Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Chapter 80 [part 3 of 3]

[How Amadis sailed to Firm Island, and how the knights there agreed to rescue Oriana.] 


[Although now only ruins remain, the Great Hall of Winchester Palace was built on the south bank of the Thames in London in about 1136 and enlarged and graced with a rose window in the 14th century. It was home to the Bishop of Winchester and was used for such events as the royal wedding of King James I of Scotland. Photo by Sue Burke.]
 



The damsel who had accompanied the knights came to the King and said:

“My lord, if ye please, listen to me in private before I go.”

The King made everyone leave, then told her:

“Now say what ye please.”

“My lord,” she said, “until now, ye have been the most esteemed king in the Christendom and your great reputation has always preceded you. One of your good qualities is always to consider the needs of damsels, giving them favors and doing justice for them and being very cruel against those who did them wrong. And now the great hope they had in you is lost. They all feel abandoned by you because they see what ye are doing to your daughter Oriana, without cause or reason disinheriting her from that which God made hers. They are terrified and frightened by how your noble nature has become so twisted, and they shall have little faith in your aid when against God, against your daughter, and against all your subjects ye act with such cruelty. More than anyone else ye are obliged, not as King, who must protect everyone’s rights, but as a father, for although she were forsaken by all the world, she should be protected and consoled by you. And this is not only a bad example to the world, but her laments and tears cry out to God. Heed this well, my lord, and make the end of your days like their beginning, for they have given ye more glory and fame than anyone else alive. And, my lord, may ye be commended to God, for I must go to those knights who are waiting for me.”

“May ye go with God,” the King said, “and may God help me, I consider ye good and wise.”

She went to the knights who were waiting, and they placed her on her horse between them and went to the galley, for the weather was becoming favorable for their voyage. Then they left the port, and because they knew what day that King Lisuarte was going to deliver his daughter Oriana to the Romans, they sought to travel fast to tell the Greek Knight. So in two days and two nights they reached his ships, and he was waiting for them.

He received them well and with great pleasure because their adventures had concluded with honor. The damsel told them how the battle had unfolded, and what had been done to help Sir Grumedan with the great need he had due to a lack of companions, and the pleasure he took from it and the thanks he sent to the Greek Knight for such help. She told everything and left out nothing.

Grasinda asked her:

“Do you know what the King has ordered done with his daughter?”

“Yes, my lady,” the damsel said. “Four days after ye left they shall send her to sea to be taken away in the custody of the Romans. But, my lady, to see her and her damsels and everyone in the kingdom weep is something that no one could recount.”

Tears came to Grasinda’s eyes, and she prayed to God to show Oriana mercy and send her some deliverance from that great injustice. But the Greek Knight was very happy with the news because in his heart knew he could rescue her, and now he could not wait for the moment to engage the Romans, for when it was over, he would enjoy his lady with relief in his sad heart, for he could not have her any other way. About King Lisuarte and the Emperor he had little worry, and he expected to give them more than they could manage. And what made his soul happiest was to think that this could be done with no shame to his lady.

Speaking and resting as ye hear, at the hour of the tierce they arrived at the great port of Firm Island. The people of the island, who knew from Gandalin that Amadis was coming, saw the ships when they were still far away and knew from their flags it was him. They were all joyful, for they loved him dearly, and they hurried to the seaside, among them all the great men of his family and all his friends, who were waiting for him.

When Grasinda was the port and so many people and how happy they were, she was amazed, and even more when she heard many of them say:

“Welcome, our lord, who has been away from us for so long!”

She said to the Greek Knight:

“My lord, why do these people do you such reverence and honor, saying ‘welcome, our lord’?”

He replied:

“My lady, I beg your pardon because I disguised myself from you for so long, but I could do no less without risking great shame. I have done so in all the foreign lands where I roamed, and no one could find out my name. Now I wish ye to know that I am the lord of this island, and I am the Amadis of Gaul that ye have heard spoken of sometimes. Those knights are of my lineage and my friends, and those other people my vassals. And it would be hard to find as many other knights equal to them in the world.”

“Though I feel pleasure in learning your name, my lord,” she said, “my heart is sad not to have done the service that a man of such noble lineage deserved, and I feel very unfortunate for having treated you like a poor knight-errant. If one thing gives me consolation, it is the honors that I gave you in my land, if any of it pleased you, can be attributed to the worth of yourself alone and none of it to your high estate nor lineage, nor to these knights whom ye praise so greatly.”

Amadis told her:

“My lady, let us not speak more of this, for the honors and gifts that I received from you were so many and came at the time when I needed them. Neither I nor those that ye see here, for all that we are worth, could repay them.”

