Book I, Canto V, Part 1

The Orlando Innamorato in English Translation, Book I, Canto V, Stanzas 1 – 20.

ARGUMENT

Rinaldo and Gradass will fight a duel.
Angelica frees from his dark abode
Don Malagise, who must bring his cruel
Cousin to her. When conversation bodes
No good, by magic he his cousin fools.
Orlando meets a pilgrim on the road,
Then fights a giant, but he little thinks
That his next combat will be with a sphinx.

1
If you remember, lords, then it is meet,
How last time Don Rinaldo was distraught
To see his brother carried by the feet.
Of King Gradasso he had no more thought,
But charged ahead, the giant fierce to meet,
Who was as naked as when he was brought
Into the world. His black skin was so hard
That shields and armor he could disregard.

2
Rinaldo swiftly from his horse alights,
For he was sore afraid for Baiard’s sake,
When of that giant’s tree he caught a sight.
Now must he neither hesitate nor slake.
Fierce Orïon has never met a knight
Who looked at him and didn’t start to quake,
Or who was bold enough to give him battle.
He laughs, and thinks Rinaldo’s wits are addled.

3
But of Fusbert the giant took no note;
Rinaldo’s strength he doesn’t understand,
Or he’d have wished to have a strong steel coat.
The prince of chivalry, with both his hands,
Upon the giant’s thigh with power smote.
When Orïon felt how the hot blood ran
Adown his leg, he threw his captive down,
And bellowed like a bull, that heathen hound.

4
Don Ricciardet lies sprawled upon the ground,
Bereft of sense, and stunned, and nearly dead.
While that great giant whips his tree around,
Rinaldo’s eyes are on his foeman set.
When Orïone brings a great blow down,
Not only knights, but mountains ought to dread.
Rinaldo carefully steps back some paces,
And sees Gradasso, who towards him races.

5
Rinaldo wasn’t certain what to do,
And, truth to say, he felt a tinge of fear,
He, who in all the world no equal knew.
He struck a blow so strong it had no peer.
He felt Fusberta slicing through and through
Don Orïone’s waist, and felt it sheer
Down through his flank, and come out in the air.
The giant tumbled in two pieces there.

6
The worthy baron takes no moment’s rest.
He does not even watch the giant fall.
Immediately upon his steed he leapt,
And spurred him on against Gradasso tall,
Who could not possible be more impressed.
He thought all feats compared with that are small.
He sheathed his mighty sword and raised his hand,
So that Rinald might see and understand

7
He wished to parley. He addressed him thus:
“O baron, it would be a grievous sin
If one as ardent and as valorous
As thou has shown thyself this day within
This field, should die in manner villainous.
Thou knowest that my army hems thee in,
And thou canst not escape, and that thou must
Become my prisoner, or bite the dust.

8
But God forbid that I should be so poor
In honor, as to shame so great a knight!
For honor’s sake I’ve settled on this course:
That since today hath little left of light,
Tomorrow we shall duel to end this war,
And both of us without our steeds shall fight:
Because the virtue of a cavalier
Is not the same as that of his destrier.

9
But let our battle be on these conditions:
If thou slayst me, or canst me prisoner make,
All of the Frankish lords I hold in prison
And King Marsilio’s men, too, for thy sake,
Shall all be freed, nor pay for their remission.
But if I conquer thee, thy steed I’ll take.
Whether I win or lose, I and my band
Will leave and war no more upon this land.

10
Rinaldo is so pleased, he does not wait
Before he answers him, “Exalted lord,
This battle which we two shall undertake
Can only make my honor grow the more.
Thy prowess is so singularly great
That if I am defeated by thy sword
It cannot be a shame at all to me,
But glory, to receive my death from thee.

11
And as for what thou saidst at first, I say,
I thank thee for they generosity,
But not because I am in such dismay
As forces me to beg my life from thee.
If all the world were here in arms today
They could not stop me if I wished to flee,
Still less thy host alone, as thou mayst find,
If of my words thou doubtest in thy mind.

12
The cavaliers right speedily agree
On all things else that to their duel pertain.
The place shall be on the coast of the sea,
Six miles distant from the battle plain.
Each one shall arm himself full suitable,
With sword and armor only. Upon pain
Of forfeit, they shall bring no lance nor mace,
Or any escort to the dueling-place.

13
Next morning at the dawning of the light,
Each knight’s prepared for what the day might bring.
About each other’s strength they’ve mulled all night,
Of parries, thrusts, and feints, and such like things.
But ere they have arrived for their great fight,
About Angelica I wish to sing,
Who by her magic arts, as I’ve recorded,
Back to Cathay had swiftly been transported.

14
She cannot pluck Rinaldo from her heart,
Although the distance ‘twixt them is so wide.
As when a deer is stricken by a dart,
Its pain increases as the time goes by,
And, when it runs the fastest, then doth start
The wound to bleed the most, pains grow most high,
Just so the damsel’s fire grows each hour,
Which she bears for Rinald, that peerless flower.

15
And when the night has come, she cannot sleep,
Onerous thoughts oppress and grieve her so.
And if, worn out at last by sufferings deep,
She hopes till dawn she may forget her woe,
Even in slumbering her grief she keeps,
For in her dreams, she sees Rinaldo go
As swiftly from her as he did that day
In Arden Wood, and she is as dismayed.

16
Towards the west the damsel keeps her face.
Oftimes she wept, and oftentimes she sighed,
And said, “In what far land, among what race
Does that bold, handsome, daring knight reside?
Alas! Within his mind I have no place,
And that alone causes my grief t’abide.
He’s hard and cruel as a stone, but still,
He forces me to love him ‘gainst my will.

17
With words and spells I know well how to do
Marvelous things, and often have I done;
I’ve plucked strange herbs whenas the moon was new,
And dug up roots when darkened was the sun,
But still I have no charms or spells or brews
That by their potency can overcome
This suffering that holds my heart in thrall.
Nothing can help me, for Love conquers all.

18
Perhaps he soon will come to free from jail
His wizard cousin, whom I keep in chains?
How could he know? I have not spread the tale
Of how that wretch here in Cathay remains.
But I shall free him shortly, without fail,
If that ungrateful vagabond will deign
To recognize my great benevolence
To give his ill deeds such a recompense.

19
And with these words she heads towards the sea,
Where Malagise is as prisoner held.
She has herself conveyed there magically,
For otherwise it’s hard to reach his cell.
When Malagise hears her enter, he
Is certain that some demon’s come from Hell
To execute him, for he has not seen
A man so long as in that cave he’s been.

20
The damsel enters where he lies in thrall
And springs him, leading him to sunlight sweet,
And when they stand within her lovely hall,
She takes the fetters off his wrists with speed.
But all this time, no words has she let fall,
Till she removes the weights from round his feet.
When this is finished, she says, “Baron, thou
Hast been my prisoner, but art free now.

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Notes

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