Book I, Canto I, Part 5

The Orlando Innamorato in English Translation. Book I, Canto 1, Part 5 and final, Stanzas 82-91.

The two combatants fall upon the plain,
The one half-dead, the other wholly so.
And Argalía leaves his horse amain,
And drags the knight beside the fountain’s flow,
And gently laves him, till he slowly gains
Once more his senses, whereupon his foe
Lifts him again to take him to the tent,
But Ferraguto’s wrath is still not spent.

“It’s naught to me what Emp’ror Charles said,
About Angelica, or how we’d battle
I’m not his vassal, I don’t eat his bread,
I’m not obliged to listen to his prattle.
I’ll keep on fighting with you till I’m dead,
Or am too weak to sit up in the saddle.
The love I bear thy sister is so true,
I’d die for lack of her,” said Ferragu.

Astolfo is awakened by his shout,
Who just before was wrapped in slumbers deep,
Quite undisturbed by noise of battle rout,
No fighting giants keep him from his sleep.
But now, alarmed, he wakes and rushes out,
And sees them arguing. He tries to keep
Them calm and bring them to a sweet accord.
His words by Ferraguto are ignored.

Quoth Argalía, “Dost thou not perceive,
O worthy baron, that thou art disarmed?
Hast thou a helmet? Dost thou not believe
That thine lies shattered? Wert thou not alarmed
To feel that blow? However much thou grieve
Within my prison thou wilt not be harmed.
But if thou fight with nought upon thine head,
‘Twill take me but one blow to strike thee dead.”

Responds Don Ferragu, “I’m not afraid
To fight against thee without helm or mail
Or shield. In fact, I would not be dismayed
To fight thee naked. My heart would not fail,
If by so doing I could win the maid.
I trust in Love, which always shall prevail.”
He speaks the truth. So great is his desire,
That for her sake he’d leap into a fire.

Don Argalía is quite irritated
To find himself held in esteem so low.
Never before has anybody rates
Him so low as to fight him without clothes.
Though twice brought low, his foe is unabated.
In fact, his arrogance and daring grow.
To him, then, “Cavalier, thou hast an itch
For battle, and I’ll scratch it, if thou wish.

Rise up, and mount thy horse, and show thy skill,
And I shall fight with thee in combat fair
But have no hope that e’er my heart shall fill
With pity when I see thy head is bare.
Thou camest here today to seek thine ill,
And I shall give it to thee. Rise up, there,
Defend thyself, and do not waste thy breath,
For now is come the hour of thy death.

Don Ferraguto laughs to hear him say
These words, as one who reckons them but slight.
He leaps upon his horse without delay,
And says, “Attend to me, O worthy knight.
If thou wilt render me that lovely may,
Then I shall let thee go without a fight.
But if thou wilt not, I won’t run or hide,
But I shall fight till one of us has died.

Don Argalía is consumed with fury,
To hear his arrogant and boastful screed.
He whirls his horse away with madcap hurry.
So wroth he is, he doesn’t even heed
The words he’s shouting. And now with the spur, he
Goads Rabicano to his utmost speed,
With his sword drawn. His lance has slipped his mind.
He left it leaning on the mighty Pine.

His horse a-gallop and his sword on high,
His soul with anger burning, bears he down,
In all the world you could not find a knight
Whose strength surpassed those heroes of renown..
Perhaps Orlando or Rinaldo might
In equal fight with them be equals found.
In short, my lords, it was a dreadful brawl –
Come back next time, and I will tell you all.


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Book I, Canto I, Part 4

The Orlando Innamorato in English Translation. Book I, Canto 1, Part 4, Stanzas 61-80.

Now turn we to our story. He was dight
In his best armor, which was worth a treasure.
His shield was ringed with pearls of spotless white.
To see his gilded armor was a pleasure.
Upon his helmet’s crest there shone full bright
A gemstone of a value beyond measure.
Which (unless Bishop Turpin be a liar)
Was a great ruby, blazing red as fire.

No poorer is the cov’ring of his horse,
With leopards thereon tricked in golden thread.
Astolfo mounts, and straightaway rides forth
Alone and hasty, and devoid of dread.
No time he wasted, as he took his course,
And soon to Merlin’s Rock the knight hath sped,
Where, without pausing, to alert his foe,
He grabs his horn and gives a lusty blow.

When Argalía hears the Astolfo’s blast,
He rises up and peers from out his tent.
A knight is come, he dons his armor fast,
In which from head to foot there is no dent,
And sallies forth upon his steed to cast
His foe to earth, he’s eager and intent.
With shield on arm, and magic lance in hand –
The cornerstone of all that he has planned.

Each knight salutes the other court’ously,
And then they draw apart a fitting space,
While fair Angelica comes out to see.
The knights have come unto their proper place.
They brace them in their saddles sturdily,
Then loose the reins and at each other race.
Soon as the Duke the golden weapon feels,
He tumbles on the ground, head over heels.