Then they arrived at the port where everyone awaited them, and there Sir Gandales had ready twenty palfreys which the women mounted to ride up to the castle. But for Grasinda they brought out a very beautiful palfrey from the ships with enameled gold and silver trappings, and she wore marvelously rich clothing. And from the skiff in which she and Amadis arrived, they set out strong planks to the sand so they could disembark.

On the shore awaited Agrajes, Sir Cuadragante, Sir Florestan, Gavarte of the Fearful Valley, the good Sir Dragonis, Orandin, Ganjes of Sadoca, Argamon the Brave, and Sadonan, brother of Angriote of Estravaus, and his nephews Pinores and Sarqiles, and Madansil of the Silver Bridge, and many other noblemen who sought adventures, more than thirty in all. And Enil, the good and wise, was already on the skiff speaking with Amadis, and Ardian the dwarf and Gandalin with the Grasinda’s damsels.

Then Amadis took Grasinda by the arm and helped her from the skiff to the land, where she was received with great respect and courtesy by all those lords, and he gave her to Agrajes and Florestan, who put her on her palfrey. They were all impressed by her great beauty and rich attire. And so they brought her, as ye hear, and her ladies and damsels to the island, where they had her lodge in the beautiful rooms where Amadis and his brothers had stayed when they won the island. For greater celebration, almost all the knights ate with her, and Sir Gandales had everything well prepared. The chief servant for the meal was Ardian the dwarf, who could not contain his pleasure, and said many things that made them laugh.

But in all this celebrating, Amadis never left the side of doctor Elisabad. Instead, he took him by the hand and introduced him to all, saying that God and Elisabad had kept him alive, and at the table had him sit between himself and Sir Gavarte of the Fearful Valley. But all these pleasures and the sight of those knights whom Amadis loved so much could not keep his heart from conflict, worrying that the Romans could take Oriana across the sea before he could stop them, and he could find no rest or relaxation in anything because in comparison to she whom he loved so much, everything else seemed lonely.

After they had all eaten with great pleasure, and the tablecloths had been lifted, Amadis asked that no one leave his seat for he wished to speak with them, and they did as he asked. When Amadis saw all those knights sitting quietly at their tables waiting for what he would say, he spoke to them thus:

“Since ye last saw me, my noble lords, I have traveled through many foreign lands and so many great adventures happened to me that it would be long to recount, but the ones that occupied me most and brought me the greatest dangers were to rescue ladies and damsels who had suffered wrongs and injuries. Because they are born to obey with weak spirits and their most mighty arms are tears and sighs, those of strong hearts, among many other causes, theirs they ought to urgently take up, giving them aid, defending them from those who with little virtue mistreat and dishonor them, as the Greeks and Romans in ancient times did, crossing seas, destroying lands, winning battles, killing kings and expelling them from their kingdoms, only to obtain satisfaction for the rapes and injuries done to those women, and for that so much fame and glory remains in their stories that they shall last as long as the world itself shall last.

“And as for what is happening in our own times, who knows it better than you, my good lords? For ye have been witnesses and can testify to the many affronts and dangers that in this cause happen every day. I shall not speak long and place ancient true examples before you to embolden your hearts, which are already so mighty that if their excess could be shared across the world, no coward would remain in it. Because ye remember fine past deeds, with greater desire ye seek to achieve them in the present.

“Coming to my point, I knew before I came to these lands the great wrong and injury that King Lisuarte wished to do to his daughter Oriana, and as she is the legitimate successor to his kingdoms, against all that is just he is depriving her of them and sending her to be the wife of the Emperor of Rome, and, from what I have been told, wholly against the will of all the King’s subjects and of she herself, who protests mightily with great laments and exclaims these great wrongs to God and the world.

“And if it is true that this King Lisuarte is doing such cruelty without fear of God or his people, I tell you that at a horrible moment in time we were born if we do not seek to remedy this, and if we were to let it happen, all the danger and travail that we have endured so far to win honor and praise shall be placed in oblivion. Now let each one say what he thinks, if ye please, for I have made my thoughts manifest.”

Then, at the request of all, Agrajes responded and said:

“Although your presence, my lord and good cousin, has doubled our strength, and the things that we worried about, now with you here seem frivolous and insubstantial, we, having little hope for your arrival and knowing what King Lisuarte wishes to do, have determined to be the relief and aid for it. We will not allow such a great misdeed to happen, and instead they or we shall pass from life to death. And since we are all agreed and of the same will, let us get to work quickly, or that glory we wish to achieve may be lost by our negligence.”

When those knights heard Agrajes’ reply, in one voice they cheered it, and they said that Oriana must be rescued without delay, that if it were true that they had placed their lives in danger for trivial things, with greater will they must act on this, which would give them outstanding, perpetual glory in this world.

