THE PALMERIN ROMANCES
Let Palmerin of England be preserved as a singular relic of antiquity.
IT would seem to have been a foible with the early critics of Spanish romance to seek to discover a Portuguese origin for practically all of its manifestations. They appear to have argued from the analogy of Amadis that all romantic effort hailed from the Lusitanian kingdom, yet they are never weary of descanting upon the Provençal and Moorish influences which moulded Spanish romance! It is precisely as if one said : "Yes, the Arthurian story displays every sign of Norman French influence, but all the same, it was first cast into literary form in Wales. England? Oh, England merely accepted it, that's all."
The Palmerin series ran almost side by side with Amadis in a chronological sense, and tradition ascribed its first book to an anonymous lady of Augustobriga. But there is reason to believe, from a passage in Primaleón, one of its sections, that it was the work of Francisco Vasquez de Ciudad Rodrigo. No early Portuguese version is known, and the Spanish edition of the first romance of the series, Palmerin de Oliva, printed at Seville in 1525, was certainly not the earliest impression of that work. The English translation, by Anthony Munday, was published in black letter in 1588.
Palmerin de Oliva
No sooner did Palmerin de Oliva appear than it scored a success only second to that of Amadis, its resemblance to which can scarcely be called fortuitous, and, as in the
case of that romance, translations and continuations were multiplied with surprising rapidity.
The commencement of Palmerin de Oliva carries us once more to the enchanted shores of the Golden Horn. Reymicio, the Emperor of Constantinople, had a daughter named Griana, whom he had resolved to give in marriage to Tarisius, son of the King of Hungary, and nephew to the Empress. But Griana had given her heart to Florendos of Macedon, to whom she had a son. Dreading the wrath of her father, she permitted an attendant to carry the infant to a deserted spot, where it was found by a peasant, who took it to his cottage, and brought it up as his own son, calling the child Palmerin de Oliva because he had been found on a hill which was covered with a luxuriant growth of palm and olive trees.
When the boy grew up he accepted his humble lot with equanimity. But on learning that he was not the son of a peasant he longed for a life of martial excitement. Adventure soon afforded him a taste of its dazzling possibilities. While traversing a gloomy forest in search of game he encountered a merchant beset by a ferocious lion. He slew the beast, and learned that the traveller was returning to his own country from Constantinople. Attaching himself to the man of commerce, Palmerin accompanied him to the city of Hermide, where his grateful companion furnished him with arms and a horse. Thus accoutred for the life chivalric, he betook himself to the Court of Macedon, where he received the honour of knighthood from Florendes, the son of the king of that country, and his own father.
A quest soon presented itself to him. Primaleón, King of Macedon, had long been a sufferer from a grievous sickness. His physicians assured him that could he
obtain water from a certain fountain his malady would disappear. But the spring in question was guarded by an immense serpent of such ferocity that to approach its lair meant certain death. Knight after knight had essayed the adventure, only to be crushed in the monster's venomous folds, so that the life-giving waters the ailing King so sorely required continued to be withheld from him. This condition of affairs seemed to Palmerin to present him with an opportunity for distinguishing himself, and without realizing the strenuous nature of the task before him he leapt into the saddle and cantered off in the direction of the serpent-guarded fountain.
The Faery Damsels
Very conscious of the honour of knighthood which but so lately had been conferred upon him, and inordinately proud of the gilded spurs which glittered on his mailed heels, Palmerin was not a little pleased that he had succeeded in attracting the attention of a bevy of young and beautiful ladies, who stood where field and forest met, watching his rather haughty progress with laughing eyes. Had he been less occupied with himself and his horse, which he forced to curvet and caracole in the most outrageous fashion, he would have seen that the damsels before whom he wished to cut such a fine figure were of a beauty far too ethereal to be human, for the ladies who watched him with such amusement were princesses of the race of Faery, and had waylaid the young knight with the intention of giving him such aid as fairies have in their power.
Palmerin greeted them with all the distinction of which he was capable.
