finished reading the letter, the Queen ordered Durin not to leave without her answer because first she needed to speak with the King. He said he would do as he was ordered and told her how all the princesses and ladies and damsels who were with his lady sent their greetings. The Queen sent word to the King asking him to meet her alone in his chamber because she wished to speak to him, and he did so. And when they were alone, the Queen knelt before him weeping, and told him:

“My lord, read this letter that your daughter Oriana has sent me, and have pity for her and for me.”

The King raised her up by the hands, took the letter, and read it, and to give her some contentment he told her:

“Queen, since Oriana writes here that those knights are being sent to me, may it be such a mission that with it the dishonor received may receive amends. And if that is not the case, ye should hold it better for my honor to be maintained despite danger than for my reputation be diminished without danger.”

He begged her to leave it all to God, in Whose hands and will it was, and to cease suffering; and with that he returned to his hall. The Queen had Durin called and told him:

“My friend Durin, go tell my daughter that until, as she wrote in her letter, those knights arrive and their mission be known, her father the King will not know how to respond or decide to act. When they come, if a path to concordance can be found, I will use all my power to achieve it. And send my best greetings to her and to all her ladies and damsels, and tell her that now is the time to show who she is: first of all, to guard her reputation, for without it nothing would remain for her of value and esteem; and second, to suffer this anguish and sorrow as befits a person of high estate, for just as God gives people such estate and great realms, He also gives them anguish and concerns very different in size from those of much lower people. And tell her that I entrust her to God to protect her and bring her back to me with great honor.”

Durin kissed her hands and left on his journey, of which nothing more shall be said because he brought no agreement and with the Queen’s response Oriana was left without the hope she had sought.

The story says that one day King Lisuarte, after hearing Mass, was in his palace with his finest men about to eat, when a squire came through the door and gave him a letter, which was his accreditation. The King took it, read it, and told him:

“My friend, what do ye wish, and who sent you?”

“My lord,” he said, “I was sent by Sir Cuadragante of Ireland and I come to you with a message from him.”

“Then say what ye wish,” the King said, “and I will gladly listen.”

The squire said:

“My lord Sir Cuadragante of Ireland and Brian of Monjaste have arrived from Firm Island to your kingdom on orders of Amadis of Gaul and the princes and knights who are with him. Before they enter your court, they wish to know if they can come safely before you and tell you their mission, and if not, they will tell it publicly in many places and return from where they came. For that reason, my lord, tell me what ye wish so that they shall hasten.”

When the King heard this, he did not say anything for a while, which every great lord ought to do to give himself time to think. He considered that missions from the enemy always bring with them more advantage than disadvantage because if what they bring can be put into use, it should be taken, and if otherwise, they are given a serious warning; he also considered the fact it would seem hardly tolerant to refuse to hear them, so he said to the squire:

“My friend, tell these knights that they shall have complete security while they are in my kingdom and they may come to my court, and I will listen to everything that they wish to tell me.”

With that, the messenger left. And when Sir Cuadragante and Brian of Monjaste learned his answer, they left their ship wearing very fine armor, and in three days they arrived at the town, when the King had just eaten. And as they went through the streets everyone stared at them, since they knew very well who they were, and some of them said to each other:

“Accursed be these traitors who with their vile conniving made our lord the King lose so many knights and other men of great value!”

But others, who knew more about what had happened, placed all the blame on the King, who had chosen to let his discretion be overruled by scandalous and envious men. And so they passed through the town until they reached the palace, dismounted in a courtyard, went to where the King was, and greeted him with great courtesy. He received them with good will. Sir Cuadragante told him:

“Great princes ought to hear the messengers who come before them having set aside all emotion, because if the message they carry brings contentment, they should be very happy to have received it graciously, and if it is to the contrary, they should answer with strong wills and firm hearts rather than with disagreeable words. And the messengers must honestly say what they have been charged without fear of any danger it might bring them.

