Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Arch of the Loyal Lovers and the Forbidden Chamber

Another refresher for readers. 

Illustration of the Arch of the Loyal Lovers from a 1531 edition of Amadis de Gaula.

The next chapter, Chapter 125, will involve the magical tests of love and beauty at Firm Island. These were created by Apolidon before he left to become Emperor of Constantinople – a century before Amadis arrived, passed the tests, and became the new lord of the island.

Apolidon, who had great skills at enchantment, created those tests at the urging of his beloved wife, Grimanesa, so that in the future the island would be ruled by “those who in fortitude at arms, loyalty in love, and great beauty” would resemble those two.

The text, which is at the beginning of Book II, continues:

Then he made an arch at the entrance to a garden in which all the trees of every species were, and in which there were four beautiful chambers of rare construction. It was surrounded by a fence so that no one could enter the garden without passing through the arch. Above it he put the copper image of a man who held a trumpet to his lips as if he wished to play it. In one of those chambers he placed two statues resembling the faces and bodies of himself and his beloved, and next to them a pale jasper stone. And at the distance of half a crossbow arrow's flight away, he ordered placed a iron pillar five cubits high in a large field that was there.

He said:

"From here on no man nor woman shall pass who have erred since they first began to love, for if they try, the image that ye see shall play that trumpet with a sound so frightening that they shall be stunned by smoke and flame and thrown out from here as if dead. But if a knight or lady or damsel were to come here worthy of completing this test for their loyalty, as I have said, they shall enter without impediment and the image shall play such a sweet song that it shall delight all those who hear it. They shall see our statues and see their names written on the jasper, but they shall not know who wrote them."

And taking his beloved by the hand, he had her pass through the arch, and the image played a sweet song. He showed her their statues and their names written in the jasper. When they left, Grimanesa wanted to test it, so she ordered some of her ladies and damsels to enter, and the image played such a terrifying song that they were knocked unconscious and thrown from the garden, and Grimanesa, knowing they were in no danger, laughed with pleasure and deeply thanked her beloved Apolidon for fulfilling her will completely.

Then she told him:

"My lord, what then will become of that beautiful chamber in which we had such pleasure and delight?"

"Now," he said, "let us go there and ye shall see what I shall do."

Then they went to the chamber and he ordered two columns brought, one of marble and the other of copper, and he had the marble column placed five paces from the door of the chamber, and the copper column five paces beyond that, and he told his beloved:

"Now know that no man nor woman may enter this chamber by any means or at any time until a knight comes here who surpasses me in skill at arms or woman who surpasses your beauty. But if those who come surpass than me at arms and you at beauty, they shall enter without any trouble."

And he had words inscribed on the copper column that said:

"Knights of great arms may pass here, each according to his valor."

And he had other words inscribed on the marble column that said:

"No knight shall pass here who does not surpass Apolidon in skill at arms."

And above the door of the chamber he had words inscribed that read:

"He who surpasses me in skill shall enter this beautiful chamber and shall be lord of this island. And of the ladies and damsels who arrive, none shall enter inside who do not surpass your beauty."

And with his wisdom he made an enchantment so that no one could approach the chamber within twelve paces on any side, which had no entry other than that which passed the columns of which ye have heard. And he ordered that a governor rule over the island and collect its income and to keep for the knight whose fate was to enter the chamber and be lord of the island. And he ordered that those who failed at the test of the arch of lovers be expelled without honor, and those who passed be served.

And he further said:

"The knights who try to enter the chamber and who cannot pass the copper column shall leave their arms there, and those who manage only to pass it shall leave their swords, and those who reach the marble column but no further shall leave their shields, and those who pass this column but who cannot enter the chamber shall leave their spurs. And from the damsels and ladies nothing shall be taken, but they shall give their names to be put at the door of the castle, saying where each had reached."

And he said:

"When this island shall have a lord, the enchantment for the knights shall be undone, who shall freely be able to pass the columns and enter the chamber, but it shall not be undone for the women until one shall come who will end it with her great beauty, and who shall lodge with that knight who has won the lordship within that beautiful chamber."

