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 ]
A woman for the most part reasons best
Upon a sudden motion, and untaught;
For with that special grace the sex is blest,
'Mid those so many gifts, wherewith 'tis fraught;
But man, of a less nimble wit possest,
Is ill at counsel, save, with sober thought,
He ruminates thereon, content to spend
Care, time and trouble to mature his end.
That seemed good counsel, but was ill indeed
Of Malagigi's, as before was said;
Albeit he so rescued in his need
His cousin Richardet, with odds o'erlaid,
When from the paynim monarchs him he freed
By ready demon, who his hest obeyed;
For sure he never deemed they should be borne,
Where they would work the Christian army scorn.
Had he some little prize for counsel stayed,
(We with the same success may well suppose)
He to his cousin might have furnished aid,
Yet brought not on the Christian host their foes:
That evil sprite he might as well have made,
Him, who embodied in the palfrey goes,
Eastward or west, so far that lady bear,
That France should hear no further of the pair.
So the two lovers, following her who flies,
To other place than Paris might be brought:
But this calamity was a surprise
On Malagigi, through his little thought;
And fiendish malice, banished from the skies,
Which ever blood and fire and ravage sought,
Guided them by that way to Charles' disaster;
Left to his choice by him, the wizard master.
The wayward fiend who makes that palfrey ramp
Bears off the frighted Doralice amain;
Nor river nor yet yawning ditch, or swamp,
Wood, rock, or rugged cliff, the steed restrain;
Till, traversing the French and English camp,
And other squadrons of the mingled train,
Beneath the holy flag of Christ arraid,
He to Granada's king the fair conveyed.
The Sarzan and the Tartar the first day
That royal damsel a long while pursue;
Because her distant form they yet survey;
But finally they lose that lady's view;
When, like a lyme-dog, whom the hunters lay
On hare or roebuck's trail, the valiant two
Follow upon her track, nor halt, till told
That she is harboured in her father's hold.
Guard thyself, Charles: for, lo! against thee blown
Is such a storm, that I no refuge see:
Nor these redoubted monarchs come alone,
But those of Sericane and Circassy;
While Fortune, who would probe thee to the bone,
Has taken those two shining stars from thee,
Who kept thee by their wisdom and their light;
And thou remainest blind and wrapt in night.
'Tis of the valiant cousins I would speak:
Of these, Orlando of his wit bereft,
Naked, in sun or shower, by plain or peak,
Wanders about the world, a helpless weft;
And he, in wisdom little less to seek,
Rinaldo, in thy peril thee has left;
And, for in Paris-town she is not found,
In search of his Angelica is bound.
A cunning, old enchanter him deceived,
As in the outlet of my tale was said:
Deluded by a phantom, he believed
Angelica was with Orlando fled;
And hence with jealousy, at heart, aggrieved
(Lover ne'er suffered worse) to Paris sped;
Whence he, as soon as he appeared at court,
By chance, was named to Britain to resort.
Now, the field won, wherein with mickle fame
He drove King Agramant his works behind,
To Paris yet again the warrior came,
Searched convent, tower, and house, and, save confined
'Twixt solid walls or columns be the dame,
Her will the restless lover surely find:
Nor her nor yet Orlando he descries,
So forth in the desire to seek them hies.
Her to Anglantes or to Brava brought,
He deemed the Count enjoyed in mirth and play;
And vainly, here and there, that damsel sought,
Nor here nor there, descried the long-sought prey.
To Paris he repaired again, in thought
The paladin returning to waylay;
Because he deemed he could not rove at large
Without that Town, but on some special charge.
Within he takes a day or two's repose;
And, when he finds Orlando comes not there,
Again to Brava and Anglantes goes
Inquiring tidings of the royal fair;
Nor, whether morning dawns or noontide glows,
-- Nor night nor day -- his weary steed does spare;
Nor once -- but twice a hundred times -- has run
The selfsame course, by light of moon or sun.
But the ancient foe, deluded by whose say,
To the forbidden fruit Eve raised her hand,
Turned his wan eyes on Charlemagne one day,
When he the good Rinaldo absent scanned;
And seeing what foul rout and disarray
Might at that time be given to Charles's band,
Of all the Saracens the choice and flower
Marshalled in arms against the Christian power.
King Sacripant and King Gradasso (who
Whilere companionship in war had made,
When from Atlantes' palace fled the two)
Together to unite their arms, in aid
Of royal Agramant's beleaguered crew,
And where through unknown lands the warriors hied,
Made smooth the way, and served them as a guide.
Thither another fiend that ruthless foe
Bade Rodomont and Mandricardo bear
Through ways, by which his comrade was not slow
With the affrighted Doralice to fare:
A third, lest they their enterprize forego,
Rogero and Marphisa has in care:
But their conductor journeys not so fast;
And hence that martial pair arrives the last.
Later by half an hour, against their foes,
So matched, Rogero and Marphisa speed;
Because the sable angel, who his blows
Aimed at the bands that held the Christian creed,
Provided, that the contest which arose
About that horse, his work should not impede;
Which had again been kindled, had the twain,
Rodomont and Rogero, met again.
The first four ride until themselves they find
Where the besiegers and besieged they view;
And see the banners shaking in the wind,
And the cantonments of those armies two.
Here they short counsel took, and next opined,
In spite of Charlemagne's beleaguering crew,
To carry speedy succour to their liege,
And rescue royal Agramant from siege.
Where thickest camped lay Charles's host, they spurred,
Closing their files against the Christian foe.
"Afric and Spain!" is the assailants' word,
Whom at all points the Franks for paynims know.