"God save you, fair damsels," he said, bowing almost to his horse's mane. "Can you tell me if I am near the serpent-guarded fountain?"
"Fair sir," replied one of the sylphs, "you are within a league of it. But let us entreat you to turn back from such a neighbourhood as this. Many famous knights have we seen pass this way to do battle with the monster who guards its waters, but none have we seen return."
"It is not my custom to turn my back upon an enterprise," said Palmerin loftily. " Did I understand you to say the fountain lies within a league of this place?"
"Within a short league, Sir Knight," replied the fairy. Then, turning to her companions, she said "Sisters, this would seem to be the youth we have awaited so long. He appears bold and resolute. Shall we confer upon him the gift?"
Her companions having given their assent to this proposal, the fairy then enlightened Palmerin regarding the true character of herself and her attendant maidens, and assured him that wherever he went, or whatever adventure he undertook, neither monster nor magician would have the power to cast enchantment upon him. Then, directing him more particularly to the lair of the serpent, they disappeared in the recesses of the forest.
Riding on, he speedily came within view of the fountain but had scarcely beheld its silver waters bubbling from a green hill-side when a horrible hissing warned him of the proximity of its loathly guardian. All unafraid, however, he spurred his terrified horse forward, A blast of fire, belched from the monster's mouth, surged over him, but he bent low in the saddle and avoided it. Then, dashing at the bristling head, poised on a neck thick as a pillar, and armoured with dazzling scales, he
struck fiercely at it with his falchion. The serpent tried to envelop horse and man in its folds, but ere it could bring its grisly coils to bear upon them Palmerin had smitten off its head.
Returning to Macedon, the young hero was at once overwhelmed by the applications of importunate monarchs that he should assist them in one enterprise or another. All of these Palmerin achieved with such consummate address that his fame spread into all parts of Europe, and we find him as far afield as Belgium, where he delivered the Emperor of Germany from certain traitor knights who besieged him in the town of Ghent. It was during this adventure that he met and became enamoured of the Emperor's daughter, the beauteous Polinarda, who had on one occasion appeared to him in a dream. But the young paladin felt that if he were to render himself worthy of such a peerless lady he must subdue many knights in her name, and undertake adventures even more onerous than those through which he had already come scathless. Learning, therefore, of a great tournament in the land of France, he journeyed thither, and bore off the prize.
Returning to Germany, Palmerin found the Emperor engaged in a war with the King of England, at the instance of the King of Norway, who had requested his assistance against the British monarch. This partisanship did not, however, appeal to Trineus, the Emperor's son, who, enamoured of the princess Agriola, daughter of the English king, privately departed with Palmerin, his object being to aid the father of his lady-love. After undergoing many adventures, the companions succeeded in carrying off the English princess, but while voyaging homeward were attacked by a furious
tempest and were driven on the shores of the Morea. When the elements subsided Palmerin landed on neighbouring island of Calpa, to engage in the sport of hawking, and during his absence the vessel in which he had left his friends was seized by Turkish pirates who carried Agriola as a present to the Grand Turk. Trineus was even less happily situated, for being marooned upon an island, which we must surely regard as that of Circe, he was immediately transformed into a dog. To add to this indignity, his transformation did not take the shape of any of the more noble varieties the canine race, but that of a tiny lap-dog, such as are found in ladies' boudoirs.
In the meantime Palmerin, all unconscious of the fate of his friends, was discovered in the island of Calpa by Archidiana, daughter of the Soldan of Babylon, who at once pressed him into her service, refusing to allow him to depart. Archidiana had from the first conceived violent passion for the handsome young adventurer whose embarrassment was heightened by the knowledge that her cousin, Ardemira, had likewise fallen in love with him. The knight, however, stoutly repelled the fair advances, and Ardemira took her repulse so much to heart that she burst a blood-vessel and expired, shortly after the party had arrived at the Babylonian Court. Hearing of her demise, Amaran, son of the King of Phrygia, to whom she had been affianced, hastened to Babylon, and precipitately accused Archidiana of he death, offering to make good his assertion by an appeal to arms. Palmerin, as in duty bound, espoused the princess's quarrel, slew Amaran in single combat, and by doing so won the good graces of the Soldan, whom he assisted in the war with Phrygia which followed.