This done, leaving the Firm Island well protected as ye have heard, Apolidon and Grimanesa left on their ships and sailed to Constantinople, where they were Emperor and Empress, and they had sons who succeeded them in the empire after their days were done.


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Chapter 124

How Amadis arranged to have his cousin Dragonis marry Princess Estrelleta and go to take Deep Island, where he would be King. 

[Kingdom of Sardinia, 16th century map made by Sigismondo Asquer.]

Now the story says that Dragonis, cousin of Amadis and Sir Galaor, was a very honorable young knight with great courage, as had been shown in the past, especially in the battle King Lisuarte had fought with Sir Galvanes and his companions over the island of Mongaza. There, Sir Florestan, Sir Cuadragante, and many noble knights were stunned and taken prisoner by Sir Galaor, King Cildadan, and Norandel, and most of their men on the other side had charged them and Sir Galvanes was taken to the island badly injured. Then this knight Dragonis stayed with the few remaining men of his father to aid and protect the rest, where due to his discretion and good courage they were rescued, as the third book of this story has told at greater length.

He was not at Firm Island when Amadis arranged the marriages of his brothers and the other knights, as ye have heard, because he had left the monastery in Lubaina with a damsel to whom he had earlier promised a boon, and he fought with Angrifo, the lord of the Valley of the Deep Sea, who held her father prisoner to take his fortress at the entrance to the valley.

Dragonis fought a great and cruel battle with him, because Angrifo was the most valiant knight that could be found in the mountains where he dwelled, but in the end he was defeated because Dragonis was fighting for what was right and freed the damsel’s father. He ordered Angrifo to go within twenty days to Firm Island and place himself at the mercy of Princess Oriana.

Because Dragonis found himself near the island of Mongaza, he went to see Sir Galvanes and Madasima, and while he was with them, King Lisuarte’s messenger arrived calling them to come to Firm Island, as Agrajes had promised. Dragonis went with them to Windsor, where they were received with much love and great honor. And from there they went with the King and Queen to Firm Island, where Dragonis discovered the agreements about the marriages and the divisions of realms, as has been told, and he took great pleasure in it. He praised what his cousin Amadis had done, and he prepared himself as best he could for the conquest, for he was convinced that it could not be accomplished without great deeds at arms.

But Amadis, who loved him with all his heart, believed it would be a great injustice and a shame to himself if such a knight were to be left without a significant part of what he had helped with so much effort to be won. And one day, Amadis took him aside in the garden and spoke to him thus:

“My lord and good cousin, although your youth and the great courage in your heart wishes to increase your honor in great battles, it removes your desire for a greater estate and more repose than what ye have had so far. But reason, to which we are all obliged to regard as the principal font from which virtue emanates, and the opportunity which is to be offered you, should change your plans if ye were to follow the advice from my little wisdom and great good will, which loves you as if ye were my own heart.

“When we were in Lubaina rescuing King Lisuarte, I learned that among those opponents who fled in the beginning was the King of Deep Island, who was wounded, and I have just learned from a squire of King Arabigo who came here that when the King of Deep Island was setting out to sea, he died.

“I consider it proper that the island where he was lord be yours, and that ye be proclaimed its king, and that your brother Palomir retain the realm of your father, and that ye be married to the Princess Estrelleta, who as ye know comes from royalty on both sides of her lineage, and whom Oriana dearly loves. I hold this to be good, and it would please me if it were done, because I would rather force your will to submit to reason than to suffer such shame at not having you, my good cousin, take part of the goods that God has given me, just as ye more than anyone else felt shame when I was treated badly.”

Dragonis had wished to go with Sir Bruneo and Sir Cuadragante to aid them personally until they had won their realms, and if he remained alive, to pass through the area around Rome looking for adventures and to spend some time with Sir Florestan, King of Sardinia, to see him and to learn if he needed help with anything, since he would be in a foreign land, and from there to return to see Amadis at Firm Island or wherever he was. He thought that he could win much honor and great fame in these travels, or die as a knight.

But at seeing such great love behind what Amadis had told him, he was too embarrassed to respond in any other way than to defer totally to his will and to be obedient in that and everything he might order. So immediately he was betrothed to that Princess, and Deep Island was designated as his, as ye have heard, of which he was then proclaimed king, and he reigned with great honor, as shall be told farther on.

