Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Chapter 87

How all the knights had a great desire to serve and honor Princess Oriana.

 [Portrait of Elizabeth Woodville, Queen consort of England, from about 1472.]

It should rightly be known and never forgotten why these fine knights, along with many others who will be told of farther on, being high-born princes, with deep love and willingness wished to be in the service of this lady and put themselves in combat at great risk. By chance could it be they were willing to act because of the gifts they had received from her? Or because they knew about the secret and fulfilled love between her and Amadis and they were willing to act over that? Truly, I say that neither the one nor the other motivated them. Although she was of great high estate, at that time she had no means by which to give anyone any favors, since she was a poor damsel and possessed nothing. And with regard to the love between her and Amadis, this grand story, if ye have read it, testifies to it secret.

There is a reason, and do ye know what it is? It is because that Princess was always the most gentle, the most well bred, the most courteous, and above all had the most calm humility that could have been found at that time, and she always remembered to honor and properly treat everyone as they deserved. This is the snare and net with which great men and women catch those who have little reason to serve them, as we see every day, for without any self-interest they are praised and willingly beloved and obliged to serve, just as these lords were with that noble Princess.

Then what can be said here of those great men and women who treat with great disdain and excessive arrogance those who do not deserve it? I shall tell you: by choosing to treat those beneath them with surly replies and angry gestures, paying no attention to courtesy and favors, in return they are poorly regarded, disrespected, and vilified with the hope that some great reverse shall come to them for their disservice and anger. Oh, what a great error and what little wisdom ! Such a small favor it would be to speak graciously, how little a gentle gesture would cost, and what a great loss it is to fail to be loved and served by those whom they never gave any favor nor treated well!

Do ye wish to know what often happens to them as a result of this disdain and scorn? I shall tell you: since they squander and waste what they have where they ought not and without regard to place or time instead of being considered generous and liberal, they are considered foolish and indiscreet. Instead of honoring those who should be esteemed or humbling and subjugating themselves to their superiors or even their equals, they fail to obtain the virtue that service and very little effort could obtain.

But returning to our purpose, Brian of Monjaste finished speaking with Oriana and bowed to Queen Sardamira and the other princesses with Grasinda. Then Agrajes and Sir Florestan came to Oriana, and with great respect told her everything that the knights had asked them to. She considered it a sound agreement and told them she would leave it to them to do what must be done, since carrying that out was more a matter for knights than for damsels. She asked them to always bear in mind, in keeping with their honor, to try to achieve peace with her father, the King, over concerns that dealt with herself and her honor. When that was done, Oriana left Sir Florestan and Brian of Monjaste with Queen Sardamira and the other ladies, took Agrajes by the hand, and went with him to sit on the far side of the room.

She told him:

“My good lord and veritable brother Agrajes, although I have great faith and hope in your cousin Amadis and the other noble knights that, with every care and great diligence for their own honor, they will faithfully fulfill everything that involves myself, I have even more faith and hope in you. Indeed, I was raised for a long time in the house of your father, the King, where from him and from your mother, the Queen, I received much honor in many pleasures, above all giving me your sister, Princess Mabilia, about whom I can truly say that if our Lord God first gave me life, she has since given it to me many times. If not for her great discretion and consolation and assistance, given my suffering and above all my misfortune after the Romans came to my father’s court and caused me hardship, it would have been impossible to endure life.

“And for this as well as many other things, I am deeply obliged if God were to give me the means to satisfy my debt. And just as I hold it in my mind, I believe ye know that when the time comes I shall do what I have said, and this makes me want to share the secrets of my impassioned heart to you before I tell anyone else. And so I shall, and what is hidden to everyone else shall in time be made manifest to you.

“For the present moment I only ask of you as honestly as I can that ye set aside the anger and resentment that ye have for my father and that ye offer everything by your deeds and advice for peace and harmony between him and your cousin Amadis. Given the size of his heart and the enmity that has so long ago hardened it, I have to doubt whether anything reasonable expressed with a good heart can satisfy him. And if ye, my true brother and friend, can in some way remedy the situation, not only would many brutal deaths be prevented and avoided, but my honor and fame, which by misfortune is in dispute in many places, would be cleared with that proper and honest solution.”

Agrajes listen to this with great courtesy and humility and responded:

“It is only right that everything that ye have said, my lady, can and should be done, and know that my father, the King, and my mother wish to do all they can to raise your honor and estate, as now they shall do. And there is no reason to speak about my sister Mabilia and myself, for our deeds give testimony to our complete wish and desire to be at your service. And as for what ye have ordered me, my lady, I tell you truthfully that more than anyone else I am greatly unhappy with your father, the King. I am a witness to the great and outstanding services that my cousin Amadis and all we of his lineage have done for him. It is well known throughout the world, as it is also well known the King’s great failure to recognize and appreciate them.

“We never asked for any favor except for the island of Mongaza for my uncle Sir Galvanes, which was won by great honor in his court and by the greatest mortal peril to the life of he who won it, which ye, my good lady, with your own eyes saw. But with all that, we had not done enough, and neither the virtue nor the worthiness of my uncle was enough to achieve such a small thing and remain his vassals and under his command. Instead, he rejected us, ignoring our request with the same discourtesy as if we were enemies instead of in service to him.

“Because of this, I cannot deny that I would find no great pleasure in helping him in the great difficulty and need he has been placed, and by repenting of what he did everyone would understand how much he lost when he lost us, knowing the honor that our services had given him. But just as a man who denies and represses his own will gains before God more merit by acting in his service, so shall I, my lady, comply with what ye wish and deny and control my anger, because by doing this, which is so difficult for me, I may discover the other things that also hold me obliged to serve my anger. But this will require much temperance, because while I may be among those noblemen who places the enhancement of your honor above all things, many of them would find themselves weakened if they were to note it in me.”

“And that is what I ask, my good friend,” Oriana said. “As I well know, given the extreme of what has happened and with whom this great conflict is, not only is it necessary for the strong to make an effort to be weak, but for the very weak with great care to become strong. And because ye know much better than I how and when ye might act for good or ill, I leave it to you with that true love that exists between us.”

Thus they finished their conversation and they returned to where the ladies and knights were. Agrajes could not take his eyes off his lady Olinda, whom he loved with deep affection, which must be believed as true because on her behalf he had deserved to pass beneath the enchanted arch of the loyal lovers, as the second book in the story has recounted. But as he was of noble blood and upbringing, and as such among those who urgently met their obligations, setting aside passion and inclination to follow virtue, and knowing of the virtuous life that Oriana prefered to have, he chose to subjugate his will despite hardship until he saw how the negotiations underway would conclude.

And so they spent a while speaking about many things, and those knights, as they were very brave, shared their courage and eased the fears that women tend to have when they find themselves in such unusual circumstances. After having bid them farewell and delivered Oriana’s response to those whom she had sent it, with great diligence they began to get to work on what they had agreed to and send the emissaries to King Lisuarte. They had all decided Sir Cuadragante and Sir Brian of Monjaste could fulfill that task the best.


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