Book I, Canto XI, Part 1

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

CANTO XI

ARGUMENT

King Agrican and Sacripant agree
To fight in single combat, one on one.
But when the valiant King Torindo sees
Sacripant losing, to the duel he runs,
And war resumes. The Tartar valiantly
Enters the keep. Great deeds by him are done,
Ere Sacripant compels him to retreat.
Rinaldo and Don Fiordelisa meet.

1
You’ve heard already of the ruinous course
King Agricane ran, that spirit fierce.
As when a wave destroys a fleet by force,
Or when a cannon through an army sheers,
E’en thus that king attacks without remorse,
Chopping the standards, smiting cavaliers,
Slicing his foes and hacking his own men.
For wrath the king made no distinction then.

2
Circassians and Tartars all are one.
Of friend or enemy he takes no heed.
He cut down all who in his pathway came.
And now that worthy knight advanced with speed
To where he saw the high emprises done
Which Sacripant performed upon his steed.
He saw his men flee fast as legs could carry them,
And the Circassian monarch sorely harry them.

3
“You curst, degen’rate breed, out of my sight!”
King Agricane cries, “You worthless flock!
My vassals nevermore will you be hight.
I won’t be king of such a wretched stock.
Go where the hell you want, and let me fight,
For I can better stand the foeman’s shock
Alone, just as I am, in this fierce battle,
Than I can do with you, you useless rabble.”

4
These words once said, he seeks his foeman out,
And Sacripant to combat he invites.
My lords, believe me, ye need have no doubt
He instantly accepts, that ardent sprite.
He sends a squire through the battle rout
Up to Albracca, to the lady bright,
Praying her that upon the wall she’ll stand,
So that her sight will strengthen his right hand.

5
The damsel stands upon Albracca’s wall,
And to King Sacripant a sword she sends,
That will stay sharp, whatever may befall.
Now grief King Agricane’s bosom rends.
He mutters soft, “I do not care at all,
Because that sword will be mine in the end,
So will Albracca. Sacripant will grovel,
So will that dirty slut and all her brothel.

6
“Hast thou no shame at all, thou ugly witch?
To scorn my love, how is it that thou durst?
When I could make thee happy, make thee rich,
And make thee of all earthly queens the first?
Women, ’tis true, a thousand times will switch
Their minds, and always settle on the worst.
The King of Kings at thy feet doth abase him,
And thou art lusting for a vile Circassian!”

7
Having thus spoke, he turns around and glowers
As from his foe he spurs across the ground.
His mighty lance into its rest he lowers,
As on the other side now turns around
King Sacripant, who comes with strength and power.
The one and th’other clash. The noise resounds
With such a fracas and so great a din,
It seems the sky will fall, the world will end.

8
Each of them strikes the other’s helmet front
With their immeasurably enormous lances,
But neither can his foe from saddle shunt.
Each lance up to its hilt in splinters glances,
Though each was three palms wide, without affront
To truth. To swords the combat now advances.
They fall on one another, raging high,
For each of them desires to win or die.

9
If in a field you’ve ever seen two bulls
Who madly for a milk-white heifer fought,
And seen them locking horns and clashing skulls
And heard their bellowing, with dreadness fraught,
You know how seemed those knights of valor full,
Who for Love’s sake esteemed their lives as nought.
Their shields, in pieces hacked, they cast away,
And fight with more abandon in the fray.

10
Now Sacripant, with all his strength, brings down
A blow dispiteous, uncouth, two-handed,
On Agricane’s head. He splits his crown,
But not his helmet, for that is enchanted.
At the same time the Tartar of renown
A blow on Sacripante’s left flank planted.
Vengeance is all the thought within their heads,
To pay back cake where they were given bread.

11
So swiftly fall not rain, nor hail thus rattles,
Nor in such numbers fall the flakes of snow,
As in that bitter and imperiled battle
Fell the strokes of the broadswords, blow on blow.
Blood runs down from their helmets to their saddles.
No crueler fight can any his’try show.
Each one is wounded sore in places twenty,
And yet of fury they heap up more plenty.

12
But Sacripant fared worse, I have to say.
The blood ran down his leg whene’er he strove.
But little did he prize his life that day,
And thinking of Angelica above
All else, he said, “O King of Heaven, I pray
That all the deeds I do today for love,
Angelica will watch,  and grateful be.
Then care I not for death or injury.

13
“I’d be content to know my death is nigh
If that sweet creature held me in regard.
Oh, if I only once could hear her sigh,
‘I am too cruel and make my heart too hard,
To make this cavalier for Love’s sake die,
When for my love, his life he disregards!’
If but these gentle words mine ears caressed,
In life or death I’d be forever blest.”

14
And with these thoughts he is so much inflamed
That of all cowardice he was bereft.
With ev’ry blow, he shouts his lady’s name,
Striking great blows upon his right and left.
His only thought is how to please the dame.
He cares not for the wounds by which he’s cleft;
But as he loses blood, his spirits fail,
Although he still fights on, his face is pale.

15
The other kings look from afar and wait,
Watching the dreadful combat of their chiefs.
To each of them, it seems a damage great
To watch him die, and bring him no relief.
But, above all, his pity can’t abate
The Turk Torindo, and he’s filled with grief
To see King Sacripante in distress
And not be able to bring him redress.

16
And to the others he begins to say,
That certainly a grievous sin it were
To watch their king die and lend him no aid.
He bursts out: “Ingrates! How can ye endure
To look upon his death without dismay?
The worthiest king that ever vassal served.
We fled, all routed, overwhelmed by strife;
Sacripant saved our honor and our life.

17/18
Be not afraid of them, for all their might,
For with our swords we’ll cut them down to size!
Don’t think it treason to disrupt the fight.
But we’ll be traitors all if our king dies!
’Tis simple duty, ’tis not treason hight,
To save one’s king. If any blame here lies,
Be the blame mine and be the glory yours!”
And with these words he spurs his gallant horse.

18/19
His lance in rest, against the crowd he runs,
Flooring the first and second men he meets.
The third and fourth to him likewise succumb.
A mighty outcry his aggression greets,
As ev’ry Turk and each Circassian comes,
And Trebisond and Syria are fleet,
Following King Torindo down the line.
Russians, Mongolians, and Tartars join

19/20
With mighty Trufaldino of Baghdad.
The dust flew thick, and many men were flayed.
King Trufaldin a hundred thousand had
Who came behind him in a vast brigade.
When Agricane sees this mishap sad
And how his army sorely was dismayed,
To Sacripante thus he speaks: “Sir Knight,
Thy men have done a deed against all right.”

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