Slowly arises that most wretched wight,
And in his anguish cries, “I am betrayed
By thee, O Fortune, out of thy pure spite.
Canst thou deny, that otherwise I’d stayed
Firm in my saddle and o’erthrown this knight,
And won the favors of this lovely maid?
Thou hast wrought my defeat, I know it well,
To give the honor to an infidel!”

The giants lift Astolfo from his feet
And take him to the tent, where he disarms.
When he comes out, Angelica casts sweet
And lovely looks at him, and she so charms
Him that he thinks she pities his defeat.
He’d sworn an oath that if he failed at arms
He’d stay their pris’ner and not run away,
But she more than his oath persuades him stay.

He’s left unguarded, so he takes his way
Towards the fountain, where he laves his head.
The fair Angelica, long as she may,
Watches the knight, but when the sky turns red
And but a little while is left of day,
He goes within the tent and goes to bed.
While she, her brother, and the giants four
Wait by the Stone a little while more.

Just as the day was almost done and past,
Came Ferraguto with an eager heart.
He blew upon his horn a mighty blast,
So that it seemed the world would fall apart.
The birds and beasts who heard it were aghast
And fled in terror through the forest dark.
The giants shook, Angelica turned pale,
And Argalía laughed and donned his mail.

He tied his scabbard on and then concealed
His head within a helm which bore his crest,
Then mounted on his horse and set his shield
Before himself and laid his lance in rest.
His Rabican was eager for the field;
No whit afraid, the charger forward pressed.
So soft and light he trod, he left no print,
By which a man could tell the way he went.

But to a lover, minutes seem like years,
And Ferraguto’s burning with impatience,
So when his foe is ready for the fray,
The knights don’t waste their time with salutations,
But draw apart, and turn, and drop the reins,
And at each other fly. Exhilaration
Fills Ferraguto, for this proud knight is
Certain the lovely dame will soon be his.

But when the lance first touches him, he’s shocked;
His face falls, and his heart fills with despair.
His mighty strength has been completely blocked,
And he himself is flying through the air.
With a great thump he lands; his breath is knocked
Out of his lungs, and he does not know where
He is. But he does not stay down for long,
His body and his spirit both are strong.

Love, and youth, and temperament have power
To fill the heart with anger in a flash.
Now, Ferraguto is in youth’s first flower,
Loves beyond measure, and is very rash.
His rages make all those around him cower
For trifles. Anything might make this brash
And hasty cavalier begin a duel,
So short his temper is; his heart so cruel.

His shame and anger raise him from the dirt,
Just as he fell to it, with lightning speed.
His only thought is to avenge this hurt.
He’s quite forgot the terms that were decreed.
He draws his sword, advancing undeterred
On Argalía, who sits on his steed
And calmly say, “Thou art my captive, knight.
And hast no reason to prolong the fight.”

But Ferraguto this rebuke ignores,
And charges at him, with his sword held high.
In haste and anger rise the giants four,
And seize their weapons which they’d lain nearby,
And rush at Ferragu with such a roar
As never hath been heard beneath the sky.
And Turpin says, although I think it strange,
It shook the earth within two miles’ range.

Don Ferraguto whirls around and sees
Them coming, but he fears them not at all.
The one who’s faster than the other three
Is called Argesto the Supremely Tall.
Another one is named Lampordo. He
Is called “The Hairy”. And Urgan men call
The third one, and the shortest one is hight
Turlone; he has thirty feet of height.

Lampordo from a distance hurls a dart,
At Ferragu, the battle to begin.
It would have pierced that proud knight to the heart,
Had it not been for his enchanted skin.
You may have seen a greyhound chase a hart,
A panther spring, a leaf in stormy wind,
Or lightning flash. These things are all more slow,
Than Ferragu was to return that blow.

He drives his sword into the giant’s shank,
And starts to carve him, as he were a pie,
Cutting through reins and bowels to his flank,
But still his anger is unsatisfied.
He pulls his sword out and confronts the rank
Of th’other three, who with their weapons high,
Fall on him all at once, while Cathay’s prince
Stands to the side and watches these events.

Now Ferraguto takes a mighty leap,
Full twenty feet or more from off the ground,
And smites Urgano’s head a blow so deep
It cleaves him to the teeth. When he comes down
Argesto sends him tumbling in a heap,
With one great blow delivered to his crown,
With his iron mace. So forceful is his blow,
Blood spurts from Ferraguto’s mouth and nose.

He quick recovered, and more hot and bright
His anger burned. No trace of fear he felt,
But knocked the giant down despite his height,
Split open from the shoulders to the belt.
But then new peril came upon the knight;
Turlone, in whose muscles much strength dwelt,
Stretched his right hand out, gripped and held him fast,
And thought the battle had been won at last.

But by his potency, or his good chance,
I don’t know which, the knight broke loose. Dismayed,
The giant lifts his mace with both his hands
And Ferraguto brandishes his blade.
Turlone swings his iron club and lands
A mighty blow on Ferraguto’s pate.
Cracking his helmet, while the knight swings free
And cuts through both his legs below the knee.

