The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto VII, Stanzas 21-40
He would have been a captive, or a corpse,
But as I said, Alfrera reappeared,
Swinging his iron mace with deadly force
As through th’advancing Christian host he sheared.
Burgundian Gui he topples from his horse,
And good Duke Naimo of the hoary beard.
But Olivier, Dudon, and Charlemagne
All three at once against the giant came.
One charges from that side, and one from this.
Boldly and gallantly they urge their steeds.
He cannot turn his giraffe around. It is
By nature quite a lazy, sluggish beast.
He swings great strokes, but all of them just miss.
Charles and his companions dodge with ease.
Since nought he did availed him, he abated
His fight and fled to where Gradasso waited.
His flight the haughty lord Gradasso spies,
Who used to hold him in a high regard.
He turns to him in anger, and he cried:
“Ah, worthless coward, vile sack of lard!
Art thou not shamed, so cravenly to fly?
Art thou so great of limb and small of heart?
Go wait inside my tent, thou scorned of men,
And never let me see thee armed again!”
He ceases talking and he spurs his horse,
And with one thrust he overthrows Dudon.
And with what seems a more than human force
He floors Ricardo and King Salamon.
The men of Sericane behind him course.
Their dragon-hearted king deserves his throne.
His lance was iron bound, twenty feet long.
The world has never seen a man so strong.
Against Count Ganellone he collides,
Striking the falcon’s breast upon his shield.
He knocks him to the ground, his legs sprawled wide,
Then spies King Charlemagne across the field.
His lance in rest, with utmost speed he rides,
And with one blow, his seat the emperor yields.
But as Gradasso Baiard’s bridle clasped,
That destrier turned its croup, and lightning fast
With a loud neighing, he kicks out his heels,
And just below the knee gives such a clout
That though his greaves were of enchanted steel,
Yet they were dented in, while sparks flew out.
Worse pain than ever now Gradasso feels.
It runs all through him, so he turns about,
And leaves Baiardo, letting fall the rein;
The good beast swiftly back to Paris came.
Gradasso flees in anguish to his tent.
You all may guess what agony he’s in.
Straightaway for an agéd man he sent,
A master of the art of medicine.
He binds the wound with skill, and then presents
A potion brewed from herbs and roots to him,
Which, when Gradasso quaffs it all, it seems
As if his wound were nothing but a dream.
To battle he returns, sans pain or fear .
In fact, he’s even fiercer than before.
Against him gallops Marquis Olivier,
But with one blow he knocks him to the floor.
Avin, Avolio, Guido, Angelier,
Without a pause he overthrows all four
To tell it shortly, ev’ry Paladin
Was by Gradasso captured with great vim.
The Christian people turn about and flee;
Against the Saracens no more they fight.
The Frankish lords are in captivity.
The other rabble in distress take flight.
No Christian faces do the pagans see;
Captives or slain are all the valiant knights.
And of the rest, none than the next is bolder,
And all show to the Saracens their shoulders.
Now all of Paris hears the tidings dread
Of the defeat, and Karl’s captivity.
Ogier the Dane leaps up at once from bed,
Lamenting loudly, as a baron free.
He donned his arms, then to the gate he sped
On foot, not waiting even for his steed.
But he commanded it be harnessed straight,
And brought to meet him at the Paris gate.
When he arrived, he found the gate was down,
And from without he hears the woeful cry
Of all the baptized cruelly cut down.
The murd’rous porter at his ease there lies;
So that the Pagans enter not the town
He is content that his compatriots die.
The Dane him bids to open up the gate;
He clearly sees he can’t a minute wait.
The scowling porter, like a churl, informs
The Dane he has no wish to raise the gate,
And with proud boasts he blusters and he storms
That his appointed post he’ll ne’er forsake.
Ogieri lifts his axe, which so alarms
The porter, that he doesn’t hesitate
To run away in terror with a shout.
Ogieri opes the gate and rushes out.
Upon the bridge forth strides the gallant knight;
With axe in readiness he takes his stand.
Now is he fortunate to have keen sight,
For as in terror fled the Christian band,
Each of them wishing to be first in flight,
The swiftest Pagans mixed among them ran.
The mighty Dane perceives them where they go,
And with his axe he brings them all to woe.
The Pagan army ever closer sped.
Don Serpentino leads them their attack.
Upon the bridge, as swift as lightning, leapt
The Danish hero, brandishing his axe,
And brought it down on Serpentino’s head.
The sparks fly from his helm, which would have cracked
If Serpentino’s armor were not made
By magic art, secure from all such blades.
The Dane upon the Pagan army gazed.
Gradasso led, and mighty Ferragu.
So many enemies Ogieri faced,
He clearly saw that nothing could he do.
He called behind him that the bridge be raised.
There never was a knight so brave and true.
Alone against the Pagan host he fights,
And keeps them off the bridge in their despite.
Gradasso confidently ‘gainst him came,
Ordering all his vassals to step back.
Ogieri hears the gate shut with a clang,
And in a brave despair he lifts his axe.
Gradasso seizes it, to snap in twain,
Then lights down off his charger, and he grasps
The Dane, who’s stout and skilled in wrestling play,
But King Gradasso carries him away.
No knights were left to make an opposition,
As day gave was unto the dusky knight.
The priests lead all the people in processions,
With pure intent, and clad in garments white.
Open is ev’ry church, and ev’ry prison
With fear and terror they await the light.
None dare to rest, for once the gates are breached,
Destruction waits alike for all and each.
Astolfo with the others was set free;
No one remembered that he was alive;
For once he’d been thrown in captivity
A rumor went around that he had died.
His habit was to talk incessantly
And brag more proudly than I could describe.
He heard the news, and “Oh, alas!” he moaned,
“Of my arrest, Gradasso must have known!
“Had I not been thrown in a dungeon cell,
King Charlemagne would have no cause to moan.
But even now, I can make all things well,
I’ll take Gradasso pris’ner by my lone.
Soon as the dawning o’er th’horizon swells
I’ll arm myself and mount upon my roan.
You all, stand on the walls and watch me fight.
Woe to the infidel who tests my might!”
Meanwhile, joy possessed the pagan races.
They cheer their ruler and upon him fawn.
His glee unbounded written on his face is,
Dreaming of seizing Paris at the dawn.
He’s put Alfrera back in his good graces.
Now to review his prisoners he’s gone.
When he sees Charlemagne, he sits down, and
He takes his fellow monarch by the hand