-- "To arms, to arms!" throughout their camp is heard:
But first is felt the Moorish sabre's blow:
Even on the rear-guard falls the vengeful stroke,
Not charged alone, but routed, beat and broke.
The Christian host throughout is overthrown,
And how they know not, in tumultuous wise;
And that it is a wonted insult done
By Switzer or by Gascon, some surmise;
But -- since the reason is to most unknown --
Each several nation to its standard flies,
This to the drum, that to the trumpet's sound,
And shriek and shout from earth to heaven redound.
All armed is Charlemagne, except his head,
And, girt with paladins, his faithful stay,
Arrived demanding what alarm has bred
Disorder in his host and disarray;
And stopt with menace this or that who fled,
And many fugitives, upon their way,
Some with maimed face, breast, arm, or hand, espied,
And some with head or throat with life-blood dyed.
Advancing, he on earth saw many more,
Or rather in a lake of crimson laid,
Horribly weltering in their own dark gore,
Beyond the leech's and magician's aid;
And busts dissevered from the heads they bore,
And legs and arms -- a cruel show -- surveyed;
And, from the first cantonments to the last,
Saw slaughtered men on all sides as he past.
Where the small band advances in such wise,
Deserving well eternal praise to gain,
Vouching their deeds, a long-drawn furrow lies,
A signal record of their might and main.
His army's cruel slaughter, with surprise,
Anger and rage, is viewed by Charlemagne.
So he whose shattered walls have felt its force,
Throughout his mansion tracks the lightning's course.
Not to the ramparts of the paynim crew
Of Agramant as yet had pierced this aid,
When, on the further side, these other two,
Rogero and Marphisa, thither made.
When, once or twice, that worthy pair a view
Have taken of the ground, and have surveyed
The readiest way assistance to afford,
They swiftly move in succour of their lord.
As when we spark to loaded mine apply,
Through the long furrow, filled with sable grain,
So fast the furious wildfire darts, that eye
Pursues the progress of the flash with pain;
And as dire ruin follows, and from high,
The loosened rock and solid bastion rain,
So bold Rogero and Marphisa rush
To battle, so the Christian squadrons crush.
Front and askance, the assailants smote, and low
On earth heads, arms, and severed shoulders lay,
Where'er the Christian squadrons were too slow
To free the path and break their close array.
Whoe'er has seen the passing tempest blow,
And of the hill or valley, in its way,
One portion ravage and another leave,
May so their course amid that host conceive.
Many who had escaped by quick retreat,
Rodomont and those other furious three,
Thank God that he had given them legs and feet,
Wherewith to fly from that calamity;
And from the Child and damsel new defeat
Encounter, while with endlong course they flee:
As man, no matter if he stands or run,
Seeks vainly his predestined doom to shun.
Who 'scape one peril, into other fly,
And pay the penalty of flesh and blood;
So, by the teeth of dog, is wont to die
The fox, together with her infant brood,
By one who dwells her ancient cavern nigh
Unearthed, and with a thousand blows pursued;
When from some unsuspected place, that foe
Has filled with fire and smoke the den below.
Marphisa and the Child, of danger clear,
Enter the paynim ramparts; and, with eyes
Upturned, the Saracens, with humble cheer,
Thank Heaven for the success of that emprize:
The paladins no longer are their fear;
The meanest Moor a hundred Franks defies;
And 'tis resolved, without repose, again
To drench with Christian blood the thirsty plain.
At once a formidable larum rose;
Horns, drums, and shrilling clarions filled the skies;
And the wind ruffles, as it comes and goes,
Banner and gonfalon of various dyes.
The Germans and the warlike Bretons close;
Ranged on the other part, in martial wise,
Italians, English, French, were seen, and through
Those armies furious war blazed forth anew.
The force of the redoubted Rodomont,
And that of Agrican's infuriate son,
That of Rogero, valiant's copious font,
Gradasso's, so renowned for trophies won,
The martial maid, Marphisa's fearless front,
And might of Sacripant, excelled by none,
Made Charles upon Saint John and Denys call,
And fly for shelter to his Paris wall.
Of fierce Marphisa and her bold allies
The unconquered daring and the wondrous might,
Sir, was not of a nature -- of a guise --
To be conceived, much less described aright:
The number slaughtered hence may you surmise!
What cruel blow King Charles sustained in fight!
Add to these warriors of illustrious name,
More than one Moor, with Ferrau, known to Fame.
Many through reckless haste were drowned in Seine,
For all too narrow was the bridge's floor,
An wished, like Icarus, for wings in vain,
Having grim death behind them and before,
Save Oliver, and Ogier hight the Dane,
The paladins are prisoners to the Moor:
Wounded beneath his better shoulder fled
The first, that other with a broken head.
And. like Orlando and Duke Aymon's son,
Had faithful Brandimart thrown up the game,
Charles had from Paris into exile gone,
If he had scaped alive so fierce a flame.
Brandimart does his best, and when 'tis done,
Yields to the storm: Thus Fortune, fickle dame,
Now smiles upon the paynim monarch, who
Besieges royal Charlemagne anew.
From earth beneath the widow's outcry swells,
Mingled with elder's and with orphan's prayer,
Into the pure serene, where Michael dwells,
Rising above this dim and troubled air;
And to the blest archangel loudly tells,
How the devouring wolf and raven tear
His faithful English, French, and German train,
Whose slaughtered bodies overspread the plain.