“The reason we have come to you, King Lisuarte, is on the order and request of Amadis of Gaul and the other great knights who are at Firm Island. They would have you know that when they were traveling through foreign lands seeking dangerous adventures, accepting those which were just and punishing those who were in the wrong as the greatness of their virtuous and mighty hearts required, they learned from many people how, following your own whims rather than justice and reason, paying no attention to the admonishments of the great men in your kingdom nor of the many tears of its humbler people, not thinking of what in good conscience ye owe to God, ye wished to disinherit your daughter Oriana, successor to your kingdoms after your life, and to give them to your younger daughter. Despite her great weeping and deep sorrow, without any pity ye delivered her to the Romans to give her as wife to the Emperor of Rome against all justice and against her will, and against the will of all your subjects.

“And as such things come to the attention of God, He may be the one to offer a solution, and He chose to permit that when we learned of it, we supplied the remedy to that thing which had been done with such injury against His service. And so it was done not with the will or intention to cause injury but instead to do away with such great violence and disorder, which we could not ignore without causing ourselves great shame. After we defeated the Romans who were carrying her away, we took her and brought her with great respect and reverence as is proper for her noble and royal estate to Firm Island, where we have left her accompanied by many noble ladies and great knights.

“And because our intention was none other than to serve God and maintain justice, those lords and great knights have decided to ask you if ye would wish to provide some means so that this noble Princess can be returned to your love and that those great affronts be ceased as the truth and good conscience require. And if by chance ye, King, hold some rancor against us, let that be for another time, because it would not be right for what is certain concerning the Princess to be mixed with what is dubious about ourselves.”

After Sir Cuadragante had finished speaking, the King responded in this fashion:

“Knights, because excessive words and untempered responses do not give rise to virtue nor make weak hearts strong, my response will be brief and with more patience than your request deserves. Ye have carried out that which according to your judgment satisfies your honor with greater arrogance than courage, because it should not be recounted as a great glory to attack and defeat those who were peacefully and unsuspectingly traveling, without recalling how I, as God’s lieutenant, to Him and to no one else am obliged to give account for what I might do. And when amends for this are made, then what ye ask for may be discussed, and since anything else would bring no results, no reply is needed.”

Sir Brian of Monjaste told him:

“Now that we know your will and the accounting that we owe to God about what happened, nothing more remains for us than for each of the sides to put into action that which most fulfills their honor.”

And having been dismissed by the King, they mounted their horses and left the palace, and Sir Grumedan rode with them, for the King had ordered him to guard them until they left the town. When Sir Grumedan found himself with them outside of the presence of the King, he told them:

“My good lords, what I see gives me great sorrow because, knowing the great discretion of the King and the nobility of Amadis and of all of you, and of the great friends that ye have here, I had great hope that these troubles would find a good solution. Now it seems that has all gone completely contrary, and now more than ever I see danger until our Lord is pleased to put these matters into the order that they require. But meanwhile I ask ye to tell me how Amadis found himself at Firm Island at this time, since no news had been heard of him for a long time although many of his friends have looked for him with great effort through foreign lands.”

Sir Brian of Monjaste told him:

“My Lord Sir Grumedan, regarding what ye say about us and the King, whom ye consider so wise, it will not be necessary to give you a very long account, since it is well known the great violence that the King did to his daughter, to which justice obliged us to respond, and certainly, leaving aside both his and our anger, we would have been pleased if some means could have been found regarding him and the Princess Oriana. But since he is pleased to proceed against us with more rigor than with just cause, he will see that the result of it will be much more demanding than it may seem at first. And, my good lord, regarding what ye ask about Amadis, know that we had no news about him until he left this court, where calling himself the Greek Knight, he brought that lady for whom the Romans were defeated and the crown from the damsels was won.”

“Holy Mary save me!” Sir Grumedan said. “What did ye say? Is it true that the Greek Knight who came here was Amadis?”