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Childe Rowland and the Dark Tower

The most famous Roland in English-speaking countries today is probably the “Childe Rowland who to the Dark Tower came”, but that Rowland was no relation to our Roland/Orlando. That Rowland is from a Scottish story, half-fairytale, half-ballad. He was the son of a Scottish knight, and had two brothers and a sister, Burd Helen (Fair Ellen). Burd Helen was kidnapped by the Elf-king, and locked in his Dark Tower, whence Childe Rowland rescued her, after his two older brothers had failed. This Rowland is the one that Edmund sings about in King Lear, whilst pretending to be insane.

“Child Rowland to the dark tower came,
His word was still ‘Fie, foh, and fum
I smell the blood of a British man.”

Robert Browning’s poem Childe Roland (1855) is a bizarre yet very powerful fantasy poem, featuring perhaps the most heroic character in all literature. Certainly no one else ever faced so great a peril with so little support: no family, no friends, only the certain knowledge that he will fail his appointed task just like all his companions who went before him,

“And yet,
Dauntless the slughorn to my lips I set,
And blew. ‘Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.’”

The poem was inspired by the first line of Edmund’s song in Lear, but has nothing to do with the Scottish story, which was not presented to the reading public until Joseph Jacob’s English Fairy Tales, in 1886. Jacobs heard the tale in Scotland, and dressed it up slightly for publication, replacing the generic wizard who advises Rowland with Merlin, and the generic castle with the Shakespearean Dark Tower. Stephen King’s sprawling The Dark Tower series is loosely inspired by Browning’s poem, but again has nothing to do with the Scottish fairy tale, or with Roland the Paladin.

Notes to the First Canto, Part 3

The Orlando Innamorato in English Translation, Book I, Canto I, Part 3, Notes

51. Merlin appears to have been among the last wizards to have an innate knowledge of magic. Malagise, like Roger Bacon and Albertus Magnus, had to learn it. Toledo in Spain was allegedly home to a secret school of magic, at which some works claim Malagise studied. Other notable alumni of the Black School include Michael Scot and Soemunder the Wise. For the distinction between the innate magic of Merlin and the book-learned magic of Malagise, see C. S. Lewis’ English Literature in the Sixteenth Century. For Michael Scot, see The Lay of the Last Minstrel. For Soemundur, see any good book of Icelandic folklore.

52. Cathay. Old China, including neither Manchuria nor Tibet.

55/56. The natural tendency of Italian to use more syllables than English sometimes makes it best to condense two stanzas into one.

58. Dudon. Second son of Ogier the Dane, and younger brother of Baldwin (Baldovino). Prefers to fight with a club. Usually a minor character, although there was a now-lost romance that focused on his exploits.
Belengieri and Ottone. Sons of Duke Naimo of Bavaria. Traditional minor characters. This is not the Ottone who is Astolfo’s father and king of England.

60. Astolfo. Cousin of Orlando and Rinaldo. Son of King Ottone of England. He may make a cameo in the Oxford Song of Roland as Duke Austorje of Valence on the Rhone. An Astolfo also appears in the Venice 4 version of that poem, where he replaces Otho [Ottone in Boiardo, of Avin, Avolio, Ottone, and Beringier]. In the Chateroux/Venice 7 version, he is already the son of Otes. He also cameos in Turpin, under the name Estultus, count of Langres. His first major role is in the poem of Aspremont, under the name of Estouf. “De Langres” was corrupted into “D’Angles”, i.e. “Of England”. His personality is traditional; it’s oldest surviving appearance is in Aspremont, but it stuck with him ever after.

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On to Part 4

Notes to the First Canto, Parts 1 and 2

The Orlando Innamorato in English Translation. Book I, Canto I, Parts 1 and 2, Stanzas 1 through 40, Notes.

Argument. The arguments were not written by Boiardo, but have been added by the translator.

