Book I, Canto II, Part 1

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto II, Part 1, Stanzas 1-20.

CANTO II

ARGUMENT
Angelica, to flee from Ferragu,
Runs with her brother into fair Ardennes.
Rinaldo and Orlando her pursue.
King Charles bids the tournament begin.
The barons clash with courage stout and true,
Till King Grandonio seemeth like to win.
He knocks down even mighty Olivier,
But then Astolfo comes to cause him fear.

1
Last time, I sang to you, my lords, or those
Two mighty knights locked in a battle fierce.
Prince Argalía’s conquered all his foes,
And Ferragu ‘mongst pagans hath no peers.
One’s magic armor shields him from all blows;
The other’s magic skin cannot be pierced,
Except his navel, which he keeps concealed
With twenty plates of fine Damascus steel.

2
If you have seen a pair of lions vie
For mastery, with biting and with thrashing,
Or heard two thunderclouds roar in the sky,
And seen the brilliant sparks of lightning flashing,
Then know that these were far exceeded by
The worthy cavaliers together clashing.
The earth was shaken, and the heavens roared,
When these two struck each other with the sword.

3
And thus they clash together in their wrath,
And view each other with expression dread.
Each knight, though certain he is safe from scath,
Trembles for anger and is soaked in sweat.
Don Argalía, with all strength he hath,
Strikes his opponent right on his bare head,
And he is sure beyond a shade of doubt,
That Ferraguto’s luck has just run out.

4
So when he sees his polished blade just bounce
Right off, and fail to draw a single drop
Of blood, the sight completely him astounds.
His hair curls, and for wonderment he stops.
But Ferraguto is not slow to pounce;
He thinks to vivisect him with one chop.
“Mahound have mercy on thy soul, for I
Will have none on thy body,” is his cry.

5/6
And with these words a mighty blow he deals,
That would have cleft a diamond in twain.
The helm enchanted fortunately steals
The sharp sword’s pow’r to cleave; it strikes in vain.
Completely baffled, Ferragu’s mind reels.
He wonders if he hasn’t gone insane.
Thus stupefied, the knights desist from violence,
And each one looks upon his foe in silence.

6/7
A little while they stand without a word,
Quite still, they marvel at each other so.
At last, Don Argalía’s voice is heard,
“O worthy knight, – quoth he, – “thou oughtst to know
That all this armor wherewith I am girt
Makes me invincible from head to toe,
By magic art. Give up thy fight with me;
Thou canst win nought but shame and injury.”

7/8
Says Ferraguto, “By Mahound I swear
That all my armor, from my boots to crest,
And e’en my shield, not for defense I wear,
But ornament, for I have been so blest
In all my skin there is but one place where
I can be hurt. And so for thee ‘tis best
At once to yield, and I shall let thee live,
If unto me thou wilt thy sister give.

8/9
Then shall I place myself at thy command,
And serve thee faithfully forevermore.”
Says Argalía, “Baron frank and grand,
I’ve never met a knight so skilled at war
As thou. I’ll gladly give my sister’s hand
And live with thee in brotherly accord –
If she be willing, be that understood.”
And Ferraguto thinks his offer good.

10
Though Ferragu is in the bloom of youth,
His voice is raspy and his skin is dark.
Hs face is fearful and his beard uncouth.
His eyes are bloodshot, glowering and stark.
He has no care for cleanliness, forsooth,
But never bathes, and so his skin is marked
With dust and grime. His hair is black as night,
And curled. In short, he is a dreadful sight.

11
Angelica, when she perceives that he
Is not the handsome blond she hoped to find,
Calls Argalía and says quietly,
“O dearest brother, I must speak my mind.
I’d rather hang myself upon this tree
Or wander begging, crippled, deaf, and blind,
Before to such a monster I’ll be chained.
Better to die than to be so insane.

12
Therefore I pray thee by our lord Mahound,
That once again thou fight that cavalier,
While I suck on the ring and thus confound
That brute by vanishing, and flee from here.
Then once I’m gone, turn thou thy horse around
And flee. So swift and light is thy destrier
He’ll never catch thee. We two shall meet then,
Just eastward, in the forest of Ardennes.

13
And then together we shall take our way
Back to our father, by the eastern sea.
But if we do not meet within three days,
Then I shall have the demons carry me,
(Thanks to that dog who tried to do me shame,
Where I was lying underneath the tree)
And thou wilt have to come back on thine horse
The way we came; thou knowest well the course.

14
Don Argalía to this plan assents
And turns back to the Moorish knight to say
His sister won’t by any means consent.
But Ferraguto will not go away.
But “Death or victory!” he cries, intent
To win to maiden of the flow’ry face,
When suddenly, to his immense surprise
She vanishes before his loving eyes.

15
He’d kept his face towards her in the fight
So that the sight of her would give him strength.
But now that she has vanished from his sight
He knows not what to do or what to think.
When Argalía sees the baffled knight,
He gives his horse the spur. Quick as a wink,
He gallops off and disappears from view,
Abandoning the fight and Ferragu.

16
The youthful lover for a moment stood,
Then realized that he had been deceived,
And galloped after him into the wood,
Which was beginning to bring forth its leaves.
His shame and anger on his visage could
Be seen most clearly, and he disbelieved
That he would lose the dame for whom he pined.
But though he sought, he could by no means find.

17
Now turn we to Astolfo, who remained
Alone beside the fountain, as you know.
He’d watched the battle with delight unfeigned,
And joyed to see each mighty thrust and blow
And now, delighted that he has regained
His freedom, praises God, and is not slow
To don his armor and to mount his steed;
He knows how Fortune can transform with speed.

18
The paladin lacked nothing save a lance.
(His own was shattered when he fell supine.)
Looking around him, he beheld by chance
Don Argalía’s, leaning on the pine.
The gilding sparkled and the dim light glanced
Off the enamel and the gold refined.
Astolfo grabs it from its place, although
Its magic potency he does not know.

19
He pricks forth on his way with merry heart,
As men are wont when they escape from jail.
He meets Rinaldo riding on Baiard,
And greets him warmly and tells all his tale.
So wounded is Rinald by Cupid’s dart,
That no attempt to cure him would avail.
He’s come from court with but one end in view:
To find out what’s become of Ferragu.

20
So when he hears he went towards Ardennes,
He gallops off that way across the grass,
Without a word of parting to his friend,
Such is the love he bears that lovely lass.
He calls Baiard a lazy sluggard then,
A worthless hack, a good-for-nothing ass,
The while he’s galloping at such a speed,
A flying arrow couldn’t catch that steed.

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Notes

Notes to the Second Canto, Part 1

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto II, Part 1, Stanzas 1-20, Notes

1. Magic armor. Similar armor appears in a few romances, but not in very many as it tends to kill the possibility of suspense. Boiardo solves this problem cleverly, as we shall see in Canto III.
Magic skin. This characteristic of Ferraguto’s is traditional. Much later, Orlando will kill him after discovering his secret, shortly before the battle of Roncesvalles. Orlando has a similar enchantment on his skin, which he received as a gift from Saint James of Compostela. (This detail, while also traditional, is later than The Song of Roland) His weak point is the soles of his feet. This naturally creates a problem for authors, as he has to die at Roncesvalles. In Pulci, he dies of exhaustion. In Spanish romances, Bernardo del Carpio strangles him, as Hercules did the Nemean Lion. The ultimate source of this magic skin is, of course, Achilles and his vulnerable heel. See also Siegfried, who obtains invincibility by bathing in dragon’s blood, but doesn’t notice a leaf keeping part of his back dry.

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