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AMADIS AND ORIANA.
(From “ Amadis de Gaul,” translated by Robert Southey.)
[“ Amadis de Gaul” was the best and most famous of the romances of chivalry which turned Don Quixote's head, and Cervantes exempts it from the holocaust which overtook the remainder of the knight's library. Its fame and influence date from a French version in the middle of the sixteenth century ; but it is believed to have been originally written in Portuguese in the fourteenth, perhaps by Vasco de Lobeira, an eminent captain of that age.]
Not many years after the passion of our Redeemer, there was a Christian king in the lesser Britain, by name Garinter, who being in the law of truth, was of much devotion and good ways. This king had two daughters by a noble lady, his wife. The eldest was married to Languines, King of Scotland ; she was called the Lady of the Garland, because her husband, taking great pleasure to behold her beautiful tresses, would have them covered only with a chaplet of flowers. Agrayes and Mabilia were their children, a knight and damsel of whom in this history much mention is made. Elisena, the other daughter, was far more beautiful, and although she had been demanded in marriage by many great princes, yet she would wed with none, but for her solitary and holy life was commonly called the Lost Devotee, because it was considered that for one of such rank, gifted with such beauty and sought in marriage by so many chiefs, this way of life was not fitting.
King Garinter, who was somewhat stricken in years, took delight in hunting. It happened one day, that having gone from his town of Alima to the chase, and being separated from his people, as he went along the forest saying his prayers, he saw to the left a brave battle of one knight against two. Soon had he knowledge of the twain, and that they were his own vassals, who being proud men and of powerful lineage, had often by their evil customs offended him. Who the third was he knew not, but not relying so much in the worth of the one as he feared the two, he drew aside and waited the event, which sorted to such effect, as by the hand of that one the others were both slain. This done the stranger came towards the king, and seeing him alone, said, Gentle sir, what country is this wherein knights errant are thus assailed ? The king replied, Marvel
not at this, knight, for our country yields as others do, both good and bad : as for these men, they have often offended, even against their lord and king, who could do no justice upon them because of their kindred, and also because they harbored in this covered mountain. This king you speak of, replied the stranger, I come to seek him from a far land, and bring him tidings from a dear friend. If you know where he may be found, I pray you tell me. The king answered, Befall what may, I shall not fail to speak what is true. I am the king. The knight then loosing his shield and helmet, gave them to his squire, and went to embrace Garinter, saying that he was King Perion of Gaul, who had long desired to know him. Greatly were these kings contented that their meeting was in such a manner, and conferring together they took their way through the wood towards the city, when suddenly a hart ran before them which had escaped the toils. They followed at full speed, thinking to kill it, but a lion, springing from a thicket before them, seized the hart, and having torn it open with his mighty claws, stood fiercely looking at the kings. Fierce as you are, said King Perion, you shall leave us a part of the game! and he took his arms and alighted from his horse, who being affrighted at the wild beast, would not go near him, and placing his shield before him, went towards the lion sword in hand. The lion left his prey and came against him; they closed, and Perion, at the moment when he was under the beast and in most danger, thrust his sword into his belly. When Garinter saw him fall, he said within himself, Not without cause is that knight famed to be the best in the world. Meanwhile their train came up, and then was their prey and venison laid on two horses and carried to the city.
The queen being advised of her guest, they found the palace richly adorned, and the tables covered. At the highest the kings seated themselves : at the other sate the queen with Elisena, her daughter, and there were they served, as in the house of such a man beseemed. Then being in that solace, as that princess was so beautiful and King Perion on his part equal, in that hour and point they so regarded each other, that her great modesty and holy life could not now avail, but that she was taken with great and incurable love; and the king in like manner, though till then his heart had been free, so that during the meal both the one and the other appeared absent in thought. When the tables were removed, the queen would depart to her chamber ; Elisena rising dropt a ring from her lap, which she had taken off when she washed her hands, and in her confusion of mind forgotten. She stooped for it, and Perion who was near her stooped down also, so that their hands met, and he taking her hand prest it. She colored deeply and thanked the king for his service. “Ah, lady,” said he, “it shall not be the last, for all my life shall be spent in your service.”