Grasinda, seeing them in complete agreement, embraced Amadis and said:

“Oh, Amadis, my lord! Now the great worth of you and of your friends and family is apparent in your will to bring about the greatest rescue ever done by knights, not only for such a fine lady but all the ladies and damsels of the world, because the good and courageous knights of other lands will take it as an example and shall place greater concern and daring in what they rightly ought to do for them, and decadent and vile men shall be more tightly constrained by fear and shall refrain from doing wrongs and injuries. My lord, go with the blessing of God, and He shall guide and help you. I will wait for you here to see how it ends, and then I shall do as ye ask.”

He thanked her sincerely and left her in the protection of Isanjo, the island’s governor, who wished to serve her and show her all the delightful things in the island, and do many honors for Amadis’s great friend doctor Elisabad. But the doctor told Amadis:

“Good lord, if I could serve you in some way, it would be in none other than these deeds that ye shall do, and while ye must exempt me from bearing arms because I am a priest, in no way shall I remain behind. Instead I wish to assist you with the skills God gave me, and if you please, my lord, I am sure ye shall be well served and helped by these skills, for I know of the madness of the Romans and your determination.”

Amadis embraced him and said:

“Oh, doctor, my true friend! May God be pleased in His mercy to allow me to reward you for what ye have done and shall do for me. And if ye are pleased to come, let us go immediately to the sea with the help of God.”

When the fleet was supplied with everything that would be necessary and its crew was ready, in the early hours of the night, Amadis ordered that all other routes be changed so that no news about his ships would learned, and they all embarked in their fleet. Without noise or commotion, they began to sail toward where the Romans would have to pass on the route they meant to take, where they would be intercepted.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Chapter 80 [part 2 of 3]

[How Sir Grumedan – old, handsome, and valiant – faced the Romans, and how he was helped by two foreign knights.] 


[Construction began on Chepstow Castle in Wales in 1067, and it is the oldest surviving stone castle in Britain. Photo by Gwyneth Box.]
 


So, as ye hear, they passed the night, and the next day they put everything in the ships they would need. Maganil and his brothers appeared before the King, and with great pride said to Sir Grumedan:

“As ye see, the day of your shame is approaching, for tomorrow is set for the battle that ye so foolishly sought. Do not expect that the departure of the ships or anything else can prevent it. If ye do not admit your defeat, ye must pay for the stupid things that you said as a very old man without brains or sense.”

Sir Grumedan, who was almost senseless with rage upon hearing this, stood up to respond. But the King, who knew he was very sensitive in matters of honor, was worried for him and said:

“Sir Grumedan, I beg you not to speak about this as a service to me. Prepare yourself for the battle, since ye better than anyone else knows that such trials consist in deeds rather than words.”

“My lord,” he said, “I shall do what ye order out of respect for you, and tomorrow I shall be in the field with my companions. There the good and evil of each man shall be known.”

The Romans went to their lodgings. The King called Sir Grumedan aside and told him:

“Whom do ye have to help you against these knights? They seem fierce and valiant to me.”

“My lord,” he said, “I have God on my side, and the body and heart and hands that He gave me. And if Sir Galaor were to come tomorrow at the hour of the tierce, I would have him, and I am certain that he would hold my cause to be right, and I would not need a third with him. And if he does not come, I shall fight them myself, one by one if by rights it can be done.”

“But do ye not see that the battle was set for three against three,” the King said, “and since ye agreed to that, they will not agree to any change because it was delivered and sworn that way into the hands of Salustanquidio? And Sir Grumedan,” the King said, “may God save me, I have a great weight in my heart because I see that ye lack the companions that ye will need for such a challenge. I am very afraid about what will happen to you.”

“My lord,” he said, “do not be afraid, for soon God shall have mercy and shall aid those in whom He is pleased. I opposed their arrogance with restraint and good will, and for that, it is to be expected that God will help me. And if Sir Galaor does not come or any other of the good knights of your court, I shall fight with the two of my knights that I deem best.”

“Say nothing of that,” the King said, “for ye shall face strong men experienced in such things, and those companions will not do. But, my friend Sir Grumedan, I shall give you better counsel. I wish to secretly place my body with yours in this battle, since many times ye placed your fate at my service. And my loyal friend, I would be very disgraced if at this time I did not put my life and my honor in your service in payment for all those times ye put yours at the extreme edge of death to serve me.”

And as he said this, the King embraced him, and tears fell from his eyes. Sir Grumedan kissed  his hands and said:

“May it not please God that such a loyal king as yourself were to fall into error over someone who shall always labor to increase your fame and honor. And yet, my lord, I hold this to be one of the highest favors I have ever received from you, and my services cannot be enough to repay you for it, but I cannot accept it because ye are the King and lord and judge who rightly can decide in this case over both foreigners and your own subjects.”