“Without any doubt he was,” Sir Brian said.

“Now I tell you,” Sir Grumedan said, “that I must be a man of poor discernment, since I should have thought that a knight who did such rare feats at arms greater than all the others, could have been no one other than him. Now I ask you: those two knights that he left here to help me in the battle that I had to fight with the Romans, who were they?”

Sir Brian told him, laughing:

“Your friends Angriote d’Estravaus and Sir Bruneo of Bonamar.”

“Merciful God,” he said, “if I had known that, I would not have feared that battle as much as I did, and now I realize that I won little esteem in it, since with that kind of help it would not have been hard to defeat twice as many knights as there were.”

“May God help me,” said Sir Cuadragante, “I believe that if it had been judged by your courageous heart, ye would have been sufficient for them alone.”

“My lord,” Sir Grumedan said, “whatever I may be, I have great love and goodwill for all of you, and may God be pleased to give some good ending to the concern that has brought ye here.”

And so they spoke until they had left the town and traveled some distance beyond it. And as Sir Grumedan was about to bid them farewell, they saw the handsome young nobleman Esplandian coming from a hunt, with Anbor, the son of Angriote d’Estravaus. Esplandian was carrying a hawk and riding on a beautiful palfrey with the richly decorated saddle and reins that Queen Brisena had given him, and wearing fine clothing. Due both to his extremely pleasing appearance and to what Urganda the Unrecognized had written to King Lisuarte, as the third part of this story has recounted more extensively, the King and Queen had ordered him to be provided with everything he might need. As he passed them, he greeted them, and they greeted him in return. Brian of Monjaste asked Sir Grumedan who that handsome young nobleman was, and he told him:

“My lord, he is called Esplandian, and he was raised in the most amazing fashion, and Urganda wrote to the King about the great deeds he will do in the future.”

“So help me God,” Sir Cuadragante said, “we at Firm Island have heard a lot said about that young man, and it would be good if ye were to call him here and we could hear what he says.”

So Sir Grumedan called to him, since he had already ridden past, and said:

“Good noble youth, come back, so ye may send greetings to the Greek Knight, who treated you so courteously by giving you the Romans that he was about to kill.”

Then Esplandian turned around and said:

“My lord, I would be very happy to know where I could send greetings to that very noble knight, as ye ask and as he deserves.”

“These knights are going to where he is,” Sir Grumedan said.

“He tells you the truth,” Sir Cuadragante said, “and we will take your message to he who was called the Greek Knight and is now called Amadis.”

When Esplandian heard that, he said:

“What, my lords! Is this the Amadis of whom everyone has spoken so highly and recounted his great deeds as a knight, and who is so outstanding among us all?”

“Yes, without a doubt,” Sir Cuadragante said, “he is.”

“I tell you truly,” Esplandian said, “his great courage ought to be highly considered, since he is so famous among so many good knights. And the envy of so many for him gives few the daring to be his equal, since he ought to be praised not less for his great self-control and courtesy. Although I encountered him when he had great ire and rage, he did not fail to do me great honor in spite of that, since he gave me those knights whom he had defeated and from whom he had received great affronts, for which I offer him sincere thanks. And may it please God to bring me a time when I can repay him equally to the great honor that he did me.”

The knights were very happy with what he had said, and they considered his great handsomeness a rare thing along with what Sir Grumedan had told them about him, and above all the grace and discretion with which he had spoken to them. Sir Brian of Monjaste told him:

“Good youth, may God make you as fine a man as he has made you handsome.”

“Thank you very much for what ye have said to me,” he said. “But if God has something good awaiting me, I would wish to have it now to be able to serve my lord the King, who has such a great need for the service of his subjects. And my lords, may ye be commended to God, for I have been gone quite a while outside of town.”

And Sir Grumedan said farewell to them and left with him, and they went to board their ship to return to Firm Island. But now the story shall cease to speak about them, and will return to King Lisuarte.


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