Red blushed the blessed angel, who believed
He ill obedience to his lord had paid;
And, in his anger, deemed himself deceived
By the perfidious Discord and betrayed:
He his Creator's order had received
To stir the Moors to strife, nor had obeyed;
Had rather in their eyes who marked the event,
Appeared throughout to thwart his high intent.
As servant faithful to his lord, and more
In love than memory strong, who finds that he
Has that forgotten which at his heart-core,
As precious as his life and soul should be,
Hastes to repair his error, nor before
He mend that fault, again his lord will see,
So not to God St. Michael will ascend
Until he has achieved his holy end.
Again he to that monastery flew,
Where whilom he had Discord seen; and there
Seated in chapter sees her, while anew
Their yearly officers elected are,
She taking huge delight those friers to view,
That at each other hurled their books of prayer.
His hand within her locks the archangel twists,
And deals her endless scathe with feet and fists.
On her he next a cross's handle broke;
Wherewith her back, and arms, and head he plies:
His mercy with loud voice the wretch bespoke,
And hugged that angel's knees with suppliant cries.
Michael suspends not the avenging stroke
Till hunted to the Moorish camp she flies,
Then thus: "Believe worse vengeance yet in store,
If I beyond these lines behold thee more."
Albeit in back and arms all over shent
Was Discord by that angel, in her fear
Of suffering yet again such chastisement,
Such horrid fury and such blows severe,
She speedily to take her bellows went,
And, adding food to what she lit whilere,
And setting other ready piles afire,
Kindled in many hearts a blaze of ire;
And good Rogero (she inflames them so)
With Rodomont and Mandricardo fares
To Agramant; and all (since now the foe
The paynims pressed no more, the vantage theirs)
To him the seed of their dissensions show,
And what the bitter produce which it bears:
Then to the judgment of the king refer
Who first in listed field his claim should stir.
As well Marphisa to Troyano's son,
Relates her case, and will conclude the fray
Which with the Tartar king she had begun,
Because by him provoked to that assay;
Nor will she yield her place to any one,
No, not a single hour, yet less a day;
But with loud instances maintains her right
With Mandricardo first to wage the fight.
To have the first possession of the field
No less renowned king Rodomont contended,
Which he, the African array to shield,
Had interrupted and till now suspended.
Rogero to King Agramant appealed,
As having borne too long, though sore offended,
That Rodomont form him detained his horse,
Nor yet would meet him first in martial course.
The Tartar king, for more perplexity,
Denied on any ground Rogero's right
The bearer of the white-winged bird to be;
And was so passing wood with wrath and spite,
That, if to this those others would agree,
He would at once those several quarrels fight;
And so those others would as well have done,
If Agramant's consent they could have won.
King Agramant, with prayer and kingly word,
Had willingly appeased that jarring crew;
But since the foes were deaf to all accord,
Nor would assent to peace or truce anew,
Considered how at least he might afford
The field of each of them in order due;
And, as the best resolve, at last decreed,
Each should by lot possess the listed mead.
Four lots the monarch bade prepare, which done,
This "Rodomont and Mandricardo" said;
"Rogero and Mandricardo" were in one;
In one, "Rogero and Rodomont" were read;
That "Mandricardo and Marphisa" run:
Next, as the fickle goddess, Fortune, led,
The lots are drawn, and in the first appear
The Tartar king and sovereign of Argier.
Rogero and Mandricardo for that play
Were next; Rogero and Rodomont were third;
Marphisa's lot and Mardricardo's lay
At bottom; whence the dame was deeply stirred;
Nor young Rogero seems a whit more gay:
Who knows the prowess of those two preferred
Will nothing in the listed combat leave
For him or for Marphisa to achieve.
There lies a place, of Paris little wide,
Covering a mile or somewhat less, and round;
Like ancient theatre, on every side,
Encompast by a tall and solid mound;
With castle whilom was it fortified,
Which sword and fire had levelled with the ground.
The Parmesan like circle does survey,
Whenever he to Borgo wends his way.
In this place is prepared the listed mead,
Which palisades of little height inclose;
A square, of just proportions for that need,
With two capacious gates, as usage goes.
The day on which to combat have agreed
Those valiant knights, who will not balk their foes,
Beside the palisades, to left and right,
Facing each entrance, are pavilions pight.
In that, which looks towards the western sun,
Is lodged the giant monarch of Argier;
And him assist his serpent-hide to don
Bold Ferrau and Circassia's cavalier.
Gradasso and the puissant Falsiron,
In that which fronts the morning hemisphere,
Clothe with their hands, in Trojan plate and chain,
The good successor of King Agricane.
High on a throne of ample state appeared
Agramant and Marsilius; next in place
Were Stordilane and all the chiefs, revered
Throughout the squadrons of the paynim race.
Happy was he who found himself upreared
On mound or tree, above that level space.
Great was the throng, and round the palisade
On every side the eddying people swayed.
Were seated with the Queen of fair Castille
Queens, princesses, and dames of noble strain,
From Arragon, Granada, and Seville,
And Atlas' columns; and amid the train
Assembled to behold that fierce appeal,
Was placed the daughter of King Stordilane:
Two costly vests -- one red, one green -- she wore;
But ill the first was dyed, and faded sore.
In dress succinct Marphisa sate; in plight
Such as beseemed a warrior and a maid:
Thermodoon haply witnessed Hippolyte
And her fair squadron in like garb arrayed.
Afield already, in his livery dight,
Agramant's herald made proclaim, and said
It was forbid to all men, far and wide,
In act or word, with either part to side.
