lariosto text integral passage complete quotation of the sources works historical literary works in prose
and in verses prologue orlando enraged
Translated by William Stewart Rose
[ Argument ]
The traveller, he, whom sea or mountain sunder
From his own country, sees things strange and new;
That the misjudging vulgar, which lies under
The mist of ignorance, esteems untrue:
Rejecting whatsoever is a wonder,
Unless 'tis palpable and plain to view:
Hence inexperience, as I know full well,
Will yield small credence to the tale I tell.
But this be great or small, I know not why
The rabble's silly judgement I should fear,
Convinced you will not think the tale a lie,
In whom the light of reason shines so clear.
And hence to you it is I only try
The fruit of my fatigues to render dear.
I ended where Eriphila in guard
Of bridge and stream was seen, the passage barred.
Of finest metal was her armour bright,
With gems of many colours overspread,
The tawny jacinth, yellow chyrsolite,
The emerald green of hue, and ruby red.
Mounted, but not on palfrey, for the fight:
In place of that, she on a wolf had sped,
Sped on a wolf towards the pass; and rode
On sell, that rich beyond all custom showed.
No larger wolf, I ween, Apulia roams;
More huge than bull, unguided by her hand;
Although upon no bit the monster foams,
Docile, I know not why, to her command.
The accursed Plague, arrayed in surcoat, comes
Above her arms, in colour like the sand;
That, saving in its dye, was of the sort
Which bishops and which prelates wear at court.
The giantess's crest and shield appear,
For ensign, decked with swoln and poisonous toad.
Her the two damsels to the cavalier
Before the bridge, prepared for battle, showed,
Threatening, as wont to some, with levelled spear,
To do the warrior scorn and bar the road.
Bidding him turn, she to Rogero cries;
A lance he takes, and threats her and defies.
As quick and daring, the gigantic Pest
Spurred her wolf, seated well for that dread game:
In mid career she laid her lance in rest,
And made earth quake beneath her as she came;
Yet at the encounter fierce the champaign pressed;
For underneath the casque, with stedfast aim,
So hard Rogero smote her, that he bore
The beldam backward six good yards and more:
And came already with his lifted blade,
Drawn for that end, to take her haughty head;
To him an easy task; for she was laid
Among the grass and flowers, like one that's dead.
But, " 'Tis enough that she is vanquished," said
The pair, "No further press thy vengeance dread.
Sheathe, courteous cavalier, thy sword anew:
Pass we the river, and our way pursue."
Along the path, which through a forest lay,
Roughish and somedeal ill to beat, they went.
Besides that strait and stony was the way,
This, nigh directly, scaled a hill's ascent.
But, when arrived upon the summit, they
Issued upon a mead of vast extent;
And a more pleasant palace on that green
Beheld, and brighter than was ever seen.
To meet the Child, Alcina, fair of hue,
Advanced some way beyond the outer gate;
And, girded by a gay and courtly crew,
Rogero there received in lordly state:
While all the rest to him such honour do,
And on the knight with such deep reverence wait,
They could not have displayed more zeal and love,
Had Jove descended from the choirs above.
Not so much does the palace, fair to see,
In riches other princely domes excel,
As that the gentlest, fairest, company
Which the whole world contains, within it dwell:
Of either sex, with small variety
Between, in youth and beauty matched as well:
The fay alone exceeds the rest as far
As the bright sun outshines each lesser star.
Her shape is of such perfect symmetry,
As best to feign the industrious painter knows,
With long and knotted tresses; to the eye
Not yellow gold with brighter lustre glows.
Upon her tender cheek the mingled dye
Is scattered, of the lily and the rose.
Like ivory smooth, the forehead gay and round
Fills up the space, and forms a fitting bound.
Two black and slender arches rise above
Two clear black eyes, say suns of radiant light,
Which ever softly beam and slowly move;
Round these appears to sport in frolic flight,
Hence scattering all his shafts, the little Love,
And seems to plunder hearts in open sight.
Thence, through mid visage, does the nose descend,
Where Envy finds not blemish to amend.
As if between two vales, which softly curl,
The mouth with vermeil tint is seen to glow:
Within are strung two rows of orient pearl,
Which her delicious lips shut up or show.
Of force to melt the heart of any churl,
However rude, hence courteous accents flow:
And here that gentle smile receives its birth,
Which opes at will a paradise on earth.