Blessed be the vassals to whom God gives such kings, holding more dear the love they owe them than the services done for them, unmindful of their lives and grandeur, wishing to place their bodies in danger of death like this king wished to do for a knight, who although poor was very richly supplied with virtue.

“If it is so,” the King said, “I can do nothing else but to pray to God to help you.”

Sir Grumedan went to his lodging, and he ordered two of his knights to prepare to be with him the next day in battle. But I tell you that although he was very courageous and strong and experienced at arms, his heart was broken because those who would accompany him in that battle were not what he needed for such a great feat, yet he was of such a lofty and strong heart that he would neither give nor yield to disgrace before death. So rather than show his true feelings, he did the opposite. He spent the night in the chapel of Saint Mary, and in the morning they heard Mass with great devotion. Sir Grumedan prayed to God to let him finish the battle with honor, but if it was His will that this would be the end of his days, to have mercy on his soul.

Then with great courage he called for his arms. After he put on a strong and very white coat of mail, he wore over it a surcoat of his colors, which were cardinal with white swans. He was not done arming himself when a beautiful damsel entered the door, who had come on orders of Grasinda and the Greek Knight, and with her came two damsels and two squires. She bore in her hand a very beautiful and richly decorated sword and asked for Sir Grumedan, and they pointed him out immediately.

She told him in French:

“My lord Sir Grumedan, the Greek Knight, who esteems you highly for what he heard said about you when he was in this land, and because he knows that the battle with the Romans is set for you today, has sent you two very good knights whom you have seen in his escort. And he sent me to tell you that ye would not wish other knights than these for the battle and that by his faith ye may accept them without fear. And he sends you this beautiful sword which has proven to be very fine, for you have seen it strike great blows against the stone column when he pursued the knight who was fleeing.”

Sir Grumedan was overjoyed when he heard that, considering the need in which he had been placed and how any man would only be in the company of the Greek Knight if he was very worthy. And he told her:

“Damsel, may the good Greek Knight enjoy good fortune, for he is so courteous to someone he does not know, and this is due to his great discretion. May God be pleased to have the time come when I may serve him.”

“My lord,” she said, “ye would greatly esteem him if ye knew him, as ye shall his companions when you have tested them. Now mount, for they are waiting for you to enter the field where ye must fight.”

Sir Grumedan took the sword and noticed that it was very clean and showed no evidence at all of the blows that it had given the column. He made the sign of the Cross over it and placed it on his belt, leaving his own sword behind. He mounted the horse that Sir Florestan had given him when  he defeated the Romans, as ye have heard, and on it he seemed old, handsome, and valiant, and he rode to the knights who were waiting for him.

The three greeted each other joyfully, but Sir Grumedan could not recognize either of them. Thus they entered the field looking so fine that those who supported Sir Grumedan felt great pleasure. The King, who had already come, was amazed by how those knights, for no reason at all or knowing Sir Grumedan, wished to place themselves in such danger. When he saw the damsel, he had her called. She came before him, and he told her:

“Damsel, why have those two knights from your company wished to be in such a dangerous battle without knowing the man for whom they are fighting?”

“My lord,” she said, “those who are good and who are evil are known by what is said of them, and the Greek Knight heard about Sir Grumedan’s courtesy and the battle he faced, and knowing that at this time few of your best knights are here, he thought it good to leave these two companions of his to help him. They are of such great skill and prowess at arms that before midday is over, the great arrogance of the Romans will be even more broken, and your men’s honor will be well protected. And he did not wish Sir Grumedan to know about it until he found them in the field of battle, as ye have seen, my lord.”

The King was very happy over that aid, for his heart had been broken fearing that misfortune would befall Sir Grumedan because no one could help him in that battle. He was very grateful to the Greek Knight although he did not show it as deeply as he felt it.

The three knights, with Sir Grumedan in the middle, rode to one end of the field, awaiting their enemies. And then King Arban of North Wales and the Count of Clare entered it as judges on his behalf, and on behalf of the Romans came Salustanquidio and Brondajel de Roca, all by order of the King.

And soon the Romans arrived to fight, riding beautiful horses and wearing fine new armor, and as they were husky and tall, it seemed that they would present themselves with strength and valor. They brought along bagpipes and trumpets and other instruments to make great noise, and all the knights of Rome accompanied them. And so they came before the King and told him:

“My lord, we wish to take the heads of those Greek knights to Rome, and it would not trouble us to do so, but in the case of Sir Grumedan, your anger would trouble us, so order him to take back what he said and grant that the Romans are the best knights in the world.”

The King did not answer that, and instead said:

“Go fight your battle, and those who win the heads of the others may do with them what they see fit.”