The frequent crowd expects the double foe;
And often, in impatience, they complain,
And call those famous cavaliers too slow:
When from the Tartar's tent an angry strain
Is heard, and cries which multiply; sir, know
It was the martial king of Sericane,
And puissant Tartar, who that question stirred,
And made the mighty tumult which has heard.
Sericane's monarch, having with his hand
Equipt the king of Tartary all o'er,
Approached to gird him with that sovereign brand,
With which Orlando went adorned of yore.
When Durindana on the hilt he scanned,
Graved with the quartering that Almontes wore;
Which from that wretched man, beside a font,
Youthful Orlando reft in Aspramont.
He, seeing this, agnised it for the blade
So famous, which Anglantes' warrior bore,
For which he had the fairest fleet arrayed
Which ever put to sea from eastern shore;
And had Castille's rich kingdom overlaid,
And conquered fruitful France some years before;
But cannot now imagine how that sword
Is in possession of the Tartar lord;
And asks had he by force or treaty won,
And when and where and how, that faulchion bright;
And Mandricardo said that he had done
Fierce battle for that sword with Brava's knight;
Who feigned himself of sober sense foregone,
Hoping that so he should conceal his fright:
-- "For I on him would ceaseless war have made,"
(He added) "while he kept the goodly blade."
Saying the Count, in yielding to his foe
That sword, the Beavers' known device had tried;
Who. followed closely by the hunter, know
Their fell pursuer covers nought beside.
Ere he had heard him out, -- "Nor I forego
That sword to thee nor any one," (replied
Gradasso, fierce,) "well earned by me, at cost
Of treasure, and of pain, and people lost.
"Some other faulchion for thyself purvey;
This will I have; nor deem my reasons new;
Whether Orlando wise or foolish stray,
I make it mine where'er it meets my view.
With none to witness, thou, beside the way
Usurped that sword; I claim it as my due:
For this my scimeter shall reasons yield,
And we will try the cause in listed field.
"Prepare to win the sword before thou rear
That goodly blade against King Rodomont.
To win his arms is use of cavalier,
Before his foe in duel he affront."
-- "No sweeter music ever soothes my ear"
(Replied the Tartar, as he raised his front)
"Than voice which champions me to martial field;
But see that his consent the Sarzan yield.
"Be thou the first; and, next on listed ground
Let Sarza's valiant lord the question try;
Nor doubt but I in readiness be found
To thee and every other to reply."
" -- Thou shalt not so the ordered lots confound,
Or break our compact (was Rogero's cry):
Either, first Rodomont shall take the field,
Or shall to me his right of battle yield.
"It that be true Gradasso has averred,
That knight should win the arms he would assay,
Thou hast no title to my white-winged bird,
Save this from me thou first shalt bear away.
But since, forsooth, whilere I said the word,
I will not what I once pronounced unsay,
That mine shall be the second battle, so
That Argier's monarch first affront his foe.
"I will confuse the order of the field,
Throughout, if partially confused by thee;
Abandon will I not my blazoned shield,
Unless thou combat for it now with me."
-- "Were one and the other Mars, for battle steeled,
(Replies enraged, the king of Tartary)
"Nor one nor the other's might should make me waive
My title to that shield and goodly glaive";
And over mastered by his choler, flies
With a clenched fist at him of Sericane,
And smites him with his right-hand in such wise,
As makes him quit his hold of Durindane.
Gradasso bold was taken by surprise,
Not deeming him so furious and insane;
And, while he looked not to the Tartar lord,
Found himself robbed of good Orlando's sword.
Fury and scorn Gradasso's visage heats,
Which seems to flash with fire, at that disgrace;
And with more rage and pain his bosom beats,
In that 'twas offered in such public place.
To draw his scimeter, the king retreats,
Intent upon revenge, some little space.
So Mandricardo on himself relies
Rogero he to fight, as well defies.
"Come on in arms against me, both combined,
And be King Rodomont the third!" (he said)
"Come Spain and Afric and all human kind;
Ne'er will I turn." And he, at nought dismaid,
So saying, in his fury, sawed the wind
About him, with Almontes' noble blade,
Embraced his shield, and, full of choler, stood
Against Gradasso and Rogero good.
"Leave me the care," the fierce Gradasso cried,
"The phrensy of this madman to subdue."
-- "Not so, by Heaven!" Rogero wroth replied,
"For I this field claim justly as my due."
-- "Stand back!" and "stand thou back!" on either side
They shout; yet neither of the twain withdrew.
And thus among those three began a feud;
And thence some strange result would have ensued,
If many had not interposed, and sought
With little wit their fury to restrain;
Who had well-nigh too dear the experience bought
Of saving others at their proper pain;
Nor to accord the world had ever brought
Those knights, but that the worthy king of Spain
Came thither with renowned Troyano's heir;
Awed by whose sovereign presence all forbear.
Agramant those contending warriors made
The cause of their so burning strife display;
Next earnestly bestirred himself, and prayed
Gradasso that he would, in courteous way,
Concede the Trojan Hector's goodly blade
To Mandricardo, solely for that day,
Until the cruel fight was at an end,
Wherein he should with Rodomont contend.
While royal Agramant would peace restore,
And now with this and now with that conferred,
From the other tent, between the Sarzan Moor
And Sacripant, another strife was heard.
Valiant King Sacripant (as said before)
To equip Sir Rodomont himself bestirred,
And he and Ferrau had that champion drest
In his forefather Nimrod's iron vest;
And there had they arrived, where with his spume
The horse was making his rich bridle white:
I of the good Frontino speak, for whom
Rogero urged with yet unfelt despite.
