The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto XI, Stanzas 21-40
“But thou shalt have a suitable reward,
When my men cut thine down upon the plain.”
One of tthem this way, one the other spurred,
As the battalions met and clashed amain.
They chopped so swiftly that their swords seemed blurred.
Never has such a multitude been slain.
Thirty good scythes could not cut so much wheat
As men that day were taken off their feet.
King Agricane Trufaldin attacks,
That scoundrel sees his doom is close at hand.
To leap upon the ground he is not slack,
And shouts, “A noble feet indeed thou’st planned,
To throw me off of my pathetic hack
When thy horse hath no peer in any land.
Give up thy vantage, as is just and right,
I challenge thee on foot with me to fight!”
For fame and honor Agricane thirsts.
He leaps to ground; a count he trusted kept
The reins of him who was Rinaldo’s erst,
For no less trusted guard would he accept.
At the right time, King Trufaldin, th’accurst,
Seized on his reins and to his saddle leapt,
And, before Agricane grasped his plight,
Into the fray he lunged and passed from sight.
The Tartars now are masters of the battle.
Across the field Circassians all they drive.
The soldiers of Baghdad, that ugly rabble
Flee with those Syrians who are still alive.
Shields, lances, swords they drop in their mad scramble,
Bows, arrows, darts won’t help them to survive.
None to the Tartar onslaught dare respond.
The Turks flee, and the men of Trebisond.
On the brink of the moat the army’s clumped,
Sunk in the earth, which keeps Albracca safe.
Some are pushed off the edge, and others jump.
The bridge is raised, and lowered is the gate.
Angelica looks on; her spirits slunmp
To see her people die at such a rate.
She bids the gate to rise, the bridge to fall;
A lack of men would please her not at all.
Once thus the way to safety is disclosed,
The common thought is “Devil take the hindmost!”
The Tartars chased them boldly, nor reposed.
The gate drops; some are in, but far behind most.
Of all who by the lattice are enclosed,
King Agricane had for slaughter mind most.
Three hundred knights who serve his beck and call
Are with their lord shut in Albracca’s wall.
Upon Baiardo gallantly he rides.
Never was seen a warrior so fierce.
Bordacco of Damascus soon espied
The king, and spurred towards the cavalier,
Defying him with arrogance and pride:
“Now has thy strength, O King, met with its peer.
The fine Baiardo is of no avail!
Thy war and all thy scheming now will fail!
Do what thou wilt, thou art about to die!
Thou canst not show thy strength nor make defense.”
King Agricane laughs with scornful eye,
“With words, indeed, thou show’st a good offense.
Enough of talk! Come on, sir knight, and try
To take my life away, and I’ll commence
By sending thee down to the netherworld,
The first of many who’ll by me by hurled.”
The King Bordacco wields an iron chain,
Which has for head a massive leaden ball.
A two-hand blow at Agrican he aims,
Who with his shield deflects it ere he sprawls.
And not content to thus avert his bane,
Slices the chain, which in two pieces falls.
The Tartar shouts aloud, “Thou soon wilt feel
Which of our weapons is the better steel!”
And with those words, that most redoubted lord,
With both his hands, he strikes his foeman’s crest.
Down through his skull and brainpan drives his sword,
Slices through chin and neck down to the breast.
The folk perceive how King Bordacco’s gored.
They flee, their faces show that they’re distressed.
While such great fear the fleeing crowd evinces,
The Tartar king pursues and he them minces.
Hs heart is ardent, and his fear is nought.
He always longs for battle or for raid.
If he had only stopped, and only thought
To turn around and open up the gate,
The castle easily he would have caught,
Angelica his pris’ner he’d have made,
But wrath, which dulls the sense and clouds the mind
Solely to chase the army him inclined.
The battle rages, the two hosts betwixt,
Horrible, cruel, confusing all around;
For one side and the other are so mixed
Some die, and some within the moat are drowned.
So many sliced and hacked were, and transfixed,
That the blood ran so much that in the ground
It formed a stream which in its channel flowed,
Till it cascaded right into the moat.
Now by fresh terror is the army marred,
And sights still crueler to their eyes appear.
The King in fury charges on Baiard,
A sight so terrible, all fill with fear.
The world has never seen a fight so hard
Nor where so many lost their lives as here;
So many men the Pagan king has slain,
So many corpses leaves he on the plain.
But ere Albracca’s gates had been transgressed,
As you have heard, by him of Tartary.
Already had there entered, seeking rest
King Sacripante, full of chivalry.
Disarmed, there tend him leeches of the best,
But so much blood already lost had he
He could not even sit in bed upright,
But lay there stilly, his face pale and white.
Now turn we back to Agrican once more,
Who sweepeth onward like a hurricane.
His bloody sword in both his hands he bore.
No one was ever of so many the bane.
Hearing the woeful cries and weeping sore,
That from the wounded and the dying came,
King Sacripante, lying on his cot,
Spoke up and for the noise’s reason sought.
Weeping, his squire to the monarch tells,
“King Agricane’s entered in, that hound,
And puts to martyrdom the citadel.”
This herd, the monarch from his sickbed bounds.
All those about, to hold him back try well,
But he escapes them and them all confounds.
Nothing except his shield and sword he bears,
Save for his smock; no other clothes he wears.
He meets his army, filled with indignation.
None of them dares their angry king to face.
He cries to them: “Alas, thou shameless nation!
When but one cavalier can all you chase,
How do you live through such humiliation?
How can you dare to look me in the face?
Throw down your shields, go home, and sell your armor,
You’re only fit to live as churlish farmers!
“See how I’ve come, without my armor dight,
And nearly naked, honor so I prize.”
The army is arrested in its flight,
Full up of admiration and surprise.
Ev’ry last one of them turns back to fight,
Because his fame resounded to the skies,
And when they saw the tales of him were true,
They thought, “There’s nothing that our king can’t do.”
Lo! Agricne thund’ring through the streets,
As the defeated, fleeing troops he routs,
Until the newly-heartened men he meets,
And Sacriptant, who boldly leads them out.
Another battle now begins. Great feats
Are done; this is a far more bloody bout
Than was the last. The Tartar host is small,
But their great leader gives them courage all.
But nonetheless, such multitudes are lain
Upon the earth by that Circassian king,
That no one thinks retreat will bring him shame,
And they take flight, while the Albraccans fling
Jav’lins and darts, wherewith are many slain.
The clash of weapons makes the welkin ring.
No battlefield could ever be more dread;
None stay within the courtyards save the dead.