THE SEQUELS TO "AMADIS DE GAUL"
"Inferior as these after-books of Amadis certainly are, they form so singular an epoch in the history of literature that an abridgment of the whole series into our language is to be desired."- SOUTHEY
IN dealing with the literatures of the Peninsula, a task for which he was eminently well equipped, Southey followed an instinct of natural discrimination which seldom played him false. Feeble as some of the 'after-books' of Amadis undoubtedly are, we cannot afford to ignore them, if only because of the literary phenomena they present. In these fantastic tales the Imagination which had flowered so luxuriantly in Amadis became overblown. They are, indeed, the petals fallen from the fading roseso quickly did the wonderful blossom of chivalric fiction droop and wither.
The first of these sequels, called The Fifth Book of Amadis, is more generally known as Esplandian, as it chiefly refers to the adventures of that hero. Cervantes is, perhaps, rather more unkind to this romance than its peculiar merits deserve, for he makes his critical curate say of it: "Verily the father's goodness shall not excuse the want of it in the son. Here, good mistress housekeeper, open that window and throw it into the yard. Let it serve as a foundation to that pile which we are to set a-blazing presently."
The first edition of Esplandian was published at Seville in 1542. The greater part of it seems to have been composed by Montalvo, the original translator of Amadis. But whereas when he penned that work he acted the part of a translator only, in Esplandian he undertook the róle of authorship proper, and that he failed to
discern the wide distinctions which separate these tasks is rather painfully apparent. It seems to me, however, a mistaken criticism which brands Esplandian as entirely lacking in merit, and I suspect that more than one of the censorious folk who have thus entreated it have not perused it in the original, or have merely taken Cervantes word regarding its lack of quality. It is notorious that many English critics seem to believe it possible to pass a verdict upon works written in Spanish without possessing more than a nodding acquaintance with the language, and the absurd idea obtains among many men of letters, who ought to know better, that, given a knowledge of Latin and French, the acquisition of the Castilian tongue is merely a matter of a little reading.
Esplandian possesses many quaint beauties, and the fairy machinery' and rather distinguished simplicity of its atmosphere make it most pleasant and delectable to peruse. Where, too, may we encounter a better or more representative example of romantic extravagance at its best ?- for Esplandian, without exhibiting the grosser faults of its descendants, has the rich and varied colour of that imaginative excess which is the birthright of all true poets, and in the discipline of which all are not successful. I quite admit, however, that Esplandian is food for the enthusiast, and I do not recommend its perusal to unromantic souls. It is not for the barbers and curates of this world, and pity 'tis that they who cannot appreciate its spirit should attempt to influence others to its detriment.
Esplandian spent his childhood at the Court of his grand father, King Lisuarte, and had scarcely been knighted when he felt the call of high adventure. His wishes in this respect were speedily gratified, for shortly after
the gilt spurs had been placed on his heels he fell into a deep swoon, which seemed to portend enchantment of no common order. As he slept, the people of the Firm Island, whence he had journeyed to have knight-hood conferred upon him, beheld a vast mountain of fire approach the shore, from which issued the sylph-like form of the enchantress Urganda the Unknown, sailing through the air upon the back of an enormous dragon. Some time prior to these events Amadis, to whose custody the malicious Archelaus had been entrusted, had injudiciously released that firebrand of the magical world, only to learn shortly afterward that the unscrupulous wizard had taken advantage of his new-found liberty to work his wiles once more upon the all too unsuspecting Lisuarte, who seemed incapable of profiting by experience, and who now paid for his credulity by incarceration in the deepest dungeons of the necromancer's castle. Urganda announced to the distracted son-in-law that it would be necessary for Esplandian to execute a mission of vengeance, and ere it was possible to question her further she bore away the youth on the back of the winged monster she bestrode.
The enchantress conveyed the sleeping Esplandian to a mysterious vessel called the Ship of the Great Serpent, and on waking it was with no little exaltation of spirit that he found himself on its deck. As he was wafted across the smooth ocean he felt a thrill of pleasure arising from the magical ease with which the enchanted galley skimmed the waves. In time he beheld a rocky islet standing in the midst of a forsaken sea, and going ashore he found it to be barren and showing no other sign of habitation than a tall tower, which crowned its topmost height. He climbed the eminence upon which
it stood, and discovered the ancient fortalice to be completely deserted. Exploring its recesses, he observed a stone in which a richly ornamented sword was firmly embedded, but as he attempted to grasp this the air was rent by the bellowings of a frightful dragon, which descended upon him with such velocity that ere he could prepare himself for its onset it had coiled its enormous folds round his body in an effort to break through the plates of his armour and crush him to death. Man and monster wrestled to and fro in a death-grapple, and so terrific were their exertions that the earth shook and the castle rocked beneath them as they swayed and writhed in a deadly embrace. At length Esplandian succeeded in freeing his right hand from the dragon's encircling folds, and, drawing a magic sword which Urganda had bestowed upon him, passed it through the monster's scaly hide. Mortally wounded, the dragon relaxed its grip, and its huge body became rigid in death. When he had assured himself that it was quite dead, Esplandian quitted the castle and returned to the shore, a weird light which came from the enchanted sword, which he had extracted from the boulder, guiding his footsteps through the gathering dusk.