King Sacripant, who plays the part of groom,
And has to bring afield the Sarzan knight,
Marks narrowly the courser's gear and shoes,
And sell and furniture throughout reviews;
And as his points and nimble parts, more near,
He, in this view, observes with better heed,
The youthful king, beyond all doubt, is clear
He sees his Frontilatte in that steed,
Him he of old had held so passing dear,
Whilom of such debates the fruitful seed;
And for whose loss, whilere he was so woe,
He evermore on foot resolved to go.
This from beneath him had Brunello borne
Before Albracca, on the very day
Angelica's rare ring, and Roland's horn,
And Balisarda he conveyed away,
With fierce Marphisa's blade, -- and on return
To Afric -- to Rogero, from his prey,
Gave Balisarda and the courser, who
Was by the Child Frontino named anew.
Assured 'twas no mistake, Circassia's chief
Turned him about to Rodomont, and cried:
"Reft from me in Albracca, by a thief,
This horse is mine; which might be certified
By them whose words would warrant well belief:
But as my witnesses are distant wide,
If it be questioned, I will make it plain,
And will, with sword in hand, the truth maintain.
"Yet am I well contented, for that we
Have for these some few days together gone,
To lend him for to-day; since well I see,
That not without him could the fight be done;
But on condition, that the courser be
Acknowledged mine, and furnished as a loan:
Otherwise hope not for that horse, save first
Me, on this quarrel, thou in combat worst."
The furious king of Argier, that in pride
Surpassed all knights that ever girt the sword,
Whose paragon, for heart and prowess tried,
Meseems no ancient histories record,
Cried: "Sacripant, if any one beside
Thyself, to me should utter such a word,
He should deem quickly, from its bitter fruit,
He from his birth would better have been mute.
"But, for that fellowship in which we went,
(As thou hast said) together, I to show
Such patience and forbearance am content,
As warning thee, thy purpose to forego,
Until thou shalt have witnessed the event
Of strife between me and my Tartar foe:
When him I such example hope to make,
That thou shalt humbly say, 'The courser take.' "
Fierce and enraged, replied Circassia's peer,
"To play the churl with thee is courteous deed,
But I to thee repeat more plain and clear,
Thou ill wouldst aught design against that steed,
For, while I an avenging sabre rear,
This I prohibit thee, and, should it need,
And every better means of battle fail,
With thee for this would battle, tooth and nail."
They from dispute proceed to ribaldry,
From words to blows; and through their mickle ire,
Fierce battle was inflamed, and blazed more high
Than ever lightly-kindled straw took fire.
King Rodomont is steeled in panoply;
Sacripant neither plate nor mail attire:
Yet so in fence is skilled that nimble lord,
He seems all over sheltered by his sword.
No greater were the daring and the might
(Though infinite) which Rodomont displaid
Than the precaution and the nimble sleight
Which the Circassian summoned to his aid:
No mill-wheel ever turns with swifter flight
The circling stone by which the grain is brayed,
Than Sacripant at need moves foot or hand,
And shifts now here, now there his restless stand.
But Serpentine and Ferrau interfere:
They with drawn swords the twain asunder bore;
With them Grandonio was and Isolier,
And many other leaders of the Moor,
This was the tumult which was heard whilere
In the other tent, what time they laboured sore,
Rogero vainly to a peace to bring
With Tartary's and Sericana's king.
This while some voice to Agramant the news
Reports aright, that Ulien's might seed,
With Sacripant, Circassia's king, pursues
A fierce and furious quarrel for the steed.
Agramant, whom so many jars confuse,
Exclaims to King Marsilius: "Take thou heed
That no worse evil mid these knights betide,
While for this new disorder I provide."
Rodomont reined his anger, and retired
Some deal, at his approaching sovereign's view;
Nor less respect in Sacripant inspired
The Moorish monarch; of the furious two,
He with grave voice and royal mien inquired
What cause of strife such deadly discord blew;
And having searched their quarrel to the root,
Would fain accord them; but with little fruit.
Circassia's monarch would not, on his side,
Longer his horse to Argier's lord allow,
Save humbly Rodomont to him applied,
That steed for this occasion to bestow.
To him Sir Rodomont, with wonted pride,
Returned for answer: "Neither Heaven nor thou
Shall make me recognize as gift or loan
What I with this good hand can make mine own."
The king bade Sacripant explain his right,
And how that horse was taken from him sought;
And this from first to last Circassia's knight
Rehearsed, and reddened as the tale he taught,
Relating to the king the robber's sleight;
Who had surprised him overwhelmed with thought,
Upon four spears his courser's saddle stayed,
And from beneath the naked horse conveyed.
Marphisa, whom these cries, mid others, bring,
When of the robbery of the horse advised,
In visage is disturbed, remembering
How on that day her faulchion was surprised;
And when that courser (which equipt with wing
Appeared when flying her) she recognized;
And recognized as well -- at first unknown --
The valiant king who filled Circassia's throne.
The others who stood round her, wont to hear
Brunello often boast of the deceit,
'Gan turn towards that wretch, and made appear
By open signs they knew him for the Cheat.
Marphisa who the subtle knave whilere
Suspected as the author of that feat,
Now questions this, now that, who all accord
In saying 'twas Brunello stole her sword;
Who, well deserving as a fitting pain
To dangle from the gallows-tree in air,
By Agramant the crown of Tingitane
(An ill example) was preferred to wear.
This fires anew Marphisa's old disdain,
Nor she from instant vengeance will forbear,
For this, as well as other shame and scorn
She on her road had from that caitiff born.
