The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto XII, Stanzas 21-40
“But let my death, O gracious God, be hid
Within these woods, and never let her know
How I and she at once of grief were rid.
Let none lament me, none feel any woe.
May sorrow never damp her gen’rous lids,
And make her wish that pity she had shown.
Although she pains me so, I love her yet,
Even in death, my love I’ll ne’er forget!”
The lamentations of that noble lord
With broken words and mixed with sighing came,
And from its scabbard he withdrew his sword,
As pale as if already he were slain,
And ever called on her whom he adored,
Hoping to die and speak Tisbina’s name,
For calling on that name he hoped to rise
Alongside that fair name to Paradise.
But she, with her beloved, stood nearby,
And all the baron’s burning woes she hears.
Iroldo’s breast with pity swelleth high,
And all his face was covered with his tears;
And with his lady he resolves to try
To fend of this catastrophe which nears.
Iroldo hidden in the thicket stays,
While Tisbin shows her to her lover’s gaze.
That she has heard his plaints she gives no clue,
Nor that she’s heard him call her cruel and cold.
But as the branches she is pushing through,
She feigns astonishment, him to behold,
And says, “Prasildo, if thy love is true,
Which oft before thou didst to me unfold,
Do not abandon me in my great need.
For if thou fail me, I am doomed indeed.
“And if I were not in a woeful plight,
About to lose my life and my good name,
To such a task I would not thee invite,
For all the world holds not a greater shame
Than asking help from him one’s held in spite.
Thou burnest for me with so great a frame,
And I have always been to thee so hard;
But henceforth shall I hold thee in regard.
Upon my honor now I swear to thee,
I’ll pledge my love to thee beyond recall
If thou wilt but fulfill this quest for me;
I trust thy fate no longer hard thou’lt call.
Beside a wood in far-off Barbary,
There lives a garden with an iron wall.
There are four gates which this fair garden hath.
One is the gate of Life, and one of Death.
One is of Riches, one of Poverty.
Who comes by one, must out the other go,
And in the midst of it there grows a tree,
Too tall to shoot its top branch with a bow.
All those who see it stand amazedly,
For pearls thereon instead of flowers grow.
The Treasure Tree ‘tis called, I have been told,
Its fruits are emeralds; its boughs are gold.
And I must have a branch of this same tree,
For otherwise I am undone for aye,
And by thy services I shall well see
If thou hast love as much as thou dost say.
I’ll love thee even more than thou dost me,
If thou wilt start thy quest without delay,
My hand and heart together shall reward
Thy laboring; of this be well assured.
When Don Prasildo hears he has a chance
To win the love of her who hath no peer,
So much his ardor and desire advance,
He swears to seek the branch, devoid of fear.
He would have offered, for a kindly glance,
To fetch a star, the moon, the sun so dear.
All of the oceans, all the land and air
He would have offered to this lady fair.
Without delay upon his quest he goes
To fetch the branch, his lady’s love to claim.
He leaves the city, dressed in pilgrim’s clothes.
Now must thou know Iroldo and his dame
Had sent Prasildo to this garden-close
(The Bower of Medusa was its name)
So that the labor and the flow of time
Would drive Tisbina’s image from his mind.
The lovers knew another thing, besides,
That this Medusa was a damsel fair
Who ‘neath the shady Treasure Tree abides,
And whoso spies her lovely visage there
Forgets at once whatever cause him guides.
But he, with word or sign, who greets her there,
Or touches her, or who beside her sits,
Loses at once his mem’ry and his wits.
The ardent lover on his journey rides,
Alone with love to keep him company.
O’er the Red Sea within a boat he glides,
And soon Egyptian land behind leaves he.
The Barca mountains finally he nighed,
When an old palmer there he chanced to see;
The ancient man he courteously addressed,
And as they spoke, he told him all his quest.
The old man says to him, “Thy kindly fate
It was that guided thee to meet me now.
All of thy doubts and fears thou mayst abase,
For I shall show thee how to win the bough.
Thou only thinkest how to find the gate,
But thy true danger cometh once ‘tis found:
The gates of Life and Death thou must leave be.
Come to Medusa but by Poverty.
“Ignorant of this dame I think thou art,
Thou didst not name her, telling of thy quest.
This is the damsel who is joyed at heart
To guard the shining Tree withouten rest.
From him who sees her, memory departs,
And of all wit and sense she him divests.
But if she ever saw her face herself,
She’d flee the garden and forsake her wealth.
“No shield except a mirror shalt thou bear,
Wherein the dame her loveliness may see.
Carry no arms, let all thy limbs be bare,
For thou must enter in through Poverty.
More cruel appearances that gate doth wear
Than any worldly thing, believe thou me.
Not only are all evil things there hatched,
But he who passes by is sorely thrashed.
“But at the other gate when thou’lt attempt
To leave, thou’lt meet with Wealth upon her throne.
All of creation holds she in contempt,
Hated by all, she loves herself alone.
Part of thy branch thou must to her extend.
Without a gift, she will not let thee roam,
For Avarice beside her guards the door,
Who, though she owneth much, yet longs for more.”
Prasildo listens with attention close,
And thanks the pilgrim old with all his power,
Then takes his leave and through the desert goes,
And after thirty days draws nigh the bower,
And since the secrets of the place he knows,
He heads for Poverty and does not cower
Although the gate is terrible and vile.
The garden’s treasure makes it all worthwhile.
The garden seemed to be a Paradise
Of flowers, bushes, all things lush and green.
The baron held a mirror before his eyes
So that Medusa’s face would go unseen.
Straight forward through the garden walks he hies,
Hoping to find the Tree of golden sheen.
The lady, when she hears him drawing nearer,
Lifts up her head and looks into the mirror.
She sees her face, and she is left astounded.
She’d thought her skin was snow, her lips a rose.
Her thoughts of her own beauty were unfounded.
A hideous dragon’s face the mirror shows.
In terror leapt she up; away she bounded.
Died in the distance her laments and woes.
Soon as the knight no longer hears her cries,
He brings the mirror-shield down from his eyes.
He goes towards the trunk, from which hath fled
Medusa, that deceitful, ribald witch.
At sight of her own face discomfortéd,
She had abandoned clean her treasure rich.
Prasild breaks off the branch above his head,
And joys that all has gone without a hitch.
He comes towards the gate which Richesse guards,
Who all noblesse and virtue disregards.
No Notes to this Part