Re-embarking on the Ship of the Great Serpent, he was speedily wafted to a rugged country known as the Forbidden Mountain, a stronghold on the borders of Turkey and Greece. At a distance he perceived a castle, and was making his way thither when he en countered a hermit, who warned him to avoid it, and told him that a prince of renown was imprisoned therein. At once it occurred to Esplandian that this must be none other than Lisuarte, and the castle the stronghold of the wicked Archelaus, and this surmise naturally made
him resolve to inquire into the character of the place. As he neared the gate he saw that it was guarded by a giant sentinel, who, on espying him, rushed at him fiercely, brandishing a formidable club. Avoiding the onset of his gigantic adversary, Esplandian slew him with the sword of power, and was about to enter the castle when he was suddenly confronted by Archelaus in person. A bitterly contested struggle ensued. The enchanter, enraged at the stripling's audacity in seeking to probe the mysteries of his stronghold, and in the knowledge that he came of the race of his detested enemy Lisuarte, attacked Esplandian with great fury. But his blind rage could not avail against the cooler courage of his youthful antagonist, who succeeded in dispatching him with the magic sword, thus for ever putting an end to his necromantic enormities. A nephew of the slain enchanter next assaulted the young knight, but he too fell before the magic falchion of Urganda. Next Arcobone, the mother of Archelaus, a witch deeply versed in the mysteries of the occult arts, sought to vanquish him by the force of her anathemas, but the powers of counter-charm concealed in Esplandian's blade saved him from the fury of the dread sybil, who felt herself bound to obey his behests. He commanded her to reveal the place of Lisuarte's confinement, and had the satisfaction of releasing his aged relative.
As Esplandian and Lisuarte were about to leave the island, the fleet of Matroed, eldest son of Arcobone, arrived off its shores, and the young hero found himself forced to do battle with a fresh enemy, for, relying upon his ability to defeat such a youthful adversary with ease, Matroed made the combat a strictly personal one, and
he and Esplandian were engaged in deadly fight until the waning of the sun. But at length the many wounds which the pagan warrior had received forced him to discontinue the struggle, and he begged Esplandian to permit him to die in peace. At this juncture a holy man arrived, and the expiring heathen requested his blessing, which was piously granted.
Assuming the name of 'the Black Knight,' the colour of his armour, Esplandian now ruled in the Forbidden Mountain as lord of the castle he had subdued. But he was not permitted to remain in quiet for long, as the fortalice was speedily invested by Armato, the Soldan of Turkey, with a great army. Attracting numerous followers to himself, however, Esplandian defeated the paynims, and took their sovereign prisoner. Encouraged by this success, he carried the war into the heart of the Turkish dominions and captured the principal city.
Before entering upon his career of adventure Esplandian had met Leonorina, daughter of the Emperor of Constantinople, of whom he had become greatly enamoured, and during the course of his war with the Turks he had dispatched many messengers to her, assuring her of his undying affection. He now learned that she had taken umbrage at his long absence, so, when the capital of Turkey had fallen to his sword, he speedily set out for Constantinople. Arrived there, he purchased a cedar chest of exquisite workmanship, which he entrusted to certain messengers, commanding them to bear it to the lady. When she opened it in the privacy of her own apartment, to her mingled confusion and delight her long-absent lover himself emerged from its recesses. In Spanish romance it is inevitable
that the loves of the hero and heroine should remain unknown to the lady's relatives, not only because this was demanded by the romantic susceptibilities of the average Spanish reader, but because Spanish opinion would have been seriously affronted by the idea of parental compliance in any intercourse between the lovers prior to marriage, save of the most formal kind. This sorry condition of affairs still obtains among the middle and upper classes of Spain and Spanish America, and we can scarcely suppress amusement when we hear of ardent youths unable to converse confidentially with the maidens to whom they are formally affianced otherwise than by assuming some ridiculous disguise, or through the kind offices of servants. Not infrequently young Spanish couples whose engagement is quite en règle and to whose union not the slightest opposition is made, arrange and carry out an elopement, purely because of the romantic atmosphere surrounding such a proceeding. It is circumstances such as these which enable us to appreciate the firm hold of romance upon the Spanish heart.
But Esplandian had but little time for dalliance, as the Turks were once more arrayed against him in the field. He had, however, a firm ally in Urgancla, but, to counterbalance this, the infidels were supported by the enchantress Melia, the sister of Armato, the defeated soldan, who had succeeded in making his escape upon the back of a flying dragon, dispatched for that purpose by this Turkish witch. With all speed he levied a large army, and set siege to Constantinople. Numerous as the sands of the sea were his allies, one of whom was a beautiful Amazonian queen, who brought with her to the scene of hostilities a squadron of fifty griffins, which
flew over the city much in the manner of devastating aircraft, belching fire and smoke on the heads of the unhappy folk below.
So dire was the loss of life in this combat between the forces of Christendom and paganism that at last it was agreed that the question of pre-eminence should be settled by the issue of a double combat. Amadis and Esplandian were selected on the one side, and the Amazon queen and a celebrated pagan soldan on the other. The heathens were defeated, but so enraged were they at their downfall that they rushed to the attack with every available man (and woman) in their hosts. But the Christians, mightily encouraged by the victory of their champions, repulsed them with terrific loss, and drove them from the bounds of the Grecian dominions. The Greek Emperor, probably only too happy to rid himself of the burden of such a troublous inheritance, resigned his crown to Esplandian, who espoused his Leonorina and settled down to the task of governing the Hellenic realm.
