Book I, Canto VI, Part 1

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto VI, Stanzas 1-20


Zambardo, dying, springs a booby trap,
And heavy chains around Orlando wind
A giant cannibal him finds, by hap,
Orlando conquers him, then seeks to find
Angelica, but by a fairy’s trap
He is bewitched and made to lose his mind.
The Christian army flees, their foes advance,
And King Gradasso conquers half of France.

Now hearken, lordings, to the battle great,
Greater and darker than all others ever,
You’ve heard already how malicious fate
Had brought Orlando to the bridge which never
A knight had left alive. I’ll now relate
How great Zambardo, giant fierce and clever,
Was fighting him, but unaware was he,
Orlando was the best there’d ever be.

The knight steps on the bridge and loud defies
Zambard, who bears his iron mace in hand.
Although the count comes only to his thigh,
He makes a mighty leap, so tall and grand,
That he could look the giant in the eye.
Lo, where the giant swings his iron brand!
Orlando sees it from on his descend,
And leaps aside, before his life it ends.

The foul Saracen is quite disturbed.
Orlando makes him more unsettled still,
Because he strikes his arm with so much verve,
He dropped his iron mace; to earth it fell.
Now Count Orlando seems just like a bird,
He strikes now here, now there, both swift and well,
But so tough was the dragon-hide turned mail,
That nothing could Orlando’s blows avail.

Zambardo, since his mace he cannot get,
Out of his scabbard draws his scimitar.
He sees he’ll clearly have to use his net,
Because this cavalier so fiercely spars,
But he does not desire to use it yet.
He deals the count a backhand blow. So hard
A blow upon his helmet did he beat,
Orlando staggered backward twenty feet.

At this, the worthy count is half deranged,
He flushes, and his race by wrath is rent,
His eyes begin to glower fierce and strange,
The fearsome giant’s life is nearly spent.
Orlando strikes so fiercely in his rage,
That mighty Durindan is backwards bent.
Although, as Turpin mentions in this place,
The blade’s width was four fingers at its base.

The hero strikes the giant in the waist,
Splitting the dragon-armor, scales and hide.
Within an iron belt was he incased;
The sharp blade effortlessly through it glides.
Beneath his hauberk was his cuirass placed,
But Durindana all of these defied,
And certainly, he had been cleft in twain,
Had he not thrown himself upon the plain.

Through cunning, or mischance, he fell to ground,
I don’t know which; at any rate, he fell.
No trace of color in his face was found.
Once he had felt that blow so stout and hale,
He beat upon his breast; his teeth he ground.
He reaches out and grabs his fallen flail.
Towards the Count so skillfully he aims,
Right o’er the breast he strikes him with the chains.

That blow knocks down to earth the valiant knight,
And so they lie, each glaring at the other.
Through sprawled out, not yet over is their fight.
Orlando is the foremost to recover
His feet, and grabs the giant’s beard with might,
But he is captured and is nearly smothered.
The felon pinned him close against his chest,
Then stood up, and towards the river pressed.

Orlando punched the giant in the face,
For on the ground was Durindana dread.
So hard he struck him, that he left him dazed.
A second time the giant fell as dead.
Immediately the Count broke free. With haste
He wrapped his arms around the giant’s head.
The brute is furious and cannot see,
But nonetheless, upon his feet leaps he.

And now the merciless assault renews.
This one has Durindana, that his flail.
Orlando clearly sees that he will lose,
If on the ground he stays, so to assail
His foe, he leaps on high before he hews.
Ho fighter ever had such great travail.
Orlando masterfully wields his sword,
And gives the giant ugly gashes four.

Zambardo feigns to strike a back-hand blow,
But in the middle of his swing, he stops.
He sees Orlando stepping back, and so
He presses forward. With both hands he chops.
Orlando cannot leap to safety now.
He hears the chains come whistling as they drop.
The valiant hero is no whit afraid,
But meets the blow impending with his blade,

And strikes the mace so hard he shatters it.
And do not think he therefore paused to nap.
He swung his sword into the giant’s hip,
Where earlier his blows had made a gap.
The serpent’s hide already had been split.
What could Zambardo do in such mishap?
For Durindan as swiftly through him clove,
As thunderbolts hurled by Almighty Jove.

Thus with his top and bottom parted quite
(What holds him still together’s small, or none)
The giant’s visage turned completely white,
For he saw clearly that his death was come.
With his last strength, he stamps his foot in spite.
Immediately the hidden net upsprung,
And with such strength around the knight it wound,
That he dropped Durindana to the ground.

His arms are painfully tied ‘gainst his chest,
So that he can’t move either one at all.
No hempen cords, but iron chains oppressed
The knight. His chances of escape were small.
“O God of Heaven, Virgin ever blest,”
The cavalier exclaimed “For aid I call!”
And as the Count was tangled in the net,
Zambardo tumbled in two pieces, dead.

That place is so remote and desolate
That hardly ever does a man pass by.
The Count, tied up beneath the hot sun, waits.
His hope of rescue sickens, faints, and dies.
Gone is his vigor; gone his spirit great.
His strength is useless. Durindana lies
Out of his reach. With neither food nor drink
He lies all day; that night sleeps not a wink.

The night wore by, the dawn her light outspread,
His hope grew lower and his famine higher.
But then he heard a noise and turned his head,
And he beheld a snowy-bearded friar.
When he perceived him, Count Orlando said,
As loudly as he could, he was so tired:
“O Father, as thou lovest God Most High,
Come set me free, for I’m about to die.”

The aged friar is surprised to see
This sight, and searches all the net, but can’t
Find any way to set Orlando free.
The baron says to him, “Take up my brand,
Slice through this net and thus deliver me.”
The friar says, “I leave thee in God’s hands.
If I should kill thee, I should break my oath.
To take so great a chance am I most loath.”

“Upon my word, thou shalt incur no guilt,”
Replied the Count, “My armor is so sound,
That by that sword my blood will not be spilt.”
With such like words he brings the palmer ‘round.
The monk grabbed Durindana by the hilt,
And with an effort, raised it from the ground,
And swung with all his might and struck the chains.
He scratched them, but intact they all remain.

The friar sees that poorly he will fare.
He drops the sword, then he begins to try
Consoling Count Orlando, speaking fair.
“O worthy, it behooveth thee to die
Like a good Christian. Yield not to dispair,
But hope and trust in God the Lord on High.
Patiently bear this death which he hath given,
And thou shalt be his cavalier in Heaven.”

The wise old monk made many other words,
And all the martyrology relates,
Telling the sufferings the saints endured,
How some were crucified and some were flayed,
“My son, thou shalt be with them, be assured,
And for thy holy death, give God the praise.”
The Count Orlando’s modest answer is:
“May He be praised indeed – but not for this!”

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