They entered the field, and Salustanquidio and Brondajel placed them at one end of it, and King Arban and the Count of Clare put Sir Grumedan and his companions at the other. Then the Queen came to the windows with her ladies and damsels to watch the battle, and she ordered Sir Guilan the Pensive, who was weak from illness, and Sir Cendil of Ganota, who had not yet fully recovered from a wound, to join them, and said to Sir Guilan:

“My friend, what do you think will happen to my father Sir Grumedan in this?” The Queen always called him father because he had raised her. “Those devils seem so big and strong that they terrify me.”

“My lady,” he said, “everything done at arms is in the hands of God and the righteousness by which the men who take them up conform to God, and not in great courage. And my lady, since I know Sir Grumedan as a very wise knight, Godfearing and justice-doing, and the Romans to be so unreasonable and arrogant, motivated merely by whim, I tell you that if I were where Grumedan is with those two companions, I would not be afraid of those three Romans even if a fourth were to join them.”

The Queen was greatly consoled and heartened by what Sir Guilan told her, and she prayed to God from her heart to help her foster father and deliver him from that danger with honor. The knights in the field spurred their horses to charge, galloping at full speed, and because they were very skilled at arms and riding, both sides looked handsome.

Their shields were struck bravely, and none missed in the encounter, and their lances were broken. And something happened that had never been seen in a fight against equal sides in the court of the King, for all three Romans were thrown from their saddles onto the field, and Sir Grumedan and his companions rode past handsomely without having been moved from their saddles. Then the knights immediately turned back toward them and saw how they were struggling to get up and regroup. Sir Bruneo had a small wound on his left ribs from the lance of the one he had jousted with.

The Romans suffered great anguish from that joust, and everyone else felt great pleasure, both those who despised the Romans and those who loved Sir Grumedan.

The knight in green armor told Sir Grumedan:

“Since we have shown them how well they know how to joust, it would not be right if we were to attack them from horseback while they are on foot.”

Sir Grumedan and the other knight said that he had spoken well. They dismounted and gave their horses to someone to hold, and all three together headed toward the Romans, who now were not as brave as before. He of the green armor said:

“Our lords knights of Rome, ye have left behind your horses. This must only be because ye hold us in little esteem, but while we are not as renowned as ye are, we do not wish ye to take this honor from us, so we have dismounted from ours.”

The Romans, who had been maddened before, were frightened to have been so easily unhorsed, and they did not answer at all. They held their swords in their hands and their shields before themselves. Then they charged bravely and delivered fierce, swaggering blows, and everyone watching was amazed. Soon their valor and ire became apparent on their opponents’ armor, which in many places was cut and blood flowed from it, and their helmets and shields were damaged as well.

But Sir Grumedan, due to the great wrath with which he faced his enemy, moved ahead of his companions so that he was injured by more blows. His companions, of whose skill ye know and who feared shame more than death, seeing how the Romans were defending themselves, gathered all their strength and began to discharge mighty blows like those they had suffered, so the Romans were frightened, believing their strength had doubled. They faced so much danger they were driven back, and now they could do nothing besides protect themselves, and they drew away stunned, unable to regroup.

But the knights helping Sir Grumedan, who were nearing victory, did not let them rest or relax, and instead did amazing feats as if they had not received a blow all day. Maganil, who was the older and the most valiant of the brothers, as he had demonstrated all day, realized that his shield had been cut to pieces and his helmet pierced and dented, and his coat of mail offered no protection, so he hastened as fast as he could toward the Queen’s windows, and he of the vair armor followed him and did not let him rest.

The brother shouted:

“My lady, by God’s mercy, do not let them kill me, for I grant that everything Sir Grumedan said is true.”

“May ye be damned,” the knight of the vair armor said. “This is well known.”

He grabbed Maganil’s helmet and pulled it off his head and acted as if he wished to behead him. The Queen, when she saw this, left the window. Sir Guilan, who was there in the Queen’s windows, as ye have heard, told him:

“My lord Greek knight, do not be so greedy to take such an arrogant head as that to your land. Let it return to Rome, if ye please, where his conduct may be appraised and there he shall be abhorred.”

“I should do so,” he said, “because he asked for mercy from our lady the Queen and because ye wish it so, although I do not know you. I shall let him go. Order him to attend to his wounds, for his madness has been healed.”

Then he returned to his companions and saw how Sir Grumedan had one of the Romans on his back on the ground and his knees on his chest, and was striking him in the face with the hilt of his sword. The Roman shouted:

“Oh, my lord Sir Grumedan! I grant that everything ye said in praise of the knights of Great Britain is true, and what I said was a lie.”