The Soldan, elated by his military successes, resolved to extend his empire, and with this object in view fitted out a great expedition against Constantinople, which Palmerin was forced to accompany. But during a tempest which the Babylonian fleet encountered he commanded the seamen of his own vessel to steer for the German coast. On reaching it he made his way to the capital, and made himself known in secret to Polinarda, with whom he spent some time.
But his heart misgave him regarding the fate of his friend Trineus, and he resolved to set out in quest of that unhappy prince. Journeying across Europe, he arrived at the city of Buda, where he learned that Florendos, Prince of Macedon, had recently slain Tarisius, who, it will be remembered, was his rival for the hand of the Princess Griana, and whom she had been forced to marry by her tyrannous father, the Emperor of Constantinople. Florendos had, however, been taken captive by the kinsmen of Tarisius, and had been sent to Constantinople, where he was condemned to be burnt at the stake, along with Griana, who was believed to be his accomplice. On hearing of the impending fate of those who, unknown to him, were his parents, Palmerin at once repaired to Constantinople, where he maintained their innocence, defeated their accusers, the nephews of Tarisius, in a combat à outrance, and succeeded in saving them from the terrible fate which had awaited them. While he lay in bed recovering from his wounds he was visited by the grateful Griana, who, from a mark upon his face and the account of his exposure as an infant, knew that he must be her son. On hearing her story the Emperor joyfully received Palmerin and acknowledged him as his successor.
The Quest for Trineus
But his new accession to power did not render Palmerin unmindful of his vow to search for his lost friend Trineus. Sailing over the Mediterranean in quest him, he fell in with an overwhelming force of Turks and was taken prisoner. Brought to the palace of the Grand Turk, he succeeded in liberating the princess Agriola from the power of that tyrant. Effecting his own escape, he came to the palace of a princess to whom Trineus in his shape of a lap-dog had bee presented by those who had found him. This lady had contracted a severe inflammation in the nose (an romantic detail!), and requested Palmerin to accompany her to Mussabelin, a Persian magician, whom she believed to be able to remove the distressing complaint. But the sage informed her that only by means of the flowers of a tree which grew near the Castle of the Ten Steps could she be cured.
Now the castle of which the magician spoke was guarded by enchantment. But that dread power was harmless to Palmerin, ever since the fairy sisters had provided him with an antidote against it. Making his way to the magic castle, he secured the flowers of the healing tree, and also took captive an enchanted bird, which was destined to announce the hour of his death by an unearthly shriek. He further ended the enchantments of the castle, and when they finally dissolved, Trineus, who had accompanied him in canine shape, was restored to his original form.
The subsequent adventures of Palmerin bear such a strong likeness to those already related of him as to render their recital a work of supererogation. From
the Court of one soldan he proceeds to that of another, enchantment follows enchantment, as combat treads upon the heels of combat. Finally Palmerin and Trineus return to Europe, and wed their respective ladies.
Cervantes' curate is perhaps too hard upon Palmerin de Oliva. "Then, opening another volume, he found it to be Palmerin de Oliva. Ha ! have I found you?' cried the curate; here, take this Oliva; let it be hewn in pieces and burnt, and the ashes scattered in the air. "
This notwithstanding, there are some brilliant passages in the romance we have just outlinedgrains of gold-dust in a desert of unrestrained and undisciplined narrativesuch flashes of genius as we find here and there in Shelley's Zastrozze , St . Irvyne , and the other hysterical outpourings of his Oxford days.