Like milk the bosom, and the neck of snow;
Round is the neck, and full and large the breast;
Where, fresh and firm, two ivory apples grow,
Which rise and fall, as, to the margin pressed
By pleasant breeze, the billows come and go.
Not prying Argus could discern the rest.
Yet might the observing eye of things concealed
Conjecture safely, from the charms revealed.
To all her arms a just proportion bear,
And a white hand is oftentimes descried,
Which narrow is, and somedeal long; and where
No knot appears, nor vein is signified.
For finish of that stately shape and rare,
A foot, neat, short, and round, beneath is spied.
Angelic visions, creatures of the sky,
Concealed beneath no covering veil can lie.
A springe is planted in Rogero's way,
On all sides did she speak, smile, sing, or move;
No wonder then the stripling was her prey,
Who in the fairy saw such show of love.
With him the guilt and falsehood little weigh,
Of which the offended myrtle told above.
Nor will he think that perfidy and guile
Can be united with so sweet a smile.
No! he could now believe, by magic art,
Astolpho well transformed upon the plain,
For punishment of foul ungrateful heart,
And haply meriting severer pain.
And, as for all he heard him late impart,
'Twas prompted by revenge, 'twas false and vain.
By hate and malice was the sufferer stung,
To blame and wound the fay with slanderous tongue.
The beauteous lady whom he loved so well
Is newly banished from his altered breast;
For (such the magic of Alcina's spell)
She every ancient passion dispossessed;
And in his bosom, there alone to dwell,
The image of her love, and self impressed.
So witched, Rogero sure some grace deserves,
If from his faith his frail affection swerves.
At board lyre, lute and harp of tuneful string,
And other sounds, in mixed diversity,
Made, round about, the joyous palace ring,
With glorious concert and sweet harmony.
Nor lacked there well-accorded voice to sing
Of love, its passion and its ecstasy;
Nor who, with rare inventions, choicely versed,
Delightful fiction to the guests rehearsed.
What table, spread by whatsoever heir
Of Ninus, though triumphant were the board,
Or what more famous and more costly, where
Cleopatra feasted with the Latian lord,
Could with this banquet's matchless joys compare,
By the fond fairy for Rogero stored?
I think not such a feast is spread above,
Where Ganymede presents the cup to Jove.
They form a ring, the board and festive cheer
Removed, and sitting, play a merry game:
Each asks, still whispering in a neighbour's ear,
What secret pleases best; to knight and dame
A fair occasion, without let or fear,
Their love, unheard of any, to proclaim.
And in conclusion the two lovers plight
Their word, to meet together on that night.
Soon, and much sooner than their wont, was ended
The game at which the palace inmates play:
When pages on the troop with torches tended,
And with their radiance chased the night away.
To seek his bed the paladin ascended,
Girt with that goodly squadron, in a gay
And airy bower, appointed for his rest,
Mid all the others chosen as the best.
And when of comfits and of cordial wine
A fitting proffer has been made anew,
The guests their bodies reverently incline,
And to their bowers depart the courtly crew.
He upon perfumed sheets, whose texture fine
Seemed of Arachne's loom, his body threw:
Hearkening this while with still attentive ears,
If he the coming of the lady hears.
At every movement heard on distant floor,
Hoping 'twas her, Rogero raised his head:
He thinks he hears; but it is heard no more,
Then sighs at his mistake: ofttimes from bed
He issued, and undid his chamber door,
And peeped abroad, but still no better sped;
And cursed a thousand times the hour that she
So long retarded his felicity.
"Yes, now she comes," the stripling often said,
And reckoned up the paces, as he lay,
Which from her bower where haply to be made
To that where he was waiting for the fay.
These thoughts, and other thoughts as vain, he weighed
Before she came, and restless at her stay,
Often believed some hinderance, yet unscanned,
Might interpose between the fruit and hand.
At length, when dropping sweets the costly fay
Had put some end to her perfumery,
The time now come she need no more delay,
Since all was hushed within the palace, she
Stole from her bower alone, through secret way,
And passed towards the chamber silently,
Where on his couch the youthful cavalier
Lay, with a heart long torn by Hope and Fear.
