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A History of English Prose Fiction by Tuckerman

In the loves of Amadis and Oriana


The

purely military character of feudalism impressed itself on the habits of the time, and moulded domestic life, amusements and education in strict accordance with it. The castles of the great lords and knights were "academies of honour" for the children of their dependents and less wealthy neighbors; the court yards became the scene of martial exercises, and the presence of noble women within the walls afforded an opportunity for the cultivation of gentle manners, and for the growth of that feeling of reverence for the fair sex which was to form so important an element in the boys' later life. The "gentle damoiseau," confided at the age of seven or eight to the care of a knight whose reputation for prowess and courtesy ensured a good example, learned modesty and obedience in the performance of menial services, then considered honorable; in the court-yard of the castle he was instructed in horsemanship, and in the use of the lance, the bow, and the sword. In the dangers and hardships of the chase the principal occupation in time of peace,--he was inured to fatigue, hunger, and pain; he learned to sound the horn at the different stages of the hunt, to dress the game when killed, and to carve it on the table.[9] He waited upon the ladies in their apartments as upon superior beings, whose service, even the most menial, was an honor. While yet a damoiseau, and before he had attained the rank of squire, the youth was expected to choose one girl who should receive his special admiration
and service, in whose name his future knightly deeds should be performed, who should be his inspiration in battle, the reward of his valor, and the object of his gallantry. In the loves of Amadis and Oriana, so famous in romance, we have a simple and charming description of the first budding of the chivalric sentiment. "Oriana was about ten years old, the fairest creature that ever was seen; wherefore she was called the one 'without a peer.' * * * The Child of the Sea (Amadis) was now twelve years old, but in stature and size he seemed fifteen, and he served the queen; but now that Oriana was there, the queen gave her the Child of the Sea, that he should serve her, and Oriana said that 'it pleased her'; and that word which she said the child kept in his heart, so that he never lost it from his memory, and in all his life he was never weary of serving her, and his heart was surrendered to her; and this love lasted as long as they lasted, for as well as he loved her did she also love him. But the Child of the Sea, who knew nothing of her love, thought himself presumptuous to have placed his thoughts on her, and dared not speak to her; and she, who loved him in her heart, was careful not to speak more with him than with another; but their eyes delighted to reveal to the heart what was the thing on earth that they loved best. And now the time came that he thought he could take arms if he were knighted; and this he greatly desired, thinking that he would do such things that, if he lived, his mistress should esteem him."[10]

Life in a Norman castle was at best hard and comfortless. In summer it was enlivened by hunting and hawking, by tournaments and pageantry. The gardens which usually surrounded a castle formed a resource for the female portion of the inhabitants, who are often represented in the illuminations of the time as occupied in tending the flowers or in making garlands. But in winter there were few comforts to lessen the suffering, and few resources to vary the monotony of life. The passages in the romances which hail the return of spring, are full of thankfulness and delight. Chess, dice, and cards, as well as many frolicsome games, served, with the aid of the minstrels, to afford amusement. The women had their occupations of spinning, sewing, and


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