When this was done, as ye hear, Amadis asked King Lisuarte for the Duchy of Bristol for Sir Guilan the Pensive, whom he loved deeply, and for him to marry the Duchess, whom he loved so much, and to be delivered the Duke’s son, who was being held prisoner there. Because the King had great love for Amadis, because he owed many and great debts to Sir Guilan, and because the Duke had been a traitor, he granted it with good will.

Amadis kissed his hands for that, and Sir Guilan wished to kiss Amadis’, but Amadis would not let him. Instead, he embraced him with great love, for in his time, this was the most prudent, gentle, and humane knight in the world with his friends.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Chapter 123 [part 2 of 2]

[Of the arrival of a great dragon from the sea, and whom it bore within.] 

[Lithograph from an 1838 edition of Amadis de Gaula printed in Madrid by M. Pita.]

The day after they arrived was spent resting from the journey, then the Kings met with great pleasure to arrange the manner in which the weddings would be performed, and to plan the return to their lands, where they had much to do, some of them to go to win the kingdoms of their enemies, and others to lend them help.

As they were meeting beneath some trees next to the fountains that ye have been told of, they heard shouting from outside of the garden, and a great deal of outcry. They asked what it was about, and they were told that the most terrifying and strange thing ever seen was coming by sea. Then all the Kings called for their horses and mounted, as did all the other knights, and they went to the port. And the Queens and all the ladies climbed to the height of the tower, where they could see a great deal of the land and sea.

They spotted a great cloud of smoke, the darkest and most frightening they had ever seen, coming over the water. They all stood still waiting to learn what it could be. And soon the smoke began to clear, and they saw in its center a dragon much larger than the largest ship or galley in the world, and it had great wings longer than the flight of an arrow from a bow, and a tail spiraling upwards much taller than a great tower. Its head and mouth and teeth were so large, and its eyes so terrifying, that no one dared to look at it, and from time to time it blew black smoke from its nostrils that rose up to the sky and covered it. It made snorts and hisses so loud and so frightful that it seemed that the sea was about to collapse, and it spit so much water from its mouth so hard and so far that no ship, no matter how large it was, could approach it without being sunk.

The Kings and knights, regardless of how brave they were, looked at each other and did not know what to say, for against such a fearful and ghastly thing they did not believe or imagine that any resistance could suffice, but they stood their ground. The great dragon, as it drew closer, rose up from the water three or four times, showing its ferocity and flapping its wings so hard that the clatter of its scales could be heard from half a league.

When those lords’ horses saw it, no rider was able to contain his mount, and they fled away through the fields until the lords were able to force them to let them dismount. Some said that it would be good to arm themselves against it, and others said that since it was a wild beast of the water, it would not dare to come onto land, and in case it did, they would have time to take shelter within the island, for already, having seen the land, it had begun to slow.

As they stood in astonishment at such a thing, the likes of which they had never heard nor seen, they saw that from the side of the dragon was launched a skiff covered with rich golden cloth. A  lady was in it with young noblemen on either side, all richly dressed, whose shoulders she held for support. Two very ugly and strange-looking dwarves were rowing, and they brought the skiff toward land. The lords were very amazed to see such an extraordinary thing, but King Lisuarte said:

“If I am not wrong, this is Urganda the Unrecognized. And ye should recall,” he said to Amadis, “the fear it gave us when we were in my town of Fenusa and we saw those flames coming across the sea.”

“I also thought so after I saw that skiff,” Amadis said, “but earlier I was sure that dragon was some devil against which we would have a difficult struggle.”

At this time the skiff neared the shore, and as it did, they knew that the lady was Urganda the Unrecognized, for she had chosen to show her real form, which she rarely did. Instead she would often appear in strange bodies, sometimes exceptionally old, other times as a small child, as has been told in many places in this story.

