The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto VI, Stanzas 21-40
I asked Him to be helped, and not consoled.
A curse upon the ass that did thee bear!
I wouldn’t die if thou wert not so old,
No worser helper could have found me here!”
The friar says, “Alas! Thou baron bold,
I see thou art abandoned to despair.
Thou soon shalt lose thy life, as all must do.
Think of thy soul, and do not lose that, too.
Thou seem’st to be a lord of strength and sense,
And in the face of death art thou so weak?
Know thou, that God Almighty’s providence
Never abandons those who for Him seek.
Immeasurable is His omnipotence!
About myself a little shall I speak,
For all my life I’ve never had a doubt of
God’s mercy. Hear what He has brought me out of.
I and three friars from Armenia went
At holy shrines in Georgia to seek grace.
We travelled on the road with pure intent,
And came into the kingdom of Circase.
The youngest of us four ahead we sent
So that he could discern for us the way.
When suddenly, we saw him running fast
Towards us, shouting “Help!” with face aghast.
Westward, descending from the mount, we saw
A mighty giant with a single eye
Amidst his forehead. Through my shock and fright
The mail he wore I could not well descry,
But I think it was made of dragon hide.
Three javelins and a mace he carried high,
But did not need to use them to entrap us.
Without a fight, we simply let him grab us.
He led us to a cavern’s gaping maw,
Where many other prisoners he had.
And once within, with my own eyes I saw
Him grab our erstwhile guide, a tender lad,
And dash his brains out and devour him raw.
I never saw a spectacle so sad.
The brute then looked me and uttered, scowling,
“This tough old geezer isn’t worth the gnawing.”
And with his foot he kicked me out the door,
And down a slope all jagged, stark, and grim.
Three hundred feet ‘twas to the valley floor.
In God I trusted, and was saved by Him,
For as I tumbled down, in peril sore,
I found within my hands a sturdy limb,
On a young sapling growing in a cleft.
I clung to this, and ‘neath it took my rest.
And there, in silence, keeping still, I waited,
Until the evening faded into night – ”
But as the friar thus his tale related,
He glanced around, and, overcome with fright,
Ran for the woods, and cried, “O wretch ill-fated!
Behold, the wicked monster, whose delight
It is to feast upon the flesh of man.
O worthy knight, I leave thee in God’s hands!”
With these words said, no longer did he wait,
But ran and hid himself within the wood.
The fearful giant to the bridge came straight.
His beard and mustaches were soaked with blood.
With his large eye, the region he surveyed.
He saw Orlando, and surprised he stood.
He grabbed him by the arms and stoutly pulled him,
But could not break the chains that did enfold him.
“I do not wish to leave so plump a man,”
The giant said, “here lying on the ground.
I ought to boil him like a luscious ram.
But since my dinner I’ve already found,
I’ll only eat his shoulder – if I can.”
Then pondering he cast his eye around,
And saw where Durindan lay on the sand.
He quickly knelt and took it in his hand.
His mace of iron and his three great darts
The giant leans against a mighty oak.
Then raises Durindan, that blade so sharp,
And swings with both his hands a mighty stroke.
He doesn’t kill the count, for he is charmed.
But certainly the iron net he broke.
And Don Orlando felt the mighty blow,
So he broke out in sweat from head to toe.
But he is so delighted to be free,
That soon he doesn’t feel the pain at all.
He squirms out of the net, and instantly
Runs to the oak, and grabs the club so tall.
The monster’s startled, for he thought that he
Would be as docile as a gelding small.
But now he sees that things are otherwise,
And he will have to fight to win this prize.
These two had switched their weapons, as you know.
Orlando of his Durindan is wary,
And so he doesn’t wish to get too close,
But from a distance he the giant harries.
The brute swings downward many fearful blows.
To dodge which, Count Orlando does not tarry.
Now there he dodges, and now here he smites,
But keeps aye Durindana in his sights.
He hits him often, but no blood he draws.
The giant doesn’t even feel his blows,
Because his mail is made of griffin’s claws.
No harder substance on the earth is known.
Orlando wearies, and thinks all is lost;
He can’t endure until three days are flown.
But as he fights on with a sinking heart,
He has a new idea and grabs a dart.
One of the darts the brute left on the sward,
Orlando snatches up, and lets it fly.
The aim is true of good Anglante’s lord.
He strikes the center of the giant’s eye.
He had but one, as you have heard before,
Above his nose. He had no time to cry,
Before the dart had driven through his brain.
The brute falls with a crash upon the plain.
No further blows are needed; he is dead.
Orlando kneels to give God thanks and praise.
The monk returns, by noise of battle led,
And sees the giant lying on his face.
Even in death, the monster seems so dread,
That back towards the wood he starts to race.
Orlando, laughing, calls him to draw near.
The monk obeys, though trembling with fear.
And then he says to him, “O knight of Heaven,
For well thou dost deserve that name to have,
For like a pious baron hast thou striven,
The innocent from that ill fiend to save.
New life unto his captives hast thou given.
Follow, and I will lead thee to his cave.
But if he blocked the entrance with his stone,
Then thou wilt have to open it alone.
These words once spoke, he was the baron’s guide,
Towards the cave, which, as he feared, was blocked.
Orlando stood in front, and loudly cried.
The mouth was closed by an enormous rock.
They head a woeful voice from th’other side,
Coming from those inside, that hapless flock.
The rock was square, and of one solid piece.
Each side thereof did span ten feet at least.
One and a half feet was the depth of it.
Two chains of iron held it in its place.
A strength and potency nigh infinite
The worthy Count of Brava now displays.
With Durindan the iron chains he split,
And then within his arms the rock he raised;
All of the prisoners he swiftly frees,
Who then resume their journeys as they please.
Orlando left the friar and the rest,
And traveled on along a forest trail.
He came where four roads cross, and paused, perplexed.
He stared down each of them, and pondered well
Which of these branching paths to take were best,
To come unto some land wherein men dwell.
As he debates, there comes a herald riding.
The Count him halts, and asks him for his tidings.
He says, “I’m coming from among the Medes,
And go to seek the King of Circassy.
Through all the world I travel with my steed,
To find help for my wretched princess. She
Has suffered woes, which I beseech thee heed.
The mighty Emperor of Tartary
Loves her so much, that he’s to madness nigh,
But for her part, she’d gladly watch him die.