The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto V, Stanzas 61-83
“My only son, a tender youth, and I
Came walking by not sithence many hours.
But of the giant, not a trace we spied,
For he, God damn him, hid within the tower,
Then snatched my son before my very eyes,
And bore him off. I fear he’s been devoured,
And now, sir knight, thou knowest all my woe.
I beg thee that thou wilt no further go!”
Orlando thinks a moment, then replies,
“I will go further on, let come what may.”
“Then God have mercy!” the old palmer cries,
“Thou oughtest not to throw thy life away.
Believe me, I am telling thee no lies,
Thou shalt behold that giant with dismay.
To see his size, his fierceness, and his might
Will make thee tremble, thou though art a knight.”
Orlando smiled and besought the man
To stay and wait for him a little space
And if he didn’t shortly some again,
Then not to mourn for him, but go his ways.
The palmer to the knight an hour grants,
Who to the crimson clifftop set his face.
When that the giant sees him come, he saith,
“O worthy baron, do not seek thy death.
The monarch of Circassia placed me here,
And ordered me to let none pass beyond,
Because, atop this cliff so wild and drear,
A monster dwells, who of men’s flesh is fond.
Whene’er a traveller in her sight appears,
To aught he asks she’ll truthfully respond,
But with a riddle of her own she’ll meet him,
And if he says amiss then she will eat him.”
Orlando next inquires of the lad.
The giant won’t return the palmer’s son.
They speak awhile, then they wax half-mad,
And soon a battle have the two begun.
This one a sword, that one a great mace had.
I shan’t recount their blows all one by one,
But Count Orlando so adroitly wielded
His sword and shield, that soon the giant yielded.
Thus the Count saved the young man from his plight,
And thus the grieving father he consoled,
Who drew out something wrapped in samite white,
Which he had hidden in his garments’ fold.
Then he displayed a little book to sight,
Covered in fine enamel and bright gold.
Then to Orlando he said, “Knight renowned,
To be thy servant I’m forever bound.
“If I desired to do as much for thee,
As thou hast done, I am too worn by years.
And so I beg thee, take this book from me,
Which is of potency without a peer.
For ev’ry riddle, ev’ry mystery
Within its pages is made plain and clear.”
And giving him the book, said, “Go with God!”
Then joyfully upon his way he trod.
Orlando stood there with the book in hand,
And with himself a while held debate.
He sees the cliff which rises high and grand,
And swears to climb it, whate’er may await,
And see the beast which on the summit stands,
And answers any question she is made.
For this alone th’adventure will he try:
To learn where sweet Angelica abides.
He crosses o’er the mountain without scath.
The giant lets him pass without a stop.
He’s felt what Durindan can do in wrath.
He points the road, and lets the drawbridge drop.
And up a dark and narrow winding path
The Count rides on until he gains the top,
And sees the path lead on between two rocks,
And sees the monster who the passage blocks.
Her hair was gold, he woman’s face was fair,
But when she smiled you saw her wolfish teeth.
Breasts like a lions, forearms like a bear’s
She had. Her griffon claws she did not sheathe.
She held her dragon’s tail aloft in air.
Her wings would make even a peacock seethe
With envy. With her tail she struck the ground,
Which echoed off the rocks for miles around.
When that fierce monster sees the cavalier,
Her wings she spreads out and her tail she raises,
And grins malignantly from ear to ear,
And smites a rock and cracks it. Nought this fazes
The Count, who says to her with visage fierce,
“Among all peoples, nations, tongues and races,
From cold to hear, and from the dusk to dawn,
Tell me, whom dwells Angelica among?”
The beast malignant, with words soft and king,
Thus gives the Count Orlando answer meet.
“She for whose seek thou art disturbed in mind,
Near Cathay, in Albracca has her seat.
Now to my questions must thou answers find.
What animal can walk but has no feet?
And say what other creature there may be,
That walks on four feet, and on two, and three?”
Orlando ponders o’er thse questions curious,
But can’t come up with any good replies,
So he draws Durindan. The sphinx is furious,
And leaps into the air and at him flies.
Now she attacks him with a blow injurious,
And now she soars aloft with piercing cries.
Now she strikes with her claw, now with her tail,
But his charmed skin against her blows prevails.
If he were not enchanted, as he is,
That favored knight would have been sorely pressed.
A hundred gaping wounds would have been his,
Criss-crossing o’er his shoulders and his chest
The Count regains his balance, and at this
His anger mounts, and wrath swells in his breast.
He bides his time, then with a mighty spring,
He leaps on high and slices through her wing.
Shrieking, the cruel monster fell to ground.
Her bellowings could be heard far afield.
Her tail around Orlando’s legs she wound,
And with her claws she tears apart his shield.
But soon the ending of the fight came round,
For through her ribs Orlando drove his steel.
And when Orlando saw the beast was slain,
He climbed back down the cliff unto the plain.
He leapt upon his horse, the reins he shook,
And rode on boldly, as a lover ought,
But still he pondered, as his way he took,
What might the answers be the monster sought.
Then he recalled the palmer’s little book,
And to himself he said, “I had forgot!
I had the power to appease the beast,
Without a fight; but otherwise God pleased.”
He searches through the book, in hopes to find
The answers to the sphinx’s mysteries.
He reads about the seal, and of its kind,
That walks on flippers when it leaves the sea,
And then he finds it written of mankind,
He goes on four feet in his infancy;
He goes on two feet in his life’s next stage,
And totters with a cane in his old age.
He read, till at a river he arrived,
Swift and deep, and horrible, and dark.
No place to swim across it he espied,
For both the banks were jagged, steep, and stark.
Along the riverbanks downstream he rides,
Hoping to find some passage on a barque.
He saw a bridge, which had a giant placed
For guardian, and thither he made haste.
The giant saw him coming, and he said,
“O wretched knight, enjoy thy final breaths!
Thy great misfortune hath thee hither lead.
Know, thou art come unto the Bridge of Death.
All ways hence are so tortuous and dread
That none have e’er survived who by them left,
And if across the stream thou’rt fain to go,
Then one of us must lay the other low.”
This bridge’s guardian, so tall and fierce
Had for his name Zambardo the Robust.
His head was two feet wide from ear to ear,
And all his limbs were in proportion just.
When armed, just like a mountain he appears.
He held an iron bar devoid of rust.
From off this bar five iron chains extend,
Each with a ball of iron at its end.
Each of these balls was twenty pounds or more.
From head to toe he wore a serpent’s hide,
For plate and mail, which kept him safe in war.
His scimitar hung dangling by his side.
But what was worse, he had a trap in store:
A heavy net. When anyone defied
Him to a duel, and he seemed like to win,
He’d trap him in the net and finish him.
No cavalier this thick net ever sees.
It’s fully hidden underneath the sand.
Whene’er he wishes, he the knight can seize,
And throw him bound into the river grand.
The wretch has no recourse, no remedies,
But drowns most painfully at Zambard’s hands.
But nought of this the worthy baron knows.
He lights on foot and rides towards his foe.
With shield on arm and Durindan in hand,
He sees his enemy grand and appalling,
The Roman Senator is as alarmed
As if his foe were but an infant squalling.
A mighty duel began that caused much harm,
Which in this canto I won’t be recalling,
Because already has my throat grown sore,
And I must rest before I tell you more.