Relieved from the pressure of military duties, in which she had proved herself no inefficient ally, the sage Urganda had now leisure to pay some attention to the private affairs of her mortal charges. On consulting her magic mirror and other divinatory apparatus, she was desolated to find that Amadis, Galaor, Esplandian, and indeed all of her favourite champions, were soon to pay the debt of nature. Had her prophetic soul been enabled to envisage the immensities of fiction to which their future adventures were to give rise, she would undoubtedly have allowed nature to take its course, so we must conclude that her powers of vision were limited. Resolved to frustrate unkindly Fate, she
summoned her protègès to the Firm Island, and advised them, if they desired to escape mortality, to obey the Injunctions she would now place upon them. They anxiously assured her that these would be carried out to the letter, and with the best possible grace submitted to be cast into a magic sleep, from which, it was decreed, they were not to awaken until disenchanted by Lisuarte, son of Esplandian, who, on gaining possession of a certain magic sword, would be enabled to bring them once more to life with renewed vigour.
The Sixth Book of the Amadis series is concerned with the adventures of Florisando, his nephew, but as its hero is not in the line direct, and is, moreover, intolerably tiresome, we may well pass him over with a mere mention of his existence.
Lisuarte of Greece
More sprightly is Lisuarte of Greece, hero of the seventh and eighth books, which are believed to have been written by Juan Diaz, Bachelor of Canon Law, and published in 1526. Lisuarte is not, however, the sole hero of this romance, Perion, a later son of Amadis and Oriana, claiming a considerable share of the exploits which fall to be recounted in the volume. This young warrior, hearing of the prowess and address in arms of the King of Ireland, resolved to gratify a desire to be knighted by him, and for this purpose embarked for the Green Isle. While traversing St George's Channel, or its romantic equivalent, he encountered a damsel cruising in a boat managed by four apes. The animals begged Perion to accompany their mistress for the fulfilment of a great enterprise, so, quitting his own vessel, he embarked in the boat along with the apes
and the lady. His attendants, chagrined by his acceptance of the adventure thus thrust upon him, turned their vessel eastward and sailed on until they eventually arrived at Constantinople, where they reported his virtual disappearance, on learning of which his kinsman Lisuarte decided to go in quest of him.
In the meantime young Perion had arrived with his strange fellow-wanderers in the kingdom of Trehizond, which, as we are all aware, is readily accessible from the Irish coast. In that city he had seen and fallen in love with the daughter of the Emperor, but did not have much leisure to pay his addresses to her, as the Lady of the Apes rather unduly hurried him in the preliminaries of the task she had set him. They had scarcely left Trebizond when Lisuarte arrived in the city, and promptly fell in love with Onoloria, the Emperor's remaining daughter. But one day, as the lovers were enjoying each other's society, an enormous giantess entered the Court and requested a boon from Lisuarte, which, in true romantic fashion, he granted without inquiring its nature. It proved to be his attendance for a year wherever the gigantic damsel chose to demand it. The giantess was, indeed, a pagan spy, and had concocted this device to withdraw Lisuarte, who was one of the great props of Christian Greece, from the support of the Hellenic throne at a difficult and dangerous time.
When Lisuarte had quitted Trebizond on the adventure in which he was an unwilling partaker, the Emperor of that country, father of his inamorata, was informed of the true character of the prodigious damsel who had carried him off by a letter which was closed with sixtyseven seals and which announced that Constantinople
was about to be besieged by Armato, the Turkish Soldan, who had placed himself at the head of a league of sixty-seven princes for the purpose of waging war against the imperial city. Meanwhile Lisuarte was given into the care of the King of the Giants' Isle, whose daughter Gradaffile fell in love with him, procured his escape, and followed him to Constantinople, whence he at once betook himself for the purpose of combating the infidels who invested it. In this task he was assisted by Perion, who now arrived in Greece, after having accomplished the behest of the Lady of the Apes.
In course of time Lisuarte became conscious that duty now called him to effect the release of his sleeping ancestors from the spell in which they had been cast for the purpose of prolonging their existences. After many adventures, which we spare the reader, he obtained possession of the fatal sword and proceeded to the Firm Island, where he broke the enchanted sleep into which Amadis, Esplandian, and the rest had been lulled by the far-sighted Urganda. These, naturally refreshed by their long slumber, and longing for martial exercise, at once assisted him in routing the pagan forces before Constantinople, and achieving peace once more. Lisuarte, freed from his patriotic labours, now bethought himself of his lady-love, and turned his steps to the city of Trebizond. Perion had also gone thither from a similar reason, but on the request of the Duchess of Austria had accompanied that lady to her dominions, which were in the grip of a usurper. On his return from this chivalrous task lie encountered his kinsman Lisuarte, and both champions were in the act of preparing their wedding festivities when Perion and the
Emperor of Trebizond were carried off by pagan treachery in the midst of a hunting expedition. Lisuarte, following on their track, was also seized by the enemy, and imprisoned along with those he had sought to succour.