There is no doubt regarding the thoroughly Spanish character and origin of Primaleón, son and successor to Palmerin de Oliva, although, owing to the prejudice of the time for mystery and Orientalism, its author, Francisco Delicado, saw fit to announce it as a translation from the Greek. The first edition was printed in 1516, and several translations shortly followed, that in English, by Anthony Munday, being dedicated to Sir Francis Drake, and published in 1589. This translation, however, dealt only with that portion of the romance which related to the exploits of Polendos, but Munday completed the whole in editions published in 1595 and 1619. The adventures of Polendos constitute, however, by far the best part of the work.
Polendos was the son of the Queen of Tharsus.
Returning one day from the chase, he beheld a little woman sitting on the steps of the palace, from which he removed her by a most ungallant but forceful kick. "It was not in this manner that your father Palmerin succoured the unfortunate," cried the crone, on picking herself up. Polendos thus learned the secret of his birth for he was indeed the son of Palmerin and the Queen of Tharsus, and, exalted by the intelligence, he burned to distinguish himself by feats of arms worthy of his sire. Departing for Constantinople to make himself known to his father, he encountered many adventures on the way. Arrived at the imperial city, he did long remain there, but set out to rescue the Princess Francelina from the power of a giant and a dwarf, who held her in bondage in an enchanted castle. Returning to Constantinople, he greatly distinguished himself at a tournament held on the occasion of the marriage of one of the Emperor's daughters, and Primaleón, the real hero of the story, son of Palmerin and Polinarda, desirous of emulating the exploits of his half-brother was duly knighted, and took part in the mêlée. The rest of the romance is occupied with the adventures of this young hero and those of Duardos (Edward) of England. In the course of his adventures Palmerin had slain the son of the Duchess of Armedos, who vowed that she would only give her daughter in marriage to the man who could bring her the head of Primaleón. One by one Primaleón slew the lovers of Gridoina, the Duchess's daughter, so that in time she came to detest the mere mention of his name. But one evening Primaleón arrived at her castle, and, not knowing who he was, she fell deeply in love with him. The child of their affections was Platir, whose exploits were
recounted by the same author, and published at Valladolid in 1533. We may well pass over this very indifferent romance, and bestow our attention and interest upon its more entertaining successor.
Palmerin of England
This is perhaps the best of the series. The first Spanish edition was believed to be lost; but a French translation from it was published at Lyons in 1553, and an Italian one at Venice in 1555. Southey maintained that there never was a Spanish original of this story, and that it was first written in Portuguese. But this hypothesis was upset by Salva's discovery of a copy of the lost Spanish original, written by Luis Kuxtado 1 and published at Toledo in two parts, in 1547 and 1548. Southey attempted to show in his English translation of Palmerin of England that a consideration of its mise en scène would afford irrefragable proof of its Lusitanian originsurely a good illustration of the dangers and fallacies connected with this species of reasoning. An argument of equal cogency could be advanced for its original English authorship, as most of its action takes place within the borders of the 'perilous isle' of Britain, in which respect it follows Amadis, its model.
In Palmerin of England we are provided with a biographical sketch of the hero's parents. Don Duardos, or Edward, son of the King of England, was wedded to Flerida, daughter of Palmerin de Oliva. While engaged in the chase, he lost his way in the depths of an English forest, and sought shelter in a mysterious
castle, where he was detained by a giantess, Eutropa, whose brother he had slain. But Dramuziando, her nephew, son of the giant whom Duardos had sent his death, was of milder mood than his terrible aunt and conceived a strange friendship for the captive Duardos.