The knight in the vair armor, who took great pleasure in seeing what Sir Grumedan was doing, called the judges to hear what the knight was saying and to see how the knight in the green armor had driven the other knight from the field, which he had left. But Salustanquidio and Brondajel de Roca were so sad and broken to see such an overwhelming defeat, that without speaking to the King, they left the field to go to their lodgings, and ordered that the knights who had retracted their words be brought to them, since their fates had gone very contrary.

Sir Grumedan, seeing that nothing remained to be done, got permission to mount, as did his companions, and went to kiss the hands of the King.

He of the green armor told him:

“My lord, may God always be with you, and we shall go to the Greek Knight, in whose company we are well honored and fortunate.”

“May God guide you,” the King said, “for ye have shown that he and ye are highly skilled at arms.”

And so they bid him farewell.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Chapter 80 [part 1 of 3]

How King Lisuarte sent for Oriana to deliver her to the Romans; what happened with a knight from Firm Island, and in the battle between Sir Grumedan and the Greek Knight’s companions against three Roman challengers; and how, after they defeated the Romans, the Greek Knight’s companions went to Firm Island, and what they did there. 

[A lady being borne in a litter, from The Collected Works of Christine de Pizan, “The Book of the Queen,” (c. 1410-1414) Harley MS 4431, British Library.]
 

 
Ye have heard that Oriana was at Miraflores Castle and Queen Sardamira was with her, having been sent by King Lisuarte to visit her and tell her of the grandeur of Rome and how her reign would by enlarged by her marriage to the Emperor, which was being readied. Now know that, since her father the King had made a promise to the Romans, he decided to order her brought and make arrangements to send her away. He ordered his nephew Giontes to take two knights and some servants to bring her, and to prevent any knight from talking with her.

Giontes took Ganjel of Sadoca and Lasanor and other servants, and went to where Oriana was. They bore her in a litter because that was the only way she would come, for she was faint from so much weeping. With her damsels and Queen Sardamira and her retinue, they left Miraflores and took the road to Tagades, where the King was.

On the second day something happened, about which ye shall now hear: near the road and below some trees next to a fountain was a knight in fine armor on a brown horse. He wore a green surcoat tied with green cords through gold eyelets over his chain mail, and he seemed extremely handsome. He took a shield and put it around his neck, took a lance with a green pendant and blandished it a little, then said to his squire:

“Go tell Oriana’s guards that I ask them to give me the chance to speak with her, and there shall come no harm to them nor her, and if they let me do that, I shall thank them, and if not, I shall be sorry and must attempt to do what I can.”

The squire went and gave them the message, and when he said the knight would force them to let him speak to her, they laughed and told him:

“Tell your lord that we shall not let him see her, and if he wishes to attempt to do so by force, nothing shall come of it.”

But Oriana, who overheard that, said:

“What does it matter to you if that knight speaks to me? Perhaps he brings me some news that would please me.”

“My lady,” Giontes said, “your father the King ordered us not to allow anyone to approach you to speak to you.”

The squire returned with this answer, and Giontes prepared for battle. When the knight in green heard the reply, he immediately charged and they struck each other on their shields so mightily that their lances broke into pieces, but with the great force of the encounter, Giontes’s horse’s leg was dislocated and it fell. One of Gionte’s feet was trapped beneath it in the stirrup, and he could not get up. The knight in green went past him, riding handsomely, turned immediately, and said:

“Knight, I ask you to let me speak with Oriana.”

He told him:

“I can no longer deny you that, although my horse is to blame.”

Then Ganjel of Sadoca shouted at the knight in green to prepare himself and not touch Giontes or he would die for it. “Would that I had you in such as state,” he said.

The knight in green rode at him as fast as his horse could gallop once he got a lance from his squire, but he erred in the encounter. Ganjel of Sadoca struck him on the shield and broke his lance, but no other harm was done. The knight turned around toward him and saw his sword in his hand, and struck him with his lance so hard it flew into pieces. Ganjel was thrown from his saddle and fell hard.

Then Lasanor charged, but the knight, who was very skilled at such situations, protected himself so well that Lasanor missed with the lance and it was knocked from his hand, and they struck each other so bravely that their shields were smashed and the arm Lasanor used to hold it was broken. The knight in green, who turned to face him sword in hand, saw that he was too stunned to attack, so he took the reins to his horse and struck its head with the flat of his sword to made it flee through the countryside with his master. And seeing it go, he could not help from laughing.

Then he took a letter he carried and went to Oriana in her litter. And she, who had seen him defeat those three knights, all quite skilled at arms, thought it was Amadis, and her heart trembled. But the knight approached her with great humility, held out the letter, and said:

“My lady, Agrajes and Sir Florestan send you this letter, in which ye shall find news that will give ye pleasure. May God keep you, my lady, for I must return to those who sent me. I know for certain that they need me, though I may be of little worth.”

