The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto VIII, Stanzas 41-64
“Then secretly their flesh with me I took
Into the kitchen, and I made a fire.
I’d been their butcher; now was I their cook.
Ah! What cannot be done by woman’s ire?
I served them to their father, who partook
Of my meat pie with relish and desire.
Ah, cruel sun, how could you bear to shine
And gaze on such a horrid deed as mine?
“I left the banquet, no one was aware;
My bloody hands and garments none did see.
Towards Orgagna’s king with haste I fared,
Who for long years had burned with love for me,
And was a kinsman unto Stella fair.
I told him all my woeful history.
I led him and his men in army bright
The death of poor Grifone to requite.
“We came too late, though eagerly we sped.
For I no sooner did the castle fly
Than cruel Stella, once the guests were fed,
Came to Marchino, her face lit with joy,
And served him one, and then the other head
Of his two sons, whom I’d baked in a pie.
Grief and horror overwhelm each knight;
Their father most, who knew them at first sight.
“Stella stood there with disheveled hair.
Her face distorted, she began to rave,
And cried aloud, ‘Those are thy children there,
Those are their heads, and if thy soul doth crave
To see their tomb, look in thy belly, where
Thou buriedst them. Thou art thy children’s grave.’
Now the false traitor knight is racked with pain.
Love and cruelty fight in his brain.
“This outrage fearful and unparalleled
Invites a vengeance cruel beyond all other.
On th’other hand, her flow’ry face impelled
Him to have mercy, for he fiercely loved her.
At last, he plumps for vengeance, but he’s held
Bu one thing: How to best be vengèd of her?
When he thinks of the outrage she’s committed,
It seems no punishment on earth is fitted.
“To fetch Grifone’s corpse he sends his men,
Which lies unburied in his dying-place.
He binds that body to the lady then,
Hands against hands, his face against her face.
To such a pleasure doth he her condemn.
Now has there ever been a man so base?
The stench was foul of Grifon’s remains,
To which the lovely lady’s bound with chains.
“Orgagna’s king now to the castle came,
And with him I and all his meinie rude.
But when he saw us coming o’er theplain
Marchino slit the lovely Stella’s throat.
The lady, not his lust, was thereby slain.
For dead as living with her he abode.
I think he did it only for to boast
Of all men living he had sinned the most.
“We then arrived, and after battle hard
Entered the castle and the keep secured
And took Marchin, whose body was all scarred
From many wounds and battles he’d endured.
We hacked him into pieces in the yard,
And then the luckless Stella we interred
Within an ornamented sepulchre,
And laid her dear Grifone next to her.
“Orgagna’s king, his vengeance wrought, went home.
Within this dismal castle rested I,
But when eight months and one away had flown
We heard a horrible, bloodthirsty cry
Out of the tomb. What made it was unknown.
To tell our terror, I can’t even try.
Except three giants bold who knew no fear..
The King had ordered them to guard me here.
“One of them, great of heart and stout of limb,
Opened the sepulchre lid just a slit.
Regret immediately conquered him.
Because a monster, though it couldn’t fit
Its body through, thrust out a talon grim
And raked and clawed him so, he died of it
Almost at once. It tore of hunks of meat
And bones alike, and pulled them in to eat.
“Another man so bold could not be found
As to go near that house of woe and gloom.
We built a thick and lofty wall around
The church. With powder we destroyed the tomb.
A dark misshapen beast crawled on the ground.
We took one glance and fled for fear of doom.
Its awful shape I won’t describe to thee,
For it will be the last thing thou dost see.
“This custom all of us thereat decreed
Each day to slay a man and o’er the wall
To throw his body, for the beast to feed
Upon, lest it should seek to eat us all.
Bu when we catch more travelers than we need,
We cut some’s throats, stick some on gibbets tall,
And some alive we cut in pieces four.
Didst see them hanging over our front door?”
After the custom in its full enormity
And the detestable and unmatched crimes
By which begotten was the foul deformity
Are all explained, Rinaldo’s horror climbs.