1. Charlemagne. Born to King Pepin the Short in 742, became king upon his father’s death in 768, crowned Roman Emperor by Pope Leo in 800. Conquered and converted Saxony 804. Institutor of many laudable reforms, most of which were undone by the incompetence of his successors after his death in 814.
2. Orlando. Or Roland, or Hrodland. Governor of Brittany under Charlemagne. Died in an ambush by the Basques at Roncesvalles Pass in the Pyrenees in 778. The minstrels made him the son of Milo and of Bertha, the (fictitious) sister of Charles.
3. Turpin. Tilpin was archbishop of Rheims from 753 to 800.  A fictitious chronicle of the deeds of Charles and Roland was fathered on him about 1000. Subsequent minstrels ascribed all their stories to Turpin, and Pulci, Boiardo, and Ariosto continue the tradition.
4. Gradasso. An invention of Boiardo’s.
5. Baiardo. The best horse in the world. Belongs to Rinaldo, the cousin of Orlando. Magic, almost as smart as a man. Able to carry Rinaldo and his three brothers on his back at once.
Durindana. The best sword in the world. Won by Orlando from the pagan king Almonte at the battle of Aspremont. This will be important later.
8. Whitsuntide. Pentecost. Fifty days after Easter.
10. Grandonio. Traditional minor character. Appears in the Song of Roland as Grandonie, where he is killed by Orlando at Roncesvalles.
Ferraguto. Invention of the minstrels. Son of Falsirone and Lanfusa, and nephew of Marsilius. In older works, he was a giant who was invincible except for his navel, and was slain by Roland during Charles’ invasion of Spain prior to the battle of Roncesvalles. Boiardo makes him of ordinary size, but keeps the invincibility.
Serpentino and Isolier. Traditional minor characters. Serpentino is a nephew of Marsilius, and is killed by Orlando during Charles’ invasion of Spain prior to the Battle of Roncesvalles.
Balugante. In the Song of Roland, he is the Emir of Babylon, and feudal overlord of King Marsilius of Spain. In later works, he is brother of Marsilius and Falsaron, and is King of Portugal. The story of how Charlemagne married his daughter Gallerana is completely fabulous, and is related in Old French chansons.
14. Desiderio. Desiderius, king of the Lombards from 756 to 774. Rebelled against Charles 772. Conquered by him 774 and deposed. Died 786. According to the minstrels, Ogier the Dane participated in this rebellion, to avenge the murder of his son Baldwin by Charlemagne’s (fabulous) son Charlot. The famous Amis and Amilon (Amys and Amiles) were killed fighting for Charles in this rebellion. Ariosto’s Cinque Canti, his unfinished sequel to the Orlando Furioso, is set in the same revolt.
Ottone. Purely fabulous. England was still divided into the Heptarchy in Charlemagne’s day. Father of Astolfo.
Salmone. The real Salamon the Wise ruled Brittany from 857 to 874, but he was associated with Charlemagne as early as the Song of Roland.
15. Ganelon. Wenilo, Archbishop of Sens from 836 to 865, and disloyal to the kings of France. The minstrels changed his name to Ganelon, and made him second husband of Charlemagne’s sister Bertha and thus step-father of Orlando. He had his own son, Baldwin (not to be confused with Ogier’s son Baldwin). In the Song of Roland, his treason is a single action, the culmination of a long simmering hatred of Roland. In later works, he is a habitual traitor, always openly opposed to Orlando and Rinaldo.
Maganza. Or Mayence. The family of Ganelon. All of them, except Baldwin, were as evil as Ganelon and held a bitter feud with the House of Clairmont, to which Orlando and Rinaldo belonged.
16. Rinaldo. Reynald of Montalban. Eldest of the Four Sons of Aymon, cousin of Orlando, owner of Baiardo. The minstrels conflate him with Saint Reynard of Cologne, a hardworking stonemason who was killed by his fellow laborers for making them look bad. It is unknown whether the saint was real, whether the knight was real, whether if real they were the same person, whether the legend originally was about a knight who retired from the world to live in obscurity, whether one part of the legend gave rise to the other, or whether two unrelated legends about people with the same name were combined.
22. Gallerana. Fictional. Her story is told in French romances.
Aldabella. The lovely Alda, called Aude in the Song of Roland. Sister of Olivier, and beloved of Orlando. In the Song of Roland they are only engaged when Roland dies. In other works they are married. The story of how they met can be found in the chanson de geste, Girart of Vienne.
. Wife of Rinaldo, and daughter of King John, or Yon, of Gascony. Her story may be found in The Four Sons of Aymon, or in Tasso’s Rinaldo.
Ermeline. Wife of Ogier the Dane.
25. Uberto dal Leone. A pseudonym. Angelica’s brother is really named Argalía. There is a real Uberto dal Leone, a minor character who will appear later.
Angelica. An invention of Boiardo’s, like her brother and father.
27. Merlin’s Stone. Technically a stone, placed to help knights mount and dismount their horses.
31. I see the better and I choose the worse. A very common statement in love poems, ultimately derived not from Saint Paul, but from Ovid.
32. Namo. Or Naimo. Naimes in the Song of Roland. Duke of Bavaria. An invention of the minstrels. Uncle of Ogier the Dane, and father of Avin, Avolio, Ottone (not the king of England), and Berlingier.
34. Malagise. Or Malagigi, Malgis, or Maugis. Cousin of Rinaldo and Orlando. Son of Buovo, or Bevis, or Aigrismont (Not to be confused with Bevis of Hampton). Malagise, a skilled magician, is the brother of the very minor character Vivien (not the same Vivien who died at Aliscans). Malagise’s story is told in The Four Sons of Aymon, in Maugis d’Aigremont, and other works.
37. Galliphrone. An invention of Boiardo’s. Purely fictitious. Ruler of Cathay (China).
38. Charger. This horse will later be named Rabicano.
39. Ring. From Pio Rajna, Le Fonti dell’ Orlando Furioso: “Of the ring, one could speak at great length. Talismans which confer invisibility or which destroy all powers of magic, abound in the fairy tales and myths of a multitude of peoples. We may mention the ring of Gyges [from Greek mythology], that of Yvain [Chretien de Troyes’ Le Chevalier au Lyon, or The Lady of the Fountain in the Mabinogion], the helmet of Ade, the Tarnhelm of German and Scandinavian mythology, the herb in Morgante (XXV, 204), the magic stone, heliotrope, of the Lapidaries and of Boccaccio. So much for invisibility.
“For the other power, it is found in the rings given by the Lady of the Lake to Lancelot [The Vulgate Cycle, not in Malory, if memory serves me], by Isolde to Tristan [The Prose Tristan, or the Tavola Ritonda. Again not in Malory], by the Queen of Scots to her son Gadisfer [in Perceforest].”
The Golden Lance. One Sir Lasancis was sent to King Arthur’s court with a magic lance by an enchantress in La Tavola Ritonda. Other such lances are found wielded by Rubione in the Storie di Rinaldo¸ and by Antea in Orlando and in the Morgante Maggiore.