In the meantime Flerida, alarmed at Duardos' absence, set out to search for him, accompanied by a train of attendants, and while traversing the forest in the hope of tracing him gave birth to twin sons, who were baptized in the greenwood by her chaplain. The ceremony had scarcely come to an end when a wild man, an inhabitant of the forest recesses, burst from the undergrowth, and, seizing upon the infant princes, carried them off. None might stay him, for he was accompanied by two lions of such size and ferocity that their appearance struck terror into the hearts of the stoutest of Flerida's retainers. The savage conveyed the infants, who had been named Palmerin and Florian, to his den, where he resolved to give them to the lions. Flerida returned disconsolately to the palace, and dispatched a messenger to Constantinople with news of her losses. On receiving this intelligence, Primaleón and a number of the Grecian knights took ship for England, and, learning of the imprisonment of Duardos in the castle of the giantess, they essayed his deliverance. But they made the mistake, common to errantry, of attempting to do so singly and not in a body, and so, one by one, fell a rather easy prey to the giant Dramuziando, who forced them to combat each new enemy who approached.
The sylvan savage who had destined the royal twins as food for his lions had reckoned without his wife,
whose motherly instincts prompted her to save the children from a fate so dire. Having prevailed upon her uncouth mate to spare them, she brought them up along with her own son Selvian. In course of time they became expert in the chase and woodcraft, and on one of his excursions in the forest while following the slot of a red deer Florian encountered Sir Pridos, son of the Duke of Wales, who took him to the English Court, where he was brought before his mother, Flerida. Attracted to the savage youth, she adopted him, and trained him in the usages of civilization, calling him 'the Child of the Desert.'
Florian had not long been lost to the sylvan family when Palmerin and Selvian, wandering one day by the sea-coast, observed a galley cast upon the shore by the violence of a tempest. From this vessel Polendos (whose prior adventures were recited in the romance of Primaleón) disembarked, having come to England with other Greek knights in search of Duardos. Palmerin and Selvian requested him to take them on board his vessel, which put to sea once more, and shortly afterward arrived at Constantinople, where they were brought before the Emperor, who, of course, was in ignorance of the extraction of Palmerin, but knew of his high rank from letters he had received from a certain Lady of the Bath, who seems to have acted as the hero's good genius. The Emperor, impressed by such an introduction, knighted Palmerin, whose sword was girded to his side by Polinarda, the daughter of Primaleón. During Palmerin's residence at Constantinople a tournament was held, in which he and a stranger knight, who bore for his device a savage leading two lions, greatly distinguished themselves. The stranger
departed still incognito, but was afterward discovered to be Florian, who was thenceforth known as 'the Knight of the Savage.'
Palmerin fell an easy victim to the charms princess Polinarda, but the precipitate nature wooing, prompted, probably, by his sylvan upbringing offended the courtly damsel, and she forbade him her presence. In despair at her coldness, he quitted the Grecian capital, and journeyed toward England, under the name of 'the Knight of Fortune,' taking Selvian as his squire. On the way he encountered a wealth of adventure, in which he was uniformly successful, and at last arrived in the dominions of his grandfather. But while passing through the forest inhabited by his savage foster-father he came face to face with him, and recounted is adventures. Pressing on, he came to a castle in the neighbourhood of London, the castellan of which begged of him to do battle with the Knight of the Savage, who had slain his son. Arriving in London, he defied Florian, but the Princess Flerida intervened and forbade the combat, which was not resumed, for Palmerin having at last overcome Dramuziando and set Duardos at liberty, the birth of the twin brothers was revealed by Doliarte, a magician, and confirmed by their savage foster-father.
The Castle of Almaurol
Spurred on by the love of adventure, Florian and Palmerin disdained to lead a life of ease at Court, and set out on their travels. We cannot follow them here through the maze of exploit into which they are plunged, but many of their trials, especially those undergone by Palmerin in the Perilous Isle, are among the most
interesting and attractive in the series which bears his name. In several of the passages the amiable giant Dramuziando figures to advantage, but his aunt, the vindictive Eutropa, still retains her ill-will to the family of the Palmerins, and is constant in the exercise of her machinations against them. These are, however, challenged and countered by the skill of the magician Doliarte. The chief scene of adventure is the castle of Almaurol, where, under the care of a giant, dwelt the beautiful but haughty Miraguarda, whose lineaments were pictured on a shield which was suspended over the gate of the castle. It was guarded by a body of knights, who had become enamoured of the original, and when other paladins arrived vaunting the charms of their ladies these gave them battle. Among these victims of the fair Miraguarda was the giant Dramuziando, but during his custody of the picture it was purloined by Alhayzar, the Soldan of Babylon, whose lady, Targiana, daughter of the Grand Turk, had commanded him to bring it to her as a trophy of his prowess.