When the successor of Astolpho spies
Those smiling stars above him, at the sight
A flame, like that of kindled sulphur, flies
Through his full veins, as ravished by delight
Out of himself; and now up to the eyes
Plunged in a sea of bliss, he swims outright.
He leaps from bed and folds her to his breast,
Nor waits until the lady he undressed;
Though but in a light sendal clad, that she
Wore in the place of farthingale or gown;
Which o'er a shift of finest quality,
And white, about her limbs the fay had thrown:
The mantle yielded at his touch, as he
Embraced her, and that veil remained alone,
Which upon every side the damsel shows,
More than clear glass the lily or the rose.
The plant no closer does the ivy clip,
With whose green boughs its stem is interlaced.
Than those fond lovers, each from either's lip
The balmy breath collecting, he embraced:
Rich perfume this, whose like no seed or slip
Bears in sweet Indian or Sabacan waste;
While so to speak their joys is either fixed,
That oftentimes those meeting lips are mixed.
These things were carried closely by the dame
And youth, or if surmised, were never bruited;
For silence seldom was a cause for blame,
But oftener as a virtue well reputed.
By those shrewd courtiers, conscious of his claim,
Rogero is with proffers fair saluted:
Worshipped of all those inmates, who fulfil
In this the enamoured far, Alcina's will.
No pleasure is omitted there; since they
Alike are prisoners in Love's magic hall.
They change their raiment twice or thrice a day,
Now for this use, and now at other call.
'Tis often feast, and always holiday;
'Tis wrestling, tourney, pageant, bath, and ball.
Now underneath a hill by fountain cast,
They read the amorous lays of ages past:
Now by glad hill, or through the shady dale,
They hunt the fearful hare, and now they flush
With busy dog, sagacious of the trail,
Wild pheasant from the stubble-field or bush.
Now where green junipers perfume the gale,
Suspend the snare, or lime the fluttering thrush:
And casting now for fish, with net or book,
Disturb their secret haunts in pleasant brook.
Rogero revels there, in like delight,
While Charles and Agramant are troubled sore.
But not for him their story will I slight,
Nor Bradamant forget: who evermore,
Mid toilsome pain and care, her cherished knight,
Ravished from her, did many a day deplore;
Whom by unwonted ways, transported through
Mid air, the damsel saw, nor whither knew.
Of her I speak before the royal pair,
Who many days pursued her search in vain;
By shadowy wood, or over champaign bare,
By farm and city, and by hill and plain;
But seeks her cherished friend with fruitless care,
Divided by such space of land and main:
Often she goes among the Paynim spears,
Yet never aught of her Rogero hears.
Of hundreds questioned, upon every side,
Each day, no answer ever gives content.
She roams from post to post, and far and wide
Searches pavilion, lodging, booth, or rent,
And this, mid foot or horsemen, unespied,
May safely do, without impediment,
Thanks to the ring, whose more than mortal aid,
When in her mouth, conceals the vanished maid.
She cannot, will not, think that he is dead;
Because the wreck of such a noble knight
Would, from Hydaspes' distant waves have spread,
To where the sun descends with westering light.
She knows not what to think, nor whither sped,
He roams in earth or air; yet, hapless wight,
Him ever seeks, and for attendant train
Has sobs and sighs, and every bitter pain.
At length to find the wondrous cave she thought,
Where the prophetic homes of Merlin lie,
And there lament herself until she wrought
Upon the pitying marble to reply;
For thence, if yet he lived would she be taught,
Of this glad life to hard necessity
Had yielded up; and, when she was possessed
Of the seer's councils, would pursue the best.
With this intention, Bradamant her way
Directed thither, where in Poictier's wood
The vocal tomb, containing Merlin's clay,
Concealed in Alpine place and savage, stood.
But that enchantress sage, who night and day
Thought of the damsel, watchful for her good,
She, I repeat, who taught her what should be
In that fair grotto her posterity;
She who preserved her with protecting care,
That same enchantress, still benign and wise,
Who, knowing she a matchless race should bear
Of men, or rather semi-deities,
Spies daily what her thoughts and actions are,
And lots for her each day, divining, tries; --
She all Rogero's fortune knew, how freed;
Then borne to India by the griffin steed:
Him on that courser plainly she had eyed,
Who would not the controlling rein obey;
When, severed by such interval, he hied,
Borne through the perilous, unwonted way:
And knew that he sport, dance, and banquet plied,
And lapt in idleness and pleasure lay;
Nor memory of his lord nor of the dame,
Once loved so well, preserved, not of his fame.