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On to Part 3

Book I, Canto I, Part 3

The Orlando Innamorato in English Translation. Book I, Canto 1, Part 3, Stanzas 41-60.

Thus Malagise learns their true intent,
But let us leave him reeling from the shock,
And rather see where Argalía went.
He, once he had arrived at Merlin’s Rock,
Dismounted, tied his horse, and pitched his tent.
Then lay inside it, and some slumber took.
A fancier tent in France was never kept,
Than that in which now Argalía slept.

Angelica, who was not far behind
Her brother, rests her head upon the ground,
Beside the fountain, underneath the pine,
While the four watchful giants her surround.
In sleep, she seems not one of humankind,
But like an angel come from Heaven down.
Her brother’s ring upon her hand she wore,
The pow’rs of which, I have explained before.

Now Malagise, carried through the air,
By fiends he’s summoned, silently comes thither.
Unseen he sees the damsel sleeping there,
Beneath the pine beside the flowing river.
But the four giants arms and armor bear,
And keep unblinking watch as they sit with her.
The wizard laughs and thinks, “Ye ugly rabble,
I’ll overcome you all without a battle.

Your flails and maces are no use today,
Nor darts nor swords nor all your other arms,
But Slumber soon shall hold you ‘neath his sway.
You foolish geldings will raise no alarms.”
When he had gloated, he made no delay,
To take his spellbook out and cast his charms.
The first page of the book he had not read,
Before the giants slumbered as if dead.

This done, the damsel is his target next.
He slowly closes in and draws his sword,
But when he sees her lovely face at rest,
Her arms stretched gently out across the sward,
His spirits rise; his heart throbs in his chest
He thinks, “Why spurn the gifts that fate affords?
I’ll make her sleep so soundly with my charms,
She’ll never know I held her in my arms.”

He drops his sword and takes his book in hand,
And reads the spell again the whole way through,
But all in vain, the charm works not as planned,
For all enchantments can the ring undo.
But Malagise thinks th’enchanted band
Is Argalía’s and the maid he views
Is sealed by magic in a slumbrous prison.
He stretches out beside her and starts kissing.

The girl awakens with a frightened cry:
“Ah, miserable me; I am betrayed!”
Stunned, Malagise can make no reply,
To see his charms did not affect the maid.
She grabs him by the wrist, lest he should fly,
And loudly calls for Argalía’s aid.
He hears her cry, and starts awake, alarmed.
He rushes from his tent in haste, unarmed.

Soon as his eyes behold this Frankish wight,
Who’s tried to treat his sister like a harlot,
His heart sinks in him, overmastered quite.
His strength is gone, and his face flushes scarlet.
But in an instant he regains his might
And grabs a stick of wood to brain the varlet.
“Die, traitor! – shouts he as he rushes o’er –
How dar’st thou treat my sister like a whore?”

But she cries, “Brother, we must bind him tightly,
Ere I release him; he’s a sorcerer,
And if I didn’t have the ring, your knightly
Prowess would fail to take him prisoner.”
On hearing this, the youthful prince runs lightly
Across the grass, but keeps an eye on her.
He tries to wake a giant, but despite,
His shouting, the enchantment holds him tight.

He tries another one; again he fails,
And so he switches to another tack.
He takes the chain from out a giant’s flail,
And hurries back to them , in no way slack.
Where, after struggling, the two prevail
And tie the wizard’s arms behind his back.
And then they bind his feet and legs and neck,
And gag him, too, his magic arts to check.

Once Malagise has been firmly bound,
The damsel searches all around the pine
And soon his magic grimoire has she found,
Filled with unholy names and mystic signs.
She oped the clasps that girdle it around,
And when she read therein, elapsed no time,
Ere spirits filled the air and stream and land,
All crying, “Mistress, what is your command?”

She orders, “Take this wretched captive past
Tartary, and both Indies to Cathay,
To that fair capitol, whence o’er his vast
Dominions, Galliphron the King holds sway.
Tell him his daughter wishes him to cast
Him into prison. Once he’s put away,
I do not reckon at a broken pin,
All of King Charles’ Peers and Paladins.”