A squire laced on her helmet, at her hest;
She wore the remnant of her armour sheen;
Nor without martial cuirass on her breast,
Find I, that she ten times was ever seen,
Even from the day when first that iron vest
Braced on her limbs the passing-valiant queen:
With helm on head, where, mid the highest rows,
Brunello sits among the first, she goes.
Him by mid breast Marphisa griped amain,
And lifted up the losel from the ground;
As is rapacious eagle wont to strain
The pullet, in her talons circled round;
And bore him where the sons of King Troyane
Heard the two knights their jarring claims propound.
He who perceives himself in evil hands,
Aye weeps, and mercy of that maid demands.
Above the universal noise and shout,
Which rose nigh equally on either side,
Brunello, who from all the crowd about
For pity now, and now for succour, cried,
So loud was heard, that of that ample rout
He gathered round himself the pressing tide.
Arrived before the Moorish army's head,
To him with haughty mien Marphisa said:
"This thief (said she), thy vassal, will I slay,
And with this hand of mine will knot the cord
About his neck; because the very day
He stole this courser, he purloined my sword.
But is there any one who deems I say
Amiss, let him stand forth and speak the word;
For I on him will prove, before thine eyes,
I have done right, and who gainsays me, lies.
"But because haply some one may pretend
I have till such a time of strife delayed
My vengeance, when such famous knights contend,
For three days shall the wretch's doom be stayed;
In the mean time let him who would defend
That caitiff, come himself, or send him aid.
For afterwards, if none the deed prevent,
His carcass shall a thousand birds content.
"I hence to yonder tower, which distant nigh
Three leagues, o'erlooks a little copse, repair,
But with one varlet in my company,
And with one waiting-maid; if any dare
Rescue the thief, let him come thither; I
Wait the approach of his defenders there."
Thus she; and thither quickly wends her ways
Whither was said, nor any answer stays.
Held on the pommel grappled by his hair,
Brunello on Marphisa's courser lies:
The caitiff weeps, and shrieking in despair,
On all in whom he hopes, for succour cries.
In such confusion is Troyano's heir,
He sees no way through these perplexities;
And, that Marphisa thence Brunello bore
In such a guise, yet grieved the monarch more.
Not that he loved the losel or esteemed,
Rather to him some time had borne despite;
And often had to hand the caitiff schemed,
Since he had forfeited the ring of might.
But here his honour touched the monarch deemed,
So that his visage reddened at the slight:
He would, in person, follow her at speed,
And to his utmost power avenge the deed.
But the wise king, Sobrino, who was by,
Him from the quest endeavoured to dissuade,
And that with his exalted majesty
Such enterprize were ill assorted said:
Although firm hope, nay full security,
He had to overcome that martial maid,
If he with pain subdued a woman, shame,
Rather than honour, would pursue his name.
Small profit and much peril would succeed
From any fight he should with her maintain,
(And he advised him) as the better deed,
To leave that wretched caitiff to his pain;
And albeit but a simple nod should need
To free him, from that nod he should refrain.
In that the monarch would do ill to force
Even-handed Justice from her destined course.
"Thou to the fierce Marphisa may'st apply
To leave his trial (he pursued) to thee,
With promise, her in this to satisfy
And to suspend him from the gallows-tree:
And even should the maid thy prayer deny,
Let her in every wish contented be:
And rather than that she desert thy side,
Let her hang him and every thief beside."
Right willingly King Agramant gave way
To King Sobrino's counsel sage and staid;
And let renowned Marphisa wend her way,
Nor scathed he, nor let scathe, that martial maid,
Neither endured that any her should pray;
And heaven knows with what courage he obeyed
That wise advice, to calm such ruder strife
And quarrel, as throughout his camp were rife.
At this mad Discord laughed, no more in fear
That any truce or treaty should ensue;
And scowered the place of combat there and here,
Nor could stand still, for pleasure at the view.
Pride gamboled and rejoiced with her compeer,
And on the fire fresh food and fuel threw,
And shouted so that Michael in the sky
Knew the glad sign of conquest in that cry.
Paris-town rocked, and turbid ran the flood
Of Seine at that loud voice, that horrid roar;
And, so it echo rang in Arden's wood,
Beasts left their caverns in that forest hoar.
Alp and Cevenne's mountain-solitude,
And Blois, and Arles, and Rouen's distant shore,
Rhine, Rhone, and Saone, and Garonne, heard the pest;
Scared mothers hugged their children to their breast.
Five have set up their rest, resolved to be
The first their different quarrels to conclude:
And tangled so is one with other plea,
That ill Apollo's self could judge the feud.
To unravel that first cause of enmity
The king began -- the strife which had ensued,
Because of beauteous Doralice, between
The king of Scythia and her Algerine.
King Agramant oft moved, between the pair,
Now here now there, to bring them to accord;
Now there now here, admonishing that pair,
Like faithful brother and like righteous lord:
But when he found that neither would forbear,
Deaf and rebellious to his royal word,
Nor would consent that lady to forego,
The cause of strife, in favour of his foe,
As his best lore, at length the monarch said,
And to obey his sentence both were fain;
That he who was by her preferred, should wed
The beauteous daughter of King Stordilane:
And that what was established on his head
Should not be changed, to either's loss or gain.
The compromise was liked on either side,
Since either hoped she would for him decide.
The mighty king of Sarza, who long space
Before the Tartar, had loved Doralice,
(Who had preferred that sovereign to such grace
As modest lady may, nor do amiss)
Believed, when she past sentence on the case,
She must pronounce what would ensure his bliss.