“It seems to me to be the contrary from what I have seen,” Oriana said, “and I beg you to tell me your name, for ye had to work so hard to bring me pleasure.”

“My lady,” he said, “I am Gavarte of the Fearful Valley, and what your father the King is doing to you gives me deep sorrow. But I trust in God that it will be very hard for him to make it happen. Rather, so many of your subjects and others shall die that it will be known throughout the world.”

“Oh, Sir Gavarte, my good friend, may God be pleased to have such a time come to me when your great loyalty to me shall be rewarded!”

“My lady,” he said, “it has always been my desire to serve you in everything as my legitimate ruler, and in this matter even more, knowing the great injustice being done to you. I shall come to your aid with others who wish to serve you.”

“My friend,” she said, “I beg you to say this wherever ye may be.”

“So I shall,” he said, “for I can do so with loyalty.”

Then he bid her farewell. Oriana went to Mabilia, who was with Queen Sardamira, and the Queen told her:

“It seems to me, my lady, that we have equal guardians. I do not know whether it is due to their weakness or the misfortune of this road, for here your guards and mine were both defeated and left injured.”

When the Queen said this, they all laughed heartily, but the knights were ashamed and confounded and did not dare appear before them. Oriana stood there a while as the knights sought aid, for Lasanor’s horse could not bring him back for a long time.

She stepped away with Mabilia and they read the letter, and from it they learned that Agrajes, Sir Florestan and Sir Gandales wished her to know that Gandalin and Ardian the dwarf were already at Firm Island and Amadis would be there within a week. He had ordered them to prepare a great fleet that would be needed to go to an important place, and they had it ready. They hoped she would be pleased and hold great hope that God would aid her.

Oriana and Mabilia were overjoyed beyond comparison at that news, for it would bring them life, since they held themselves for dead if the wedding were to happen. Mabilia comforted Oriana and begged her to eat. Until then, in her great sorrow, she had not wished nor been able to eat, nor could she now with such great joy.

So they traveled down the road to where the King was, but before they arrived, the King and the Romans came out to receive her along with many other people. When Oriana saw them, she began to weep fiercely and had herself helped from her litter, and all her damsels joined her. When they saw her sobbing so pitifully, they wept and tore their hair and kissed her hands and dress as if they beheld her dead, and everyone felt great sorrow.

This sight troubled the King greatly. He told King Arban of North Wales:

“Go to Oriana and tell her that I feel the greatest distress in the world for what she is doing, and that I send orders for her and her damsels to enter the litter and appear more cheerful and go to her mother, and I shall tell her news that will make her happy.”

King Arban did as he was ordered, but Oriana answered:

“Oh, King of North Wales, my good cousin! My great misfortune has been so cruel that if ye and others who have undertaken great peril to aid sad and distressed damsels cannot rescue me with arms, then perhaps ye can rescue me with words. Advise my father the King not to do me such wrong and not to tempt God, or the great good fortune he has enjoyed in his life may turn contrary. My cousin, try to make him come here and bring with him Count Argamon and Sir Grumedan, for by no means shall I depart from here until this is done.”

As she spoke, King Arban could not stop sobbing and could not answer. He returned to the King and told him what Oriana had said, and Lisuarte thought it harmful to oppose her in public because the more her sorrow and anguish became notorious to everyone, the more his blame would grow. Count Argamon, seeing his hesitation, urged the King to go to her, and he insisted so much that with Sir Grumedan, the three went to his daughter. When she saw her father, she came to him and knelt before him, and her damsels with her, but he immediately dismounted and raised her up by the hand and embraced her.

She told him:

“Father, my lord, have mercy on this daughter who in a sad moment was engendered, and hear me before these noblemen.”

“My daughter,” the King said, “say what ye please, and with a father’s love I must hear you.”

She fell to the ground to kiss his feet. He pulled back and rose her up. She said:

“My lord, your will is to send me to the Emperor of Rome and separate me from you and my mother the Queen and this land which God made my homeland. And since from this trip I expect nothing but death, which shall either come for me or I shall give to myself, in no way shall your wish be fulfilled. The results for you shall be sin, and in two ways: first, I shall be disobedient to your will, and second, I shall die because of you. For all this to be avoided and God be served by us, I wish to enter a convent and live there, leaving you free to dispose of your kingdom and lordships as ye wish. I shall renounce all rights that God gave me in favor of my sister Leonoreta or anyone else as ye may desire. And, my lord, ye shall be better served by whoever she marries than by the Romans, who when they have me, shall become your enemies. If in this way ye think to win them, ye shall not only lose them but, as I said, ye shall make them mortal enemies of yours, and they will think of nothing else but how to take this land.”

“My daughter,” the King said, “I understand well what ye say, and I shall give you my answer in front of your mother. Now return to your litter and go to her.”