Amadis of Greece
The Ninth Book carries on the adventures and exploits of the race of Amadis, who in more senses than one may be said to be immortal. It was first published in 1535 at Burgos, a place of many literary associations, and purports to have been imitated in Latin from the Greek, after the manner of the famous Troy romance Dares and Dictys, and at a later time translated into the Romance language by the potent and wise magician Alquife, evidently a supposititious Moor pressed into the service of the most imaginative but undisciplined writer who fabricated it. Amadis of Greece, indeed, approaches the sublime of imaginative excess and fictional unreason, and in its extravagant pages we are confronted with such a maze of marvel that to provide an intelligent account of it is a task of no little difficulty.
Following the wild career of the romancer with the halting step of modern incredulity, we learn that Amadis of Greece was, like his forbears, a child unwanted, the son of Lisuarte and Onoloria, Princess of Trebizond, born shortly after the period of their interrupted wedding. While the infant was being baptized at a fountain in a wild and deserted place, to which he had been conveyed for the purposes of secrecy, he was carried off by corsairs, who sold him to the Moorish King of Saba. Distinguished by the representation of a sword upon his breast he adopted the name, when knighted
by the pagan monarch, of The Knight of the Flaming Sword.' Soon after he had entered the ranks of chivalry he was falsely accused of cherishing a secret love for the Queen of Saba, and, dreading the wrath of his benefactor, he made his escape, and embarked upon a career of adventurewhich, indeed, it would have been difficult for anyone of his lineage to have avoided.
A pagan in religion and sentiment, he came to the vicinity of the Forbidden Mountain which his grandfather had been instrumental in liberating from the clutches of the infidel, and, reversing the pious work then accomplished, he defeated and expelled those who held it for the Emperor of Greece. Aroused by the menacing turn events had taken, the great Esplandian himself, now Emperor of Constantinople, hastened to the scene of hostilities and engaged in single combat with the doughty new-comer, only, however, to suffer defeat at his hands, an event which never could have entered into the calculation of the enthusiastic author who composed the romance of that hero, who would have been horrified at the mere thought of the eclipse of his invincible star.' Shortly after this Amadis encountered the King of Sicily. Their acquaintance commenced with a combat, as it was indeed essential that it should, as the only fitting means of introduction between gentlemen of errant tendencies, but when they came to know and esteem each other they patched up a comradeship which was the more powerfully cemented by the passion of Amadis for the martial monarch's lovely daughter.
In the course of his voyage to Sicily, Amadis chanced to visit an island, where he found the Emperor of Trebizond, Lisuarte, Perion, and Gradaffile in a state of enchanted
slumber. As we have seen, they had been spirited away by the emissaries of paganism. It chanced that at this time Amadis of Gaul, who was evidently not yet too old for adventurous pursuits, encountered the Queen of Saba, who was everywhere searching for a champion to defend her against her husband's false charges of conjugal infidelity. Amadis espoused her quarrel, and accompanied her to Saba, where he did battle with and overcame her accuser. He also succeeded in establishing her innocence, and that of his namesake, Amadis of Greece, to the satisfaction of the King her husband.
After he had freed his ancestors from their charmed sleep, Amadis of Greece betook himself to Sicily. He had not been long in the island when he heard a knight reciting amorous verses in the vicinity of the palace. At once his jealous heart leapt to the conclusion that the singer was chanting the praise of his princess. Almost crazed by his suspicions, he searched everywhere for his supposed rival, but without success, dogging his footsteps, but always failing to come up with him. During this chase he met with many adventures. But at last he seems to have convinced himself that his suspicions were groundless and that the singer he had heard had had no designs upon the heart of his inamorata.
Whilst these events were passing, Lisuarte, the father of our hero, had returned to Trebizond, and had formally requested the hand of Onoloria. But Zairo, Soldan of Babylon, had seen this princess in a dream, and, accompanied by his sister Abra, had arrived at Trebizond to demand her in marriage. The Emperor was quite prepared to grant his suit, but not so Lisuarte, who had prior claims to the lady, and his opposition so enraged the Soldan that he resorted to warlike measures and set
siege to "many-towered Trebizond." After the siege had progressed for some time champions were selected from either army to decide the pretensions of the rival parties. But the Soldan's paladins were defeated by Gradaffile, daughter of the King of the Giant's Isle, who disguised herself as a knight, and whose Amazonian fury the unfortunate Babylonians could scarcely be expected to confront with any chance of success. The Soldan, however, after the manner of the baffled in romance, broke the rules of the tourney and carried off Onoloria by a stratagem.
As his fleet sailed with all speed from Trebizond, it encountered that of Amadis of Gaul, who was hastening to the relief of that city, and had evidently not been retarded in his passage of the Dardanelles by any considerations of international law. In the circumstances it is scarcely necessary to chronicle the Soldan's overthrow, or dwell upon his untimely fate.
