The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto II, Part 1, Stanzas 21-40.
But let us leave the lover in this state.
Astolfo has returned unto the town,
Where Count Orlando eagerly awaits,
And asks him casually as they stroll down
The streets, how he has fared and what his fate,
And of the other fighters of renown.
But of his passion not a word lets slip;
He knows full well how loose Astolfo’s lip.
But when he learns that Argalía’s fled
Into the forest, with the girl beside him
And that Rinaldo after them has sped,
He parts, with sorrow on his face, to hide him,
And in despair collapses on his bed.
Such is the pain that’s hammering inside him,
The mighty champion, the hero bold,
Cries like a vulgar boy who’s six years old.
“Alas! – he cries, – that I have no defense
Against this enemy within my soul.
Why can my Durindan make no offense
Against this love that seeketh to control
My heart, and burns me with a heat intense?
All grief seems joyful, reackoned ‘gainst this dole.
In all the world is one worse off than I?
I burn with love and freeze with jealousy.
I know not whether that angelic dame
Will ever deign to give her love to me.
Thrice fortunate, a man could justly claim
To be the Son of Fortune, and would be
Crowned with felicity if her heart flamed
With love for him alone, but as for me,
If hope is lost, I won’t live in despair,
But I will slay myself right then and there.
Ah, luckless wretch! Rinaldo went to fetch her!
What if he find her, wand’ring in some glade?
I know full well he’s such a foul lecher
She’ll never leave his hands and still be maid.
Perhaps right now he’s reaching forth to catch her,
While like a little girl I sit, dismayed,
Holding my head between my hands and sighing,
And think to help myself by vainly crying.
I can’t continue to make secret moan
About this fire which consumes my heart,
But I should die of shame if it were known.
I swear by God, tonight I will depart
From Paris, his in darkness all alone,
And in quest of that beauty I will start.
Until I find her, over dale and fell,
On land, at sea, in Heaven and in Hell.”
With this resolved upon, his bed he leaves,
Where he’d been lying, weeping heavy tears.
He sees the dusk, and at the sight he grieves.
He paces anxiously, now there, now here.
Plan after plan his troubled brain conceives
While weary minutes creep along like years.
But when at last the light was wholly gone,
In secrecy he put his armor on.
His famous quarterings of red and white
He did not bear, but solid dark vermillion.
Then saddles Brigliadoro, and the knight
Mounts him and issues forth through the postillion.
Nor squire nor page accompanies his flight,
As he rides out. He heaved more than a million
Of sighs and groans, the most unhappy soul,
As he moved closer to his longed-for goal.
Now must we leave our champions thus bound
For high adventuring within Ardennes,
Orlando and Rinaldo, knights renowned,
And Ferragu, the flow’r of Saracens,
To turn to Charles, who would fain announce
That in the morn the jousting would commence.
Salomon, Naim, and Gan approved the plan.
Karl called for silence and his speech began:
“O lordings, what I think ought to be done,
Is that we choose a knight to hold the ring.
The rest will joust against him one by one,
Till by his strength or fortune, someone flings
Him from his saddle. Once he’s overcome,
The victor shall continue tourneying
Until he wins the prize or wins disgrace,
And who o’erthrows him shall assume his place.”
Each one applauds the words of Charlemagne,
And call him prudent, wise, and clever lord.
His new conception meets with much acclaim,
And is approved by all with one accord.
Next morning, all prepare for joust and game.
The right of precedence the king awards
To Serpentin, that ardent cavalier,
To fight all comers with the civil spear.
As cheerful dawn to tranquil day gave place
A day more lovely than you would believe,
King Charles rode out to the field apace
Without his armor, saving boots and greaves,
His sword girt on, in hand his judge’s mace,
He rode upon a bold and handsome steed,
While he was followed by his men of might,
His counts and barons and his bravest knights.
Behold where Serpentino hither rides,
In shining armor, on a mighty horse,
That bears itself and lifts its hooves with pride,
As round the ring it runs a warm-up course.
Its sides are flecked with foam; its eyes start wide,
It seems full eager to display its force,
For while it glares about with glances dire,
Its nostrils flare as if to shoot out fire.
And like the horse the rider doth appear
Who sits upon him with a haughty face,
Armed in magnificent and splendid gear,
And firmly seated in his saddle-place.
The boys and dames point out the cavalier
Who such great vigour and such nerve displays,
And all who see him have no doubt that he
Will conquer all and gain the victory.
The worthy cavalier bears for design
Upon an azure shield a star of gold;
His helmet, made to match it, richly shines;
His surcoat’s wrought with patterns manifold.
His coat of arms and helmet light and fine
Could not be valued; worth had they untold,
And all his armor in the sunlight shone;
‘Twas decked with pearls and other precious stones.
He takes his place and eagerly awaits
His foes, and like a mighty tower stands.
The trumpets blare up, and in through the gates
The jousters enter. Foremost of the band
Is Angelino of Bordeaux, who straight
Lays lance in rest. He is a mighty man,
In wars and tournaments, and bears for shield
A silver moon upon an azure field.
Swift as the wind the cavaliers advance,
And clash with noise as when the thunder rolls.
Don Angelino’s blow does naught but glance
Off his foe’s arm, but Serpentino bowls
Him off his horse with his unyielding lance.
To heaven Angelin displays his soles.
The crowd applauds and cheers with all its might,
And shouts the praises of the Starry Knight.
Next comes the strong Ricardo from the crowd,
Who held the lordship of all Normandy.
A golden lion hath this baron proud
Upon a scarlet shield. Right speedily
He came, but Serpentino was uncowed
And raced to meet him, with great chivalry.
He gave the Paladin a blow so grand
It made his body knock against the sand.
Oh, how King Balugant rejoices there
To see his son achieving such renown.
A checkered shield his next opponent bears,
Around his helm he bears a golden crown.
‘Tis Salamon, the wise and silver-haired,
Who rushes forward with a reckless bound.
But Serpentino strikes him stout and true,
And knocks him to the ground, and his horse, too.