Nor thus alone King Rodomont conceived,
But all the Moorish host with him believed.
All know what exploits wrought by him had been
For her in joust and war; they all unsound
And weak King Mandricardo's judgment ween;
But he, who oft was with her on their round,
And oftener private with the youthful queen,
What time the tell-tale sun was under ground,
He, knowing well how sure he was to speed,
Laughed at the silly rabble's idle creed.
They, after, ratify the king's award,
Between his hands, and next the suitors twain
Before that damsel go, that on the sward
Fixing her downcast eyes, in modest vein,
Avows her preference of the Tartar lord;
At which sore wondering stand the paynim train;
And Rodomont remains so sore astound,
He cannot raise his visage from the ground.
But wonted anger chasing shame which dyed
The Sarzan's face all over, he arraigned
The damsel's sentence, of the faulchion, tied
About his manly waist, the handle strained,
And in the king's and others' hearing cried:
"By this the question shall be lost or gained;
And not by faithless woman's fickle thought,
Which thither still inclines, where least it ought."
Kind Mandricardo on his feet once more,
Exclaims, "And be it as it pleases thee."
So that ere yet the vessel made the shore
Unploughed remained a mighty space of sea;
But that this king reproved the Sarzan sore,
Ruling that to appeal upon that plea
No more with Mandricardo could avail,
And made the moody Sarzan strike his sail.
Branded with double scorn, before those peers,
By noble Agramant, whose sovereign sway
He, as in loyal duty bound, reveres,
And by his lady on the selfsame day,
There will no more the monarch of Algiers
Abide, but of his band -- a large array --
Two serjeants only for his service takes,
And with that pair the paynim camp forsakes.
As the afflicted bull who has foregone
His heifer, nor can longer warfare wage,
Seeks out the greenwood-holt and stream most lone,
Or sands at distance from his pasturage;
There ceases not, in sun or shade to moan;
Yet not for that exhales his amorous rage:
So parts, constrained his lady to forego,
The king of Argier, overwhelmed with woe.
Rogero moved, his courser to regain,
And had already donned his warlike gear,
Then recollecting, that on listed plain
At Mandricardo he must couch the spear,
Followed not Rodomont, but turned his rein,
To end his quarrel with the Tartar, ere
He met in combat Sericana's lord
Within close barriers, for Orlando's sword.
To have Frontino ravished in his sight,
And be unable to forbid the deed,
He sorely grieves; but, when he shall that fight
Have done, resolves he will regain the steed;
But Sacripant, whom, like the youthful knight,
No quarrels in the Moor's pursuit impede,
And who was unengaged in other quest,
Upon the Sarzan's footsteps quickly prest;
And would have quickly joined him that was gone,
But for the chance of an adventure rare;
Which him detained until the day was done,
And made him lose the track of Ulien's heir:
A woman who had fallen into the Saone,
And who without his help had perished there,
The warrior drowning in that water found,
And stemmed the stream and dragged the dame aground.
When afterwards he would remount the sell,
From him his restless charger broke astray,
Who fled before his lord till evening fell,
Nor lightly did the king that courser stay.
At last he caught him; but no more could spell
Where he had wandered from the beaten way:
Two hundred miles he roved, 'twist hill and plain,
Ere he came up with Rodomont again.
How he by Sacripant was overtaken,
And fought by him, to his discomfit sore,
And how he lost his courser, how was taken,
I say not now, who have to say before,
With what disdain and with what anger shaken,
Against his liege and love, the Sarzan Moor
Forth from the Saracen cantonments sped,
And what he of the one and other said.
Wherever that afflicted paynim goes,
He fills the kindling air with sighs that burn;
And Echo oft, for pity of his woes,
With him from hollow rock is heard to mourn:
"O female mind! how lightly ebbs and flows
Your fickle mood," (he cries,) "aye prone to turn!
Object most opposite to kindly faith!
Lost, wretched man, who trusts you to his scathe!
"Neither my love nor length of servitude,
Though by a thousand proofs to you made clear,
Had power even so to fix your faithless mood,
That you at least so lightly should not veer:
Nor am I quitted, because less endued
With worth than Mandricardo I appear;
Nor for your conduct cause can I declare,
Save this alone, that you a woman are.
"I think that nature and an angry God
Produced thee to the world, thou wicked sex,
To be to man a plague, a chastening rod;
Happy, wert thou not present to perplex.
So serpent creeps along the grassy sod;
So bear and ravening wolf the forest vex;
Wasp, fly, and gad-fly buzz in liquid air,
And the rich grain lies tangled with the tare.
"Why has not bounteous Nature willed that man
Should be produced without the aid of thee,
As we the pippin, pear, and service can
Engraft by art on one another's tree?
But she directs not all by certain plan;
Rather, upon a nearer view, I see,
In naming her, she ill can act aright,
Since Nature is herself a female hight.
"Yet be not therefore proud and full of scorn
Women, because man issues from your seed;
For roses also blossom on the thorn,
And the fair lily springs from loathsome weed.
Despiteous, proud, importunate, and lorn
Of love, of faith, of counsel, rash in deed,
With that, ungrateful, cruel and perverse,
And born to be the world's eternal curse!"
These plaints and countless others to the wind
Poured forth the paynim knight, to fury stirred;
Now easing in low tone his troubled mind,
And now in sounds which were at distance heard,
In shame and in reproach of womankind;
Yet certes he from sober reason erred:
For we may deem a hundred good abound,
Where one or two perchance are evil found.