But the will to evil of the race of Babylon was not extinguished by the decease of the short-lived if romantically named Zairo. By his death his sister Abra succeeded to the throne of Semiramis. While sojourning at Trebizond in the happy days before hostilities had broken out between her brother and Lisuarte, she had fallen under the spell of that champion's attractions, and after the manner of Eastern womanhood as depicted by the writers of romance, made the first advances to the object of her affections. Let us hope that he did not repulse her as rudely as did blunt Sir Bevis of Hamton, when the fair Saracen Josiana sent her envoys to him to acquaint him with her passion
He said, if ye ne were messengers,
I ne will rise one foot fro' grounde
But repulse her Lisuarte did, and all the fury of a woman scorned burned in the breast of the fair Babylonian. Out of the depths of her vengeance she sent emissaries to all the kingdoms of the earth, asking that the knighthood of every realm should assist her to destroy Lisuarte. One of her damsels while on this quest met with Amadis of Greece, who, still a pagan, was easily inveigled into promising that he would never rest until he had presented the lady Abra with the head of Lisuarte. On the arrival of Amadis at Trebizond a dreadful combat between father and son ensued, which was mercifully broken off by the timely appearance of Urganda, who, following her usual custom, made parent and child known to one another.
But the young Amadis was not to be exempt from the amorous advances of pagan princesses any more than his father had been. Niquea, the daughter of an Eastern soldan, had fallen in love with him by report, and had sent him her picture by the hands of a favourite dwarf. The lady's undoubted attractions were, however, seriously counterbalanced by the circumstance that all who beheld her resplendent beauty either died on the spot or were deprived of reason. Her father, in the exercise of ordinary wisdom, shut her up in an almost inaccessible tower, to which her relatives (who, like most family friends, were rather apt to discount her charms) alone had the entrée.
Notwithstanding the former strong attachment of Amadis to the Princess of Sicily, he had no sooner set
eyes on the portrait of Niquea than he renounced his former allegiance and devoted his affections to the Oriental beauty. In order that he might delight his eyes with the original of the portrait which had so enchanted him, he disguised himself as a female slave, and gained access to the tower in which Niquea was interned. They plighted their troth to each other, and Amadis remained in the tower in his disguise. Needless to say, Niquea's good looks wrought him no bale.
We now return to the fair but vindictive Abra, who, having marshalled an immense army, marched against Trebizond. After a furious encounter, the forces of paynimne were duly routed. But as Onoloria had in the meantime been so obliging as to shake off the trammels of mortality, Lisuarte, at the persuasion of his platonic friend Gradaffile, agreed to cement a lastlug peace by espousing the Babylonian queen, who was thus lucky in love if unlucky in war.
Niquca, tiring of her virtual imprisonment, succeeded in eloping with Amadis, and soon afterward arrived with him at Trebizond, where their nuptials were celebrated. Later she gave birth to a son named Florisel de Niquea, the subject of a future tale.
This romance, like that of Esplandian, ends with the enchantment of the Greek heroes and princesses in the Tower of the Universe by the spells of the wise magician Zirfea, who warned them that by this means alone could they escape mortality. But, unlike the enchantment of the Firm Island, the spell which they must needs undergo in this tower of marvels was not of a somnolent character, so that the enchanted paladins and their lady-loves were enabled to cultivate each other's society for a century or so, an advantage at
which they had small occasion to grumble, when their long separation as relatives is taken into account. Even did they tire of one another's society, they were not likely to fall under the more dreadful spell of boredom, since the accommodating magician who undertook their enchantment had provided an apparatus by means of which they could behold every event which took
place in the world, a vehicle of solace and amusement which Madame d'Aulnoy introduced into one of her fairy fictions.
Cervantes barber and priest were especially caustic regarding Amadis of Greece and its immediate successors. " Into the yard with them all," quoth the priest, "for rather than not burn the queen Pintiquinestra and the shepherd Darinel with his eclogues and the devilish intricate discourses of its author, I would burn the father who begot me, did I meet him in the garb of a knight errant."
Florisel of Niquea
The composition which chiefly seems to have excited the wrath of Cervantes' unromantic churchman and even more unpoetic barber is the Tenth Book of Amadis, which is entitled as above, and is feigned to be written by no less a person than Cirfea, Queen of the Argives, who doubtless composed it in the intervals of repose stolen from the more important duties of royalty. Her Majesty does not degrade her exalted position by revealing to us the fee which she received from the Valladolid publishers who produced the work in 1532, but if one may place a value on her compositions without breaking the dread law of lèse-majesté, it might be suggested that a penny a line would amply remunerate
the literary output of this most imaginative sovereign. In a word, Cirfea, or the scribbler who sought to shelter himself behind her royal robes, is tiresome to a degree, and her pastoral absurdities can scarcely be described otherwise than in a vein of humorous tolerance. The one thing that renders her work of any importance is that she was probably the first to import the sylvan element into romance, and is thus the creator of that long line of artificial and over-amorous shepherds and shepherdesses whose tears and sighs fall upon or are wafted over the poetic pages of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the insistence of whose plaints makes one dread to open a volume which seems in any way reminiscent of 1'espril de bergères.