And thus such gentle knight ingloriously
Would have consumed his fairest years and best,
In long inaction, afterwards to be,
Body and soul, destroyed; and that, possessed
Alone by us in perpetuity.
That flower, whose sweets outlive the fragile rest
Which quickens man when he in earth is laid,
Would have been plucked or severed in the blade.
But that enchantress kind, who with more care
Than for himself he watched, still kept the knight,
Designed to drag him, by rough road and bare,
Towards true virtue, in his own despite;
As often cunning leech will burn and pare
The flesh, and poisonous drug employ aright:
Who, though at first his cruel art offend,
Is thanked, since he preserves us in the end.
She, not like old Atlantes, rendered blind
By the great love she to the stripling bore,
Set not on gifting him with life her mind,
As was the scope of that enchanter hoar;
Who, reckless all of fame and praise declined,
Wished length of days to his Rogero more
Than that, to win a world's applause, the peer
Should of his joyous life forego one year.
By him he to Alcina's isle had been
Dispatched, that in her palace he might dwell,
Forgetting arms; and, as enchanter seen
In magic and the use of every spell,
The heart had fastened of that fairy-queen,
Enamoured of the gentle youth, so well,
That she the knot would never disengage,
Though he should live to more than Nestor's age.
Returning now to her that well foreknew
Whatever was to come to pass, I say
She thither did her journey straight pursue,
Where she met Aymon's daughter by the way
Forlorn and wandering: Bradamant at view
Of her enchantress, erst to grief a prey,
Changes it all to hope: the other tells
That with Alcina her Rogero dwells.
Nigh dead the maid remains, in piteous guise,
Hearing of him so far removed, and more
Grieves that she danger to her love descries,
Save this some strong and speedy cure restore.
But her the enchantress comforts, and applies
A salve where it was needed most, and swore
That few short days should pass before anew
Rogero should return to glad her view.
"Since thou, an antidote to sorcery,
Lady (she said), the virtuous ring dost wear,
I have no doubt if to yon island I
This, where thine every good is hidden, hear,
To foil Alcina's wiles and witchery,
And thence to bring thee back thy cherished care.
This evening, early, will I hence away,
And be in India by the break of day."
And told to her, the tale continuing,
The mode which she was purposing to employ,
From that effeminate, soft realm to bring
Back into warlike France the cherished boy.
Bradamant from her finger slipt the ring,
Nor this alone would have bestowed with joy;
But heart and life would at her feet have laid,
If she had deemed they could Rogero aid.
Giving the ring, her cause she recommends
To her, and recommends Rogero more.
Countless salutes by her the damsel sends,
Then of Provence, departing seeks the shore.
The enchantress to another quarter wends;
And, for the execution of her lore,
Conjures, that eve, a palfrey, by her art,
With one foot red, black every other part.
Some Farfarello, or Alchino he,
I think, whom in that form she raised from hell;
And with loose hair, dishevelled horribly,
Ungirt and barefoot, mounted in the sell.
But, with wise caution, from her finger she
Withdrew the ring, lest it should mar the spell:
And then by him was with such swiftness born,
She in Alcina's isle arrived at morn.
Herself she changed with wonderful disguise,
Adding a palm of stature to her height;
And made her limbs of a proportioned size;
And of the very measure seemed to sight,
As was she deemed, the necromancer wise,
Who with such care had reared the youthful knight.
With long-descending beard she clothed her chin,
And wrinkled o'er her front and other skin.
To imitate his speech, and face, and cheer,
She knew so well, that, by the youth descried,
She might the sage Atlantes' self appear;
Next hid, and watched so long, that she espied
Upon a day (rare chance) the cavalier
At length detached from his Alcina's side:
For still, in motion or at rest, the fay
Ill bore the youth should be an hour away.
Alone she finds him, fitting well her will,
As he enjoys the pure and morning air
Beside a brook, which trickled from a hill,
Streaming towards a limpid lake and fair.
His fine, soft garments, wove with cunning skill,
All over, ease and wantonness declare;
These with her hand, such subtle toil well taught,
For him in silk and gold Alcina wrought.