So she arrived with her very handsome and well-dressed young noblemen, and their clothing was adorned in many places and worked with precious stones of great value. The Kings and lords came forward on foot, as they were, to the part of the beach where she landed. And when she arrived, she left the skiff holding the hands of her handsome youths, and immediately went to King Lisuarte to kiss his hands, but the King embraced her and did not wish to give them, as did King Perion and King Cildadan. Then she turned to the Emperor and told him:

“My good lord, although ye do not know me nor have I ever seen you, I know a lot about your estate and who ye are and the great worth of your noble personage and your great state. And because of this and for the service that ye shall receive from me soon, along with the Empress, I wish to have your love and consideration so that ye shall remember me when ye are in your empire and shall send me news about anything in which I may serve you, for although it may seem to you that the lands where I live are very far from yours, it would not be a great effort for me to travel the entire distance in a single day.”

The Emperor told her:

“My good friend and lady, I am more content to have won your love and goodwill than to have won most of my empire. And since by your virtue ye have invited me to make use of it, do not forget what ye have promised, for if my heart and will are prepared to thank you with all my ability, ye know better than I do.”

Urganda told him:

“My lord, I shall see you at a time when through me the first fruit of your engenderment shall be restored to you.”

Then she looked at Amadis, with whom she had not had time to speak, and she said:

“Of you, noble knight, no embrace should be forsaken, but given how favorable fortune has raised you into such grandeur and heights, ye may no longer have much consideration for the few services and pleasures that we can provide, because these mundane things, given the nature of the world, with or without cause may come and go quickly. It may seem that now ye may enjoy your life without care, especially since ye have the thing that ye most desired in the world in your power, without which all the rest left you with painful loneliness. Yet now it is more necessary than ever to sustain them with redoubled effort, for fortune is even more content to attack and show its strength at such heights because a much larger loss and disgrace to your great honor may be caused by losing what ye have won than it would have been before ye had won it.”

Amadis told her:

“Given the great benefits that I have received from you, my good lady, with the great love that ye have always had for me, although I now find myself in a powerful position and with the satisfaction of my will, I would find it very poor to place such matters in my own hands that involve your honor and that should be placed in yours. What I have cannot be so much, even if it were the whole world, that it would be unreasonable to risk it that way.”

Urganda told him:

“The great love that I have for you makes me speak foolishly and give advice where there is none needed.”

Then all the knights arrived and greeted her. And she said to Sir Galaor:

“And to you, my good lord, nor to King Cildadan shall I say anything now, for I shall dwell here with you for some days, and we shall have time to speak.”

Turning to her dwarves, she ordered them to return to the Great Dragon and bring her palfrey in a boat, and a horse for each of her young noblemen, and so it was immediately done. The horses of the Kings and lords were some distance away, and the fear of that fierce beast did not permit them to be brought near. They left men there to put her on her palfrey, and they went on foot to get their mounts.

She asked the men to agree that no one should escort her besides those two youths, who were her beloved, and so it was done, and they all went on to the castle, she in the rear with her company. They rode until they reached the garden where the Queens and great ladies were, for she did not wish to be lodged anywhere else.

Before she entered, she said to Esplandian:

“Very handsome youth, I commend to you my treasure to guard, for none so fine shall be found in many lands.”

Then she delivered the two youths by the hand, and she entered the garden, where she was received by all the ladies there better than any woman anywhere. When she saw so many Queens, Princesses, and an infinite number of other ladies of great esteem and worth, she looked at them all with great pleasure and said:

“Oh, my heart! What canst thou see ever again that could not cause thee more melancholy? For in one day thou hast seen the best and most virtuous and courageous knights in the world, and the most honorable and beautiful queens and ladies ever born. Truly, I can say that of the one and the other, here is perfection. And I can say even more, that just as here is brought together all height at arms and all beauty of the world, so love is upheld with greater loyalty than could be found at any other time.”

So she entered the tower with the ladies, and she asked permission from the Queens to be able to lodge with Oriana and with the ladies who were with her, and they brought her up to their quarters. When she was in her chamber, she could not take her eyes from Oriana and Queen Briolanja, and from Melicia and Olinda, for their beauty could not be equaled, and she merely embraced them one after another. And so she was with them as if she were out of her mind with pleasure, and they did her such honor as if she were the lady reigning over them all.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Chapter 123 [part 1 of 2]

How King Lisuarte, his wife Queen Brisena, and his daughter Leonoreta arrived at Firm Island, and how the lords and ladies came out to receive them. 

