Book I, Canto VII, Part 3

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto VII, Stanzas 41-60

41
And thus addresses him, “O Emperor wise,
Every heart within a noble breast
Honor and glory over all doth prize.
He who desires only wealth, or rest
And showeth not his prowess to men’s eyes,
Should of his lands and rank be dispossessed.
I, who within the East had no small name
Came to the West to garner still more fame.

42
“And certainly not to acquire France,
Or Spain, or Germany, or Hungary.
Let my deeds henceforth bear me countenance
That I’m content  with my own signorie,
For none on earth can equal my puissance.
So now, here are the terms I offer thee:
Within my camp, thou and they valiant knights,
Shall pris’ners stay, but only for tonight.

43
“And in the morning I shall set you free,
And no more in your country interfere,
On this condition: thou shalt yield to me
The lord of Montalbano’s good destrier
Which I have won by combat lawfully,
Because that rascal didn’t dare appear.
Likwise, when next Orlando thou dost see,
Order thou him to send his sword to me.”

44
King Charles says that he will yield Baiard,
And for the sword he will do all he can;
But King Gradasso drives a bargain hard
And bids him sent to Paris town a man
To fetch the horse. King Charles sends Ricard,
But when Astolfo learns about this plan
(He’d had himself appointed governor)
He seized Ricard  and made him prisoner.

45
And then he sent a herald to the host,
Gradasso and his cohorts to defy,
And if of conquering Rinald he boasts,
Or making him to flee, give him the lie;
And that the treaty was an idle ghost,
For Baiard wasn’t Charles property.
And for his part, the steed he’d never yield
Unless Gradasso beat him in the field.

46
Gradass, on being challenged to a duel,
Asks who Astolfo is, and what his sort.
Charles, who tries to keep his temper cool,
Gives of his Paladin a brief report.
Ganelon says, “My lord, he is a fool
Who often gives delight to all our court.
Pay no attention to his nonsense, nor
Forgo the promises you made before.”

47
Gradasso says to him, “Thou speakest fine,
But think thou not that I’ll let thee depart
For pleasant words if Baiard is not mine.
This Don Astolf must have a valiant heart.
You worthy heroes as my captives pine,
And still he bids me to be on my guard.
Then let him come! If he’s a knight of force
I’ll have some fun before I take the horse.

48
But if by force Baiardo I obtain,
Then I may deal with you just as I please.
On our agreement you will have no claim,
Since you did not fulfill your pact with me.”
Oh, how distraught and wroth is Charlemagne,
For when he thought to have his liberty,
His barons free, himself once more a king,
This idiot will cost him ev’rything.

49
At dawn, Astolfo has Baiard prepared,
With leopards sewn on his caparison.
Enormous pearls upon his helm he wears.
His gilded sword hilt sparkles in the sun.
As many precious stones and jewels he bears
As one who ruled the whole earth might have done.
His shield is gold. He leans upon his breast
The gold lance Argalía once possessed.

50
His entrance on the battlefield he made,
Just as the sun above the hilltops shone.
A mighty blast upon his horn he played,
And he announced in far-resounding tone,
“O King Gradasso, if thou art afraid
To prove thyself against me all alone,
Then bring the great Alfrera by thy side,
And if thou wish, a thousand more beside.

51
“Bring King Marsil, and Balugante false,
Bring Serpentin and Falsirone then;
Bring on Grandonio, he who is so tall –
I’d love to knock him off his horse again! –
And Ferraguto, full of spite and gall;
All of thy paladins and all thy men
Bring with thee, from the greatest to the least,
For thus my glory will be more increased.”

52
With such words Don Astolfo loudly cried.
Oh, how Gradasso laughs, so long and hard!
He arms himself, and to the field he rides,
Where he so much desired to win Baiard.
He gives Astolfo greeting most polite,
Then says, “Sir knight, I know not what thou art.
I asked thy peers about my strange contester.
Ganelon told me that thou wert the jester.

53
“Others have told me that thou art a knight
Graceful, noble, courteous, and free,
Who dost in valor and high deeds delight.
Which one thou art, is yet unknown to me,
But I shall honor thee, who dar’st this fight.
But this I tell thee for a certainty,
That once I knock thee down with smiting hard,
Nought shall I take from thee except Baiard.”

54
“But thou dost count thy bill without thine host,”
Astolfo said, “And it behooves thee wait;
I’ll knock thee from thy saddle with one blow,
But since thou’st shown thy courtesy so great,
Thou shalt not pay a penny’s ransom, thou
All of thy captives thou shalt yield me straight.
And then thou shalt depart for Pagan lands
Immediately, with all thine heathen bands.”

55
“I am content thereto, by great Mahound,”
Gradasso says. They swear to keep these terms.
Then off he starts, and lets his truncheon down,
Banded with iron, which is so strong and firm
He trusts to knock Astolfo t the ground
And which could lay a wall upon the earth.
Astolfo, on the other side makes ready.
His strength is little, but his heart is steady.

56
Gradasso spurs his good Arabian mare,
Nor does Astolfo simply watch him speed;
The thundering of their hoofbeats rends the air,
And in the middle of the field they meet.
Astolfo strikes Gradasso’s shield just ere
The king strikes his. His vict’ry is complete.
The bottom of Gradasso’s shield he grazed,
And the great monarch from his seat was raised.

57
Gradasso finds himself upon the dust
And thinks he’s dreaming, but his mind soon clears.
He realizes that the war is lost,
And lost is Baiard, charger without peer.
He rose, climbed back upon his mare, and crossed
To Don Astolfo, saying, “Cavalier,
Thou hast the better of me here today.
Come, take my prisoners without delay.

58
To the camp riding, hand in hand they go.
Gradasso does the victor honor great.
King Charles and the Paladins don’t know
The jousting’s terms, or what will be their fate.
Astolfo to Gradasso whispers low
Not to tell Charles what has chanced of late
And to keep quiet while he plays a jest.
He wanted vengeance; this way suits him best.

59
With hard-set face, before the king he strides
And says “Ah ha! Thy sins have found thee out!
Thou wert puffed up with arrogance and pride,
And reckoned all the world a rabble rout.
Orlando and Rinaldo saved thine hide,
And thou hast sought for ways to drive them out.
Lo! Thou wouldst take Baiard against all right,
And now possesses him this king of might.

60
“Against all right thou threwest me in jail
To do a favor unto House Magance.
Now see if Ganelone will avail
To save thee now, or save thy realm of France.
The great Orlando will not be thy bail,
Nor will Rinaldo, master of the lance.
Hadst thou not foolishly chased them away,
Thou wouldst not be a ruined man today.

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