About the stripling's neck, a splendid string
Of gems, descending to mid-breast, is wound;
On each once manly arm, now glittering
With the bright hoop, a bracelet fair is bound.
Pierced with golden wire, in form of ring,
Is either ear; and from the yellow round
Depend two precious pearls; not such the coast
Of Araby or sumptuous India boast.
Crisped into comely ringlets was his hair,
Wet with the costliest odours and the best;
And soft and amorous all his gestures were,
Like one who does Valentian lady's hest.
In him, beside his name, was nothing fair,
And more than half corrupted all the rest.
So was Rogero found, within that dell,
Changed from his former self by potent spell.
Him in the figure of Atlantes sage
She fronts, who bore the enchanter's borrowed cheer;
With that grave face, and reverend with age,
Which he was always wonted to revere;
And with that eye, which in his pupillage,
Beaming with wrath, he whilom so did fear.
And sternly cries, "Is this the fruit at last
Which pays my tedious pain and labour past?
"The marrow of the lion and the bear
Didst thou for this thine early banquet make,
And, trained by me, by cliff or cavern-lair,
Strangle with infant hands the crested snake;
Their claws from tiger and from panther tear,
And tusks from living boar in tangled brake,
That, bred in such a school, in thee should I
Alcina's Atys or Adonis spy?
"Is this the hope that stars, observed by me,
Signs in conjunction, sacred fibres, bred;
With what beside of dream or augury,
And all those lots I but too deeply read,
Which, while yet hanging at the breast, of thee,
When these thy years should be accomplished, said,
Thy fears should so be bruited far and near,
Thou justly should be deemed without a peer?
"This does, in truth, a fair beginning show;
A seed which, we may hope, will soon conceive
A Julius, Alexander, Scipio.
Who thee Alcina's bondsman could believe;
And (for the world the shameful fact might know)
That all should, manifest to sight, perceive
Upon thy neck and arms the servile chains,
Wherewith she at her will her captive trains?
"If thine own single honour move not thee,
And the high deeds which thou art called to do,
Wherefore defraud thy fair posterity
Of what, was oft predicted, should ensue?
Alas! why seal the womb God willed should be
Pregnant by thee with an illustrious crew,
That far renowned, and more than human line,
Destined the sun in glory to outshine?
"Forbid not of the noblest souls the birth,
Formed in the ideas of Eternal Mind,
Destined, from age to age, to visit earth,
Sprung from thy stock, and clothed in corporal rind;
The spring of thousand palms and festal mirth,
Through which, to Italy with losses pined
And wounds, thy good descendants shall restore
The fame and honours she enjoyed of yore.
"Not only should these many souls have weight
To bend thy purpose, holy souls, and bright,
Which from thy fruitful tree shall vegetate;
But, though alone, a single couple might
Suffice a nobler feeling to create,
Alphonso and his brother Hyppolite:
Whose like was seldom witnessed to this time,
Through all the paths whence men to virtue climb.
"I was more wont to dwell upon this pair
Than all the rest, of whom I prophesied;
As well that these a greater part should bear
In lofty virtues, as that I descried
Thee, listening to my lore with closer care,
Than to the tale of all thy seed beside.
I saw thee joy that such a pair would shine
Amid the heroes of thy noble line.
"Say, what has she, thou makest thy fancy's queen,
More than what other courtezans possess?
Who of so many concubine has been;
How used her lovers in the end to bless,
Thou truly know'st: but that she may be seen
Without disguise, and in her real dress,
This ring, returning, on thy finger wear,
And thou shalt see the dame, and mark how fair."
Abashed and mute, Rogero, listening,
In vain to her reproof an answer sought:
Who on his little finger put the ring,
Whose virtue to himself the warrior brought.
And such remorse and shame within him spring,
When on his altered sense the change is wrought,
A thousand fathoms deep he fain would lie
Buried in earth, unseen of any eye.
So speaking, to the natural shape she wore
Before his eyes returned the magic dame;
Nor old Atlantes' form was needed more,
The good effect obtained for which she came.
To tell you that which was not told before,
Melissa was the sage enchantress' name:
Who to Rogero now her purpose said,
And told with what design she thither sped:
Dispatched by her, who him in anxious pain
Desires, nor longer can without him be,
With the intent to loose him from the chain
Wherewith he was begirt by sorcery;
And had put on, more credence to obtain,
Atlantes de Carena's form; but she,
Seeing his health restored, now willed the youth,
Through her should hear and see the very truth.