Then they put her in her litter and had her taken to her mother the Queen, who received her with great love, but weeping, for the wedding was being arranged entirely against her will.

But neither her nor the great lords of the kingdom nor the lesser lords could change the King’s mind. Because of this, Fortune was now angered and tired. It had given him high achievements and blessings, but now he had grown more angry and arrogant than ever before, so Fortune wished to change things to the contrary, more for the sake of his soul than his honor, as the fourth book of this grand story shall tell in much greater detail.

The Queen consoled her daughter with great pity, and her daughter, with many tears and true humility, on her knees, said that her mother was outstanding in the world for giving counsel to sad women and finding the remedy to their tribulations, so who equal or better than she could be found in all the world? To those who saw them, mother and daughter seemed embraced, speaking with deep compassion both of the great delights of the past and their anguish and profound sadness, which many times overcome people, and no one, no matter how great or discreet they may be, can avoid it.

Count Argamon, King Arban of North Wales, and Sir Grumedan took the King aside under some trees, and the Count told him:

“My lord, ye have ordered me not to speak further about this concern, and because your discretion is so much greater than all others, knowing what is best and what is not, well and honorably I could be excused from speaking. But as I am of your blood and your vassal, I am not content or satisfied with what has been said, and I believe, my lord, that as wise men oftentimes are right, when they err even once, they do so worse than any madman, because, in their daring wisdom, they do not take counsel, blinded by love, hatred, greed, or pride, and they can fall so low that they can hardly rise again. Beware, my lord, for ye are committing great cruelty and sin, and very soon ye may suffer such a lashing from the Lord on high that your brilliance and glory in the world shall become obscured. Consider how many wise men have forgone their own desires to bend their fortunes to follow your will. Listen to advice this one time, and if trouble should come to you from this, you can blame the advice rather than yourself, which this is the great remedy and relief of those who err.”

“Good Uncle,” the King said, “I am very aware of all that ye have just told me, but I can do nothing else but fulfill the promise I have made.”

“Then, my lord,” the Count said, “I ask for permission to return to my lands.”

“May ye go with God,” the King said.

So they concluded their conversation, and the King went to eat. When the tablecloths were lifted, he ordered Brondajel de Roca be called, and said to him:

“My friend, ye see how much this wedding goes against the will of my daughter and all my vassals, who love her dearly. But I, understanding that I will be giving her to such an honorable man and placing her among you, shall not go back on my promise. So prepare the ships, for within three days I shall deliver Oriana and all her ladies and damsels to you. And take the precaution of not allowing her to leave her chamber in the ship so that no disaster can occur.”

Brondajel told him:

“Everything shall be done as ye order, and although now the Empress finds it sorrowful to leave her lands where she is known to all, when she sees the grandeur of Rome and its great reign, and sees kings and princes bowing to serve her, it shall not take long before her will shall be satisfied and content. Such news shall be sent to you by writing soon, my lord.”

The King embraced him laughing and said:

“May God help me, Brondajel, my friend, I believe that such men as you will know very well how to make her recover her joy.”

Salustanquidio, who was now well enough to leave his bed, asked the King for the kindness of sending Olinda with Oriana, for he had promised Olinda that when he was King, as the Emperor had said he would be when he arrived with Oriana, he would take her as his wife. The King was very pleased by that and praised her highly, saying that given her discretion and honesty and great beauty, she well deserved to be queen and lady of a great land.

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Medieval sidesaddles

They weren’t like modern sidesaddles at all. 


A Spanish sidesaddle from the 14th or 15th century. Photo from Georgia Ladies Aside.
 
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“Then her brother gave the reins of her horse to the childe, who took them and led them to the palace.” – Chapter 78.

Time and again we’ve read in Amadis of Gaul how some knight or nobleman takes the reins of a woman’s horse as they ride along. Is that mere chivalry? No.

As you probably know, women rode sidesaddle in the Middle Ages, but sidesaddles then weren’t like sidesaddles now. Modern sidesaddles have a pair of pommels, which are sort of like curved horns, that women can brace their legs around or against, as well as safety stirrups and other improvements. These allow women to jump fences and gallop safely.

Medieval sidesaddles weren’t exactly chairs mounted sideways on the horse, but that’s what they amounted to. The rider sat in a pillion or padded seat, and her feet rested on a planchette or footrest. A woman didn’t face the direction her horse was going, she sat perpendicular. And she didn’t sit especially securely.

That’s why they rode palfreys. A palfrey isn’t a breed of horse but rather a kind of horse, a lighter-weight animal with a smooth, ambling gait. This is much easier for the rider, and women had to avoid jolts.

So when a man takes a woman’s reins, he’s doing it because someone has to lead her horse. The woman is in no position to do so herself.

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