The romance introduces us to Sylvia, the daughter of Lisuarte and Onoloria, who was, in the course of nature, removed from her parents in infancy, and was brought up to a pastoral life in the neighbourhood of Alexandria, which, if it enjoyed a reputation in her day as a sheep-rearing district, must have owed it to the well-known properties of sand as a medium for the fattening of those animals for the market. As Sylvia grew up she became conscious of her beauty, and, relying upon her good looks, and no doubt also upon her pretty name, she enslaved to her will the handsome swain Darinel, whose appellation, like that of his lady-love, is racy of the land of the Pharaohs. Sylvia conceived it as being correct in a shepherdess to be 'cruel' to her lover, who, thus setting the fashion for many a future sonneteer, complained bitterly of her indifference, and signified his intention of ending his days by exposing himself to the fury of the elements on a mountain-top-rather a prolonged operation, one would think, in a region especially
suited to pulmonary patients. Probably finding that the climate of Egypt scarcely lent itself to the consummation of such a fate, he betook himself to the region of Babylonia, where, in the intervals of searching for mountains in a land where they are tantalizingly absent, he found time to make a friendship with Florisel, whose good nature must have been sorely tried by his plaintive apostrophes to his mistress's eyebrow. So glowing, indeed, were Darinel's descriptions of Sylvia's charms that Florisel became infected with his unhappy comrade's emotion, so that at last, unable to combat the passion which was consuming him, he disguised himself as a shepherd ~Lnd prevailed upon the luckless Darinel to conduct him to Sylvia's abode. But although Florisel had paid her the great compliment of walking all the way from Babylon for a glance from her bright eyes, she showed herself every whit as cold to him as she had been to Darinel.
One evening, when Florisel deigns to grant the reader a blessed intermission from his pleadings to the fair shepherdess, he described to her how the prince Anastarax, brother of Niquea, had been enclosed in a fiery palace by the enchantments of the potent magician Zirfea. On hearing the story, the petulant Sylvia fell headlong in love with Anastarax, and persuaded Florisel and Darinel, who no longer hankered after Alpine rigours, to attempt the deliverance of the fire-encircled prince. But when they arrived in the vicinity of the tower in which he was detained they learned that the adventure was reserved for Alastraxare, a fair Amazon, daughter of Amadis of Greece and the Queen of Caucasus. The reader is now compelled to follow the fortunes of this female Hercules, whose tongue-encircling name has
proved a stumbling-block to generations of printers. These are spread over many pages. The little party from Alexandria went in search of this heroine, and encountered many adventures, as per arrangement with the booksellers. Chief among these was the amorous dalliance with Arlanda, princess of Thrace, who had fallen in love with Florisel by report, as ladies had a disconcerting habit of doing in the days of high romance. She donned the clothes of the immaculate Sylvia, and thus beguiled him to a moonlight rendezvous, where she succeeded in gaining his favour while he was under the impression that she was the shepherdess whom he had vainly pursued so long.
In the course of their wanderings Sylvia became separated from the rest of the party during a great storm, and, retracing her steps, made her way back to the flaming prison of Anastarax. Meanwhile Florisel and Darinel arrived on the coast of Apollonia, where the former happily forgot the charms of the capricious little shepherdess, who by this time had been duly discovered as the daughter of Lisuarte, and had been united to her beloved Anastarax. But it was not because he suffered from a failing memory that Florisel became oblivious of Sylvia, but rather on account of the bright eyes of the Princess Helena of Apollonia.
The sequence of the tale is now broken up in a manner calculated to aggravate the most hardened of readers. Florisel was not left much leisure to enjoy the society of the fascinating Apollonian princess, as the deliverance of his kindred from the enchanted tower had all along been reserved for him. When at last he had satisfied the promptings of duty, he set his face once more toward Apollonia, but was not, of course, destined to
arrive on the shores of that delectable kingdom without undergoing still further adventures. Landing at Colchos, he met with Alastraxare, who had found happiness with Falanges, a brilliant warrior of Florisel's train. Arriving at last in Apollonia, he found the Princess Helena on the eve of a marriage with the Prince of Gaul, a match ordained by the lady's politic father. But Florisel would have belied the adventurous blood which he drew from a long line of heroes who had never yet remained inactive in such a contingency if he had failed to defeat the tyrannical father's intentions, so, as our royal authoress remarks, he repeated the exploit of Paris in the tale of Troy by carrying off this second Helen.
Like its prototype of Homeric story, this action very naturally precipitated the kingdoms of the Fast and West, real and apocryphal, into a condition of chaotic warfare. Assisted by the Russians, who even at that distant epoch appear to have had a predilection for the task of social demolition, the countries of the West poured their myriads upon the plains of Constantinople, and inflicted a serious reverse upon the Hellenic arms. But the erratic Slavs, true to type, turned later upon their allies of the Occident, drove them from the shores of the Golden Horn, and finally secured Florisel in the possession of the capital of the East and the Princess Helena.
Here the august Cirfea might with all judiciousness have written "Finis" with her golden pen to this amazing history. But at this stage of events, if a phrase so familiarly colloquial may be employed regarding one so exalted, she 'gets her second wind,' probably in view of the circumstance that her bargain with the
booksellers of Valladolid stipulated that their patrons were to be regaled with so many thousand lines of her glowing periods, an arrangement in which she was probably loath to disappoint them, for reasons to which, as a crowned head, she should have been superior. But her domain of Argolis is proverbially a poor country, whose populace possesses a rooted and hereditary bias against taxation. Be that as it may, she was not the last Balkan sovereign to supply herself with pin-money by literary labours. Equipping herself, therefore, with a fresh ream of parchment from the Department of Archives (for Government paper has proverbially been everybody's property, even from the times of Khammurabi), she cast about for fresh situations and addressed herself to the task of 'spinning out.