Soon as her speech is done, the fiends transport
Malgis away, and set him down with glee
Before King Galliphron and all his court,
Who cast him in a dungeon by the sea.
The while Angelica tends her escorts
And from enchanted slumber sets them free.
They yawn and scratch and stretch their limbs, and gape,
Unmindful of the peril they’ve escaped.

But while this happened in the countryside,
Paris was wracked with quarrels and dissensions.
Orlando claimed the right to foremost ride
Against Uberto, but to his pretensions,
Time and again King Charlemagne replied
There was no reason in them. Like contentions
Racked ev’ry knight. The mightiest to the worst
All wished to joust against the stranger first.

Orlando fears that he will be too late
To win his lady, if some other rides
Before him, and in agony he waits
To hear what Charlemagne at last decides.
The cavaliers assemble and debate
Which one of them will be the first to try
The challenge, and they all agree at last,
That for the foremost place they lots will cast.

Every cavalier wrote down his name,
Or had it written, on a little roll
Of paper. Then each knight who wished to claim
The lady, cast his slip into a bowl
And then a little page before them came
And put his hand in, and drew out a scroll.
Loud he announced the knight who would commence
The jousting was Astolfo, England’s prince.

The second place will Ferraguto take,
The third Rinaldo and the fourth Dudon,
And next Grandonio the attempt will make,
And Belengieri; after them, Otton,
Then Charlemagne himself a lance will break,
But lest my story should too long be grown,
I’ll tell you Count Orlando’s name was called
The thirty-first, and much his heart was galled.

Before the name was called of ev’ry knight,
The day was fading into evening’s glow.
The Duke Astolfo, with his heart alight
Called for his arms, and thinks his men too slow.
No whit discouraged that it draws to night,
But eager as he is to face his foe,
He boasts aloud that with one mighty thrust,
He’ll send Uberto rolling in the dust.

You, lords, should know about Astolfo. He
Outdid all men for comeliness of face.
He had much wealth, but still more courtesy,
And dressed and groomed himself with careful grace.
Though in the jousts he wasn’t much to see,
And fell more often than he kept his place,
As often as he fell he quick returned,
For in his fearless heart such honor burned.

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Book I, Canto I, Part 2

The Orlando Innamorato in English Translation. Book I, Canto 1, Part 2, Stanzas 21-40.

For through the door into the hall there strode
Four ugly giants, who, it seemed, did guard
A comely damsel. Close behind them rode
A knight who seemed as if he’d come from far.
The damsel’s face like fire or diamonds glowed.
Her loveliness outshone the morning star.
To tell the truth to you, my lords, in short,
No one more lovely had been seen at court.

Though Galerana, wife of Charlemagne,
And Aldabella were within the hall,
And fair Clarice, Ermelin the Dane,
And far too many for me to recall,
Each one a beauty, each for virtue famed,
I say the ladies there seemed lovely all
Before this damsel in the hall arrived,
Who from them all the crown of beauty rived.

All of the Christian lords and barons stare
Upon her beauty and forget to eat,
Nor does a single Pagan lie still there,
But in a stupor, rise they to their feet,
And move as much towards her as they dare.
But she, with joyful face and smile sweet,
Which could wake love within a heart of stone,
Speaks to the King in soft and gentle tone.

“O worthy lord, thy virtues manifold,
And the great prowess of thy dozen Peers,
Which Fame in ev’ry land on earth hath told,
Till all men know it, leave me with no fears
That all in vain we pilgrims have made bold
After a weary journey to appear,
To do thee honor at thy splendid feast,
To which we’ve travelled from the furthest East.

And now to thee I shall make manifest
Who we are, and I likewise shall make known
Why we came to thy court, and on what quest.
This knight here is Uberto dal Leon.
Although his lineage is of the best,
He’s lost the lands which he by right should own.
I am Angelica, his sister, and
With him I was exiled from our land.

Two hundred days or more beyond the Don,
Wand’ring near what was once our territory,
We heard the news that thou wouldst soon put on
A mighty tourney and great consistory,
To which would come all barons of renown,
Where gold nor cities were the mead of glory.
Where the reward, as ev’rybody knows, is
Not lands nor treasures, but a crown of roses.

When he heard this,  my brother soon decided
That he would come to you and test his strength
Here where the flow’r of chivalry provided
A field to demonstrate his skill at length.
If any knight of either creed is minded
To fight him, he may find us where there springs
The Fountain of the Pine, by Merlin’s Stone,
Where for this week we two will make our home.

But he must take the fight on this condition:
That if my brother overthrows a knight
And makes him roll in dust and earn derision,
Then that shall be the ending of the fight
And he must go into my brother’s prison.
But he who overthrows Ubert with might
Shall make his own my person and my heart;
My brother with our giants will depart.

The damsel kneeleth, when her speech is done,
And waits an answer. Ev’ry man assembled
Looked at her lovingly, but there is none
Whose heart like that of Count Orlando trembled.
His face turns crimson while his pulses run,
However much he tries, he can’t dissemble.
He hangs his head and stares hard at the ground,
Lest his great passion in his face be found.