Though none for whom I hitherto have sighed
-- Of those so many -- have kept faith with me,
All with ingratitude, or falsehood dyed
I deem not, I accuse my destiny.
Many there are, and have been more beside
Unmeriting reproach: but if there be,
'Mid hundreds, one or two of evil way,
My fortune wills that I should be their prey.
Yet will I make such search before I die,
Rather before my hair shall wax more white,
That haply on some future day, even I
Shall say, "That one has kept her promise plight."
And should not the event my trust belie,
(Nor am I hopeless) I with all my might
Will with unwearied pain her praise rehearse
With pen and ink and voice, in prose and verse.
The Saracen, whom rage no less profound
Against his sovereign lord than lady swayed,
And who of reason thus o'erpast the bound,
And ill of one and of the other said,
Would fain behold that monarch's kingdom drowned
With such a tempest, with such scathe o'erlaid,
As should in Africk every house aggrieve,
Nor one stone standing on another leave.
And would that from his realm, in want and woe,
King Agramant a mendicant should wend;
That through his means the monarch, brought thus low,
His fathers' ancient seat might reascend:
And thus he might the fruit of fealty show,
And make his sovereign see, a real friend
Was aye to be preferred in wrong or right,
Although the world against him should unite;
And thus the Saracen pours forth his moan,
With rage against his liege and love possest;
And on his way is by long journeys gone,
Giving himself and courser little rest.
The following day or next, upon the Saone
He finds himself, who has his course addrest
Towards the coast of Provence, with design
To his African domain to cross the brine.
From bank to bank the stream was covered o'er
With boat of little burden, which conveyed,
For the supply of the invading Moor,
Victual, from many places round purveyed:
Since even from Paris to the pleasant shore
Of Acquamorta, all his rule obeyed;
And -- fronting Spain -- whate'er of level land
Was seen, extending on the better hand.
The victual, disembarked from loaded barge,
Was laid on sumpter-horse or ready wain;
And sent, with escort to protect the charge,
Where barges could not come; about the plain,
Fat herds were feeding on the double marge,
Brought thither from the march of either reign;
And, by the river-side, at close of day,
In different homesteads lodged, the drovers lay.
The king of Argier (for the dusky air
Of night began upon the world to close)
Here listened to a village-landlord's prayer,
That in his inn besought him to repose.
-- His courser stalled -- the board with plenteous fare
Is heaped, and Corsic wine and Grecian flows;
For, in all else a Moor, the Sarzan drank
Of the forbidden vintage like a Frank.
To warlike Rodomont, with goodly cheer
And kindlier mien, the landlord honour paid;
For he the port of an illustrious peer
In his guest's lofty presence saw pourtrayed.
But, sore beside himself, the cavalier
Had scarce his heart within him, which had strayed
To her -- whilere his own -- in his despite;
Nor word escaped the melancholy knight.
Mine host, most diligent in his vocation
Of all the trade who throughout France were known,
(In that he had, 'mid strange and hostile nation,
And every chance of warfare, kept his own)
-- Prompt to assist him in his occupation,
Some of his kin had called; whereof was none
Who dared before the warrior speak of aught,
Seeing that paynim mute and lost in thought.
From thought to thought the Sarzan's fancy flies,
Himself removed from thence a mighty space,
Who sits so bent, and with such downcast eyes,
He never once looks any in the face.
Next, after silence long, and many sighs,
As if deep slumber had but then given place,
His spirits he recalls, his eyelids raises,
And on the family and landlord gazes.
Then silence broke, and with a milder air,
And visage somewhat less disturbed, applied
To him, the host, and those by-standers there,
To know if any to a wife were tied;
And landlord and attendants, -- that all were,
To Sarza's moody cavalier replied:
He asked what each conceited of his spouse,
And if he deemed her faithful to her vows.
Except mine host, those others were agreed
That chaste and good their consorts they believed.
-- "Think each man as he will, but well I read,"
(The landlord said,) "You fondly are deceived:
Your rash replies to one conclusion lead,
That you are all of common sense bereaved;
And so too must believe this noble knight,
Unless he would persuade us black is white.
"Because, as single is that precious bird
The phoenix, and on earth there is but one,
So, in this ample world, it is averred,
One only can a woman's treason shun.
Each hopes alike to be that wight preferred,
The victor who that single palm has won.
-- How is it possible that what can fall
To one alone, should be the lot of all?
"Erewhile I made the same mistake as you,
And that more dames than one were virtuous thought,
Until a gentleman of Venice, who,
For my good fortune, to this inn was brought,
My ignorance by his examples true
So ably schooled, he better wisdom taught.
Valerio was the name that stranger bore;
A name I shall remember evermore.
"Of wives and mistresses the treachery
Was known to him, with all their cunning lore.
He, both from old and modern history,
And from his own, was ready with such store,
As plainly showed that none to modesty
Could make pretension, whether rich or poor;
And that, if one appeared of purer strain,
'Twas that she better hid her wanton vein.
"He of his many tales, among the rest,
(Whereof a third is from my memory gone)
So well one story in my head imprest,
It could not be more firmly graved in stone:
And what I thought and think, would be professed
For that ill sex, I ween by every one
Who heard; and, Sir -- if pleased to lend an ear --
To their confusion yon that tale shall hear."
"What could'st thou offer which could better please
At present" (made reply the paynim knight)
"Than sample, chosen from thine histories,
Which hits the opinion that I hold, aright?
That I may hear thee speak with better ease
Sit so, that I may have thee in my sight."
But in the following canto I unfold
What to King Rodomont the landlord told.