She followed her mother; but, so disturbed that her sight was dizzy, and now not able to endure her feelings, she went and discovered them to the damsel Darioleta in whom she confided, and with tears from her eyes and from her heart, besought her to find out if King Perion loved any other woman. Darioleta, surprised at this alteration, pitied and comforted her mistress, and went to King Perion's chamber. She found his squire at the door with the king's garments, which he was about to give him ; Friend, said she, go you about your other affairs, for I must wait upon your master. The squire, thinking it was the custom of the country, gave her the garments and went away. She then entered the chamber where the king was in bed. He, who had seen her converse with Elisena confidentsial]ly, now hoped that she might bring some remedy to his passion, and said to her all in trembling, Fair friend, what demand ye? I bring ye wherewith to clothe yourself, she replied. That should be for my heart, said Perion, which is now stript and naked of all my joy. As how? said the damsel. Thus, quoth he: coming into this land with entire liberty, and apprehending nothing but the chance of arms, here in this house I have been wounded by a mortal wound, for which if you, fair damsel, can procure me remedy, you shall be well recompensed. He then charged her not to discover him but where it was requisite, and told her his love for Elisena. Then said Darioleta, My lord, promise me on the faith of a king and a knight, that you will take to wife my Lady Elisena, when time shall serve, and right soon will I bring ye where not only your heart shall be satisfied, but hers also, who, it may be, is in as much or more thought and dolor than you, with the same wound. But without this promise you shall never win her. The king, whose will was already disposed by God that that which ensued might come to pass, took his sword which was by him, and laying his right hand upon the cross of its hilt, pronounced these words : I swear by this cross, and this sword wherewith I received the order of knighthood, to perform what ever you shall require for the Lady Elisena. Be you then of good cheer, said she, for I also will effect my promise.
Darioleta returned to the princess and informed her how she had sped: You know, said she, that in the chamber where King Perion lodgeth there is a door opening to the garden, whence your father used to go out, and which at this present is covered with hangings; but I have the key thereof, and we can go in at night, when all in the palace are at rest. When Elisena heard this she was highly contented, but recollecting herself, she replied, How shall this be brought to pass, seeing that my father will lodge in the chamber with King Perion ? Leave that to me, said the damsel, and with that they parted.
When it was night Darioleta drew aside the squire of Perion, and asked him if he was of gentle birth. Aye, said he, the son of a knight! but why ask ye? For the desire I have, quoth she, to know one thing, which I beseech you by the faith you owe to God and to the king, your master, not to hide from me. Who is the lady whom your master loveth best? My master, replied the squire, loves all in general, and none as you mean. While they thus talked Garinter came nigh, who seeing Darioleta in conference with Perion's squire, called her and asked what he had to say to her. In sooth, my lord, quoth she, he tells me that his master is wont to be alone, and certainly I think he will feel himself embarrassed by your company. Garinter hearing that went to King Perion and said, My lord, I have many
affairs to settle and must rise at the hour of matins; and that you may not be disturbed, you had better be alone in your chamber. King Perion replied, Do as shall seem best to your liking. Then Garinter understood that Darioleta had told him rightly of his guest's inclination, and ordered his bed to be removed from Perion's apartment. These tidings Darioleta carried to her mistress, and they waited the hour when all should retire to sleep.
At night when all was husht, Darioleta rose and threw a mantle over her mistress, and they went into the garden. When Elisena came to the chamber door her whole body trembled, and her voice that she could not speak. King Perion had fallen asleep; he dreamt that some one he knew not who entered his chamber by a secret door, who thrusting a hand between his ribs, took out his heart and threw it into the river. He asked why this cruelty was committed, and was answered, It is nothing! there is another heart left there which I must take from you, though against my will. Then the king suddenly awoke in great fear, and blessed himself. At this moment the two damsels had opened the door, and were entering; he heard them, and being full of his dream suspected treason, when he saw a door open behind the hangings, of which he had not known, and leaping from the bed he caught up his sword and shield. What is this? cried Darioleta. The king then knew her, and saw Elisena his beloved; he dropt his shield and sword, and throwing a mantle about him which was ready by the bed, he went and embraced her whom he loved. Darioleta then took up the sword in token of his promise and oath, and went into the garden, and Perion remained alone with Elisena, in whom as he beheld her by the light of the three torches, he thought all the beauty of the world was centered.
When it was time that they should part, Darioleta returned to the chamber. I know, lady, said she, that heretofore you have been better pleased with me than you are now, but we must go, for time calleth us. Elisena rose. I beseech you, said Perion, do not forget the place! and she departed with the damsel. He remained in his room, and recollecting his dream, which still affrighted him, a wish to know its significance made him desirous to return to his own country, where many wise men were skillful in the solution of such things.
Ten days King Perion sojourned at Alima, and every night his beloved mistress visited him. Then it was necessary that he should depart, despite of his own inclination, and the tears of Elisena. He took leave of Garinter and the queen, and having armed himself, when he looked for his sword to gird it on, he missed it; though the loss grieved him, for it was a tried and goodly weapon, he durst not inquire for it, but, making his squire procure him another, he departed for his own kingdom. Albeit, before his departure, Darioleta came and told him of the great affliction and distress in which his lady was left. I commend her to you, my friend, said he, as mine own proper heart; then taking from his finger a ring of two which he wore, each resembling the other, he bade her carry it to his love.
[Amadis is born of this union — Darioleta managing to conceal Elisena’s
condition and confinement - and committed to the sea with Perion's ring and sword and a written statement by Darioleta. Rescued, he is dubbed tho “Child of the Sea.” Perion later marries Elisena, who nover tells him of the baby.]