And turning to the old hag who helped form it, he
Exclaims, “Ah, mother! Throw me in, that’s fine.
I only ask, as thou dost love Our Lord,
To let me have my armor and my sword.
The hag guffaws and says “It won’t help much!
But take whatever weapons that thou wilt.
No shield can save thee from its talons clutch.
By sword or mace its blood’s been never spilt.
Its teeth can slice through iron with a touch.
‘Twill gnaw thy broadsword up, both blade and hilt.
But take whatso thou wilt. Thy life is done
Regardless, but the beast will have some fun.”
The morning sun was raising up his head,
As Don Rinald was lowered over the wall.
The church door opened, and at once out sped
A beast misshapen and grotesquical.
It gnashed its teeth together. Filled with dread,
The lookers-on went running, one and all.
The wall is high and thick, but nonetheless,
In fear and terror, down the stairs they press.
Nobody stays to watch Rinald’s defense.
His shining armor and Fusbert he took.
But I believe you all are in suspense
To know just how the monster fearsome looked.
The loathsome beast’s existence fell commenced
When some ill demon from Hell’s darkest nook
Transformed Marchino’s seed inside the flesh
Of her whom he had lately put to death.
It’s larger than a bull, and far more strong.
Its massive head is rather like a snake’s.
Its mouth in measurement is six palms long.
Each of its teeth a palm and half length’s takes.
It has two tusks like boars’. Against these prongs
No shield nor armor can resistance make.
Upon each of its temples grew a horn
Which any way it wished the beast could turn.
Each of the horns like swords is sharp and keen;
Its bellowing could fill the deaf with fright.
Its skin was particolored gold and green,
And scarlet, sooty black, and snowy white.
Bloodstains amidst its tangled beard were seen.
Its eyes were blazing with hellfire’s light.
Its hands looked human, but they had such claws
As ne’er were seen on bears’ or lions’ claws.
Its teeth and talons were so sharp and hard
That they could pierce through any plate or mail.
Its pelt was thick. It never had been scarred,
Because no blade against it could prevail.
Now this abomination’s eyes regard
Rinaldo, and it rushes like a gale.
Upon two feet it turns, its mouth agape.
Rinaldo swings Fusberta at the shape.
And smacks it in the middle of its maw.
The wrathful monster moves as swift as fire,
Faces the knight, lifts up a massive paw,
And brings it down, and lands a blow so dire
It sheers right through his mail. So much it claws,
It tears to ribbons all his steel attire.
So strong its claws, so deftly does it work,
The worthy knight’s left standing in his shirt.
Rinaldo’s far from paralyzed by fear:
He sees death imminent and doesn’t blench.
He strikes a two-hand blow behind its ear.
Alas! The monster doesn’t even flinch.
But with each blow he lands, it grows more fierce.
Enraged, it leaps aback, then forward sprints,
And now with one paw, now the other slashes,
And on Rinaldo’s skin makes ugly gashes.
He bears four grievous wounds, but nonetheless
The world holds not a baron stouter-hearted.
He looks death in the face without distress.
His wrath burned fiercer as his strength departed.
What would in any other fight be best
In this one only gets his troubles started.
For even if the monster’s flesh he carves,
The castle folk may leave him here to starve.
The day’s beginning to give way to dusk,
And all this time the battle fierce has raged.
Rinaldo’s back against the wall is thrust.
He’s lost much blood and he is growing faint.
His death is pressing close at hand, he trusts.
But still he strikes great blows with his good blade.
It’s true, the monster’s blood may not be spilt,
But still he gives it many ugly welts.
His life he shall sell dearly, come what may.
He swings a mighty stroke, that baron true.
The wicked monster knocks his sword away.
Now what can Montalbano’s baron do?
He cannot flee. He’s doomed if he should stay
Because Fusberta from his grasp out flew.
But you must wait to hear about their war.
For in this canto I shall tell no more.