The writer of the romance appeared to think it necessary at this point to recall his heroes to Constantinople in order to espouse them to their respective ladies. Palmerin was united to Polinarda, and his brother Florian to Leonarda, Queen of Thrace, so that the lovers were made happy. These espousals, however, by no means bring the romance to a conclusion, for we learn that matters had become complicated by the passion of the daughter of the Grand Turk for the newly wedded Florian. That gay young prince, while residing at the Court of the lady's father, had taken the liberty of eloping with her, and although she was now safely married to Alhayzar, Soldan of Babylon and picture-thief, she
still retained a strong affection for her former lover, which was mingled with resentment that he should have deserted her charms for those of the Queen of Thrace. To ease the clamours of her jealous heart, she employed a magician to work woe upon the Thracian queen, who, while she took the air in the gardens of her palace, was pounced upon by two enormous griffins, and conveyed to a magic castle, where she was transformed into huge serpent. Her disconsolate husband found in her deliverance an adventure quite to his taste, and, having consulted the wise Doliarte, succeeded in discovering the place where his wife was imprisoned and in freeing her from the enchantment which had been laid upon her.
In accomplishing this, however, he seriously offended the proud Alhayzar, who determined to avenge the affront placed upon his queen, and demanded the person of Florian from the Emperor of Constantinople. On receiving the imperial refusal which naturally followed his request, he invaded the Greek territories, with an army of two hundred thousand men, recruited from al the kingdoms and satrapies of the Orient, real and imaginary. Three sanguinary battles occurred, in one of which Alhayzar was slain and the pagan army totally annihilated.
Cervantes launches into an extravagant eulogy of this romance. "This Palmerin of England," he says, "let it be kept and preserved as a thing unique, and let another casket be made for it such as Alexander found among the spoils of Darius . his book, Sir Comrade, is of authority, for two reasons: the one because it is
right good one in itself, and the other because the report is that a wise king of Portugal composed it. All the adventures at the Castle of Miraguarda are excellent, and managed with great skill; the discourses are courtly and clear, observing with much propriety and judgment the decorum of the speaker. I say then, saving your good pleasure, Master Nicholas, this and Amadis de Gaul should be saved from the fire, and all the rest be, without further search, destroyed."
Saving your good pleasure, Master Cervantes, I would come to an issue with you regarding this. For though Palmerin of England is the best romance of those which recount the adventures of that line, still it does not bear away the bell quite so easily as you say. Indeed, its merits are not transcendently above those of its kind, and its faults are of the same character. Again, true Spaniard as you are, do you not praise it so greatly because you believe it to be the work of a king? And do you not demean yourself to the level of a newspaper critic when you doom to extinction those romances which you have not read? Further, as a Castilian gentleman, do you agree with the author's most despiteful entreatment of that sweet sex for whose sake all romances were written? No good knight, no good man, could have penned so many stupidities concerning their envy, their fickleness, their lack of reason, as he has done; and still worse, he has made them mere puppets, moving as the strings are pulled. For one thing I thank him, howeverhis character of the magician Doliarte, a wise sage dwelling in the Valley of Perdition, lost in contemplation of mysterious things. Nay, for a greater thing I have to thank him also, the colours of the marvellous, the intoxicating magic with
which he has suffused his story; and if the rush of it, the spell of it, transported you to the forests of Faery and blinded you to the book's demerits, you are perhaps to be excused if your enchanted eyes refused to behold them and saw only the outward glamours of that rainbow world.
179:1 For a brief account of this Toledan poet, who translated Ovid's Metamorphoses, see Antonio, Bib. Nov., t. ii, p. 44.