“Ah, mad Orlando, – to himself he said –
To let thyself by passion so be swayed.
Dost thou not see the trap to which thou’rt led,
And how this sinning will lead thee away
From God? I see how I have been misled
By Fortune, but can lend myself no aid.
I, who but lately set at nought the world,
And vanquished without combat by a girl.

“However much I try, I cannot chase
This lovely lady’s image from my heart.
I’ll pine and dwindle for a weary space,
And die, if in my life she has no part.
There is no physic that can Love efface,
Nor all my skill with sword and lance and dart.
No wisdom can preserve me from this curse;
I see the better and I choose the worse.”

While silently the baron holds debate,
Blaming and praising his newborn desire,
Naimo, of hoary beard and balding pate
Love paints his cheeks with more than twenty shades,
And, for he trembles, warms him with his fire.
Ev’ryone from the barons to the carles
Longed for the lady, and so did King Charles.

For wonder, no one in the hall could move,
But simply gazed upon her with delight,
Save Ferraguto, that impetuous youth,
Whose face, it seemed, a flame had set alight.
Three times he forward stepped, resolved to prove
His strength by seizing her right there, despite
The knight and giants, but he thrice stopped short,
Fearing to bring dishonor on the court.

From foot to foot he shifts; his innards writhe,
He now steps forward, and now steps back quick.
Rinaldo gazes at the dame likewise,
And feels a fire running up his cheeks.
And Malagise, who has recognized
The girl, thinks “Soon I’ll play thee such a trick,
Ribald enchantress, that thou’lt never boast
Of what thou’st done among our Emperor’s host.”

Meanwhile, King Charlemagne, to keep in view
As long as possible the lady bright,
Makes long response, then asks her questions new,
To hear her speaking fills him with delight.
At last he promises that he will do
All she requests, and will arrange the fights.
She thanks, him sweetly, then with her escort.
Of giants and  her brother, leaves the court.

No sooner has she left the gates of Paris,
Than Malagise takes book of spells
To find out what the truth of this affair is,
And calls four demons up from blackest Hell.
Oh, what abyss of horror and despair is
In his mind – God of Heaven, shield him well! –
When he finds out Angelica has planned
To kill King Charles and lay waste his land.

Because this girl, so innocent and sweet,
Is daughter of the great King Galifron.
She’s  full of falsehood, mistress of deceit.
No branch of magic is to her unknown.
She was sent to our country from the east
By her dear father, old and wicked grown,
Beside her brother, Argalía named,
And not Uberto, as she falsely claimed.

He gave a charger to his youthful son,
Black as a coal whose fire has been spent,
(No other steed alive so swiftly runs
As this, which oftentimes outruns the wind,)
And shield and arms inferior to none,
And a great sword by magic arts designed.
But most important was a lance of gold,
Of powers marvellous and worth untold.

His father gave to him this lance enchanted
Because with it, defeat is inconceivable.
And one more, even greater gift he granted,
A magic ring of virtue unbelievable,
The mightiest work that ever fay or man did;
Held in the mouth, it makes one unperceivable.
Worn on the finger, it makes all charms fail;
No spells against this wondrous ring prevail.

But still more power in the face resides
Of sweet Angelica, and so she goes
Beside him, so that when the knights have spied
Her face, they’d fall in love with that fair rose,
And when with Argalía they collide
The magic lance, which always overthrows
Its target, will unhorse them one and all,
And into Galifrone’s hands they’ll fall!

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Book I, Canto I, Part 1





While King Gradasso plots to conquer France,
Charles, unawares, is putting on a feast,
At which Angelica has evil plans
To kidnap all his knights and take them East.
First Malagise falls into her hands,
And then Astolfo by the dame is seized,
But Ferraguto, headstrong and extreme,
Upsets completely her malicious scheme.

Come, gentle lords and knights and gather round,
To hear a novel and delightful thing.
Pay close attention and make not a sound
And hearken to the history I sing
Of mighty deeds and enterprise renowned
Of wondrous feats and high adventuring
Done by Orlando when he felt Love’s pain
When Charles the Great as emperor did reign.

“Orlando in Love.” My lords, be not astounded
To hear that title, for if truth be known,
The man whose strength and prowess were unbounded
By love was overcome and overthrown.
Not strength of arms, nor soul in reason grounded,
Nor shield, nor mail, nor sword of sharpest hone,
Nor any other thing may men defend,
But Love shall take and bind them in the end.

This tale is scarce, and very few have read it,
Because Don Turpin, once the tale was written,
Thinking, perhaps, that it would being discredit
Upon the Count, to tell how he was smitten
By Love, who said when no one else had said it,
That by his might Orlando had been beaten,
Hid the true story of the Count away,
Which I have found, and tell you all today.

Turpin begins his chronicle veracious
Stating past India reigned a potentate
Whose fiefs and territories were so spacious,
His lands so fertile and his wealth so great,
And he himself so mighty and pugnacious,
That he thought none in all the world his mate.
This worthy admiral Gradasso hight,
Who had a dragon’s heart and giant’s height.