"That gentle lady who so loves thee, who
Were well deserving love upon thy part;
To whom (unless forgot, thou know'st how true
The tale) thou debtor for thy freedom art,
This ring, which can each magic spell undo,
Sends for thy succour, and would send her heart,
If with such virtue fraught, her heart could bring
Thee safely in thy perils, like the ring."
How Bradamant had loved, and loves, she says,
Continuing to Rogero her relation;
To this, her worth commends with fitting praise,
Tempering in truth and fondness her narration;
And still employs the choicest mode and phrase,
Which fits one skilful in negociation,
And on the false Alcina brings such hate,
As on things horrible is wont to wait;
Brings hate on that which he so loved before;
Nor let the tale astonish which you hear,
For since his love was forced by magic lore,
The ring the false enchantment served to clear.
This too unmasked the charms Alcina wore,
And made all false, from head to food, appear.
None of her own, but borrowed, all he sees,
And the once sparkling cup now drugged with lees.
Like boy who somewhere his ripe fruit bestows,
And next forgets the place where it is laid,
Then, after many days, conducted goes
By chance, where he the rich deposit made,
And wonders that the hidden treasure shows,
Not what it is, but rotten and decayed;
And hates, and scorns, and loathes, with altered eyes,
And throws away what he was used to prize.
Rogero thus, when by Melissa's lore
Advised, he to behold the fay returned,
And that good ring of sovereign virtue wore,
Which, on the finger placed, all spells o'erturned;
For that fair damsel he had left before,
To his surprise, so foul a dame discerned,
That in this ample world, examined round,
A hag so old and hideous is not found.
Pale, lean, and wrinkled was the face, and white,
And thinly clothed with hair Alcina's head;
Her stature reached not to six palms in height,
And every tooth was gone; for she had led
A longer life than ever mortal wight,
Than Hecuba or she in Cuma bred;
But thus by practice, to our age unknown,
Appeared with youth and beauty not her own.
By art she gave herself the lovely look,
Which had on many like Rogero wrought;
But now the ring interpreted the book,
Which secrets, hid for many ages, taught.
No wonder then that he the dame forsook,
And banished from his mind all further thought
Of love for false Alcina, found in guise
Which no new means of slippery fraud supplies.
But, as Melissa counselled him, he wore
His wonted semblance for a time, till he
Was with his armour, many days before
Laid by, again accoutred cap-a-pee.
And, lest Alcina should his end explore,
Feigned to make proof of his agility;
Feigned to make proof if for his arms he were
Too gross, long time unwont the mail to bear.
Next Balisarda to his flank he tied
(For so Rogero's trenchant sword was hight),
And took the wondrous buckler, which, espied,
Not only dazzled the beholder's sight,
But seemed, when its silk veil was drawn aside,
As from the body if exhaled the sprite:
In its close cover of red sendal hung,
This at his neck the youthful warrior slung.
Provided thus, he to the stables came,
And bade with bridle and with saddle dight
A horse more black than pitch; for so the dame
Counselled, well-taught how swift the steed and light.
Him Rabicano those who know him name,
And he the courser was, that with the knight,
Who stands beside the sea, the breeze's sport,
The whale of yore conducted to that port.
The hippogryph he might have had at need,
Who next below good Rabican was tied,
But that the dame had cried to him, "Take heed,
Thou know'st how ill that courser is to ride";
And said the following day the winged steed
'Twas her intention from that realm to guide,
Where he should be instructed at his leisure,
To rein and run him every where at pleasure:
Nor, if he took him not, would he suggest
Suspicion of the intended flight: The peer
This while performed Melissa's every hest,
Who, still invisible, was at his ear.
So feigning, from the wanton dome possessed
By that old strumpet, rode the cavalier;
And pricking forth drew near unto a gate,
Whence the road led to Logistilla's state.
Assaulting suddenly the guardian crew,
He, sword in hand, the squadron set upon;
This one he wounded, and that other slew,
And, point by point made good, the drawbridge won:
And ere of his escape Alcina knew,
The gentle youth was far away and gone.
My next shall tell his route, and how he gained
At last the realm where Logistilla reigned.