When the treacherous Russians had accounted for the armies of the West, they embarked for their own country, there to hatch fresh schemes for the further disturbance of a harassed Europe. But Amadis of Greece was in no mind that a people who owed so many debts to civilization (to say nothing of vast pecuniary obligations) should escape unpunished for their original adherence to the enemy. Pursuing them, but losing track of their vessels, he came to the inevitable desert island, where he resolved to stay and do penance for his infidelity to the Princess of Sicily. Quite naturally, that lady herself landed on its shores, and, after up-braiding her unfaithful lover, very sensibly advised him to return to his sorrowing wife Niquea, which he at last consented to do.
When, after a reasonable interval, Amadis did not return to Constantinople, the imperial city was in an uproar, and Florisel and Falanges elected to go in quest
of him. They arrived in time at the island, where, under the assumed name of Moraizel, the former fell in love with and espoused its queen, Sidonia, who, however, did not scruple to show her preference for his companion. But Florisel soon tired of his island bride, who bore him a beautiful little daughter, Diana, destined to prove the heroine of the eleventh and twelfth books of this interminable history.
Agesilan of Colchos
The young Agesilan of Colchos was prosecuting his studies at Athens when he chanced to see a statue of the beauteous Diana. Irresistibly attracted by it, he resolved to search for and behold the original, so, donning the garb of a female minstrel, he fared to the Court of Queen Sidonia, the royal maiden's mother. Here he was employed as a companion to the princess. But when a succession of adventurous knights arrived in the island he could not refrain from giving them battle in the guise of an Amazon, with results invariably in his favour.
Learning from the Queen how she had been neglected by Florisel, Agesilan obligingly offered to bring her the bead of the erring warrior, revealing, at the same time, his own personality. Sidonia, who bore her husband a deep grudge for his desertion of her, readily accepted his championship. So Agesilan repaired to Constantinople and defied the recreant to mortal combat. It was arranged that the encounter should take place in the dominions of Sidonia, but on the would-be combatants arriving in these regions they found them beleaguered by the ubiquitous Russians, who, not content with the freedom of their own vast steppes, seem to
have hankered after a place in the sun in a more genial clime. It was scarcely fair to the ebullient Slavs to launch two such renowned paladins upon them at one and the same time, but, the brief battle over, victory seems to have made Florisel and Sidonia forget their estrangement, and all went merry as a marriage bell, Agesilan being duly affianced to Diana.
It was agreed, however, that the splendours of Constantinople would provide a more fitting background to their nuptials, and accordingly all set sail for the Golden Horn, having first been honoured by a visit from Amadis of Gaul in person, who, notwithstanding his patriarchal years, still continued to prove the delights of errantry. He was accompanied by Amadis of Greece, who, though almost as venerable as his great-grandfather, could yet break a lance with any like-minded champion.
They had not proceeded far from the shores of the island when they were beset by a furious tempest, in which Agesilan and Diana were separated from the rest of their kindred and cast upon a desert rock, where they would have perished had not an accommodating knight, mounted upon a hippogriff who chanced to be flying overhead, picked them up and carried them to his home in the Canary Islands. But their preserver's disinterestedness vanished on beholding the beauty of Diana, so, when Agesilan was off his guard, he bore her to a distant part of the Green Island, as his demesne was called. His amorous dream was, however, destined to be rudely broken in upon, for at that moment a party of corsairs landed, and seeing in Diana a prize who would bring them a large sum in the nearest slavemarket, promptly bore her off.
Agesilan, on being unable to find Diana, suspected
treachery, so mounted the hippogriff and set out in search of her. Having in vain surveyed the island from the back of the winged monster, in his despair he took to flying at large. Whether from 'engine trouble' or causes even more obscure, he was forced to alight in the country of the Garamantes, the king of which had been struck blind as a punishment for his overweening pride. Moreover, the unfortunate monarch was doomed to have the food prepared for him devoured daily by a hideous dragon. From this monster Agesilan delivered him. The whole incident is an unblushing imitation of a passage in Orlando Furioso (can. xxxiii, st. 102 ff), in which Senapus, King of Ethiopia, is visited by a like misfortune, and has his food daily destroyed by harpies until relieved by Astolpho, who descends in his dominions on a winged steed. But the author of Agesilan is no whit more guilty than Ariosto himself, for both incidents are derived origin-ally from the story of Phineus and the harpies in the Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius.
Agesilan, pursuing the quest of Diana, arrived at the Desolate Isle. The god Tervagant (Termagaunt, Tyr Magus = 'Tyr the Mighty') had fallen in love with the queen of this country, and on being repulsed by her let loose a band of demons upon her possessions, who ravaged them far and wide. The god's oracle had announced that he would not be appeased unless the inhabitants daily exposed a maiden on the sea-shore until such time as he found one as much to his taste as the Queen. Each day a hapless damsel was chained to a rock on the desolate shores of the island, and was promptly devoured by a monster which rose out of the sea. This naturally rendered the supply of maidens
in the vicinity rather scarce, so in order to save one of the local ladies for another occasion, Diana, who had been brought to the island, was tied to the rock one morning and, like another Andromeda, of whose myth the incident is a paraphrase, was left to the mercy of the monster. AgesiIan, soaring through the air on his hippogriff, witnessed her plight, descended to her aid, and, after a terrific combat, slew the monster which had been about to devour her.
