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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