But great lords have an all-too-common habit:
They see the wealth which other people own
And straight consumes them a desire to nab it
And make it to belong to them alone,
And in their greed they cook up plans to grab it,
From which all trace of common sense hath flown.
So this strong Pagan had but one desire:
Baiard and Durindana to acquire.

He sent through his dominions far and nigh,
Calling his lords to gather on a day,
For well he knew he could not simply buy
The horse and sword: too valuable were they.
Their owners asked a price which was so high
That even kings would find it hard to pay.
So he determined to go into France
And simply take them through his great puissance.

One hundred fifty thousand men of might
He chose from all his warriors who there banded.
Not that he wished to use them in the fight.
He hoped to gain his triumph single-handed
Against King Charlemagne and all the knights
Of every land wherein the Cross was planted,
And he himself would conquer and subdue
Ev’ry last country which the son doth view.

But let us leave them sailing on the main,
Until they’ve made their way across the sea,
And rather turn to France, to Charlemagne,
Who also summoned all his barony.
His dukes, marquis, and counts before him came
With all the flow’r of Christian chivalry.
For Charles had proclaimed both far and wide
He’d hold a tournament at Whitsuntide.

To Charles’ court came all the Paladins
To do him honor and enjoy the feast.
Men came from ev’rywhere. The Paris inns
Were full to bursting; still the crowds increased.
And with the Christians mingled Saracens,
For Charles had proclaimed a solemn peace,
And ev’ry knight his solemn oath had made
To be no traitor and no renegade.

A host of brave and worthy cavaliers
Had come from Spain with all their retinue:
The King Grandonio, like a serpent fierce;
Lowering like a griffin, Ferragu;
And Serpentin and his friend Isolier;
King Balugante, father-in-law  to
King Charles, with far more knights than I could state,
The jousts and tourneys eagerly await.

The city rang through all its streets and courses
With sounds of drums, of trumpets, and of bells.
Had you been there, you would have seen the forces
Decked in their best array. I must not dwell
On all the finery of men and horses.
They bore more gold and jewels than I could tell.
To please the king, and make each other jealous,
Each knight for his apparellings was zealous.

The day had come when Charles had decreed
The joustings and the tourney should commence,
But first he summoned one and all to feed
In his own hall, with great magnificence.
All of the cavaliers of either creed
Came to do Charles fitting reverence,
And when the number of them was completed,
Twenty-two thousand thirty there were seated.

King Charles sat upon a throne of gold,
With joyous face, among his paladins,
At his round table, whence he might behold
All things. Near him the noblest Saracens
Sat not on benches, but on carpets lolled
Like dogs, for this their custom long has been,
To lie on carpets when they wish to dine.
To try the Frankish custom they decline.

On either side of him, in order fitting,
Were ranged the tables, says the history.
At the first table all the kings were sitting.
King Desiderio, who ruled Lombardy;
And King Ottone, sovereign lord of Britain,
And Salamon the wise of Brittany.
According to their rank, on either hand,
Sat the crowned kings of ev’ry Christian land.

Marquis and dukes the second table grace;
The third is for the counts and simple knights.
Men of Maganza have a special place,
And Ganelon is on the emperor’s right.
Rinaldo’s eyes with wrath and fury blaze,
Because these traitors, to do him despite,
Mock at his poverty, and put on airs
Because his clothes are not as fine as theirs.

Although his anger is by no means spent,
He masks it with a joyous countenance,
While to himself he thinks, “O hateful men,
Tomorrow in the lists you’ll feel my lance.
We’ll see who sits aloft in triumph then,
Accursed family, and scourge of France!
If my heart fails me not, I shall, I trust,
Make ev’ry one of you roll in the dust.”

King Balugante eyes Rinaldo then,
And guessing somewhat of his inner thought,
By his interpreter a message sends
To ask the knight if honor can be bought
At Charles’ court, or only worthy men
Obtain it, for he wishes to be taught
The Christians’ customs, that he might dispense
To ev’ry man a fitting recompense.

Rinaldo smiled, and raised up his head,
And to the messenger said, “Tell the king
That if by our example he’d be led,
And be at one with us in reckoning,
Gluttons at table and our whores in bed
Win praise from us above all other things.
But let him wait until he sees us fight,
And then he’ll know whom he ought to requite.”

But while these two their conversation hold,
The trumpets ring out, and the feast begins.
The servers enter, bearing plates of gold,
Heaped with fine viands, while the cups from brim
To base were wrought with carvings manifold.
Which Charlemagne sent as a gift from him
To ev’ry baron, and the like largesse
He showed to ev’ry man of high prowess.

With gabs and boasts, and many merry jests,
With mirth and revelry the hall resounds
King Charles looks, and joy swells in his breast,
Seeing kings, dukes, and knights of such renown.
He thinks the Pagans will be sorely pressed
In jousts, like dust before the breezes blown.
But just then, there occurred a wondrous thing,
Which stunned alike the barons and the king.

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