Having accounted for the grisly satellite of Tervagant, he placed the almost unconscious Diana upon his aery steed, whose head he turned in the direction of Constantinople but on the way thither this now practised airman caught sight of the ship of Amadis from which he and his mistress had been separated in the tempest. Alighting on the vessel with all the skill of a seaplane pilot on the deck of a 'mother-ship,' he greeted his astonished kindred, and the party eventually reached Constantinople, where the wedding of the principal characters was solemnized.
Silvio de la Selva
Silvio de la Selva, son of Amadis of Greece and a certain Finistea, is the hero of the twelfth and last book of the Amadis series. He first came into prominence by the gallant display he made against the Russians at the siege of Constantinople, and when the Tsar of that turbulent folk showed a desire to plunge Europe into the distractions of war once more he was not the last to unsheath his falchion and assure the twelve dwarfish ambassadors of the Muscovite that the confederacy of one hundred and sixty monarchs which he had brought together had a small chance of
returning to their respective dominions. The resultant siege, with its sallies and combats à outrance, we shall forbear to describe, only remarking en passant that, in the mercantile phrase, its details are 'up to sample.' But if the Greek princes bethought them to escape the consequences of having incurred the enmity of the turbulent Russ merely by defeating him in the field, they were destined to receive a rude awakening, for by one fell stroke of necromantic art the entire galaxy was spirited away. Once more the inhabitants of the romantic city on the Bosphorus were plunged into the deepest consternation but, nothing daunted at the task which now confronted them, the knights and paladins of the family in themselves an army of no mean dimensions set out in search of their honoured relatives. But we are not yet liberated from the tangle of plot and counterplot excogitated by the expiring hackery of Castile, and the dying candle of the great romance of Amadis does not flare up and flicker out with the rescue of the heroes and heroines who have swaggered through its pages in almost immortal sequel of intrigue and battle. For, the princesses having been brought safely back to Constantinople, it was discovered that during their absence some of them had been blessed with little olive branches, many of whose adventures are related, until the bewildered reader, lost in the maze of their story, like Milton's Satan, looks round in desperation for any outlet of escape, exclaiming with the fallen great one:
"Me miserable, which way shall I fly?"
But, like the doomed archangel, he must 'dree his weird,' and wade through the adventures of Spheramond, son of Rogel of Greece, and Amadis of Astre
son of Agesilanor, better still, he may do as we did, and, reverently closing the worm-eaten volume, restore it to the library, where its embossed back is, perhaps, rather more appreciated than its grotesque contents.
Instead of being hurled from the throne by an incensed and neglected populace, the line of Amadis continued to flourish exceedingly, and perhaps the secret of its success as a dynasty lies in the fact that it was more habitually resident in fire-ringed castles or enchanted islands than in its palace in the metropolis, which it seems to have chiefly employed as a convalescent establishment in which to recover from wounds delivered by magic swords and the poisonous bites of 'loathly' dragons, rather than as a seat of governmental activity and imperial direction.
We have seen how the great theme of Amadis of Gaul burst upon Spain in a blaze of glory, and how, mangled by the efforts of fluent hacks, it sank into insignificance amid the derision of the enlightened and the gibes of the vulgar. It is as if our own peerless British epos of Arthur, that thrice heroic treasury of the deeds of those who
Jousted in Aspremont or Montalban,
had been seized upon by Grub Street and prostituted to the necessities of scribblers. We cannot give thanks enough to the god of letters that it has escaped such a doom, though this has been more by virtue of good hap than through that of any protecting influence. The sequels of Amadis descend by stages of lessening excellence until at length they approach the limits of drivel. But does this sorrowful circumstance in any way dim the glory of the first fine rapture? Nay, no
more than darkness can cloud the memory of morning. The knightly eloquence of the original characters may degenerate in rodomontade; the lofty and delicate imagery of the primary books may merge into unspeakable vulgarities of invention the tender beauty which enchants the first love idyll may become coarse intrigue. But no work of art is to be judged by its imitations. With the exception of the Fifth Book, the remaining Amadis romances are as oleographs placed beside a noble painting. Unrestrained in execution, daubed in colours of the harshest crudity, uneven in outline and distressing in ensemble, they are more fitted for the scullions' hall than the picture-gallery. Vet they may not be passed over in a work dealing with Spanish romance, and they point a moral which in this twentieth century it is fitting that we should digestthat if a nation acquiesce in the debasement of its literary standards and revel in the worthless and the excitement of meretricious fiction, it will cease to excel among the comity of peoples. Literature is the expression of a nation's soul. And what species of soul is that which voices itself in crudely jacketed novelettes, redolent of a psychology at once ridiculous and unhealthy? Have we no Cervantes to shatter this ignoble thing to the sound of inextinguishable laughter? Is not the sad lesson of Amadis one for the consideration of our own people? Spain was I)ever so great as when its first books roused her chivalry to an ardour of knightly patriotism, and she was never so little as when the printing-presses of Burgos and Valladolid and Saragossa flooded her cities with a mercenary and undistinguished fiction, prompted by commercial greed, and joyfully received by a public avid for the drug of sensation.