[Mosaic depicting Empress Zoe of Constantinople, from the Hagia Sophia.]

As has been said, after King Lisuarte arrived in Windsor, he ordered the Queen to make ready everything necessary for herself and their daughter Leonoreta, and he ordered his chief majordomo, King Arban of North Wales, to prepare what he needed. And when everything was readied and done according to their grandeur, he left with his accompaniment. He only wished to bring King Cildadan, Sir Galvanes and his wife Madasima, who earlier at his orders had arrived from the Island of Mongaza, and a few of his other knights, richly dressed, for Gasquilan, the King of Suesa, had returned to his kingdom.

With great pleasure they traveled each day until they finally arrived to spend the night only four leagues from the island, which Amadis and all the other princes and knights with him promptly learned about, and who agreed that together, the ladies with them, should go out to receive them two leagues from the island. And so it was done, and the next day they all left with the women behind Queen Elisena. Of their clothes and the adornments worn by themselves and their palfreys, memory is not enough to recount nor hands to write. This much I tell you: that neither before nor after was there known in all the world of a company of so many knights of such high lineage and great courage, and of so many ladies, queens, princesses, and other women of high estate, so beautiful and so well-attired.

They traveled together through meadows until they could see King Lisuarte, who when he saw so many people coming toward him, immediately knew who it was, and with all his company continued on until he met King Perion and the Emperor and all the other knights who rode ahead. There they all stopped to embrace each other.

Amadis came farther behind speaking with his brother Sir Galaor, who was still very weak and could barely ride on horseback, and when he neared the King, Amadis dismounted. The King shouted for him not to, but he did not stop and arrived on foot, and although the King did not wish it, he kissed his hands. He went on to the Queen, whose reins were carried by the handsome young noble Esplandian. The Queen dismounted from her palfrey to embrace him, but Amadis took her hands and kissed them.

Sir Galaor came to King Lisuarte, who when he saw him so weak, went to embrace him, and tears came to both their eyes. The King held him for a while but neither was able to speak for so long that some said that this showed the pleasure that they had in seeing each other, but others held that they were thinking about recent events and of not having been together in them as their hearts wished, and this brought those tears. Ye may take the side that ye choose, but in any case it was because they loved each other so much.

Oriana came to her mother after Queen Elisena had greeted her. When her mother saw her, as the thing that she loved most, she took her in her arms. They both would have fallen if knights had not held them up, and she began to kiss her eyes and face and said:

“Oh, my daughter! May God be pleased to grant His mercy! May the labors and fatigues that thy great beauty has given us now be the means for now and in the future to remedy them with peace and joy!”

Oriana could only weep for pleasure and did not answer. At this time the Queens Briolanja and Sardamira came and took her from her arms, and they spoke to the Queen, and then to all the other ladies came to her with great courtesy, for they considered this lady one of the best and most honorable queens in the world. Leonoreta came to kiss Oriana’s hands, and she embraced her and kissed her many times, and so did all the ladies and damsels of her mother the Queen, who loved her from their hearts more than they loved themselves, for as we have told you, this Princess was the most noble and most moderate in her time who did honor to everyone, and for this reason she was very well loved by all the men and women who knew her.

And so after this welcome, not as it was, which would be impossible to describe, but as is more suited to this book, they all went together to the island.

When Queen Brisena saw so many knights and so many ladies and damsels of high estate whom she knew well and where their great worth came from, all at the will and orders of Amadis, she was so astonished she did not know what to say. Until then she had believed that in all the world there was no house nor court equal to that of her husband the King, but when she saw what I tell you of, his estate seemed to be that of a mere count. As she looked around, she saw that everyone followed Amadis and treated him as a lord, and that the one closest to him considered himself the most honored, and where ever Amadis went, everyone went.

She was amazed at what heights a knight could reach who had never owned more than his arms and horse, and although she considered him her daughter’s husband, and he had been fully committed to her service, she could not help but feel great envy because she wished that estate for her husband, which Amadis would inherit through their daughter. She saw that things were the opposite, and she could not be happy about them.

But as she was very wise, she pretended not to see nor notice it, and with a happy face and troubled heart she spoke and laughed with all the knights and ladies around her, for the King, after he had spoken with Sir Galaor, never left him during all the entire journey until they reached the island.

As they were traveling, Oriana could not take her eyes off Esplandian, whom she deeply loved, as was only reasonable. And her mother the Queen, when she saw that, said:

“My daughter, take this young man to lead your horse.”

Oriana paused, and the youth came with great humility to kiss her hands. Oriana had a deep desire to kiss him, but embarrassment kept her from doing that. Mabilia came to him and said:

“My good friend, I also wish to share in your embraces.”

He turned his face toward her with a look so gracious that it was amazing to see, and he immediately recognized her, and he spoke to her with great courtesy. And so they rode with him between them, speaking with him about what gave them the most contentment, and they were very taken with how he answered, very happy with his gracious speech and gentle ways. Oriana and Mabilia looked at each other and at the young nobleman, and Mabilia said.

“My lady, does it seem to you that this was fine food for the lioness and her cubs?”

“Oh, my lady and my friend,” Oriana said, “by God do not remind me of that, for even now it afflicts my heart to think about it.”

“As I understand,” Mabilia said, “no less danger happened to his father, as young has he was, in the sea. But God protected him for what ye see now, and so, if it pleases Him, He shall protect this boy, who will surpass him and all others in the world in excellence.”

Oriana laughed wholeheartedly and said:

“My true sister, it seems as if ye wish to tempt me to see which of the two I prefer. But I do not wish to say, and may it please God that between them neither shall have a peer, just as each one has not had at his own age so far.”

In this and other things they spoke with great pleasure, and they all arrived at Firm Island’s castle. King Lisuarte and his wife the Queen were lodged very comfortably where Oriana had been, and King Perion and his wife where Queen Sardamira had been. Oriana and all the other women who were going to be brides took the highest rooms of the tower.

Amadis had ordered very fine tables be placed under the arcades of the garden, and there all the company ate very well with a great abundance of foods and wine and fruit of all types, and it was wonderful to behold, each one seated as their estate merited, and everything done in a very orderly way.

Sir Cuadragante left with King Cildadan, whom he dearly loved, and every knight escorted one of the King’s men, according to their preference. Amadis took with him King Arban of North Wales, Sir Grumedan, and Sir Guilan the Pensive. Norandel lodged with his great friend Sir Galaor. And so that day passed with all the pleasure ye can imagine.

But what Agrajes did with his uncle and with Madasima can not be told in any way nor even thought. He had always held his uncle with as much respect and reverence as he had always held his father the King, and he had Madasima stay with Oriana and the queens and great ladies that were there, and he took Sir Galvanes with him to his lodging.

Esplandian immediately came to the King of Dacia, who was his age and seemed very compatible, and from the moment they first saw each other they shared such great esteem that it lasted their whole lives. For a long time they traveled together after they became knights, and they achieved many great deeds at arms as courageous knights in great peril to their lives. This King knew all the secrets of Esplandian’s love, and by his good advice he was often saved from great anguish and mortal cares that brought him to the edge of death over his lady. This King I speak of made tremendous efforts to speak with this lady and tell her of the love that this knight suffered and ask her to have pity on his deathly affliction.

These two princes that I tell you of, for the love of this lady, taking with them Talanque, son of Sir Galaor, and Maneli the Moderate, son of King Cildadan, whom the nieces of Urganda bore when the men were prisoners, as the second book of this story has told at greater length; and Ambor, son of Angriote d’Estravaus, all of them novice knights, crossed the sea to Constantinople and from there to pagan lands, and they fought great battles against mighty giants and against foreigners of different customs, and achieved great honor from them.

Because of these high deeds and great acts of chivalry, they were proclaimed throughout the world, as we shall tell you at more length in the continuation of this story which is named after Esplandian and which speaks of his great deeds and the love he had for the flower and greatest beauty of the world, who was the shining star before whom all other beauty paled: Leonorina, daughter of the Emperor of Constantinople, she who had been a girl when his father Amadis took leave of Greece when he passed through there and killed the mighty Endriago, as ye have told you.

But we shall leave this now until its time, and we shall return to the purpose of this story.